Monthly Archives: January 2017

Procrastination

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I am generally getting ready to sleep at this time of the evening.  It’s 9:14 and it’s Monday. In two hours and forty six minutes it will be tomorrow.  I’m known to do my best work in the 11th hour of any project.  Remembering back to fourth grade,  Mrs. Rosenstock, was a rather no nonsense woman, albeit a good teacher.  She held us to high standards and pushed the students to be excellent.  Being stubborn in a quiet way, translated into doing things on my timetable.  Deadlines were challenges.  At about nine p.m. sometime in the spring of that grade,  my mother and I were doing battle, because my project on Holland was due in the morning.  Guess who hadn’t started it?  Yes, that would be me. The assignment had been given about two months earlier.  That would be a reasonable amount of time to create something good it would seem.  My mother, who really was living vicariously through my educational experience, I would like to think, had sent away to the Netherlands tourism board and asked for pamphlets about the country.  She was uber efficient.  My mother was also someone who could not walk past a pamphlet without taking at least one copy, if not two, home with her.  The subject matter, seemed often irrelevant.  In actuality, when I was about fifteen, she brought home some pamphlets about a Speech and Hearing Institute in Manhattan, and I actually perused them, at great length, which led to my researching what the field was about and eventually, I went to college to study Speech Pathology and Audiology. Props for mom.

But, back to Holland.  I think I chose it because I liked windmills and tulips.  I also read Hans or the Silver Skates repeatedly.  That was about all I knew about the subject.  That fateful night it was a battle of wills. “I will not do it, I’m tired “said I, and “yes you will!” said my mother.   Through lots of tears, mine and lots of whining, mine as well,  I sat with a pair of scissors and cut apart pictures from the array of brochures that had arrived probably about a month earlier.  My mother, organized the pictures and came up with subject headings involving the people, the food, the windmills, you get the idea.  With that disgusting rubber cement, I glued all the pictures in the proper place, under the supervision of Mrs. Project Manager.  I also was directed to write something underneath each picture and by the stroke of midnight, I had, what I might, in retrospect acknowledge, a fine project that netted me an ‘A’ and some comments about being well organized and charming.  Let’s face it, the ‘A’ was not for me, or even really mine.  Lesson learned….if you leave things till the last minute, things work out.  That was probably not the lesson my mother had in mind.

That pattern of putting off, what should be done in a timely fashion, remains my signature behavior.  That rush of adrenaline, knowing that if I can pack for a trip, last minute might make more sense, because the weather forecast will be more accurate, correct?  Taxes, well, let’s say going on extension, was made for folks like me.  It’s not that I couldn’t get it together, but actually research has shown that often, working under pressure and a deadline, can produce a better product.  Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Margin of error,  is another statistical option, available to me and to others who might just have the same motivation, to hurry up and wait.

The funny part in life is that I am always on time or a little early in getting to where I need to go when it involves others.  I don’t like to wait.  I don’t enjoy going to restaurants which don’t take reservations.  It makes me anxious and when I see people pull into the parking lot of a restaurant at the same time as my FHB and me, I make a mad dash to get there first, even if it is an elderly couple.  I block and run.  I don’t like keeping others waiting.  In my practice, I will always run on time because I recognize others time is valuable.  I appreciate that.  Translating that dictum into getting things in on time without rushing, is still a work in progress.  Mondays and Friday writings have become something that when I complete a post, I am proud of myself. I don’t write until it’s almost last minute but I do get it done.  My mother would be rolling her eyes, but she would also know the stubborn was from her genetic matter, so she would smile and just shake her head.

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Letters + Revelations

A new voice…share it!

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As someone who prefers letters to text messages and who [allegedly] hasn’t quit reading books, I’d like to think I’m more appreciative than your average teenager. I also think I may in fact be turning into my mother due to the fact I, prior to writing this, scoured my [relatively] local bookstore for Pride & Prejudice and even Fahrenheit 451. This may be due to being an only child and since I was raised around adults the majority of the time, I grew to be more mature or, it could have to do with the wonderful person in my life who sends me packages around holiday time addressed in squiggly writing, or cursive and even has them addressed to my cat. I guess it’s normal to feel as though I was born in the wrong era when I seldom watch modern tv shows. I’ve since stopped watching all other…

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Eddie and Mary

 

So, this isn’t the revealing of a scandal of any sort.  This is just about two people, who didn’t know one another, born fifteen years apart, on two different continents, whose paths never crossed but who, when I think back, were part of my growing up. One (the man on the left) is my father, born Edgar Braun, know as Eddie, to family and friends, and Ed to business acquaintances and colleagues.  The other(on the right), Mary Tyler Moore, was known to millions, as a woman who was admired and watched on television, bringing laughter and substance, as well as the realization, that being a woman in a man’s world and industry, was more than a possibility.

