Five Most Meaningful Words

“In my opinion two of the most meaningful short sentences that create positive human emotional response in the English language are ‘I love you.’ and ‘Thank you.’ ” – Sandra Hart

Having coffee in the stillness of the morning today, I was thinking about my grandchildren and how the world and even traditions are changing. For them, they are experiencing great things through technology and yet, great emotional and social losses because of it. 

My most cherished book at age thirteen was Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette. Almost every girl I knew had a copy. To be able to navigate all social settings it just was the required guide to have as a young woman. Emily Post’s book first published in 1922 and updated on a regular basis to keep up with the changing society, was the standard book of reference to have as a young woman on etiquette for all occasions. 

For most of my formative years it was my rescue to navigating thank you notes, large and complicated table settings, wedding gifts, invitations, resumes and even writing to the judiciary, government officials and titled persons. Anything and everything dealing with life and occasions, even proper death condolences was covered.  

Throughout the years I tucked between Emily’s pages thank you notes from friends or important pieces of my emotional trivia. It became sort of a social cookbook of my life and it was the one book that I never wanted to part with. 

I would love to share my traditions with my granddaughters with the more modern and updated versions by Elizabeth Post, but I don’t think they would be interested. An etiquette book probably would gather dust somewhere in their room. Times have changed. 

If you are a grandparent, do you agree? We are witness to grandchildren and their generation who seem to be caught up with their heads in the vortex of the isolation of visual entertainment and keyboards, forgetting all about one-on-one social etiquette, or interest in sitting down to write a thank you note? 

I love getting a thank you call, but my heart would sing to have the postman deliver an honest-to-goodness note in their handwriting that I could slip between the pages of my social cookbook. A thank you that indicates they have taken the time to let me know they love me. 

What a great loss in human connectivity these techno kids will miss and sadly, may never be able to understand or recapture.
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Copyright©Sandra Hart 2017. All Rights 

Who Are You, Really?

I recently have started vlogging in conjunction with my weekly blog here on WordPress. Easy for you, you might think. With all of my television background and time spent in front of the camera it should be natural. Yes? No. 

For me, it has been an extreme learning curve. 
Previously, I have been in front of the camera as an interviewer or newscaster. On television and film, I have always assumed my character and perhaps only small parts within that make believe I have found myself. All of this technique and experience is so much different than being just old me. Even on Romper Room I was a teacher and not really myself. 

Time and again I have heard famous actors reveal how shy they really are, or how difficult it is for them to expose themselves as ‘real persons’. I kind of understood them, but now I really know what they mean. It takes a lot of ‘unlearning’ to expose the ‘real me’ in my vlogging efforts.  

All of this brings me to wondering if any of us even in our sixties and beyond know who we really are. Are we defined by our careers, our race or sex, beliefs, age, our talents or our roles as parents, breadwinners, or whatever face or hat we put on in front of the mirror? Is that a reflection of what others see in us as to who we are?

These past few election weeks have been a real eye opener to me. A few Facebook friends that I thought I knew have shown such an ugly side of who they really are that they have shattered the mirror. I have been quite taken back at times. Hiding within the darkness of social media has enabled the worst in some people. Do they honestly see themselves and realize what image they are projecting?  Do they know who they really are?

Previously, I always had confidence in knowing who I am, but vlogging has made me aware that maybe, after all these years I’m not so sure yet.    

I do hope that some of you are further along with that than I am and are willing to help me along my way. Or maybe it is as Shakespeare has said, 

So I am off on this new adventure and learning vlog by vlog. One advantage of talking to myself in front of the camera in an empty room is that at least I know somebody’s listening.

Copyright©Sandra Hart 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Take A Bite Of The Golden Apple

Who knew when I was raising my kids in a little one square mile town on the Jersey Shore that my family was destined to be a migratory one. My children eventually flew away one by one to find their dreams and new opportunities. I slowly closed the New Jersey chapter in my life and winged it snowbird style to Florida to experience my freedom years.  

This time of year, though, I always try to think of the upside of being a mother whose children have left me with an empty nest – it gives me lots of places to visit when I find myself in the unbearable summer heat of my tropical paradise and longing to see young faces again.

For a few days now I’ve been in Chicago visiting my daughter and enjoying as much as I can in this beautiful city of wind and water. Before attending a play at the Athenaeum last night we crossed the street to the Golden Apple restaurant for a little pre-theater dinner that gave me a déjà vu culinary journey.

The Golden Apple is the closest food experience in Chicago that reminded me of a New Jersey diner. Unforgettable. (One known fact about New Jersey, other than it being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, it’s the New Jersey diner experience.)  

If any of my readers are fans of PBS’s program ‘This American Life’ you should be familiar with the Golden Apple. Moderator Ira Glass encompassed an entire show interviewing patrons at the Golden Apple. 

The restaurant in itself is a tiny community within a community. Local patrons go there and mix with unnoticed celebrities on a regular basis. You might say it’s a comfort zone with comfort food at comfortable prices. Something that is harder and harder to find these days. 

