Sunday, January 27, 2013


We had a most pleasant evening. My brother served us a delicious meal and we all enjoyed the lively conversation. We drove back to my condo. Mike, sitting next to me, was visiting me briefly on his way to South America. I had met him many years ago when I came to America on a Fulbright scholarship; Mike had just returned from his Fulbright year in Germany and spoke German nearly better than I. His parents invited me for Christmas and I loved his father’s great sense of humor. My parents invited his parents, and vice versa. But marriage? To his and both our parents’ disappointment— No. Don’t ask me why. I couldn’t have explained it.

“I’d better fill up my tank,” I said, driving into a station. We had driven many miles that day and the tank was nearly empty. “Not now!” he objected grimly. “You can get gas in the morning.”

“I don’t think I’ll make it to the station then,” I pleaded.

“Then have them deliver a can of gas,” he replied.

“Who delivers gas to a simple mortal like me?” I protested, and proceeded into the station. “Don’t you budge, Mike, I’m good at getting gas.” And so I did, glad to have a full tank again. He didn’t budge.

Back at my condo I peeked into my kitchen, and stopped in surprise. “Look at this, Mike!” I called. “I wish my children could see this; they’d love it!” A snow-white snake of soap bubbles was creeping out of the dishwasher and along the kitchen floor. Quite comical, I thought. 

Mike came into the kitchen and his face darkened. “What did you do?” he demanded sharply.

“I poured in a bit of dish soap; the Comet was too lumpy and I didn’t want to let you wait,” I explained. “These are the cleanest dishes in town!” I laughed. “Years ago, when the children were little,” I continued, smiling happily, “we went skiing at Mammoth Mountain. It was a beautiful day and I brought a bottle of bubble soap along. We blew them into the gentle breeze—the bubbles glowed in all the colors of the rainbow.”

“How can you be so stupid!” he thundered. “Every ten-year old knows better!” A long, angry lecture followed, but I hardly heard him. Instead, my smile broadened with delight. I suddenly knew the answer to a long-time puzzle. Mike had visited me after his first divorce; I was divorced too. My friends all liked him. Mike was good-looking, very successful, and could be charming. “Marry him!”, they all urged me. But the idea didn’t appeal to me; I don’t know why. And I did not marry him.

He had recently divorced his second wife, and I, enjoying the single life, was still single. The same question came up again: Should I marry him?

I finally knew the answer. Deeply grateful to that heavenly intuition that had protected me twice before, I walked him to the door, with a Cheshire cat grin on my face, and said good night. Lovingly I scooped out loads and loads of bubbles, enjoying in peace the feeling of being human and subject to making mistakes. This one had offered not only great insight, but also many a laugh.  

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


We arrive on this Earth without a dime, and yet, most of our needs are usually met. For a short span, maybe three years, the meaning of possessions does not enter our mind yet. We gladly share our toys and happily play with other children.

But all too soon this changes. Perhaps the sense of possessiveness is inherent in the human race, similar to the territorial rights in the animal world. Or could it be an acquired trait we learn from our parents and caretakers? “This is mine, don’t you touch it!”

I recently learned of an intriguing custom related to possessions. On the first birthday, a child is presented with a variety of items to choose from.  His or her choices will be indicative of future interests.

By the time we are three, a toy is no longer just a toy, it becomes my toy. Another child is no longer simply a playmate, it’s either my friend, or it’s not my friend.

As we advance on our path through life, our desire to accumulate belongings tends to grow; many of us develop a fondness of modern gadgets that we eagerly upgrade with every new model.

Some of us are content when we have enough and direct our energies toward creative endeavors, knowledge, sports, research or helping others. Yet some people consider “enough” hard to define; they find it more fulfilling when there is no upper limit to their acquiring mode.

Some strive for a grand life style—a big house, the latest car, exotic vacations, and a good college for their children. It reminds me of the new Russian capitalist, who is often depicted as “… overweight, with a short haircut, a thick gold chain and a crimson jacket. Nothing is out of his reach. "Daddy,” says his son, “all my schoolmates are riding in a school bus. I feel like a black sheep in your Mercedes." "Don’t worry, son. I'll buy you a Merc bus, and you'll ride like everyone else!"*

Our children’s education is probably the most important of our aspirations. In effect, it requires a great deal more than funds; it requires us to set a good example, live a healthy life, and perpetually express and convey our love for learning.

