Are you listening or just waiting to talk?!

BLOG - listening

Dialogue: (verb) take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.

There is a great divide.  It is People.  Open discussions with people involving hearing AND listening used to be part of my everyday life.  Nowadays, well, there is plenty of talk, and not much listening.  People don’t seem to waver from their stance on ANY subject.  From the practical and sometimes enjoyable can of Beefaroni—see!!! You are already judging—to healthcare, listening to someone say their piece has vanished and been replaced with preparing a verbal assault.

I am the first to admit I have many, I mean MANY opinions. In fact, there is probably very little I don’t have an opinion on. I am lucky or smart enough to surround myself with people I enjoy having a healthy banter with. And, this is what I love about my family and friends–we hash things out.  I look forward to my niece’s take on things that I have clearly not taken into consideration or my brother correcting me because he just so happens to have more information than I am privy to.  It may not completely change where I stand, but I can tell you I always take pause.

I was recently verbally assaulted by a person whose opinions seemed scripted.  Genuinely, as if he had some sort of—don’t take this the wrong way—Liberal handbook.  He had way too many facts askew, so I asked where he got his information.  A question I felt was valid, and in this case—NECESSARY.  My crime for the ensuing onslaught was fessing up to being a fiscal conservative. And in response to my seemingly simple question… there was silence.  I asked again.  I figured I would help him out.  I mentioned I have the Pulse app on my phone and follow 12 News apps and 6 Political apps, encompassing a variety of viewpoints.  I mentioned that I generally like to check things out on Politifact or Factcheck.org and even hit up Snopes occasionally.   So I waited patiently for some sort of a response.  The response was that I must be some sort of “Ann Coulter wannabe”.   I was trying to imagine anything I would find more personally offensive… and at that moment, I couldn’t.  And just when I thought I was going to walk away….. which I promise you, I really was, I decided to say the defusing sentence.  I  said, “Sometimes, with some issues, it is best to agree to disagree”.  I took the high road—not a well-travelled path for me.  THEN, the unthinkable happened.  He KEPT TALKING!!!???  Compared me to Rush Limaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Hannity—He talked about my not KNOWING that we live in an oligarchy, that we are (insert really bad word here), because we can only choose between Pepsi and Coca Cola, and that corporations have bought all the politicians and our votes don’t count…that until there is a revolution and “we take our government back from the 1%” we are all… yes, insert that same bad word.

Well…. What was I to do? There was nothing on earth I could say to him, and he had not yet given me any idea where and how he formed his opinions. Even if I wanted to agree with any part of his tirade, I was pretty sure I was still about to get burned at the stake for being a Republican.  I was curious… I don’t even know this guy, but was demonized as a right-wing fanatic, who as far as he was concerned, was on the side of the super wealthy.  Funny… I don’t make that much money, but what I do, I work hard to keep.

This started with a few simple statements.  I said I consider myself a fiscal conservative, I have a blog page and I sometimes might write about things of a political nature.  Big mistake—HUGE. But this isn’t about one closed-minded, misinformed person.  It was about his simply not working with me on what we disagreed about.

Where is the dialogue?  It is monologue after monologue. I was used to this in the actual political arena, but in what should have been a “get to know ya” conversation?  It became hostile.  Okay, maybe I became hostile.  But every BUTTON I have was pressed.   It was as if some kid got on the elevator of a 30 story building and pressed every single floor!

Perhaps I am not as ‘open minded’ as I hoped, or thought, or wished.  But dialogue certainly involves 2 voices.  Evolution of said dialogue involves both those voices listening to the other. Lack of dialogue very well may be the cause of an ever soaring divorce rate, but that dialogue is clearly for another time.

“It is partly true too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something is all true”—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.

This lack of dialogue is of epidemic proportions.  It reaches far beyond politics.  People have become so sure of their own voice and their own opinions that a chat about a movie or TV show or a song can turn ugly pretty fast.   GEEZ, people—lighten the heck up!  Perhaps we all have some growing we can do, open our minds, evolve a little! We do not live in a world of absolutes–Just ask any scientist.  So it is in everyone’s best interest to listen, process and THINK… for ourselves.

Problem: People are closed minded, unwavering, and more often than not—ill informed.

Solution: Beats the heck out of me, but I am open… yes I AM OPEN … to suggestions.

I have tried the high road, driven many a mile on the low road, and have hid in the bushes to avoid the road and its traps altogether. As the United Nations General Assembly is in session a few blocks away, I wonder what kind of dialogue is going on there.  Is anyone listening?  Or, are they just preparing their verbal, tactical assault?

“In this treacherous world, nothing is the truth nor a lie. Everything depends on the color of the crystal through which one sees it.”—Pedro Calderon de la Barca

DDJ [here to listen, not here to HEAR]

blog - keep talking

Condescension is not a job descriptor

Office Door Plaque.
Office Door Plaque.

Perhaps I am sensitive. Okay, I know I am.  On an ordinary day, were someone to be patronizing with truly insulting remarks, I might be pushed to counter with, “who the hell are you?” However that same sort of condescension in the workplace forces one to elicit a completely different response. I have not yet mastered the “yes sir/ma’am” reply to any and all remarks. It’s just NOT in my DNA. I am also not one to become argumentative. I do have one line of defense which evidently does not go over well. (oops.)

My knee jerk reaction to being insulted and patronized at my job—a job I take quite seriously—is a deep sigh and less than sincere agreement. I rather despise the word ‘snarky’, though that is what I am accused of.

In my defense, this only happens when there is someone, no doubt with a power trip, who wishes to plume their feathers by degrading my knowledge and expertise. For example, as I tried to explain what I thought needed changing in an office document, I was repeatedly interrupted—I mean REPEATEDLY. Four times, to be exact—I was met with, “you’re wrong”. By the fourth time I sat back in my chair and conceded in a less than agreeing tone that came out, “Okay, fine… I’m wrong.”

WELL… it’s EXHAUSTING. It’s also poor communication skills and mostly, it’s ridiculously annoying to be dismissed in such a manner.  I have no acceptable recourse—that I am capable of—other than abject defeat, swathed in a layer of sarcasm.  I am not saying this is appropriate behavior. It is however a part of me that would take a team of hypnotists, and whomever those people are that reprogram cult victims, to change.

So, clearly the easiest fix to my behavioral issue is to be less condescending towards me—and the rest of the world. Simple, huh?  And, truth be told, there is no place in either the workplace or the world for delusional, overbearing superiority complexes that exist solely to demean and degrade.

In the meantime, as I struggle with this dilemma, I will work on my reprogramming… though I don’t hold out much hope. I wonder how people handle this scenario? I fear it’s more common than uncommon in the workplace. I suppose I could work at becoming impervious to condescension, but I rather like my personality the way it is—adorably acerbic.  🙂

Xoxo DDJ

How about that rain?

how about that rain

There I was, standing among a group of strangers. Brought by a dear friend, who in trying to get me out of the house, dragged me kicking and screaming to a holiday party. I might be exaggerating the kicking and screaming a little–but not much. Once faced with party revelers, my kicking and screaming ceased.  The reality is, when faced with a situation I am uncomfortable in, I become strangely quiet. “Strangely”, because I am rarely quiet.

I surveyed the room with one of my terminator glances, left to right with cyborg precision. Yup, nobody here looks interesting. This has the potential to be an excruciating event. Holiday time is stressful enough. I don’t want to talk about vacations, or gifts, or crazy families or perfect kids, or money or jobs.  But I said I would mingle. (What was I thinking?!) It occurred to me that I have a veritable arsenal of witty, interesting and somewhat compelling conversation starters depending on my audience. In this case, I immediately ruled out NASCAR, mostly because it’s off season. I ruled out football because I am a Jets fan and well… I am a Jets fan. I ruled out dining, because I often wind up with nothing to say to the health conscious, gluten loathing, palette broken exercise nuts. Music: too subjective. Movies and TV are always an option, until someone has the nerve to say they have never seen Blazing Saddles. So, none of that.

What to do! Honestly, synapse firing thoughts and ultimate decision-making takes place in seconds. At the moment I open my mouth to speak, an assembly line of thoughts has passed through my brain.

I speak. “Pretty cold out, huh?” Yes, with my plethora of knowledge and interests that span from food, to music; politics to literature, sports to Broadway, I settled in on weather. In my defense, I really am a weather fan. Dare I say, a bit of a weather geek? I had to act fast as to not have my new circle of strangers be bored into a holiday party coma. I used words like Derecho and Haboob. I spoke with delight of  the Aurora Borealis, thunderstorms and tornadoes.  I shared information on my abundance of weather apps.  I think they were riveted. (I often imagine stuff, so who knows.) You see, I had an option when I opened my mouth to speak. I had control of what a group of strangers would think of me. I could have been the girl who knows everything about sports, or that chick who no one agrees with on politics, or be that snooty literary chick… maybe even that girl that everyone remembers for her love of broadway. No, I opted, in this instance to be a weather geek. For the record, rooms of strangers you will likely not see again are great for trying out conversation “material”.   🙂

