Thanksgiving 2014

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479 “Family.” People coming together who you don’t normally see. Turkey. Cranberry jelly that no one likes. Football.

The children were asked to think about what this upcoming holiday really means. We sat with pens and pencils poised above lined paper and looked at snippets of poetry from years and centuries past, at what this holiday is about, at the points where we connect to it.

I underlined in red the key concepts that spoke to me, and which I, as teacher, could direct my diligent creative students into their own musings.

A time of remembrance and return…celebration of abundance…sustenance and love…family gathering.

t1Shared tradition of two cultures, a peaceful celebration between two groups, the core message of acceptance and commonality.

When I mentioned this idea of acceptance, I mentioned, “Has anyone ever felt like they don’t belong?” All hands in my little group went up. Vigorous nods, affirming. I know that feeling. We all know what it feels like not to belong, and yet we still strive, yearn, try to fit in somewhere, anywhere.

So fierce is that need to be part of something, to matter, that sometimes we compromise who we are at the core just to feel for a minute like we have a place. We want to be needed, welcomed, loved.

And then our learning meandered on to look at what it means to be American and we read Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America be America Again.”

Thanksgiving-High-Definition-HD-Wallpaper-DesktopFor me, Thanksgiving is so incredible special because it is the one time of the year when every American, regardless of ethnicity, race or religion, is giving thanks and celebrating gratitude. We are united as a nation and as a people, an amalgamation of stories and origins to come together and create one wonderful place where everyone is accepted (I hope).

Except that isn’t really the true storyline. It’s a fiction we tell and retell every year around this time because it makes for a nice national pastime. We do not all really belong; we don’t all feel like we fit in.

So what is this holiday about?

“The power of a homecoming,” as Bruce Weigl’s poem “Home,” depicts? A place where we think we are so glad to have left and yet when we come back, we realize how inextricably we are connected to our origin?

7047636-256-k417991I read this sentence and loved it but by then, the kids were already fiercely writing, spinning their own stories. “Of all the qualities of Thanksgiving, the power to draw people together is among its most sustaining.”

Which makes this holiday a celebration of community, actually, “the common table” in Charles Reznikoff’s poem, “Te Deum.”

When my children were little, we brought foods from our own heritages to a community feast in the front hall of the school and all the parents, aunts, siblings and grandparents gathered with the classes to taste a bit of every tradition that made up our school. We celebrated with matzoh ball soup and empanadas, curry and lasagna.

This is a common theme in my life and in my writing, the notion that we are all the same at the core, and an appreciation for identity across cultures so that we can share this sense of individuality and respect one another for the ways we are different.

I feel it in my bones. I am very deeply Jewish and I love that about the tradition I was born into, but I also love equally well the richness of cultures I have been fortunate enough to learn about and share in. My travels in India, in Israel, in Bali, my visits to churches and mosques and other types of synagogues and community centers where religion is not quite the language.

Gandhi-Be-the-Change-DoveWe are all the same, friends. We all live and breathe, awaken each morning and slide into sleep each night. We spiral into anxiety and fear just as much as the next person, thinking we don’t belong when really no one belongs anywhere and so we all belong everywhere we choose to be.

Let the story of this Thanksgiving be one of true gratitude, for wherever we are in this day and moment, and a celebration of the richness around us all, no matter how little or how much we have.

Posted in soul-searching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Midlife Crisis

Path of Life Sculpture GardenHave you ever wondered if you are doing what you should be doing? If you are making a difference in the world?

Do you think time is running out and you’d better step up or shut up?

I look around me and see two types of people: those who knew themselves early on and followed that little internal voice to claim their true purpose, walk the path they were meant to walk.

A lot of clergy fall into this category. They just heard a calling of some sort early on and enlisted in study that led them to become spiritual leaders.

And then the second category of people are the ones who maybe heard that little voice but silenced it and pursued a path that others thought would be right for them – the promise of a hefty paycheck, a discipline rather than a creative pursuit, a “sure thing,” if you will, as opposed to taking a chance and realizing the Self.

LiveYourCalling_WOEAIHF_Hero_2012_300x230In a way, I straddle both categories. I moved to New York three weeks after college graduation to become a journalist and I spent the next 15 years writing for pay. It was fun, and something I did well, and enjoyed, but always there was a wandering eye within me that pondered whether another path would be more interesting, easier, more lucrative, more for me.

