Let’s Chat

This week’s column: Chatty Cathy May Have Been Onto Something

So many of us distain small talk and dismiss it as inconsequential. Chit chat. An exchange of weather reports. Little more than a passing “How are you” –“Fine” conversation. Googling the term “small talk” fares no better. One definition deems it “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters”; another calls it “an informal discourse that does not cover any functional topics” and scoffs that it is merely “conversation for its own sake.” Ellen DeGeneres says that she hates “having to do small talk. I’d rather talk about deep subjects…..meditation, or the world, or the trees or animals, than small inane…banter.”

I disagree with Ellen whose career, let’s face it, is in part based on inane banter. Since when did we all become so “deep” that we cannot exchange a pleasantry or two? Meditation, the world, trees and animals can wait. The first thing out of my mouth in a social situation is not going to be something earth shatteringly important or environmentally relevant. Small talk gauges your audience so that you can decide whether keeping up a conversation is worthwhile or should end with a smile and wave goodbye. It is a way in, or as Georgetown Professor Deborah Tannen says: “Small talk is meant to be small. It gets you on friendly ground, and it’s a foundation for when you have something more to say.”

Tannen is quoted in an article by Gloria M. Wong called “I Made Chitchat Meaningful Again”. Wong says that scientists who have studied small talk conclude that it is “like birds touching beaks, we use it to reassure each other that we’re pals.” Wong believes that small talk leads to “big talk” or disclosing something that teeters on the border of TMI (too much information), but does not actually go there. She tells a tale of sharing something with an acquaintance that was slightly revealing which led to the acquaintance then sharing a little about herself. My argument is that this connection could not have been made without the requisite small talk first. Small talk broke the ice.

This topic came to my attention last week. My sister called me and said: “I have a topic for you to write about.” She then told me that someone had accused her of “being good at small talk”, and she was not sure whether this was a compliment or not. She felt like the statement was not an accolade but a (not very well) veiled criticism. We talked for a bit about the topic and came to the conclusion that being good at small talk leads to talking about the bigger things, or the deeper things as Ellen likes to call them. Small talk, when done correctly, makes the other person feel that you are interested. It goes beyond the quick “How are you doing?” as you continue walking and not waiting for an answer.

So many people dismiss small talk and my theory is that they just do not take the time to do it well. I find it difficult at times, but once I realized that I like it when someone takes an interest in me I have tried to cultivate it. Small talk is sharing your time and interest with someone. It is a building block for conversation and a way to make a connection. And what friendship has not begun with small talk?

Actress Courtney Cox declares that she is not good at “small talk”. I have seen her interviewed and if an interview (Hollywood style) is not small talk, then I do not know what is. Small talk is a window into a conversation; it opens the door.

imageLiterary agent, Andrew Wylie declares: “I don’t do Twitter or blog. I’m bad at small talk, and don’t have good chat. Talk to me about publishing, and I can go on for hours.” Not to put too fine point on it, but Andrew, conversation is about give and take—I am not all that interested in you going on and on about one subject without ever asking a question, or being curious about the person you are talking to.

Small talk is a social grace. Many a meal has been spoiled by those who insist on getting their voices heard, their opinions opined, and even their rants pronounced before dessert. I say wait until dessert is over, and then delve into the deeper subjects while doing the dishes.

Published in: on February 3, 2015 at 2:29 pm  Comments (24)  
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Tell, Don’t Show Or Two Books and a Movie (or Two)

January and February are the perfect months to curl up in the corner of your couch, sip a cup of something hot while ensconced in your favourite blanket and read…..or watch a movie. I have been in a bit of a hibernation mode of late, sticking my nose out on occasion but with much reluctance. The perfect antidote for me when faced with the cold is a good book or an undiscovered movie that was under my radar.

Before Christmas, I went to an author “talk” at my local library and went away from it itching to read the book. The talk was by former Kingsville (my hometown) native, Jennifer Klinec. The Book? “A Temporary Bride”—A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran. Jennifer was utterly charming. Seriously. She was afraid to bore us with tales of her travels, cooking adventures, and finding love so she gave us some morsels to chew on, but not too many. I could have listened to her for hours. I summed the book up in a Twitter that said it was “an excellent read, kind of an Eat, Pray, Love without the Pray.”

I loved the book. Jennifer is exceedingly honest, to the point where I wonder why I am not so brave in my writing. But I am not. She is and her story is one that will hit you on many different and diverse levels. Her description of food is so vivid you can almost taste it. Some of it though, if you are like me, you would probably shy away from. She brings to life a country I am almost wholly unfamiliar with—bringing to light their customs, culture, and things that are hard to fathom. The love story is intriguing, not cloying, and the writing is brilliant.

