Things I Want My Son To Know #24 ~ One Foot In Front Of The Other

You have certainly learned the hard way, this year, that procrastination is a killer. The bad news is that you have paid quite a price for it. The good news is that you have had a chance to learn this lesson way sooner than most people do. Whether you actually learn from your missteps was the subject of another blog!

When you have procrastinated, dug yourself a hole, things can seem pretty bleak. At times it may not seem worth climbing out of the hole, even though you know it is. Just getting out of bed can seem a chore; that’s what depression feels like. When you feel like that, fight it. Get out of bed anyway, suit up, show up.

In life there are really only a very few choices when it comes to the times you make mistakes. You can dwell in the past, wallow in self pity and be generally non-productive thereby compounding the problem. Or you can feel bad, take stock, take your lumps, learn something and go forward; figure out how to do better. There is an alternative some see a choice; I don’t. I don’t believe any mistake is worth taking your own life, speaking as someone who has made some doozies.

Life doesn’t stand still. The life you were given is precious and all too short; you are too young to really understand that yet. Life goes forward even when you wish it wouldn’t. And so all there is to do is to wallow, or to go forward with it a wiser person. At those times when you have made a misstep, you get up, you find the path and you put one foot in front of the other; you get through the day. There will be a better one coming.

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Things Grandma Joan Wants You To Know #2 ~ Don’t Stop Creating

Darling Jacob, I expect your ma has already pointed out to you that there are many ways in which to be creative (see the “express yourself” post) and that you have learned that for yourself. But do you know that being creative is possibly the closest way in your life that you will come to the divine?

You already know the satisfactions that occur when you finish a drawing; I am sure you are at least a little pleased now and again by something you have written. Making it new. Whether it’s a card or a baby, momentous or merely satisfying, useful or decorative. You have a grandpa, Alfred, who used to create delightful, funny monologues using words. Who knows what sorts of tools you may use, who knows what sorts of satisfactions you may find in your life ahead, but I am sure that if you continue to make things, your life will be blessed. What I wish for you is that you feel this and that you don’t stop. That you don’t settle into an ordinary, everyday, pedestrian existence, the same existence of most of the people in the world.

You’re already shown your talent and your pleasure in your talent. Please keep it up, no matter what else you do and use it if you can in your life’s work or as your life’s work.

Your grandmother has spent her life making things, art, sculpture, books, her house (especially her house). She lives this advice and she has lived a most interesting life; so don’t stop creating.

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Practical Advice For My Son #2 ~ How To Use The Washer

I wouldn’t normally do two practical things in a row, but in an homage to a commenter, I felt compelled to write this. A man I don’t know commented that I should tell my son how to run laundry because most men don’t really know how to use a washer or a dryer. His comment was that these machines should be shaped like women!

So here goes. First, there is never a real need to use hot water, warm will always do. Saves money, saves the environment. Second, don’t put your wadded up, inside out, socks and pants in the washer without unwadding, unfolding and generally right side outing everything (except black which I will get to in a minute). Check your pockets, we have washed a lot of IDs, licenses, important school papers, money, over the years. You never know when you might want that phone number and once its washed you can’t read it.

Since you will always use Shaklee (purchased, of course, from your mother) you will put one to two ounces of laundry soap in the bottom of the washer along with a small scoop of laundry booster. Turn on the water, let everything dissolve. Separate light and dark and very heavy items (do these in their own load, like the towels). If you have new colored clothing, do it separately or only with like colors. If you have nice new blacks, turn them inside out to wash, it will preserve the black. Make sure you do your sheets and towels at least once a week! If you like softener, put the correct measure of softener in the post. Set the water level to the size load and put on regular wash, no need for extra rinses.

Put your clothes in the dryer with a dryer sheet (recyclable of course) and set on either regular or permanent press (for synthetics, dress shirts/pants, blends, things you would prefer not to have shrink like favorite t-shirts, regular for jeans, underwear, socks, towels, etc.) There is never a need to use high heat. If you use dryer balls you will shorten drying time, save on electricity and lessen wrinkles. If you don’t know what they are or where to get them, look it up on the internet, a skill I know you have. If you take your clothes out as soon as they are dry and fold or hang, you will reduce your ironing by a lot. Remember, most things will smooth out nicely when removed warm and treated right. And that doesn’t just go for laundry.

