A Dream to Persue?

Do you ever have a dream that feels so vivid but you can’t remember it the second you are awake? They are like a firework. They make a big splash but quickly fade to nothing.

Then, there are those dreams that seem to go on for a long time. It’s like I dreamed a miniseries. There are different acts and scenes. I wake up remembering pieces of the epic and convinced that the dream and its contents will stay with me throughout the day and beyond. However, once I turn my attention to something else – even as mundane as taking a shower – my memory abandons me. Usually, by the end of the day I am left with scraps – if I am lucky.

Lastly, there is the third type of dream whose vividness varies. However, what does not vary is my memory for the contents. The memory stays with me, through the day, week, month, etc.

And I wonder why? Why do some dreams remain in my mind and others fade into oblivion? I am not looking for a scientific analysis though I am sure there are doctors or psychologists who could propose a perfectly reasonable thought.  However, I am not looking for the kind of answer that a doctor/psychologist would propose. I am thinking more about symbolism.

You have those dreams that are shall we say pipe dreams (by the way, I am nearly certain the term comes from The Iceman Cometh). Example: I am going to play in the NBA. So what that I did not make the high school team, I am 5’10’’, slow, and can’t jump. These are dreams that need to be in the rear view mirror.

There are some dreams that have a chance to come true but maybe, you lose interest in them as you grow up. Example: I am going to be a talk show host. As I get older, I realize that I don’t get along with all types of people. So, while there are elements I find appealing and will always, I decide to go in another direction.

Finally, there are those dreams that you are really passionate about. There will be bumps in the road but nothing can throw you off the track. Example: I want to be pediatrician. I am challenged by biology, loans are outrageous, internship is beyond exhausting. However, I will not back down. This is my dream, and I will make it happen. This is my direction.

As I ponder the different dreams, I think back on the dreams that I have had and what category they fit in. Truthfully, there have been very very few dreams for me that have fit into the third category. I feel proud of my flexibility and my rational and reasonable approach. However, I feel frustrated that my level of achievement is not up to my capabilities. I feel that my potential is for something greater. I think super achievers have an ability to put their head down and relentlessly pursue their dream. As I get older, a question I need to answer is what I am willing to do in order to achieve my dreams.

Where’s the Flag?

Memorial Day has come and passed. For many people, the day marks the unofficial beginning of Summer and is celebrated with outdoor activities galore. However, many of us know few details about the official reason for the holiday other than it is a day set aside to honor those who lost their lives in battle. According to the website www.usmemorialday.org, “Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.” How many of us honored those who fell for our country?

I remember my parents – my father in particular who served in the Army during the Korean War (but was stationed in Germany) – used to always make sure he had a flag hanging from our house on those special days ie. Memorial Day, July 4th, etc.  Many of our neighbors did the same thing. I liked walking along and seeing all the flags up and felt a certain pride in my family and in the country. However, not only do I not put up a flag at my own house on those special days, I forgot we even had a flag in my house till my wife reminded me. My only celebration of the holiday that in any way hearkens to its original intention is to go to the parade in the small town my family and I reside in. The local fire company, policemen, etc. march along with the veterans. I clap out of respect when the veterans pass along the parade route.

I consider myself a patriotic person and feel proud to be an American. My background is right out of a history book and can be told to the tune of G-d Bless America in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Here is the short version: my maternal grandparents, along with their immediate families, escaped from their small shtetels in Russia and ultimately came to America for religious freedom and economic opportunity. For my father’s side, change grandparents to great-grandparents, and the rest is the same. Therefore, I have every reason to be grateful to this country and those who lost their lives while battling its wars.

SY and I were walking to synagogue just before Memorial Day. A funeral home is on our route and it was covered in American Flags. I asked my son what did he see and when he said the American Flag. I proceeded to ask him if he knew why there was so many. He did not know. Not surprising. I tried to explain a bit about Memorial Day and what it means to be patriotic.

In the high school where I teach, the pledge of allegiance is read aloud over the PA system. Prior to reading the pledge, the reader asks that everyone stand. In my nearly 9 full years of teaching, I have never seen any person get up other than a few freshmen who stop standing before it hits October. I, on the other hand, stop class, stand up and face the flag. The class which is made up of 100% minorities, many of whom are first or second-generation Americans, are completely disinterested. When President Obama, a man of a mixed racial background became President, I hoped that students would be inspired. They were for a few days – wearing buttons and proudly watching the inauguration. However, that enthusiasm has waned and the students have lost what little interest they had in the country they now call home.

So, I wonder about the drop off in patriotism. Will the next generation feel any pride in their country? If so, how will they express it? What can I do as a parent and a teacher to instill that pride? I hope at a minimum they will recognize the great sacrifices that some have made and continue to make for this country, so that they can express pride while they freely take all the benefits that are available to them.