Eddie, would have been ninety-five today.  Mary reached eighty, last month.  They probably would have gotten along, because he enjoyed good conversation and although he didn’t easily watch much comedy on television, he might have admired her career, as he worked in business, and in an industry (insurance) that was male dominated.  He worked alongside women, who supported the work in clerical and some managerial positions, and he treated them with respect and regard.  He was part of the “Greatest Generation” and worked in Manhattan during the “Mad Men” years  but didn’t participate in the so call “hijinks” behaviors that characterized the 1960s.  He worked hard and was well educated, and almost completed his PhD in Economics.  He faced some prejudice in the workplace, as the only observant Jewish employee, in an office that was primarily staffed by non-Jews who were white males.  It required him to learn how to get along, and fit in, in order to move up the corporate ladder without making the differences matter in an obvious way.  He worked long hours and was able to retire at age 62 and do the things that he and my mother enjoyed, including lots of travel, fishing (for him) and researching our roots.  His job was his employment, not his life and he knew the difference and he talked the talk as well as walked the walk.  As a teenager, I sometimes went to work with him on Saturdays if he had some things to catch up on.  We would take the elevated train from Queens, the No. 7, Flushing line, into Grand Central and walk to the office.  It was always quiet, and as he turned on the lights, I remember the offices, and cubicles and switchboard  becoming bright, and I walked around with a reverie that this might be a place for me some day.  Some weeks in the summer, as I got older, I was asked to fill in for his secretaries while they were on vacation and I learned the switchboard, and how to answer a phone properly “Mr. Braun’s office, may I help you?”  I remember thinking what could I do in the corporate world.  The switchboard perhaps, or being an “executive secretary”?  In time I knew I had a different career path in mind but my relationships and observations of office life and decorum, and how formal it seemed and how prescribed it appeared, left its mark on my memory.

Mary Tyler Moore was someone whose life and character as “Mary Richards” became someone who I decided I liked. I adored her apartment and thought she had a pretty good life, with friends and colleagues.  I never thought of her as someone who needed a partner in life to be complete.  It was pretty revolutionary to imagine a woman, independent and happy, and most of all, successful in a world that was created by men, for men.  I was finishing up high school as the show began and saw that she was more than a character, she had dimension and her challenges were those that were going on with many women around me.  I just was one of those people who hoped that things worked out for her, both on television and in life.  She demonstrated hard work and fortitude. It transcended television.

It seems a funny coupling, Eddie and Mary, but when I thought of today and them, it made sense to remember both, as one real to me and palpable as my parent, and other as real in the sense of a role model “woman of substance”.  I admire both. I miss my father for his intellect and wit and reassurance at times.  I was an adult when he died and he left me with an understanding of how systems worked in the world and how to guide others in fairness and kindness.  Mary’s lessons were absorbed through her ability to show another way in which life was full of possibilities.  It’s nice to remember people who guide us.  It keeps them with us and I always believe that one’s death is a moment in a lifetime, but it is not the measure of a life.

Miss you, Daddy.

 

Tabula Rasa

 

That feeling a lot of us are feeling….it just isn’t going away, is it?  It is not a case of “Bobby Ewing Taking A Shower”, which helped make a whole season of “Dallas” (the television dynasty show of the 1980s)  disappear with the stroke of a pen and it turns out it was only a dream.  This is a new kind of difficult intrusion in our daily thoughts.  There is a word we use in “social work-ese”.  It is called processing a situation. We assess, evaluate, and then assess again.  It leads to a clearer understanding of a situation and we call ourselves “reflective learners” as we rely on known strategies. We then create a plan going forward that will lead to optimal outcomes and a decrease (from a mental health perspective) in anxiety and worry.  Well, friends, it’s not working too well.  All that I think about when I think about processing is that “American Process Pasturized Cheese Food” which is yellow and fits on a piece of enriched white bread. Truth be known, I have turned to that in times of need of something comforting and grilled.

