Tag Archives: women

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.


Lap 13

“What happened?”, that is the question that haunted me recently after my morning swim.   A more specific follow-up question is:  When did I develop a selfish side?

My awareness occurred during lap 13 which shall now forever be embedded in my mind. I swim every morning. I usually do water aerobics for about 30 minutes and then swim laps.  My mom was a championship swimmer “way back when”, but that gene is one I did not inherit.  However I am drawn to the water and perhaps that is a way of staying connected to her. I am not a good swimmer, certainly not a pretty one, but I love my 60 minute daily swim far more than any other exercise I do.

At Washington Sports Club,  there are four lanes in the pool, carefully roped off by heavy plastic ropes, suggesting that each swimmer stay in her lane.  I am a believer of the “lane” concept. Beyond swimming, it refers to one of my basic values:  “staying in my lane” if you will, where I can excel. Every now and then I step “out of my lane” and  try something new, like learning to speak a new language, but find myself happy to retreat back to my lane as mom, gram, Professor O’Neil, and Social Committee Chair. In my lane I am at my best,  confident, comfortable, and happy.

On the morning in question,  I was literally in my lane doing my laps and as I approached the wall preparing for a turn on Lap 13, I saw a man standing outside the pool looking to see where he could fit in. “Oh No!” I thought to myself. “I don’t like to share a lane.”  I pretended to not notice him. I checked the other lanes and found they were all  occupied. Surely one of the other swimmers would offer to share their lane! I,who meets and greets strangers on the street every day, deliberately never made eye contact. with this man. I did my turn, and kept on going on to Lap 13, at a faster pace than I ever remember swimming.  It was as though I was swimming far away from that guy, or perhaps more accurately said, ” far away from the right thing to do. “–not like me, not at all like me!

On my walk home, I could not get my mind off what had occurred. When did I get so selfish that I couldn’t so much as share a lane with another swimmer? I always think of myself as a generous person , but not this time. No this time I was downright selfish.

I couldn’t help but wonder:  Was this an isolated decision or were there other selfish moments lately? I couldn’t answer that question but I will continue to search hard. A high SUCCESSTROGEN woman takes care of herself (makes choices that work for her) but does so with full acknowledgement of its impact on others around her (the swimmer looking for a lane). If I find other examples, well then that is not the woman I wish to be and I will make the changes I need to make.

And so I am off to visit a friend, will share this story with her and she will “let me off the hook” by declaring that I am not selfish.  She will back her statement up by several examples of things I  did years ago when I lived here that she benefitted from directly.  But you see, my belief is that whether I am selfish or not is not determined by what I did in the past, but rather by what I do each new moment and my moment before Lap 13 I decided to be selfish.


The Junk Drawer

My friend just stopped by to drop off a NY Times article she thought I would enjoy. She said she didn’t have time to chat because today was the day she was going to clean out her junk drawer. The door no sooner closed behind her and I found myself standing in front of my junk drawer, aghast! It appeared that everything I ever owned had found its way to the perfect hiding place.  Surely  if I had found any one of these items on my coffee table or my precious new, navy-laminated desk, I would have tossed it out.

A junk drawer? In my very neat and well-organized apartment?  Heavens! Years ago I always had a junk drawer but back then there were way too many kids, a husband, a business to run, and a tennis competition to get to. Back then there was no time to clean out a junk drawer, as a matter of fact, I think I had several!

But today, I am retired, by myself, and I have all the time in the world to make sure a junk drawer never occurds. My OCD about keeping order just doesn’t allow for a junk drawer! Right now, it you were to open my refrigerator you would see all my water bottles, neatly in rows like soldiers, one behind another, labels to the front. The same is true of my yogurt containers, all in neat rows, like flavors with like flavors, allowing one to easily select the flavor of the moment.  Further, my socks are all paired and neatly arranged in my sock drawer, my shoes are organized by type (heels, clogs, sneakers, Jack Rogers, and the like. So how is it that a pizza cutter, an old sales receipt, post it pads, two screws,  pens, an outdated coupon, a UND laminated name card, scissors, a paper clip, and broken rosary beads  all gravitated together in one drawer.

