Saturday, February 04, 2023

The Word Is Diplomatic, And I Wonder About Its Nuance

 

Before I get started on my Random Word, I want to take a moment and catch you up on a couple things happening here at the Dept. Firstly, I am somehow managing to exist without my dear Biscoff cookies these many weeks. Each trip to the grocery store(s) has been dismaying and sorrowful. Is there a National Shortage like there is with sriracha? I am bereft and there is no suitable substitute. Secondly, it is Cold here, too. We did get the polar freeze, but since we are not New York, Chicago, D.C., or Philadelphia, you would not know of it. Way back in 2016, when Cleveland hosted the RNC (ugh), we were briefly featured on weather maps, but that was short-lived. Once again, I'd like to acknowledge the Kindness of my Canadian Friends who selflessly shared their weather with us and again ask that they Not Do That Anymore.

On to today's word, which is Diplomatic

As a Teacher in a large (2100+), urban public high school, I had a great deal of practice with this word. Not only did I have to practice being Diplomatic with students, but more often, I had to exert an enormous amount of Diplomacy with their parents. Parental Contact was the number one mantra at our school, and to talk to the principals, you'd think it was the panacea for all concerns. Every single problem taken to a higher-up that involved a student was met with, "Did you talk to the parent?" Tardiness, cell phone usage, failing performance, violent behaviour, absenteeism, missing work, you name it, a call to the parent had to be the First Line Of Defense. Many times, the parents were baffled as to their student's behaviour, and many times my Diplomacy was put to the test, especially at conferences when I was face to face with parents, step-parents, grandparents, legal guardians, and/or probation/parole officers.

I will say that my Usual Way is always to be Straightforward and Honest. I'm naturally Direct, and that can sometimes come across as bitchy or mean. Of course, this is largely because I am a woman. If I were a man, it would be a non-issue.

It is not, however, difficult to temper Honesty and Directness with Kindness. It took me a little bit of time to discover that, and I think that was due to being a small woman in a tough school. It was important for me to establish my authority and learn how to command a room, to keep order and convey my expertise in the subject matter (along with my passion). 

But, after all, isn't being Diplomatic simply being Kind? Diplomacy is "handling people and situations so as to cause no feelings of ill will." It's the reason I used to bring in tubs of crackers, cookies, and granola bars for everyone in my class to share even though I was really making sure that the four or five kids I knew were going hungry would get something to eat. 

Perhaps Kindness is Diplomacy With Heart:

 "This haircut is terrible. I'm really unhappy with it," says your friend.

Diplomat says, "I'm sorry you're unhappy. What don't you like about it?"

Kind says, "Oh no! You're beautiful and I'll help you fix whatever you don't like."

What do you think? 

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Word Is Plane, And I'm At War With Disney And Air Travel


January's weather is killing me, giving me horrid headaches and recovery days full of fatigue. Thankfully, there has been no meaningful snow, so I've been able to walk outside when I feel up to it. Another assist has been provided by NGS over at her spot The Time for Change--the idea to use a random word generator to give me a blog topic when I get stuck. Today's word was Plane, so here's my Plane story.

I was returning from visiting my dear (now late) friend Ann in Orlando, Florida. She was a vice president for a major resort company (second only to Disney), and had invited me for several days to relax at their properties and take drives into Georgia and North Carolina as well, where we visited some lovely places and just had a Ladies Getaway. It was wonderful.

She dropped me at the airport in Orlando, and while I was still unnerved by the somewhat overwhelming presence of the National Guard, I felt a little comforted. It was October 2001; the attack on the Twin Towers had occurred less than a month before. I also resigned myself to being pulled out of the line and wanded separately again. It had happened on my flight from Cleveland to Orlando, and I chalked it up to my olive complexion and almost black hair. Sure enough, I was pulled again despite not having set off any alarm. Soon enough, I was on my way.

On the plane my seatmate in the middle was a woman of about forty or so. Nonetheless, she was wearing her Minnie Mouse ears and was clutching a pair of winter white fur Mickey and Minnie plush figures. Her husband had the window seat. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes so far back in my head I could see my spinal column. There is nothing that annoys me more than an adult with a pathetic Disney fixation, and here I was, sitting next to one for the next two and a half hours.

I had brought a book, and I pulled it out. I always bring a book with an off-putting title, and this one was about the Salem witch trials (The Devil in Massachusetts). Unfortunately, this didn't deter her for long. Pretty soon, it started:  Was I coming from Orlando? Did I go to Disney World? Why not? Oh, she and her husband celebrated their anniversary there, and she just looooves Disney. And she was soooo happy to get these Special Edition White Mickey And Minnie Dolls! And on and on and on. I smiled and nodded and kept trying to look at my book.

Finally, I said, "I'm sorry, but I'm expected to present at a panel discussion tomorrow. I really need to study this," which was a complete fabrication, but I was desperate. She apologized and left me alone.