I went to graduate school for writing much to the dismay of my family – how will you earn a living with an MFA? Go to law school!

And maybe they were right, but I went anyway and loved my two years stringing words together in the Vermont forests and pondering meanings with poet-friends over wine that reflected the crackling of the fireplace.

The thing with achieving all your goals is you start to wonder, what next? Because maybe the real goal is enjoying the here-and-now, living in the moment.

There is no graduate degree for that. It’s a spiritual lesson that either comes from within or is cultivated by slowing down and listening to the rain drops. You learn that in yoga or in meditation or in prayer. And you can’t hear it if you don’t make the time.

your-callingRather than push my children to choose a career, pick a path, I hope I can encourage them to listen to their internal voices. To assert the Self and follow its call. To do what feels like they’re pulled to do, regardless of society or structure or expectation.

What do you LOVE to do? What doesn’t seem like work? What would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it? What makes you come alive, and thus happy, and thus full of passion for the task at hand?

Do it. Just do it. Just jump in and don’t think about whether you will make money at it or anything too far down the road. Just get started and see what happens.

It’s advice I wish all of us had way back when. Can’t look back though and so the task for today is to figure out the little voice, let it get loud and stop long enough to see what it has to say.

Posted in the world around me | Tagged | Leave a comment

Everything Is Storytelling

Saturday-Taolife-1024x974I love Saturdays.

I awoke without alarm, the white dawn of day already peeking through the blinds. There was nowhere to be, nothing to do at any certain time.

And so I settled onto the couch to watch a movie I’ve seen many times, just for the sake of its story. A story of love and friendship, of life’s purpose, of following one’s passion.

It doesn’t matter what movie because the storyline running beneath them all – as well as the books and the conversations that keep us alive – is utterly the same.

We depend so on stories to tell us how to live. Think of the various versions of Bible and Scripture that most people cling to, depending on the stories therein as ultimate wisdom steering them forward.

news123-toldotToday, we picked apart Parshat Toldot (thanks to Ruth Bergman), the story of Isaac and his offspring, his farming and his interactions with the Philistines. We looked at literary nuance and placement to try to understand the significance, and people kept pulling it back to today: the politics of the Middle East, the idea of karma (what goes around comes around), universal truths that transcend time and tide.

We filled the seats in the glass room to look at the words and wonder what they mean to us now. After, my love and I braved the slick streets for breakfast alone as we used to do before life got so busy, and then shopping for the meals that lay between today and our Thanksgiving journey.

Book-iPad-wallpaper-Flying-LettersIt was simple and quick, quiet and peaceful. Stories swirled all around us, for the grasping by our slippery fingertips, when we chose, and flitting about when we choose to ignore.

Stories are everywhere; they live beside us and in us, compete with our attentions for strength.

I watch or read stories to take me out of my own, and all the while we are reminded that one story is not any better than another, more truthful or less so.

What if we were to let go of our stories altogether? What if the details that we think define us fell by the wayside?

Who would we be then? And why here? Why now?

sing-sing-sing1Perhaps this is too weighty for a weekend midday. Or perhaps it is the very lifeblood of this moment and before we pass into the next we must accept the very fleeting nature of things and embrace the ever-changing definition of our lives.

“Sing the song of the moment in careless carols, in the transient light of the day;…With both hands snap the fetters you made with your own heart chords;” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Posted in reverence | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Stories In Our Heads

Spoiler Alert: This is a blog of true confessions.

Sometimes I find myself being friends with people who don’t call, don’t seek me out for plans, seem like they have fun when we’re together but in long periods of separation and silence, it’s as if I don’t exist. And so I begin to think that perhaps I have been too outspoken, too pushy, too bossy (the old voices from my childhood screaming loudly in my head) and pushed them away.

And then I get an email from a lovely friend apologizing for not reaching out to make plans and saying that sometimes her own anxieties get the best of her.

Huh.

It never actually occurred to me that our lack of plans could ever for a million years be because she has insecurities. I thought only I felt self-critical.

The stories in our heads are so often made up of lies. Huge, colorful, winding storytelling lies. With characters and scenes and setting and a progression of events that are so not real.

We think we don’t fit in. We think we aren’t popular. We think no one likes us. We think we are ugly. We think everyone’s talking about us.

