My Blue Thumb

Oops! I goofed watering the plants this week. 


I got a new spray bottle from Home Depot and I put the Fantastic cleaner it in. 


Thinking about the new bottle, I accidentally picked it up to water the plants. 


I sprayed the cactus and immediately realized what I had done!


Oh sh*t! I just poisoned my cactus. So quickly, I poured water in to try to dilute it. 


I thought to myself how the plant would react and I imagined how a person would react if they drank Fantastic. 


Sure enough within a couple of days the cactus was reeling. 


But I think a person could probably recover if it wasn’t too much, so I’m hoping the cactus will too. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Anger, Faith, and Growth

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Anger, Faith, and Growth.”

We live in an unpredictable world and I have made more than one bad decision recently. Fortunately, it was nothing too terrible, but I was still angry about it, and my gut reaction was to somehow blame G-d, and to feel angry at Him, because I thought somehow I didn’t deserve what had happened. However, I asked myself how can you be angry at G-d if you believe that everything he does is for your ultimate good? It took me a little time, but I realized that I wasn’t really angry at G-d, but at myself; It was my fault, I did deserve what happened, and my mistakes aren’t G-d’s.


Maybe this is what life is really all about–searching and finding G-d even among all the multitude of mistakes we make in life. We have to own our mistakes, learn from them, and thereby become stronger and better people.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Trust Your Gut Alone

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “The Snake That Appeals To Your Gut.”

The truth is, following one’s gut feelings alone is a way to avoid confronting or dealing with real data about what’s going on. While it’s true that information can be tough to get as well as to interpret, we certainly have to look not only at people’s words, but also at their deeds. We have to see them over an extended period of time, so we see whether there is consistency and if their integrity holds up under different situations and stressors.


We have hearts and minds and we need to make sure we are using both in making important decisions. Otherwise, see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil—and what do you think you are precisely going to get?


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Ended Up In Hell City

So a friend told me something funny.


It was about being given what appears to be a wonderful opportunity, but in reality it’s not all roses. 


In short, it went something like this:

There was an exciting competition and a prize at the end. 
Everyone prepared and worked hard to win it. 
But when the competition was over, what was the prize?
The 2nd place was two weeks in Philadelphia. 
The 1st place was one week in Philadelphia. 


I had to think about that for a second, but that is really pretty funny and true. 


No not about Philadelphia, but about life–that what we often mistakenly want so badly and strive for with all our energies, and then only to find out that it really wasn’t as good or amazing for us and our families as we imagined. 


Yes, very often you set your sights on certain goals to win the competition, but then you find out that the BIG prize (“first place”) is really not something to get excited about, because it’s in Philadelphia!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Solving Computer Problems

Funny T-Shirt on solving computer problems:


Does it work?


Did you screw with it?


Does anyone know?


Can you blame anyone else?


This little flowchart seems to capture so many issues in the office like:


– Accountability


– Problem-solving


– Doing the right thing


Oh, maybe that’s a different flowchart. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Faith Has To Win Over Worry

Anxiety is worry and fear on steroids.


Some people have separation anxiety.


Others have social anxiety.


And then there is good ‘ol generalized anxiety.


It was fascinating-scary to learn that nearly 1 in 3 will have an anxiety disorder before the age of 18.


Despite all the abundance, affluence, advancement and technological progress, people are nevertheless more fearful about their present and futures. 


Perhaps like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when people weren’t able to satisfy their most basics physiological and safety needs, they didn’t know better to worry about everything else like whether they were truly loved, integrated, on the right track in life and fulfilled.  


These days, we have more money, time, and information to know that there is plenty to be anxious about. 


We know the most horrible stories of trauma, illness, death, corruption, disaster, terror, and war–it’s plastered on the news and Internet 24/7/365.


Moreover, our “friends” and connections are blabbing about it on the social networks day-in and -out.


We are aware of our mistakes and foibles in real time as feedback is given and received with both likes as well as open criticism, marginalization, and alienation at every turn we take.


You have to ask yourself–is it meant to help anyone or to degrade and destroy the others, the opposition, the ones we don’t like anymore. 


