Freedom – What Does It Mean?

There has been so much said about freedom during the week following events at Charlottesville, VA.

As a writer, the First Amendment has always been something I hold particularly dear. The right to free speech and the right to assemble peacefully make the United States a special place. These rights make me feel proud to be an American citizen.

Free speech is powerful and there are groups like the alt-right whose right to free speech brings up discomfort for me. But they, nonetheless, have the right to share their views however repellant I and others may find those views.

But where do we draw the line? When do we say, “No?”

It has occurred to me that the concept of freedom has to apply to all of us or it applies to none of us. Whenever we say “Others must not be free in order for us to be free” we are in reality denying freedom to all.
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The Problem with Hating

When I was a kid, every once in a while I would say something along the lines of “I hate her.” As most of us know this is preteen speak for “I hate how that person made me feel.”

And if I said this in front of my dad, he would say, “Don’t say ‘hate.’” And I would ask him why not because it didn’t seem like such an awful thing to say. And, in fact, it felt rather empowering at an age when I felt pretty powerless.

My dad, who was at an age in which the memory of the Holocaust was still a little too fresh in mind, would say “Hating is something you always regret.”

Although I didn’t quite understand what my dad meant at the time his comment stuck with me and I’ve always resisted from actively hating anyone. OK I hate mosquitoes but I have tried very hard not to hate any person or group of people.

Recently I read that someone I thought was a friend hates me. More specifically, this friend hates me because I’m white. No other reason I’m aware of. I’m white therefore I am hated.

Here’s the problem with hating.

I am Jewish and my ancestors have a long history with hatred for being what they are. Like many Jewish people living in the United States I have family members who died in concentration camps.

When Hitler came into power in 1930’s Germany most German people wouldn’t say they hated the Jews. Most of them probably knew at least one or two Jewish people and felt Jews were pretty much OK.

As they listened to propaganda, though, some began to hate Jews. Again, they probably didn’t hate specific Jews but they began to see Jews as being something less than human. Instead of individual human beings they saw ugly stereotypes.

When you begin to see people as a group. As Them. You can begin doing terrible things to those people. Or you can, at least, begin to condone the terrible things that other people are doing.

And that is the problem with hatred.

When hate enables us to see other people as less than human. When hate enables us to say “they are somehow worse than us,” it creates the conditions that enable people to do things that they almost always regret.

It isn’t hate so much as it is an emotion that enables us to take hate-full action. To say hate-full things. It allowed Nazi Germany to systematically send millions of people into gas chambers. Hate allowed them to see those people as something less than human. It enabled them to do something they otherwise would never do.

Hate enables us to do and justify doing terrible things to other human beings.

I think that free speech is one of the most important rights we have in the United States. Free speech was intended to allow for the expression of many different points of view. Our founders wanted to insure that no authority would ever take away someone’s ability to disagree.

But hating isn’t the same as disagreement. Hate is an expression of an intent to hurt. It is the expression of “you are less than human in my eyes and therefore do not deserve human regard.”

One last point. Hating on the Internet is a real problem because the Internet gives us a certain amount of insulation from consequences. That’s why hatred online is especially virulent.

When we sit in-person with someone else it gets a lot harder to hate and say hateful things. Because you see that person flinch. You see the tears in another person’s eyes. You realize “I have hurt someone who is a lot like me.”  You realize hate has real consequences.

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Failure and Success

I love this quote because it’s so true even though it may not feel that way.

I’ve noticed that the primary difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that the successful people fail more.

— Martha Beck, How to Turn Failure into Success

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Time and Space: Reviewing a Room

In It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond, writer Julia Cameron describes how to gain a greater sense of creative freedom…by looking at our surroundings with fresh eyes.

“Allow yourself a few minutes to sit in a place in your home where you may have been “too busy” to sit before.
Look around this spot and really see your home with a fresh perspective.

  • What do you appreciate?
  • What do you wish to change?

“If you see many things you wish to change or feel overwhelmed with emotion when doing this exercise, don’t worry: your morning pages will help you prioritize and process these insights.”

The space I sat in is my home office which at the moment is a mess…so clutter I dread going up there. Still, I’ve decided it’s time to begin making this room a place I love. One that supports me and my work.



Filed under Integrity, Work and Joy

Doing the Right Thing for Gus

Since the holidays our handsome tabby cat, Gus, has been acting lethargic and spends most of his time sleeping next to the bedroom heating duct.

Gus is 11-years old which is considered old for a cat. Still, I’ve had cats that have lived to the age of 17 doing quite well until the last year. During his last check up, Gus was doing well…a little chubby…but all his vitals were good. As an older cat, Gus was a quieter than our year-old Lily, who still has lots kittenish energy. Nonetheless, he still enjoyed hanging out with us, playing with Lily, and greeting guests at the door. Gus has always been very friendly for a cat. So friendly we often joke that he’s the “cat who thinks he’s a dog.”

