Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Friday, January 22, 2010


Magna res est vocis et silentii temperamentum --"The great thing is to know when to speak and when to keep quiet"

Although it's an odd memory the "lesson" I learned from a guy named Patrick in college has remained with me. He was an interesting guy...the first person I really ever hung out with who was into recreational drugs (he often tried things that he didn't even know the name for). I learned how a water bong worked and how people decided what to purchase from their suppliers. Important learning for a naive college freshman who had traveled the world but knew little about this side of life.

But the lesson I learned had nothing to do with drug use or naiveté. Our conversations helped me develop my concept of communication, that I believe to this day. You see, Patrick and I were completely different. We both spoke English as a first language, but the way that we spoke and the things we chose to say were completely different. I don't know how to explain this and I no longer can quote things he said, but I know that 50% of the time I didn't have a clue what he was saying. He would say the words, I would hear them and then they translated to no recognizable concept in my head, or would translate to something completely wrong. Simirla to thsoe sutdys taht say you cuodl raed dfifernet tihgns even wehn spllenig is worng-- I realized that my brain pieces together statements based on probability. That the words that I hear accurately are probably only 70% intact, and my brain interprets the rest to calculate meaning. So I might hear "I-- r---ee -ite to c-d new bu- I jus- ca-d" and even with misheard letters I'd interpret "I'd really like to come now but just can't" ...but with people like Patrick I might be interpreting incorrectly. He might have said "I'm rolling right now to cut blunts at my joint, ciao"...And my brain would take the syncopation of the phrases, the letters and sounds of the words and try to make a sensible sentence...which was almost always wrong. His syncopation was different, his wording was different, the things he said were different and while everyone else could understand him I'd have him repeat the same phrase 3 times and still not understand. We were on different wavelengths.

My lesson in communication: that we actually hear very little and interpret a lot has served me well. It has helped me in sales--learning to articulate, re-state, re-phrase and use visual aids. It has helped me speak with people from other cultures and with different language backgrounds with shorter phrasing and easier words. It has helped me avoid frustration over things that I know I simply MUST be hearing/understanding wrong.

In general: I've applied this lesson to other areas of life as well and realized that what we see isn't always what we think we see and what we understand of the world has so often been skewed by our own perspectives and understandings that we should reserve judgment. I often try to think of other possibilities for why someone might be saying or doing something that is different or unwanted.

(This post was written almost exactly a year ago (1/22/09) and I'm finally posting it.--with a few additions/edits)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shopping Spree.

I'm looking to find a new job. So I looked through my wardrobe to figure out what I would wear on an interview and found it terribly lacking. Now the reason for my job search is that the past two years at my current job my pay has been woefully inadequate (as well as having expensive but useless health insurance) so I don't have a lot of money to spend for the old "you gotta spend $ to make $". So after a orientation for a volunteer position yesterday I hit the thrift stores.

Salvation Army at Fullerton and Clybourne... my salvation for all things sweater-y.

Purchased fro $30 + tax:
-One Beautiful Purplish/Majenta Wool sweater with a couple of small holes (repaired in 10 minutes) and one purple long sleeved shirt to wear underneath
-Two Cream colored light cashmere sweaters and one cream long sleeve shirt to wear underneath. One sweater perfect, the other with holes near sleeve cuff--I will convert to 3/4 length sleeves.
-One A-Line knee-length black and white floral skirt with sequins
-One long length very unique black skirt
-Two Business Suit Jackets
-One sweater that I hate the style of but absolutely Love the yarn and will salvage the yarn for knitting

Family Thrift at 2160 N Milwaukee (My FAVORITE thrift store! They are clean, well organized and have FITTING ROOMS!!!)

Purchased for $14 + tax:
-3 pair of jeans! (This is a miracle and is entirely due to the fitting rooms. I have a difficult time finding pants that fit so I usually would not buy where I can't try on. And I usually try on 50+ pair of jeans for every pair I buy-- somehow paying less than $4/pair makes me less picky than when they are $40-$90 and I was lucky to find some that fit fairly well)
-1 pair of awesome pallazo pant dress slacks.
-1 Silk dress shirt
-1 pair of dress shoes

I estimate the MSRP of all of these items new at somewhere over $700. My cost= under $50

Although honestly I'd never pay MSRP for all of those items I'd also say that realistically I'd still feel happy paying $50 for even a single pair of nice pants that fit well and there were probably 3 or 4 items in my purchase that I would have gladly paid $50 retail for had I the money.

Summary: SCORE!!!

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Paradigm Shift

I learned the term "Paradigm Shift" when I read Steven Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" when I was around 16 years old. It has been lovely to note the times that my mind has suddenly found new perspective and, like a back-drop change in a theatrical play, I quickly adjust to a new setting.

Today I had a moment while talking to a customer that did that shift for me. It is a particularly cold day in Chicago and I'm battling a headache that started mid-day yesterday so the odds were stacked against my having a good day to begin with. I first went to return a defective Redbox movie and found the machine full. I then came in to work to a pile of emails questioning decisions I had made that made me upset with my boss. Finally I sat down to work on a pile of things and a customer came in.

This customer was an older lady with a cane. She began to tell me how she had come in to look at a sectional she saw in an advertisement (our cheapest piece and the only thing anyone seems to want to buy these days). She continued by telling me all of the newspapers she had seen it in and how she hadn't come in because of her health and how she was temporarily living in a rehab place but would be moving shortly. She told me how she had bought from us before and how she had told her daughter about us and that her daughter had bought. She was rambling a bit and due to sniffling and some slurred words I had a hard time understanding some of what she was saying. I listened quietly, if not all that patiently. I obviously didn't need the whole story of the last few years of her life to show her the sofa she was looking for and most of the information she was giving was not really relevant to her need for a sofa. But I've been doing this long enough to sound patient and sweet even when my head is pounding and I'm irritated. I told her a little about the store and showed her the piece and she continued telling me how she had looked at another piece months ago but that she really wanted this one and how nice all of our pieces are and how she had a daughter with the same name as the store. She mentioned her grandchildren and how well behaved they are and that she wouldn't need a sofabed because they would not stay over. I asked if she had a big family (as she obviously wanted to talk about them) and she said "No, not really," and told me again how much she wanted the sofa but that she'd have to go to the bank to get the deposit. Her thoughts were like this paragraph: long and jumbled with information. She asked me to calculate how much she'd have to put down and I went and did the calculations and wrote her a little sheet of paper with the name of the sofa, its dimensions and the deposit amount. She thanked me and told me I had the same name as one of her granddaughters...well, not her actual granddaughter...

"Because I adopted four of my children and I worked for human services so I fostered a lot of kids."

At this point I felt my brain swirl around and drop the new backdrop onto the stage. I have tremendous respect and love for people who adopt and foster and adopting FOUR kids is quite impressive. I suddenly wanted to treat this woman as my own grandmother, as a member of the family. I wasn't irritated with her talking so much as I wanted to know MORE. By the time she left she was introducing her husband to me and assuring me she'd be back to see me soon.

This all makes me wonder. How many people do we meet each day that might blow our minds with the depth of their spirit if only we dug a little below the surface?

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