Um, get over ourselves. Like anyone’s talking about us anyway! Everyone is so caught up with their own stories that they have no time to imagine the stories in other people’s heads.

This email made me think. Really think. About all the time I waste worrying and feeling inadequate when really, I am fine, and everyone is fine, and we’re all just muddled in our illusions and misplaced feelings.

What if I spent my time instead just doing for others and giving to others and being of service and reveling in that?

What if we all did? And stopped worrying – rather, eliminated the extra time spent on worrying – about not fitting in and not being loved and not being enough.

It is that easy.

I am so grateful to my friend for sharing her feelings with me. Now I feel like I know and understand her better – and love her more for letting me in.

I wish all my friends would open their hearts and trust me with their true selves. I would be happy to reciprocate.

And what a bette world we would have if we all could do exactly that.

Posted in love | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Moon, Hidden from View

puppet+marionette+stringsYesterday, the snow came down in quiet falling, blanketing the world in white. The moon, hidden from view, pulled the marionette streams of bad behavior, and people opened their mouths to reveal ugly.

Ever had a day like that? People saying awful things and butting heads and you cannot figure out what is going on?

It’s the gravitational pull of the universe. The energy gone amok because of the forces of heaven. And people don’t realize they’re being played with.

-d389195d365a8f81Then you sleep and wake to even more snow across metro Detroit, a beautiful winter landscape, and with the dawn realize you have a blank canvas of a day ahead, and it can be anything you want.

As a divorced mom, I want for my children to be the best they can be. I want them to realize their true calling, their deepest identity, free of, but inspired by, me and their father and stepfather. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to remain neutral and not influence their direction.

I hear it all the time: just be your best, and they will see that role model and learn a deeper lesson. Perhaps.

I’ve never wanted to control my children’s outcomes. Truly, I’ve always believed they are their own unique individuals with their own destinies ahead of t hem. It’s not my path; it’s theirs. And wherever they end up, if they are good people trying to effect good change in the world, I will be happy.

Most parents are not like that. Most want a specific outcome for their children, a specific profile, a specific life path. I just can’t care. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always walked to my own beat, and so I understand that need to figure it out on your own.

The funeral of three of the victims of this week's Jerusalem synagogue attack

The funeral of three of the victims of this week’s Jerusalem synagogue attack

A month ago, I was walking Tel Aviv streets and blasted by 75-degree heat at the foot of the Mediterranean. This week, men were killed because they went to pray with community in their Jerusalem synagogue.

And today it is snow in Detroit.

Ever wonder at the rapid turn of events that seemingly have no connection but you know deep down are all part of a grand plan? Whatever that plan may be – I am not clued in.

threepigs_wolfYesterday, my son finished his three-day visit at Detroit Waldorf School, where he will become a student next month. The teacher told us of a discussion surrounding the popular children’s story, The Three Little Pigs.

The conversation focused on the quality of their character and their intelligence based on what resources they used to build their houses. Was the pig with the straw house necessarily dumber because he used straw to build, or was that simply what he had at the ready in his milieu?

These are not everyday conversations. But they should be. Digging deeper and trying to understand the context is crucial if we are to survive on a spiritual level.

classic 2 color (DIGITAL)I’m off to make breakfast for my kiddos and then brave the cold to make the world better in my small way today. A few calls to media for clients, gifts purchased for teachers and friends, a visit with a friend over lunch, a benefit tonight for Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, my client and an amazing effort I support.

All in a day’s work. And the mind keeps spinning onward, wondering at its place in this unique amalgam of worlds.

Posted in soul-searching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem…

 

Religious Jews dance on the Via Dolorosa on Simchat Torah - the road where Jesus walked the stations of the cross, which is today in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Last month, this picture epitomized the interfaith harmony in Jerusalem.

Religious Jews dance on the Via Dolorosa on Simchat Torah – the road where Jesus walked the stations of the cross, which is today in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Last month, this picture epitomized the interfaith harmony in Jerusalem.

There are so many things I could write about today: the announcements at writers workshop last night, of a baby on the way, challenged heart health, a victorious battle with cancer. I could write about the incredible bonds that build between women over time and when we share a part of ourselves.

I could write about reconnecting with an old friend whose presence truly brightens me day, or the learning and conversation with my rabbi yesterday. I could write about how happy my youngest son is to find an educational approach that truly ignites his interest, and I could write about the ballroom dance competition my husband and I are doing Friday night.