As we grow older and we retire from the official work force, we may find ourselves busier than ever; we volunteer for worthwhile causes, learn new hobbies, and explore new skills. At this point, our interest in possessions tends to change. We no longer crave new possessions unless we are collectors and like to leave something of value behind, or, heaven forbid, we are hoarders.

We realize that possessions are a burden that weigh us down. Possessions have to be taken care of, insured, stored, cleaned, and they take up space. We begin to appreciate the advantages of simplicity, and the idea of “getting rid of stuff” gains in appeal. We take a deep breath of relief when we’ve cleaned out a closet and can find things more easily. Our living space gains in size when unessential items are removed. Whenever I hear of an opportunity to contribute to a rummage sale, I rejoice and start searching. While doing so, I often chide myself: why did I ever buy this? Obviously, I didn’t know then what I know now.

Our attitude toward possessions may be a reflection of life’s cyclical nature. We arrive on Earth without a dime, and we’ll depart without one. More important, it confirms the wisdom of the sages, not to worry about possessions, but to focus on friends, on joy, and on being alive and savoring the beauty of this world.

Until next time,

* from “Humor in Hard Times” by Roswitha McIntosh

Monday, January 14, 2013

Friends & Gatherings

The holidays are over, but memories of friends and relatives still linger. Preferably warm memories; forget the unpleasant ones, unless they relate to something preventable we don’t want to happen again.

Life is unpredictable, but much is in our control. We may need the courage to say “No”, or to plan ahead for likely eventualities.

Assume that young Stubby’s restlessness or grouchiness tend to upset your other guests. Arrange beforehand with his mom that you’d like him and others to play a vigorous game outside or build a magnificent snowman—have carrot, hat and other niceties ready for them.

If someone is about to spoil the harmony of the festivities, be prepared to act quickly and request that person’s “capable help” and take him or her out of the room—you may want to ask for improvements to the cake's decoration, or get some opinion on a garment you have. People like to be asked; it conveys a sense of importance and may lift their spirits.

Who of us can truthfully say that the company of each relative or friend is equally enjoyable? Not many. There may even be one guest you’d rather celebrate without in the year ahead. If it’s a relative who is usually invited, let her know ahead of time that regretfully you’re having only a small gathering and won’t be seeing her.

Few activities lift the spirit of a group quite as much as singing does. Joyful music leads us sunward in the Triumph Song of Life. Ask one of your friends to bring an instrument and make a few copies of some favorites. Since I can’t sing, this works rather well for me—I have to urge everyone to sing louder than I do, so no one can hear me.

We are most fortunate to have friends; even just one true friend is worth our deepest gratitude.

A friend who shared your early years,
your games, your school,
your joys, your tears,
he is indeed a kindred soul.

A friend who listens to your woes,
and understands your highs and lows,
knows truly well a real friend’s role.

A friend, who can your secret keep,
who does not run when you must weep,
reward her well with what you reap.

Without a friend this baffling earth
would be devoid of hope and mirth.
Be glad for every friend, and proud.

For friends who only drink your wine,
who gather ‘round when all is fine,
believe me, you can do without. *

Until next time,


*  From "In Search of the Good Life"

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year's Resolution

Here is a New Year’s resolution that is easy, enjoyable and rewarding. Be alive!

Have you ever thought about the difference between a person and a mummy? A person responds to you, looks at you, is interested in you, notices the sunshine and the flowers, exchanges ideas with you, and hopefully smiles at you and the world.

The poor mummy is lifeless; it has withdrawn into itself. Its world is closed to ours, as ours is closed to the mummy. I feel a sad separation from the mummy’s world of the past—not unlike the feeling I might get when listening to someone’s endless litany of ailments and complaints that leave me sorry, sad and drained.

Life is not always easy. But to be truly alive and stay youthful, we need to focus on life and rise above our woes. We all have burdens to bear. So if you love your friends, don’t weigh them down with the share that is yours. Instead, be aware of the now, listen to others, and tune in to new ideas.

Churchill comes to mind with his famous remark, Never give Up!  At age 90 he was still writing and researching and actively involved in politics. After he died, doctors found the seed of many major ailments in his body, but that barely slowed him down; he had no time for being sick. He stayed active and alive until the end. He never gave up.

May 2013 be a good year for you,