Vi telephoned her friend Nora to extend her condolences on the sudden, unexpected death of her long-time husband. After listening …
O Lord, we have again come together to spend a few hours of companionship with our fellow members.
In these days of unrest and violence in the world, we ask that you help us to maintain our inner peace and tranquility, a rightfulness of purpose, a tolerance of others so that we may ever remain people of goodwill and intent.
This innovation was written in 1983. At the time, a terrorist explosion killed 237 U.S. Marines in Beirut, a South Korean plane was shot down by the Soviets, killing 269 people, and the United States invaded Grenada. Counteracting these acts of violence, a leap for mankind (or rather womankind) occurred when astronaut Sally K. Ride became the first American woman to travel in space on the Challenger. At the time, Ronald Reagan was president, and George Bush was vice-president.
Little has changed.
Yesterday, an Egypt Air jetliner, carrying 66 passengers disappeared on approach to Cairo. Terrorism is suspected. It’s the third Egypt Air incident this year. Meanwhile in Iraq, an angry hornet nest of violence since it was unjustifiably invaded by George W. Bush in 2001, has been experiencing suicide and car bombings. Yesterday, 46 people died in an explosion, bringing the number of dead in the past few weeks to over 200.
The Soviets, led by the irrational hothead Vladimir Putin, has been engaging in empire-building with their incursion into Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldavia. Their precarious finance situation, precipitated by a fall in oil prices, however, has quelling their aggression, at least for now. Back in 1983, their saber-rattling led President Reagan to propose a Strategic Defense Initiative missile shield, which came be known as “Star Wars.”
In turbulent times, the only escape might be to seek inner harmony, rather than hope the world quiets down, becoming more peaceful and tolerant. There’s no pleading with people determined to cause chaos in the name of the causes.
We thank thee, O Lord, for bringing us this day so we may celebrate another Mother’s Day with our fellow members.
We are grateful there is this day of recognition for those of us who give of their time, effort, and selves in the fulfillment of the role of motherhood.
There are also among us women who have never known biological motherhood, but in their own way have earned the title of “mother.”
They have mothered sisters and brothers, and other people’s children, and whenever a helping hand was needed, they were there. To them, we extend a special Mother’s Day accolade.
Now we ask your blessing that we remain in good health and spirit so we may continue to function as helpful mothers and friends.
My grandmother had three sisters, and three brothers. All three of her brother’s married, but only two had children. Two of her sisters each had one child. And one never married, having no children.
My grandmother’s husband, Morris, had seven sisters. All of them married. One, however, never had children. And several of his sister’s children never married or had children.
It makes me wonder if my grandmother was referring to her extended family when she wrote, “women who have earned the title of mother.” Having been the first born in her family, she naturally became the one to lend a helping hand, especially when it came to caring for your younger brothers and sisters.
After she married, she had to deal with the drama surrounding her husband’s sisters and their children, along with continuing to emotionally support her siblings. Shortly after marrying, her brother Teddy, temporarily moved in until he was old enough to care for himself. Later, a nephew stayed with them after his mother had a nervous breakdown.
My grandmother was more of a mother to me than my mother. She worried about my health, stressed the importance of doing well in school, and emphasized I could become whatever I wanted. Nearly every Saturday from the time I was nine until seventeen, my grandparents visited, bringing the Sunday comics, boxes of Cracker Jacks, and a respite from my mother’s lunacy and constant demands.
Happy mother’s day to my grandmother, and all the women in the world who loving care for others, enriching their lives, and bringing joy and comfort.
In life, there is only one true ending, all others are but transitions to new beginnings.
Living, from the moment we are thrust into the world becomes a series of doors, closing (endings), and opening (beginnings).
The first closing comes at our expulsion from the womb. That phase of development is complete and final. The door shuts tight, no re-entry allowed.
At that instant, we must take that first breath to send us through the open door called life to begin that continuous task of learning how to adapt to ever-changing locks and keys so we may survive.
One door leads to another, and generally we can’t reach a particular door until we’ve gone through another.
The infant can’t learn to chew until it has suckled, or walk before standing, or become an independent being before learning to control and coordinate all mental and physical functions.
Going up the ladder from elementary school to junior high, to high school and college may seem simply a continuation of studies, but at each step we start afresh with new teachers, new subjects, classmates, competition, attitudes, social pressures, and problems. That means having to accept change and make adjustments.