And so the project of organizing the junk drawer began.  The first few items were easy throw away decisions: an outdated coupon,  a used theater ticket, an old sales receipt from Pottery Barn for furniture I purchased when I moved here to Bethesda. But then I came upon the broken Rosary beads from my visit to Philadelphia with Helen and Leah to see the Pope. With tears in my eyes I recalled a very meaningful and faith-driven weekend. I miss Helen and Leah and thought about planning some sort of weekend reunion with those women who were once part of my daily life.  My Notre Dame lanyard reminded me of a workshop I delivered there for Catholic school coaches, as well as the football games we enjoyed while Michael Jr, was a UND student. Again, more tears. A theater ticket from Thurgood, an incredible look into the mind of Thurgood Marshall, a ribbon left behind by my granddaughter, and a photo of Michael, my former spouse had also made their way to the drawer.  How did these very special things end up here in a so-called junk drawer?

I couldn’t throw out the photo, the Rosary beads, the lanyard, or the theater ticket…they weren’t junk, they were…um, uh,…they were part of my story. So what am I to do with them? I looked around my small apartment and could not find a suitable place for any one of them. And then the only logical thing came to my mind: rename my junk drawer.  I went to the trash and retrieved the furniture sales receipt, the theater ticket that led me to better understand a very conservative mind.  I left the  old screws right there in the trash because I could not remember their significance.  My new “Special Things” drawer looks the same as its predecessor, but now the things that are in there belong there and nowhere else. As I closed the drawer, I realized how much pleasure opening the Special Things drawer brought me, I will have to do so more often.

Women with High SUCCESSTROGEN are organized because they need to be in order to do all that they do.  But they, too, allow themselves the luxury of a Special Things Drawer where stuff just lands, not junk , but really good stuff that is part of their story. The stuff in this draw  cannot be organized or labeled, nor can it be discarded. But it can bring them back in time occasionally, to recall parts of their story that reminds them of how they got to today.

Have you thought about taking a trip down memory lane lately and reviewed the contents of your junk drawer?

Birds who Sing

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was recently in the gym working out to Bob Marley’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, one of my favorite work out tunes.  That was followed by Danielle Bradbury’s rendition of “Grandpa”.  When I work out, I sing…loudly I might add. I love to work out and somehow I love to sing and the two go hand in hand for me. Problem:  I do not sing well.  Most of my “gym rat” buddies encourage me to sing and even request one of my usual happy tunes, but one friend finds my singing annoying. Now don’t be too harsh on him, he really is right in that I do not sing well and I often sing the same song over and over. So when he is in the gym, I do not sing out loud. I don’t enjoy my workout as much, but I do not like to be the source of others pissiness. Consequently, when he is not in the gym, I sing like there is no tomorrow!

My friend Leah is not a gym user and I have not discussed my loud singing problem with her but last week I invited her to join me for dinner.  She came in the door with a gift bag in which was a sparkly picture frame with a quote inside. She said she knew I would like it and she was spot on.

I read it out loud, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sing best.”

I know Leah wasn’t talking about my singing because she was not privy to it. But what the message she wanted to convey to me was “do what you do because if we wait for someone who can do it better, we may wait too long, and frankly they may choose not to.

So the broader message is…If there is something you enjoy doing and you don’t engage in it because you are not good at it, go do it anyway. Take a lesson, or ask for help to get started, or just plain go out on a limb..but don’t miss out, do it. Do what you enjoy, and taking from a previous blog, “learn by doing.”

Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN put themselves out there, even if they “don’t sing the best”. It is not about who is the best, but rather who has the passion to do something, for surely that drive and motivation will be far more valuable in the accomplishment of the task than being the best at it.  Sometimes when one has achieved “best in class”, the passion has waned…sort of a “been there, done that” kind of emotion. When the passion is there, the time is right!

If you have the desire, the passion, go and do, whether you are the best or not, go and do!