But all I can really think about is the awful attack in a Jerusalem synagogue yesterday. (Here’s another version of the same story.)

The closest I have ever been to the Dome of the Rock. A month ago, we had free access to get this close, without reprisal.

The closest I have ever been to the Dome of the Rock. A month ago, we had free access to get this close, without reprisal.

One month ago today, we were there. Not in that particular synagogue, but dancing and singing at the Western Wall. Walking through the Jewish-Christian-Muslim quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City. Standing less than a football field from the Dome of the Rock – unharmed and within reach of many Arab men who didn’t wish to attack us.

It’s amazing how things can change so quickly.

And so dreadfully.

Jerusalem bagels - baked and enjoyed by Jews and Arabs alike in this holy city. If we eat the same bread, perhaps we are not all that different?

Jerusalem bagels – baked and enjoyed by Jews and Arabs alike in this holy city. If we eat the same bread, perhaps we are not all that different?

I will never understand people who seek to hurt, kill and destroy. I will never understand people who give candy to children to celebrate deadly attacks on Jews and dance and cheer and celebrate deaths and destruction and terror.

I will never understand the thinking, the daring, behind walking into a synagogue when people are praying and approaching them with meat cleavers with the intent of ending their lives.

I just don’t understand.

The architecture of Jerusalem's Old City is the same in all the quarters. How can people believe that we are so different at the core?

The architecture of Jerusalem’s Old City is the same in all the quarters. How can people believe that we are so different at the core?

The Jerusalem I know is a vivid and beautiful, incredible city, with history and specialness for most of the people in the world. The soft peach-pink of Jerusalem stones – comprising the Western Wall of our ancient Temple, blanketing the cobbled stone streets.

Spirituality hovers in the air in Jerusalem; it does, I promise you, and I can’t really explain it. Just staring out a hotel window or walking up or down an old street, there is something thick in the air, the type of reassurance that comes with knowing you are connected to history and a higher power and meaning in this fraught world.

Yesterday, my rabbi, Aaron Bergman, sent out an email asking people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. He wrote: “For thousands of years, we as a Jewish people dreamed of the return to our land, and especially to Jerusalem, the City of David, the City of Peace. We today are living the dream of those who came before us. Jerusalem is a modern and ancient city, a city where the prayers of all faiths are freely expressed without fear.”

A religious Jewish mother walks with her children through the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter to celebrate Simchat Torah.

A religious Jewish mother walks with her children through the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter to celebrate Simchat Torah.

“We, the Jewish people, took a city that was closed to all but a few, and opened it to the world, often to our own danger. We did so because it was, and still is, the right thing to do.”

So tell me why people are killing my people for being there, for praying, for praising the holiness of this wonderful place?

Whatever Jews have done throughout the ages and whatever reason most of the world turns against our beloved Israel time and time again, tell me what we have done? Do we seek to kill others, to end lives? Absolutely not. Murder and terror and horrific attacks on civilians is not a Jewish value; senseless death just doesn’t enter our psyche.

These streets are whisper-quiet and peaceful, welcoming, beckoning.

These streets are whisper-quiet and peaceful, welcoming, beckoning.

When the Israelis claimed Jerusalem in 1967, the Old City was a mess. Garbage piles littered the area in front of the Western Wall. There was no respect for this holy place whatsoever.

My people cleaned it up and, like my rabbi said, opened it to the world. Jewish sites, yes, but also Christian and Muslim sites, with equal measure and respect. Israeli police, consisting of Jews and Arabs both, patrol the streets of the Old City to ensure the safety of the holy sites and the people who want to pray there.

If you can make sense of an attack like yesterday, I’d love to hear it. I just can’t see it. I don’t understand why the world supports horrendous acts of violence against people who simply want to live in peace in a place that not only touches their heart, but lives in their soul.

Psalm 137:  If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand wither away!  May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I fail to count Jerusalem the greatest of all my joys.

Posted in love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Last Workshop

My whole life, I have loved to write. Tell me how I can devote my days to putting the words on a page and healing people’s souls with my stories.

Tonight is the last time my fall 2014 writers workshop will gather to share words, offer feedback and encouragement, and feel a part of something meaningful and focused. I have a surprise for each lovely participant as a tantalizing farewell in the hope that they will keep writing and spice it up.

