Speaking Tips

Have something to say.
I notice my dogs don’t say much until they need something. Then they do everything they can to get my attention.IMG_9647IMG_9683


Have an ear. Use it. Listen. You’ll know what to say next – i.e., how to respond.

Not good to be thinking about what you want to say next.
No. Bad.

DSC00034Tell the truth. Show up. Don’t leave without permission. Wag your tail.


In talking with clients the issue of discomfort with a current situation is likely to come up. After all, I am called to make a difference in their lives. As humans we often get tied up and attracted/attached to what isn’t going right. We can be sure of what’s wrong, it’s obvious, isn’t it? So I’m often called to be the coxswain to a new life.

I, of course, can’t change direction but I give strategies and practices to clear a new path enforcing and re-enforcing the goals and vision of each person. In this lofty capacity the most important and really about the only action I take is to listen. Awareness is often what we leave behind while we are in an attitude of disappointment, discouragement or  hopelessness.

The mark I can make is fueled by attention. When you describe a reaction, a feeling, a situation that brings discomfort or dis-ease, my tuning in can make a difference. Accountability is the pen that can write the new path and compassion is its guiding light.

So often we let our minds be the spokesperson for tyranny. Where it came from matters less than turning away from the voices of discomfort and sorrow to allow what is. What is here around us is enough. When we can look with compassion at what disturbs us, we can see more clearly where change can happen. It’s not that things don’t change for the worse, they can, but dropping them without understanding, without vision can often lead to a repetition of the same circumstance.

Sometimes when we see green bitter berries, we forget they might be blueberries in a little while – given some sun and the right conditions. Not everything has a sweet ending and we don’t have to accept everything as it is. We can use our vision, compassion and intention to change ourselves and see where we really want to be.


Magic is all around us, it is the art of getting results. The rituals I see everyday now in watching Olympic athletes – the pulling of ears, air crosses everywhere – are tools to connect to a higher power – we see it in the world around us, we feel it in the air.

Connecting to magic sounds esoteric, arcane, unusual but those who get results are often seen by the rest of us as magicians but for them magic is a series of successful action steps taken not just when the moon is in a certain phase but when they are in alignment with their goals.

For me magic is when I feel the pull of an idea, an image, a goal and I take those steps toward it that will bring it closer. There are always choices to steps. Stepping away might be a distraction. That same step could be a saving grace for my goal if I’m stepping into a distraction from a thought that would keep me from my focus.

There are no dicta here. Not distracting myself from a thought that could hurt my self esteem is as important as keeping my focus while jumping a stream or riding my bike.

Gesture is the sword of ritual, words are the prayer. Costume is important. Wether I am dressed down for my studio, wearing walking shoes or dressed up for an important meeting I am  representing my goals.

Alignment is key. Appropriate attire depicting mindset is important on any field of purpose. Am I lined up and ready to go or did I forget an air cross or to pull on your ears?

Big Black Dog

My big black dog was named Borus, he was the kindest, sweetest, most gentle dog. And when other dogs saw him, they tried to attack him. It was funny, he would just sit or stand while they were jumping all over him. He had this big ruff around his neck and was completely protected from any attack. He weighed about 130 pounds and everyone loved him. He visited friends, he was welcome everywhere, he was a great dog.

But I’m not writing this because of his saintliness. I’m writing for the little dogs. They saw him and they saw an excuse to attack, they saw him and they knew he was coming to get them – nevermind he wasn’t moving. Once a woman called me to tell me her son had just been bitten by him – luckily he was sitting next to me at the time.

He was a target. And it had nothing to do with him, except for his size. Size matters – rather, perception of size matters. So if someone looks more successful, lives in a bigger house, we often think they must be cannier, made of sterner stuff, have left their heart behind. Someone less well off might have a big heart, we might not look them in the eye, but we aren’t likely intimidated or given to illusions that s/he is a powerful force.

In both cases we are losing out. Both are defined by outward appearance. Just like Borus, you can think what you like. The person you pass on the street be s/he homeless or executive may be forceful or meek. Compromises in the boardroom can be as crucial to the life of the soul as eviction from any dream.

In the boardroom of your mind, who’s in charge? You are looking at something, yes, but what are you seeing?


