Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stand by Me

Stand by MeStand by Me (Image via
Not sure why it is, but I always seem to favor the underdog.  Since I was a kid, I felt drawn to those who were marginalized in one way or another. Perhaps, that is why I like the song, Stand by Me, so much.  I see it as the anthem for the underdog.

In the Paradoxical Commandments by Kent Keith, he says "People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway."  

Who might the underdogs be?  To me, they are those among us that are marginalized, who exist on the edges of our society.  They come from all walks of life, all economic, social, religious and cultural backgrounds.  Often, they have developed an abrasive personality because they have been mistreated by the world around them for too long. Sometimes they are so sweet and unassuming that they simply disappear even when they are only with us.

As a teacher, I fight for the underdogs, often.  These are the students who don't have the privilege of parentage or finance to get them where they need to be.  These are the people to whom life has dealt a crummy hand, yet they keep trying, keep believing something good will happen.

One of my students from long ago is now working in Israel.  She is with an organization, Atzum, that struggles to help those who are victims of social injustice.  I just signed a letter on their site to the Knesset supporting legislation to fight against sex trafficking.  The motto of this organization is, "Addressing urgent need in Israel, one person at a time."

When we fight for the underdog, we do what the old man did who was throwing starfish back into the ocean.  We make a difference.  We may not be able to save the entire world, but we make a difference in the lives we touch were we are in this moment.   

May we stand by each other, when we are in trouble and when we are simply in need of a friend.  


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Living Without Clutter: No Place to Hide

Today, I am delighted to share the wit and wisdom of Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak), who has written selections for the best-selling series, Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories. Pesi is a retired faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years.

Pesi's new book, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity and My Missing Keys has just been released. In it she shares that she is a "self-acknowledged clutterer" who "has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well."

Here are Pesi's thoughts on living without clutter ~~

I’ve always had a complicated and ambivalent relationship with my clutter, but it’s reached a new level these days. I’ve known for many years that I can’t live with all the excess baggage I carry around, but I’m now beginning to see that I can’t really live without it either.

The kind of clutter I’m talking about here is not the physical sort that creeps through my house and takes over every available surface. To that, I could say a joyful farewell with no hesitation—as I’ve done many times before.

It’s the loss of the more subtle forms of clutter that concerns me—the chronic busyness; the information overload; the mental spinning that even sleep can’t still. Without those instant fillers in my life, I’m afraid my world might actually become what I’ve always claimed I want it to be . . . truly empty.

Empty, of course, seems desirable in contrast to cluttered; but it doesn’t hold up very well against full. A full space conceals and protects; an empty one leaves no place to hide. And, quite honestly, I’m not ready to give up my favorite hiding places just yet.

Life is often a bit more than I can handle. All those bright lights and sharp edges overwhelm me; and I find myself in need of a little distraction from time to time to soften the intensity. However, life doesn’t always provide what we need when we need it. That’s why people carry emergency supplies with them.

My emergency kit is filled with clutter. Whenever I need a little distance from my feelings, I simply pull it out. Mental clutter and activity clutter are the perfect places in which to bury those uncomfortable feelings. Physical clutter is not as effective for me; but, in a pinch, anything will do.

I wish that feeling vulnerable or frightened or insecure or hurt didn’t always send me off in search of an issue or an experience in which to lose myself, but that’s pretty much the way it is right now. Some of my friends reach for a glass of wine or a plate of brownies or a Gothic romance to get them through the night—I head straight for my clutter. I guess we’ve all found what works best for us.

I hope my journey will someday take me to a place where I no longer need to hide so often. But, in the meantime, it looks like my clutter and I will be traveling this road together a little bit longer. 

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

In All Honesty

The next Paradoxical Commandment on the list ~~ Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. ~~ is exemplified perfectly in what author, Elizabeth Ann West, shares today.