Getting married closes the door on singlehood. Being divorced doesn’t put one back to the same singlehood. It will be different. Widowhood is equally different.
Changing jobs, retiring, coming into money, losing money, an illness, an accident, all create whole new situations, needing new rules, new planning.
Sometimes, an opening or closing is so subtle we are unaware of the change. Sometimes it’s obvious. Or it’s so unexpected, we are caught short, and end up floundering around for a while. Or too many close or open at the same time, we are overwhelmed. Or hold a door open too long, we find it difficult to let go. Or let go too soon, and we are not ready. Or there is no new door to open, and we are stuck behind the old one.
Yet, for seniors in particular, as the years advance, and there are fewer and fewer new doors to open, we must hold tight to keep old doors from slamming shut. We mustn’t let go of too many activities, and interests, even if need to jam a foot into the doorway to keep it open.
Each opening and closing, beginning, and ending, contributes something to what we must learn in order to exist. Each offers challenges and opportunities, another chance or problem to solve.
For better or worse, that is life.
My grandmother, Rose, passed away in her Burbank bungalow, a month after her 90’s birthday. Her husband, Morris, died 13 months later, in the same bed he’d shared with his wife for over 60 years. Together, they’re opened and closed numerous doors, life in New York, and then Southern California, austerity during World War II, contentment after retirement, adventure in travels, sorrow from disappointments and deaths, and joy from children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
They lived a pleasant life. Throughout their marriage, my grandfather worked as a taxi driver, chauffeur, car salesman, and eventually an assembler at Lockheed. He retired with a pension, which afforded them an opportunity to travel to across the United States, Israel, Japan, and other far-flung places. For most of their lives, they lived in a tidy bungalow in Burbank with a vegetable garden in the back, Meyer lemon tree by their bedroom window, and hibiscus bush in the front.
While on the outside my grandmother appeared happy with her life, she felt a disappointment of having never gotten her work published. She was a dedicated, determined writer, who left several boxes of her work, some of it written on the backs of form letters, scrapes of paper, loose-leaf notebooks, and small flipbooks.
If she’s looking down, I hope she’s pleased that her writing is finally getting an audience!
Good knows, our spirits are willing and eager. If only our bodies would respond in like fashion!
If only we could jump out of bed in the morning rarin’ to go and keep going. If only the sun setting beneath the horizon, wouldn’t take our energies with it.
If only we could regain the enthusiasm of yesteryear, to find everything as important or they once were. Or as exciting. Or necessary.
If only then we seniors would be standing at the lectern, and not sitting in the audience.
O Lord, what we seniors don’t need is a pep talk. What we do need is a pat on the back, a word of praise that we are doing as well, and as much as we are. And that would spur us on to do even better.
Perhaps the young can imagine how it is to walk in the shoes of the old. But they can’t, nor should they know how painful the pinches.
I was so caught up in writing my response to invocation #43, I hadn’t realized it went onto another page. Reading the rest of the invocation, I’m struck by the statement “Perhaps the young can imagine how it is to walk in the shoes of the old. But they can’t, nor should they know how painful the pinches.”
This assertion is especially relevant today with politicians on one side quick to propose extending the retirement age and cutting benefits, and employers on the other unwilling to retain older workers, or expecting them to ramp up their productivity as they implement lean policies. It’s a losing proposition.
Older workers that aren’t shuffled out the door are expected to keep up with peers’ decades younger with more energy, health, and conceivably, more relevant education. Maturity, experience, and foresight become irrelevant. Once unemployed – from lay-offs, forced retirement, and other circumstances – older worker are faced with few choices. Employers prefer younger workers, and if an older worker finds a comparable job it’s often for less pay, and possibly no benefits because it’s a contract versus full-time position.
If an older worker has the financial freedom to retire, they may be chastised for becoming a drain on society by collecting social security and signing up for Medicare. Many older people, especially single and divorced women, who don’t have the financial means to retire are forced to overcome their “painful pinches” and work at low-income jobs at fast food restaurants, retail and grocery stores.
Older workers in America don’t need a pep talk, they need compassion, acceptance, and the ability to retire with dignity.
She came, as a volunteer worker in a service group, to address our club meeting.
Charming, sparkling with health and vitality, she could easily have passed for under 40, although she boasted she had just crossed the half-century mark.
But interesting as was her talk, she did not say what we wanted to hear.
Her main thrust was to encourage our seniors, a full generation or older than she, to put more action in our lives. More zest.
