Monday, January 30, 2017

A Letter To My Daughter On Her 18th Birthday

The first time you were put in my arms, I was calm (I was also drugged, so that could have contributed to the situation). I knew everything about you, because you had been inside of me for the past nine months and I recognized your face from the ultrasounds (and no one wants to argue with a hormonal woman who has just gone through 12+ hours of labor).
But really, I knew nothing about you, and when we got home from the hospital and everyone left, I looked at Daddy and said, “Now what?”
Over the years, I’ve laughed and cried and screamed and laughed some more while watching you grow into the young woman you are today. And I can confidently say I know more about you than I did that first day I brought you home.
I know you have the brightest smile and most sparkly green eyes I’ve ever seen, and you make my world a happier place just by being you.
I know no matter how insecure you might feel inside, you project confidence and wisdom that I admire.
I know you’re honest and I trust you implicitly—and I know you can handle the weight of my trust.
I know you’re stubborn, and that your stubbornness will do you well in the future. While you might have occasion to temper it, don’t ever let anyone convince you to lose it.
I know you know yourself, and at your age, that’s amazing. I hope you continue to grow and learn more about yourself and always trust your inner voice.
I know you embody every single dream I had for my daughter when I first dreamed of you; when I first looked at your big eyes and curly hair and big kissable belly; and when I look at and talk to you now.
Happy birthday to my first baby. As you chart your path, remember where you come from, who you are and all your dreams for your future.
And never forget how much I love you.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Look Up!

I’m a terrible person to take on a tour because I always hold everyone up. It’s not that I walk slowly or that I’m uninterested in what’s going on. It’s just that inevitably, there is always something going on not on the tour that interests me. Maybe it’s a dress in a store window we pass, or an interesting looking building we walk by. When I see it, I stop and all of a sudden I realize the rest of the tour has continued and I’m all by myself.
That’s also true, apparently, when I’m in lines waiting to enter places. This past weekend I was in Trenton waiting to enter the War Memorial. As we filed up the stairs, I paused to look up. And I saw incredible ceilings.

I noticed the quotes carved into the buildings.

And I’m pretty sure the people behind me grumbled as I stopped to take pictures.
So to them, I apologize. Just like the tour guides who lose patience with me while waiting for me to catch up, I’m sure none of you appreciated having to wait while I oohed and ahhed and photographed. And I totally understand if you never want to walk near me because it will happen again.
Because I'm a writer, and noticing comes with the territory. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

When Twitter Works

I had the most amazing Twitter conversation with someone. It was amazing because we were able to have a civil, respectful discourse about politics. There was no talking at each other, no screaming and no accusation. On top of that, we were able to get our points across using groups of 140 characters or less, which for two writers, almost never happens.
I don’t know how she feels about my writing this, so I’m not going to name her. But she’s a best-selling writer I’ve admired for years. She’s an Iraqi war veteran, an officer in the Army and she brings that experience into her books. She’s currently getting her PhD at Duke. She’s been featured on PBS and has written widely about her military experience. In other words, she smart and powerful and mighty.
While she’s not sure we’re on different sides of the political aisle (we didn’t actually label ourselves), if we’re not, we definitely don’t agree on everything. But that didn’t matter. And it shouldn’t, because it’s possible for people to disagree to still have meaningful conversations (I would have said “expected,” but these days, I can’t.).
She tweeted her dismay at people potentially boycotting LL Bean because of a board member’s support of Trump. Because I am familiar with her, and have never seen her tweet anything disrespectful—that’s not to say she’s not passionate about things—I responded.
While my knee-jerk reaction is to boycott any company associated with a message of hate, after speaking with her and thinking about it, I’m not sure one board member’s association is enough to warrant it—if you think about it, it’s quite a high standard to start requiring and one which I’m confident would result in failure all around. And although it does leave a bad taste in my mouth, I’m pausing before making a decision that is right for me. I think I’m going to have to do a lot of that for the foreseeable future.
We talked about the need to balance support for companies that bring jobs to the US versus making our displeasure known when those companies show their support for hate. I talked as a civilian, Jewish woman. She talked as an Army officer from a small mill town. We both talked about our intolerance of hate.
In the end, we both agreed with the larger picture, we both expressed fear for the future, and we both appreciated our being able to discuss things clearly and rationally.
There’s a huge risk to starting or entering into these conversations on social media. You don’t know what kind of Pandora’s box you might be opening. And I’m not sure that someone else won’t respond angrily to something either one of us said. Freedom of speech is a scary thing right now. But we were careful with each other and we kept a common goal in mind—hatred, regardless of who it’s directed at, is never okay. And with respect, we can find our similarities even among our differences.

