Monday, March 31, 2008

Sendler's List

I’d never heard of her. Irena Sendlerowa. Have you?

An article in the April 2008 Guideposts magazine educated me. Written by Megan Felt, from Farlington, Kansas, she tells the story of entering National History Day, a competition of more than half a million students who vie to create a compelling presentation of an historical topic. She and her friends wanted to research something about the Holocaust because it was so different from their small farming town.

A teacher of theirs, Norm Conard, helped them find Irena, an actual person to research. They wrote a one-act play.

Irena Sendlerowa was a Polish social worker who rescued more than 2,500 Jewish children to safety from the Warsaw Ghetto. To preserve their names, she wrote them on sheets of paper and buried them in jars in her garden. 2,500 was a thousand more than Oskar Schindler had saved.

Irena was unknown for a reason. The girls could find almost nothing about her. They searched through books, newspapers, the Internet and even went to a Holocaust education center in the Midwest. Finally, one of their Internet inquiries responded with the suggestion that the young people contact Irena in Poland directly. She was 90.

They wrote her a letter, enclosed their play and sent her three dollars for return postage. Weeks went by. The girls needed her to write back. Finally, a letter arrived—in Polish! Their teacher arranged for a translator.

“To my dear and beloved girls, very close to my heart,” it began. She told them the whole story. How she’d talked her way into the ghetto and smuggled babies out. She told them of her fear. How she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. How they’d fractured her legs and feet during an interrogation. Someone bribed the guards to let her go. How she retrieved the names from her garden, and tried to reunite the children with their parents after the war. Irena insisted she was no hero. “I did what anyone would have done.” (She donated the three dollars.)

The girls did their play, made it to the finals, and didn’t win, but they did get some coverage in a local Kansas newspaper. Soon they were invited to perform their play in all sorts of surprising places. After one such performance, a Jewish businessman called, “Would you like to go to Warsaw to meet Irena? I’ll pay your way if you come back and talk to my businessman’s association about what you find.”

Can you say Miracle?

They went. Three farm girls from Kansas and one mom went to Warsaw in 2001. The Polish press mobbed them. They met their hero. Their Unsung Hero. It changed their lives.

Before she died, my mother worked tirelessly for the cause of AIDS. She won a DIFFA Unsung Hero Award. The program she and her team developed has been used as a prototype for county response to AIDS for many years.

Maybe heroes aren’t extraordinary people at all? Maybe heroes are those who “do what anyone would do?” My mom did. And according to Irena, so did she.

P. S. If you want to see a DVD of the play about Irena, Life In A Jar, go to to order it.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Seeds X, 13

Seed: Prognosis

So, once we understand diagnosis, of course, the next word to think about is prognosis. It too derives from Greek roots meaning to know beforehand. What I want to ask is: do we really know beforehand?

Medicine, as practiced in North America, at this point in human history, has become what those who practice it call “evidence-based.” Evidence-based? It means, literally, by what they see (see the beginnings of our word, video, in there?). Actually, I think it’s a code word because how it plays out these days is medicine by the numbers.

Statistics, percentages, studies. If X number of women get breast cancer, then X number will this and Y number will that. You are part of group Z, and so we can deduce that . . . you take my point, I’m sure.

Here is what my friend came to know, and what we all can know in the faces of scary diagnoses: the prognosis is up to us. Doctors don’t really know beforehand for any given individual. What they know are the trends of the past. Our own spirits, our bodily individualities, our souls participate in the prognosis, and that, for me, is a huge relief.

Be content,

Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at and please visit my blog Ode Magazine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Zero Bits

When was the last time your email inbox was empty? Totally, completely clear. Mine is right now. In fact, I try to get it to empty every single day. Some days I succeed better than others.

Author Mark Hurst writes about this as bit literacy. See his book of the same name at Amazon. He recommends that we achieve emptiness every day for email. I agree with him.

When the snail mail comes to the house, I don’t put pieces of it aside to deal with later. I open all of it that interests me and recycle the rest. Why not the same with email? Since when have we agreed to email overwhelm? Can we change those agreements?
My sweetie and I signed up for a couple of years ago so we could get off all those catalogue mailing lists. Our recycling is three-quarters less than it used to be. In my email program, under Tools, I found an option called Block Sender. It moves emails I’m not interested in immediately to the Deleted folder.

Mr. Durst suggests we empty our inboxes daily so that we have a chance for an empty mind as well. Zero bits. No input. Monkey mind put to bed. Silence. Quiet. The peace of our own thoughts without information overload from others.

