Tag Archives: personal development

Be Together

 

 

 

“We were together. I forget the rest (Walt Whitman)”….that’s what the sign in the gift shop said.  I stopped, read the sign, and then read it again, and still again.  What does that mean ?

After running several possible interpretations through my head, I landed on what I wanted Whitman’s words to mean. I think he is saying we were together, family or perhaps friends, and that is all that mattered.  What we talked about, laughed and cried about, what we ate and drank,  and surely what we wore that day does not matter.  What does matter, the only thing that matters,  is that we were together.

High SUCCESSTROGEN women spend time with family and friends and they do so without any big discombobulation in their lives. They get together effortlessly because they know the value of hanging out with people they care about. They feel good about the fact that they got together.

Get together with family and friends. Do what it takes to get there. Put your fatigue and hectic life aside, and make it happen. Just be there. Be together, you can forget the rest.   What you need to remember is that you were together.

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My Postage Stamp Process

I was sending a card to a friend this morning to make her day just a tad brighter. I pulled the stamp from the roll, placed it  in the upper right hand corner of the envelope, and ran my thumb from left to right. I paused and smiled. How many times had I done this same thing, exactly this way?–Thousands of times.  The exact number is not important, but the fact is that every time I apply the stamp, following the same process, I have confidence that the US Post Office will do its job and the letter will arrive to the intended person, on time.  Every time.  My process and that of the Post Office are tight processes: I prepare the envelope correctly with a stamp (and the thumb left to right action) and the post office sorts the incoming mail, routes it, and delivers it, every time, on time.

I worked as a consultant in a variety of large corporations in the 80’s and 90’s taking  organizations through a movement called Total Quality. TQM as it was referred to, was all about having clearly defined processes across an organization that connected one department to another, getting the final product eventually  to the end-user, be that an internal or external user. We referred to each department we were handing off work to as an “internal customer”, the next person in line to receive our work.  We fully understood the needs and requirements of the next customer or user, and took responsibility for making sure we were delivering a quality product to them.  The movement with its emphasis on redefining cumbersome processes was embraced fully and it was remarkable to see the reduction of unnecessary steps, the reduction of work errors, and most important, the improvement in the final product or outcome.

Like my application of the postage stamp,  I have several processes that I followed religiously because they give me my desired outcome,  every single time.  My morning routine is one of those processes:  I shower, do hair/makeu[, ask Alexa for the forecast, dress, eat breakfast and review my gratitude list.  That  gets me out the door, on time, looking and feeling as good as a 70-something woman can. When I am planning a Social Committee event for my condo, I  complete a prioritized list of all that has to be done with a by whom and by when notation after each item. This  makes planning simultaneous events manageable, and one that consistently results in a well-organized event. When friends ask me how I do all that I do, I know the answer lies in my clearly defined processes.

High SUCCESSTROGEN women have developed processes that work for them in their busy work and personal lives. Their consistency works well for those with whom they live and work, delivers what they need, and eliminates much stress in their lives.  Sometimes  processes need to be tweaked to accommodate changes because they no longer deliver the product we or the next user needs. High SUCCESSTROGEN women take the time to redesign a broken process so they continue to deliver their best.

I am not sure I did this well enough with my children years ago, but if I were parenting today I would focus on processes, helping my children understand how some routines in their lives will eliminate stress for them, keep them organized, and serve them well throughout their lives.  As you know I also enjoy the spontaneous side of my life, where I pull some fun happening together based on a spur of the moment whim. I am able to do that  because of a few, well  organized processes in my day that allow me time and energy to respond to a sudden whim.

So give some thought to where a defined process will help you or your children, or consider redesigning a process that no longer delivers your anticipated outcome. The deal is not to become rigid with your life, but rather to select a few key processes that you commit to that will help you manage your day.

 

Way too Many Hazelnuts

 

 

Today, after a few weeks of eliminating sugar in my diet, I bought a candy bar …a Swiss chocolate bar that boasted 30% whole hazelnuts in large letters on its wrapper.  I couldn’t wait to get home and break off a big chunk and savor the combination of smooth Swiss milk chocolate and the crunch of the round whole hazelnuts.  I know, I know, you would have chosen a healthier dark chocolate.  I tried to like dark chocolate, I really did,  but I don’t like it.–not at all!