The vet who checked Gus said his apparent vitals looked fine with the exception of his weight loss. Gus had lost nearly 2-pounds since his last exam. Two pounds is a lot for a cat, especially for a cat like Gus who loves his meal times.

The vet also took blood and urine samples to check for common health issues common in older cats such as diabetes and kidney disease.

Although the blood work showed abnormalities, the results weren’t conclusive. His kidneys were working and his blood sugar was normal so we could rule out diabetes and kidney disease. The vet suggested an ultrasound as the next step. Older cats can develop pancreatitis, cancer, and GI tract masses that can be detected using an ultrasound.

An ultrasound for Gus would cost slightly over $400 and many people would schedule one without a second thought.

But I found myself hesitating and told the vet I’d talk it over with my family.

Why my hesitation?

Well, for one thing, $400 is a lot of money. There are a lot of people who consider their dogs and cats to be family members and wouldn’t hesitate to take the next step.

I love my cats a great deal. They are beloved members of our household. But I can’t get past a few things:

  • Gus can’t speak for himself. I’ve noticed that when animals are ill they do what they need to do. They seem to have an instinctive wisdom that humans have lost touch with. My sense of Gus is he wants to be left alone.
  • More troubling to me is the slippery slope presented by advanced treatment options. Diagnostics might help us find something treatable but then again they may not. At what point do we, my family and I, say “we’re going to stop here?”

An alternative option our vet offered is to put Gus on a course of wide-spectrum antibiotics in case the problem is an infection. I’m reluctant to do this because Gus is an indoor cat and I’m not clear how he would have been exposed to something that would cause these symptoms.

Ultimately, I have only my own values to work with here. At this moment I don’t know the possible diagnostic conclusions from an ultrasound nor do I know treatment options and how they would affect the possible length of Gus’ life and the quality of his life.


Advanced medical diagnostics and treatments for pets offer the gift of saving the life of a pet and improving a pet’s quality of life. But it also means we have to make painful decisions when the choice is not an automatic “yes.”


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Creating Ugly Art

[CYL] 08.29.16 Ughly 300px

Today the assignment in Creating Your Life was to create “bad art.” Here’s how instructor, Robert Fritz, describes the assignment:

“[today], make the most ridiculous, silly, goofy, inane little creation.

The assignment is to make bad art. As bad as you can make it. Have fun doing this. Do it as an experiment. Let yourself be open to this.”

The assignment to create something bad brought up a lot of resistance for me. Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. I couldn’t even think of how I would create something bad!

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And now for a little humor …


From the “File of Unnecessary Products.”

This morning I saw there are T-shirts with Cthulhu Xing signs.

Now if you enjoy horror and fantasy, you know that one day HP Lovecraft’s elder god of Pure Chaos and Terror will awake from deep within His Chamber and bring forth a  New Age of Darkness.

So I ask you, does Cthulhu need a special crossing sign?

Deer? Yes they need a special crossing sign. Small children? Absolutely!. The deaf and blind? Most assuredly.

But when Cthulhu is crossing the road, you will stop no matter how fast you’re going. Not only will you stop but you will be immediately sent to a dimension of Pure Chaos and Horror courtesy of the Tentacled One Himself.

So go ahead. Put the pedal to the metal because when Cthulhu is abroad every highway is taking you straight to Hell.


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Going In Before Going Out


This morning, the lesson was about God having given me all of His powers.

The words in these lessons usually inspire the thought, really? Because if you asked me at some random point during the day whether I feel powerful, I  say “Are you kidding?! I feel anything BUT powerful!”

But this isn’t because I’m not powerful. It’s because I don’t FEEL powerful. The distinction is important.

Like many people, whether  I consider myself powerful or pretty or smart is based on what is happening outside myself. For example, a woman organizing a conference called me saying a friend suggested she call me because “Judy knows everyone.” Hearing that made me feel proud and powerful. Well if someone else says that it MUST be true.

Which is the problem.

First because people’s opinions vary. One day someone thinks you’re wonderful. The next day you say something, upset them and they think you’re horrible. Have you really changed that much?

No! But it’s crazy how I’m willing to allow my self-esteem hinge on the assessments of others.

Then things get really fun because I assume there must be a good reason for the other person’s assessment. I wonder what did I do? What did I say? Or what did I fail to do or say?

And if you’re like me, you dig even deeper and get down to what you believe is the TRUTH about yourself. And the TRUTH in my case is not a pretty picture.