You Can't Shake Me
by: Elizabeth Ann West

I am a last wife. Not a second wife. Not a new wife. The last wife. There is only one way my husband and I are getting out of this marriage and it involves a funeral director. Cheating? I know my values and his, and even should he falter, I'd make him miserable before I'd give him to the hussy! Abuse? Therapy or jail time would be my first solution. 
Anyway, it's not easy to be a last wife and, in my case, a stepmother to such a wonderful young man with a birth mother, who drives me crazy. Polar opposites still have too much in common to describe how I compare to my husband's ex-wife. Yet, I have compassion for her. All those years she tried her absolute worst to get rid of me made me want to stay that much more. Plus, she contributed to the success of my marriage and she probably doesn't even know it!

Without the failure of his first marriage, I wouldn't have the wonderful man I married. I'm not talking about, she's gone so now I can have him. I didn't know him when they split up. I'm talking about how my husband IS a better man from those wounds and mistakes. The ex-wife was the one to, figuratively, hang herself, but my husband was so inexperienced and spiteful, he provided her ample rope to do so.

Enter my character, Anna. There is a great deal of me in Anna, Johnathan's stepmother in CANCELLED. As a character, she can be the hardest to understand. She is 100% devoted to her stepson, but she never had children of her own. Not for lack of trying, just fertility options in the late 80s/early 90s weren't the greatest. My own two-year-old daughter is our fertility miracle. Taking on the role of substitute mother to her stepson, alienated her from her own family. In my case, for the first few years, the more I did as a stepmother for my stepson, the more my husband's family ostracized me.

In CANCELLED, there are very serious skeletons in Anna's closet. She isn't the pure force of good the reader thinks she is for most of the novel. And, while I don't want to ruin the surprise, all I can say is that to understand her motivation, remember this: sometimes when you feel like you're losing everything, the only option is to hold on tighter. That is where her decision came from. I was never faced with the exact scenario she faces in the book, thankfully. But there was a time when I wondered...I wondered if the stress and insane drama I endured to join the West family and take on the ex-wife were even worth it. Luckily, my gut reaction was to hold onto my man with even more resolve than the people trying to make me let go.

So, yes, I am that You-Can't-Shake-Me-Stepmom, last wife. It wasn't where I imagined myself when I dreamed of getting married and starting a family, but the benefits of my husband's and stepson's love far outweigh the negativity from outsiders. Writing CANCELLED was about capturing the modern romantic dilemmas people face in today's crazy world. There are no easy answers to our love lives and no one gets the fairy tale anymore, if they ever really did. But, it's about real love in the face of adversity, especially the love of a parent for any of their children.

Thank you so much for letting me visit Words from the Heart. I am humbled by the generosity of so many book bloggers, like Linda, who volunteer their time and their talents to contribute to the world of reading. :)

As a special thank you to readers this month, I am giving away a free, signed ebook to everyone who signs up for my newsletter. (The newsletter comes out every 25th and covers my latest projects, books I've read, and technology tips for our crazy, digital lives. This is, logistically, the easiest way I can learn the ebook format you need and the email address to send it.)

Also, every Saturday there is a drawing for a signed, annotated paperback of CANCELLED from the readers who signed up for my newsletter that week. So far, I'm working through 100+ signed copies and 2 paperbacks have been won. I am tickled pink to write each reader their own personal note, so please be patient as it takes me a little time to make each ebook file. But when you get yours, I can honestly say, there isn't another CANCELLED ebook like it! 

Elizabeth Ann West is a Jane-of-all-trades, mistress to none! After writing non-fiction professionally for three years, she made the jump to fiction in 2011 with her debut novel, CANCELLED. A chicklit/romance from the male POV, Elizabeth's novel challenges the conventions of modern romance. CANCELLED is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as both an ebook and paperback. Elizabeth also writes regular posts about technology subjects on Mark Williams international, and her sites and

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lest We Forget

The fourth Paradoxical Commandment states:  The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

How true!  There seems to be something in the human psyche that compels us to remember all the horrid, awful, sad, bad things in life, while forgetting the wonderful, amazing, inspirational and just plain, good!  

Interestingly, I had this demonstrated to my in my class the other day. (I learn so much from my students!)  I had asked them to think of events that occurred during 2011.  They came up with a long list of every trauma, tragedy, earthquake, tornado and freak storm.  Not until I called their attention to it, did they think of anything positive, which for all of them was personal.  They admitted that they could not think of any good in the community or world.  How sad!

