121 Words

121 Words

This year I started to submit my writings to several online publishing sites.  One of my favorites is 121 Words.  Their tagline is “All you need for a great story.”  The challenge is expressing your ideas concisely into exactly 121 words; no more and no less.  So far, I have had ten stories published including the following three that deal with Faith, Fitness, and Family (though not specifically mentioned).  I have also included a link below in case you are interested in reading all ten of my stories.  Each story is a unique expression of a message that is on my heart.

To give you an idea of what you can say in 121 words, this introduction is exactly 121 words.

  • Am I Running with You Jesus?

In 1969 I read the book Are You Running with Me Jesus? I don’t remember much about it, but today I ask myself, “Am I running with you Jesus?”

In the final scene of the movie Saving Private Ryan, Ryan, as an older man, sees the grave of Captain Miller and says “I have tried to live my life the best that I could.  I hope that was enough.  I hope that at least in your eyes I have earned what all of you have done for me.” Then he says to his wife, “Tell me I have led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.”

Her response was, “You are.”

May Jesus’ evaluation of me be the same.

  • Carl Lewis, Baby!

Carl Lewis is considered by many to be the greatest track and field athlete of all time, accumulating nine Olympic gold medals, ten Olympic medals, and eight gold medals at the World Championships in his illustrious career.

This is how he described his race strategy, “My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I tell myself: Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed.  If you run your race, you’ll win. Channel your energy.  Focus.”

Similarly, as I take my place in the second row for another 60 minutes of kick-a$$ high intensity group fitness work, I look in the mirror, take a deep breath and think to myself, “Yeah, I can do this. Carl Lewis, baby!”

  • Life is a Fartlek

 The saying “Life is a marathon not a sprint” is only partially true.  Life generally plays out in long slow strides.  However, there are also sprints in life that require sudden burst of energy. That’s why a better metaphor for life is a “fartlek”.  Unless you are a competitive runner, you might not be familiar with this awful sounding word.

Fartlek, or “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training.  Fartlek training is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.

 Therefore, we need to learn when to speed up and when to slow down our lives; this is the true meaning of fartlek or speed play living.



Finding ITT

Finding ITT

In the movie “City Slickers” Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, is alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly gives Mitch some life advice.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing.
Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

To paraphrase Curly, Mitch needed to find his IT.

Two years ago, I made a decision to retire from the corporate world and pursue a career in health and fitness.  As I have stated previously, I looked at this as a re-tirement or a re-equipping rather than a retirement or cession from work.

However, it was on a Saturday morning walk in May 2017 that my vague plan started to become clearer.  During my usual walk to Hopkins on the LRT, the Scripture 1 Kings 19:15-16 came to my mind.  It tells the story of God giving Elijah three specific tasks to perform before his life’s mission was over.  I didn’t know then how this applied to me, but one year later, I knew what my three tasks were in priority order.

I found my ITT.

  • INVEST in Violet, my granddaughter. My time, money and attention are devoted to her. This represents my commitment to family first.
  • TRAIN my clients. Develop and apply my skills as a health and fitness professional. This represents my commitment to my vocation which is helping people.
  • TEACH anyone who is interested. Share the truths and insights that I have learned during my life.  This is expressed in my writing and broader calling.

Now two years later, that is exactly what I am doing.  I have re-prioritized my activities and eliminated others so that I can focus my attention on fulfilling my ITT.  I don’t know when my life’s mission will be over or whether there will be other adjustments along the way, but I am confident that I am doing now what God has laid out before me.

Sometimes adjustments come in the form of pruning.  In the horticultural world, we know that pruning a tree is necessary to sustain growth.  That is, sometimes the skillful pruner will cut back a fruitful branch which diminishes the outward appearance of health in the short term but contributes to the long-term health of the tree.

This recently happened to me. I had been in a mode of adding activities to my schedule. First, it was school, then it was an additional two day a week commitment as a personal trainer at the Ridgedale YMCA. Eventually, my internal homeostatic stress sensor began to register amber. At first, I ignored it, but then after an abbreviated night of sleep, I made the decision to drop my second Spring class in the ATSU kinesiology program.
This decision was made from my ITT perspective. My school work was taking time away from what could have been spent with my granddaughter. The information that I was learning was useful, but not critical to what I need to serve my clients better at this time. In terms of my third priority, being stressed is not a good example of teaching others about healthy living.
I am thinking about returning to the kinesiology program this Fall. So far, I earned an “A” in my initial course on Evidence-Based Practice and Research, and an additional “A” for staying on my life’s course.