This year I’ve spent a lot of time teaching writing. Throughout my career, my writing has been consistent while my teaching of the craft has ebbed and flowed. In the beginning, I juggled multiple college writing (and reading) classes, and then children came along and the teaching was more hands-on, if you know what I mean.

writingYears later, I returned to the classroom as a complement, a supplement, to my creative professional work.

I love the interaction that teaching provides. I love discussions that ensue, thoughts that arise, brainstorms that come out of benign meetings, a love for the written word that flowers unexpectedly.

Me, personally, I love words. My first client and I would sit and debate nuance of paragraph and sentence and even punctuation for blogs, and I really thought that work was not even work at all, but a dream.

Register for the winter 2015 writers workshop at http://www.yourppl.com/events/writers-workshops-winter-2015/

Register for the winter 2015 writers workshop at http://www.yourppl.com/events/writers-workshops-winter-2015/

So while tonight ends the fall workshop, and this year of 2014 comes to a close in just about six weeks, it is the beginning of a flourishing of teaching writing for me, in new ways and venues, with an eager and talented group of aspiring writers.

In January, I have two new programs starting: a writers workshop (also 6 sessions) and a 21-day writing challenge. I consider it the perfect combination to get people writing and they’re affordable programs, so it is quite possible to do both.

The challenge is a kick-in-the-pants write-every-day opportunity to make writing a habit. Participants will receive daily emails with writing prompts and tips for publishing plus support from an online private forum where they can share their writing and connect with others. We’ll also have a weekly Q&A call.

Register for the 21 day writers challenge at http://www.yourppl.com/events/lynne-golodners-21-day-writing-challenge/

Register for the 21 day writers challenge at http://www.yourppl.com/events/lynne-golodners-21-day-writing-challenge/

The workshop is another intimate gathering of a small group of writers, face to face, word to word, heart to heart. No more than 10 can participate there, but for the challenge, we can have as many as want in.

I am also working on my 2015 writing + yoga retreat in northern Michigan (soon to be announced!) and a 2016 writing + yoga retreat in Israel. Somewhere in there, I’d like to do a retreat in Sedona.

Are you in? Have you always been curious about going on retreat to find yourself?

It is a wonderful opportunity – which can happen right at home, in the form of my January programs, and it can happen by going away to unfamiliar places and discovering yourself.

I love this teaching of writing. I love being immersed in the milieu of writers – ideas bouncing about and passionate artists sharing their unique ways of weaving words so that they say something completely new to a hungry, waiting audience.

Join me. You won’t regret it.

Register here for the workshop.

Register here for the challenge.

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

An Interview with Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

One of the first questions I asked Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University and reporter for The Times of Israelwas why there has been a consistent history of world news media in opposition to what I see as the true story of Israel.

“There’s some really, really good material written suggesting that this isn’t even a symptom of the 20th century,” she said on the phone last week. “The preoccupation with narrative surrounding the Holy Land is a phenomenon of western culture and European post-reformation culture. You can certainly trace into the mid-19th century a deep level of interest in the political goings-on there, which is inextricably tied to the predominance of the holy land in Christian theology.”

People are excited about the land of Israel, passionate about it, and it takes on larger-than-life qualities in the minds of people tied to this narrative, she says.

a view of the Jordan River

a view of the Jordan River

“I’m sure every Israeli who works in America can tell you how disappointed Americans are when they find out the Jordan River is tiny,” she chuckles. Reality never measures up to the imagination, and when it comes to Israel, the world rhetoric surrounding it is one that has long imagined some mythical magnificent place – not a place of real people living real lives.

“It can be shocking to discover it’s a place with real people and everyday mundane problems,” she says.

And yet, talking about Israel as a “hotbed of international crisis” still makes it larger-than-life and super important on the world stage. Regardless, Israelis on the ground need to “make peace with their everyday life – that’s not always a very sexy story.”

It’s we who make the story bigger than it really is: framed around narratives of conflict, of contested spaces, of religious-secular divides, legitimacy vs. conqueror.

One of the things I loved about talking with Rebecca was her affirmed dedication to telling the real story without bias, of dedication to being a true reporter reflecting circumstances and allowing the readership to make up their own minds. It’s a hard thing to do in such a politically charged place and when the person reporting the stories herself made the choice to leave her native America and become an Israeli citizen at the age of 22.

