Role Reversal

 

No, I’m not talking about Chas Bono on Dancing With the Stars.

Dr. Richard Fine, a friend of mine, told me he was facilitating a Role Reversal Program at a senior living community this week. He said, “I’m going to ask my audience to pretend to switch feet, or hearts, or clothing with another attendee, and follow that with a discussion on how that changes your perspective.”

“What’s the purpose of this exercise,” I asked.

“Empathy. It’s all about placing yourself in the role of another. How does that impact your thoughts? Your actions? Your feelings?”

Here’s the etymology of the word empathy: Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathEs, emotional, from em- + pathos, feelings, emotion.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.

Karen Cortell Reisman’s definition of empathy: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – an extension of Dr. Fine’s role reversal workshop this week.

Empathy is a powerful relationship-builder that can form the bedrock of sustainable careers. Empathy can also make life’s little challenges easier to deal with.

Life, Death, and Fish Balls

Karen Cortell Reisman with her mother, Anne Cortell, in 1990.

Today’s blog was published in the Texas Jewish Post on 9-22-11.

Happy New Year to all who celebrate the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah.

 You should never make my Mom’s Gefilte Fish Balls. Why?

1. Your house will reek of fish for one week.

2. YOU will smell like fish for one week.

3. Your refrigerator will smell like fish for two weeks.

You should read this recipe and the back story (below). Why?

1. It’s about what really matters-making time for those you love and creating wonderful traditions and memories in and out of the kitchen.

2. It’s funny.

3. It’s delicious.

My mom, of blessed memory, was a great cook. The only problem was that she never taught me anything. Every year for the Jewish Holidays of Passover and Rosh Hashanah she made her famous gefilte fish balls – a classic appetizer dish. The universe must’ve sent me a hint – shortly before her death I realized that I did not know how to make this fish, a dish that was loved by all.

I dashed over to her home and watched her prepare the gefilte fish, against her wishes. She remarked, “I don’t know how I do it. I just put it all together. I can’t give you a real recipe”. Hence – you will find these approximate amounts below.

 INGREDIENTS

2 pints of finely ground onions

Tell the guy to take this amount of fish and filet and grind twice. Once it’s ground you should have around a total of 6 pounds of ground fish.

Make sure he saves the carcass and skin – and gives to you. Have them remove the eyes.

3 pounds of buffalo fish

4 pounds of trout

4 pounds of whitefish

8 carrots

A head of celery – use the very tops and the bottom part (I think my mom was saving the best part for other usage)

1.5 sticks of margarine

2 large onions, sliced (that’s in addition to the pre-ordered ground onions)

1 dozen eggs

14 ounces matzo meal

Salt

Pepper

Lawry salt

Garlic salt

Sugar

2 packs of clear Knox gelatin

Couple of jars of red horseradish

DIRECTIONS

Place rinsed skeletons, heads, tails in bottom of a huge deep rectangular pan that will cover two of your burners on your stove. Throw away fish skin.

Add water – totally cover – about ¾ high in the pan.

Add all the carrots, celery tops and bottoms, margarine, sliced up onions.

Add:

7 seconds of salt – from large container using the spout

7 seconds of garlic salt – with open bottle (no sifter)

5 seconds of Lawry salt – with open bottle (no sifter)

4 seconds of sugar out of sack

3.5 seconds of pepper

Put on two burners on stove on high till it boils. Cover and turn to simmer for around 40 minutes to an hour. While this is simmering, prepare the fish. Put all the ground fish in large bowl.

 Add:

2 pounds finely ground onion

3 cups of water

1 dozen eggs

14 ounces of matzo meal

6 seconds of salt (for all seasonings use same lid as above)

4.5 seconds of pepper

5 seconds of Lawry salt

5 seconds of garlic salt

4 seconds of sugar

Knead together and add 4 more cups of water

Use an ice cream scooper – dip scooper into heated fish broth first – then scoop out 2 balls. Fill the scooper but make it flat at the top (unlike today’s huge portion of ice cream at an ice cream shop, but that’s another story). Put the scoops of fish into the fish broth.