These days being a clinical social worker is no easy task.  It’s hard to manage to be empathetic, supportive and reassuring to others when your own core is jumping around.  Some might say that in fact, times like this must be “good for business”.  Yes, I am in an industry (though we don’t like to think of it as such, because it corporatizes work with people, alas), that probably won’t go out of business.  I sometimes imagine that possibility because it would be predicated on the idea that life was easy enough to handle and every person had their toolbox (another social work-y word) filled with those things that they could identify  and use when they needed to fix something… la la la.  When pigs fly.

The blackboard is there to remind me and you, if you consider it, a place to go back to restating the rules.  Civility must be in the forefront along with decency and recognition that we live among others and our behaviors translate into actions that keep us on track.                  I used to like to go up to the blackboard and solve equations, fill in information, and my best memory was being the scribe for other people’s answers or opinions.  Cleaning the erasers in some type of machine that slapped the felt pieces together was a privilege.  Not sure I ever aspired to that since chalk dust was nasty.  Erasing years of social progress is a chilling thought.  Think about the words that are on that blackboard and when you erase them, they are still there in the shadows.  We have all worked too hard, cried too many tears, and risked too much to stop now.

In general I like rules. They ground me and give me boundaries that I can live with.  I follow the rules that make sense to me. I question those rules that challenge my sensibilities.  As I child I observed how the rules made sense and created order in my child’s mind.  As an adult, I respond to structure and I encourage my clients to create their safe place by defining the rules that they can follow.  When conflict arises, in my own world or the worldview at large, I step back and contemplate what the next step might be.  I’m still in contemplative mode.  None of this is easy, now.  My voice is quiet at this moment.

What comes to mind now is a set of life rules that I have found allow me, and others to manage life in a straightforward fashion, day to day. I share them with the students I work with and somehow, as simple as they are, they resonate.  We often write them together to reinforce their power, which is our power.   I can evaluate how I am doing at the end of the day, and sometimes that is the best that can be done.  I only share them because  it’s all I have that makes me hope.  So here they are:

  1.  Learn something every day.
  2. Teach something every day.
  3. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize, and mean it.
  4. Be nice, cause you can never have too much nice in your life.

 

 

Wait! Anticipate…..

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When one of my sons was about five,  I was reheating something (probably macaroni and cheese…the one in the blue and yellow box because I didn’t yet know that it was terrible for humankind) and I had put it in the microwave .  He stood in front of it, rather impatiently and pronounced loudly “MAKE IT GO FASTER!!!”   I thought, at that moment, to myself “kiddo, if you only knew about waiting!”.  I ruffled his curls (when I was still allowed to touch the curls, which are long gone) and just smiled in time for the dinger to ding.  Another satisfied customer.

I remember being told to “hold your horses!”. Living in a city apartment in New York, did not give me much insight into what that might have meant, despite knowing the tone that whatever I was waiting for, anticipating, was not arriving on the Pony Express.  Sometimes I was told “Pipe down and hold your horses!” and the emphatic way that it was suggested also gave way to learning that waiting was going to be hard, but necessary.  Thinking back the expressions were so much more visual and vague at the same time, but gave pause, to ponder and imagine, having horses and holding them.  It was the age of cowboys on television, ranches and  the Old West.  There was Wagon Train, the Rifleman and Gunsmoke.  I wanted to visit Bonanza and meet Little Joe (heartthrob) and also meet Barbara Stanwyck and her Big Valley.  I figured I could start the conversation about having the same  first name despite the fact that I was so very shy and she was rather formidable. Some of the programs were on much too late for my bedtime and back then, you had to wait a week to see a show and if you missed it, well, you missed it.  I’m not a big fan of television in its current iteration which feels at times, to me, like there is a lot to watch but nothing to see.  Others, read my impatient son,  would suggest that you can record it, find it, watch it and you don’t have to wait anymore, for just about anything.

