Between you and me

Award winning author and conservationist Carl Safina was the guest speaker at last year's event. Photo by Rita J. Egan
Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

The world has changed for all of us since we entered the 21st century. While our computers didn’t blow up as the millennium turned, the horrific attacks on 9/11 forever, it seems, altered our sense of safety in our country and elsewhere on the globe. The arrival of the internet on desktop computers, the proliferation of cellphones, the rise of social media — they have upended the architecture of our lives.

Change has been no less dramatic in our work lives. For those of us in the news business, the basic business model is disappearing. Once upon a time the publisher brought together talented reporters and editors with an articulate sales staff, and together editorial and advertising were presented to the reader in an attractive format that informed and enriched the community. In the process, the news organization was also enriched, and there were newspapers everywhere. The biggest challenge was beating competitors to the “scoop” and gaining the greater market share of advertisers.

Today that simple business plan seems like a fairy tale. According to data in a special section of The New York Times on Sunday, “Over the last 15 years, about 2100 local newspapers — or roughly a quarter of all local newsrooms — have either merged with a competitor or ceased printing …About 6800 local newspapers continue to operate across the country, but many are shells of their former selves, with pared down staffs and coverage areas. About half of the remaining local papers are in small and rural communities, and the vast majority distribute fewer than 15,000 copies of each edition.” 

I could go on with the statistics, but here’s the point: If we don’t embrace change, we get left behind.

Chef Guy Reuge speaks about his latest book, ‘A Chef’s Odyssey,’ at last year’s Cooks, Books & Corks. Photo by Rita J. Egan

So it is that we at Times Beacon Record Newspapers have become TBR News Media, with the addition of a website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube platforms to accommodate the various demands for news and advertising. After all, we work for our customers and we must offer them what they want and need. By the same token, while maintaining those platforms has increased our costs, the revenue they generate is minimal. Further worsening the newspaper situation is the demise of the traditional mom-and-pop retail stores, the previous backbone of so many communities and community newspapers.

So we have changed, as the surviving retailers have changed. We, and they, are now building events into our offerings, much as we used to publish supplements to target specific subjects and advertising niches for our papers. Retailing now includes some aspect of entertainment with their event planning, and publishing companies, whether in print or digital, must also provide entertaining events.

Fortunately for us at TBR, we can make this fit with our mission statement to give back to the community, and indeed to endeavor to strengthen the sense of community where we publish. Since our first year in existence, over 43 years ago, we have held the Man and Woman of the Year event at the Three Village Inn, with the financial help of Stony Brook University and the Lessings, at which we have saluted those who go the extra mile offering their products, services or time to their neighbors in their hometowns.

For the last two years, we have produced and directed films with authentic Revolutionary War narrative at Stony Brook’s Staller Center to share pride in our Long Island history, explaining who we were at the dawn of our country and how we got here.

Coming next on the events list is Cooks, Books and Corks, a community-enriching program that features scrumptious food from some of our local restaurants at stations around the perimeter of a room at the Bates House filled with local authors and their books. We started this last year, and it was such a success that both restaurateurs and authors offered themselves on the spot for the next such gathering. They said they liked “the high tone.”

Therefore, the Second Annual Cooks, Books and Corks will take place in the same bucolic location, in Setauket, on Tuesday evening, Sept. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. The charge is $50 per person, and the money raised will go toward subsidizing the pay of a journalism intern next summer.

Please mark your calendars and join neighbors and friends at this event to share food for both body and mind. 

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Amid the talk of a quarter-point rate cut by the Federal Reserve is the worry that the economy, doing well the past few years, may be heading into recession. Typically, the Fed cuts the rate, making money easier to come by, when recession looms. This makes it easier for business people to take loans to expand their businesses and encourages would-be homeowners to take out mortgages.

But we are not living through a typical scenario. Rates are already low. Business is already humming along, the GDP or gross domestic product is expanding although more slowly than last year, and doesn’t appear to need a stimulus. Unemployment is remarkably low, which usually triggers higher wages, which in turn can trigger inflation, which then prompts a rate hike, not a cut. But that also isn’t the case. 

So what does the Fed know that we don’t?