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Things I Want My Son To Know #10 ~ Respect Your Heritage

You have a complicated heritage. Your are adopted so there is a part of your heritage that you may never know much about. We do know that part of the heritage of your birth family is Native American. Since it is what we know, and it is special, hold it close and cherish it. This is a particularly spiritual and compassionate heritage and someday you may want to know more about it. I wish I could tell you more but that is all we know and all we have been able to find out.

But… you have the heritage of your family as well. That is us. Your maternal grandmother is, if anything, a Unitarian (religious preference). More importantly she is descended from early colonists and English missionaries to Hawaii. She was born into the Daughters of the American Revolution, as I understand it, but was drummed out for marrying a Jew (I think they are slightly more liberal now). There are two things important about this, first that she is descended of those revolutionaries in America and second that she experienced discrimination against Jews (something you should never forget). There is a history of her family among my books.

Your maternal grandfather is a Russian/Polish Jew whose grandmother fled Russia with her eight children and no husband and no English as a result of discrimination and poverty. Her story is an amazing one and your great grandmother described their journey to your Uncle Dan who wrote it out. This precious piece of writing is saved for you too (of course).

Your paternal grandfather was Irish through and through, and Catholic by upbringing; there is little we know about his ancestry but despite your father’s stubborness there is a little magic there.

Your paternal grandmother is, I believe, English and German. If this is wrong, I will let your dad post a correction! She is the toughest woman I have ever met and she is the only one in the whole family that is really good at handling and saving money. You could take a page out of her book on this one.

Finally, although you are many things, you are a Jew. You were raised as a Jew with Jewish values. Your dad was raised as a Catholic but chose to be a Jew because he believed in the values and principles of Judaism, he believed in Judaism as a way of life. And he chose it with no input from me. The Jewish heritage is a rich and vital one. It is a heritage of learning, knowledge, charity, spirituality, community service and kindness. The rituals are beautiful and many of them revolve around the home, rather than the house of worship, making them even more special; the candles, the seder, havdallah, chanukkiah (menorah).

It is important to respect that at least on two counts, your ancestors would have experienced terrible discrimination and physical violence merely for being who they were. If for this reason alone, you should be proud to be who you are, a Jewish man with Native American roots (among other things). You should wear your star proudly and never be ashamed of it. The Jews historically fought for civil rights in this country, side by side with African Americans seeking equal rights because they knew what discrimination was. You should always stand up not only for yourself but for those who are treated as lesser.

Whatever you think of religion ultimately, light the candles in your home; light a chanukkiah; conduct a seder with your children and re-tell the story of our liberation from slavery. It will make you feel proud and good; it will make you feel closer to your ancestors.

have a seder with your children you will feel closer to those who are gone.

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Things I Want My Son To Know #7 ~ Cook With Your Children

Whipping up recipes long held in your family can whip up fond memories as well.

Cook your family recipes; some things should be kept alive. In ethnic families there are rituals, usually tied to the religious, that are important and become part of the legacy and memories. In most families, eating together is a ritual that preserves legacy and memory. Even more, there are foods, cooked and eaten at particular times or times of year, prepared in a particular way, by particular people that especially preserve legacy and memory.

There are things you need to know. How to make the letter cookies your great grandmother, and then I, made when each of us in succeeding generations were small. How to make the cherry filled cookies that your great grandmother made for your grandfather and which are his very favorite. How to make your grandfather’s chopped liver (yes, the secret is in the schmaltz) and your grandma Joan’s lemon meringue pie which is too good to put in a pie, just make a double filling and eat it. I don’t know how you came to dislike brisket but you should still know how to make the best brisket on the planet, and the best potato latkes (you will always have friends at chanukah, guaranteed).

Whether you choose to be an observant or participating Jew, you should know how to make a seder. It is important to pass our story on to our children, year after year. The food is part of it, it is the glue that helps to bind our memories together, it keeps them real. The food is the taste and smell of the past and a path to the future. You know, being who I am, that I will have collected the recipes for you, and bound them in some kind of book for you to keep. But a book on a shelf isn’t enough. A few times a year, you need to take it down, make something yummy, and think of me, of your dad, of your grandparents, and the times we cooked and ate those foods together. And when your children are little, cook with them, and tell them the stories of the food and the memories… and they will live on.

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