Things Ruben Wants You To Know #1~ What My Father Taught Me

First, I shall tell you about some of the things my father taught me. Then I’ll proceed to my recommendations for you, Jacob.

My father taught me kindness and compassion, appreciation of my fellow human beings, the joys of service to others, patience, tolerance and understanding of people, even if their outlook on life, politics,
religion, nationality, race, or sexual orientation was different from mine. In addition, he impressed upon me that it is utterly self-destructive to carry a grudge. Also, I learned from him that though it is all right to dislike a person or thing, I should never hate.

I further learned, both by his teaching and by his example, consideration and charity, as well as honesty, sincerity, optimism, fairness, tidiness and many other positive things, all of which made me into an extrovert and, hopefully, a decent human being. In other words, he shaped my personality and my interpersonal relationships – plus my philosophy of life. To this day I still live by that, and I enjoy life and the many friends I have.

This is what I would like you to know: You may disagree with your friend – about politics, religion, or whatever – but you should respect him/her for his/her belief, and remain on friendly terms with your friend. You should never carry a grudge – once something is over, it’s over. Carrying a grudge or “hating” is totally
self-destructive.

Life is full of challenges; never despair, but meet those challenges head-on – remember that your glass is always half-full, not half-empty, Today’s young people are besieged by electronic instant
communication to the extent that some of them actually lose their humanity. I sincerely hope that you will not be one of these, but will use those marvelous tools wisely and with circumspection.

Stay in touch!

Things I Want My Son To Know #6 ~ Fix What You Can

Duct tape, WD40 and Birth Control.

Ok. So some things really touch your heart, some things are just seriously important and some things just have to be passed on. I am about to pass on the advice my dad gave me when I left for college at a too young age. So this is in the last category, but it is also just plain funny. I was leaving home at 16 and, unlike you, glad to be doing it. I had an adventurous spirit, something I hope you will grow a bit more of. Understand, for the purposes of putting this advice in context, that your grandfather had not lived with us since I was roughly six. And he was a bohemian, creative, brilliant artistic type. He was not your usual dad, just as he’s not your usual grandfather. The thing about your grandfather is that he not only knows how to fix most anything, he deeply believes that anything can be fixed. Sometimes he would like to fix things not worth fixing and while I believe we have become too quick to dispose of things, I also know there is a time to dispose; but that’s a different discussion. So there I was getting ready for college at sixteen and my father’s advice for going into the world was that you must have three things, and with those three things you could fix anything that needed fixing. The three things were duct tape, WD 40 and birth control. There are many jokes to be made here, all of which I have heard from friends with whom I shared this story, none of which bear repeating. While this is funny, there is something important to think about in it. These three things represent problem solving, having the right tool for the job, holding things together, making things work smoothly, being in control of and responsible for your actions, fixing things that need fixing and general self-reliance. These are all values that I wish you to hold dear. Not the least of which is that some advice, however goofy it may seem at the time its offered, just sticks with you.

Stay in touch!

Things I Want My Son To Know #3 ~ Have Faith

Have faith. Whether or not you have religion, which I will talk about in a minute, have faith. A spiritual life and a religious life are not the same thing. Believing with your heart that there is something greater than yourself, whatever you call it, means you are not alone when you don’t have people around. It means you don’t have to control everything in the world. In fact, I have come to realize, I have control over just one thing, my behavior. I can’t control my thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes, imaginations. But I can control how I act. I want my son to know that faith has an action component. Having faith means getting up and going to work or school for another day when you think you can’t, unpacking one more box on moving day when you are about to drop, reaching for an f sharp when you have barely ever sung an f, putting one foot in front of the other when there seems no point. The action component to faith is never giving up but allowing faith to carry you when you have nothing left and believing that you will be okay no matter what. It means living in the moment. You can make sensible, logical plans but in the end you have only the now and you can’t control the random part of what life will bring you. You create what you can and then faith has to kick in. I do believe that religion is important, it gives a community, a history, a ritual and a sense of belonging. But whatever you choose about religion, find some faith, find a way to be spiritually centered in your life. Suit up one more day because you are alive, do the job one more day because you can, reach for the f sharp, always.

Stay in touch!

Things I Want My Son To Know #2 ~ Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid. That’s it in a nutshell. If I had to choose one thing that I think is most important it is this… don’t be afraid. Fear informs all our bad decisions, all our non-decisions, it paralyzes us. It is not good to get hurt, but it is worse to never try. Don’t be afraid to love, you never know when you are going to find your one true love. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you never know when you will find your passion and your success. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud, you never know when you will need those few more minutes of life (laughter adds minutes to your life they say), or when it might be your last good laugh. Don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones that they are loved, it might be the last time you see them. Don’t be afraid to trust, even when people abuse your trust it is better than living in cynicism and distrust. Don’t be afraid to touch people, hugs make a lot of stuff better. Don’t be afraid to talk to God, that way you’ll know you are never alone. Don’t be afraid to sing out loud with your head out the window and the wind in your face. Like any mom, I don’t want my son to take crazy unnecessary risks. I am afraid for him all the time and to counteract that fear I work on faith that he will be okay. But I want him to take risks, life is about risks. If you risk nothing, you get nothing; financially, spiritually and emotionally. Now that I’m old I am a little afraid of motorcycles (I have seen a lot of friends pretty broken up), but I wouldn’t trade knowing what its like to ride a beach road on a summer night on an old Harley. I know now that too much loud rock and roll can cause hearing loss, but I wouldn’t trade long nights of the best rock and roll in the world. I don’t want high cholesterol or diabetes (one I have and one I don’t) but I won’t trade the taste of a fresh blueberry pie or a profiterole. We try to protect our children from all the things we are now afraid of, but in my heart of hearts I know he has to take some risks, and I want him to take others, in spite of my better judgement. I want him to feel joy and love and laughter and a little danger, and not be afraid, and be safe.

Stay in touch!

Things I Want My Son To Know #1 ~ Vote

So. . . I was thinking (I know, you can stop laughing now). If I had a short time to live and my son was still a teenager, which he is, what would I want to say to him, as his mom, his teacher, what would I want him to know? Better to write it down now I think, maybe then it won’t be needed. Either way, a legacy of lessons. If it is, there it will be, one task done. Lots of you will laugh but since I think each blog entry should be about one thing, here is my one thing . . . VOTE. Sounds silly? I am not sure when I became such a promoter of democracy. I know that in the better part of my working life I felt close to the constitution because of what I did; I always felt like a warrior in my role which was in defense of the little guy and in defense of the constitution. But as usual, I digress. I believe, in every aspect of life, that you earn the right to bitch about things by being willing to be part of changing them, by stepping up and raising your hand. Everyone in America these days has an opinion, more often than not a loud and relatively uninformed opinion. Which brings me to a subset of VOTE which is “be informed”. It seems to me that many young people these days have little sense of the world and what goes on it it, despite how global and technologically connected we all are these days. And how few of them have any sense of what news outlet has what bias? Very few I imagine. You can’t intelligently exercise your right to vote if you have no idea who and what you are voting for. But I believe with all my heart that the two most precious gifts our democracy gives us are the right to speak our minds out loud and the right to change things with our vote. No matter how obnoxious your views are to me or how much I disagree, I will defend at all costs your right to express them so long as they don’t actively create actual or immediate harm. And no matter how small or large the election, no matter how local and no matter how much you might think it doesn’t matter, VOTE, exercise your right to be heard. Then you can be heard to complain.

Stay in touch!