The Zen Project

Asharoken, NY

The beach is my happy place. The water, salt air,  and breeze. The sand beneath my feet and the sound of water lapping against the shore under an expansive sky; this is my nirvana. Finding Balance. Much like we do in every aspect of our lives; work, family, friends and obligations, balance is what we strive for. If we are to make it all feel seamless and calm, then balancing the everyday is key.  If one can accomplish this balance, then a grand scale achievement it is.

There is great art to the balancing of rocks in beautiful formations.  I am in awe of true artisans who create pillars of magically poised stones.  I did, at first, believe there must be some trickery involved.  Alas, persistence is most definitely your friend in this endeavor. I have found stacking a few rocks upon each other remarkably relaxing. When I do manage to balance them ‘just so’, and they don’t topple, there is great satisfaction and a smidge of artistic joy.

It has become ritualistic that I create a small pile of rocks in my quest for balance and calm. Whenever I find myself at a beach on the rock laden North Shore of Long Island, I find my zen.  I have assembled a collection for your enjoyment and hopefully a bit of inspiration, so that you may find balance in your life.

Click HERE >>>     The Zen Project – Red’s Rocks

Xoxo DDJ

It’s “The holiday’s” – an interpretation


Whenever I am in a situation to tell what this time of year means to me, I wonder if I sound like a Hallmark card. For me, this time of year – and please don’t gasp, and scream “blasphemy!” – is less about its religious connotations and truly about love and joy and empathy.

You have to know me very well to know that I believe, down to my cells, that “Christmas time” is about love of family and friends, joy you can bring to others, empathy for everyone around you – so many of whom are going through great hardships; physically, emotionally or financially. It would be wonderful if this was throughout the year. But, since I am a realist, I make this my expectation, YES, expectation, for the month of December. I want to believe in the best in people. I want to believe that – if only for a month – people could put aside the “me” and think of the “us”. We are all connected, and that connection should be the very reason to let love and joy and empathy rule your intentions and actions in December. I am not oblivious as to the reasons this month is significant. What I do personally is piggyback on the “Good will toward men” theme and expand it so that everyone in any faith can share the sentiment. My not being Christian should not negate my belief in peace and joy, love and good will this time of year.

The hurdles. With all this being said, the reality of this time of year brings stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness… did I mention anxiety? Yes, this is a complicated time of year. Magnets pushing against each other as we navigate through obligations and expectations. It can be overwhelming. For me, the only way to get through this month is similar to drinking LOTS of water between alcoholic beverages. One needs to let your body hydrate and protect itself. The same holds true for holiday time. Instead of hydration, you need to rest and recharge periodically in order to get through unscathed, without a hangover.

Take time for yourself so you can be your best self for others. I had intended to just repost my writing about being a Highly Sensitive Person, before I started this testimonial to good holiday behavior. The truth is that for an HSP such as myself, this time of year is a blessing and a curse. Holiday lighting – blessing. Holiday shopping crowds – curse. Holiday feelings – blessing and a curse. I feel it all… the good, the bad, the sad, the happy… I feel all of it but to the tenth power. In a room of people I can be overrun with the emotions of others and it takes a toll, physically and emotionally. For those who wonder what it’s like to be a highly sensitive person – a character trait, not a disorder, and includes between 15-20% of the population – this is my story.

If you are reading this on your phone, tablet or any other such form of electronics, then you already are more blessed than the 53% of the world without internet access. If you are healthy, then you are more blessed than the estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer in the U.S in 2018. If you have someone to share the holidays with, then you are certainly blessed as an estimated one in five people spend Christmas alone. Count your blessings, of which there are many. Be generous with your kindness and love. The tiniest of gestures can make the greatest impact in a persons life.

Much love to all this December. (and always)
xoxo DDJ


How a sincere thank you has the power to change your day



Tipping point. Now that I know what it’s called, let’s talk about self abnegation (lack of consideration for oneself or one’s own interest; selfdenial) in the workplace. As a manager, I have spent close to 30 years trying to accommodate everyone in the most expedient fashion possible. This means, coming in early, staying late, working through lunch, and constantly rearranging priorities and tasks at hand to meet the urgencies of each individual with an issue. I have, in fact, taken great pride in doing this, not realizing the depth of damage I do to myself, and – believe it or not – my esteem. When your personality is self abnegation and this is how you present yourself, it is my experience that less and less do people see your sacrifice and more and more there is possibility for expectation without appreciation.

In a recent farewell to a doctor leaving our practice, there was much conversation in having a lunch or breakfast in his honor. It was settled that we would have a breakfast and bagels and accompanying items were being brought in. I decided to get balloons, a Good Luck sign and decorations, and I wanted a special card. When it comes to my office, I try to make personalized cards for birthdays, and celebrations for everyone. This situation was not different in that I wanted something special, but the  difference was I didn’t feel as if I knew enough personally about this man to make it truly special. What I did know is that he smart, kind, and fiercely strong minded. I know that his background and culture plays a big part in who he is as a physician, a father and a person. I chose a famous painting of 8 Galloping Horses and put a synopsis of their meaning according to Chinese culture on the back. Everyone signed the card and I felt quite satisfied that I had chosen well.


It was the response I got from the doctor that has stuck with me. His genuine appreciation and enthusiasm in telling me what this card meant to him, telling me the significance of what his Chinese name means when translated (Success) and how perfect this card was, has meant everything to me. But, it has made me think. Perhaps it is the rarity of these little acknowledgements that has begun to take its toll. I cannot rely on acknowledgement to do my job well. And, the reality is that I cannot help who I am and I will likely always sacrifice myself in ways that go unseen, but who sees the effect it has on me? I am not in a position to allow my frustration or disappointment show, and therefore I muster a smile while my heart aches a little for a sincere thank you or an appreciative remark. But when a small effort gets noticed, I cannot deny it is exhilerating.

I am not saying that I am not appreciated. I know that I am. We are all quite busy.  I know I can fail to properly acknowledge people around me, and am more conscious of this than ever. I love my job and want the people who work with me to love theirs as well. I feel we can all do more. The boost to personal morale is immeasurable when you feel noticed… acknowledged. I believe that when we show our appreciation to others, there is that ‘pay it forward’ moment that gives people that tiny push to show gratitude, as well.

 I think the lesson here is that saying thank you, meaning it, taking that extra moment to acknowledge someone’s efforts can make the difference between a hard day, and a hard day – but immensely worthwhile.

xoxo DDJ

English in a post text world — an addendum


Three and a half years ago I wrote of my love of the English language and my general disgust of this post text/tweet, shortcut world of communication. I was disenchanted then. If you’re keeping score at home, newsflash — it has gotten worse. I have always been enamored with the great orators in the world; great leaders with powerful speeches and great literature. With fewer and fewer exceptions to the rule, we live in a time where there is a dwindling number of people with a capacious lexicon. (big vocabulary 😉) So, for those of you who love the English language, think back to why, or when that moment was for you. Growing up, it was a common occurrence at my house to watch the president speak on television. In retrospect, that is likely because speeches preempted all network shows, and we didn’t have much else to switch to, or a DVR, or Netflix, or 900 channels of alternatives. So, we watched the president, whomever it was. There was something empowering or comforting that I extracted from those speeches. And a bonus night might include the occasional awe inspiring instant. Content aside, it was the delivery of the message that affected me.

Flash forward to today. And I can NOT emphasize this enough — CONTENT ASIDE — we have a president with (according to the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and more than two dozen other common tests analyzing English language difficulty levels) communicates at the lowest level of the last 15 presidents. Let the fact that the President of the United States speaks at a forth grade level settle in for a second.

I am just going to leave it at this — I personally believe that is a dreadful role model.

Ok. I wrote this in order to re-post the following 3.5 year old blog about English and how absolutely remarkable and expansive the English language is. How, when utilized in all its magnificent glory, can be a work of art to the ear. In reading again, my post from 2014, I can only say I still feel the same way. “Use your words.” Most native English speaking adults use a range of 20,000 – 35,000 words. But according to the Oxford English Dictionary, we have 171,476 words in current use to choose from. I think we can do better. In fact, it’s incontrovertible that we can.


Posted on September 29, 2014 by Red (aka:DDJ)

I have been speaking English the better part of my life. In fact, I have been speaking it as far back as I can remember. Some might think I speak it too much. But that doesn’t stop me. 🙂 I love ENGLISH. This may or may not be the oft heard rallying cry of someone who loves their birth language. Possibly, it is the cheer of someone who watches regularly the bastardization of a magnificent language behest with the promise to make you sound smarter than you are. I am not an expert of languages nor a true grammarian. What I am is someone who is baffled at the laziness of a person who when presented with the opportunity to use the word ‘adorable’—instead goes with ‘adorbs’. Yes, this happens. Something akin to this happens so often that these types of shortcuts are considered acceptable. (Not by me, of course.) I am not here—necessarily—to criticize the sometimes unrecognizable words that make up conversation and text today. That would take far greater time than I have and likely more patience. So WHY do I love English—you ask? Oh… because I think it’s better than other languages. There, I said it. *this is not a challenge to every language on earth, merely the humble musings of an English lover.

English is packed with nuances not found in other languages. You can conjure a perfect picture from words on a page. You can convey empathy or anger or excitement using countless words so as to flesh out the precise connotation you are pursuing.

We have compact and concise words, where other languages require an entire sentence to convey the meaning of a well wielded, solitary word. We have seemingly incalculable amounts of words that create context. English wins—hands down—if there were a competition of just how many words we have. For example—depending on your source—an unabridged dictionary could have  between 300,000 and 600,000 or more English words to–again an example–the French vocabulary of 70,000 to 100,000 and Italian around 250,000. These are staggering numbers if you consider the average English-speaking person–with a moderate lexicon, knows somewhere in the mid range of 30,000 words. And, from conversations I have endured, that number is dwindling at an alarming rate. This is just one comparison. The truth is one need not compare anything, just read and listen. The words are out there, they are just covered in dust in a long abandoned steamer trunk of unused vocabulary. We don’t need to make more or different words. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally the addition of a fun word such as ‘ginormous’—added to Webster’s Dictionary in 2007—is intriguing. However we make these additions of new words to the dictionary a momentous occasion. I admit, I don’t quite get it. I find this to be like adding new laws when all we need to do is enforce the ones we have. (A conversation for another time.) But there is a time and place for more formal language and there is a reason great works of literature have an abundance of poetic prose to whisk you off into a strikingly real, imaginary world.

I am not even in the top 10 of my circle of ‘smarter than me’ friends. But given the opportunity to speak and make a point, paint a picture, construct a landscape, exact empathy, I think I hold my own. I can only surmise that good writers promote good readers. Good readers, become good communicators. Good communicators… they can do anything. It is empowering the myriad of words we can and should use. It can be a great strength, or the principal attribute that can transcend where you come from. You can remodel yourself with the words you use. It is an amazing tool that is being neglected in an apathetic world.

I said I would not criticize the horrific misuse of the English language today–I merely wanted to praise the English language for all its distinction and grandeur, but I lied. I am saddened by having spent my life learning and embracing my birth language only to feel the pressure to somehow assimilate and adhere to a barrage of slang. I will not go down without a fight. So in quiet protest, I ask that you choose a word a day, or a week, that is likely to stump someone you know, and make it a part of conversation. As a somewhat sapient woman, I only wish to enhance people’s lives with words so that they might see the artistry in their arsenal.

What you learned as a child holds true today. USE YOUR WORDS.

Xoxo DDJ

National Cheese Lovers Day: January 20

Food Holidays are a personal favorite of mine. Think of your favorite traditional holiday. Maybe it’s Christmas, or Halloween, or Thanksgiving. Whatever that day is and however that day makes you feel; I believe a Cheese day is it for me. I’m lucky in that there are a bunch, according to the plethora of food holiday calendars available online. But for the sake of today’s rantings, I give you National Cheese Lovers Day. Whereas there is plenty of discussion of how to celebrate, with recipes and sales and presentations at various markets, there is little on the history of how this particular day became such an auspicious holiday. The only link of cheese to January 20th, I could find was ironically my birth year – 1964. It was at the New York World’s Fair when the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation presented the world’s largest block of Cheese, weighing an astounding 34,591 pounds. 16,000 cows provided the necessary 17,000 quarts of milk for the unprecedented block of cheese. You read that right – 16000 cows!

With no official origin of this Holiday, I henceforth personally choose to credit the 1964 World’s Fair with National Cheese Lovers Day. This can be added to equally notable World’s Fair introductions, like the Ford Mustang and Belgian Waffles.

So, as you go about your Saturday, take a cheese break. Stop to smell the Roquefort, so to speak. And, with all that is happening in the world, remember this one important fact: What is the word you say when asked to smile for a picture? CHEESE!  🧀 = 😁


And today’s CHEESE is…

xoxo DDJ

P.S. A little shout out love to my Arepa family, Patti, Danielle and Karen, because what Cheese brings together, let no man put asunder. 💋