Turn the broth up to boil again and wait for the balls to float, turn white, and not fall apart. These are your test balls! IF they fall apart, add more matzo meal to your ground fish concoction.

Take your test balls out when ready and place in freezer. Go grab some coffee and wait a bit. Take the balls out of the freezer and eat them. Should taste delicious.

Now get busy: Put 16 balls at a time into the fish broth. Bring to a boil. Should take about 10 min. to cook – or until they’re really floating.

Makes a total of 114 balls (not an approximation) *

Once done: take all the fish bones and other ingredients out of the fish broth. Add in the gelatin. Save the cooked carrots and dice.

Pour the fish broth over the fish balls in their various glass Pyrex dishes. Cover and refrigerate.

SERVE

2 fish balls per plate, 1 little slice of cooked carrot on top of each piece of fish. Looks a little like the balls are graduating from college.

Place some of the jelled fish broth on each plate. Add a dab of horseradish to the side.

* While Mom never had a written recipe, she kept a log of each time she prepared Gefilte Fish. Her detailed notes of jelling challenges, added matzo meal, how many balls went where date back to the 1950’s. Some notes from her batch on 9-18-1990: “It made a total of 114 balls and I think it turned out very good! Indeed EXCELLENT AND IT JELLED!! Total of 81 balls for Karen, she had 11 left for her. 12 for Nina, 8 for me, 4 for Reisman, 8 for Kallenberg, 2 each for Ruth and Norma.”

BACK STORY

As I grew up, we always had a large crowd for Rosh Hashanah. Then after I got married, I inherited the tradition and celebrated this High Holy Day – the Jewish New Year, at my home. At one time we peaked at around 45 people for this seated dinner.

Mom continued to prepare the fish. On the day of the dinner she would arrive at my door around 11am, honking her horn. I’d come outside and help bring in the 5 Pyrex dishes filled with The Balls. We would sit down, have some fish with fresh Challah (bread) – a true highlight moment. I always knew the best part about this celebration was not the holiday itself, but the entire day spent with my Mom. We would set the tables, prepare other dishes, and spend quality time together.

I vividly recall her final Rosh Hashanah. According to her notes she brought the fish over on 9 – 8 – 1991, two days before her 72nd birthday. She honked her horn as usual. As she came in she said, “Karrrren (she had a thick German accent), I’m tired. I don’t know why. I shouldn’t be, but I am.”

We had our typical fantastic day together and a lovely evening celebration. She had a fatal heart attack two months later.

A year later I took her copious log, called the grocery store and attempted to make The Balls. At the last minute Aunt Lorraine offered to help. (Aunt Lorraine was not a ‘real’ Aunt – she was my Mom’s best friend and a second mother to me. We just called everyone ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.)

Out of deep sadness evolved a new rich tradition. From that year forward, Aunt Lorraine and I would prepare The Balls together. She had her pot – covering two burners, I had mine – covering the other two burners. She tossed in the same amount of seasoning as I. Then she’d say, “Karen, I don’t get it! We’ve done the exact same thing, but your balls always taste better”, which was an accurate assessment, in my humble opinion. I responded, “Aunt Lorraine, I know why. My mom is watching over my pot, not yours.”

Then Aunt Lorraine was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and just ahead of Rosh Hashanah she called and said, “Karen, I won’t be able to prepare the gefilte fish this year.”

Her comment spoke volumes. What she was really saying was, I can’t make the gefilte fish because I’m dying. That would be the ONLY reason one would not be there.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from gefilte fish balls:

With my mom – It wasn’t about the balls, it was about love, and tradition, and celebration and family.

With Aunt Lorraine – It wasn’t about the balls, it was about finding ways to move from deep grief to new and special connections that help fill the void.

So – don’t make these balls (refer back to beginning of recipe).

But – do make time for those you love. Create wonderful traditions in and out of the kitchen. Those memories – past, present, and future are delicious.