“I really like walking the tightrope between current events and history,” says Rebecca. “It’s nice as a journalist to have a longer perspective, particularly when you’re trying to be analytical. As an academic, it’s nice to have the professional background of writing in an accessible, clear manner. Our audiences don’t owe us anything; we owe our audiences a good story.”

New immigrants to Israel, making aliyah.

New immigrants to Israel, making aliyah.

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil made aliyah when she was 22 although she had been wanting to since she was 16 and a Jewish day school student in Arlington, Virginia. After graduating from the University of Chicago, she moved to Israel and claimed citizenship as every Jew can do, from anywhere in the world.

She became a journalist “very much by accident,” though she comes from a long line of journalists. Her grandfather, a decorated war veteran, wrote for Stars & Stripes until he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

“He died when my father was 16 so I never met him but a lot of what I do know about him was that the FBI sent people to his funeral and documented his funeral and his file,” she says. “I never meant to become a journalist, but I come from a decently long line of journalists, so I suppose it was somewhat inevitable.”

Like her grandfather, Rebecca got her start in journalism through her own military service, as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. At first, upon moving to Israel, the IDF told her she was “too old” for service. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“If I were male and I made aliyah at 22, military service would be mandatory,” she says. “In my case, it was not just optional but impossible due to advanced age, so I challenged them on that and won, and enlisted and I thought I was enlisting into a combat unit.”

After serving in the IDF, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil worked as a reporter for the Jerusalem Post.

After serving in the IDF, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil worked as a reporter for the Jerusalem Post.

Instead, she was drafted to be a secretary. “I spent another couple of months with some people I met along the way trying to convince them that nobody enlists in the IDF to do PowerPoints and Outlook. It would be a waste of resources and of my own enthusiasm.”

And she won. After 2.5 years serving as a combat medic in the Israeli armored corps, she could not imagine working at a desk job and applied for a position with the Jerusalem Post. She credits her “fluency” in security language as winning her the job.

4-what_is_new_media2 She worked on the Internet desk and then became the internal security reporter. She spent her days “chasing cops and robbers and Qassam rockets and suicide bombings” at the end of the 2nd Intifada, 2006-2008. When she married and became pregnant, she felt “doing belly flops into ditches at 6 months pregnant” might not be the smartest activity and transferred to become the parliamentary reporter working in the Knesset until 2011.

“I’m absolutely fascinated by the role of media in conflict and by the way the changing natures of conflict and the changing structures of media combine to create spaces for certain narrative and limit spaces for other narrative,” she says.

Thanks to today’s technological connectedness, Israeli reporters can call Hamas officials in Gaza and get immediate answers. It’s true with ISIS officials too. Reporters on opposing sides can contact leaders and have conversations – easily, and freely.

“Reporters have unprecedented access to one side of stories, when one side of stories isn’t constrained by having a government behind it,” she says. The illusion of access exists for accepted bureaucracies where in reality there are layers of constraints. In situations with no governmental order, there is more openness, more access.

new-media1-1024x675We talked about the issue of new media – blogs, social media and other forms of sharing information – and how that affects modes of traditional media.

“In its current form, social media and new media tend to encourage immediacy over depth,” she says. “There’s a role for that in reporting, but I don’t think that should be all that reporting is. On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore the positive aspects of the democratization of media. When I look at my own Twitter following and I realize I am indirectly in communication with Iranian journalists who are writing about the same negotiations, I think it’s a wondrous thing.”

They read each other’s stories. They are in contact. They become partners in the process when historically, they never would have connected.

“I really, really value that,” she says. “It creates maybe not a space for direct conversation but an indirect discourse which is really awesome.”

times-of-israelStill, Rebecca believes in the “old-fashioned sense of reporters as conduits for information on which leaders can build opinions.” She refuses to blur the lines and start opining in quick tweets just because it makes for good reach.

“I see my role as giving people the information to form their own opinion and because of that I work as hard to take my bias out of it,” she says. “That’s an old-fashioned notion of what reporting should be. It is one of the reasons I love working for Times of Israel. We really strive to offer a balanced perspective, and it’s not always easy. A lot of effort goes into being balanced.”

This week, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is coming to Detroit to address media folks, and I had the wonderful good fortune to speak with her last week by phone in a private interview – because I was told bloggers are not welcome at the event. Ironically, Rebecca works as a journalist for The Times of Israel, a wholly online publication.