So I got home and barely removed my coat when I was tearing at the wrapper. I broke off a chunk, sat down and began what I thought was going to be a delightful feast.   The milk chocolate was all bumpy, covered with hazelnuts.  Yikes, too many hazelnuts per square inch!  Actually there were so many hazelnuts there was barely any milk chocolate! I craved a milk chocolat bar, not a pound of hazelnuts.  I mean I like hazelnuts and all but this candy bar was way over the top with them. It is obvious to me that the  chocolatier had no concept of  the phrase”less is more.”

A longtime lady of excess, it took me longer than  it should have to appreciate the  “less is more” philosophy.   I get it now, having downsized significantly as I moved to a small downtown Bethesda condo from a 3200 sq foot condo in Florida.   The extra-large guest rooms in my beachfront condo have been replaced by one small windowless spare room.  The two large balconies overlooking the Gulf and Bay gave way to a tiny “Juliet balcony” not large enough for me to even display a plant.  The huge walk in closets are no more, but then again the dozens of sneakers and tennis outfits are no longer either.  The bath tub that practically allowed me to swim laps is now a small shower with just enough room for me–good thing I shower alone! But I must tell you,  I love my less-is-more life, every bit of it. It is uncluttered. It is calm. It is easy to find things because everything has its place.

My milk chocolate bar with 30% whole hazelnuts would have worked well in my previous life. Today, I needed a milk chocolate bar with hint of  hazlenuts.  I will send a note on to Trader Joe’s to forward to their chocolatier.  I know my message will be laughed at, tossed aside and not taken seriously….until of course, someone at Trader Joe’s has to downsize in their life for whatever reason, and then, only then, will they understand what I am saying.

High SUCCESSTROGEN women don’t need extra stuff. They, too, have figured it out, “less is more”.  They put a high value on the person they have become and what they contribute to their work and personal communities,  on their family and friends.  They work hard to mak the world a better place, and to protect the people in their lives.  They put much less value on accumulating things.

If you haven’t already experienced it for yourself, start with a plain milk chocolate candy bar!

 

 

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A Lesson About the Epiphytes

Months ago,  I visited Selby Gardens, botanical gardens  located in Sarasota just around the corner from where I used to live.  While meandering along the garden paths, I was grateful that Marie Selby’s vision came to life. Selby Gardens displays over 20,000  plants and is recognized as the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytes.

An epiphyte (of the orchid and bromeliad family) is a plant that grows on another plant without being parasitic, and actually adding to it substantially.  The epiphyte adds beauty and a softness of colorful blossoms to an otherwise dull, hard looking grey tree trunk. An epiphyte can be artificially glued to a tree or another plant or find a new home on its own with the help of the wind.

A fun fact is that the epiphyte will choose either to flourish in its new environment and be happy there or not.  I was fascinated with this fact as I observed a tall tree filled with resident epiphytes that were blooming in many vibrant colors.  The tree clothed in a dull grey-brown bark  was not decorative in and of itself, but once the epiphytes took up residence, the grey bark became alive with  bright splashes of fuchsia, orange, and yellow flowers. Those brightly epiphytes colored blooms displayed shiny leaves obviously thriving well individually and collectively.   One nearby tree obviously was not comfortable for the resident epiphyte, as the flower was dull in color and rather limp adding nothing to the vibrance of the tree.

I live in a condo building.  The building of steel, brick, and glass looks like any other building along a given city street anywhere in America.  The residents, much like the epiphyte,  take up residence and either bring life to the cold condo structure, or they detract from it. They are either happy there or they are not.

When we are happy where we live, or where we work for that matter,  it is as obvious as the brightly colored epiphyte on the tree trunk.  However, unlike the epiphyte that doesn’t take any nutritional value from the tree, when condo residents or employees in a work environment choose to not be happy, they in fact do detract from the environment.  The negative people will suck the life out of the community, making it more difficult for those who have embraced it, and in a work environment, will detract from the creativity and productivity of the work place. Go where you can flourish and add to the environment.