What I Learned from E-mail Marketing Boot Camp (Part II)

By Arin Forstenzer

Why should you start social media marketing?

  1. Build your social network of fans, followers and connections by:
  2. Sharing useful, relevant & interesting content that encourages them to interact with you
  3. Interacting with fans and followers through conversation, discussions/debates, problem solving, updates, and so on.
  4. Sharing customer testimonials or success stories
  5. Gives your audience a platform to engage with you

Best Practices for Social Media Marketing

  1. Create a presence: grow brand awareness through various social networks
  2. Provide engaging, relevant content: links to websites, articles, industry-related updates, upcoming events, etc.
  3. Managing Commentary

Combination of both email marketing and social media is best

  1. Twitter: use as the HOOK to spark conversation, link back to Facebook or LinkedIn for further engagement
  2. E-mail/Website: use what you learn in your e-mails and on your website for deeper content integration

 

Pictures from my Keynote at Ambition! 2011

Recently I keynoted at the Annual Ambition! Convention.

The 1500 in attendance were incredibly gracious and energetic the entire morning, even dancing in their seats as Esther Spina, Chair Extradinaire, emceed the event. They really knew how to turn it on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Lesley Chambless – she did a fabulous job of introducing me! Her husband, Chris Chambless is a founder of Ambit Energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esther Spina – Chair of this event:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Ambit Energy Consultants:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambit’s motto:

Debugging Your Life and Your Salad

By Arin Forstenzer

 

My  mother lifted a piece of lettuce on her plate and we discovered she had been given a bit of extra protein with her steak, in the form of a very well done cockroach.

After my initial reaction of pure horror, my mother waved to the maître’D. She showed him the cockroach. The management apologized profusely, and made it clear the restaurant would take care of it.

By this point my mother and I were laughing at the situation—the restaurant staff was visibly more upset by the cockroach than we were.

In addition to covering our entire meal and drinks, the chef sent out a free order of the restaurant’s signature dessert (which I have to say was worth the cockroach on the plate).

When the chef came over a second time to check on us, my mother responded saying, “Really, don’t worry. These things happen.” And before we left we actually walked up to the chef to tell her that despite the cockroach, the meal had really been delicious, and was a restaurant we would love to come back to.

When I told my friends the story, they had the kind of reaction I can only assume the restaurant was expecting, saying things like “they could be shut down for that.” Throughout my life, despite a tendency to overreact initially, I have always found that being gracious and understanding tends to have the best results when it comes to customer service.

How to debug your life and your salad:

  1. Stay calm and courteous
  2. Find the humor
  3. Sautee your cockroaches with a bit of butter and garlic

Two Ideas on Communicating Concern during a Health Crisis

Linda asked, “What’s the best way to show you care?” We were having a conversation about a mutual acquaintance that has been diagnosed with cancer.

She had already called our friend, with no response. Now she was beginning to feel like she hadn’t done “enough”, and worse than that – like she was becoming a nag if she called again.

I said, “Become a Chocolate Fairy.”

We all know people who are facing dark challenges. The last thing they need on their list is to return calls and emails, think about what they want from us – they are just trying to make it through each day, or write thank you notes for cooked meals.

I continued, “Preempt burdening the one who’s having a tough time. Just send a bar of chocolate periodically. I send a note – ‘When all else fails, there’s always chocolate!’ That way they know we are thinking of them.”

I added, “If I prepare a meal, I deliver it along with a self-addressed stamped envelope, with a thank you note to me that I’ve already written! It goes something like this: Dear Karen and Jim, Thank you so much for the chicken. It tastes ____________. You were so thoughtful to think of us. Warmly, ____________.”

With great laughter, I told Linda, “I love getting my own note in the mail! They always add something about the chicken!”

My conversation with Linda made me think about appropriate etiquette when dealing with friends who are ill whether you know them personally or professionally. Try these ideas to show you care without adding to their challenges.

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