Music for the Body and Soul

Music for the Body and Soul

Music has always been a big part of my life.  I was raised in my Bronx apartment in the 50’s and 60’s with a backdrop of my mother listening to Perry Como, Andy Williams and Andre Kostelanetz on AM radio.  My first taste of rock n’ roll were the words “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” sung by the King himself in 1956.  And then came the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 that changed everything for me.  I was glued to the radio from that moment on, and all of my paper route money went for vinyl.  The never-ending succession of fresh music by the British bands, the sounds of Motown and others stoked the flame that consumed me during my teenage years. I went from concert to concert in the Village, and I was there at Woodstock in the 5th row throughout the iconic concert by legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

My life changed dramatically in 1970 when I came to faith, and so did my musical tastes.   Contemporary Christian artists such as Phil Keaggy, Keith Green and Lamb captivated me for two decades.  I still turn to gospel music today when my soul needs uplifting and my spirit aspires to worship God.  However, missing much of the secular sounds of the 70’s and 80’s, I was reintroduced to the great dance sounds of pop and rock music that I was exposed to in the group fitness classes that I have been doing since 1989.

The music that eventually captivated my soul for the next 25 years was the great sounds of contemporary jazz.  I loved the upbeat instrumentals that characterize this genre, because it gave me great freedom to create my own lyrics for these songs in the tune of my life.

More recently, I have been listening to the electronic dance sounds that now accompany me on my long walks and workouts.  This music brings both my body and soul into a positive place. Although I am not a musician, I score surprisingly high in musical intelligence on multiple intelligence assessments because these often measure the broader capacity to intuit, be instinctual, and read patterns which describe me pretty well.  Music moves my body and energizes my soul.

During high school my career ambition was to be a disk jockey.  That vocation never materialized, but I get to live my dream today by mixing my own Spotify playlists for the group fitness classes that I teach.  I particularly like to put together choreographed routines that I use for warm-ups for my strength-based classes, and content for my cardio classes.

So now, I have the privilege of sharing with you my latest choreographed routine using the newly released single “Just Like You” by my favorite dance/electronic group The Satin Jackets.



The Value of Work

The Value of Work

“How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rest unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life!”

During my five years working at UnitedHealthcare, I would periodically attend meetings at the headquarters building in Minnetonka.  I was often greeted there by Lee Werness, a receptionist, who always had a smile on her face and an encouraging word on her lips.  Although I only saw her once every month or so, she knew my name and always shared something encouraging with me. One day she wasn’t there, and I learned that she had recently passed away as a result of a sudden stroke.  I later learned through her obituary that she was 82 years old.

In his classic poem “Ulysses”, Tennyson describes an old age of idleness as a burden rather than a gift, and he yearns to “shine in use.”  Lee was definitely a shining light at the UnitedHealthcare headquarters building, doing what she was meant to do down to her last days.

In the book “The Mirage and Dignity on the Highways of Human ‘Progress’” author Lukman Harees promotes the value of work. “Our life is an odd mixture of different moments of action and inaction, work and rest. Work provides us with an inner creative joy. It saves us from the dullness and boredom of life. It puts our energies to proper use. Unused energies create disorders in us. They make us physically unhealthy and mentally unhappy. Time hangs heavy on our shoulders when there is no work. It provides us with money for our livelihood. It makes our life meaningful and peaceful. Idleness is more tiresome and painful than work. Even the most unpaid, unimportant and unpleasant work is better than no work.”

In the book “Every Good Endeavor – Connecting Your Work to God’s Work” author Timothy Keller describes the pattern of work as rearranging the raw material of God’s creation in such a way that it helps the world in general and people in particular thrive and flourish.  If we are to be God’s image bearers with regard to creation, then we will carry on his pattern of work.   In chapter three, he cites a number of examples:

The pattern is found in all kinds of work.  Farming takes the physical material of soil and seed and produces food.  Music takes the physics of sound and rearranges it into something beautiful and thrilling that brings meaning to life.  When we take fabric and make a piece of clothing, when we push a broom and clean up a room, when we use technology too harness the forces of electricity, when we take an uninformed, naïve human mind and teach it a subject, when we teach a couple how to resolve their relational disputes, when we take simple materials and turn them into a poignant work of art – we are continuing God’s work of forming, filling and subduing.  Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we elaborate and “unfold” creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development. In fact, our word “culture” comes from the idea of cultivation.  Just as he subdued the earth with his work of creation, so he calls us now to labor as his representatives in a continuation and extension of that work of subduing.