It’s Not About the Shoes




I agreed to meet  friends  last night for a quick “Hello, What’s Up?”.  I walked up the street and paused on the corner to make sure the approaching driver was aware I was about to cross.  A women stepped alongside of me. “Great shoes!” she said as she pointed to my feet. I looked down to remind myself which pair I had selected and smiled. I was wearing my  favorite bright red, patent leather, strappy shoes.   I responded, “Thanks. Nordstrom.”   My comments were short and to the point, after all I was about to cross the street, and I knew she didn’t saddle up to me to chat about the 2016 Presidential Election.   She just wanted to know where she could get the same shoes. She actually took a photo of them and I suspect by now she has a pair of her own.

When I arrived at the restaurant, my favorite waitress greeted me whispering,  “I want those shoes!” I hugged her and then hugged my two friends already settled in a booth with a glass of wine.   “Love your shoes, Mary Ann!”  they said almost in unison. Again, I noted “Nordstrom”.  I could see they both made a mental note of it and now there would be at least four pair of these same shoes in town.

I like it when others notice my shoes, new hair style, or dress. We all like compliments. But I remember well  when compliments on what I was wearing were meaningless to me.   When I was studying for my doctoral degree, I spent two weeks every summer in Atlanta with my cohort working on our research projects. I worked hard.  I received too many compliments from both the students and my professors about the dress I was wearing or the shoes that “brought the whole look together.”   Here I was at 62 years old struggling to get through this difficult program, especially learning how to conduct research. I would have welcomed recognition of my contributions in class, my writing capability, or how well I facilitated  a team  project.  The compliments about my wardrobe fell way short of what was important to me. Finally  one professor used my written work as an example of good academic writing, and that one compliment gave me the incentive to continue the academic challenge ahead of me.

If I could choose the  compliments coming my way today. they  would not be about my appearance. It isn’t how we look that defines us as women with high SUCCESSTROGEN.  It is about what we do , how we make the world a little better. I like the wise words from one of the greatest athletes of our time,

“It’s not about the shoes, it’s what you do in them”. (Michael Jordan)

Shoes….in their simplest form, they are a nice alternative to the hazards of walking in bare feet. But the impact you have on the world  is a direct result of your decision to help others everyday in those shoes.

What do you do to serve and help others?  How do you make others feel? Why is the world a better place with you in it?

Gotta go, I’ve got a meeting to attend.  I will probably notice what the other women are wearing, and surely check out their shoes, but  if I offer a compliment, I am going to focus on their behavior, what they do. This is perhaps another way I can make a difference.  Care to join me?

The Cancelled trip


I am almost always an “opt in” kind of gal. I readily respond to invites to participate in a new activity, hearing myself often saying, “Sure, I’m game. Count me in!”  Frankly, more often than that, I am creating the plan to engage others whether that be for a spontaneous walk in a rainstorm, attending a town meeting,  or last-minute movie.

But recently I uncharacteristically “opted out”, backed out of something I had dreamed about for years, lived through over and over again in my mind, and began planning for many months ago. I was all set to go to Tanzania and Kenya on Safari. All the plans were made.  My safari clothing and backpack (including animal print lingerie) was purchased.   I  had all the shots required to keep in good health before, during, and after the excursion.  But I opted out.  Things changed most unexpectedly and the once coveted journey lost its excitement and romance. The “opt in” gal opted out.

And here is what I learned from  this decision: The decision to not go on this journey, is in and of itself, part of my journey.  My journey is much bigger than the trips I take. My journey is my life as I live it, my life plan.  I generally make decisions to do new things in order to enhance my life plan, to go forward, to broaden and challenge myself.  I know well that daily decisions bring me to new learning, new places, and new friends.  Yet this decision, the decision to “not go” on the journey to Africa is also part of my life journey.  There is no need for me to be disappointed or sad. For this segment of my journey, I do not need to pack a suitcase, show my Visa or new immunization record,  I need only to open my mind and heart to the next road that seems to already be calling me.

With our high SUCCESSTROGEN, we women know when to opt in and opt out, because we have the skill of  clearly examining all the facts, factoring in our heart, and making the right decision for us. My journey has one more time taken me away from where I thought I was going, and to someplace else.  I cannot wait to see where it takes me.  And if you are at all curious, be sure that I will keep you posted. Frankly, the new journey has already begun due to some odd electronic mishap!