It’s Saturday and markets all over the state, all over the country are filled with farmers and those of us wanting to have great food and be better to ourselves.

How can we be better to ourselves than to buy what’s grown and raised around us. How better to take care of what’s ours? If you think about it, it’s weird to buy things from other countries to save money. It’s weird to leave home and only buy from places we’ve never seen and from people we’ll never see.

But today, Saturday, a coolish, overcast day in August, we’re shopping local. We’re seeing our friends, talking, sampling and the best of all – everyone is smiling.

I’m Lucky

This morning the cats were all quivery at the windows. The Robins are back! The Voles are out and about and Spring is here. It might be a bit of a mixed message that people are still walking on the lake, but it looks slippery and I know they won’t be walking too much longer.

The ground isn’t frozen and the water from the snowmelt can run deep. The dogs are waiting for that. The poor things have been staggering around for so long.

I am impressed by the New England weather, the largescale work of people, of beavers, the muck of the cows and horses, their hooves churning the soil. But this morning’s vole reminded me of creatures small and smaller who turn the soil, pollinate, feed and support our system of life. Small scale has a big impact.

Last summer when the electricity went out and our generator didn’t go on, we went out to see what was the problem. Snake skins! It was filled with snake skins and we had to get a new motherboard so it would know what to do. The snakes had done in its brain!

I love the time nature gives me by taking away my tasks or giving me new ones. I’m lucky to be counted in its creature load.

Love and Marriage

The other day I was sitting in my living room having a wonderful cup of coffee I had just made and suddenly I felt myself be twenty years old, listening to a song about love and yearning. I remember very well what I was yearning for. It had nothing to do with my past, nothing in my past was yearning material. It had to do with my future. I was yearning for my future.

I’m pretty sure – even though it feels crazy to me now – that young girls and women are taught to yearn for a future. A future they may or may not get. I didn’t get mine, but it was more from my tastes changing than sitting here writing this and feeling unfulfilled.

Every Wednesday in my school – it went from kindergarten to twelfth grade and in the auditorium/chapel the first row on the right as you walked in were the fourth-graders(K – 3 not allowed), the grades went up to the last row and then down to the first row on the left side where the seniors sat. I make that point because that meant the whole school of girls, 500 of us, got the same message week after week, year upon year.

Our headmaster would ask us how many were going to college – most of our hands went up. He would exclaim the benefits of college: it was where the young men would be and the better qualified we were to go to the best schools, the better marriages we would make and the more happiness we would have.

Year by year as I went up the rows of seats and down again I would find out there were easy two-year colleges situated not far from the so-called better men’s colleges. These had secret mottos like, “a ring by spring or your money back.” You think I’m kidding. I’m not. We were serious, our futures depended on it.

There was no way out. That was it. Marriage and happiness. Frank Sinatra was singing, “Love and marriage…. go together like a horse and carriage.” So when I got married, I would be happy. It was in all the Disney movies, too, it still is. So there I was remembering twenty and yes, I was married. The happiness bird hadn’t landed yet.

My husband had settled into a routine of “we’re married, you do it, whatever “it” is, and we both have to go to bed early, forget sex, and be responsible. Responsible for what? I didn’t ask, I was not the questioning kind. Authority spoke, I listened and either ignored, acted or rebelled. Those were the choices I saw. When my husband and I had lived together, we had shared doing dishes, the bed never got made and we went to sleep and got up in time to go to classes or work or do whatever we were doing. This imposed schedule of up at six and to bed at nine was incomprehensible to me.

Back at my school, not so very long ago in my life, everything had a point. Our headmaster knew everything and the teachers made sure his dicta ran smoothly. We were all bent to the same shape. Every year each rising senior class would vote on their school ring. Each year the senior class voted for the same ring. When it came our turn I thought it would be a good idea to change. I found another design. I showed it to the rest of the class. I showed it to the leadership of the class and got them to think it was a good idea.

We voted on the ring. We voted for the new style. I felt triumphant. I had changed a hundred years of rings. I had persuaded my class, at the time the largest graduating class, to be different. I was ecstatic.

Well you know I wouldn’t be writing this if my plan had succeeded. I won the battle but it had sparked a war. Our Latin teacher, who had changed my grades whenever I had gotten higher than a C in any of my classes, called another vote. We were gathered into a room, told about the value of consistency, of history, our place in it, how gratifying it is to be part of a larger whole, how unattractive it is to be different, how unacceptable.