“Don’t shut yourselves off,” she urged. Don’t sit home enslaved to the TV. Get out. Keep moving. Go places. Do things. Get out into the community. They need your talents and your time. You have much to give. Give it.
And don’t ever say, “I can’t,” because you can. Whatever you still want to do, you can. Just go after it. Stretch your vision.
Certainly she meant well. She just didn’t understand.
Who of us seniors doesn’t want, nay, yearn to do more? Go more. See more. Work more. Help more. To take a long drive, to hop a plane to hear and there. To visit and be visited. To still do all we once did. To be part of the crowd-on-the-move.
It’s been months since I’ve posted one of my grandmother’s. Her thoughts on a “pep talk,” strike a familiar cord. While, I’m up-and-about working, cooking, doing yard- and housework, shopping, and other day-to-day chores, I’ve starting to feel the drag on my energies. A symptom of age.
This is the first year in decades that I haven’t baking a dozen or more different types of holiday cookies and candies, then packaged, and sent them to friends and family. The gifts I usually purchased in October, so they can be given to people by Thanksgiving, are a mirage.
I started to write my holiday letter a few days ago. If I’m lucky, I’ll make copies and get it in the mail by early December. Although, it’ll probably take me a week or so to address the cards. Groan.
This year, I procrastinated in trimming bushes, and preparing them for the winter. Only half of my grasses, lavenders, and other flowering bushed received their obligatory haircuts. With the nights now dipping into the 20’s, it’s too late to trim them.
Last week, I pulled some carrots out of the garden, and realized I never pulled out the tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables, which long ago stopped producing. The large rose along the back fence, which had phenomenal growth over the summer, is still loosely tied to the fence. It should have been cut back so the branches don’t break if it snows are they get covered with ice.
I don’t think I need a pep talk. I need the energy and motivation I had a few years ago.
The writer, in goodwill and intent, sets downs words with the purpose of conveying a message, an idea, a thought, an opinion, a whatever.
The reader reads the words, and puts an interpretation on them. Depending upon the mood of the moment, or attitude towards the writer, or subject matter, the reader can catch the writer’s meaning and accept it as offered, or read into it what he/she doesn’t want to know, or search between the lines for a hidden meaning. Also, the reader’s reaction to the words can run the whole scale of emotions from anger to laughter to yawn of boredom.
Upon whom should fall the blame for a misunderstanding?
Ironically, while the interpretation of a writer is done by the reader, upon the writer falls the burden of proof-of-innocent for conveying the intent of the wording.
But, could it be, O Lord, we inadvertently reveal in our words what we cannot recognize in ourselves and are therefore reluctant to face? In that case, are writers not innocent victims of their own writings?
When I first read this invocation, written by my grandmother 30 years ago, I quickly concluded most people face this dilemma in that their emails and instant messages can easily be misinterpreted. After all, it’s challenging to convey emotion in written communication unless you state how you’re feeling, such as I’m upset at the way you handled ___________ situation or I’m delighted at the outcome of the ______________.
The other options for communicating mood and subtle inflection is by using UPPER CASE LETTERS, exclamation points, and emoticons 8=) _ :-*!!
Indeed, the blame for the misunderstanding is almost always targeted to the writer, and not the reader, who depending their mood, could deduce a fervently written email is good news, sarcasm or worse.
What my grandmother wrote, however, is much deeper. It infers we sometimes write what we’re subconsciously thinking. While we might believe our wording is clear and effectively communicating our present thoughts and opinions, it may be conveying something entirely different.
This brings to mind a campaign slogan I once wrote, “When accuracy isn’t an option.” In my mind, I was inferring accuracy is imperative, not an option. However, others concluded I was saying accuracy isn’t important, and therefore not an option. Needless to say, the slogan was discarded.
A slogan, however, is just a couple of words. What happens when you write a lengthier piece? Before the Internet, the number of people who might read and misinterpret a personal or business letter, magazine or newspaper story, professional paper or newsletter was confined to recipients subscribers, and members of organizations.
Today, 140 characters or a couple of sentences can be heard or read by millions, turning an off-hand remark into a firestorm. Case in point, Donald Trump’s derogatory statements about Mexican immigrants during his presidential announcement speech, followed by his backpedaling, “I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.” In spite of this marginal explanation, it quickly became clear he truly said what he meant, issued the statement, “Mr. Trump stands by his statements on illegal immigration, which are accurate.”
