Einstein on my mind

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I’d been thinking about an Einstein quote regarding technology becoming greater than humanity. I could spend a lifetime on Google trying to identify its context and viability. Nonetheless, this quote seems to pop up most:

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.


I think it’s true and sad. I was thinking about it because of my new grandson, Patrick Xavier. He’s smiling on purpose now, even giggling. He’s moving around more, and his world clearly is becoming larger. But his world still revolves around his mom for nourishment, a clean diaper, dry clothes, warmth and, dare I say it…love. Pure innocence and some kind of innate understanding—some will call it faith—that his needs will be met, humanity will prevail.

For what else is it when his mom or dad or aunt or sister hold him close, and he’s fed and warm and dry, and he looks at the world with such wonder and grins? He needs nothing else to be happy. Humanity in its simplicity is so obvious and so easy and already so perfect.

Leave it to us adults to muck it up.

The numbers alone tell the story. How lucky he is to be born a white male in the USA. How lucky he is to be surrounded by family on both sides who love him unconditionally and who would do anything to ensure his comfort, especially right now when he is helplessly only months olds.

All sad but true, as is this:  Neither the latest operating system or the largest 3D HD TV is associated with anything that makes him happy. And wouldn’t it be great if it never does?

If only the awe and curiosity and marvel of the world could be appreciated by Patrick his entire life, like the love and humanity that fuels him now. His intelligence could grow to its endless potential by using all those I-Phones, I-Pads and Androids as resources, but not as anything related to humanity. All of us surrounding him and by association all of us who experience the same would continue providing the identical unconditional love despite the imperfections we all grow into.

Per my quest of Einstein’s quote, technology may open open worlds of information that can help our population, but it’s yet to be demonstrated that any of that new knowledge has improved our humanity. In looking for the above quote, I came across this one from Einstein, too. A brilliant mind. I wonder if his heart hurt as he grew older.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
We can only hope Patrick and all of those creating offspring will allow humanity to rule over all else, no matter what lessons he, his sister and their friends might pick up from the technology in their classrooms and common sense in the lunchrooms of grammar and high school. 

We already possess Humanity. What if we stop focusing on the technology, and use it solely as the resource it was meant? What we’re doing for Patrick and others we must continue to do if a sense of peace and happiness are truly important:  Love and trust our family, be there for them without question or condition. It’s easy when we’re talking about an 11-lb. bundle. Yet, I still see both of my girls like that. Let’s teach our kids to look at the own world the same way, every day. 

Naïve, nonetheless nothing to lose. At least put your laptop or phone down and hug someone as a reminder of the human-ness of humanity. C’mon, you don’t even have to tell the recipient why. It’s really all that counts. Really.

On loneliness and being alone

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There’s a difference between the two.

Vast.

Being alone allows one to feel whole, even in a crowd. You’re comfortable in yourself and the others around you. Perhaps you’re just feeling reserved or quiet or you’re a solitary sole.

Loneliness turns that crowd onto you and says, “Something’s wrong with you. You’re undeserving.”

It doesn’t matter what you don’t deserve because you’re a nobody. You don’t count. People talk over you, or they dismiss anything you say.

Passover and Easter and the promise of Spring are reminders that anyone with a heart should not allow another to feel lonely. We are all just jettisoning through our little worlds in maybe 80 or 90 years if we’re really, really lucky. That’s a nano-second in the billions of years behind and ahead of us.

People who just watch others feel sad must have very sorry stories hidden deep down under. But they should stop the cycle. No one should knowingly let someone else be lonely. It’s the most purposeful abuse of a heart that I can think of.

We’re all just passing through. If we don’t use anything else, let’s wear out out hearts making others feel loved and wanted and deserving. When all is said and done, what else could possibly mean more?

There’s no place like home…

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There are only two young women who can beat Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” in reciting that line with the conviction of every single one of their cells. They are my daughters. They miss their childhood home, surrendered to the audacity of their growing up and out, and leaving their parents in a Very Big Building with bills reminding them regularly of the upside of downsizing. (Wow! I’ve gotten pretty good at turning the complaint around 🙂

Clockwise from left: Papa, 661 South Ave. in Sycamore,

Mama and Jönköping, Sweden in the center

Anyway, I’ve decided that’s not true, or rather, they’re not alone. I must add my mom, her cousins, my Grandma and her siblings, and myself, who feel the same about my great-grandparents house in Sycamore, IL. As Nassau Ave. is to my my daughters, South Ave. in Sycamore is to my family of origin. Those lucky enough to have grown up within the walls of those homes each love them as much as any other member of their families.