It’s not just trolls that can make your life miserable, but everyone from your bosses to your peers and social circle who give you pause with continuous reaction and footnote–much of it driven by alternative facts and fake other world self-serving reality.


Perhaps yesterday you were a genius and on top of the world, but then all of a sudden you’re low-life garbage.


Your self-worth and future are measured by likes and dislikes, connections and reactions by people who are driven by their own agendas, power, and biases. 


It’s not just local either. 


North Korea and Iran are tweeting about destroying the world and their latest rocket launches and WMD development. 


Tomorrow maybe the end of one or of many. 


There is truly plenty to worry about in society driven by selfishness, materialism, faithlessness and a moral vacuum where truly anything goes. 


Selflessness, meaning, morality, and faith have to win over all the reasons to be anxious. 


We know too much about the bad every day, and this can only be overcome by anchoring ourselves in the good. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Slow Build – Rapid Demise

It takes time to build in life. 


Or as they say:

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”


But it’s not always easy to have patience. 


We all have to start somewhere and usually it’s at the bottom.


And then we have to claw our way up (like Rocky).


Unless of course, you’re one of those people born with a “silver spoon” in your mouth. 


The funny thing about building and climbing is that it can all be destroyed in a split second. 


One silly mistake, one stupid word, one indiscretion, one lackadaisical moment, a turn of bad luck…or a series thereof. 


It takes so much time and effort to build as we lay one brick of success upon another. 


And it takes just a split second to destroy it all. 


So watch-watch-watch your steps, because they can so easily turn into a rapid, spiraling, and even most deadly a fall.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Can You Do No Right?

Criticism.jpeg

Do you ever feel like you can do no right?


That whatever you do or choose, you are opening yourself up to criticism by others or more importantly from yourself.


That’s because in life every moment is a choice and each selection of what you do with your time and efforts means by definition that you are not doing something else important then.


– Take the mother or father who chooses to spend time raising their children, but then are not focused as much on their career.


– Take the student who is working really hard on getting those good grades and SAT scores, but then are not doing as much or well with extracurricular activities like sports or socializing. 


– Take the spiritual or religious person or clergy who chooses to focuses their life studying and performing holy speech and deeds but not so much other earthly and material matters. 


– Take the athlete who works out and eats right focusing on toning and honing their body and physical skills but doesn’t spend as much time and effort on intellectual interests or more standard career pursuits. 


– Take the extrovert who focuses on building and maintaining relationships and networks–family, friends, community, colleagues, others–but are not putting the same time and attention to enhancing their other knowledge, skills, and abilities. 


So you say, but why can’t we just do everything we’re supposed to do, and simply balance?


Well, that is what we all try to do in our own way, but still each time and every moment you are doing one thing, you are not at that moment doing something else or being somewhere else. 


So that causes tension, perhaps a tug-of-war within ourselves, stress, and even guilt. 


The impact is that we often run from one thing to another or we get distracted in what we are doing–“Honey can you answer the phone?”


Some classic examples are when we race home from the office to pick the kids up from school or while playing with sweet little Johny or Suzie, the phone rings and and we have to pick up that call from the boss at work. 


As they say, you can’t be–physically or mentally–in two places at the same time!


Hence, now the movement for mindfulness, being in the moment and focused.


But as the demands in life forever ask more of us–even amidst ever greater technology and automation to assist us–somehow we can never do enough because of course, the bar gets raised for ourselves and the competition gets tougher from those who make choices to focus on specific areas that we are not as much. 


So say that you are splitting your time between work and family, but someone else is single or doesn’t have kids and they are full in with work, staying late, going in weekends, getting those extra credentials, and just putting in every extra effort there…well, how do you think you will stack up?


Yes, some of us recognize the importance of work-life balance and even focusing incrementally across the many important areas of our life: physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.


Never-the-less every moment, in a time- and space-bound world, we are forced to choose this or that. 


There is no one right answer for everyone!


And every choice in every moment is the opportunity for you to criticize yourself or for others to criticize you that you weren’t paying attention, focused, doing your best, etc.