The media gives 24/7 coverage to every horrific event, from volcanic eruptions to murders; they provide voyeuristic programming for those who want to watch the trials and tribulations of large families, dysfunctional adults and criminal minds.  All that negative energy in the world, is it any wonder that none of my students could think of something good?

Fortunately, I could because I had just read a report on a fireman in Boston that saved a young boy from a fire.  The boy's grandmother literally dropped him out a window into the arms of the fireman.  

As I told my students, there are many stories like this.  We just need to look for them.  When we learn about them we need to share them with others.  This is how we add to the positive energy in the world and around us.  (We can also demand that our news broadcasting companies provide them, but that's a post for another time.) 


As I contemplated on this particular principle, several stories come to mind that illustrate it perfectly.  The best, I think, is the story of the Old Man and the Starfish.  

One day a young man took a walk on the beach.  Ahead of him he saw someone stooping down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.  As he got nearer, he saw that hundreds of starfish had been beached during the recent storm.  An old man, wizened with arthritis, kept picking up starfish and throwing them into the water.

"Why are you doing this?" the young man asked.  "It won't make a difference."

The old man, not missing a beat, picked up another starfish, replying as he threw it into the sea, "It matters to this one."


In many cultures, there is a belief that we are called to this life to do good.  Many people believe that much of the world problems come from the fact that too many people have forgotten that good is done everyday around the world.  Here are some sites that promote Good News!
 As the days of our new year pass, let us make an effort to see, learn, and share good news with others.  Let us be promoters of the positive, rather than doomsayers.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Beginnings

Today we have a wonderful guest, Christine Cunningham, who is sharing her thoughts on New Beginnings.  Christine writes fictional stories to uplift and inspire. She is a life-long student of happiness and how to attract it. She compiles what she learns and weaves it into an understandable, enjoyable story. 

She is the author of Eternal Beginning (non-fiction); Amazon bestseller, First Snow (romantic fiction); and 30 Day Guide to apply Eternal Beginning (non-fiction)- click on the picture above to view Christine's trailer.

Life has a distinctly funny way of changing me. I get what I call “itchy feet.” Now, bypassing the silly remarks about athlete’s foot and better hygiene, let me tell you what I mean. 

I’m in the enviable and sometimes not so enviable position of wanting everything to change and everything to remain the same. I’m not quite sure when this dichotomy began, but it continues to plague and pleasure my life. 

Nearly a year ago, I was working at a pharmacy and paid a very good wage. I bought a house and lived quite comfortably in the physical sense. After a few years, my health began to deteriorate as I contemplated living the rest of my life in the tiny environment of clock-in and clock-out. I wasn’t sure what I wanted from life, I just wanted change for the better. 

I quit my job and lived off my savings, when the inspired thought came to me to write a book about my life experience. I had always wanted to write a book and the thought energized me, so I began. I learned the twists and turns of the self-publishing world. I enjoyed a measure of success and met some wonderful people along the way. Now, I feel the tingle again to begin something new. I’m not quite sure what it will be, but I know it will be an adventure.

Connect with Christine through Facebook:, Twitter:, and read her blog posts here:

Monday, January 9, 2012

On Good Deeds and Success

One Good DeedImage by Quasifly via Flickr
A situation happened recently that has made my heart break.  Out of nowhere, it seems, I learned that someone bore false witness against me.  After sitting with what was said about me for a few days, I have come to realize that the next two Paradoxical Commandments speak directly to this situation.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

How many times have you heard about someone who has done something good for others, only to have someone else say, "Ya, well, I heard that person did such and such awful thing," effectively killing the positive energy of the good deed?  Or, have you ever heard of someone succeeding, for instance, getting a new position in work, only to hear coworkers, people that, to this person's face, are all smiles and congratulations, whispering about how the person who got the new position leaves early or takes extra long lunches or drinks too much? 

What is someone to do?   According to Dr. Kent Keith...keep on keeping on!  Do good anyway...succeed anyway.  

This is a challenge.  I certainly could give up, throw my hands in the air and say, "Forget it!  I don't need this aggravation."

However, who do I hurt?  Not the person who has hurt me; rather, I hurt myself and those I would be helping.  