Only a few from the South Ave. era remain to vouch, but agree they would. In fact, my mom had a picture painted by our neighbor, and it sits above my great-grandma Mama and her husband Papa, and the town he immigrated from in Jönköping, Sweden. They follow me in all of my homes. And in so doing, they’re a daily reminder that without question homes are where our hearts are, not where the buildings are built.

We’ll have more addresses between then and now. They’ll all hold important memories because they’ll all have the benefit of our family and our love―captured slices forever only ours to reminisce. But that lesson comes with hindsight.

What lingers to my daughters from their youth in Norwood Park and mine in Sycamore are the magical moments of childhood. I know that for sure for many reasons. But a big one is because no matter that we moved, when one of those beautiful young women come “home,” plops down on the comfy chair, and sighs, “it’s so nice to be home,” that moment and my heart overflow with more love and gratitude than one can imagine is containable even though we’re not on Nassau Ave.

Yes, I know they’re expressing relief from a long day or week, and they may not think they mean it literally, but I know one day they will understand it wasn’t Nassau in Norwood Park. Just as my mother understood it wasn’t just South Ave. in Sycamore, but the lessons we learned there.

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t realize just how smart my mother was. Her asking our neighbor, Nancy Cassato, to capture memories by painting that home on South Ave. becomes a brilliant reminder that our memories and all that is so meaningful truly reside in the heart, not solely in a building.

The picture Mrs. Cassato painted keeps not just Sycamore alive for me. I look at it and always also think of our neighbor and her family and those memories that are no less as enchanting and hold even more recollections of wonderful times. Not from within the walls of 661 South Avenue, but ones that began from there, where that love was first nurtured. Home is where the heart is heard.

Sometimes life just sucks

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There’s no getting around it. To ensure it wasn’t just me, I googled the phrase. Nope, I’m not alone. Sometimes life just sucks. People you love save hurtful things, and worse, they occasionally take joy in it. Sometimes things seem just great with your kids, and all of a sudden they can’t get out the door quick enough.

Sure, I’ve done lots of things that provoke that treatment. But many times I haven’t. And that’s one thing my parent’s never prepared me for: sometimes life just sucks. People will hurt your feelings without feeling sad about it, or they won’t apologize for something, or they won’t appreciate your efforts when you’re dying for that recognition.

My mom spent the last decades of her life trying to toughen me up. She knew how deeply I loved. She and her mom and her mom’s mom taught me that love. But for some reason I’ve always had a hard time taking the hurt for what it’s worth — something unkind and something I don’t deserve and something I need to learn to walk away from.

If she told me once, she told me a thousand times, “Don’t let people treat you poorly, and don’t let people think you deserve to be treated poorly. You don’t.” At the same time, she’s said, “Own your mistakes. Apologize for them. Make sure your apologies are heard, too.” If anyone knew it took two to cause problems, it was my mom.

I remember one particular conversation with her. She was so worried that I wasn’t “toughening up.” She worried I took everything to heart. I kept saying that’s how I was, and it was okay because I always had her or Toto or my dad, my aunt and uncle — all of them to remind me that I am a nice person and I’m loved by the people that count. And she said, “Doll Face, we all won’t be here one day. You have to toughen up. You have to know that a bully will bully you as long as s/he knows its possible.” It was a Saturday night in our living room in Glenview, and I can tell you where we both sat, and how the light in the room changed as the hours passed, and how her eyes pleaded with me as much as her heart and her words.

I know now she kept on with this conversation so often because she loved me, and she didn’t want me to always feel so hurt by the words and actions or silence and inaction by those I love so much. I know now she probably even then felt the discussion futile, but maybe I’d think twice during these times when it feels like life just sucks.

My mom was so loving and so tough at the same time. I don’t know how she could be both. I know she had more than her share of disappointments, and I know she was a pro at shaking them off and moving forward. In so many ways I’m like my mom. I wish that were one of them.