This is what I have been trying to do in my 50 years in the workforce.  As a programmer, I transformed electronic bits and bytes into useful business applications. As a project manager, I used people and planning to improve business processes.  Now as a personal trainer, I use kineseology and personal care to help improve the health and fitness of my clients.

Lee transformed an ordinary reception desk into a fountain of encouragement, so why stop working at a particular age?  After all, Minnesota sports journalist Sid Hartman still writes his column at 99 years old!

30 Years of Group Fitness

30 Years of Group Fitness

It was 30 years ago this week that I built up the courage, took a risk, and stepped into my first aerobics class, and I have been hooked on group fitness ever since.  Doing group fitness for four or five hours a week for 30 years means that I have been in studios for about 6,000 hours with several hundred different instructors, and thousands of fellow students!  Class formats have changed over the years, but my love and commitment to staying fit through group classes has never changed.

In her the TED talk, Dr. Susan Pinker cites a scientific study that identified the top ten factors for what it takes to live to 100.  Smoking cessation, for example ranked third.  Exercise came in a paltry seventh, and being lean vs overweight was eighth.  The top two factors, by a significant margin, were social integration and close relationships.  In addition to busting butt and burning calories, group fitness classes provide a great opportunity to promote social integration and form close relationships.

To commemorate these 30 years, here are two related posts I wrote two years ago:

  • Why I Love Group Fitness

I joined a health club in November 1988 which had an indoor track.  Being too wimpy to run outdoors in the cold weather at the time, I began my thrice weekly routine of running 30 – 40 laps around the track for the next four months.  How do you spell B-O-R-I-N-G?

Every now and then I would peak into the group fitness studio and notice that people seemed to be having a good time inside.  I finally built up the courage to give it a try.  Although I stumbled through the choreography at first, I was hooked on group fitness from Day 1.

Back then you basically had two choices: high impact aerobics, or low impact aerobics. Step came along in 1991, followed in rapid succession by spin, kick boxing, barbell classes and various forms of circuit training.  Today most gyms offer many group fitness options, so there is something available to satisfy everyone’s interests and fitness goals.

So, in a nutshell, here are five reasons why I love group fitness:

  1. I can put my head in neutral, and just follow the skillful guidance of my instructor.
  2. I get to do challenging and beneficial exercises that I would never attempt on my own.
  3. I feel like I am part of an accountability group that I never want to let down by slacking off.
  4. I have had the privilege of meeting many great people over the years.
  5. And by gosh, it is still a lot of fun!
  • Duty, Discipline, or Delight

A person can be motivated to exercise out of either: Duty, Discipline or Delight.

  1. Duty: Something you feel like you have to do but don’t particularly like it or feel comfortable doing it
  2. Discipline: It becomes less painful and part of your schedule as you get into a groove
  3. Delight: It becomes a joyful part of your life as you see the fruit of your efforts

Here are my tips for how to come the place where working out is a delight:

  1. Find something you really like to do (there are so many exercise options available today)
  2. With people you like to do it with (even if it is by yourself)
  3. Mix it up or make a change whenever necessary to increase your level of delight

Another way to look at this is moving from something you HAVE to do, to something you WANT to do, to something you GET to do.

Here’s to the next 30 years of fitness and fun!

cardio 1

Aging Backwards

Aging Backwards

Denny McClain was the last major league pitcher to win 30 games in a season.  Now 74, reflecting on his past 50 years of triumph and tragedy, McClain said, “I’ve got a whole lot of things to talk to God about.  Number one is, you have this damned old-age thing screwed up.  We should have been born old people and aged into childhood.”

Die first and get this out of the way.  Pass the wisdom of age onto a younger version of myself when my vitality is at its peak and end up a glimmer in my parent’s eye.  What an enchanting idea!  Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.  Time marches on, and all of us yields to the unchanging law of entropy.

My reading vision started to fade in my late 40’s.  In my ignorance, I asked my optometrist what percent of people experience declining eyesight.  His response was 100%.  I have had one knee replaced. The skin above my knees is getting droopy despite the number of squats and lunges I do. Eventually my hearing will start to fade, and my reaction time will slow down. There is a world of difference though between the intrinsic effects of aging and the preventable effects of aging.