I guess I could share with you that I had a nice talk with the owner, we exchanged selfie’s and promised to ‘like’ each other’s Facebook pages. And I could also share that as we were about to walk into the theater a man came running across the street, a handsome old silver fox, to tell me how beautiful my dress was and that he loved the color of my hair and maybe he could take me out to dinner sometime, but those are separate stories themselves. 

I’m not quite too sure how to explain my meanderings today, but I guess it’s just that life is always an adventure and living each day to the fullest is the best reason to stay around a little longer. The unexpected moment just around the corner makes it all worth while.

If you do not allow yourself to open up, no one will ever see the beautiful flower inside of you. 

Copyright 2016 Sandra Hart. All Rights Reserved

NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR INNER SELF


I was having an ‘over-sixty’ conversation with one of my children this morning about life’s chapters and challenges. “Remember the guy that gave up?” I said. “Neither does anybody else.” That, basically, my friends, has been the salted truth that I have poured over and over on my many adult wounds to heal and move on. 

If you grew up in the 50’s like me, times were good and innocent and most of us actually thought our lives would be a yellow brick road that once taken, would lead only to good things. I believed that life did promise me a real rose garden. 

 

Well, in reality, my imaginary rose garden got smothered a lot by rag weed and poison ivy. I had to live the life I was given-not the life that I had chosen. “Tough,” She said. The Goddess of Life didn’t promise me a rose garden even though I was expecting it. 

Throughout their adult ups and downs I have asked my children to please give me someone who has never struggled or hit a brick wall at some point in their life. They have no answers. Living life never promises a perfect pitched game, so my answer to them is to never give up on their inner self. They will never lose. Either they win or learn. 

There is something so special and positive about the lessons and paths in life most of us over 60 have walked. We will never lose. We are still winning and learning. 

2016©Sandra Hart        All Rights Reserved

To Be, Or Not To Be

I often talk about genetics here in my blog. I don’t know, but the older I get and as the years go by, I see my children growing up finding their spaces in life and now my grandchildren doing the same thing. It is really so evident to me that somewhere along the line we have inherited this either great or cursed creative gene that keeps us square pegs in a round hole.

My oldest is a flight attendant and while waiting between flights doodles beautiful designs on her notepad and can’t wait for her days off to create on her many online accounts.

Now the middle child is quite brilliant, works in the legal field, and is very creative like the rest of us. A great photographer, artist and sometimes journalist, she is also extremely adept at math, yet at times struggles with organization and budgets. What does that mean? Are both sides of her brain fighting for dominance when performing tasks? One side asks, “Should I buy it? Do I really need it?” While the other senses it is just too beautiful to resist. 

My youngest is a gifted singer, songwriter and performer who uses his talents as a storyteller through his musical lyrics and melodies. His left brain is screaming to let it alone! 

Well, what about that  creative brain of ours, the right brain?
The right brain is referred to as the analog brain. It controls three-dimensional sense, creativity, and artistic senses. 

 The left brain is referred to as the digital brain. It controls reading and writing, calculation, and logical thinking. 
I hate spreadsheets. They give  me a headache. In school I tried to stay away from as many math classes as I could.  While my middle daughter was taking advanced calculus, my other children agreed  a hundred percent  with me. Does that make us analog people and not her? 

What do you think? Is it possible to have a balance of both right and left brain without a dominance of one over another? Or is it a constant tug of war if you are born with a little bit of both. 

 

Okay, numbers are not my forte, but I still am very good keeping inline with what I want and what I can afford. But in truth,  my life has been saved many times because my left brain usually is strong enough to override the financial foolishness fueled by my artistic senses. But within that realm my left brain feels sorry for me and reasons a logical way to satisfy my artistic side. It knows.  Within its logic mechanisms it realizes  I would actually whither away without this part of me being fulfilled.  

So  I guess in the end both my left analytical and right creative brain are daily fighting the tantamount Shakespearean question, “To be, or not to be.”
  Today, that is what my Saturday life over fifty is thinking. Well, somewhat.
(Authors note: during the period of writing this blog today my toilet has developed a serious ghost flush every five minutes, the fire signal in our complex of town houses was set off in a loud screaming cadence sending my Lhasa Apsa, Sofi, running to her safe haven under my desk and my computer died. No part of my brain is willing to troubleshoot toilets and computers this lazy Saturday.)

Copyright Sandra Hart 2016©. All rights reserved

The Grass Grows Greener over The Septic Tank

I may have mentioned it before, but I was such a big fan of Irma Bombeck, the satirical columnist/housewife. Bombeck was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. Her humorous takes on what was so much of my real life during that time and kept me going with my chin up when my derrière was dragging. 

One of the things that she said years ago that really resonated with me is “The grass grows greener over the septic tank.” I’ve never forgotten that. Every time I have been through a terrible circumstance in my life, I always try to remember her insight. Trying oh so hard to believe that I am learning from whatever I am plowing through and that I will be growing more in so many ways because I mucked through that particular experience.