Monday, January 9, 2017

When Facebook Goes Bad

Being my friend on Facebook does not give you license to berate me for an opinion*.
I attended high school with approximately 1,300 other students. Just because you were one of them does not make us good friends (the same goes for any other association you and I might have—college, work, town, organization, etc.). It makes us have a location in common. If you were outside of my immediate friend group in high school, chances are, I had very little interaction with you, as I was a new student freshman year and I had a small group of friends. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fellow high school students better on Facebook than in school, a fact that amuses me greatly. Some of you I really do think of as friends, and I'm grateful for this social media platform that enabled our relationship. Others are mere acquaintances. Most of you make Facebook a fun place to be. But please recognize the boundaries.
If I’m not someone you’d choose to have a conversation with in real life—you know, face-to-face, in person, over coffee or chocolate—then chances are, we shouldn’t be having a potentially contentious conversation on Facebook. If you don’t like something I post there, you can simply continue to scroll down your phone or computer screen. If necessary, you can “dislike” it. If you absolutely can’t let it go, you can respectfully offer an alternative opinion. But there’s no need to make a nasty comment. I don’t do it to you, and believe me, it’s not because you’ve never expressed an opinion I disagreed with.
Social media gives us a false sense of security. It makes us feel as if we’re in a safe place and can say and do what we want with few consequences. It gives cowards a shield and idiots a platform. It gives us a microphone to reach a larger audience—without the annoying audio feedback and the incessant “Is this on?” It can also make us feel more important than we really are, thus giving us a license to say whatever we want, without thinking about the consequences.
Let me be clear. I’m not a huge fan of argument because I don’t like conflict. However, I am happy to put aside that dislike and enter into discussions with someone who disagrees with me if the discussion is civil, respectful and polite. You might change my mind, I might change yours or we both may agree to disagree. Those conversations are often interesting, educational and eye opening.
Disagree with my politics? Great, that’s what makes this a diverse nation. Tell me you disagree. Tell me why. Offer me an intelligent idea I haven’t considered before. Dislike my posts or don’t find my status funny? You’re entitled to your opinion and I believe your opinion is as valid as my own. We’re all different and that’s fantastic. Tell me your opinions nicely.
But--and this is a big one--my wall is my safe space. And it is a safe space for others as well. I will not tolerate anyone berating me or anyone else I might happen to be friends with on my wall. I will not allow bigotry or bullying or anything else that might offend me or make me wonder if your comment might offend one of my friends. I will delete, unfriend, unfollow or block without a second thought, and I won’t miss you being part of my Facebook world.

*99% of my Facebook friends don't cause issues--this post is for the other 1%. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcome 2017

It’s 2017.
I’d like to say I’m glad 2016 is over, because there was a lot about the year didn’t like—our country’s behavior, individuals’ behaviors, the loss of important celebrities from my childhood, my disillusionment with work I was doing and the people for whom I was doing it. But there were also things about 2016 I loved—learning who my true friends were, the support of my writing community and great times with my family.
I’m not convinced 2017 is going to be much better, but I’m determined to tackle it differently. No, I’m not making New Year’s resolutions—those are too easily broken, and to be honest, I put a bigger emphasis on the Jewish New Year than the secular one. But the Jewish New Year inspires me to work on myself and how I treat others. Moving into 2017 is inspiring my actions.
I am no longer letting other people’s opinions about me negatively affect me (yeah, good one). I try to be a good person and to treat others well. I’m not perfect and I make mistakes. But if other people don’t have the nerve to talk to me about it and instead, want to carry a grudge, that’s their burden, not mine. I have enough baggage of my own, I’m not carrying theirs too.
While I will go out of my way for others, I will not lose myself (there is no GPS in the world that can save me). There is only so much effort I can put into something before it becomes a lost cause and I’m not dealing with the stress.
I am dedicating myself to the people and the things that make me happy. No, I’m not becoming a selfish “you-know-what.” But I’m readjusting my focus and listening to my body. Chances are, if something is making me miserable, I probably shouldn’t do it. There will be a few exceptions, but very few.
I am exchanging fear for focus. The world is entering a scary place right now. I’m not going to overreact, but I’m not going to blindly accept things either. And I will support the causes that stand for justice and equality, regardless of what our leaders may do.

I think that’s enough for now. I hope it is. And I wish everyone a year of love and hope and peace.