Try this: empty your inbox today, and see how long you can keep it empty. I think you’ll find that your mind quiets quite naturally when you deliberately decrease the input you allow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Hot Chocolate Lesson

I have an email correspondent I don’t really know, but he found me through this blog. His name is Frank, and he often sends me clever teaching stories. Here’s one of them.

A group of graduates, well established in their careers, were talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups - porcelain, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the hot chocolate.

When they all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the professor said: "Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that you're drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

“Now consider this: Life is the hot chocolate; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have does not define, nor change the quality of life you have. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the hot chocolate God has provided us. God makes the hot chocolate, man chooses the cups.

“The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have.

“Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly... and enjoy your hot chocolate.”

Friday, March 21, 2008


Seeds X, 12

Seed: Diagnosis

A woman I know and love has spent the last seven months learning about and living through a breast cancer diagnosis. No one should go through such a morass. No one. My friend has come through the process valiantly. I’m so proud of her.

One of the things a dear friend of hers said at the moment of the diagnosis was that famous truism, “A diagnosis is not a prognosis.” It got me thinking.

Diagnosis, according to the OED, derives from the Greek; it means, literally, through knowledge. But you know me by now. I don’t always take everyday words at their face value. Let’s take the word apart differently.

Dia = day + gnosis = knowledge.

What if a diagnosis is simply what we know today? Doesn’t that put it in a little more perspective? What we know today is what we know today and what we learn tomorrow can change what we know today in the twinkling of an eye, and that, my dear one, is WHY a diagnosis is nowhere near a prognosis.

Be content,

Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at and please visit my blog Ode Magazine.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's All Inside

Lately, like when I bought our new GPS device, Minerva, the packaging has listed on the outside what we were supposed to find inside the box. In that particular case, we did.

It goes with a basic principle of metaphysics. Nothing is outside us; everything we perceive actually comes from the inside out. It’s all inside.

I had a rough emotional time today. I fell head first into an emotional abyss. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I really go for it. In order to deal with the unwelcome feelings, I bagged my work for the day, and took a nap. The world definitely needs more naps.

But here’s the thing: the feelings I was struggling with came from inside me. They had to do with an ongoing health issue that I’d just as soon forget about but I don’t really have that option. I’ve dealt with the health thing for so many years both physically and metaphysically that I’d just as soon put it down—forever. I don’t get to do that just yet.

This is why I decided to ask the Universe for some eyes outside mine. A healer, a shaman, a helper of some kind, who could stand with me and see what he or she could see that I either had seen, had not seen, had seen and ignored, or some variation on a theme.

It’s true, you know, all things do come into being from the inside of each of us outward, and sometimes the eyes of another can illuminate what we can’t see in a given moment or experience.

We all need the occasional reflections we receive from the perceptions of others.

I’ll keep you posted on who shows up.

{This is where I stopped writing and shut down my computer.}

Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang. A friend was calling to introduce me to an indigenous healer. He'd been trying to reach me for three weeks. Even the outside stuff comes from the inside!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Save As Draft

I’m knee-deep into a complicated, fascinating book called The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Danish science writer Tor Nørretranders. In it, he describes what he calls “the shortest correspondence in history.” It took place in 1862.

Celebrated French author Victor Hugo went on holiday after his great novel Les Misérables was published. The author was on tenterhooks, despite being on holiday, about how the book was doing. He wrote to his publisher (I quote the entire text):


His publisher, not to be outdone, replied (this too is the entire text):


The author’s point is that context is everything.

It got me thinking about email, and the function known as Save As Draft. Email, bless it, is a fast and dirty form of communication. We resort to it for all sorts of reasons: speed, ease, avoidance, simplicity, elegance, reasons upon reasons.

But haven’t you ever hit Reply All by mistake? And sent what you didn’t want winging through the email ethers? I’m sure most of us have.

When I was an AOL customer, an email noob, as the common e-parlance would say, one of the features I liked was that I could grab an email back from another AOL customer if I didn’t like what I’d said.

Enter Save As Draft.

Everything goes so fast these days, I think Save As Draft was made for our information age. So, you get an email that requires an answer which in its own turn requires some thought. Write it, by all means, as fast as you want, then save it as a draft and step away from the screen!

Then sit with your reply, think on it, think on the context in which it will be read or received or answered. Wait an hour—yes, Virginia, a WHOLE HOUR! Open your drafts file and read it again. I can almost guarantee that you’ll change something before you send it.

