Category Archives: Things to Ponder

5776

Image credit: bethshalomcolumbia.org

Today is Rosh Hashanah.  This year is 5776 in the Jewish calendar.  The Jewish new year.  New.  Shiny.  Bright.  Filled with promise.

What I love about the ritual of this particular holiday, is that, unlike most things in life, your contract with your own vows from the prior year is wiped clean and you create a new contract for the year ahead.  Kind of like a purpose statement, or a strategic plan for an entrepreneurial small business of yourself.
If you’ve not experienced the tradition, basically, when you go to service, you start off the Days of Awe, at Rosh Hashanah, casting away your old contract and spending the next 10 days in reflections.  At Yom Kippur, 10 days later (the day of atonement), your contract gets sealed and you start your work toward being the best you that you can be in the year ahead.
There is something both challenging and terrifying in looking at your spiritual and emotional naked self and assessing where you’ve been and where you want to go.  Not in comparison to anyone else, but against only you, yourself.
This past year has been a particularly challenging one for me personally, and it is with welcome relief that I embrace the next 10 days.
I have always believed that if you keep your mind open, you’ll see opportunity where you may have been blinded in the past.  I like to look for coincidence, apparently random connections, and common themes.  Just as when a woman becomes pregnant the whole world around her is suddenly filled with pregnant women at every corner, when you open your mind to randomness, common themes start to take shape and emerge.
Given that I’ve been through a tougher year than I’ve experienced in most of my past life, and given that randomness and a blank slate are both on the horizon, it’ll be particularly interesting for me to try to clear my mind and get rid of whatever is clogging my emotional and spiritual drain and see what emerges.
I’m blessed to have a mom who in later life became a Rabbi (as in started Rabbinic studies at 72 and ordained at 79- you can check her out at www.rabbicorinne.com) and she did two very interesting exercises with her Sunday morning study group this past week.
The first was to visualize where you wanted to be in the next 5 years.  But to write a paragraph in the present tense as if the 5 years was now.  “I am…”
The second was to really, deeply ponder what you wanted your life purposes to be.  This one was left open for the next 10 days of reflection.
My “I am..” statement surprised me (as I think it did for most of us).  And delighted me.  I really do have a vision for five years from now and I didn’t quite realize it.  And I suspect will be lending shape to my statement of purpose for the coming year.
So that is what I wanted to leave you with.  Rabbi Corinne’s spiritual exercise to help set your tone for the next 5 years ahead.
L’Shana Tova…wishing you a good year.

Super Moon

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Did you see the moon tonight? If you didn’t realize that the moon was brighter than normal, perhaps you heard more dogs barking  or howling well into the night. Impossible to capture the magic on a smartphone camera, but it took my breath away on this crystal clear night.
We owe it to ourselves to marvel at the beauty of our little part of the universe from time to time…no?

Happy Mothers’ Day

To all the moms, the world over, who give their hearts & souls to their kids, the moms who have & the moms who have not, those with their families intact & thriving & those whose deal with lives torn apart, to soldier moms & the moms of soldiers…

We know, those if us who are moms, that every day is our Mother’s Day-all the good & all the bad.  This day is your badge of honor.

Have a great day, Mom.

News junkie

Like many others, I am a news junkie. The bright worm moon light has woken me up a bit earlier than usual & what do I reach for? My Droid & this fantastic thing called a news widget. A touch of my finger & I’m abreast of what is going in in Libya as of 6:15am or Japan,according to reporters from Reuters,CNN, Huff Post, Globe & Mail, &BBC just to name a few. I’ve not thumbed through a print newspaper in years, preferring to get the most current news online & via satellite TV. With unfolding crises I’ll remain glued to the set. I always want to do something to help but know I can’t, other than through a donation here or there. The Japan disaster is overwhelming & I cry watching the news, especially when a friend has shared some of the personal hardship her own family is facing, having lost their homes & living in evac centers in Japan.
I feel that I need to know, ought to be informed but the sense of helplessness is also overpowering. News overload and the feelings I’m experiencing are not uncommon. The remedy is to stay away from the news for a few days and get one’s mind back to daily life. Can I avoid the news?  Not yet. As a citizen of the planet I need to know. But I’m a moment away from regrouping… I may yet decide to unplug this weekend. I know it’s not just me.

Patch.com…in case you haven’t heard

There is a cool hyperlocal online community publication called www.Patch.com.  Hyperlocal because the news and features focus on what is going on, literally, in your neck of the woods.  Owned by AOL, who are putting their considerable power behind it, it is growing quickly and seems to be catching on in a “best-kept-secret” vibey way.

I was asked to write a bi-weekly pet column for our Encino Patch, and have been doing so since the September launch.  Thought I’d share a few of the articles — you’ll see they are punchy, fun, and very specific to my area.  They are also all about dogs because of my other life, that of running a very busy, also hyper-local pet services business!