Another vote was held. Pieces of paper in a box – just as before. The box taken to the headmaster’s office. We waiting in our classroom. And when they came back they were happy to announce the old style had been chosen. We were back in the fold. History could go on and we with it.

Yes, she changed my grades. I didn’t know this until a few years later when I happened to speak with two of my teachers and I lamented working so hard to get my grades up and getting the grades but it not being reflected on my transcript. They were not completely shocked to hear and said yes, they had given me grades reflecting my work and Miss Stevens had changed them. They both knew other instances. Other girls like me not really part of the school “picture.”

I’m pretty sure the headmaster became my template for authority. And I’m also sure that I put my husband in the role. And he came up way short. We were both playing to roles more unconscious than conscious. There’s a lot of research now showing that as children we take in our surroundings and believe in them way before we understand what anything means. We get our concepts of fairness and duty in the world without choosing them. The messages are clear before we have any clarity about what we are doing, whose rules are we following.

This applies to us our whole lives. We choose with our history firmly grasped but not understood. We base our choices of jobs, spouse, partners in business, cars, food, on what was our norm. That includes what we love and hate, what we resent or think is essential.

It’s important to uncover your truth, your self. Listen to the unexpressed values you hold. “following your bliss” only works if you know who you are and are willing to take the risks associated with that knowledge. It does not mean to do what you want. It does not mean to do what you think is right or what someone tells you to do. It means to seriously get to know yourself, see yourself and have the courage to stand up for yourself, take responsibility for what you want, what you care about. That’s when you become your best friend, that’s when you can be trusted, when your compassion includes yourself.

I’m going to make another cup of coffee – different this time – and remember who I really am.  What about you?

Do something unexpected, even maybe uncomfortable, often!

My Uncle Ben

“The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might of the force of habit and must understand that practices are what create habits. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires. ” J. Paul Getty 1892 – 1976

My Uncle Ben was one of my idols growing up. I never knew him except through his books and stories about him. He was well adapted to his time, which spanned from about 1860 to 1930. He had no interest in the telephone. “If someone wants me, they know where I am.” And they did. And he was there. He was an inventor, manufacturer, reader. I don’t think he had a degree of any kind, he just knew what he was doing. And he did what he loved. And he didn’t do anything else. I have his wardrobe and by the look of it, “practical” would have been his ethos. It is elegantly straightforward, as are the family tales of its owner.

His younger brother, my grandfather, was more impetuous. I was told that my grandfather Frank once tried to run after a streetcar. Ben pulled him back, “there’ll be another.” My grandfather used the telephone but thought typewriters were a lot of clacking. He demanded quiet in the office he oversaw. The transition from scriveners to typists was a moment my father would step into.

We all have to adapt whether we want to or not. My forebears stood with their ideals, they walked their talk – or didn’t – they lived as best they could in the changing times they had. The world changes, it’s what we can count on; it’s what we can know or fight or feel betrayed about.

How each one of us grasps the present defines us. It is interesting to note that while the world changes we as humans are essentially the same as we were thousands of years ago. We can’t access the thoughts of our earliest ancestors, but the ones we can read point to our human condition being pretty much the same as it’s always been. There is no concomitant growth in our natures, much as we might like. In fact there is more likely a loss, something we’ve forgotten, a piece of wisdom lost to us. We often look at those before us as not quite with it, a little old fashioned, like our parents who never had sex. But when we open ourselves to looking deeper, to listening without judging the language, which may seem quaint to us, what is written or spoken benefits our lives as we are living them right now. I often read books written a century ago, or many centuries, and am completely supported emotionally and intellectually by what is written.

Any time we feel we are plowing through new ground, we are, but it is our ground and it’s been plowed before. Computers, iPhones, Blackberries, are stepping stones to assist us. The newest technology is old as it leaves the suppliers’ shelves. Our hearts and minds are a constant through the ages. We can’t touch the past or the future with them, we touch with our hearts and minds. It is ourselves who will push through those new doors, and we haven’t changed. Don’t let your new phone get wet, but take care of yourself. Take care to practice what you want, take charge of who you want to be. Stand up for what is real for you. Do what you know. Love what you do.