Take a moment to assess whether you are flourishing and adding to your present living or work environment,  or zapping the energy from it. Do yourself a favor, like the epiphyte, find the place where you will be happy and flourish and add to the beauty, productivity and fun of the environment.

 

 

An Elevator Challenge

Every four months, I see the dental hygienist at 7:00 am.  Yesterday was one of those days.: in at 7:00, out by 8:00.  Late afternoon  I rode the elevator with a woman in my building who asked how my day was going.  “Great!”, I offered, “Starting with the dentist at 7:00, followed by a water workout  at 9:45, and __”, and that was all she needed to hear.

Her two hands immediately shot up, elbows pressing against her sides and fingers spread wide as though she were being arrested. She stopped me in my tracks with, “I cannot believe you were at the dentist office before I even g0t out of bed!” I mistook her words as complimentary about my unusual energy level.  I began to smile and almost made a fool of myself by thanking her, when she blasted me, “Why do you always have to be busy every moment of the day?”  OUCH!  This was no compliment!

Why do you always have to be busy every moment of the day?”

While she was not about to be nationally recognized for her interpersonal skills,  I must admit, her question was noteworthy; as a matter of fact, it haunted me. The impact of her emphasis on the word “busy”, (translation: meaningless) was like being shot with an arrow that hurt like the dickens and needed to be dislodged. The elevator door came to my rescue, she got off, and I was left to remove the arrow.

So call it justification or an over reaction on my part, call it whatever you like, but here is how I removed the sting of her arrow:

I was “born busy”. I have always been busy. Frankly I like that part about me.  I get a lot accomplished in a day. I remember writing “to do” lists (TDL) well before my 10th birthday, thriving on the awesome feeling of crossing off each accomplishment. Back then the items frequently on my TDL were organizing my school supplies, writing a story, or setting up a “store” in my basement).

As I was raising a large family and starting the first of many careers,  I relied on several different TDLs to manage my varied roles of mom, homeowner and business woman. More recently, I graduated to my Alexa version of an electronic TDL–not quite the same crossing off experience, nevertheless it keeps me technologically current.  Recently retired, my TDL seems longer than it should be, wondering how I ever managed to get 5 children off to school, tend to my own business, cook, clean, and attend the kids multi-league basketball functions  throughout the week. I would argue that it is because of my reliance on a TDL, albeit it paper or electronic, that allowed/allows me to get it all done.

So the arrow was removed and I feel better again. But as a high SUCCESSTROGEN woman like yourself, I know that I need to look a bit further into how I am spending my time.  The real issue here and therefore the challenge put forth to me in the elevator, is about purpose, not just being busy doing  things. Throughout my life, I always had a clear, driving purpose: To be a mom, to earn my PhD, to teach at a university, to help Michael manage through his Parkinson’s, and to be instrumental in building a community spirit in my condo.

But what is my purpose now? What am I doing beyond the things listed on today’s TDL to contribute to my community, to help others? High SUCCESSTROGEN women continue to use their skill sets well beyond their motherhood or professional status to help others manage their lives more easily.

Shout out to the woman on the elevator  for posing the question!  I  am reminded that I need to continue the search to be clear on “my who” and “my why.”  When clear on that, I am truly functioning at my best, I am helpful to others, and I feel good about myself.

By the way, enough about me, have  you given any thought to “your  who” and “your why” lately?

 

 

 

Out of Control

 

 

 

Cancer is the result of cells that have gone out of control; the cells have literally run amok!  I have  breast cancer, meaning  my cells out of control.  While this diagnosis is new to me, being out of control is way too familiar.

Sometimes my eating is out of control. I know it when it happens because I have an  upset stomach, my weight is up, and there’s a gross extra layer of flab hanging over my waistline that wasn’t there the week before.   As I stare at my not -so-flattering mirror image, eating half a coconut cake comes to mind, as well as a few too many Almond Joys.  That recollection fuels my need to quickly throw out any left over junk food, start a daily/early morning abs workout, swim laps , and add steps to my usual 15K until I get control of my eating, until I look and feel good again.  I know I am out of control when I  ask the kids about their Easter plans and they remind me it is only August,  when my daughter likes a certain shampoo and I send her 6 bottles, and I recently experienced being out of control when I found a great pair of leggings for travel, and I bought 6 pair for my friends!

My kids describe me as  “over the top”, but it means the same thing…too much spontaneous action, no regard for consequences, a.k.a. “out of control.” I am the problem and the cause and frankly, I and only I, am the solution.

However,  my out of conrol cells present a different problem.  I cannot fix my cancer. I cannot calm down the out of control cells, or make the malignant ones disappear.   I cannot fix this by being less impulsive.   I need to rely on someone else, apparently a team of someone elses, to get things back under control.

As high successtrogen women, women who have clearly defined success for themselves,  we know when somethng  is out of control  and whenever we can, we face it and fix it.  When something needs to be fixed by someone else, someone more skilled, with an expertise that we don’t have, we go to them quickly and we  put our problem in their hands.  We don’t hesitate.

This week I am putting my life in the hands of others to get my cells back in control once and for all.  And while they are busy tending to the task, it would be wise for me  to get the eating and shopping in control once again as well as once and for all.

Where’s Julio?

 

I am “visiting home”, vacationing in the very building in which I last lived. While fully aware that things change,  my hope was that I would find my former residence exactly as it once was and my friends just as I had remembered them.

As I Ubered into the parking lot, a myriad of  memories swirled in my head, each one competing for my attention.  The tall white concrete structure reminded me of how long it took to paint the building, a six-month project that turned into a 2-year one, nevertheless it still looks beautiful. The sight of the hastily scattered shopping carts outside the front entrance forced its way to the front of my mind. That always bugged me. Why couldn’t people walk just a few steps further to the shopping cart storage area? When I lived here, several times a day I would take the abandoned carriages and return them where they belonged.  Today was no exception!

The maintenance crew greeted me with hugs and smiles, reminding me of the relationships I had built beyond that of other residents. I recalled the late night cake parties at the front desk, the incredible smart women who lived in this building, and the feeling that we all watched out for one another.

The memories kept coming:  I recalled when three of us traveled to Philly to see Pope Francis, four of us went to Manhattan to be on the Rachel Ray Show, and a group of us celebrated Helen’s retirement, our favorite concierge of all time. We all dressed up with wigs and masks of Helen’s face and did this funny recitation, “Please, Helen, Please Don’t Go!”  So many wonderful memories’ I couldn’t wait to see everyone.

In a high SUCCESSTROGEN mode of  keeping relationships strong, I carefully planned   breakfasts, lunches and dinners each day with one friend at a time. I am happy to say that most are today as I remember them from a few years ago…bright, active, and grateful for all that is. A few have moved on to nursing homes,  one friend died this week while I was here, and sad to say, a few others died before I had a chance to say goodbye.

But one friend, Julio, was nowhere to be found. We met because we both had routines that intercepted every Sunday. Julio swept the sidewalk at Classico, an outdoor cafe. Early Sunday morning he would power wash the sidewalk, pick up hundreds of  cigarette butts and bits of broken glass carelessly left behind by the Saturday night crowd.  He worked hard,  cleaning the area as though he was preparing for a visit from the King of  his native country, Mexico. I often worked along side of him as we chatted. Only when  there were no more butts anywhere and all the pillows were in place, did he go home.

Julio and I became friends..two people, with entirely different lives but a shared value set about hard work. I looked for him on Sunday but there was someone else in his place.

“Where’s Julio?” I asked rather abruptly as though the young man had done something to my friend.

“Mam?” he asked.

“Julio, my friend who used to do this job. ” I said.

He  just shook his head and got in his car.   As he  drove off, I couldn’t help but notice the butts under the furniture and the crooked pillows left behind. I discarded the butts, moved a few chairs so they would allow for better conversation for the lunch crowd, and  straightened the pillows, just as Julio and I had done so many times together.

Julio,  I don’t know where you are.  But I think often of our chats about doing a job well,  thoroughly and being proud of what we do.  I miss the chats and I miss you.