Waiting is incredibly difficult, I would have to agree with that five year old.  However, when you wait, you kind of imagine that you know how something is going to be, whether it has a taste or a texture, based on previous experience, or an outcome because it is familiar but is momentarily out of reach.  So, you can be a bit patient, for  a moment, until it finally is here.  That is, if you are looking forward to whatever you want to actually arrive, having held those horses for just long enough.

Back in  TVland time, we had a simple formula for predicting how things were going to work out.  There was a bad guy (black hat) and a good guy (white hat).  There were the strong women, e.g. Barbara Stanwick and the faithful ranch hands, and at the end, good triumphed, for another week.  So, now I have to say, I don’t know the formula or recipe for what is happening now or in the not too distant future.  We seem to be done waiting and now we are anticipating…..but it is not clear what that might be.  Speculation is the word of the day.  Now we have algorithms and trends, factors and insights (depending on who you are watching and who is saying what).  We have enough data to choke a horse (those poor horses are really exposed to some very high stressors, if you ask me).  But adding it up, figuring it out, based on what we have been waiting for or anticipating, is just another way of acknowledging that we sometimes don’t know what we don’t know.  That’s about all I can accept at the moment.

My imagination likes to imagine destiny as a possibility.  My reality looks a bit different. It would be easier to live in one place but we are old enough to know we live in the other.  So now it is our responsibility to not wait, but anticipate, and be aware of what we are seeing and hearing.  We can take nothing for granted.  It’s not the Old West and we don’t wear the hats that identify what our roles are that will lead to resolutions and happy endings.

I found this wonderful saying by Will Rogers (if you have to ask who? Look it up and realized you are young and missed some good stuff)…..

“There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few that learn by observation. The rest of them have to peeon the electric fence.”

Giddyap….careful on those trails.  It could be bumpy.  Watch out for rattlers.

 

Commit Meant

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Remember those?  If you can, in retrospect those were probably a bit dangerous to put in our mouths.  And yet, here we are, alive and kicking (as my mother would have said). Sorry we missed one another on Friday the 13th.  I usually regard that day with amusement as I listen to those around me bemoan the full moon, the fear of bad things happening on Friday the 13th and I smile.  That’s because I was actually born on Friday the thirteen, in November.  My mother did not expect me for another two weeks, and thought that early labor was  actually the  result of eating brussel sprouts and the indigestion that followed shortly thereafter.  Well, I liked being early, back then and now.  However, that day started with a few aches and sore throat and ended with my “just going to sleep for a little while”. I woke the next morning feeling  peaked and under the weather (what are those expressions, anyway) and realized that for all my stalwart behavior , I was down for the count.  I considered writing on Saturday, but the rhythm of my writing is based on committing to a routine that is comfortable and predictable. Hence, I’m back tonight because it’s Monday and on Monday, I write.

My health is fine and I tend to ignore the little stuff (sore throat, stuffy nose, etc).  I pay attention to the bigger annoyances because time has shown that when we ignore those things, they just grow out of control and then we have a problem, Houston.  I have discovered that drinking green tea and lots of assorted fluids keeps me upright and on the road to getting well.  I am a workhorse and don’t like to use sick days unless I have something that sharing would not be caring, and I am cognizant that working with kids and adults in a public school is a breeding ground for germs.  It is often that I just keep on ticking like a cheap Timex until I have a day to donate to my germs.  Years ago, when I broke my ankle, I didn’t decide it hurt until I looked at the swelling under my sock that appeared grapefruit sized and then I knew that this was going to hurt.  Stubborn in in my genetic fiber, just ask my FHB.  Now the rest of my family has been sick and miserable and I am very doting and sympathetic, offering home remedies, fabulous chicken soup like my grandmother never made and lots of concern.

Mercury thermometers and I had an interesting childhood.  I found out that if you put it against the radiator for a minute or so, your temperature of 106 degrees did not bring the ambulance but rather a strong admonishment about hypochondriasis.  Busted.  I thought I was clever but I found out the adults were several steps ahead of me.  When I was legitimately sick with ear infections and tonsils the size of mandarin oranges, I got comic books and warm faceclothes and some gentle nurturing.  A nice memory.  I wonder what happened to all of our comic book collections.