As we got near to Cleveland, the pilot spoke over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to have to delay our arrival in Cleveland for just a little while. They're not quite ready for us yet." Everyone sighed and grumbled. My seatmate futzed with her fluffy friends and wondered aloud what was going on. Our plane circled and wandered, and I looked out at the night sky, hoping that Rick knew our flight would be late and wouldn't be worried.

It seemed like we were waiting forever. No one knew anything. It was the Age Before Twitter. Before Smartphones. We were virtually disconnected.

My memory is a bit fuzzy on this detail:  I cannot remember if we landed and were held at the gate or if we were still in the air at this precise moment, but I finally pulled out my credit card and grabbed the AirPhone from the seat back in front of me. I called Rick and asked him if he knew what in the hell was going on after telling him what our status was.

"Nance," he said, "the US just bombed Afghanistan. And some idiot in the airport ran past security at this concourse. They shut the whole thing down and are making every single person go back through again. No flight is allowed to come in until everyone here has gone through security. They're being very careful because of the US action tonight. I'm sure they're worried about terrorism."

As Rick was talking, I couldn't help but react. "We bombed Afghanistan?!" As soon as I said this, Disney Fan lost it. She clutched her Special Editions and half rose in her seat, facing the rear of the plane. "We just bombed Afghanistan!" she announced dramatically.  "Oh My God!" 

Please remember, SHE WAS WEARING MOUSE EARS THIS WHOLE TIME.

Obviously, this night--October 7, 2001--was stressful and auspicious. I remember feeling dread, confusion, and anger about the invasion itself. My overall sentiments about this war and its instigator are well-known to longtime readers of this blog.

But what I remember most about the night of the actual bombing is that Plane ride and my incredible annoyance at Disney overall. As a matter of fact, that night put together two of the top things on my Most Annoying Things Ever List:  Air Travel and Disney Cult Members. Someday, perhaps, when I'm very, very old and really, really crabby and somewhat demented, I may even conflate Disney and the Afghanistan war and hold all of Disney responsible for it and for making me take my shoes off at the airport.

It's the Circle Of Life.

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Saturday, January 07, 2023

Out With The Old And In With The New

 



It feels pretty late to tell everyone to have a Happy New Year. Also, it feels a bit prescriptive and even silly. Of course I want you all to have a Happy New Year. I also wish you had a Happy Old Year; did anyone? Someday this coming week, I need to sit down and really look back at 2022 and see if it was a Good Year. Lots of people bitched about it pretty solidly near the end, and I wonder if it was as bad as all that. 

(I did manage to end the year with one minor fall--up my basement steps with my arms full of stuff--right on my face. The first thing I did was check my teeth. They were intact--hooray!--but I split my lip. I put ice on it immediately, so I just looked like I had a collagen injection. Talk about 2022 going out with a bang, huh?)

This is also That Time Of Year when everyone's Spirit Of Resolve plucks up again, and we decide upon Guide Words or Programs or Philosophies that we hope will make us happier, better, or more purposeful going forward. As I always say, I am on a Continuous Path Of Self Improvement, so I don't usually use January 1st as an impetus for change or growth. Often, just ushering Christmas out the door makes me feel such a vast sense of Relief and Renewal that I get a rush of energy and a lift of my mood. I feel the urge to get things organized. I'm ready to throw things away.

(I have to tell you:  one thing I threw out was the remainder of a batch of Christmas Crack I made. Do you know of this stuff? It's aptly named. I was eating it for lunch, snacks, and anytime I passed the refrigerator. It's addictively wonderful. The day I dumped it in the trash can outdoors was liberating. I may never, ever make it again.)

We enjoyed some uncharacteristically warm weather for several days, and I was able to air out the entire house in January, and go walking in just a sweater. We were in the low sixties, and I was in heaven. My parsley perked up in the herb garden! I saw a dandelion in bloom on my walk! Strange days, indeed.

(Some strange things here lately:  we're both eating a lot less; I'm really sick of cooking; I'm observing Dry January; I'm listening to more music.)

About that last one--I'm listening to more music partly to drown out the persistent whine of our furnace, which needs a new inducer motor. Every time our furnace revs up to get to temperature, it sounds like an airplane getting ready to take off. Then it simply settles into a high-pitched whine. This will go on until mid-January when they come and replace it for a whole lot of money. A whole lot. Definitely not a high point of 2022.

But Winter has returned with her frosty mantle and icy breath. A sprinkling of snow covered some high spots this morning, and I shivered as I took out the trash and fed the blue jays their breakfast buffet. Lately, some squirrels have gotten wise to the free food and grab some peanuts, too. Oh, well. We don't exclude or discriminate at our restaurant. All are welcome, and my cats are entertained.

I'm hopeful for 2023, as I am for every new year, and I'm sure you are, too. Let's hope that it makes us joyful, content, and satisfied. And let's do everything we can to make it so.


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