Category Archives: Life

Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage Book Review

The world can be a cold place. Many of us are not judged by our abilities or our achievements, but by the color of our skin, whether we are male or female, etc.

But despite those judgments, it is possible to to achieve what appears to be impossible.

The new book, Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage, with a forward by Senator Amy Klobuchar, contains 48 essays about persisting against a world that would deny you your dreams. While the writers are all different, the message is clear: whatever your dreams maybe, they are not impossible to achieve. All it takes is grit, work, a little creativity and the ability to see past the naysayers.

I really loved this book. I loved it because it gives hope to those of us whose dreams are just that, dreams. It is also a reminder that the labels that are used to define us are not barriers to success. They are only barriers to those who believe that because we carry a certain label, that the success we seek will never come to fruition.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Thoughts On Tashlich & Yom Kippur

No human being is without flaws or imperfections. Though many of us try to mask these flaws or imperfections, they often bubble up the surface.

One of the aspects of Judaism that I appreciate is that my faith not only respects this aspect of humanity, but it encourages us to become better people.

I find that the most liberating Jewish traditions is Tashlich. In the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many Jews will go to a body of water to cast away their sins via throwing pieces of bread into said water. While this is being done, those in attendance ask the heavenly creator to forgive them for their sins from the past year.

Following Tashlich is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. From sundown to sundown, most adults (with the exception of the people who are sick, need food or drink to take medicine or pregnant women/nursing mothers) will fast. We also wear white and forgo leather shoes so our creator will see how humble we are before them.

Though I am not religious, I understand the power of both Tashlich and Yom Kippur. One of the hardest things any person can do is take a hard look at the flaws/imperfections and ask for forgiveness for anything they might said or done wrong due to those flaws/imperfections.

To all who are fasting, may you have an easy fast and a sweet New Year.

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Thoughts On Rosh Hashanah

For many of us, our daily schedules are packed from the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed.  Between work, school, family, etc, the days go by pretty quickly.

Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow night and ends on Tuesday. From my perspective, it’s not just time away from the everyday schedule. It’s a chance to reset, to take stock of the past year. What we did right, we did wrong, etc. One of the things I’ve noticed is that change is often recognized in hindsight and not in the moment. The person who I was last year is slightly different from the person I am today.

It’s also a chance for me to have a one on one conversation with my heavenly parent. I’m a person of faith, but like many people of faith, it takes a special occasion for me to enter a synagogue on a day that is not one of the High Holidays. That doesn’t mean that my faith is unimportant to me.

To all those who celebrate, may you be written into the book of life and have a sweet new year.

 

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Eighth Grade Movie Review

Adolescence or early adolescence is often addressed in movies with a glossy veneer or with a narrative that almost seems too good to be true.

The new movie, Eighth Grade, strips away that veneer to reveal the almost terrifying anxiety that comes with that period in our lives.

Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) lives the live of a typical eighth grade student. On one hand, she has her own you tube channel where she talks with ease about topics such as self-esteem, self-confidence, etc. But on the other hand, when she enters school, she is known as introverted and awkward. Taking place during the last week of eighth grade, the film follows Kayla as she navigates the turmoil and confusion that is early adolescence.

Written and directed by Bo Burnham, this film is nothing short of remarkable. From the outside looking in, the first question is how can a grown man in his 20’s create a film about a thirteen year old that resonates with audiences of all ages? The answer is that there is a humanity to the main character that speak to all of us. While her specific experiences are that of a girl about to start high school, her anxieties and world view, especially in 2018 are universal.

I absolutely recommend it. 

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Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome. Book Review

Grief and loss are are without a doubt human experiences. Regardless of class, creed, sex, race, etc, we all deal with grief and loss during our lifetimes.

Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner both dealt with unexpected losses at an an early age; their respective parents died when both women were still relatively young.  Together, they founded the website, Modern Loss.

They also write a book about loss and grief entitled Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome.. Interviewing a  variety of people, the message is clear: grief and loss are emotions that are both difficult and complicated to deal with.

 

While the book is well written, the quality that makes it stand out is the humanity of the stories the interviewees tell. They come from all walks of life, but they know all too well what the pain of grief and loss feels like.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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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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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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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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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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