Author Archives: Cortney Geare

Celebrate Smarter

I read with interest your series of articles on dog ownership and Jewish tradition (“The Puppy Paper,” July 5). Thank you for devoting so much space to a topic that is so fundamental to many readers’ daily lives.

From my perspective, the idea of a “bark mitzvah” is a very odd one.  While few would doubt that the
dogs look adorable in their fancy outfits and kippot, the dogs might think otherwise.  … In place of a “bark mitzvah,” the Pet Blessing Ceremony that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation has hosted on several occasions sounds far more meaningful, not to mention financially sensible. Hundreds of people bring their dogs to the synagogue grounds on the same day, with an entrance fee of a donation to a local animal shelter.

If pet owners wish to celebrate their dogs’ lives, why not do so in a way that would truly benefit pets, as opposed to just their owners? I suggest they take the money they would have put toward “dog cake” and other bark mitzvah accoutrements, and make a donation in their dog’s name to their local animal shelter to help support homeless pets. Alternatively, how about starting a fund that would enable financially strapped owners to get their pets spayed or neutered?

The Jewish values that children can learn from owning pets extend beyond those listed in Maayan Jaffe’s piece (“Canine-A-Hora”), which largely focus on responsibility and daily care for a family pet. Why not teach our children about the problem of pet overpopulation and heighten their awareness of pets that are not as lucky as their own?  While the Humane Society reports that great advances have been made in the last 40 years, some 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are still euthanized each year, and only about 25 percent of dogs and cats in American homes came from shelters or rescue agencies.

If given the choice of spending my money on a “bark mitzvah” or saving another animal’s life — t’sar ba’alei chayim — I’d choose the latter.

Valerie Thaler

Nothing I Can Do

Regarding your article on pet bereavement (“Part Of The Family,” July 5): Our dog, Kodi Bear, was 14 years old. His legs could no longer support him. He kept falling down and was unable to get back up. …  You just had to look at his beautiful face and you knew he was miserable. My husband and I made the difficult decision of putting him down to end his suffering. My mother, Sylvia, is 89 years old. She is blind and deaf and in pain. Every day, she wishes for death to come. … There is nothing I can do.

Roslyn Zozzie Golden

Live the Life You Love

When I present my profession as life coach, I am often asked what that means.

By definition, coaching is an ongoing relationship between the professional and the client, which focuses on the client’s taking action toward the realization of their visions, goals or desires. Coaching uses a process of inquiry and personal discovery to build the client’s level of awareness and responsibility, while providing the client with structure, support and feedback. Coaching is considered to be distinct from psychotherapy in that most coaches engage in coaching with generally well-functioning individuals. Coaches are helping people meet their most important goals, not treating mental disorders.

From the very beginning, coaching focuses on what clients want. People come to coaching because they want things to be different. They are looking for change or they have an important goal to reach. Sometimes, they are motivated to achieve specific goals (to have a better marriage, to live a healthier lifestyle, to connect in a better way to their teenage children). They hire a coach because they want to create more order and balance in their lives.

Some people want more of life (more peace of mind, more simplicity, more joy). Others want less (less confusion, less stress, less financial pressure).

Regardless of the age of the client, the primary building block for all coaching is this: Clients have the
answers or they can find the answers. From the coach’s point of view, nothing is wrong or broken; there is no need to fix the client. The coach does not have the answers, the coach has the questions. For many people, it is easier — and more natural — to buy the answers in a packaged program, rather than doing the work needed to find solutions. But the former often end up with an empty package.

Since starting this job, I feel very blessed that I was given the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful women in the community. In one case, I met with a young lady in her mid-20s who wanted more clarity in this confusing world. Guiding her through key questions, she was able to regain a sense of control. In another scenario, I spoke with a woman who was married for close to 30 years, but her marriage was crumbling. Through our coaching sessions, we came up with a SMART plan; SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timing. Once she began implementing the plan, she became empowered to bring more peace and pleasure into her marriage.

If you feel like you’re living in a cocoon and you truly wish to fly, know that you can achieve more, that you can attain better. A winner is not someone who never fails; a winner is someone who never quits.

Be a winner, break through the barriers, and live the life you love.

Chasida Teichman is a local life coach. She can be contacted at or 410-240-9180.


Worth 1,000 Words

071913_patti_neumann_smHave you heard of Instagram? It is a photo-sharing site that now boasts more than 100 million users. Facebook recently bought it for $1 billion.

Instagram touts itself as the app that helps you “capture and share the world’s moments.” And that’s not so far off; Instagram is an easy, fast
and fun way to share your real-time happenings with friends and family.

I got on Instagram recently ( because I was intrigued by how the younger generation was using it. People in bars, restaurants, would be taking photos, enhancing the light, turning color shots into blackand white and even framing them. Then, the pictures would be posted on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social sharing sites.

That takes me to why I like Instagram. It helps with time management by enabling people to instantly share photos across multiple social platforms.

Recently, after sitting in on a panel at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, I started playing around with Vine, a new app for sharing short, looping videos of only six seconds. Vine is owned by Twitter and enables its users to create and post video clips. But with a maximum length of six seconds, although it is easy to use, it is very hard to capture much in such a short period of time. (Here is one of my best tries:

So Instagram went a step further and just unveiled a video-making tool of its own, integrating it with its photo app. The biggest difference is who owns it — Facebook. But videos are also longer — 15 seconds. (It’s a sign of the times when a 15-second timeframe is all our
attention spans can take.)

The Instagram tool allows you to take a video, choose a special filter to transform its look and feel, and then post it to Instagram — and Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, email, Foursquare (and many others) simultaneously. (Check this one out:

Both video tools allow you to save your files to your smartphone. Whereas Vine loops the video, allowing it to repeat until you stop, Instagram Video does not. Vine also allows you to easily embed your videos on your blog or website.

Neither Vine nor Instagram will let you pull video from your camera roll; you have to shoot it on the app.

Do you want to try it?

Whichever you choose, social media surveys show that videos have an 80 percent greater open rate that plain photos or no image at all.

Be creative! Try it out. And, please share your videos with me.

Patti Neumann is the Baltimore-based founder/chief social thinker of the award-winning online food and wine guide and CITYPEEK Social Media Strategies. To connect: Facebook/CITYPEEKpatti; Twitter @CITYPEEKpatti; or contact

Naming the Beast: Mental Illness

This was my third funeral of a similar kind. The death of yet another young adult, Peter (Avniel) who did not simply “die,” but was pursued mercilessly by a ravaging disease that often goes unnamed at funerals and rips the heart and guts out of all who know it by name: mental illness.

Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, it doesn’t matter from with which type of mental illness someone suffers, what matters is that it steals so many years away from people who are otherwise wildly creative human beings. In many cases, the more intelligent and talented you are, the worse the disease manifests.

It tears families apart. It tests all relationships. It pursues with a vengeance. When it’s bad, it’s really bad.

Yes, there are medications. There are plenty of doctors and a variety of therapies and therapists. But in some cases, there is not a “cure,” no happy ending. Death is the only relief. And despite the pain we feel at these people’s funerals, we also know that it is only now that they are actually at peace. How tragic.

In the Jewish tradition, we bury the deceased by completely filling the grave, and we wish the soul well in its next journey through our prayers.

Some say, “Dead is dead.” For me, there is something deeply touching and profound about this final ritual act, an act of loving kindness for which the deceased cannot repay you.

At Peter’s — he was 38 — you could see the person he was through the people he touched. At the ceremony were his family and an eclectic groups of friends —  Jews, Christians, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, rabbis of all denominations.

Peter was a student of mine at Wesleyan University. He was a true mystic. He brought so many diverse people together in his short life through honest talk, joyful dancing, prayer and niggunim (wordless melodies). His musical touch reached over the seas to Israel, as many realized only after his death, he was the composer of the tunes they have been singing around their own Shabbat tables for all these years. Even I had to smile when I first heard a melody so familiar to me in Jerusalem to be called a “Pete-niggun.”

At the funeral, I shared many memories, but I closed my remarks by naming the beast called mental illness. And the simple calling out of its name early on in the service opened us all up to a more honest reality than would have been possible. We rel-eased a collective cry to the heavens. For a moment, it felt as if the world itself, shuttered from our pain and ang-uish, understood our anger and rage. By the completion of the burial service, the trees swayed and danced in the wind and a soft shower of rain mist, like tears from heaven descended upon us.

Mental illness tears apart the fabric of life; it drills down to the marrow of our bones. It becomes the battle of their life, but it is never who they truly are in life.

This is a tribute to all who suffer from the ravages of mental illness.

Rabbi Ilyse S. Kramer is a local educator, a scholar at the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies and a member of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. Her views do not represent the opinions of the board or its members.