Category Archives: Life

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old Book Review

If we are lucky enough, we will live to old age.

Old age, like anything in life, has it downsides. It’s just a question of how one views those downsides.

John Leland, a journalist by trade, spent time interviewing a group of elderly men and women in the New York City area. They ranged in age from mid 80’s to early 90’s. The  result of this experience is his new memoir, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. Though there was a variety in life experiences, cultures, race, religions, marital status, etc, one thing is clear. You have to enjoy life and the experience of being alive, regardless of your age.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because underneath all these stories was an undercurrent of choice. When one gets to a certain age, it’s easy to get down on oneself. Your body and mind don’t work like they used to, your family may be far away, your finances are limited to social security and retirement funds, etc. However, that does not mean that life is horrible. Life is what you make of it, it doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Life, New York City

Thoughts On The Passing Of Stephen Hawking

We all face obstacles in our lives. The question is, do we find a way around the obstacle or do we let that stop us?

Stephen Hawking passed away last week. He was known for two things: his knowledge of physics and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as ALS).

He was a stricken by the disease in his 20’s, just as his academic career was heating up.

It would have been understandable at the time if he had given up when presented with the diagnosis. His doctors only gave him a few years to live. But remarkably, he found a way not only to live, but to live to his full potential.

If I take one thing away from his life and experience, I take away the courage to move forward, even when it feels impossible to move forward.

Stephen Hawking was 78. May his memory be a blessing.

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Filed under International News, Life, Thoughts On...., World News

Take A Risk

I’ve always been somewhat of a picky eater. As I have gotten older, my palate has stretched, but a part of me will always be a picky eater.

A little more than a year ago, my writing group was looking for a restaurant to host our holiday party. The problem was, and still is that we have a variety of food tastes among the members of the group.

Then someone recommended Budda Bodai Kosher One in New York City’s Chinatown. Kosher food I am used to. Chinese food, I eat once in a while. But that fact that the food is kosher, vegan and Chinese was a combination that made me a little nervous.

Instead of finding an excuse to not go to the party, I swallowed my fear and went to dinner. I walked out of the restaurant not only proud of myself for trying something new, but also with a full stomach.

Take a risk, you never know where the risk will lead you.

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Filed under Life, New York City

Taking A Risk Changed My Life

I want to tell you a story about risk and how taking a risk changed my life.

In May of 2014, I was looking for a new way to work out. Up until that point, I had a membership at the local gym, but I wasn’t putting in the effort and frankly, it showed.

As I was looking around for another form of exercise, I passed by a local martial arts school. I must have walked by it hundreds of times, but something stopped me that night. I walked in, asking for more information and the rest is history.

Earlier this evening. I earned my black belt in muy thai kick boxing. Taking a risk for me is never easy. The comfort zone sometimes is a little too comfortable.

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”-Roy T. Bennett

Stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the risk to simply ask for more information was just the first step. There are some risks in my life that I regret taking, this is not one of them.

I encourage my readers to take a risk, at least once in a while. You never know where the risk will lead.

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Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

We never forget our first love, especially when we are young. No matter how old we get or who we fall in love with later in life, our first love always stays with us.

In the new film Call Me By Your Name, (based upon the book by Andre Aciman of the same name), 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the summer of 1983 at his family’s Italian chalet. His father, Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of Greco-Roman history and takes on a graduate student as a research assistant every summer. The graduate student who will be living with them and studying with Elio’s father that particular summer is a young man named Oliver (Armie Hammer).  Elio thinks he knows about love, but the summer and his relationship with Oliver will forever change his view of love.

What I absolutely loved about this movie was that it was about first love and how one is forever changed by that first love. While some might object to the film because the two romantic leads are men, I think that is exactly why this film must be seen. We live in a political and social climate where judgments are made about us based upon the labels we give ourselves and the labels others give us. If anything, this film teaches the audience that love is love is love. It doesn’t matter if the partners are heterosexual or homosexual.

I absolutely recommend it.

Call Me By Your Name is presently in theaters. 

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Filed under Books, Life, Movie Review, Movies

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World Book Review

It’s no secret that life is full of challenges and complications. The question is, do we rise to challenges and complications and find a way to overcome them, or we let them defeat us.

In 2014, William H. Raven, a decorated and respected Admiral in the United States Navy, retired after being in the Navy for nearly 40 years. He learned a few things along the way during his storied career. Last year, he published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World. Using examples of his experience in the military, he writes about challenges, defeats, hardships and how to overcome them.

This book is a must read. It is a must read because it speaks to all of us who are facing down challenges and hardships. His stories are inspiring and a reminder that we overcome and accomplish far more than we think we can.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary Of Dawson’s Creek

We all have those television shows from our teenage years. No matter how old we get, we are always reminded of that juncture in our lives when those television shows come on.

20 years ago tomorrow, the pilot of Dawson’s Creek premiered. Set in a fictional coastal New England town, the show is about four friends who are dealing with everything that comes with being a teenager.

Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) is the movie buff/Steven Spielberg wannabe. His best friend, tomboy/girl next door Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) has been climbing up into Dawson’s bedroom and slipping into his bed since they were little. Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson) comes from the wrong side of the tracks. Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) is the new girl in town, shipped off from New York City to live with her grandmother.

This show was must see television when I was younger. I remember pilling into a friend’s dorm room in college every Wednesday at 8PM like clockwork. Created by Kevin Williamson, Dawson’s Creek was one of the hallmark shows of what was then known as the WB network. Created for the then teenage audience, the character arcs and narratives spoke to and spoke of what it is to be a teenager.  The show also paved the way for other teenage dramas that would dot the television schedule in later years.

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years. Perhaps it’s time for another viewing.

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Filed under Life, New York City, Television

Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World Book Review

Anyone who has children will tell you that being a parent is not easy.

Rabbi Susan Silverman (oldest sister of comedian and actress Sarah Silverman) should know. The mother of five (three natural daughters and two adopted sons) chronicles her life as a mother in her 2016 memoir, Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World. Born into a family that was culturally Jewish, but not practicing, she was raised as an atheist. As an adult, she became more religious and chose to make her living as a Rabbi. She also knew that she wanted adopt, in addition to have children the traditional way. The book is not just about parenting, but also about faith and dealing with everything that life brings.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I think everyone can relate to her journey, regardless of whether or not we have children.  There is a normalcy to her story that makes the reader feel like they can sit down with Rabbi Silverman and have a conversation with her, even if they don’t know her.

I recommend it.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Marianne Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When we are young, some of us are so certain in our beliefs that it takes an act of G-d to show us otherwise. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood is only sixteen when the book starts. She has just lost her father and is soon to lose her home to her older half-brother and his wife. She is romantic, dreamy-eyed and so certain of everything she is thinking and feeling. That will soon change.

Forced to relocate to a new and smaller home with her mother and sisters, Marianne meets two different men: the, young, dashing and romantic Mr. Willoughby and the seemingly old, austere and silent Colonel Brandon. Marianne’s meet cute with Mr. Willoughby is straight out of a fairy tale: after twisting her ankle on the wet grass, Mr. Willoughby carries Marianne home. It looks like Marianne may have found her own version of Prince Charming, but Mr. Willoughby is not all he seems to be.

Colonel Brandon, on the other hand, is not young, dashing or romantic. He is 35 (which always seems old when your sixteen), according Marianne probably wears flannel waist coats and does not match the romantic fantasies that have colored her view of the world. When Mr. Willoughby break’s Marianne’s heart by abruptly disappearing without an explanation, this sets on her a path to realize that maybe the beliefs she once held near and dear were not always correct.

To sum it up: Sometimes, regardless of our age, we have to learn things the hard way. There is no other way to learn. But, on the other hand, when we are young and forced to learn the hard way, it’s calling growing up. And growing up is never easy. As writers, when we are creating characters in the mold of Marianne Dashwood, I believe that we have to have to end in mind. When we are sending this character on this journey, what will be the end result? Will they be wiser, smarter, more flexible, bitter, angry, etc.?  The journey is taxing on both the writer and the character. But, if done right, the reader will remember the learning experience and perhaps come to learn a bit more about life along the way.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Fairy Tales, Jane Austen, Life, Sense and Sensibility

Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Elinor Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Life sometimes hands us lemons. We have two choices when we receive the figurative lemon. We can either get emotional or we can be rational and figure out what needs to be done in spite of receiving that lemon. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood is given a lemon by life.

Born into a wealthy, landowning family, her world is uprooted when her father dies. Her older half-brother, who was their father’s only son and heir takes what is rightfully his. That means that Elinor, her sisters and her now widowed mother must find another place to live. On top of that, her sister-in-law convinces her husband the reduce the income left to the girls and their mother by her late father.

Forced out of the only home they have ever known, Elinor faces her new reality with aplomb, while her mother and sisters are not quite ready to face the fact that their lives are about to change. She also falls for Edward Ferrars, the younger brother of her sister-in-law. Edward seems to respond with equal affection, but the lemon that life has thrown her way is also giving her mixed signals about Edward.

However, there is a downside to the rationality and calm when dealing with the lemon. Human beings are emotional creatures, when we are unable to let out our feelings, especially when dealing with stress or loss, it can take a toll on us.

To sum it up: On the surface, Elinor is a vision of serenity and doing what needs to be done. But underneath that calm are emotions that have been pushed aside and at some point, must be released. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor represents duty, thinking rationally and basically just doing what needs to be done. Austen asked the question, through Elinor, is thinking rationally and using logic the best way to deal with a tough situation? Or is it better to be emotional and wear your heart on your sleeve like Elinor’s younger sister Marianne (who shall be discussed next week)?

Good writing makes a reader think. It makes them ask questions, not just about the narrative and character choices the writer made, but also about how those questions can be applied to a larger canvas. Through those questions, the reader becomes involved with the story and will not put the book down until the last page has been read.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Feminism, Jane Austen, Life, Sense and Sensibility