Hope you enjoy these few short samples, and check out if there is a Patch for your community!

Man’s Best Friend

New Year’s Resolutions

Holiday Hazards

Thanksgiving may be over, but my thanks are ongoing…

I hope you all had good Thanksgiving celebrations (US readers!).  Thanksgiving is such a huge holiday in this country — a time where families and friends try to get together to spend a few hour eating and enjoying being together and giving their thanks for those who are important to them.  With the way the cyberworld works these days, I really don’t know exactly how many of you read my posts on a daily basis — sure there are page stats, but some of you may read me through subscription, through social networks that stream in my blog, or even on websites that pirate my material. There are a lot of you and I appreciate your interest in my words. Regardless of where I stream to and through, I have a pretty clear idea of where in the world you are…and basically I have come to know, through you, gentle readers, your thoughts and views from countries all over the world. 

There are many, many days where writers block sets in and the pressures of life are a bit overwhelming and I may leave a thought or a post for a few days…sometimes even a few weeks (I have about 5 posts pending — from valuable info from AARP to a local bit on a fabulous Farmer’s Market tour offered by Melting Pot Tours, to what I was able to buy from Home Goods for under $25 and more), but through it all, I get your comments, emails, facebook “likes”, twitter retweets, and it gives me a boost every time. 

Thank you, readers, for finding my thoughts and strong opinions of interest to you.  Thank you for taking the time to open that email, visit the site, send a comment or email.  Every one means something to me.  I try to answer everyone who writes, so if you’ve ever emailed me and I haven’t replied, assume your email was missed…with apologies.  

For my Thanksgiving, I sent a thought of thanks to you.  As I do every day. 

Thank you.

Janet Wendy Spiegel

Every single day

I’m a social butterfly.  One of those people who loves any sort of opportunity to chat with new people, experience exciting new things, see new sights.  Very socially oriented. 

As a result, and as a business owner, I LOVE networking events and social mixers.  Most of the people who attend are in business for themselves, or, if in big business, responsible in some way for building their networks to best benefit their employers.  I’ve gone to home-grown mixers, chamber of commerce, consulate events, alma mater brunches, political call campaigns,  Canadian expat events, and temple-created business mixers.  But I’d never been to a Jewish Chamber of Congress event. 

A week or so ago there was a big LA business mixer in downtown Los Angeles and at that event my companion and I happened upon a literal wandering Jew.  He had lost his booth!  With a little of this, a map of that, he was on his merry way and invited us to stop by as we did our rounds.  His booth?  The  Los Angeles Jewish Chamber of Commerce.  Not only had I not heard of it, but, as a Jewish woman, I’m automatically attracted to Jewish community-oriented activities because it feels familiar.  Of course we stopped by.  Of course we got on the mailing list.  And, of course, found out that there was a Jewish LA CC mixer just a few nights later.

We decided to go.  And I’m so glad we did!  An elegant little affair in the Millenium Biltmore in downtown LA (historic and lovely) and I have to say, I’ve NEVER had such a relaxed and wonderful time at a networking event as this one.  Everyone was truly delighted to be there and everyone was open to talking to…well…everyone.  The founder, Jeff Gurman, was all smiles and handshakes, welcoming everyone, introducing everyone.  He started the LA Jewish CC a couple of years ago and I think he’s onto something.  In any event, I’m definitely going to the next event.  Here’s a pic of me and Jeff mugging for the camera.

But here’s what I really want to tell you about.  I met a gentleman who was very understated and impressed the socks right off me.  We had a nice chat, standing at the bar, and I learned that he had left a large brokerage firm about 8 years earlier to start his own company with a partner.  Now a thriving asset management company, I was amazed at what he had been able to do in 8 short years.  From a tiny office he now had 12 asset managers (brokers) working for him managing a large amount of wealth.  He mentioned, in passing, that he had 100% client retention.  I was floored.  100%?  Over 8 years not ONE client has left him?  Not one.  The rest of his team was there wearing their power suits.  He wasn’t wearing a suit…just a nice shirt…and taking the time to have a chat with an unwealthy stranger. 

I don’t know that so many others would fall off their heels at the concept of 100% client retention in an 8-year span.  But my whole business life has been about acquisition of new business and retention of old business, marketing and delivering service, and, most importantly, building relationships.  His secret?  Of course…it was all about the relationships he had with his clients.  In 8 years, every single one of his clients got a call, every single day, to bring them up-to-speed on how their portfolio was doing.  Through ups and downs.  Every single day.  I don’t talk to all of my immediate family every single day, but imagine how much more connected we’d feel if we DID touch base every single day. 

Imagine how fantastic our business relationships would be if we talked to each of our active clients every single day.  Maybe we, too, would have 100% client retention.

That’s what I got out of my first LA Jewish CC mixer.  Now, go call someone.