The other book I am going to regale you with is called “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. Slightly quirky, it is written in a simple style that has literary relatives, but not ones that make reading it a chore. It has my favourite quote of all time in it, which justifies to me the way I write. The quote has very little to do with the story, but I am going to share it anyway. An author in the book (brother-in-law to the main character) reacts to the somewhat clichéd phrase writers are forever being advised: “Show don’t tell”. I will paraphrase the author’s response as this is a PG column—but you will get his drift. He says: “Show, don’t tell is a complete crock of (dodo)…..it comes from Syd Field’s screenplay books, but it doesn’t have a thing to do with novel writing. Novels are all tell. The best ones at least. Novels aren’t meant to be imitation screenplays.” I feel vindicated, as I tend to be a “tell-er” and not so much of a “show-er”.

On the surface, the book is about a bookseller who dislikes a lot of genres that books tend to gravitate to. That said, I was completely taken with this book—in all its quirkiness it deals with the normal. I think one of the blurbs on the back of the book says it all: “This novel has humour, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love—love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.”

Speaking of quirky, I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel—one of the movies in the Oscar line-up. It is a movie that the bookstore owner in “The Storied Life of A. J. Firkry” would not like—as it is rather fantastical. So many twists and turns that this roller coaster ride of a movie keeps you on the edge of your seat—and the number of people you will recognize will astound you. It is not a “feel good” movie, or a “romance” (though it does have a bit of that genre)—it is a tale of weird adventures and strange comings and goings, but in the end quite satisfying.

The movie that was particularly under my radar “The Magic of Belle Isle” was released in 2012. Morgan Freeman plays a paraplegic author who no longer wants to write and takes over a cottage (and the resident pooch) on Belle Isle for the summer in order to shelter himself from the outside world. He finds more than his muse on the island, and to say much more would give away the plot. This is a great unsung movie. It, along with The Budapest Hotel are on Netflix. And I am sure all the aforementioned movies and books can be accessed at the library—so if you over-Christmased like I did, no money necessarily has to be expended in the search for entertainment.

Published in: on January 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm  Comments (14)  

2015: Year of the Blind Squirrel

This week’s column–had lot of trouble writing it–hope it does not show:

even a cup of coffee is not safe anymore

even a cup of coffee is not safe anymore

Predictions run rampant at this time of year. I have a three tiered definition of the word and it goes something like this: a prediction dressed in optimism is a forecast or projection; clothed in pragmatism it is a prognostication or estimate; and, donning gypsy clothing, it is merely a guess disguised as truth. Or if you prefer a more simple definition, a prediction is when someone somewhere (and it does not really matter who or where) makes a statement of what they think will happen in the future.

I do not necessarily put a lot of store in predictions, but I do find them fascinating, both in their content and the arrogance of the prognosticator. The fascinating part is that sometimes predictions (or a facsimile thereof) come true. Randomly Googling “Predictions for 2015” I found twenty-nine predictions on the Fortune website–many of them economic, scientific, and health related. (If you want to check them out go to fortune.com/2014/12/04 predictions). The two that caught my imagination were not earth-shattering (at least in my world) but mildly interesting. The first is that the price of lattes will go up in 2015, and the second is that mom jeans are making a comeback.

I am not really sure why I care that the price of lattes are going up since the last time I had one was Never, but I found the fact that coffee beans are predicted to be extinct in 2080 slightly alarming. This year the price of both coffee beans and milk is projected to rise by 30%, hence the price of the latte is predicted to go up. Not good news for latte drinkers, but not a big loss for me. It is important to note though, that regular coffee drinkers and those who enjoy a glass of milk with their chocolate chip cookie will also be affected. In the interest of all that is caffeinated and dairy related, I hope this prediction is wrong.

I do hope that the other prediction that caught my attention is right though. I herald the return of the “mom jean” which I wore proudly and comfortably for many a year. According to the Fortune predictions, both Goldman Sachs (a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm) and Vogue magazine agree that “the high-waisted, angle length, slightly tapered denim trouser” is making a comeback in 2015. Fortune does not really explain why, but I know why. They are comfortable and relaxed, and though they are not all that figure flattering—many of us do not care all that much. And what has really sold me is the fact that Miley Cyrus and Chloe Sevigny are on board. Admittedly, Miley is not so much a fashion icon as fashion mess, but Chloe was a 1990’s “it” girl, so that is good enough for me. (Had my husband read this and he did not get it—so for clarification I was being a little tongue in cheek here.)

Some of Fortune’s other predictions were noteworthy—like the S & P will close at 2312 at the end of 2015, a 10% boost; the Apple Watch will succeed; and, stool samples are going to go mainstream. It is this last one that I find fascinating, and almost included it as my number three most interesting prediction by Fortune. Evidently “our bacterial ecosystems will unlock the trickiest medical issues from obesity to allergies” in 2015, due to our “data-rich stool(s)”.