But who cares–it’s our life to live and we can live it as we want?


True, however as inevitably important things or relationships break down or fail, have mistakes or errors, or aren’t going as we would ultimately want or dream they should–we ask ourselves, could we have done things differently or somehow managed our time, efforts, and focus better.


(Source Photo: Online Advertisement provided by Dannielle Blumenthal)

Bonding and Independence

separation-jpeg

It’s an interesting phenomenon between parents and children. 


Parents (with G-d as the third partner) birth and raise their beautiful children. 


It is in a way a thankless job that we all savor and do with love, joy, and even gratitude just to have the opportunity. 


From sleepless nights to dirty diapers, homework to honing on how to be a mensch, family outings to school trips, braces to bar/bat- mitzvahs, birthdays to sleepover parties, shopping trips to college choices, as parents there is nothing we won’t do for our children. 


Yet, the role of children is to learn and grow to be independent. Children must spread their wings, so they can function as their own adults and parents one day (and hopefully before they are 33 and still living in mom and dad’s house)!


Yet to a parent, a child is always their child, no matter how big, smart, or successful they are (and even when, G-d willing, they surpass their parents in height, good looks, and achievements).


My father used to say, “Blood is thicker than water,” meaning that it’s a harsh world out there and the family always needs to stick together.


As children of Holocaust survivors, I learned that we can’t stray to far (or far at all) from either our religion or family, because otherwise, “We let Hitler win.”


We grew up living next to my grandparents (1 block away) and later in life, we always lived right near my parents as well. 


I watched TV and ate salami sandwiches with my grandmother and doted over my grandfather who sat on the bimah in his big chair as the president of our then struggling synagogue in Manhattan. 


Similarly, my parents were like surrogate parents to my own children and regularly babysat, picked the kids up from school/camp, made Sabbath meals, and happily spent time with them doing whatever. 


My parents were always there to advise, guide, lend a hand and support…no matter the cost to them, as my father used to say, “I would go through fire for my family” and this–his devotion and integrity–I knew was the utter truth. 


In turn, I tried to be a good son and although I disagreed and fought with my parents (mostly my dad) on many issues (often religious and sometimes politics as remember them), I knew they loved me dearly and I them.


As my dear parents are now gone, and I have become (slightly) a helicopter parent myself with forever worries about how my kids are doing, I know that they need to be independent–and that (more than) sometimes means making mistakes or falling down, and hopefully getting right back up again on their feet.


It is hard to learn that as parents, in many cases, we are just spectators–not that we know everything, we don’t, but the maternal and paternal instinct is to safeguard our children whom we love and adore. 


Kids need three things to individuate successfully: stability, consistency, and safety. Absent those, you run the risk of unhealthy knotted bonding and stunted separation anxiety. 


Everyone needs to lead their own lives–we really only have one life to live. Yet, as family, we are very much the foundation and part of their inner strength for everything that follows from their determination, hard work, and blessings from Above. 


For parents and children, it is critical to balance the need for healthy separation and independence with love and bonding that is timeless.


We have to “let go and let G-d” and let our Children. 


The parents are the past and the children are the future, but we mean everything to each other. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Body of Armor

body-armor

So had some disappointments recently.


Nothing terrible (and for that I am so grateful). 


Just life happening. 


Have to fail and fail and fail {more}…in order to get to that single success. 


Along the way, sometimes it feels like arrows going through your body.


Or as someone said to Tina Fey in a movie we watched yesterday:

“Hearts and minds, the two best places to shoot someone.”


Is that funny? 


Ok, now I know that I am feeling a little down, because even that made me smirk but not fully smile. 


It’s okay.


Life is a series of peaks and valleys. 


Time to climb that next peak. 


I will do it with body armor on and solid. 


Won’t let those arrows pierce me, while I ascend.


I am trying, and learning and growing along the way.


If I am to fall, Hashem, in mercy, pick me up that I may keep doing my mission you have for me in life, so that I may ultimately prevail toward the destiny only that You know and have planned for me, for the good. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)