For most of us, we do occasionally write content, which can be misinterpreted or reveal thoughts we probably wouldn’t have expressed if our fingers weren’t typing lickety-split. It’s the hazards of technology that make it easy to dash off a comment, Tweet, email or blog with scarcely any effort.
O Lord, we know that in your scheme of creation the sun rises faithfully at its time to announce a new day, bringing warmth and light and sustenance to all your beings.
But some days, your sun is hidden from view, the sky is clouded over. Some days, our eyes cannot see your sun, they are welled up with tears.
And some days, we cannot feel its warmth, our souls are troubled. We have closed off our senses and immersed ourselves in sadness.
On such day, O Lord, when we are lost within ourselves, remind us that even the longest, darkest night ends with a sun bursting into glory, beginning a new day with new promise, bright with hope.
And remind us that if we look beyond our fears we will find a ray of sunshine. We must grab it, hold on, use it to light our way through the day.
My grandmother, Rose Ridnor wrote this invocation on July 17, 1985. It was a Wednesday, and according to the New York Times, Moscow had offered new arms ideas in the Geneva negotiations. Today, they’re the aggressors in Ukraine.
On this day, over thirty years ago, President Reagan had a cancerous tumor removed from his colon. Today, Reagan would probably be appalled at the continuing arguments over the need to provide healthcare to those who can’t afford it or don’t have it offered through their work.
The Congress in 1985 was at an impasse over spending. The resulting compromise was for an additional $24 million over three years for non-military spending, and a $5.4 billion increase in the military budget in 1986.
Thirty years later, $24 million is a pittance compared to the $1.1 trillion estimated cost of the 2003 – 2010 Iraq War. The Department of Defense reported spending at least $57.8 billion on the war.
In 1985, Morton Bahr, the new chief of the Communications Workers of America called IBM anti-union, and announced a worldwide drive to organize the company’s employees. His efforts didn’t materialize and today employees are shuffled out the door with every dip in earnings, and those who remain are furiously competing with cheaper labor in Brazil, China, and elsewhere.
In 1985, the computer industry was in its infancy, nevertheless, seven people under the age of 18, who lived in New Jersey, were charged with conspiring to use their computers to exchange stolen credit-card numbers, and provide information on how to make explosives, and make free long-distance telephone calls and call coded-phone numbers in the Pentagon. They’d also obtained codes that would cause communications satellites to change positions, interrupting intercontinental communications.
Computer espionage is considerably more sophisticated and destructive today, targeting not just government entities and businesses, but individuals.
With the only constant in life being change, it makes sense, as my grandmother wrote, to look beyond ones fears, and a find a ray of sunshine that lights our way through the day.
It is written: Who is mighty? He who turns an enemy into a friend.
Not by flattery. Insincerity gives the lie to good intentions.
Not by silver coin. Who can be bought once can be bought twice.
Not by promises one cannot keep. Nor by bestowing favors one will not repeat.
But by extending a hand in friendship, with motives pure and undemanding.
By listening to grievance and paying heed.
By being forgiving, even if not forgetting.
O Lord, mighty is the enemy, mightier still is the friend, but mightiest of all is the enemy who becomes the friend.
“Motives pure and undemanding” exemplifies two meals Rich and I shared last week. Neither one was originally script to be memorable, but they left indelible impressions not for the excellence of the food, but the people who played roles.
The first meal was a dinner last Monday night with Rich’s sister, Georgene and her boyfriend, Pat. They’d met in their teens when they both worked at a McDonald’s in Anaheim, California. I don’t know how long they stayed together, but for they took separate paths as adults, marrying, having children, engaging in careers, divorcing, and reconnecting a dozen or so years ago.
In January, Rich had lunch with Georgene and their brother, Ralph having not seen her for over ten years, and speaking infrequently by phone or via email. I hadn’t seen her since around 2003, and had met Pat briefly in the same timeframe.
On Monday evening, we drove to the Red Hook Brewery for dinner. Shortly after we’d arrived, Pat shared that in his early twenties, he went to dinner with his boss who paid for the meal. The occasion made a huge impression on him. Afterwards, he resolved to make enough money to be able to afford to take people to dinner and pay for his meals. He concluded by saying that’s what he truly wanted to achieve in life.
His story was fleetingly acknowledged before he launched into another subject. Like a notch in a wheel, throughout the evening, my mind kept wandering back to what he’d said. When we returned home, I commented to Rich about Pat’s life objective to earn enough money to treat people to dinner. Rich was equally enthralled with Pat’s selflessly, generosity, and benevolence.