Trust me, making the decision to continue moving forward has not changed how I feel.  My heart is still broken.  I feel sad that someone would lie about me for no apparent reason.  But, like the aches and pains that come with old age, I know that if I keep moving, things will get better...the pain will lessen.

May we all strive to do good and succeed, knowing that what truly matters is not the accolades, but the service we have given to others.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Do It Anyway!

Cover of "Anyway: the Paradoxical Command...Cover of Anyway: the Paradoxical Commandments
Several years ago, I came across a little book by Dr. Kent Keith called, Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments.  For me, these ten short principles became my resolutions for the years ahead. If you don't know the story of Dr. Keith and Anyway, allow me to share it with you.

Back in the 60's, Kent Keith wrote the ten principles found in Anyway as a part of a booklet created for high school student leaders.  The commandments were a challenge to students, who were finding excuses to dropout and give up when things got tough.

Time past, until one day, Dr. Keith learned that eight of the ten principles were hanging on the the wall of the children's home in Calcutta run be Mother Teresa.  His words had found their way around the world!  

So, what are these principles that have traveled the world?  I plan to look at them singularly over the next month, renewing my commitment to them and, hopefully, inspiring others to join me on this journey.

Let us begin with Paradoxical Commandment #1:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  
Love them anyway.

Love them...anyway.  This is such a challenge!  How often in the past year, have I thrown my hands up in exasperation at the illogical, unreasonable and self-centered behavior of others?  How so you love people like that?

What I have learned is that in order to love people, who are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered,  we need to first see their Light, realizing that they too are Children of the Universe, "no less than the trees and the stars."

Once we are able to see this connection, then we are able to love them, in spite of their failings, because in finding this connection, we see our own failings.  (After all, none of us are perfect, right?)  

So, HOW do you love them, you ask?  I pray for them.  I pray that they will be opened to the logical, reasonable and altruistic.  I pray that I will be open to the lessons they can teach.  And, I pray that each will forgive the others failings.

Does it work?  Sometimes...but sometimes not, which is where the "anyway" comes in. The "anyway" is a reminder to keep, keeping on; moving forward; continuing on the journey.  The road is bumpy, at best, but the view can be amazing!

Imagine a world where we all resolved to "Love them anyway!"   



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Monday, January 2, 2012

We Are the Change

English: New Year's Resolutions postcardImage via Wikipedia

Every January 1st, millions of people around the world make resolutions to give up, do without, change, recreate, and/or begin something. They look back on the past year, see the areas in their lives that could have been better, could have been more, could have been happier and resolve to make it so in the year ahead.

One problem, almost always, most of these resolutions suddenly fizzle out around mid-February. Why?

I believe it is because they are made without the recognition that in order to bring about true change, one must remove the root of whatever it is that is causing the problem. For instance, we can try to lose weight, but, if we don't recognize and change our behavior - i.e., realize that we eat when stressed - then we will only resort back to that behavior.

After fifty some odd years of resolutions, I have decided to approach resolutions from a different angle this year. Instead of changing something about me - weight, attitude, etc. - I would begin by taking away a root of my issues. In other words, I am weeding my spiritual garden.

The best way to do this, I feel, is to begin adding to my time spent in reflection, meditation, communion and prayer. This year, I am mindfully and deliberately creating Sacred Space for the observance of Sabbath. As I have already stated in a past post, Sabbath does not have to be observed on Saturday or Sunday. Sabbath is any time you intentionally shut out the world of consumerism and materialism and connect with Spirit.

You see, I hypothesize that by observing an intentional Sabbath, the root of my problems, issues, and/or lack will disappear, or at least become something that I can cope with without becoming filled with fear and despair. The reason for this is that when we connect to Spirit, we are given Grace...this Grace brings Wisdom, Strength, Courage and the ability to do the things we are called to do.

President Obama said, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” If we spend time with Spirit, with the Divine, with our Creator, then, we will see and have the strength to do those things we must to make this world a better place.

May the year ahead be filled with Light, Love and Laughter. May there be enough rain to create rainbows and bring flowers to life. May storms pass over without lasting damage. And, may each of us see that we are enough, that we are loved and that we have all we need, now.


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