Somewhere around the age of two or three I came up with the the idea that I didn’t deserve to exist and that was the TRUTH about me. Where this idea came from I can’t say for sure. I was raised in a loving, middle class family and I was never abused or mistreated.

But who can say what happens that gives a three-year old the idea that she doesn’t deserve to exist. The birth of a new sister, a look from a parent, being punished for something I didn’t think was wrong?

But small children know instinctively they need their parents and other adults to survive and tend to believe those adults are always right. Therefore, it is they who are somehow wrong when an adult is unhappy or angry.

The irony is we rarely re-examine those early ideas. Instead they get codified and reinforced as we add layers of adult reasons and beliefs until that belief becomes our reality.

In my case, the belief I don’t deserve to exist has turned into a whole nest of beliefs such as “I need to get everyone to like me.” “I must do everything perfectly.” “I must fit in.” “I must be the winner.”

It’s not surprising I’ve spent a lot of time feeing guilty, angry, and anxious. Guilty when I displease someone important. Angry when I go along with what someone else wants even though I don’t like what I’m doing. And anxious because I spend a lot of time alone without feedback at all and I’m always wondering and worrying about whether I’m “doing it right.” Even though “doing it right” hasn’t been much of a recipe for personal happiness in my case.

In my case the “antidote” has been to stop depending on what’s outside as an indicator of my right to exist and feel happy.

Every once in a while, this morning for example, I remember that before I try to do anything I believe will make me feel better about myself to first go within and find peace. And here’s something really cool: I always find peace! Always! If I can quiet my anxious thoughts just enough, I find peace and quiet.

And once I find the peace and quiet I notice how full my heart feels. The fullness is Love. Not hearts and flowers love. Divine, unconditional Love. The Love that is there no matter what I do, say, or think.

It is from the peace and love which is always present in my heart that I would now go into the world with. And this is a very different presence than the anxious “please tell me I have a right to exist” presence I would otherwise bring.


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Beating the Numbers Game


There are real people behind the numbers.


From time-to-time, an acquaintance emails me with a request, the gist of which goes like this:

I’m working on a big, cool project and I need your help to get the word out.

Please tell your friends, colleagues, etc to check out my big, cool, project at

This is the “friends and family” version of numbers game; the idea that if I “employ” enough friends and family to get the word out, even a small percentage of takers will be enough to produce the sales I want.

It makes sense but when I get these kinds of requests, I’m actually a lot less inclined to help.


This is reason so many businesses want your email address. An email address puts you in the marketing funnel and you are now a “prospect.”

The problem I have with the whole numbers game is it inserts a layer of abstraction in human relationships and actually damages trust and likeability…two factors that are critical when it comes to cultivating quality customers.

The numbers game is especially damaging when:

  • the business only communicates when they want something
  • they don’t acknowledge the human relationship in any way

I think the first point is pretty self-explanatory. We all know people who only get in touch with us when they need money, need a favor, etc. In the days before the internet, we often referred to people like this as “users.”

“Acknowledging the human relationship” is when someone tells you why they value their relationship with you. It’s when you see the real human beings attached to those numbers.

It’s best when the acknowledgement is personal and specific, “You asked some thought-provoking questions during the presentation I gave last month. You helped me realize how much better presentations are when I engage my audience.”

And when you make it a priority to acknowledge when someone makes the effort to reach out. It takes energy to write an email or review. It means the person reaching out is engaged with you and your organization. It’s so simply to write a quick, sincere “thanks for the review you wrote.” And so few people take the time to do so.

The numbers game is very seductive because it holds out the promise of a return on your investment of effort. But when you fail to acknowledge the human beings behind those numbers, you may actually be damaging your relationships with potential advocates.

I actually enjoy getting the word out for people and businesses I care about…but only when I trust they see my ME. If I’m just an email address on a list, I don’t do anything on their behalf.

People become customers and advocates. Numbers do not.



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Cartooning – Crazy, Random Pictures & Captions

In this Cartooning course exercise, I came up with some captions based on prompts (“a catchphrase”, “something you said earlier in the day”) and combined the captions with pictures I drew based on an entirely different set of prompts (“the saddest thing in the world,” “something sexy”)

The exercise is structure so there’s no obvious relationship between the captions and images. The fun here is to play around with the words and pictures to see if you can come up with some good combinations. Here “good” means if not funny at least it evokes some kind of emotional response.

See what you think:

angryladylessperfume Just Do It nextthingyouknow sadkitty_goddamnitlaundry_CoffeeshopBraszombie



By the way if these are confusing or don’t make sense, don’t worry. They don’t necessarily make sense to me either!



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Filed under Getting Out of My Own Way, Work and Joy