It’s quiet in the loft.  This is the time of night when the clock seems to go a bit faster as I sip my tea and choose my words and thoughts to share.  My FHB is already fast asleep.  The cat has taken up her station and is dreaming of cheese and chicken.  The moon has risen and moved along its nightly journey.  I hear some traffic in the distance and the humming of the appliances.  I am not a night owl by any means but this time to me is cherished.  I collect my thoughts during the day, like the farmer who carries the ripened fruits in her apron to create something personal and delicious to share.  I don’t necessarily know how it will turn out until the words are in front of me.

I would be remiss in not acknowledging the week ahead.  I know that these times are fraught with worry and distress. I feel it and share it.  It is distracting and deep inside all I think we can do is say our heart.  If nothing else can heal our days, it is the realization that our collective consciousness must be one of strength and kindness.  Say your heart.  Maybe  whatever ailed me for that day, allowed me to take a moment to start to heal.

 

 

Unplanned Obsolescence

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A protractor, a jump rope, and a steno pad.  All things I mastered and figured having those skills made me a well rounded person.  I thought that in combination, I might be considered a bit strange (imagine that) but individually,  they might be skills that I could teach others, or get paid to know or have a future with.  The jump rope might be a stretch, I’ll concede.  Knowing how to use a protractor would gain me engineering skills.  For those near and dear to me, I imagine they are rolling their eyes as I am the least precise person that they know.  This is why I use the terminology “more or less” , ” approximately” and “my best guesstimate would be…”.  We can’t be good at everything or there would be a lot of redundancy.  In high school I took, on the advice of my mother and guidance counselor (two separate women), shorthand.  It was the 1960’s and the women’s movement was building momentum, but if I didn’t join, I could get  a good job as a secretary and take dictation.  I still have a few moves, which I use….NEVER!

Sometimes I imagine explaining to my granddaughters that I know things that were fun and helpful back in the dark ages.  Nothing required batteries and we used them to figure out things.  Actually, the jump rope could be used as a tool to measure distance, so there you go.  Something fun that is now an exercise tool.  In reality, my sense of balance and timing excluded me from double dutch and jumping in and in fact, just jumping in place risked my tripping over the rope as it came down or whacking myself in the head with it. I was dogged in my attempt to master it and I found, although it was a game with others, I took it as a solitary pursuit.

Looking back is realizing that progress is hard to measure when you are in the moment.  What we thought would be the future was beyond our imagination.  My grandmother, who was born in 1887 and died in 1978 was fascinated by mobile homes and we often took her to shows where she could climb into the ones that could be driven and she would examine the cabinetry and storage and would marvel at how compact and clever they were.  She wanted to fly in an airplane and in her late 80s, she and my father flew from New York to Massachusetts so she could have that experience and she loved it.  I guess it would be akin to my wanting to ride in one of the first space crafts when I was a ten year old.  I wanted to know what it would be like to be weightless and float around.  Anything greater than that was the stuff of movies and  H.G. Wells novels.

When I think about the things we have now I  realize that I didn’t imagine that I needed anything more to do life with.  Driving a car was a hope that was realized and having a phone in my room as a teenager, with my own phone number, was a very big deal.  The world was big enough and even with my imagination, my dreams and hopes were based in my future as an individual, being productive and independent.  Navigating by public transportation in New York City was through maps and memorization and asking people for directions.  There was my competency.  Interactions with others was valuable, and the skill in the art of conversation was the subject of books to improve your chances and choices in life.  I sense I am ranting.  The irony is that writing this discourse is possible now because of all I never expected or imagined.  Those of us who write blogs, or posts or texts or emails, are published, actually self published, with the help of many others, I will never know or know by name.  With every word and sentence sent, we attempt to connect with others and share our frame of minds in that moment.  We have learned to react through Twitter and other social media links, or respond through emails.  We fight virtual battles through clouds and  data and never look in the other person’s eyes or see their smiles or tears or frustration or pride.  We may have more ways to communicate what WE are thinking but are often disconnected by those we truly want to reach.  We can say hug, but we can’t really feel it and there is nothing like a good, old fashioned pat on the back, hug and feel of the energy between human beings.  I see the change, I participate in it, and yet, I feel that a jump rope was a short distance between two people and you can’t copy, send or paste that.

Have a good week.  Send a postcard.