In the meantime, consider your own journey and determine if it is keeping you in or taking you to a good place. If so, if you like where you are or where you are headed,  then continue on your journey. If you feel your journey is taking you no where, that life is dull, not healthy, not what you want it to be, then  you need to revisit why and begin again on a more fun, healthier, and/or happier journey. Remember, even when there are road changes in our journey, the detours are still part of the same trip.

My journey is a good one, with new learning literally every day.  Come join me in making our journeys wonderful and as we travel side by side, or miles apart from each other, let’s stay alert to our journey and wish one another a safe, exciting, and happy one.

The Baby Bird





dreamstime_s_44745216Last week, an  injured baby bird fell from it’s nest, and landed in the parking lot, unable to fly.  A compassionate  staff member was doing his best to shoo away larger crow- like birds who were taking advantage of the helpless little dove but the larger “bullies” were not scared off easily. Arnold, the concierge at the front desk, called me to ask for help.

I decided I would call The Bird Sanctuary. It was a Sunday evening and the recorded message told me the bird hospital was closed but I could leave the bird at the entrance in a box. It took a while to coax the frightened little guy into the box, but before I knew it I was in my car driving to the Bird Sanctuary. I found myself talking to the Dove telling  him “Don’t worry, it will all be okay”, assuring him that the best doctors were on staff.  Probably the dumbest thing I said was, ” This is just a little setback, lots of baby birds fall out of their nest.” (Really? Had I conducted research that determined “lots of” baby birds fall out of their nests?)  My crazy conversation went on…” You will be flying around soon,  I promise.”  (Somehow at the height of my delirium I was claiming to be all-knowing and promised all would be well).  Obviously the burden of responsibility I felt had gotten the best of me.

I left the box and had a very restless night sleep. My internet search indicated the bird sanctuary opened at 7:30 am, so morning couldn’t come fast enough.  I called immediately at 7:30, and explained who I was and inquired about the little Dove.  “He will be going into surgery in about an hour” the kind voice said.  “Oh good”, I replied.  Can the doctor call me afterwards and let me know how he did?

There was silence on the end of the line. “Hello? ” I said, really saying, “Why aren’t you answering me?” and that kind voice responded…”Uh, mam, we don’t really do that, get back in touch with people who dropped off an injured bird. Realizing that the doctor and the staff there must be busy with many sick and injured birds and animals, I understood  it was foolish of me to expect that they would call me back with an update.  “Oh, no problem, I will call later back and check on him.

Two hours later I called and was told that the bird was in ICU recovering for 24 hours.  “Oh good I will stop in  and visit him.”  Again, that silence that I had experienced earlier this morning.  “Sir?” I questioned.

“Mam, look. We are very pleased that you cared enough to bring the bird to us so we could help him, but usually people do just that, they drop off the injured bird and that’s that. Their responsibility stops there.”

I added, “But he doesn’t have any family or friends to comfort him”.  You think I had silence before?…it was a very long pause this time, and while slow to get the point, I finally realized, I wasn’t going to get a call back and I couldn’t visit him.

I stopped asking and then softly said, I would call back the next day. Another restless night.  The next day I called and now I suppose  my name was on a list of nuisance women posted by the phone.  “Mam, look. We don’t have visitors in ICU or in the recovery cage.” And after all my seemingly ridiculous questions, I asked the final one that just blew the man’s mind. “Would you mind taking a picture of him and texting it to me? My eyes filled with tears as the kind voice explained that there were many little birds in the recovery cage, all flying this way and that and there would be no way of telling which bird was “my” bird.

And then the flood gates opened. I had to move on.  As you often do as well, I did a caring thing, just as  the doctors that  operated on the little feathered fellow did. But the point was I had to let go, let nature take its course, get out-of-the-way, however you wish to say it,—I had to move aside.  Sometimes in our lives, we just have to move aside even when we don’t understand the reason why. Women with high SUCESSTROGEN want to keep helping, but they do know when it is time to move aside, and let life go on.