Archive for the ‘Words and communications’ Category

Most people would not hesitate to classify legal writing as dull. Encountered probably only through a contract, a lease, a will, or some lawyer spouting jargon on a tv show, legal writing is hardly part of your everyday reading. I, on the other hand, am taking legal courses and reading write-ups of court cases is part of my daily life. I find every case can be an exciting story, however, some are so poorly written (by judges non-the-less) that it becomes a torturous exercise in just trying to uncover the most basic facts of the case. And it’s not so much that they use special vocabulary, “legalese”, to tell the story (I can always go to a law dictionary to resolve that), but the dry, uninteresting sentence structure definitely would not make the Times best seller list!

Then a gem of writing pops up unexpectedly amongst all the dullness. Not only did this judge write clearly, but he also wrote about the case with a sense of humor! A sense of humor, you say? Yes, with puns included. You see, the case was about the sale of a house and whether the buyer should be allowed to back out of the transaction (and get his down payment refunded) because he was not told that the house was “haunted”. The jist of the case is that the seller promoted her house (in Nyack, NY) for a house tour as a “haunted house”. She also had a write up in Reader’s Digest, and local press. However, both she and the real estate agent never mentioned to the buyer, who was from NYC that, allegedly poltergeists had been seen in the house. When the buyer found out, he was horrified and did not want the house.

Was the house really haunted? Well, nothing legal can prove that, but here are some of the phrases and puns that Justice Rubin used, when writing his opinion on the case ruling, that had me rolling with laughter:

“…no divination is required to conclude that it is defendant’s [seller’s] efforts in publicizing her close encounters with these spirits which fostered the home’s reputation in the community.”

“…in his pursuit of a legal remedy for fraudulent misrepresentation against the seller, plaintiff [buyer] hasn’t a ghost of a chance, I am nevertheless moved by the spirit of equity to allow the buyer to seek rescission [canceling] of the contract of sale and recovery of his down payment.”

He now even quotes William Shakespeare “ ‘Pity me not but lend they serious hearing to what I shall unfold’ (Hamlet, Act I, Scene V [Ghost]”

“…a very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: ‘Who you gonna call?’ as a title song to the movie Ghostbusters asks. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor [buyer beware] to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale. It portends that the prudent attorney will establish an escrow account lest the subject of the transaction come back to haunt him and his client – or pray that his malpractice insurance coverage extends to supernatural disasters.”

“…it cannot be said that she [seller] has delivered the premises ‘vacant’ in accordance with her obligation under the provisions of the contract rider.”

The judge ruled in favor of the buyer.

You can find out more about this case, which by the way has become known as the “Ghostbusters” case, by doing a Google search on “Stambovsky v. Ackley”




Did you hear the one about the pregnant woman who went into labor and started shouting, “Couldn’t! Wouldn’t! Shouldn’t! Didn’t! Can’t!”? She was having contractions!

When I was a kid, my teacher looked my way and said, “Name two pronouns.” I said, “Who, me?”

What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?
One has claws at the end of its paws, and the other is pause at the end of a clause.

Never leave alphabet soup on the stove and then go out. It could spell disaster.

Taken from Reader’s Digest “Laughter is the Best Medicine” 9/2017

One of our shining attributes, as human beings, is our ability to give words to our joys and our sorrows. Think of all the great literature that revolves around a loved one’s death. There are too numerous to count, poems written from the human soul crying out its horrendous loss to the world. But have you ever had to meet death head on in the sudden loss of a loved one? As I sit here and write this it is only days after 17 more innocent individuals’ lives where snuffed out in an instant.

Sudden loss, whether in a tragedy such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, or in the massive heart attack that took the husband you thought was stronger than nails, shocks one to the core. You stand there, the proverbial wind knocked out of your sails. Time stands still, things fall from your hands, and all you want to do is give out a primal scream. You want to scream so loud and so long until the world around you shatters just as you did. Instead, you swallow that scream whole, put one foot in front of the other, and walk through the next hours and days like a zombie. Life, as you know it, is on hold. Mute, you go through the motion of your tasks, words no longer have meaning.

On Valentine’s Day we are conditioned to speak to our loved ones words of affection, words of joy. Thousands of words, written on thousands of cards tell the world our positive feelings. But now, after this horrible tragedy that occurred on that day of joyous words, we are tossed into the desert of silence. Ironically, this year that day was also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. A season in the Christian religion that leads up to death, suffering, and yet hope through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the “Word made flesh” and as he died on the cross, he let out a wordless cry just before his life ended. It was a scream to his Father as he went into the abyss of death’s darkness.

When sadness and grief overcome us and words fail us, let us turn to the pure emotion of remembering our loved ones. As time passes and words return to our lips, let us keep their memory alive by recounting who they were, what they stood for, the good they brought to our lives. And never forget the power of prayer, for even wordless grief can be a prayer sent up to God, however you conceive him/her to be.

While cleaning house the year I was preparing to move, I came across a box buried within another box, in the bottom of a chest. Not recognizing it, I assumed it was taken from my mother’s apartment when she passed away decades ago. I opened it up to discover greeting cards. There was a whole stack of them that my dad had given her over the course of many years. I proceeded to sit down and go through them noting how each was romantic using words like “my darling”, “you make my life so wonderful”. Phrases I had never heard my prosaic dad use! And that my mother would keep these baffled me because there relationship was anything but romantic. However, after reading through all of them I realized that this was perhaps the only way my dad could relay tender sentiments to her. I will never know as he, too, is long gone.

I have always kept a journal. They now take up 2+ shelves on my bookcase. These cards from dad made me wonder who would read my journals when I passed away. I have no children, so would I want a friend or maybe a stranger to read through my life? I don’t really know at the moment, but it got me to thinking about that old-fashioned form of writing that today no one seems to do. Yes, things in cyberspace seem to live forever, but is it the same as, say your child or spouse, discovering a journal detailing your life when you are no longer there with them?

After reading an article about a couple where the husband kept a journal that he wrote in only once a year on their anniversary, I cannot help but believe that the handwritten remains of a loved one would have more impact than anything else left behind. Remember the stories we’ve all read about Victorians and their love letters? How those treasured letters kept and reread gave solace to a loved one after the passing of its author. You can’t get that emotional feeling from a collection of tweets or even e-mails!

This week is Valentine’s Day. I would suggest that instead of a card or a bouquet of flowers, write your loved one a nice romantic letter and give a beautiful journal. You’ll not only surprise the receiver, but you will have sown the seeds that in a future day will bloom into the flowers of remembrance.


In 2013, Roselle Park, New Jersey planted a little seedling (which had been grown from seeds they had taken into space on a previous mission) on the lawn of their library to honor the astronauts who perished in the Feb 1, 2003 Columbia disaster. I wrote this poem and, as the town’s Poet Laureate, read it at the planting ceremony. This Thursday is the 15th anniversary of their deaths so I thought I would share it with you:

You were lifted up, up, up on a chariot of fire

To where up had no meaning;

Where you could look upon your home

A tiny blue/green globe shrouded in clouds,

Framed by the velvety blackness of space.

You were astronauts, selected humans who explored

The depths of the unknown, space, our last frontier.

Secure in the belly of your giant bird, we earthbound mortals

Were privileged to see your smiling faces

across the thousands of miles of dark inhospitable space.

To see the delight you took in conducting your experiments.

Sending us pictures of stars,

twinkling like holiday lights on velvet

And views of that blue/green globe shrouded in clouds

that left us breathless.

You seven and the orbiter Columbia, stole our hearts.


Then came that cold winter’s morning

When like a meteor you streaked across the sky

Of  your/our  blue/green planet shrouded in clouds.

Becoming dust, turning into the stardust from whence we all come.

Like Icarus, you fell to earth, nevermore to fly among the stars.


Where once we counted down, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 to liftoff

We now count up 6,7,8,9,10 from that morning.

The orbiters fly no more, they now are earthbound

Giving homage to the time when courage and curiosity lifted

Humankind up up up to the stars.


So how do we never forget your heroism and your courage?

To honor your memory

We take a seedling whose seed traveled

In the belly of your orbiter where up had no meaning.

And plant it in the soil of this blue/green shrouded in clouds planet.

So that it may send its roots down, down deep into the earth.

As it grows, it will lift its leafy arms up

Up to the sky, saluting the constellations,

The stars, of which you are now a part.

For if we are to remember you,

Honor you,

Give meaning to your sacrifice,

Then we must work to make this world, our blue/green planet shrouded in clouds,

A better place.

And we must always…keep reaching for the stars.

2013 Leona M Seufert,

A Thanksgiving Day Poem

Posted: November 17, 2017 in Words and communications

I Thank My Lucky Stars

I thank my lucky stars

That I live in the land of the free.

Where those stars and stripes

Represent what we all can be.

When on Thanksgiving I watch the parade

I recall our forefathers a wise decision made.

I thank my lucky stars

For the Constitution they wrote,

Where our freedoms are listed

Our rights protected with more than hope.

Through the original articles and added amendments

Our nation could remain strong.

They formed the basis of our laws

Over 200 plus years long.

This living document our forefathers foresaw

Could survive dissention and foreign wars,

Presidential assassinations, and civil rights unrest.

With flying colors the Constitution passed the legal test.

I thank my lucky stars

For more than turkey or pie

To live in a country whose charter

Aimed and remains so high.

“Why did I survive? I was a frail boy, didn’t be pushy…not strong…” Eli Weisanthal asked. His answer was that God needed someone to tell a story. That was his mission in life, why he was born, why he lived, to witness the horror and write about it and teach about it as a good educated man, with anger but also with a sense of justice. Of the thousands of voices who survived, his was the “tenor” for God. To sing the opera of evil, in words in 47 books, and to countless students through the ensuing decades.

So who is the “voice”, the story teller who witnessed and survived 9/11? Do we have a survivor who was there, trapped, went through it all, survived because God’s hand shielded him? And is this human being strong enough to walk, as Weisel did, to recount the story, to make sure we never forget?

Or has our world set up such a culture or society that an Eli Weisel survivor is not possible? Where are you, story teller for the damned of that day? Where are your words, your strength, your anger? How many people did Weisel help through his words to heal (if ever “healing” from such a wound were possible), how much evil did he hunt down to justice? Is there such a person walking our streets? Or were the WTC survivors all buried eventually in the dust of their own pain, voices muffled, not one cry to ever more be heard?