Perhaps it’s just time for a recession to begin. After all, it’s been 10 years since the end of the Great Recession, which makes this the longest expansion in America’s history. Recessions do come. If we knew when, we could sell our stocks at their high and wait to buy our real estate at their low. The thing is, no one knows how to time the economy.

But this past Monday, in The New York Times Business section, there were four indicators listed that could sound the alarm. And lest you think not a lot of people care, just know that this was the best read article in the newspaper that day. So if you missed the indicators, I will share them with you now.

First tip-off could be from the unemployment rate. Even a tiny increase can be a telltale. When this rate rises quickly a recession is near or has already begun. But even a 0.3 percent increase in the rate over the low of the past 12 months is significant, and a 0.5 percent jump probably means we are already in recession. Now, however, the rate is not only low, it is trending downward. Historically that means a less than a one-in-10 chance of recession within a year.

The second indicator is the yield curve, about which I have written earlier in the year. When the interest rate on a 10-year Treasury bond is lower than the rate on a three-month bond, the yield is considered inverted. Just think about it. Wouldn’t the risk of tying up your money for a longer period be greater than for a short term? And if the risk for a longer period is greater, shouldn’t you be compensated with a higher interest rate? But no. That’s not the case. Longer term Treasuries have been offering the lower rates. In the past, however, “it has taken as long as two years for a recession to follow a yield-curve inversion,” according to The Times.

The third marker is the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Index, which is a survey of purchasing managers about their orders, inventories, hiring and other operating activities. When that index reads above 50, the manufacturing sector of the economy is growing; below it is contracting. This is a report that comes out the first of every month and is a leading indicator. But remember, manufacturing no longer drives the American economy. And with the global economic slowdown we are seeing and the trade tariff battles, the index may start to descend.

Last but certainly not least is consumer sentiment, which makes up some two-thirds of the economy. If we are not spending, the economy is not growing. A decline of 15 percent or more in the consumer confidence index would be worrisome. In that regard, so far so good. The index is pretty much the same as a year ago, although it has fallen since late last year.

So where are we? Your guess is as good as mine. Good luck to us.

Eleanor Kra

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This week’s column is dedicated to courage, the particular courage of one person. That person was one of my closest friends, and she died last week. Even though she suffered for five years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and we all knew that the end was coming, it is hard to imagine life without her.

And isn’t that the height of selfishness, to think of her death as my loss? What about her loss? Never again on Earth to hug and kiss her husband, her children and grandchildren, to cheer when they enjoy victories and to commiserate when things don’t work out as they had hoped. Never again to join friends for an evening at the opera. Never again to enjoy cooking delicious dinner for those lucky enough to be her guests. Never again to exchange insights about the political turmoil through which we are living. Never again to share a deep belly laugh. For her, it has ended.

We met as freshmen at college. She was impressive for her strongly held viewpoints during classroom discussions of world affairs, asserting that the Cold War was not just about two superpowers but also included a third bloc of underdeveloped and uncommitted nations. She was also delightfully funny, laughing at the incongruities of life. When we were both assigned dorm rooms on the same floor of the same dorm, I got to know that she was born in Poland in the Warsaw ghetto in 1941, hardly a choice time and place, that she had escaped from the ghetto with her mother and another woman and child thanks to her father’s resourcefulness, and that she had lived out World War II in Warsaw with false papers, both mothers being under extreme duress.

My friend went on to be elected editor in chief of the college newspaper, and she sometimes wrote about my actions as class president. We laughed about how it was a microcosm of the fourth estate, that is the public press, commenting on the executive branch. We served on the student council together and became close friends.

After graduation, when my husband and I were looking to settle somewhere in the New York area, it was she who I called from Wichita Falls in northern Texas to ask if Stony Brook, where her husband was a mathematics professor, was a good place to live. Little did I know that this one night she and her husband had decided uncharacteristically to retire early to bed, and with the one-hour time difference between Texas and the East Coast, I would wake them up with my question. But she waved me on. “It’s home,” she responded in her usual direct fashion, telling me all I needed to know. That is how we happened to move to the North Shore of Long Island.

After my husband died and my children all left for college, she stepped in with a surprising offer: How about joining them with an opera subscription? “Where?” I asked. “Why at the Metropolitan Opera, where else?” she smiled. “We would drive into NYC each time?” I responded disbelievingly. “Yes, and have dinner beforehand,” she said with a gleam in her eye. And that is how I discovered one of my great passions.

But before she died, here is her most important gift to us. She was the embodiment of courage. Even as the quality of her life deteriorated, she fought to maintain normalcy, for her sake and the sake of those around her. She went from a cane to a walker, accompanied by her husband, then to a wheelchair, then to a scooter wheelchair that she drove at breakneck speed down Broadway from their West End apartment to Lincoln Center for her subscription performances and more. And as her muscular ability to verbalize diminished, she used the internet and her computer keyboard to stay connected to the rest of us as long as she could control her hands.

Watching her struggle was a gut-wrenching anguish. It was also an inspiration. She was not going into that dark night easily. She fought for every inch of the life her parents had saved and she and her husband had made together, and in so doing she showed us not only how to die with valor but especially how to live life to the max.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Today we report on two diametrically opposite faces of our nation. Interspersed here are some personal recollections of my own. Fifty years ago we Americans stood proud and together, our faces turned upward to the heavens, as the United States sent Apollo 11 to the moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong and Aldrin were to land on the surface in the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, the creation of engineering wizardry by thousands of Grumman workers right here on Long Island.

An estimated 650 million people around the world watched spellbound on black-and-white television screens as the two astronauts took the first steps for a man on July 20, 1969, and the unprecedented leap into the future of space travel for mankind.

Until 1972, 24 people flew to the moon, none since then. But that was just the beginning of incredible discoveries and inventions, from miniaturizations to astrobiology. We have a satellite that has played host to other nations and enabled us to see around the world. Known as the International Space Station, we have used it to reach out into the solar system. And it will even become a regular destination for tourists shortly if entrepreneurs are to be believed.

A family gathers to watch the moon landing in 1969.

Meanwhile, as Armstrong and Aldrin were busy walking around on the moon, there was a tiny leap on Earth for our third son. He arrived from out of the womb at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson and at this time is enjoying a 50th anniversary of his own. We had arrived on Long Island only three weeks earlier from Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, where my husband had served for the preceding two years, and were busy working to establish our new lives here. 

Now you might think that the blessing of a new baby, along with the need to find a new home and rent a medical office might have overshadowed the miracle of the moon landing, but for me that event was high-voltage electric. 

Just before we left New York for Texas and my husband’s assignment, I had been working at Time-Life with Arthur C. Clarke, who had arrived from his Eden-like home in Ceylon — now Sri Lanka — to write a book called, “Man and Space.” Clarke, like the other writers of space discoveries and travel, had to write under the banner of science fiction in order to gain respectability. But the truth was that these authors believed what they wrote would come to pass, and fortunately for many of them they were alive to see it happen in the 1960s. And I was fortunate enough to be part of the excitement, a front row spectator of history, as we journalists are.

I, too, was caught up in the fervor of the coming moon shot. When Clarke parted, he went on to join Stanley Kubrick to co-write the script of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” considered today one of the best films ever made, and I to become the wife of an Air Force officer and then mother of three.

So we leave the incredible heights of American pride now and look at the other side of the coin. Elsewhere in our news, we have the press release from U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who went to the southern border of the United States with a small group from the House to see first hand what was happening at the immigration centers. In his words, the situation is “awful” and the system is “broken.” The group toured and inspected facilities that are currently holding Central American migrants seeking asylum, speaking with several immigrant families as they went.

According to first-hand reports, there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. Since only very few migrants are processed each day, many cross over the border illegally between points of entry, then turn themselves in to seek asylum. They come in such numbers that they greatly exceed capacity to house and care for them, and as such are living in deplorable conditions. 

These are our American concentration camps, where children have been separated from their parents. They are deserving of our shame. “America is better than this,” declared Suozzi, and we know that to be true. At one and the same time, we celebrate and rue our nation.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last week a theme in this column was a defense of men. In a neat turnabout, this week is a shoutout for women. The catalyst, of course, is the victory of the United States women’s soccer team. We all watched or cheered Sunday as they defeated the Netherlands team, 2-0, to win the four-yearly Women’s World Cup championship in France. And we all felt tremendous pride in their accomplishment on behalf of our nation.

Let’s face it. They won because they had to win. They became symbols of issues larger than themselves, and in order to drive home those issues most effectively, they had to be winners. You might even say they leveled the playing field in multiple ways.

In becoming winners, they achieved a record four championships for the United States since the tournament began in 1991, this while the men’s counterpart fell later that day in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup final to the rival Mexico team, 1-0, in Chicago. The fact that the most visible and outspoken women’s team member, Megan Rapinoe, who was named most valuable player and who also won the Golden Boot for being the highest scorer, was repeatedly identified as a lesbian, gave her the additional burden of championing the rights of marginalized communities. And the swelling chorus of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” from the spectators at the end of the match was a victory for social justice that brought tears to my eyes and similarly affected many other women in the workplace.

In 1963, when I was interviewing for a position with Time Inc. in New York City, I was told that my salary would be $65 dollars per week. Since I had been supporting my husband, who was a medical intern, and myself for several months already, I knew that we could not manage on that pay and said so to the interviewer. “Well,” she explained, “the men in that position earn $110 because they are the family wage earner.”

“But I am the wage earner for my family,” I objected. “Why is that, dear?” she asked.

“Because my husband gets $30 a month at the hospital and has to use that money to launder his ‘whites’ (intern’s hospital uniforms).” “Oh, then we’ll pay you the $110,” she consented.

I left her office thrilled that I had the job, but my cheeks were burning because I felt like a second-class citizen. Some 10 years later, there was a class-action lawsuit from a large group of women employees against the company demanding equal pay for equal work. It took years, but eventually they won. This has been a private uphill fight, corporation by corporation, agency by agency, for what should be so obvious, and that struggle is still going on, more than 55 years later. The difference is that now it is a public matter and the injustice rings out to fill a sports stadium.

“It’s complicated,” answers the United States Soccer Federation, trying to explain where the money comes from and how it is allocated. To heck with that! It’s always complicated to right social wrongs, to win social change. Old views have to be altered, windows of the mind have to be opened. These women athletes have thrown those windows open wide.

Furthermore, why should I care whether the star player is gay? That makes as much difference as knowing whether she paints her toenails purple or showers in the morning or at night. Do I need to know if the orchestra conductor at Carnegie Hall is a Republican or a Democrat? Or whether the chef in my favorite restaurant is right-handed or left-handed?

Let’s get real. For those who refer to the “good ole days,” nostalgia can have its place. But I say thanks for the world we live in today, where any number of social injustices have come out of the woodwork and into the light. Before they can be changed, they must be acknowledged. Their emergence has been possible because of talented warriors like the U.S. women’s soccer team.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

My parents married on July 4, 1925. It might seem counterintuitive for them to join each other on Independence Day, but back then to marry meant independence from one’s nuclear family. They were now off on their own, together ready to start a new branch of the family. And they began to have children. They were doing what had been done for only a few centuries before them, marriage being a fairly recent construct in humankind’s history.

Given statistics today, almost a century later, what they did seems almost quaint. Tucked into the back pages of The Wall Street Journal’s Business & Finance section, amid such stories about carmaker Tesla’s quarterly earnings and predictions about the future of tech stocks, is an article that would amaze my parents but speaks to our times: “Despite high costs, more women are interested in single motherhood,” by Veronica Dagher.

Not only are couples no longer feeling the need to marry before they have children. In today’s society, some women don’t need to be part of a couple before they embrace motherhood. Increasing wages for women create economic independence, and the share of women earning top salaries in high positions exploded 500 percent between 2008 and 2012. Women have gone from 1.9 percent among the top 0.1 percent of highest earners to 10.5 percent.

In 2017, according to the WSJ article, four in 10 births were to either solo mothers or mothers living with nonmarital partners. Fifty years ago, the number was one in 10. That means these four out of every 10 children are being raised without a father. That has got to have profound effect on those children. 

According to California Cryobank, a major sperm bank in the United States, about one-third of its clients are single mothers by choice. Further, the number has increased by 3 to 5 percent in the last five years. Rosanna Hertz, a Wellesley College professor, who wrote the book, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family” (2006), has found that most of those mothers are college educated and earn roughly double the national household median of $110,000. But with rising salaries, not all single mothers are high-wage earners. Some have middle-class backgrounds and may even have more than one child.

What’s puzzling about this picture? Are we witnessing men being thrown away? I pray not. To paraphrase “South Pacific,” there is nothing like a man.

It’s understandable that single mothers may be single because they never found the right person to marry. Or they may be divorced or separated. Or widowed. Or they may have chosen not to marry. All of those reasons have to do with themselves. But according to Hertz, “there has been a notable increase in the number of women opting for this family structure in the 13 years” since she wrote her book. Since it takes both sexes to make a child, does a woman in good conscience have the right to knowingly deprive a child of a father because of an overwhelming maternal desire? Is it selfish or unselfish to procreate without a mate? Does boundless and unconditional love compensate?

There is a support group that deals with such issues. Called Single Mothers by Choice, it considers the emotional, financial, psychological and practical aspects of becoming a single mother. It also provides others in the same situation to talk with. To choose single motherhood is a hard and, incidentally, an expensive route. That was the thrust of the WSJ article. Right from the first step, there is no one with whom to share costs. Initial costs can range from several thousand dollars to six figures, and insurance is spotty.

It is certainly true that life does not always work out the way one would like. In fact, it almost never does. Too many bends to see around, too many roads not taken, too many disappointments. But I would just like to add a last thought from “The King and I”: Most men “can be wonderful.” 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Schools are out, or almost out, trees are lush with leaves, people are beginning to wear shorts and sandals, and the temperatures are finally approaching the high 80s. It seems to have stopped raining. The lines after dinner at ice cream parlors stretch out the door and down the street. Dogs have their tongues hanging out when being walked. And it’s light until almost 9 p.m. Summer, glorious summer, has truly arrived.

It has been many years since my children enjoyed summer break from school’s routine and therefore I with them. Yet the feeling of relaxation that summer ushers in still floods my being. This is the time to make a barbecue and invite friends, enjoy the summer sky over some nice port in the long evening, lounge in the backyard, splash at the beach, watch a baseball game, sleep in a bit and read, read, read those books and magazines that have piled up on the bedside table all year long. It’s also the time to sail, swim, play, get lost on long walks and, in so many other ways, rejoice in the outdoors. There is even time to think.

Here is something tantalizing to think about. A letter published on the website Medium.com Monday, written and signed by a group of 18 billionaires, from 11 families, including financier George Soros, co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes, Abigail Disney and heirs to the Pritzker fortune, Liesel and Ian Simmons, urged government to tax them at a higher rate. They called for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans — on us.”

Over the last three decades, the wealth of the top 1 percent grew by $21 trillion. Who can even visualize such sums? But the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion — not hard to visualize by comparison because we can see the effects on American lives. 

The letter follows a similar declaration by investment guru Warren Buffett in 2011 encouraging greater tax on the richest. He revealed that his effective tax rate was actually lower than that of any other 20 people in his office. 

The richest pay 3.2 percent of their wealth in taxes versus 7.2 percent from the bottom 99 percent. President Barack Obama (D) picked up the suggestion at the time and called for a 30 percent tax for that population, dubbing it the “Buffett rule.” Not only was that never enacted, the latest round of tax cuts under President Donald Trump (R) have particularly helped those same richest Americans.

The Monday letter was addressed to all presidential contenders. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator from Massachusetts and Democratic hopeful, has proposed a comparable strategy, recommending that those who have $50 million or more in assets, like stocks, bonds, yachts, cars and art, be subject to a wealth tax. That would include some 75,000 families and raise, in her estimation, $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. That money could be put toward better child care, helping with education debt and the opioid and climate crises. Such a tax would strengthen American freedom and democracy and would be patriotic, it is claimed. Surveys show that about seven out of 10 people support this concept.

In 2014 Nick Hanauer, a successful Seattle entrepreneur, wrote a memo to “my fellow zillionaires” in which he advised the following: “[We are] thriving beyond dreams of any plutocrats in history, [while] the rest of the country — the 99.99 percent — is lagging far behind. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.”

How is that for some heady stuff to occupy the mind and lessen any lazy guilt as our bodies are stretched out on the lounge?

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

One of the best plays I have seen on Broadway is the drama, “The Ferryman.” Written by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sean Mendes and playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre only until July 7, it is so deserving of winning four Tony Awards, including best play, and should not be missed. The story is about a large Irish family in rural County Armagh in Northern Ireland and conjures up Tennessee Williams and “August: Osage County” for its familial interactions of love, lust, betrayal, anger, contradictions, secrets, repression and murder. But it is so much more.

It is historic, being set in 1981 at the height of The Troubles involving the British, loyalist Irish Protestants who want to remain in the United Kingdom, and nationalist Irish Catholics, including the Irish Republican Army, who want a united Ireland.

It is a story about storytelling as three generations live under one roof of a large farmhouse and slowly reveal much about their own histories. It is about human kindness, as personified by the appealing leading character, farmer Quinn Carney, husband and father of seven children ranging in age from 16 years to nine months. He houses and employs Tom Kettle, an Englishman, whose mind is not all there, as his handyman; and Caitlin, wife of Carney’s long-missing brother and her son, Oisin, as well as aged aunts and an uncle. Yet Carney is also a former active member of the IRA, with its brutality and bloodshed, which he has ultimately rejected. It has homey fairy tales and classic epics in the mix, hopeless love, and lots of barroom talk and drinking, happy celebrating and passionate confrontations. Amid all that activity, with a cast of well-defined characters, it has genuine, laugh-out-loud humor.

The play is also remarkable for its length. It runs three and a quarter hours with only one 15-minute intermission after Act 1 and a three-minute dimming of the house lights following Act 2. Yet not for a minute, for me and my companions, did it keep from being riveting as it pulsated with suspense interspersed with hearthside family goodness that is set against the background report of Irish Republican hunger strikers dying one by one in a Belfast prison.

There are even live animals in the form of an affectionate goose, a feral rabbit and a real, sweet baby. Artfully they all come together to deliver a memorable play and to live in the minds of the viewers well past the end of the performance.

The prologue, set against a crumbling, graffiti-splayed urban wall, sets the sinister mood with an encounter between craven Father Horrigan and Muldoon, a major figure in the IRA. And every subsequent scene in which the priest appears seethes with tension. He delivers the news that Seamus, Caitlin’s missing husband, has been found face down, preserved by the acid in a bog, hands tied behind him and a bullet in the back of his head. The mystery of his disappearance deepens because he was not involved in The Troubles.

There is an Aunt Pat and Uncle Patrick, as well as an often mentally absent Aunt Maggie, whose roles are largely to unveil past history even as their passions define them as three dimensional characters within the family and their country. Their narratives give their lives shape and substance.

With the discovery of the body, the past meets the future as Muldoon attempts to contain the truth of the missing husband’s murder from emerging. In the process, other truths seep out in the appropriately furnished great room of the farmhouse that serves as the only site where all subsequent action takes place.

In the beginning, the viewer is puzzled as to who the family members are and their relationships to each other, which create an air of mystery. As the plot develops, the answers powerfully emerge, carrying us along, absorbed and engaged. And while the plot is masterfully orchestrated, I don’t want to give away the most important details in the hope that you will still get tickets and join me in your admiration for a remarkable play.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I recently asked that question of staffers at the news media office, and this is what they answered. I’ve grouped the responses by department, wondering if there was a common thread that ran through their common work. Answer: There wasn’t, at least not one that I could see. You judge.

The Sales Department

“Go to college.” I also asked this person if that advice had changed her life. “Yes, it was a positive thing for my future. College changed my life, with its new ideas — and independence, both socially as well as academically.”

“No matter what, trust that God has a plan for everything. For something good to come out of whatever seems bad now.” Right around then, I started to ask the source of the advice. “My mother,” she explained.

“One day, when I was about 12, my mother and I were disagreeing. ‘You need to remember the world does not revolve around you.’ That thought helped me be a much less self-centered person. I became more aware that what was going on around me was often more important.”

“Never look back or to the future. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. Live for today. That came from my Aunt Doris.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. That came from my mother and was especially true for my dancing. Another is: Always trust your gut. Go with it if something doesn’t feel right.”

The Business Department

“See the humor in things. It’s only just recently that I have begun to see that and be on the positive side of things. That has made me a happier person since I turned 50.” I forgot to ask who told her that.

“Expect the unexpected. That may sound pessimistic but it has made me ready to cope. That advice comes from life’s experiences.”

“Treat others as you want to be treated. That came from my father.”

The Copyediting/Proofing Department

“Have a sense of balance. That’s good because often I don’t have that. When I think about that, it always works out for the best. And that came from my sister.”

“Probably two things. First, never stop learning. At the dinner table, if there was something that came up that I didn’t know, my father would take down the ‘World Encyclopedia’ after dinner and we’d look it up. Be curious, educate yourself. Read about it. Second, be kind and treat other people with respect. Again the source was my father.”

“Learn to cultivate a sense of urgency. I tend to be too laid back. That’s from Dr. Who, the sci-fi character.” [That thought came from the sister, above.]

The Art and Production Department

“Try not to care what other people think. It’s a constant struggle because I am a Libra, a people pleaser. That came from my mother, who oddly enough was always critical.”

“Stop worrying. My husband told me that, and I find I’m not as uptight as I used to be.”

“Having low expectations is a good strategy. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. That may sound pessimistic but the message is that things will always be better. The source: Stefan Sagmeister, who wrote a book that included things to be learned.”

The Editorial Department

“Don’t listen to outside people. If you think of something you really believe in, just go for it.”

“This paraphrased quote from Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you did, what you said but never how you made them feel.’ My first-grade teacher made me feel mutual respect and that is what I show others.”

“Keep swimming — no matter what’s going on in your life, never give up, keep going. I never gave up on dating [points to engagement ring] or careerwise. From ‘The Road Less Traveled,’ life is difficult and once you realize that, life becomes easier.”

“Always clean stuff from the top down. Don’t do anything over again — from my father.”

“I will quote what a priest told my father when he was diagnosed with cancer. ‘All you can do is be grateful for what you’ve had. Otherwise it’s too difficult.’”

And from my mother: “You don’t have to answer every barking dog.” Not a bad piece of advice for a future newspaper publisher.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A recent article in The New York Times asked, “What is your oldest or most cherished grudge?” Everyone holds grudges, I guess, and they can range from some perceived slight or cutting remark to deep hurt or betrayal. While we all know that forgiveness is a lot healthier than anger, still there is something immutable about a deeply held grudge. However hard and sincerely you try to let go of it and go on with your life, it’s impossible to entirely discard the pain. Some people even admit to tending their grudges like a garden.

“Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master,” said Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, as reported in separate Times articles by Tim Herrera and Katherine Schulten. The psychological study suggested that “skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce” the stress we put on our immune and cardiovascular systems. Carrying anger into old age can result in higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness.

So how do we discard grudges? How do we forgive?

Luskin urges that we recognize three things. First that forgiveness is for you, not the offender. Second that it’s best to do it now. And finally that forgiveness is about freeing yourself.

Then to continue the process, change the story about the source of the grudge. Rather than being a victim, think of yourself as heroic. Then think of the good things in your life so as to balance the harm. And remember that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want. Luskin emphasizes that forgiveness is a learnable skill. It just takes a little practice, he advises.

Now all of the above sounds good but I have another track to suggest. To sooth a grudge, there is nothing quite as satisfying as revenge. And the best revenge? A life well lived. It’s an old adage but true.

So what makes for a life well lived? I guess there are as many answers as there are people, but I can tell you mine. Make your home a happy and comfortable place by creating a room or a corner just for yourself. All you need is a special chair with a fluffy pillow or a bedside table with your latest reading choices or music source, and of course a picture you love on the wall. Take an aromatic bath. Welcome friendship and love in your life. If all else fails, get a dog.

When the weather is glorious, take a guilt-free walk, even for five minutes. Say hello to strangers in the post office or the supermarket aisle and watch a smile appear on their faces. Make yourself something you really like to eat, and if you shouldn’t be eating it, just eat a little. Do some kind of work that is worthy of you, then take pride in the way you carry it out. Clean out just one desk drawer and feel like you have your life under control. Remember to laugh at life’s little incongruities.

Go see a good movie. Or a play. Or attend a concert. These can all be found locally. Plan a trip, even if it’s only for a Saturday afternoon to the East End. Then go on it and see how many new things there are to see. Buy a shirt or an ice cream cone. Celebrate every possible occasion and even celebrate just for the heck of it. Take a nap, if only for 20 minutes.

And for Pete’s sake, read a newspaper, preferably a hometown paper because that tends to have more good news!

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