Bullies Have to be Dealt With

I heard today that the price of gas somewhere in Florida is $6 a gallon.  At the gas station closest to where I live, the price is near $3.50.  There are many reasons why the price of gas has gone up lately.  Some of these reasons I understand while other reasons are not so clear to me. One reason in particular is crystal clear. A large percentage of the oil that the world depends upon is exported from the Middle East. You add that to the fact that there is instability in that part of the world, and you have one of the major factors in the crazy high gas prices.

It seems as if talk of Iran, and its strivings for nuclear weapons (yes, I know they are saying they intend it for power only, but does anyone really believe that) is in the news constantly these days. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denies the Holocaust, and repeatedly says Israel should be wiped off the map.  Yet, he is allegedly the more rational when compared to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who holds more of the power.  It has been rumored that at one point the Supreme Leader overruled Ahmadinejad when he was ready to compromise in a nuclear dispute.  So you have two lunatics who can’t even agree with each other about how to run a country. That country has long been known to be a sponsor of terrorist organizations, has committed acts of terrorism, and has regularly burned American flags while cursing the country. Now, according to some reports, that country, Iran, is on the verge of creating a nuclear bomb.

The leaders of our country, however, tell us in so many words, not to worry. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.”  I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination – just a guy who reads the newspaper, but I have to say, ‘are you kidding me?’  These two people mentioned above are rational?  Is he saying we should just talk to them as President Obama said we should do when he came to office which failed miserably? Some people can’t be spoken to. It reminds me of a Brady Bunch episode.  Peter gets into a fight trying to defend his little sister, Cindy, from a bully.  His parents, Mike and Carol tell him to go back to the bully and talk with him – he will listen to sense, they believe.  When this doesn’t work, Mike tries talking to the bully’s father. When that doesn’t work, Carol tries talking to the mother of the bully certain that women can talk things out reasonably.  This fails as well.  In the end, they give Peter boxing lessons and he ultimately ends up knocking the teeth loose of the bully who clearly will not be bothering Cindy anymore.

Sometimes countries, like bullies, are not reasonable. We expect people to be rational if we are. That expectation is naïve and can lead to greater damage in the long run.  I don’t know what the answer is in dealing with Iran, but I do know that a military strike needs to be a real consideration.  Six dollars for a gallon of gas stinks. A bully with a deadly weapon capable of causing massive amounts of casualties stinks a whole lot more

Quality Time

Everything is relative, at least that is what Einstein said. I don’t know the context in which he said that and based on my low science IQ, I probably would not understand it very well anyway. Yet, I do understand the quote as it stands.  I want to talk about 2 ½ hours. This would be short if we were talking about the length of a work day, the time it takes to write a full length novel, or how long Angelina Jolie acquires children. However 2 ½ hours to wait in line is a long time regardless of what you are waiting for.  

As a public school teacher, I am a city government worker. My mother and two of my aunts worked for the federal government. My mother hated it and took it personally when people made comments such as all government workers are lazy and incompetent.  I completely understand where she is coming from. I feel the same when people make negative comments about teachers, lumping us all together. On top of that, I am one of the few people who still defends snail mail. I think it is reliable (particularly when it comes to Netflix – btw, I LOVE NETFLIX – more on that another time) and reasonable. So, I have an appreciation or at least an open mind when it comes to government workers and their productivity.

I was in Lodi, New Jersey recently with my nearly 5 year old son. What were we doing there, you may be wondering? Well, I had to renew my driver’s license, which did not seem like a big deal to me. I got together proof of identity, filled out the paperwork, and made sure I had a form of payment. After doing the food shopping, we headed to the DMV around 11:00. After circling the parking lot and finally finding a spot ¼ mile away, we walked to the front of the line, where there were three cordoned off areas to stand. Now, there were no signs to indicate what each line represented, so everyone who walked up had to ask the people in back of the line to make sure they were in the right place. We found our way to the back of the longest line.  The line was outside of the building.

We eventually got into the building (cel-e-brate, good times, whoo hoo) where we waited in another line to give our information to the DMV worker. We then were given a number (not lucky 85) and told to find a seat (if we could – in this case it is so convenient to have a child) and wait for our number to be called. We had been waiting 45 minutes by this time, which was about the time I was anticipating the whole process taking.  This made it noon time – big mistake!!!. The wait to have my number called was stalled. While there were 14 stations to handle customer matters, only 1 or 2 were being manned. Over approximately 45 minutes, there were, at best, a handful of people who were being assisted. Are you kidding me? I understand everyone deserves a lunch break, but do they all need to take it at the same time?  Let them text each other if they want to catch up on conversation. Who planned this work cycle? The Politburo? 

After finally getting my license, my son (who behaved extremely well despite woeful planning on my part which, by the way, makes me management material at the DMV) repeatedly asked why do we have to keep waiting in lines? I think it was a brilliant question to which I had no answer. So long, 2 ½ hours.