A couple or three…

Every now and again, life on my own timeclock becomes so insanely busy that I can’t find the quiet time I need to write.  When my daughter was in the hurried, harried schedule of the school year, I would get up at 6am, get her breakfast and school gear ready to go and after the whirlwind quick AM rush, I’d head back to my home for a calm breakfast and some thinking time, at least once or twice a week.  Well, the last two weeks were the start of my busy season.  I mean, it is always a bit insane,wearing two business hats (social media and pet services…I know, I know!), but as social media consulting tends to calm down over the summer, it’s a good fit with pet services, which heats up to a fever pitch in the summer. 

As life would have it, I had a rush job, creating a website for someone who has been too busy in their business to ever worry about one (or social media)  in the past just exactly at the same time as my summer services began in earnest.  Plus, with no school for my daughter, 6 AM has morphed into 7AM (yeah…that’s me…sleeping in…LOL!), but that hour of “me” time, has virtually erased my writing time.  And before I knew it, I discovered that TWO weeks have gone by without me posting on this blog.  However, I did post (ONCE only) on my pet services blog and I think you’ll get a laugh at my adventures with de-skunkifying some four-legged guests.

As well, not posting means I couldn’t contribute to this past week’s Blogging Boomers Carnival (I could have sent in an old post, but that is irritating if you’ve already read it!), but John Agno, blogger at So Baby Boomer, put together a great carnival.  Enjoy Blogging Boomers Carnival #168!

One person.

Here I sit, again, writing at my dining room table, with doors fully open, the smell of jasmine and roses, lavendar and rosemary gentlingin on the breeze.   I’ve just been reading news reports and emails regarding the oil well explosion tragically killing 11 workers and the resulting break in the pipeline that is decimating the Gulf of Mexico and the life in it.  How can we be on the same planet?  In my small world, I try to do good deeds, treat others kindly, be a good role model for my child, and earn an honest living.  My fruit trees, flowering garden and vegetable patch are a reflection of my desire to keep nature flourishing — at least in my home environment.  As I learn about new things (like the food chain as depicted in Food, Inc.), I embrace that knowledge and do my best to be even more of a responsible creature who has been given the opportunity to share life on this planet with all the other creatures here.  I’m one person.  So it makes me feel a bit overwhelmed and under-powered, to think that one person can change the planet. 

If you think about it, though, one person made the decision to build an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  You can say that a Board of Directors at BP made the decision, but ultimately, one person put the idea out there and pushed it forward.  One person did something wrong in the construction that caused a weakness and ultimately an explosion.  Doesn’t matter who, for the sake of this argument — but it could have been an overtired worker, engineer, planner, who put or didn’t put, the wrong thingamajiggee in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or didn’t adequately tighten a bolt.  Or who was smoking next to flammable materials.  Or who approved sub-standard materials in construction.  Who knows?  But it was likely one person who did one wrong thing that has killed a whole bunch of workers and now, untold amounts of marine and marine-dwelling life.

If a nuclear bomb went off, it would be one person who would be responsible for that decision.  In whatever country, at whatever time.  One person would say “go”, or one person would punch in a key code, or one person would turn a key, or one person would push a button, and our world would change forever. 

The earth will continue, even if we destroy it.  But human life and the creatures who live on earth could very well end.  Because of one person.

The general belief is that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown.  But according to one plastic surgeon, who looked at the basic muscle functions needed to create a smile and a frown, it takes 12 muscles to smile and 11 to frown.  One more muscle to go to good from not so good. 

Then, there is the myth of the 100th monkey (thanks to reader, Shelley, for passing that along yesterday), which was based on a real study of monkeys using water to wash sand from yams set out for them on a beach.  As one monkey washed sand off the yams, other monkeys followed suit.  Eventually all the food gatherers washed sand off their yams.  They didn’t achieve critical mass in that the behavior didn’t spread outside their small group, but the concept is heart-warming. 

I’m going to stick with the one more muscle to smile than frown theory, because as I look around my world, I seem to see more people frowning than smiling.  Just a little more effort might be needed to smile.  And as anyone who knows me knows…I’m a smiler.  I’m constantly using that extra muscle.  What if I apply that to the effort I might need to be the one person who adds to the critical mass to make the world a cleaner, healthier, better nutrified, more responsible and respectful place to be?  And what if you do that too?  Then we all add muscle to positive direction. 

My choices?  Shopping local — going to the Tapia Brothers farm down the street and to my local Farmers market.  To grow vegetables.  To compost and put my landfill back into the earth.  To eat grass-fed, free-range beef.  To purchase only free-range poultry and egg.  To avoid corn and soy fillers (and most preserved food).  To impact the multi-national businesses with my few dollars and cents.  To continue to walk 4-5 miles a day.  To be a creature of the planet.  To be kind to animals.  To give love to my child, my family and to humanity.  To be  mensch on this planet.  One person.

What’s your choice?