I am grateful to Rebecca for speaking with me one-on-one by phone so I could learn about, and share, her wonderful career and her vision to report on world politics and Israel’s role therein from a truly journalistic, unbiased vantage point.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Old Are You?

6834 Yesterday, the Torah portion devoted a lot of ink to talking about how many days Abraham and Sarah lived. Not the total years, the days.

The reason, the Sages say, is that this reading, Chayei Sarah, is supposed to convey the idea that what you do with your days determines your true age – rather, how productive you are with your life matters more than how long you live.

ff474ab53a817e77ee0629b2e3f3629eAn interesting concept. Do you devote a day to ruminating over the way that person spoke to you and feel bitter, resentful or angry? Or do you devote a day to being of service, helping others, facing the world with love and smiles?

The latter will get you farther.

If you know me at all, you know I’m fascinated by words. Well, in a particular Psalm (90:10) on this matter, the word strength is used. But it’s not the typical word for strength in Hebrew, which is chazak, meaning physical strength. It’s gevurah, which is more than physical – it’s perseverance, staying the course, stick-to-it-ive-ness.

shutterstock_meaning-making-and-finding-purpose-at-work-620x250What type of strength do you exhibit in the face of challenge? Are you making the most of your talents and skills? Are you contributing – or standing back and watching the crowd?

As a devoted Type-A doer, I am not a fan of watching time pass. I feel better when getting things done, when making progress. And now I have a different way to look at it.

29906170001_3330442319001_wake-up-callTurning 40 (3 years ago) was a wakeup call for me. It felt like a turning point, a question mark staring me in the face and demanding to know whether I am making a difference in this world. At 40, it felt like I was halfway through life (although I hope I live beyond 80) and I’d better be sure that everything I do adds up to meaningful.

I loved that year. I set about doing a project where I would do 40 things that make the world a better place, and I looked for places and people to give of my time and my resources.

meaningmimagWithout that motivation, I find time just floating past. I no longer have a mission to give, give, give – it’s just inherent – which means it’s not top of mind, not a beacon in the fog.

We need the kick in the pants to truly get out there. To make a meaningful difference.

All the days of your life…what do the days add up to?

Posted in reverence | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

All You Have to do is Ask

questions or decision making conceptIn my line of public relations work, I’ve learned that if you are persistent, and if you ask the question, and if you pick up the phone, you’ll get somewhere.

It’s that easy. And I do think this can extrapolate to other careers. To all careers.

All you have to do is ask. Make the ask. If you don’t, you have no chance of a positive response.

The other day, a PR colleague suggested that every press release should have 4-5 calls to action. Hmmm…That got me thinking. Do I do that? And where would I place them?

I write my press releases like journalistic stories. The arc and weave of narrative is my strength and it’s how I form my media pitches. I always include an ask, point-blank noting that I’d like the journalist to consider doing a story about the topic at hand. But 4 or 5?

The truth is, in any storytelling, the listener wants to be involved. Wants to be asked. Wants to have a role, be a character in the unfolding.

I am as guilty as the next person of liking my own stories a bit too much. I relish the telling – and then this happened, and can you believe this happened next?

f735e57991607d9a0b55636a21dc0882I am sure the listener gets tired of merely listening. It’s why I encourage my clients and the people I mentor to make whatever they do interactive. Call the listener to action. Get them involved.

And be creative. Ask and ye shall receive.

The legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” You have to try. You have to put yourself out there. The worst thing that happens is you don’t make the shot, you get a “No,” the door closes in your face. It’s ok. It’s not that cold outside, and the sun is shining bright.

I’ve heard it said, and I’ve seen it in practice, that the more one gives, the more one has. When we hold onto things in a clingy, fearful way, we end up with less. We see loss. We run into mysterious predicaments that require an outpouring of our reserves.

make-a-difference-by-john-f-kennedy“No one has ever become poor by giving,” said Anne Frank, and she was a teenager locked in an attic, hiding from the Nazis. Imagine how generous we could be in this era of freedom if we dug deep within to find the immense reserves stored up and awaiting release.

Take the risk. Make the ask. And wait for the good to pour in.

He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity & enjoying life’s pleasures…breathes but does not live. ~ Sanskrit proverb

Posted in Business | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment