A few weeks ago I wrote about one of the reasons that my wife Elfa and I have enjoyed our lives together for over fifty years was thanks to an expression of mutual gratitude. As I pointed out a week ago, the development of any habit takes time and repetition. Therefore, I practice having the habit of an attitude of gratitude every day. Every morning after I just wake up, I recite the Jewish traditional prayer: Modeh (Modah for women), “I give thanks before you, King living and eternal, for you have returned within me my soul with compassion; abundant is your faithfulness.” This small act sets the tone for me for the rest of the day. After all, there are so many people and things in my life that I am grateful for.
Dr. Deepak Chopra pointed out that “Gratitude opens the door to… the power, the wisdom, thecreativityof the universe.” I found this quote in the book “Mind. A Scientific Guide to Who You Are, How You Got That Way, and How to Make the Most of It” by Patricia Daniels published by the National Geographic. In the book, there is a chapter called “Gratitude”, which starts, “When you have a responsive and understanding partner, you almost certainly feel grateful. The emotion of gratitude is another powerful factor in building the bonds between two people. Even outside of a close relationship, gratitude can reinforce positive action within a group and help a troubled person find strength in adversity. From a practical standpoint, gratitude is simply useful. It’s a benefit detector. You’re grateful when you get a gift, or receive some sort of benefit that you can link to a specific giver. Gratitude intensifies if you believe the gift was costly to the giver (whether in money, time, or effort); if the gift was personally valuable and well chosen… A spontaneous, out-of-the-blue present can be the best gift of all. In each case, we’re grateful not so much for the gift or benefit, but because the act of giving shows that peopleare thinking about us, that they care about us, and that the world is not such a bad place.”
On January 2nd before going to the office, I stopped at CVS and bought a number of notebooks. In one, I am going to write my daily reflections and what I am grateful for. The other large notebook with 200 pages is going to be filled with the names of clients whom I plan on helping in 2019. For me, one of the greatest expressions of gratitude is to say “Thank you” to those who entrusted me with their mortgage needs. This is why I give my books as gifts with gratitude to my clients. You can follow my example and buy “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers“. As the article pointed out, “A spontaneous, out-of-the-blue present can be the best gift of all.”
P.S. I want to share with you these four images of the last sunset on the last day of last year, with my gratitude.
Make it a great year, enjoy and share with a friend!
Some of us follow the tradition of writing resolutions at the end of the year. I ask myself, why do that? The theory behind this practice is that in order to accomplish goals, they need to be put in writing. What is often overlooked is the need to set aspecific date for when you want to have or experience the result. For example, if your goal is to lose a numberof pounds; unfortunately, this goal rarely works for a number of reasons. For starters, there should be a very specific date for when you want to accomplish the result, and then a breakdown of activities and measured periodic results leading up to your goal. Often people start the process but do not follow through. But there are probably more reasons why new years’ resolutions can be just wishful thinking. A majority of goals lack specific reasonsas to why you would want the result in the first place — for example, why to loseweight? Do you want to look good on the beach or to be able to fit into the old dress or pants (I used this reason)? And then there is perhaps the most important reason – to maintain good health. Unless you have a major reason for any of your resolutions, you will probably have the same resolution at the end of the following year again, unless of course you will decide that resolutions are a waste of time. For years, I wrote down the resolution that my weight will be 170 lb. Only once was I able to reach this goal, after four days of a dietary cleansing, during which I only ate apples. Now, when I weigh close to 180 lbs, I decided to change the strategy – to focus on why.
The answer came (as it often does for me) from a book. While working on my own book, “Retirement Solutions for Smart People. 5 Easy Ways to Enjoy Your GoldenAge”, I researched about how to develop and maintain our well-being during the retirement stage of our lives. One of the books I came across was “The Plant Paradox” by Steven R. Gundry, MD. In the book, Dr. Gundry describes how eating the wrong food can affect our body and your health. As a result, my objective has changed, and my new goal is to develop the habit of eating specific foods that are in “The Plant Paradox” cookbook. The expected result – my weight will be what it is supposed to be. And it will take as long as it will take. After all, my resolution is to stick with my new habit for the rest of my life (i.e. another 50 years).
Of course this is not the only resolution I have. Among others are to finish writing“Retirement Solution for Smart People.” This will give you the opportunity to find out the results of many of my new habits, which, perhaps, you will decide to follow as well. The other resolution is to produce my third photo-story book “42 Encounters with Couples in San Francisco”. And since I read and write in the evening and work on my photography on weekends and during our vacations, this leaves me with about nine hours during the day to sell “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers”, which will have aside benefit – one hundred new clients, whom I will help with their mortgage needs (I hope you are going to be one of them).
P.S. The Holiday Season is a special time of the year during which people give each other gifts. I would like to challenge you to have one of your own new resolutions – to share my book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” as a gift for your friends at any time of the year, just because it will give the recipient joy. In 2019, I wish you a lot of joy, prosperity and good health. Meanwhile, I hope that these four images of dogs (including Max) will bring a smile to your face.
Happy New Year!
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Over breakfast on Sunday morning, I told my wife “I love you”, to which she asked “Why?” And I responded, “This is one of the good habits I started practicing fifty-three years ago”. We all develop habits during our lives. Some of them are good, others could be improved. As I mentioned before, I am currently working on one of my next books, “Retirement Solutions for Smart People. 5 Easy Ways to Enjoy Your Golden Age.” In the book, I connect retirement with the habit of being retired. And as with any other habits, it takes time to develop. When I started my MBA studies at Golden State University many years ago, the Dean recommended a book by Dr. Maxwell Maltz written in 1960 titled, “Psycho-Cybernetics”. In this book, Dr. Maltz wrote that after receiving a nose job, for example, it would take the patients about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. He also noticed that it took him 21 days to form a new habit. However, when Philippa Lolly from London’s University College conducted a study about habits, her team concluded that it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form new habits. Ben Franklin lists 13 Virtues in his autobiography. Among them are — Silence, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity and Justice. He spent a whole year focusing on each of them.
Instead of calling habits good and bad, I divided them into beneficial and less beneficial. For example, drinking water is a more beneficial habit than drinking Coca-Cola or any other sugary drinks.
A habit could be divided into healthful or not healthful. One of my not healthful habits was reading the newspaper while eating breakfast. Then I read the book “Mindfulness on the Go” written by Jan Chozen Bays. In the chapter titled “When Eating, Just Eat”, she offers an exercise.
“This week, when you are eating or drinking, don’t do anything else. Sit down and take the time to enjoy what you are taking in.”
As a result, I see what I put into my mouth and the food tastes better. Another example of a healthful habit for me has been walking with Max three times a day. You do not need a dog to walk, but having one helps.
There are other categories of habits, but I would like to return to one, which I started my story with – the good habit of being in love. Being in love can be taken by granted; sometimes we forget that like any other habits, it requires practice, practice and practice. Unless of course you are a dog. For Max, love is a way of being and he expresses it all the time.
P.S. We humans often share our love with our domestic animals. During our trip to Israel, I was amazed by the number of cats we encountered on the streets, especially in Tel Aviv. These four images are just some of them. However, you do not have to travel far away to meet animal lovers. Just buy “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” at Amazon.com or Encounterspublishing.com.
Enjoy and Share.
We returned from our trip to Israel at the beginning of November. While there, I wrote six stories about our trip. However, I decided not to bore you with them all at once. There are three more to go. Hopefully, after reading all of them, you’ll decide to journey to Israel yourself.
While walking through the streets of old Tel Aviv, I noticed a great number of young people, pregnant women, children and dogs. On the internet, I learned that with an average of three children per family, Israel has the highest fertility rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. I was especially surprised to see many young people on Sderot Rothschild Boulevard, even after 10 p.m. One of the reasons may be that Rothschild Blvd. has become the hub for new technology developments in Israel. Like in San Francisco, where internet companies are leasing out the best spots downtown, beautifully restored Bauhaus design buildings which were built in the 1920s, have become homes for many of the leading tech companies in Israel. But there was something else which struck me, as well. Along the Boulevard, there is a bike lane with electrical bikes and scooters constantly zooming by. I found an article online titled, “As Electric Scooters Take Over the World, Tel Aviv Stands First in Line”. The article, which was published on September 30, 2018, describes the state of the electrical scooter industry. It starts, “Rothschild Avenue, one of Tel Aviv’s central traffic arteries, is jammed. A line of vehicles has been stuck here for over ten minutes on a standard end-of-August morning, waiting for salvation. Meanwhile, at least a dozen electric scooters zip by driven by a variety of characters.”
I noticed many different brands of scooters speeding by. Besides the “BIRD” electric scooters, which you can rent, there are many other brands, which can be purchased for about $550.00. Some are made in China. There is also an Israeli company (50% owned by the Chinese), that manufactures and sells scooters under the name “INOKIM”. They expect to sell 14,000 units in 2018, for an average price of $2,000.00!
In comparison, San Francisco officials have recently authorized only two electric scooter companies that can be rented, totaling only 1250 units. Being only 70 years young, Israel is definitely a young nation. After all, San Francisco is one hundred years older. Is it therefore more mature, since it was reported that in Israel there are many casualties from electric bike and motorized scooter road accidents?
P.S. It was easy to pick just four images to show scootermania in Tel Aviv.
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On the eve of last Sunday, December 2nd Jews around the world started the celebration of Hanukkah, which lasts for eight days, by lighting a special candle holder called a hanukiah. The holiday commemorates events which happened in 165 BC. I will not bore you with what this holiday really is, since you can read about it online; rather, I will try to share with you some of my thoughts on what it means to me, especially after our recent trip to Israel. I do not know any other country in the world which connects its history with the current reality, as Israel does. The miracle of Hanukkah happened when one crude with clean oil burned for eight days on the holy Menorah – a candelabra, which was located inside the Second Jewish Temple. The Temple was rebuilt in 515 BCE, only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. During our recent visit to Jerusalem, a friend took us to the site of the cemetery going back to the First Temple, which existed over 2500 years ago. During the excavation, archeologists found a small silver scroll. Inside, were inscribed words of a special prayer, that priests blessed people over the high holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. My last name Kagan, traces me back to the priestly lineage (which goes back to the time of the Exodus from Egypt), of the “Cohanim”. As a Cohen, I am given the honor to bless the congregation in our synagogue with the same prayer, twice a year. Just imagining this connection to my ancestors doing the same, gives me the goosebumps. Hanukkah is called the holiday of lights, but also the holiday of freedom. Some interpretations of this are the freedom of self-expression, and the freedom to express religious beliefs and practices. Most of us take this freedom for granted, but in the Land of Israel in 165 BC, a small group of Jewish rebels led by the Priest Mattathias, fought for the freedom to express themselves as Jews against the Assyrian army.
During the services in our synagogue, Rabbi Zarhy told another Hanukkah story which actually happened during our times. In 1939, at the start of the Second World War when theGermans occupied Poland, in the city called Lodz, the wife of a local rabbi lit the Hanukkah lights, and decided to photograph it. When the print was ready, she noticed that through the window, across the street was a building of the Nazi’s headquarters. On the back of the photograph she wrote: “Germans come and go, but the Hanukkah light will stay forever”. The rabbi’s family managed to escape and ended up in America. Years later, the descendants discovered this old photograph, and of its remarkable story.
The Mattathias family fought for their religious freedom in their own land of Israel. They won; however, 200 years later their descendants were expelled from their homeland. Almost two thousand years later Jews came back to reclaim the small piece of land where their journey started. And today, the Holiday of Light from the ancient Land of Israel brings light into the nations.
P.S. The four images for this story show Hanukkah lights in various ways. One is of Rabbi Langer with the torch in his hands is about to light the public Hanukkah in Union Square, and my two artistic renderings of the Hanukkah light. The last image was taken when Max joined his “sister” Alona when we lit the first candle (the second one called a shamash, which translates to“servant”, is used to light the other lights).
Besides lighting the Hanukkiah, this is a time to give and to receive gifts. My book, “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” will be loved by everyone. I guarantee that. Please order it on Amazon.com and Encounterspublishing.com.
If you are reading this story on Friday, it is the night of the sixth light.
Enjoy and Share.