Many people, who yearn to earn lots of money, imagine spending it on travel, houses, cars, and other material items. Pat, however, sees money not as a way to get “more stuff,” but share with others. What makes his life objective even more astonishing is that Pat is extremely successful. His business has branches around the world!
Our second memorable meal of the week took place on Saturday morning. Whenever there are coupons for McDonald’s, Denny’s or other national chain, which arrive in the mail or newspaper inserts, Rich skededabbles to an apartment complex within walking distance of our Kirkland house. He shuffles through the trashcan by the complex’s mailboxes where resident chuck the mail they don’t want… including “valuable” coupons.
Most of the coupons we leave on the “free” table where I work, or give to other people. On Saturday, morning, with coupon in hand, we had breakfast at Denny’s. After ordering, Rich walked around giving coupons to other diners, including a family with two kids.
Towards the end of our meal, the father approached our table, thanking us for giving him the coupon. I replied that it was our pleasure. Then the man said he paid for our meal.
Rich and I were speechless.
Twice last week, we experiences “motives pure and undemanding” and the true meaning of friendship and goodwill.
Tomorrow, O Lord, we Americans will celebrate Independence Day.
America, a republic founded on the concept of freedom of choice in religious practice, equity among all its inhabitants, and equal protection and justice for all under Law.
Grant, O Lord that her people never swerve from these principles, and ever stand together in defense of them.
On Saturday, one of my mother’s friends – who she worked with over 60 years ago – forwarded me an email about the “Muslim heritage in America,” citing how no Muslim landed with the Pilgrims; celebrated the first Thanksgiving; signed the United State Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or Bill of Rights; fought in the American Revolution, American Civil War or on the Allied side during World War II; or walked side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr.
The missive continued asking whether you’ve ever seen a Muslim hospital, orchestra, or marching band; witnessed a Muslim charity; shaken the hand of a Muslim Girl Scout; or seen a Muslim Candy Striper. It then cited the terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims at the World Trade Center, Fort Hood, and the Boston Marathon.
It concluded by saying every American and Canadian must read and send to others…”and if you don’t share the message, you are part of the problem!”
In the past, she’s sent nasty, unsubstantiated, right-wing propaganda, but this email made me cringe. While no one is thrilled with recent acts of terrorism by Muslims, inciting fears and raising doubts about someone’s right to live in America because of their religious beliefs isn’t just wrong, it’s egregious. More importantly, terrorism is committed by people from all religions and nationality, including Americans like Ted Kacynski and Timothy McVeigh.
Crack open a history book, and you’ll quickly discover for the first 200 or so years after Christopher Columbus founded the “New World,” diversity in America primarily consisted of people from the European continent, practicing either Christianity or Catholicism.
It wasn’t until Southern plantation owners looked around and exclaimed, “Damn, who’s gonna’ harvest all this cotton,” was there a massive “import” of black people from Africa and the Caribbean. Ditto for railroad barons who decided Chinese workers would suffice for the backbreaking work of laying tracks.
Other groups have come to America, fleeing oppression, war, famine, intolerance, and economic hardships. With each wave of new arrivals, there have been currents of dissent, resentment, and sometimes, violence.
Given time, the currents ebb, and the new inhabitants settling into their communities, finding work or opening shops, sending their kids to school, building place of worship, and workings towards a better future for themselves and their families. There are thousands of communities across America, which have been founded or revitalized by a wave of new Americans. That’s what makes America great.
It’s what we defend when we recall our independence, and celebrate the Fourth of July.
I wrote back to my mother’s friend, pointing out that any person (Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein) or group of people (Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Mafia, Irish Republican Army, etc.) who take their beliefs to the extreme are bad.
In addition, the reason why she hasn’t seen a lot of contributions by Muslims to American society is that they comprise about .5% of the population. Even so, some have had a huge impact on America. I listed Dr. Mehmet Oz, disc jockey Casey Kasem, co-founder of YouTube Jawed Karim, founder of the Khan Academy Salman Khan, supermodel Iman, boxer Muhammad Ali, basketball player Shaquilla O’Neal, and head of Newsweek, International Fareed Zakaria.
She immediately wrote back and told me to “get off [my] high horse,” and if I called her a bigot Christian, she’ll call me a bigoted Jew.
I smiled, and immediately blocked her email. Being an American comes with responsibilities, including supporting the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion.