People Watching

I must confess, I am a watcher. I watch the seasons change, I’m constantly chasing sunrises and sunsets, my eyes are always peeled for life’s delightful moments and yes, I am a people watcher. Not the perverted kind who peeps through bedroom windows or invade people’s personal spaces with a binocular, but I do enjoy harmlessly “watching” and “reading” people, their body languages and their mannerisms, especially in instances where my intuition tells me something’s off or different. Silence by itself speaks volumes but when combined with small gestures and peculiar behaviors, the things people don’t say can be just as telling as the things they do. I am a watcher of just about anyone, that includes the people I don’t know, and the ones I do, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I watch you too.

By watching people, I’m able to recognize the subtle signs of discomfort, the forced yawns of deception, the silent signs of disagreements, the feigned acts of confidence, that smirk you guys give when you’re digging a woman’s looks, and I especially pride myself on being able to “read between the lines” to get to the “real deal”. Still, that doesn’t make me unique or even creepy because let’s be honest, in some ways we are all people watchers. Technology and social media platforms have made it easier and more acceptable for us to pry into the lives and behaviors of others. For some, they even invite us to spy into their bedrooms without even needing binoculars. Now who’s the freak? The truth is we have become a generation of watchers. We love watching people. We watch the behaviors of real and fictional characters on tv, we watch what others wear, what they eat, how they live, what they think, say and do, and today all this watching is welcomed and even encouraged.

I guess there is nothing wrong with some innocent watching and exercising our “sixth sense”. I have used it to form relationships with people with whom I’ve observed and sensed we would “click”, and I have also used it to keep others at arm’s length. But when do we cross the line where “innocent” people watching becomes too much, especially on social media platforms? There is a difference and a delicate balance between watching others to get a sense of who they are and how they tick, versus watching them solely for the purpose of emulating or copying them. Watching and copying runs the risk of us compromising our identities and our authenticity trying to be something we see in someone else. Sometimes what we see is not even real because you don’t have to be a people watcher to see, the more we watch the more we want to see and those being watched, sometimes artfully and deceptively morph themselves into people they think we will want to see, just for the sole purpose of keeping us watching.

So, tell me have you watched anyone today?

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An Interesting Change

Around this time for the last few years, I have been switching my run/walk from the high school track to a local park. My drive to the park is longer and the pavement is less kind to my knees but with the start of school and the track being off limits during school hours, I have no choice but to make the switch. Still, it’s a refreshing change where the pond mirrors the trees, and a cool autumn breeze can always be felt blowing through the air. If you thought human behaviors were complex and somewhat strange, birds are no exception and, in this park where the wildlife is concerned the swans are undoubtedly the “upper crust”. Although fewer in numbers they control the lake. They swim around uncluttered as if claiming the vast expanse of the lake never leaving the safety of the water. They travel in pairs, heads up with an owned sense of superiority, never mixing with the few geese who sometimes dare to venture into the fringes of the lake. The ducks and the geese on the other hand find safety in numbers and they mostly occupy the less aesthetic, considerable smaller, muddy pond. The geese honk and the ducks splash as they waddle in and out of the sometimes-overcrowded pond and through the mud, seemingly having the time of their lives. There is an interesting but familiar dynamic between these birds and humans, but being the birds they are, it’s just “another day in the park” and they carry on unbothered and mostly oblivious to us, the temporary inhabitants of the park.

The faces of my fellow walkers have changed from a year ago and now the glances are back to being unfamiliar and fleeting. That hasn’t changed and again we’re all strangers mostly unwilling to make the first eye contact. Prior years have started out the same, but time and repetition had brought about recognition accompanied by familiar nods and friendly hellos. With time we will get there again as we have done before, I think. I find people are less willing to be friendly these days, but we shall see. Still, as the weather continues to change, I look forward to the coloring of the trees and the falling of the leaves. I will keep walking in this park until the cold weather forces me into my basement for the winter. Until then, I intend to enjoy this rejuvenation of my mind, body and soul in this place where twelve mundane laps around a track have been transformed into two scenic runs among the trees, please pray for my knees. That is the beauty of change!

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Adversity or Opportunity?

It’s only natural for us to want things to go well, nobody wants to struggle needlessly. We want our finances to flow, our relationships to work, and we all want to live good long healthy lives. We strive to be successful because we love being winners and we love all the attention and accolades that come along with winning. But let’s face it, sometimes “winning” brings out the vices in us. It makes us ugly, self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes even complacent in our success. We assume our success is guaranteed and we look down on others for not being able to “measure up”. Then adversity happens and things go awry, and we start asking ourselves “what happened?” and “why me?”. Often, it’s natural to try to find a scapegoat, someone anyone to blame for our misfortune. The fact is, most times it’s not even about what or whom is to be blamed, nor is it about what we did or didn’t do. I strongly believe adversities help to keep us honest. They keep our vices in check and give us opportunities to accentuate our virtues or “grow” some if we are devoid of them. If we can recognize these challenges for what they are or what they could be, then we would embrace them as opportunities to be better, opportunities to have some of our finest moments, even in the face of adversity. What better time is there for our determination, our strength, our human decency, and our resourcefulness to be on full display?

So, while adversities are crippling for some, others flourish, and view these seemingly insurmountable challenges as opportunities. Life will always be filled with ups and downs, successes and failures. Adversity allows us to learn, evaluate, correct, grow, and become better at life. In the end, no matter what the results are, we can be satisfied knowing we did our best and we fought to overcome without succumbing to pressure and negativity, and hopefully, we will also have learnt some valuable lessons in humility, grace and persistence and have refined our character so that the next time an opportunity presents itself disguised as an adversity, we will be even better ready to tackle it.

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The Blank Page

Feature Image: Pinterest

We all come into this world kicking and screaming. Well, maybe not all of us, definitely not my middle son who made his grand entrance without a sound, eyes wide open and calculating, looking around as if asking “where am I and why the hell am I here?” There is one thing though that we undeniably all have in common as newborns and that is a clean slate; a blank page on which to write the stories of our lives. The question is “what will we write?” or even more pertinent for us who no longer identify as newborns, “what have we already written?”

Now I know as writers on this platform we all have the gift of eloquently writing our thoughts down on paper, or whatever tool of writing we choose to use these days, but more importantly, what are our life stories. Where have we been and what have we done? What have we already written on the blank pages slated to us the minute we were birthed into this world? What contributions have we made, what kind of person have we been, have we been decent and honest, have we respected and protected life, have we held our tongues, have we honored our fathers and our mothers, have we been kind, have we been faithful and supportive friends and partners, have we been forgiving, have we been loved, have we loved, have we been saved, how will we be remembered, will we be remembered, what legacy and memory will we leave behind?

At the very start our possibilities are endless but now we’re all at different stages of our lives. Some of us measure our worth by the things we have accomplished, others of us measure our worth by the deeds we have done.

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”

– Albert Einstein

As long as there is breath within us there is always a chance to make a difference; a chance to fill our blank pages with things meaningful and of value, or at the very least, the chance to make the one and only thing that really matters right. Think about it and ask yourself “where do I go from here?”

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I Cried…

My sister called me yesterday while I was on my way to the memorial service of a mutual friend. During our conversation the topic of my blog came up and of how infrequent they now were. I explained that I was just not inspired to write as often anymore, but what I should have said was, I was still inspired to write but what I wanted to write about was not always inspirational. Somewhere amidst all this brokenness, sadness and disappointment I had lost my mojo to write and the loss of the person for whom this memorial service was for, was just one of the final straws that broke this writer’s back. Lately all I have wanted to write about could be considered as venting and complaining and while I understand that it’s perfectly okay to do so every once in a while, I had promised myself never to be that gal, at least not too often. But yesterday at the memorial service I was inspired.

The truth is, this wasn’t one of my closest friends, in fact she wasn’t even my friend. She was a coworker of my husband but those of you with partners will understand that sometimes you will become close and personal with the people your partners spend most of their days with, especially if it’s over a period of twenty plus years. Yes, I knew her very well, I liked and admired her, and I knew what she meant to the lives of her family and the people she worked with. So, I was touched and deeply moved as I listened to the life she lived as expressed through the words of her children and the other people who loved her. They reflected on how much she loved to laugh, sing and dance and her knack for planning celebrations to bring people together at home and at work. She was a people person, to that I can attest, and she loved plants, sports and travelling. They lamented on dreams unfulfilled, disappointments unresolved, potential unreached and how much they would miss her. I couldn’t help thinking I could be her; she could have been me. There was going to be a void in her family, and as they reminisced and spoke lovingly while they celebrated her life, she stood on a shelf now reduced to mere ashes. That’s the cycle of life, I knew it, I accepted it but still I stood quietly in the back of the room, and I cried. I cried for a life so well lived, a person so well loved, I mourned for a life taken way too soon.

So, this morning in bed during one of my daily reckonings, I thought about her and the life she lived. I spoke with my husband about our lives and what legacy and impact we would leave behind when we were gone. What will our loved ones say about the life we lived and where do we go from here? I said a prayer for her and her family and then I said a prayer for me and mine. Long after my husband had fallen back to sleep, I lay quietly in bed still awake, and I cried.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…”

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2, 4

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Blood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Bood Cancer Awareness Month. As a survivor of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, I can attest to the importance of the awareness of the early warning signs of these diseases since early detection provides a greater chance of survival. Blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma can usually be accurately diagnosed with bloodwork, therefore it’s very important we receive regular annual full body check-ups. Once detected other testing, including biopsies, are needed to confirm these diagnoses. Below are 5 important facts about blood cancers.

1. Every three minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer. There are 3 main types of blood cancers.

Blood cancers account for almost 10% of new cancers in the U.S. each year. Of these cases, 34% will be diagnosed with leukemia, 48% with lymphoma and 18% with myeloma.

2. Survival rates have significantly improved in the last 20 years.

Again, early detection is key. Pay attention to changes in your body and get your annual check-ups!

 3. Every 9 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from a blood cancer.

 4. There are no effective screening tests for the early detection of blood cancers.

5. …But there are warning signs.

  • Fever, chills
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes, liver and spleen
  • Anemia

You can help in the fight against blood cancers by:

GETTING YOUR REGULAR CHECK-UPS …DONATING…SPREADING THE WORD!

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After August

Here we are again, at the end of yet another month. The start of August found me with my head still in the clouds, but there were beaches and blue skies, walks and wispy trees, sunshine and sushi, travels and delicious treats. With the end of August comes the start of fall and soon we will be looking forward to the holiday season.

As usual, please enjoy some of my memories of August and stay with me as we look to see what comes after.

Head still in the clouds

Country roads of Florida

Please help me name that tree

All roads lead to the beach

“Walking the plank 🤣?”

“Where the ocean meets the sky”

The air up there and below

One August night

It’s all about the plant life

Always the right time for sushi

A little ziti to top off the month

Vanilla custard strawberry sundae at Rita’s😋

Again, thanks for following along and welcome to the new readers of my blog. I wish you all the best as we move into September, hopefully together…Sincerely Jan!

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Finding Our Filters

One of my sons told me recently I have no filters. I had to pause for a moment because even though I knew I was by no means an insensitive person in the habit of blurting out whatever popped into my head without first considering its impact on landing, I could understand where he was coming from and why he was feeling this way. As parents we mean well for our kids and our words and actions are usually of the best intentions, but unfortunately sometimes our delivery leaves a lot to be desired. We want so desperately to see our kids do well and succeed in life, we often bombard them with “feedback and suggestions” and when all else fails, we resort to coaxing and cajoling and unfortunately, this will inevitably be perceived as us being critical and controlling. Our words matter but our timing and our delivery matter even more.

This little criticism stung a little, but yeah, sometimes “the truth hurts.” Hurting is good when it prompts change. I have always meant well in the advice I offer to my kids, and for the most part they usually go over well. But times change, people change, and it appears the way I speak with my now adult sons, have to change. I still need to be open and honest, but I might need to apply some filters. So, I did some soul searching, and came up with a few things as parents we could do to improve the communication with our adult children.

Older does not mean smarter or better: I was assuming the way we approach the world had not changed. Some hypocrisy on my part I would admit, the woman who is always talking and writing blogs about how much the world has changed. We have to concede that some of the things that worked in our youths might have little relevance today. The “old” way of doing things is not necessarily better or smarter.

Learn how to trust: Specifically, we need to trust that our children know what’s best for them and that they understand what the keys for success in the world are today. Sometimes all we can do is lay the foundations, show them the way and let them follow their own paths. Right or wrong it’s a lesson they need to learn on their own.

Offer suggestions, not commands:  Say, “you could” instead of “you should.”

Have a discussion not a lecture:  Sometimes it’s best to first listen, really listen. Don’t just pretend to listen while we wait for our turn to speak. Don’t dismiss what we have heard, offer honest sensitive feedback, have a dialogue, and don’t forget those filters sweetened with a little empathy.

Don’t dismiss or belittle what is important to them:  Children these days have interests that are way different from when we were kids. Makes sense though, the world has changed, right? We may see them as just hobbies, they may seem them as their future. Who are we to judge?

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“The Way We Were”

It cannot be denied that over the last 20 years times have drastically changed but for those of us born before the late 1990s it’s safe to say that today we are living in a completely different world. Not only has time changed, but with technology and information, even the rate of change has changed. Information brings knowledge and knowledge drives the rate of change. If you grew up in the decades of the 70s – 90s you would know these were very interesting times to be alive. Some of the things that made these decades special have come full circle but due to the different time and space that we’re in, many may never make a full comeback. If you grew up in these decades or if you’re from a younger generation, you might be interested in looking back with me to see some of the things that made these decades so interesting, that we might never see popular again.

01 – Public Pay Phones

By: The Pay Phone Project

Pay phones have been around since 1889 but by 2016 with the proliferation of smart phones they were practically rendered non-existent. For some of the younger folks, a public pay phone could just as well be the same as a relic from the dark ages. But I can still remember when these, admittedly unsanitary and often times unreliable devices were our only means of communication within the public space. Oh, what an ordeal it was when we found ourselves short of the coins needed to use the pay phones. In those instances, we were forced into stores and newspaper stands to make unwanted purchases just to make change. It was also not uncommon to find ourselves on lines waiting for our turn to use the pay phone to make an urgent call.

02 – The Floppy Discs

By: Extreme Tech

There was a time when these little cartridges were at the core of the existence of any employee who used a computer for work, especially during the period before laptops. They were small and portable and conveniently allowed one to transfer data from one computer to another. They were at the height of their popularity in the 1990’s until they were rendered almost obsolete by CDs, flash drives and hard drives. They still exist today, but with technology, I doubt they will ever make a great comeback.

03 – Leg Warmers

By: Hergamut

As someone who wasn’t born in the U.S. I never understood this one, but leg warmers were quite popular thanks to movies like Flash Dance and Fame. Initially worn by dancers, they became somewhat of a fashion trend in the 1980s. However, by the time I arrived here in 1985 they were already on their way out.

04 – The Boom Box

Pinterest

Boomboxes blasted their way onto the music scene in the late 1970s – 1980’s. They were a portable stereo system that was capable of playing radio stations or recorded music at relatively high volumes and without connections to direct power since they could also be strictly battery operated. They were the main ingredient for any impromptu block party or rap session and back in the days it was not uncommon to see teenagers and young adults walking around with boomboxes hoisted on their shoulders while blasting out the latest tunes.

05 – Bubble Gum

Pininterest

What ever happened to the bubble gum? I remember in the 90’s the bubble gum was inevitably linked with youth especially for teenagers perceived as being cool. It seemed everyone, the young and the not so young, could be seen chewing gum and annoyingly blowing and popping bubbles. Today, not so much, in fact except for small kids, chewing bubble gum these days is no longer a thing. I guess one could say that the “bubble has burst” on the bubble gum.

06 – The Polaroid Camera

Now who remembers when we always had to make a trip to the store to buy a roll of film for our cameras. Back then there definitely was no indiscriminate taking of pictures as we do now because one, those film were limited and two, buying more could be very expensive. When taking pictures, there were no previews, no retakes, no different angles, and definitely no editing. What the camera saw was what we got, and we weren’t seeing what that camera saw until we picked up our pictures from the store, we previously dropped them off to be developed a week or two before. There were also those times when we finally got them back where we realized the camera actually “saw” nothing at all.

07 – My Space

From 2005 to 2009, Myspace was the largest social networking site in the world. Then it was later surpassed beginning in mid 2009 by other mediums such as Facebook and Instagram. I have to admit I have never used or even seen a My Space site. It was here and gone before I even got hip to it, and I wonder does anyone even use it anymore?

08 – Graffiti

If you’re from New York City, you will appreciate this one. There was a time in the mid-1970s before I even came to this country, when the trains were completely covered in spray paintings or “graffiti”. Then in 1972 John Lindsey, the then mayor of New York, declared war on graffiti. By the 1980s it became much harder to write on subway trains without being caught and graffiti artists were forced into the streets to use roofs and buildings as their canvases. Graffiti is linked to hip-hop along with emceeing, DJing, and B-Boxing. The origins of all of these can be traced to the Bronx, right here in New York City. The emergence of hip-hop in mainstream culture during the 80s exposed graffiti to the world and it began showing up everywhere.

By: Wheretoget

Today, as the world keeps on changing at an alarmingly even faster rate, it will be interesting to see where we are 20 years from now!

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