For example, with the proper mental self-care and good fortune, I don’t expect my mental facilities to diminish. My mother at 95 years old is still as sharp as a tack.  According to the MacArthur Foundation Study on Successful Aging, “the three key features that predict strong mental function in old age are: regular physical exercise, a strong social support system, and belief in one’s ability to handle what life has to offer”, and I am fully committed to these habits.

I have aged well though. I will be 67 this month, but I look much younger than that.  My biological age is much younger than my chronological age because of my unwavering commitment to a healthy lifestyle. My increased focus on resistance training has paid off too; my last caliper measurement in December showed that I have decreased my percentage of body fat to 12.6%; my lowest since my early 40’s.

I also have better than average genes. My mother still has more brown hair than grey.  I have a smattering of grey in my beard, but I don’t plan to touch it up with “Just For Men.” However, the MacArthur study has shown that heredity is less important than environment and lifestyle in determining mental and physical health as we age. I also recognize that some health issues are outside of our control, and many people face neuromuscular, oncological or other health challenges that are not related to their lifestyle choices.

I am thankful that I am still able to keep up with everyone in the challenging interval group fitness classes where I am typically the oldest person in the class. Last year I lowered my walking half-marathon personal best by seven minutes to 3:10. Eventually my physical prowess will succumb to the effects of aging, because nobody wins the battle against time.

There was one day though when I felt old.  I came in for an interview for a personal trainer position, and there were a couple of 20 something trainers sitting around the desk who cast what appeared to be a disbelieving glance my way. Then it occurred to me, “THEY THINK I AM OLD.”  “Old?” “I’m not old,” I protested to myself. And then other occasions came to mind when similar things happened in my interactions with younger people. It was like in the movie “The Usual Suspects” when the detective played by Chazz Palminteri drops his coffee cup when he realizes who the real Keyser Soze is.  I understand though, after all I was young once too. However, it took me a day or two to shake this feeling.

Maybe they are right though – maybe I am old.  I just don’t feel like it yet.

In some ways I have aged backwards. I was a church elder in my 20’s and now I am a personal trainer in my 60’s.  I once again have a kindergartner living in my home, so I interact with parents who are half my age. Mentally I have never felt younger or healthier than I do now.

Our physical body ages and deteriorates, but our spiritual person is eternal. Maybe I feel younger now because I am more conscious of tapping into my spiritual person on a daily basis.  Eventually, I will have an incorruptible body for eternity. In the book “Where is God When it Hurts”, author Philip Yancey describes the contrast between the struggle of aging and the hope of eternity:

“Belief in a future home beyond this one should affect more than how we die.  It should affect how we live.

Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia Bible College, was once approached by an elderly lady facing the trials of old age. Her body was in decline, her beauty being replaced by thinning hair, wrinkles, and skin discoloration. She could no longer do the things she once could. And she felt herself to be a burden on others.  “Robertson, why does God let us get old and weak?  Why must I hurt so?” she asked.

After a few minutes’ thought McQuilkin replied, “I think God has planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical.  But the strength and beauty of age is spiritual.  We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary so we’ll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty which is forever.  It makes us more eager to leave behind the temporary, deteriorating part of us and be truly homesick for our eternal home.  If we stayed young and strong and beautiful, we might never want to leave!”

I don’t always understand the meaning of Bob Dylan’s lyrics, but the words “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” in his epic song “My Back Pages” ring true.


(P.S. There is a great book by Miranda Esmonde-White titled “Aging Backwards.” It is an excellent read about how to reverse the debilitating effects of aging through Essentrics flexibility training.)

Kinetic Chain Check Points

Kinetic Chain Check Points

I have been posting for the past two years on topics related to healthy living, but I have yet to give you a definition of what “health” is.  I will attempt to do that today.  According to Webster, health is “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit.”  Wikipedia defines health as “the level of functional and metabolic efficiency of a living organism. In humans it is the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage when facing physical, mental, psychological and social changes with environment.”  According to the World Health Organization, health does not merely represent the absence of disease, but also reflects a state of optimal physical, social, and psychological well-being.

That’s a good start, but how do you assess whether or not you are healthy?  In the physical dimension we use measurements such as blood pressure, blood lipid counts, percentage of body fat, and body temperature to assess where we are in relation to acceptable standards of health.  In addition, there are dozens of postural, movement, and performance assessments that measure our physical condition and capabilities.  I want to focus on one postural assessment and apply it to other areas of our life.

The kinetic chain is the combination and interrelation of the actions of the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems to create movement. All systems of the kinetic chain must work together to produce movement. If one system is not working properly, it will affect the other systems and overall movements.

Our body has five kinetic chain check points: feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and head. A static postural assessment gives you a “big picture” of how someone uses his or her body day in and day out. When performing a standing postural assessment, we check 24 areas related to these kinetic chain check points from three distinct viewpoints: eight from the front (anterior), eight from the side (lateral) and eight from the back (posterior). We check these areas because training with proper posture ensures optimum results and decreases the risk of developing muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, and tissue overload which can lead to injury.

One of the things we check from the anterior and posterior view is whether the knees are turned inward (valgus).  Valgus knees are a biomechanical imbalance that can lead to IT-band tendonitis, Patellofemoral syndrome or an ACL injury. Valgus knees are caused by specific muscles that are potentially overactive (Adductor complex, Biceps femoris, Lateral gastrocnemius, Vastus lateralis, Tensor fasciae latae (TFL), and specific muscles that are potentially underactive (Medial hamstring, Medial gastrocnemius, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus maximus, Anterior or posterior tibialis, Vastus medialis).  Our job as trainers is to identify these imbalances and design corrective exercises that address the over utilized and underutilized muscles.  We use four interventions: – inhibiting (Self Myofascial Release (SMR) such as foam rolling) and lengthening (static stretching) overactive muscles and activating (active isolated movements) and integrating (active integrated movements) underactive muscles.

Enough of the technicalities; let me get to the practical application of how we can apply these principles to other areas of our life.  I can’t address every area in this post, so let me use the example of a father who needs to spend more time with his children.  This would be an example of a relational dysfunction.

First, we need to look at the situation from multiple perspectives.  In the field of organizational development, they call this triangulation.  For example, if a company wanted to improve customer service, they need to get the perspective from each of the affected stakeholders: suppliers, employees, customers etc. This would correlate to viewing our posture from the anterior, lateral, and posterior views.  There are some things which you can only see from a particular vantage point.

Next, we need to recognize that we are not always in the best position to assess ourselves; we need others to check us out.  In the book “Streams of Living Water” by Richard Foster, he states, “We invite others to travel the journey with us.  Such persons become both companions and mentors.  They provide us with discernment, counsel, and encouragement.  Often, we are too close to our own training plan to see that we are overachieving and setting ourselves up for failure (overactive muscles – my addition). Or to see that sloth is setting in (underactive muscles – my addition) and we need encouragement to venture out into the depths.”

After we have identified our overactive and underactive “muscles” we need to make the necessary changes to bring the affected area of our life back into alignment.  Which overactive activities do we need to reduce?  This could be altering work assignments or schedule, or outside activities.  Which underactive activities do we need to increase?  This could be being home to eat dinner with the family, helping our child with homework at night or getting involved in a weekend extra curricula activity such as hockey or gymnastics.

The main requirements are to recognize that there is a problem, be open to help and commit ourselves to do whatever is necessary to fix the problem.  We need to be patient with ourselves.  It probably took a while for the problem to develop, so it might take a while to resolve it.  Coming into proper alignment though is always worth the effort.

Perhaps starting the new year right should include a five-point “postural” assessment that covers these areas:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Psychological
  3. Physical
  4. Relational
  5. Purpose


Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

I am so thankful this year for a very successful launch into my new health and fitness career.  I consider this my “re-tirement”, as in getting two new tires on my bicycle so that I can keep moving forward.  Traditional retirement doesn’t appeal to me, and I see myself working in the health and fitness field for many years to come; besides I don’t like to golf and travelling doesn’t interest me or my wife.

Although I am new to the profession, I am by no means new to health and fitness.  I have been a practitioner and student as a distance runner and group fitness enthusiast for 30 years, and I have observed and learned from some if the best in the industry over these years.  I am also fully committed to living and modeling all aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

I was hired by Safari Island Community Center in February, and I began to build my client base through taking prospective clients through a discussion of their goals and health habits, and walking them through a sample workout.  Of the 62 free sessions I conducted, 24 people signed up to train with me.  There was a learning curve at first, but I gained skills as time progressed.  For example, during the months of September and October five of the ten free sessions I conducted resulted in gaining new clients, and one more is considering training with me starting in December.

During the past nine months, working part-time, I have conducted 420 training sessions with clients ranging in age from 12 to 81.  Through this experience, I have become more proficient in using various modalities including: TRX, step, BOSU, medicine ball, stability ball, bands, barbells, hand weights, kettlebells, fitness balls, water resistance, foam rollers and body weight training. To further develop my skills, I have signed up for NETA’s kettlebell certification training in February.