Context means a lot. It matters. Save As Draft gives us, as emailers, time to consider the consequences and contexts of our written words. Something I think we would all be wise to take advantage of.

P.S. If you are intrigued by the Victor Hugo story, consider looking at another post in this blog: ?!, from Friday, January 25, 2008.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Must-See Video!

Dear Friends,

I don't usually cross-pollinate my blogs. I write solely about Peace for Ode Magazine's Readers' Blog, but this video has moved me so much that I want you all to see it. It offers a genuinely simple action we can all take to help create peace on this lovely little orb we call home.

Be peace,

Susan Corso

P.S. I did my best to embed it, and after an hour of foiled attempts, gave in to just posting the URL. Sorry! I will get more techno-proficient, I will!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A New Two-For-One

Seeds X, 11

Seed: A New Two-For-One

Edward Readicker-Henderson’s article in S & H inspired this Seed as well as last week’s Seed. His major point was learning how to clear clutter from one’s life. Because clutter stalls my creative process, I’ve learned to keep a handle on it.

Mr. Readicker-Henderson’s solution is brilliant: For every new thing you bring into the house, release two old ones. The moment he proposed it, both he and his wife saw the possibilities and entered into the spirit of the project.

There were some rules. Like, get a new computer, and releasing a couple pairs of socks wouldn’t do. The releases had to be roughly equivalent in personal if not financial value.

It’s a terrific idea for beating clutter for a couple of reasons. First, most of us set out to defeat clutter as a huge one-shot project and therefore run out of steam before it’s complete. Second, it took the two of them a couple of years to release what they wanted to let go. Third, it made them conscious of their consumption.

He says it worked “like a ‘reverse Noah’s ark’.” By the time the third year rolled around, their consumption had dwindled because they’d let go of what there was to let go. Then, they were surrounded only by beloved, useful, valuable things.

Be content,

Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at and please visit my blog Ode Magazine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Cost of Wow

I recently spent an hour on a teleclass taught by Mabel Katz, author of a simple book on ho’oponopono called The Easiest Way. {fwiw, she pronounces her name in the Spanish way, maBELLE.} Mabel is an accountant by profession and a Spanish-language radio show host in Los Angeles. She’s been doing ho’oponopono for ten years.

In her book, one of Mabel’s aphorisms is:

Learn to live in the WOW.

I loved it! Then I got to thinking about the cost of living in the wow, and let me assure you, dear reader, that there is a definite, tangible (and sometimes not so tangible) cost to living in the wow. That cost is best put: Control.

To live in the wow, we must be willing to and actually give up the need to control.

The thing about this need to control is it’s only a need, or so we think, and it isn’t real. Namely, we don’t control much of anything, except our own conscious thoughts so if we’ll give up the illusion that we have a need to control, then we’ll find and live in the wow.

Wow is a childlike state of discovery. Wow is equally applied to butterflies and buttonholes. Bees and knees—and fleas and keys. Everything is a wow if we’ll let it be.

What we need to do is believe that things can work out for the best and see how trying to control things can make them turn out alright but not always the best.

First assignment? Find a wow, let that feeling flood your being, and keep on wowing. {You won’t even notice that you’ve given up the control you didn’t have in the first place!}

Monday, March 10, 2008

Professor Minerva McGonagall, the GPS

If you’ve ever driven in Boston, you know that the street sign situation is dire, a bona fide dearth. The conventional wisdom goes that if you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t belong here. I have lost count of the number of U-turns we’ve had to take.

Directionally-challenged or not, Boston will give you a run for your money. I swear that whoever the poor person was who had to enter Boston into Mapquest is now in Bellevue for a well-deserved rest.

We, however, allowing ourselves to catch up to the 21st century, have foiled Boston’s streets for the moment. Enter Professor Minerva McGonagall in a new format. If you’re a Harry Potter person, you know who she is: Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She’s been around the school forever, knows its, and its students’, ins and outs.

Professor Minerva McGonagall can always be counted on to give clear directions to anyone who asks her. That’s why we named our new TomTom One GPS device after her. She even knows how to get around Boston.

At the end of last week, we took her out for her maiden voyage to a place we knew how to get to, just to see if she’d take us the way we normally went. She did, but some of her directions were a little woolly {British English for unclear}. What we would have considered a turn, and Mapquest would have called a slight right, Minerva considered straight ahead. Oh well.

In Boston, even with a GPS device, one still has to know where one is going. Sort of anyway. No matter. The thing that cracked us both up was “disobeying” her directions, watching the device scramble for a new route when we did, and correcting our course after we finished our side trip.

One thing I get to do today is find a British-accented voice for our Professor. I’m hoping there’s a wonderful Maggie Smith-like one. I don’t know yet if our Professor will be quite as acerbic as Maggie’s Minerva, but it doesn’t matter. We had so much fun projecting her outrage on ourselves as we drove that it made the whole thing worth it.

“Can’t you be bothered to follow simple directions?” we howled. Each of us took turns playing the Professor’s well-meant corrective self. The thing I liked best though, really, was the idea that someone was in the car with me, wanting to get me where I wanted to go. And, that if I took a wrong turn, she has the capability of correcting my course.

Wouldn’t it be swell if we all had a Professor Minerva McGonagall within? I think so.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Take the Fire

Seeds X, 10

Seed: Take the Fire

Edward Readicker-Henderson, writing Spirituality & Health, tells a story about a house in the process of burning to the ground. He asks, “Given the chance, what’s the one thing you would take out of the burning house?”

He answers his own question with a quote from French author Jean Cocteau who said, “I’d take the fire.”

What a wonderful, obvious answer! It seems to me to be the biggest answer. If the fire were gone, the house would no longer be burning.

How often do we choose the smallest answer? We forget that choosing is the action of exercising our free will.

Is there a place in your life where you’re choosing a smaller answer right now? Go ahead, change your mind, and take the fire.

Be content,

Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at and please visit my blog Ode Magazine.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March Forth

I love the words of my title because they are a special anniversary for me. Eleven years ago, snowed in, all alone, surrounded by the White Mountains in northern Arizona, I heeded a quiet but insistent voice in my mind and began to write fiction.

The whole story is that I’d finished my second nonfiction book and taken it to the post office to mail to my editor on Valentine’s Day. When I got home, I heard, “So. Are you going to tell my story now?”

“Uh, I guess.”

I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of Earl Grey tea. My little boom box was belting out Della Reese. No, that’s not right. Della Reese belted out of the little boom box. The snow was whisper quiet, and falling at an alarming rate. In the darkening afternoon, I fell into the world of fiction-writing.

Not that I’d never attempted it. I’d written short stories and poems, essays, prayers, plays, nonfiction books, but never a whole book with characters that develop and a plot arc. I started that first page with a date on the top: March 4, 1997. And, of course, my wacky word mind heard its homophone . . . march forth.

I didn’t know who this character was in my own head who had taken to talking to me. I didn’t know if I could write a novel. I didn’t even know if I wanted to. Regardless, dear one, I took my own advice and marched forth.

Six novels (and counting) later, as I write this post, please believe me when I tell you that marching forth based on an inner prompt is well worth it. I love writing fiction! I love my protagonist! I love the research! And when a publisher steps up to join me in putting the books out into the world (and there is no doubt in my mind that that blessed event is coming soon), I will love the publisher!

The next time you have a crazy notion, take action! You never know where it will lead. You might end up marching forth.

P.S. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to my blog readership The Spiritual Adventures of Mex Stone. The titles of the completed novels are Oklahoma! Hex, Brigadoon Moon, Butterfly Fan, Chicago Valentine, Mattress Police, Gypsy Chicks, and I’m in research mode for the seventh, Wicked Joy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Consumer Update

I was reading Utne Reader the other day and saw the word consumer in a different way than I ever had. Americans are consistently described as consumers in the media. After 9/11, our own president told us to “go shopping.”

Why are we characterized as consumers? How did our society become a hotbed of consumption? Is this what we truly want?

I repaired to the OED. The proper etymology of consume is Latin; its roots mean to take up completely or to devour. We do seem to be devourers of things, the material aspects of life. Wal-Martians, if you will.

But then, my tricky etymological mind took another look.

Instead of consuming, what if we are, instead, consumed? When we are consumed by something, we are passionate about it. We lose time. We are so focused on whatever draws our attention that it consumes us.

The OED took me to another word: consummate. Con- means altogether; summa is Latin for utmost, supreme, extreme. Think of how this word is used. Someone is the consummate gentleman or lady. Or, as a verb, one consummates a relationship.

Consummate has the implication of fire in it. Fire consumes wood. We too can be consumed by fire, the fire of passionate living.

When we live in a world where we look to be consumed instead of consumers, we focus on the utmost, the supreme. It’s a summa cum laude existence. We are consummate beings whenever we attend to that in which we excel. I, for one, choose consummation, being consumed, over consuming every time.