How Do We Make Choices Today?

Eleventh in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this series of essays. Sedona’s Mescal Trail, where this photo was taken, is one of our favorite hikes. It’s also a popular one for bike riders. The Difficult path is about two feet wide. Take the Extreme path and you’re 12″ from the cliff’s edge. Martin and I choose Difficult every time, leaving Extreme to the young, the adrenaline junkies and the really confident cyclists.


Freedom of choice is baked into our national DNA starting with Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” Covid-19, in addition to claiming our sense of security, freedom of movement and most tragically more than 80,000 lives, is also forcing us to choose between difficult and extreme. 

Do we go to the grocery store or continue curbside pick-up? Do we begin to visit with others or continue to meet up with a friend in one of our driveways, talking over an imaginary fence that keeps us six feet apart. High school graduates must choose between matriculating in September (if their future alma mater chooses to re-open) or take a gap year to do who knows what. Doctors face life and death choices more times a day than I could ever imagine. Every choice is difficult; every choice is extreme.

Covid-19 has done more than limit and reshape our choices. It has taken from us a crucial component of decision making  —  dependable information upon which we can make a choice.  New information arrives each day. Given the recent understanding that many Covid-19 patients present with silent hypoxia, some doctors are choosing less invasive treatments over intubation for patients not struggling for breath even though their oxygen levels are dangerously low.  What information do they need to choose well?  Given my age, I’m not rushing out of my proscribed perimeter just yet.

When we make a choice, we have a reasonable sense of where it said choice will lead us. The toughest choices are the ones where either outcome will bring pain — stay in the abusive relationship or go; follow parental expectations or blaze your own path; restrict businesses and continue to crush the economy or open up so people can work, knowing that Covid cases will rise. 

Difficult or extreme, there are no easy choices today. Especially when liberating ourselves might indeed lead to death.


And now for a polite ask. Since Martin and I launched Picture a Conversation, hundreds of  wonderful conversations continue to unfold within families, schools, ESL classes, and therapists offices. 

The upside of the recent Corona isolation are renewed opportunities to connect with friends and loved ones.  If you have not yet enjoyed Picture a Conversation, please consider ordering a set. If your Zooms/Facetimes/Google Meets often seem to revert to pandemic talk, these prompts can help smoothly change the topic. Have you rediscovered letter writing?      The cards will give you some great subjects for sharing your life experiences.                                                                    

Ordering Picture a Conversation is an easy choice.   Not difficult. Not extreme. Thanking you in advance.

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Friends in the time of Corona

Ninth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. Martin captured this flock of gull friends soaring over the beach in Malibu. 

I am sure you’re missing your friends as much as I am. Zoom, Face-Time, What’s App, the phone. As good as they are all at helping me keep in touch, I await that irreplaceable feeling of being right there, walking side by side, sharing a meal across a table, having the physical proximity that allows me to see each of their expressions, the little sighs and gestures that are theirs and theirs alone. I miss my flock.

There is a silver lining to all of this. The pandemic, and its sidekick Zoom, are enabling me to be with a New York friend whose father has just died.  Had Covid-19 not turned the world upside down I would have called, written a note of condolence, and made a donation in his memory. The pandemic has allowed me to be, if not by my friend’s side, then beside her in a little Zoom box.   

I have known Marian for over 50 years. She and her sister took our hometown by storm with their zany accents and even zanier laughter when they moved from New York to south of the Mason-Dixon. We were in youth group all through high school and spent an entire summer together on a leadership experience in Israel in the early 70’s. Were it not for Marian, my entire life would have taken another trajectory. The summer we graduated college she introduced me to the “fabulous woman” she was dating. She and the fabulous woman broke up, but not before I met the fabulous woman’s brother. The fabulous woman has been my fabulous sister-in-law for 40 years.  

Our paths crossed and crisscrossed infrequently after college but whenever we saw each other the years fell away. Before we knew it, my own daughter had graduated college and was job hunting in New York. Marian offered her a job at her company as a replacement for a receptionist on maternity leave. 

Marian and I reconnected last fall at my sister-in-law’s wedding. She looked the same. I looked the same.  Once again, the decades slipped away as we caught up on one another’s lives. Her laugh hadn’t changed. Neither had her exuberance. As for the accent, I’ve been married to a New Yorker for so long that I couldn’t have heard it if I tried. We promised to keep in touch and this time around have kept that promise.

Last week I got word that Marian’s father died. In the middle of this pandemic. Burial and the seven-day mourning period of Shiva would be anything but the norm. No visitors. No mourner’s meal following the burial. No attending the burial. No standing with her family each evening to recite Kaddish while legions of friends surround them. 

Enter Zoom and the devotion of the rabbis and cantors who led a virtual minyan each evening. It has been a blessing to be with Marian.  To see her and her sister, albeit in their little Zoom boxes.  To see her mom whom I last saw in my teens. To extend sympathies across the miles. Marian and her family would not be mourning alone, at least not in these first raw days. 

It is good to soar with friends. I hope to again very very soon. We all do. Sometimes, though, when soaring isn’t possible, it is good simply to hover nearby on sorrow’s wings.


front row L to R:  yours truly, quite pregnant; by then my fabulous sister-in-law; my friend, Marian


Keep the conversation going. What does “soaring amongst your friends” look like?  How are you and your friends staying in touch during the pandemic. Learn more about Picture a Conversation here. In the coming week I’m going to experiment with holding an online Zoom conversation using one of the Picture a Conversation cards.  If you’d like to participate, let me know here.  Thank you!



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Living in the Now, One Step at a Time

Eighth in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. Martin took this photo at Mt. Baldhead Park Trail in  Saugatuck Michigan.  There are 302 steps in all. One way.