My moment in the sun—pun intended—was brief but satisfying.  As happens with topical conversation, ours veered off and inevitably led to ALL of the conversations I didn’t want to have. The weather in different parts of the globe led to where people were traveling for the holidays, and  that somehow morphed into “winter foods”, and I don’t know how but—oh dear—global warming.  I decided to slip out of the circle of strangers, feeling proud for having partaken in pointless, time killing conversation.  I was a success, in my mind anyway.  Yes, weather is my friend, and as dull as it might seem and contrary to Oscar Wilde—“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”—Hogwash!—I can stand proudly when I say I survived a holiday party because of my weather nerdines. ♥

There is a lesson in here, and it’s not just that when your gut says stay home, you should. It’s that sometimes you can have a blast just trapping people into listening to what YOU love. Maybe that’s not the lesson. Maybe, it’s that everyone has a conversation in them if they speak with enthusiasm about the weather. Maybe not. Does it really matter? I survived, it was fun… the end.

xoxo DDJ

A Slightly Different Sunday – Helper for a Day

catering gig

I have been going through something of a transformation of late. Not one of my choosing, but as it turns out, a transformation thrust upon me that appears to be changing me in a profound way. I was helping out a friend yesterday and while on our way to the wholesale club, BJ’s I went on a tangent—as I often do—about a kitten I had named BJ, (Bumper Jr.—a long story, and I was A KID.) Since there was the BJ theme, (hold the snickering, please), I followed up that superb piece of nostalgia with my rather strange infatuation with a television show, BJ and the Bear, a big hit from 1979 to 1981. Ok, maybe not a BIG hit… but it was on TV for 3 years!  And yes, I watched that show. Honestly, I had a bit of a crush on Greg Evigan. The monkey sidekick was a bonus. Strange how life tends to skew how we see things. Television helps in that respect. I thought driving an 18 wheeler looked so ‘glamorous’. Again, having a monkey sidekick didn’t hurt. But when I look back, I thought this was a cool job with what seemed like endless possibilities of fun. I realize that somewhere between an idyllic childhood and a cynical adulthood my opinions changed, reality took over and maybe my driving a big rig was not as glamorous as I thought. Clearly, I could not be wearing my pair of Donald Pliner couture boots in that particular job. Today I would look at being a travel expert or a food critic or fashion buyer as my slightly more tangible yet wholly unrealistic job choices.  As a kid, where others wanted to be a fireman or nurse, a doctor or a policeman, I was pretty sure I wanted to drive a BIG truck or a Zamboni—holding out hope I could work for the New York Rangers. We are taught that these aren’t necessarily the best jobs at all! At least, not if you want to make a lot of money and a lead a thrilling and glamorous life. Though, sometimes I still think having a truck and a monkey beats almost anything. But I digress, as all of my BJ and the Bear talk actually brings me to a point.

I had a most interesting, enlightening and rewarding experience this past weekend. And it was really just as a favor to a friend who has an emerging catering business. This was clearly not the same as driving a big rig with a monkey or giving the Ranger’s an ice resurfacing they could see their beautiful faces in, but it was the same in that it was something I had never done.  My friend is a wonderful cook, with years of catering experience. She needed a helper for the day of the event she was catering and without a great deal busying up my social calendar, I offered to help. On the day before the party, as she prepared oodles of food, I kept her company. I would love to say that I was a sous chef to the master as she prepared culinary delights, but reality is I was mostly moral support as she literally plowed through six dishes in no time at all.

For the day of the event, I helped her load the food, all the trays, and accompanying accoutrement into the car in what is probably my forte—organization.  I didn’t know what to expect. I have never worked in food service of any kind. Cooking for family and friends is vastly different. Like a seasoned pro, she had me and another woman, (whose ginger cookies were a big hit), helping in the set up as she got ready the appetizers. I was doing my best to aid her, but mostly just tried to anticipate anything she might need and do my best to stay out-of-the-way —even though the warmed brie with brandied pecans seemed to be screaming my name. NOT sneaking food was also a first for me. J

This was a surprise party for a golden anniversary couple. It was the bride who was unaware as the groom was in on the planning. I had my first tray in my hand as I floated through the kitchen and living room presenting nibbles of food to happy guests. The family was all there just awaiting what would be the very surprised woman of the house. I would not have considered myself much in the way of a people person, but found myself graciously offering stuffed mushrooms and tiny pigs in blankets, effortlessly holding a tray in one hand as my other held the fanned out napkins to take with ease. I think I had my epiphany as I knelt down, tray in hand, to offer some much appreciated food to a lovely 92-year-old woman. There it was–appreciation. It turns out I am very capable of smiling and walking around with food. I am equally—it seems—engaging and courteous. I mean I’m REALLY pretty good at it.  It is very possible I am making myself sound WAY better than I was, but everyone seemed quite pleased with our professionalism as well as the quality of my friend, Jenn’s, superb food. I can see where she gets such joy from her business, even though it is a GREAT deal of work to pull off a perfect party.  I saw instantly, the gratification on her face when we were finally packed up and heading home. I understand it. As with anything that you put your heart and soul into, that is as personal as your cooking and putting on a party, there is a level of satisfaction that is acutely apparent—and it WAS. I felt such admiration for her hard work having been received so well, and to be honest… I patted myself on the back a little for not having screwed it up.

I have worked in an office my whole life. There are so many other places to be. And I have to say that seeing how happy people are who have fewer headaches to deal with in putting together a party–like food prep, service and clean up–it was pretty gratifying.  It certainly helps that I am a self-professed foodie who loves to cook—and eat!

I always felt as if this was a job for other people. Mostly because I didn’t see how I would ever manage to prepare, transport and serve a feast, but now that I know it IS possible. I have a friend who loves it so—who is very good at it, and I truly hope she asks me to help out again. It was a pleasure getting out of my comfort zone. It was a pleasure working with a pro. It was a real pleasure getting great feedback.

So, that being said. If you have any need for an amazing caterer, and you’re in the general vicinity, check out:

Simplicity-Catering.com

Tell her Red sent ya!

xoxo DDJ

 

We Need Superheroes

superhero framed-page-001

We need superheroes.  Do I say this because I was a comic book geek growing up? No. In fact I didn’t read comic books. I did however, have a pretty standard childhood filled with cartoons like Superman and the rest of The Justice League–both collaboratively and as their super LONE selves.  And when those comic book heroes came to life on TV, I became addicted to that.  I watched Linda Carter in awe, amazement and envy as Wonder Woman. Over 35 years later I dream of that Golden Lasso and how it would revolutionize the legal system—OH, it WOULD.

For me it was the TV or movie versions of the superheroes I was drawn to. Pretty normal I suppose, for a well-adjusted kid. The list for these heroes in my formative years is well—formidable. From the more recognizable heroes like Superman, Batman, and The Incredible Hulk to the near plausible Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman—I was a nerd in the herd. Even with the lesser known, if not equally entertaining, Shazam and The Greatest American Hero, having powers above and beyond normal was everyone’s fantasy—whether admitted or not.

As an adult I am still drawn. Iron Man, Captain America, any Avenger, even the TV show Heroes has me hooked. I recently started wondering if this infatuation was just a link to my childhood or something more. Is this universal love of superheroes just trying to connect to the childhood versions of ourselves or are we trying to find hope in an ever decaying world?

There is an obvious fascination held by children and adults, but what is the origin of the attraction? I know I personally don’t secretly wish for powers. Though—if I am being honest—flying and the ability to pick up a car doesn’t suck. And ninja-like skills would certainly make maneuvering crowded streets in New York more pleasant. Amazing abilities, super strength and cool toys. This list could get long! I suppose there are probably too many powers I wouldn’t mind having—even for a day.

If you spend even 5 minutes watching the news, you will see countless crimes of varying degrees of abomination. And this is where everyday life in the 21st Century creates this modern yet timeless longing for a hero to save the day. Someone to get rid of the ‘bad guys’ and clean up the streets. In essence there is a simple reason superheroes are so timeless. It is the need for good to triumph over evil. It is a concept as constant as time and as old as the bible. In a frustrated world we look for the hint of a superhero in everyday people. And when an ordinary person does a seemingly extraordinary thing—videos go viral, local news is a buzz, and it can trump a Walking Dead water cooler conversation. People smile. Even in our very human world, we seek out “super” acts. We recognize them, acknowledge them and hopefully emulate them.

We need superheroes. We need to believe. We need to act with the goodness, decency, morality and selflessness that they embody. I suppose I love superheroes now for the same reasons I did as a kid, I just see them through a grown-up eye with an even stronger wish for them to be real. It’s a tough world and we all want someone to save the day. I get cynical, but then I think… a superhero certainly could save the day. 😉

Xoxo DDJ

The Future of the English Language in a Post Texting World (I can’t even!)

Never too late to get flash cards.
Never too late to get flash cards.

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—there are is anywhere between 500,000 and 750,000 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 range of 45,000 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