Thursday, June 26, 2014


It seems to me that too many people today are so busy over-exercising their thumbs and using their gadgets  that they've forgotten how to converse.

No "Please", no "Thank you", no "Excuse me". It's more like, "I'm too busy in my own world of I-pod, or earphones, or hand-held games to notice there are other people around me. Or to notice that I've bumped into someone, or that my music is so loud that it disturbs others." Very selfish, people.

And, ultimately, very sad. We seem to have lost the ability to CONNECT with others, unless it's by long-distance and impersonal texting. How can someone really know what you are thinking and feeling through an e-mail or text? And yes, I suppose you can use those stupid emoticons, a lazy shortcut. But at what cost?

I've always felt that one of the reasons we are put on this earth is to make a difference in others' lives, to share, to experience life together. But how can that happen when we are constantly hunched over some device? Lost in our own private worlds?

In many ways, life is a lonely journey, all too brief. Do you really want to reach the end of a day and say, "Well, I've got x-number of Facebook 'likes' and x-number of e-mails to answer and x-number of texts?" Big deal! Does it add to the enrichment of your day? Make you feel happy to be alive, the way real human contact can do?

I prefer to end my day by saying to myself, "I made someone laugh (maybe a stranger on the subway, whom I talked to)" or "I made a new friend today (sometimes a customer in the Bridal Salon where I work, who wants to stay in touch)" or "I brightened a stranger's day by stopping to compliment them on something they were wearing."

I remember when I first began to notice this dearth of conversation. It was when music became electronic---electric guitars, lots of microphones, etc. We'd go to a wedding or social function and the music would be blasting away. Even worse, the musicians behaved as though it was a concert, and we were there to hear THEM.

I remember being at a wedding where the music was so loud that people were going out to the lobby to escape the noise. Our host had repeatedly asked the musicians to tone it down, but to no avail. Finally, he stormed to the front of the room, announced "I'M paying you!" and pulled the plug. Good for him!

And it began to occur to me then than the younger people, who smiled apologetically across the table as if to say, "We'd love to talk to you, but, with this loud music . . ." were secretly glad not to be able to talk, because, when they did, they didn't know what to say! They were losing the art of conversation.

 When we gave an affair some time later, we remembered those episodes. We hired a pianist and a singer (father and son, and very talented!), and no one else. After the event, many of our friends came up to us and thanked us profusely. Not for the low-key music, but because the relative quiet had given them the opportunity to meet and CONVERSE WITH many different people from our various social circles. Perhaps they made new friends that day, as well.

Let me close with a delightful episode that I experienced recently. I was standing outside the store where I work and saw a couple with a map, poring over it worriedly and speaking in German. I think I've mentioned that I lived in Germany for nearly two years while my husband was in the army. I approached them. The man's English was as limited as my German, but we managed to communicate and I gave him directions. Then, because I wanted to show him I had absorbed a bit of his culture while I was in his country, I held out my hand, said "Auf Wiedersehen!" and gave his hand the very vigorous shake that Germans prefer.

In response, he (clearly pleased to show that he had absorbed some of OUR culture) held out his palm to slap my palm, and announced, "Keep five!" I returned the salute and his greeting, and went on my way. I was so touched by his enthusiasm that I grinned for the rest of the day.

LIFE LESSON: Human contact beats machines any day of the week!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I was born during the Depression and spent my early years during World War II.

We didn't call those difficult years an occasion for "stress." We called them LIVING. (Stress was something that happened in aeronautics with fighter planes.)

We were poor, but so was everyone else, so it didn't affect us seriously. We simply made do with what we had. I remember my mother giving the greengrocer a few pennies for days-old vegetables for soup. And when my brother and I had a single penny to buy a chocolate-covered marshamallow "broom" on a stick, we thought we were the luckiest kids in the world.

One of my fondest memories was of Halloween. My parents had scraped together enough money to buy two costumes for a party they were attending. ($1.00 each!) Dad was a skeleton and Mom was a witch, complete with long black wig. The following year, Mom cut down the costumes for my brother and me. We felt so special in "store-bought" outfits!

But the next year was even better. Mom had decided I should be The Blue Fairy from Pinnocchio. (Must have been 1939.) She took an old cotton slip and dyed it blue, then attached blue-dyed cheesecloth wings to the back. Dress and wings (with wrist-loops) were trimmed with last-year's Christmas tinsel that she'd found for sale in a shop. My wand was an old stick from a curtain shade, with a silver star made from the padded cover of an old chocolate box and edged with tinsel. And on my head with a tinsel tiara? The witch's black wig! I felt like a princess.

During the war, my father became quite successful in his business. He was a silk-screen maker and, seeing the war coming, had had the foresight to stockpile surplus parachute silk. (Once Japan entered the war, silk of course was unavailable.) We got our first car, traded in our icebox for a refrigerator (though we still called it an icebox for years!), and moved out of our small apartment to a rental house. But we still had very little. Everything went to the war effort---sugar, coffee, gasoline, butter, meat. Many of those items were rationed, and if you ran out of something before the month was out you simply did without.

As I said before, we made do with what we had and were content.

I came of age during the '50s. Years later, I had to laugh when our generation was referred to as the Passive Generation.

Hell, we weren't passive. We were GRATEFUL! For the first time in our lives, things were good. The young people who sneer at the happy-family '50s TV shows should understand that that's how we viewed life. Things had never been better. It wasn't until the coddled '60s kids came along that they felt the need to tear up the pea patch, having known nothing but good times all their lives.

My point being that, because we lived through such grim times, we expected nothing. So any small good thing that happens, even today, is cause for pleasure and rejoicing. Young people, who expect EVERYTHING, are constantly disappointed and stressed when things don't go their way. Poor dears.

Every day is to be lived and enjoyed, for good or bad, simply because it's different from the day before. When someone chirps at me, "Have a nice day!", I always respond, "I always do. It's how you look at the world, not how it treats you, that matters."

Outlook not imput can ease the stress.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Life is to be enjoyed in the moment, not photographed. I'm always struck by pictures of some amazing occurence or tragic disaster---what I see in the pictures are dozens of hands held up, grasping I-phones. Few people are actually watching what is happening.

For heaven's sake, people, you are THERE at an important moment. Watch it, absorb it. Or is it more important to you to take pictures, post them, and then brag that you were there? Are you all so insecure that you need affirmation from others---even strangers---to validate yourself?

Many years ago, when my then-husband was a soldier in Germany, I joined him there and we travelled extensively. When we returned after two years and showed our photo album, some people said, "Are those all the pictures you took?" Our reply? "We were too busy LOOKING to take many pictures."

I sometimes think that this need for public affirmation is tied to the so-called "self-esteem" movement (trophies for everyone, and all that crap). In my day, self-esteem was earned! Someone said, "This is what I want you to do. This is how you do it. I know you can do it." And we did it. And felt genuine self-esteem.

I wonder if today's young people, constantly told they are wonderful even when they've done nothing, secretly suspect, in a clandestine corner of their minds, that they really haven't accomplished anything and thus aren't really that special. Maybe that's part of what fuels their almost desperate need for public self-affirmation. Feedback from others substituting for a grounded sense of self.

But back to the I-phones. It's not just the photos, it's the constant texting and e-mails, while life is going on around you. Open your eyes! There's so much to see, so much to absorb. Instead, you isolate yourself in a private world. Sometimes, on the subway on my way to work, I want to smack a mother with kids. While they are restless, bored, unhappy, she's busy texting or reading on her gadget. I want to tell her, "Talk to your kids! Amuse them. Enjoy them, before they grow up to be strangers."  I've even seen them so busy on their I-phones that they let their kids---as little as 3---go on the escalator or through a revolving store door without watching them. (I've rescued more than one kid who nearly got mashed by a revolving door.)

I-phones are good in their place. But when they take over your life and crowd out every other human experience, they are a menace!