I have no personal predictions for 2015. I have hopes. And dreams. And wishes. And perhaps too strong of a reliance on my weekly $4 6/49 ticket. I have read many a book advising people to rely on their sixth sense which includes instincts, intuition, and gut feelings, but I was definitely behind the door when that bonus was given out. On occasion my hunches pan out, but I heed the philosophy of my husband who is often heard saying “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.”

Published in: on January 20, 2015 at 5:52 pm  Comments (27)  

Elation

on thehomefrontandbeyond:

love this poem by another LouAnn who spells her name like I spell mine….

Originally posted on labuhrows.com:

Pure delight
by love or lore
joyful heart
stubborn smile
revelry
resilience
reverence
resplendence
A new chapter begins.

image

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Published in: on January 17, 2015 at 11:47 pm  Comments (2)  

Open Your Eyes

January 17th entry in Melody Beattie’s book “Journey to the Heart”:

scan0001.jpg“Open your eyes, open your senses, open your heart. Walk out your door, look around. You’ll be shown. You’ll be guided. Your heart will lead you to what you need. Listen, look, feel. You are connected to the universe.”

(picture is of my youngest son, Tyler about twenty years ago–I thought his wide-eyed look was perfect for “Open Your Eyes”

Published in: on January 17, 2015 at 11:55 am  Comments (16)  

White Vogue

Frost on the windows
Imprinted with icy kisses
Winter in white vogue.photography

Published in: on January 15, 2015 at 9:09 pm  Comments (18)  

Truth

on thehomefrontandbeyond:

…..and book…..and chocolate

Originally posted on Live & Learn:

simple-coffee-life


(and maybe warm socks and vanilla ice cream)

Source: Just Saying

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Published in: on January 15, 2015 at 4:20 pm  Comments (8)  

Miracles

on thehomefrontandbeyond:

I believe in miracles…………….

Originally posted on Chalkboard Quotes:

We live on a  blue

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Published in: on January 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm  Comments (4)  

Midwinter Charms

My weekly column:

We are in the depths of a winter deep freeze, and I don’t know about you, but I have barely stuck my nose outside for several days. Cabin fever has not yet struck as my confinement is caused only by my reluctance to face the cold, and not an outside force.

I am keeping myself warm by turning up the heat (in a house which is becoming draftier as the days go on); drinking hot tea; and on occasion donning the heating pad. Wearing a heating pad may not be all that trendy right now, but mine is pink and covered in flowers, so it goes nicely with my jeans and turtleneck and very warm slippers I got for Christmas.

I am not complaining, or not complaining all that much, though I do see the benefit of escaping to a warmer clime, something I have never voiced before. Proudly Canadian, I have always thought that vacating our country for the one next door during the cold months is a bit unpatriotic—but I am quickly changing my tune.

Generally I like winter—but not a winter like last year, and not one where I am dreaming of hitting the freezing mark so I can wear just one pair of socks. So, I thought I would find a few voices to help me (and you) through the worst of this season. Perhaps these people romanticize winter, but I need a hit of positivism to get me through the next few weeks. And who knows, by the time you read this, it might be a balmy 0 centigrade or so.

I am supposed to be reading “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beattie on a daily basis, as her insights are neatly gathered under the headings of January 1, 2, 3, etc. Today would be January 10th but it is under the 13th that I find some words to console me ever so slightly. She tells us to:

“Cherish the winter.
Cherish it quietness,
the time of going within to rest and heal.
Cherish this time of preparation
that must come before new life.
Cherish the hope that lies beneath the snow.”

Beattie believes that we should “honour winter’s lesson” and says that the sun will shine again, the snow will melt, and we will return to “the activity of life.” She thinks that winter is an important season in our lives and that it is a time of “going within” and “rest”.
Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame agrees with Beattie’s analysis. Though he came before her, he too thinks that winter is a time of rest, and paints a serene picture in his quote about the season of cold. He said: “I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Carroll’s observation is lyrical so I will forgive him for treating winter as if it is an old friend.

I am more in the mood for John Steinbeck’s rather practical if less romantic analysis of winter. He asks, somewhat impishly (Steinbeck impish?—pray tell my mind is wavering): “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” Here, here, I say. We must suffer a bit in order to enjoy (alas, I wish it were not so).

But my favourite quote of all comes from a poet after my own heart. Dame Edith Sitwell sums up winter and all its charms in these words:

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is time for home.”

For it is in winter that home is our refuge—our friendly place—the place we do not mind being. So wrap yourselves in scarves, pile on the sweaters and socks, and savour the time that winter gives us to pause—if just for a moment.

Published in: on January 13, 2015 at 2:46 am  Comments (33)  
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Happy New Year to All my Lovely Readers

on thehomefrontandbeyond:

I believe in Magic………….

Originally posted on mybeautfulthings:

Keep looking for the magic Keep looking for the magic

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Published in: on January 2, 2015 at 5:08 pm  Comments (8)  
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