But I’m SO grateful that I had those countless talks about toughening up to recall. I may not ever succeed in achieving that ability, but I learned about love from a pro. I learned about love from someone who never had to tell me and only through her actions proved what unconditional love is. So if sometimes life just sucks, I hope you have someone to remind you that you are worthy of unconditional love, and you don’t need to put up with those who would hurt you solely because they can. Or judge you as if they were better than you.

I’ve lived a blessed life with so many more wonderful than terrible moments. And to honor my mom, my grandma and my great-grandma, I have to remember that when some bully feels like it’s okay to make me feel bad. Because you know what — sometimes life just sucks. But there’s always someone out there who will love you for all the right reasons. So we have to shake if off and move forward. The bullies are the losers. Not those with hearts so big they can’t be shut off no matter how much they should be.

Some lessons take a long time to learn. Moms — they’re really something. They get that no matter how hard they work to convince you of something, they know you won’t learn some of those lessons in their lifetime. But thank heaven for them. Because that doesn’t stop them from repeating the lesson over and over again. They must know it echoes inside of you until eventually it resonates. They’re right. Sometimes life just sucks, but no one deserves to be treated poorly just because they can.

So whoever it is who loves you without condition and keeps telling you something repeatedly, and you just don’t buy it now, store it away. The truth of it will reveal itself when you need it most. As my mom would say about this and the few other truths that get me through my toughest moments, “stick with me.” Life isn’t always great, but some memories surely are.

She Pictured It Long Before I Did

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It was a month ago I learned I was invited to spend 18 days as a writer-in-residence at Ragdale. March 2, my mom’s birthday, and of course a birthday present from her from wherever she is, watching after me still.

I loved every minute of those 18 days, and I can’t wait to return. Of course, I love my family and home, too. But re-entry is very difficult, and it’s probably worth a seminar during a Ragdale stay in order to prepare one for it. 

In the three weeks I spent at Ragdale, I napped once. I never watched television. I only read my colleagues writings, the NY times and other literary publications. I stayed up late reading and writing. I woke up early, anxious to do it all over again.

I was originally teased when I arrived at Ragdale because I was so tentative about saying “I’m a writer.” Should there be any doubt, that apprehension is thoroughly washed away now. Not because I’m writing more since I’ve left Ragdale. But because I miss the environment created solely to stoke one’s creativity. Sure, at home I can ready our place to move, paint, clean out closets, shine the wooden cabinets in the kitchen, and then find some time to write. But it’s not the same. Nonetheless, I. Am. A. Writer. And write, I will.

If I learned anything at Ragdale, I learned how important it is for writers to take their craft seriously whether or not others do. To put dedicated time aside to put words on paper and know we’re creating magic in doing so, as painful as the process is. Because we really do look at blank pages. Writers start and then restart. Swear we’ll write 1500 words without editing a single one until we’re done, then go back and spend a full week editing each of those 1500 words until they sing the story we’re appointed to share. 

Writing is hard work. The odds of getting rich from it unlikely. But that’s not the point. I can no more not write than I can not breathe. I find My truth in writing. I learn more about myself in writing than in anything else I do. Writing is as much a part of my life as are my children and grandchildren. 

Perhaps the biggest lesson from Ragdale is to prove it. Find the time to write. The world did not fall off its axis while I was away writing. What makes me think it will if I’m home writing? Whatever was in my head that had me thinking that way has had its day. I’m a writer now, and I’m going to take the time to create the words that fight to get out every day―when I’m home or in the car or just about ready to doze off.  I’m simply not going to go to sleep at night without giving time to the craft that fuels me.

Theodore Roosevelt understood the concept:  “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…. Hunter Thompson was no less brilliant: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”

And if Shirley Stone were around, she’d add to those thoughts with words she used long before any sports equipment company’s advertising agency made them famous: “Just do it!” she’d be saying, and probably has been all along. And only as she can, she found a way to make sure I start listening to her again.

That’s mom’s for you, or at least what I’ve learned about what it means to be a mom: they never stop looking for ways to help you achieve your dreams, whether they’re sitting next to you or finding ways to remind you even after they’ve slipped those surly bonds. 

I’m on it, Mom. Thanks for the reminder.