I have used my spare time to dig deeper in my studies, and I have earned six additional industry recognized certifications as a result:

NETA Senior Fitness Specialist

NETA Group Fitness Instructor

ISSA Fitness Nutrition Specialist

Silver Sneakers Classic and Circuit

Silver&Fit Signature Series

I have also completed TRX Suspension and Les Mills Body Pump training, and I continue to read and learn from my peers and mentors. Three books that have been particularly helpful to me are:

Miranda Esmonde-White’s book titled “Aging Backwards” emphasizes the importance of static stretching.  As a result, I have incorporated the best static stretching practices into my one-on-one sessions with clients and in my group fitness classes.

Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book “Think, Learn, Succeed”, though not directly related to health and fitness, has given me additional tools to help me lead my clients through the process of behavior change.

The book “Choosing the StrongPath: Reversing the Downward Spiral of Aging” gave me additional insights into helping older clients counteract the effects of sarcopenia through resistance training.

I have also co-developed and presented two seminars: “Strength Training for Older Adults” and “Introduction to Foam Rolling” at Safari Island which have resulted in gaining new personal training clients.

My commitment to education in the field will continue and intensify during the next two years.  A chance meeting with Dr. Mallory Fox at the NASM Optima conference in Scottsdale, Arizona this October resulted in my enrolling in the Master of Science in Kinesiology program with a specialization in Geriatric Exercise Science at A.T. Still University.

I want to give a special thank you to Fitness Director Sara Weidemann at Safari Island Community Center who has been a great mentor to me and continues to drill into me the importance of proper form.  Also, to Fitness Lead Megan Munoz at the Eden Prairie Community Center who has given me many opportunities to hone my skills and expand my range in teaching group fitness classes for seniors and the general population.  And a huge thank you to the many trainers and instructors that I have observed, interacted with, and learned from over the years.

Letter to the President

Letter to the President

On the eve of Election Day, I thought that this would be an appropriate post for Healthy Living.

My granddaughter Violet went trick or treating last Wednesday with some new friends, one of whom was three years old.  When Violet got home, she told my wife that the three-year-old was getting all the attention and extra candy because she is only three, and everyone thinks little kids are cuter than big kids.

She wondered if she should write to the President to change this way of thinking because it is not right.  My wife suggested that she write to Ellen, but Violet insisted that she wanted to write to the President, so here is her letter (as dictated to my wife):

Dear President Trump,

I think it would be good if the big kids could be cute too and not just the little ones. Tell this on every show. We want both of them to be the same amount, the big kids AND the little kids.

Goodbye from Violet Natt

I am 5 years old.




My maternal grandparents came from a small shtetl (village) outside of Warsaw, Poland named Kossover. The Jews in Kossover faced repeated pogroms (persecution) by the Russians causing many of the Jews to emigrate to the United States after World War I. Those who left were fortunate. Those who remained in Kossover were exterminated in the Holocaust a generation later.

My grandparents Abraham and Esther were childhood sweethearts in Kossover.  My grandfather migrated first with his three brothers and sister. He never saw his parents or three younger siblings again – they perished in the Holocaust.  He and his siblings worked in New York City’s Garment District; they were all hard-working people.  My grandfather was instrumental in establishing the Fur and Leather Workers Union and securing fair wages and better working conditions for employees.   My mother tells me that he often came home bloodied from beatings that were leveled upon him by goons hired by the factory owners.  He died in January 1961, so I was not yet nine years old, but I remember him as a kind and humble man.

My grandmother migrated to the U.S. with her sister about three years after my grandfather, and they were married here.  A third sister died of smallpox in Europe.  My grandmother had a heart condition as a result of contracting rheumatic fever as a child.  She died in 1937 at the age of 37, so I never met her.  My mother was their first child. Their other daughter died two hours after delivery.

A friend of my grandfather visited Kossover after the War and told my grandfather that you can’t even tell that civilization ever existed in Kossover. I couldn’t find any record of Kossover on Google either, so if it wasn’t for my mother relating this story to me, I would never know that Kossover ever existed.

Hitler tried to wipe out all the Jews from Europe, but he didn’t succeed. I am living proof that the descendants of Kossover are still alive today.  And so are my two daughters and granddaughter.

(Dedicated to the victims of Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy)