January 2016

I upgraded my telephone recently; quite an adventure! I couldn’t find my favorite apps or icons. After a successful treasure hunt, I located the calendar, notes, and calculator. I even found the alarm clock and camera icons!

And with the instruction from the patient in-store rep, I learned how to find a contact, make a call, and use the speaker feature.

The tones, though, posed a problem. I heard odd twanging and thought it was someone else’s phone until the rep pointed out that the sound came from my phone.

Can I change that tone? I wondered.

“Of course,” Sir Phone Rep said. “What would you like?”

“Something easy. Some tone I’ll recognize as my ring.”

The rep showed me how to find the tones and select an option. I heard lovely outdoor bird calls and cheerful tunes; there were about 20 choices. And that was only for the ringtones! There were another 15-20 choices for notification sounds! YIKES!

How could I choose?

In the Notification Options, I saw a tone labeled Good News. YES! Whatever the notification was, I wanted to hear it was Good News! I settled on Sparkling Melody for the ringtone. The tones made me smile.

This got me thinking. Perhaps phone tones could work like positive affirmations. When I use a positive affirmation, I feel upbeat and confident. When I hear these new ringtones, I respond the same way.

Whatever comes over the wires is sparkling news…and it’s all good!


Thank you, Marcia Riefer Johnston, for your Tighten This! contest. Respondents dissect, edit, cut, decimate, and destroy wordiness. Then entrants offer clear, creative, and concise revisions. What a great way to learn powerful writing!

This week’s entry contained one my favorite awkward phrases: “include, but are not limited to, the following”. What does it really mean? Can we make this phrase illegal?

I can’t wait to see what Marcia’s community comes up with! Check out her blog for the answer.

Let’s write what we mean! Thanks, Marcia, for a fun learning tool!


A year ago we placed my father’s body to rest. That event began my year of mourning for him. Today, 29 Teves 5776, on the first anniversary of that event, I visited his grave. Today, at nightfall, marks the end of that year of mourning. I began the year at the cemetery and ended it at the same location.

Did I really end the year in the same location?

Perhaps physically…certainly not spiritually or emotionally.

A year ago I was painfully raw. There was a gaping hole in my life, much like the gaping hole in the earth that awaited my father’s coffin. Today, I’m sad, and I still miss my dad. Yet the hole has closed a bit. When I saw the soft green grass over the grave, I felt hope.

The two visits encased the year, much like bookends do for books. I imagined the clipper ship bookend on my bookshelf…


…it holds up my books. Perhaps the visits were spiritual bookends, supporting me so that I stand straight.


That clipper ship will set sail this evening toward the seas of Playful Adventure, Enthusiastic Activity, and Lively Wanderings. You’ll know when the ship passes your area – listen for the sound of joyful music!


L’ilui nishmas Yoel Meir ben Simcha. (For the elevation of the soul of Yoel Meir, son of Simcha; Joel M. Sandleman.)


The car jerks and sputters down the road at two miles per hour. The oversized black 4×4 behind me honks loudly. When I looked in the rear-view mirror, I noticed Mr. 4×4 motioning for me to move faster. Doesn’t he understand that if I could, I would? I’d gladly pull over and let him pass, if I saw an empty spot on the crowded street. The more he honked and gestured, the slower the car went. I began to shake with each jerk of the car.

I made it to the four-way stop sign. Whew! Now even Mr. 4×4 must understand that I can’t move until we do the “stop sign waltz”; I wait my turn. I stopped shaking enough to reach down for my water bottle…and noticed that the emergency brake was on! I released the brake and glided smoothly into traffic.


Some days are marked with short staccato steps and frequent stops. A few hours into the day I notice something is wrong, something isn’t working right – and I can’t identify the cause. At those moments, I step onto the porch, stare at the vast blue sky with white cotton candy-like clouds and breathe. I release the virtual emergency brake. Then I glide smoothly into the next project and the day moves forward at a comfortable 30 MPH!

With gratitude to Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman for the emergency brake image (Chazak Line class, Reaching New Heights option, 718.258.2008).


It’s January 1st…the beginning of a new calendar year. Typically, I’d feel hopeful, excited, eager, and enthusiastic. This year, January 1st marks 10 days before another first – the first anniversary of my father’s passing. I feel sad, melancholy, and down.

My landscape appears desolate around me. I walk on very dry, cracked ground. I can’t see trees or grass. Instead, I see wide tree stumps. The grey sky mirrors the heart-ache in my soul. As I walk along this beige-brown earthen path, I notice small blades of grass in some spots. path with small greenery

I see a tiny yellow flower with green leaves pushing its way through the parched dirt a bit further along. yellow flower

That small sign of growth means plants can survive the dryness. Maybe the grey skies mean rain is on the way – life-giving rain. The plants will grow. Trees will grow. The colors will return to the landscape.

I take my lessons from the landscape. The sadness and melancholy are temporary, just like the dry brown cracked earth. Today I see only a tiny yellow flower. Yet that flower grows and thrives.

And so do I.

Here’s looking to a year of life-giving rain that will grow our landscape and our souls!


For the elevation of the soul of Yoel Meir ben Simcha (Joel Sandleman).