If I hadn’t mastered it before, though I was getting there day by day, thought by thought, Corona/Covid-19 is teaching me nothing so much as to live in the moment.  When will this “hunkering down” end? I don’t know. What will it feel like to go into a store and not feel edgy around people? I don’t know. Will there be a vaccine? When will I see my childen again, hold my granddaughter Oliva and her newborn sister? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.  

All I know is the present moment. Right here, right now. My fingers are on the keyboard. I am hoping that by the end of this missive, I will have left my readers with a bit of light, comfort perhaps and/or confidence that we will meet again soon, joyously and gratefully.

Those in recovery are intimate with a way of moving through life that others might not be — staying in the present moment, taking each moment, each day, each breath sometimes, one at a time. There is nowhere to be but in the here and now.  How much time and energy and moments of our lives have we devoted to worrying what will happen? Or resentful and self-righteous over what did happen, once upon a time? Why couldn’t we have learned this or that lesson sooner? Instead of now, so many years down the pike? Because now is all we have. Now is when the lessons can be learned. They weren’t learned yesterday and we can’t learn them tomorrow until tomorrow morphs into its own now.

This pandemic forces us to do what we could not or would not do easily. Making my bed, which I have always done, is now done slowly and with gratitude. Washing my vegetables as per that doctor’s film, I hold each pepper in my hand and notice  its color, consider with gratitude the people who grew and harvested it, who packed it and arranged it in the grocery bin for me to choose. I wash apples and then pears and then plums one at a time, paying attention to the shape and texture of each before putting them away. I give thanks, too, keenly away that not everyone will have peppers for dinner tonight. Or warm fruit compote. Or so much more.

The latest word is that this self-isolation will stay implemented through April 30. Others venture it could be longer. I can’t future-think that far. What I can do is be grateful for my now. I am keenly aware that for so many their now is a tornado of worry and illness; and for thousands of others Covid-19 has stolen their now forever.

I hoped to leave you with a bit of light so here goes. Life must be taken one step at a time. What can you do with the now that you have? What of the past can you leave behind for good? If you fall into future-thinking, summon visions that leave you easy in your heart and unafraid. Now is here, and now will unfold for us to hold and say, Thank you.


Keep the conversation going. How much future-thinking are you doing? How do you return yourself to now? Learn more about Picture a Conversation here. In the coming week I’m going to experiment with holding an online Zoom conversation using one of the Picture a Conversation cards.  If you’d like to participate, let me know in the Comments.  Thank you!


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Covid-19/Many Perspectives

Seventh in a series.

I’m letting Picture a Conversation cards inspire this ongoing series of essays. This is the only photo in the set that I took.  I was at a yoga retreat some years ago and this scene captivated me.  

If anything is challenging our perceptions it’s Covid-19. I am feeling as tumultuous as all of you. The broadcasts, updates, and stats so easily overwhelm.  I learned a new word today — infodemic.  Pretty much sums up the tidal wave of information coming at us. I distance myself from the news, binge for a bit and then distance myself again. What is going on and why? What can be learned? Gun sales rise. And there is an outpouring of offers of help to those in need. Our worst inclinations are being excavated along with our best. Doubtless within each of us. Every morning my inbox is rich with Zoom invitations to meditate, to study, to visit the animals at the various zoos around the country and tour museums worldwide. On one hand it’s great. On the other I risk diving right backintothefrenzy of doing instead of being — a gift of this pandemic that some of us are fortunate enough to enjoy.

Lynn Unger’s poem Pandemic has likely circled the world even faster than Covid-19. Hopefully it will affect more people than the virus. She likened society’s withdrawal from itself to the gifts enjoyed by  those who observe the Jewish Sabbath — setting aside travel, buying and selling and the like. This is a terrifying time and as Unger noted this time of pandemic can also be a sacred time.  

The little acts of normalcy become sacred — making my bed; getting dressed instead of giving in to the inclination to stay in PJ’s because where am I going, anyway; giving each day form and structure; walking with my husband. We are together a lot these days and have returned to playing Scrabble. Lots of Scrabble. If ever there is a time of living in the moment, this is it. I feel deeply that this is a time of a huge resetting. To what, remains to be seen.

I realize how fortunate I am to be able to look at this crisis from a place of security. I am not alone, as is a friend of ours who is living in a suite kind of hotel. It may close and she and the other long-term guests may have to relocate. The dining room is closed. She is scared. Martin checks in often. She has little community where she lives other than those in the hotel, now that the places where she volunteers have ceased operating. Refugees who had little refuge have even less now. My kids can work from home and have both told me their companies are going above and beyond to help their employees and others. Polluted skies and rivers are clearing. What about polluted thoughts?  Mariana Gualtieri offers her perspective in her poem March the Ninth Twenty Twenty.

If this plague has taught me anything it is that living in the moment is the only place where life can be lived.  I have spent too much mind-time projecting fears upon the future and arguing with my past. Today teaches me I do not know what is to come. Believing I do  is chimeric. I can engage with that truth in fear. Or I can allow that truth to open me to the possibility of miraculous developments both small and universal.  It all depends upon my perspective. What will be yours?


This was the original photo.  When I slipped my phone into my pocket, the perspective changed, turning the image into the “tree” you see above.

Keep the conversation going. Recall a time when you were challenged to see a situation from a different perspective? How do you help others see issues from your perspective? Learn more about Picture a Conversation here. In the coming week I’m going to experiment with holding an online Zoom conversation using one of the Picture a Conversation cards.  If you’d like to participate, let me know in the Comments.  Thank you!

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