Those thoughts bring me to this. Listening to the news lately, looking around me concerned about what’s happening in the world I’m getting kind of scared about the future of our country. What’s happening with my grandchildren’s generation? 

 I’m wondering how many of these young kids really have the guts and the fortitude to take their knocks and get up again from life’s hits. I have this terrible feeling that my children’s generation have coddled these kids so much that they won’t be able to survive unless they are hidden in a safe room and someone is patting the top of their heads telling them that everything is okay and they are so special that they deserve life’s rewards without doing the hard work to achieve it. 

I hate to sound like a petty old grandma, but the reality is, neither I nor you, I’m sure, ever got much unless we worked for it and do you know what the result of that was? We really were so proud of what we achieved. We felt we had done something on our own. We really appreciated the benefits of personal achievement. No one gave us a trophy if we didn’t deserve it. 

The hope for all of us is that there are parents out there who get it. Parents who really make their children work to achieve to be independent thinkers in their lives. They will be the movers and shakers not afraid to take risks. They will be the ones who are sending their parents on a cruise because they love them and they’re also going to pick up the tab.

Growing up I know the fire I always have felt when told it couldn’t be done. As an adult I know when I was drowning I took my sinking high heels out of the glop, changed into my running shoes and told myself tomorrow was another day.  

How did us old folk get so smart? We earned it by trial and error. Taking risks – sometimes winning and sometimes losing and not hiding under the covers through the storms. We didn’t have ‘Thunder Shirts’ that made us think everything was peachy during difficult times. We wiped off the dirt and moved forward. 

Genxers, for heavens sake, man up and have your Millennials get out there and mow the darn grass over the septic tank before it swallows them up. 
Copyright Sandra Hart©.    All rights reserved

Why We Sometimes Marry The Wrong Person

“It’s one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.”

The New York times recently published an article on a subject that my children and I have often discussed. Choosing a partner subconsciously on the comfort level of what you knew growing up as a child most often than not guarantees a divorce in the future.

I came from a family where my parents stayed together until death. My brother chose a mate and they have been married for over 50 years. My first marriage ended in divorce. Why?

I have no doubt that my parents truly loved one another, but my father had a terrible temper and he and my mother bickered constantly. I vowed never to marry someone who had a temper, so I chose someone who had no emotion whatsoever. I swung the pendulum all the way to the opposite and instead of reaching a middle ground I ran away from familiarity that was not a comfort zone for me. Although we have been best friends since then, divorce was inevitable. There was no passion in our union. 

The issues regarding relationships and marriage were not open for discussion to us years ago. I wish I had had then the tools that are available today to young couples starting out in relationships. 

I am incorporating the article in this blog because I think it is right on target and explains so much about why and how we choose mates that might not be so right for us.

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person

By ALAIN de BOTTON

MAY 28, 2016

IT’S one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.

Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”

Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we’re tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

Our partners are no more self-aware. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to understand them. We visit their families. We look at their photos, we meet their college friends. All this contributes to a sense that we’ve done our homework. We haven’t. Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.

For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. 
The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.

What matters in the marriage of feeling is that two people are drawn to each other by an overwhelming instinct and know in their hearts that it is right. Indeed, the more imprudent a marriage appears (perhaps it’s been only six months since they met; one of them has no job or both are barely out of their teens), the safer it can feel. Recklessness is taken as a counterweight to all the errors of reason, that catalyst of misery, that accountant’s demand. The prestige of instinct is the traumatized reaction against too many centuries of unreasonable reason.

But though we believe ourselves to be seeking happiness in marriage, it isn’t that simple. What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. 
How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.

We make mistakes, too, because we are so lonely. No one can be in an optimal frame of mind to choose a partner when remaining single feels unbearable. We have to be wholly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to be appropriately picky; otherwise, we risk loving no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us that fate.

Finally, we marry to make a nice feeling permanent. We imagine that marriage will help us to bottle the joy we felt when the thought of proposing first came to us: Perhaps we were in Venice, on the lagoon, in a motorboat, with the evening sun throwing glitter across the sea, chatting about aspects of our souls no one ever seemed to have grasped before, with the prospect of dinner in a risotto place a little later. We married to make such sensations permanent but failed to see that there was no solid connection between these feelings and the institution of marriage.

Indeed, marriage tends decisively to move us onto another, very different and more administrative plane, which perhaps unfolds in a suburban house, with a long commute and maddening children who kill the passion from which they emerged. The only ingredient in common is the partner. And that might have been the wrong ingredient to bottle.

The good news is that it doesn’t matter if we find we have married the wrong person.
We mustn’t abandon him or her, only the founding Romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.

WE need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.

This philosophy of pessimism offers a solution to a lot of distress and agitation around marriage. It might sound odd, but pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage. The failure of one particular partner to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded.

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.

Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not “normal.” We should learn to accommodate ourselves to “wrongness,” striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners.

Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is the author of the novel “The Course of Love.”
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