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Summer Changes, Summer Chances

After a long, cold winter, I feel a bit like I’m coming out of hibernation. It’s time to get moving and doing. A friend is leaving New York City in August and has a bucket list of New York memories she wants to create before she goes. As I looked at her list, it got me thinking about what I wanted for myself this summer.And what chances I wanted to take.

I have my own agenda of places to go and people to see and kicked off the celebration of warmth and light with a conference in Orlando that felt like a family reunion.

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Since we were staying in a Disney hotel, we had a number of interesting guest appearances. I used a free morning to pop over to Universal to commune with the folks at Hogsworth. Had a great time and can now check that off my list. My advice: walk around, admire everything, stay off the rides! (I spent most of the time with my eyes closed, praying that my glasses wouldn’t fly off.)

At the conference, I focused on renewing and strengthening friendships – less content, more collaboration – and fun.



We’re moving forward with some wonderful collaborations this year and will be connecting virtually until we are together again next May.

The Clearwater Festival was another opportunity for celebration and reunions. In the face of so many sad and terrible examples of hatred in the world, the message on Pete Seeger’s banjo – “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” – rang loud and clear in the faces and voices gathered on a peaceful weekend. Saturday was a flashback to Woodstock 1 for some of us – music despite torrential rain. Sunday was sunny and delightful, a time for deep conversations and planning along the bank of the Hudson.

My promise to myself for this summer is to have an adventure a week, large or small. I will stretch my muscles and my mind. I wi explore my city and myself, renew old friendships and create new ones, write, learn, laugh and dance like no one is watching.

Shame Prom Revisited

Even as this post appeared, Super Storm Sandy captured our full attention. As we continue to recover, these personal stories of recovery are even more relevant.

Twenty seven courageous women write about their dance in the moving compilation of personal stories that is Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small. Some of the stories made me laugh; some made me cry. All of them moved me.

How, I wondered, could some of these women have survived such abuse? Could I move on from seal abuse passed off as “God’s will?” What would me life have become if my alcoholic grandfather had escheated from verbal abuse to physical? If he had poured a jar of sauerkraut over my head? These were powerful tales of survival. Some shocked me; some made me cringe.

Other stories were much lighter. I laughed at one woman’s revelation of what happened in the sandbox. I smiled in understanding as I read about the beautiful but dumb boyfriend. Some seemed beyond my understanding. I will never truly understand what it is to be biracial, but the story reminded me of what it was like to be excluded for not being Jewish enough or Italian enough or Waspy enough. There are so many ways to not quite fit and you too are likely to find emotional connections to stories that are outside your life experience.

Sometimes, it was hard to not be a little judgmental – is that really a shameful experience, I asked myself a few times. It is in these stories, though, that I found the greatest learning. I had no problem relating to the body dysmorphia shame stories, but I had a hard time seeing frizzy/curly hair as a cause for shame. Of course, I must admit I have plenty of body issues of my own but happen to really love my hair, so that has something to do with it.

So, it was a surprise to find that the hair story was one that had a strong impact on me. Every time I have recommended this wonderful book to friends, I’ve mentioned that story. I love the author’s act of courage – jumping into a pool because she promised her daughters she would and emerging with no further though about how her hair looked. Don’t go with my oversimplification – read the whole story. Read the whole book. Share it. Buy it for your friends.

Finally, think about your own participation at the shame prom. Are you a wallflower? Are you pretending you weren’t there at all? Or are you ready to speak up, own your shame and move on? I want to be as brave as these women. What about you?

WoW Audrey Pellicano Understands Your Grief

When Audrey Pellicano lost her husband of seven years, there was really no place for a young widow to turn.

When I was widowed, there was very little for a 38 year old woman with 4 children. I did go to a hospice group for grief and of course all the widowed women there were at least twice my age. So it wasn’t relevant to where I was. So – and the tendency of most people is – which is why I do the work I do presently – is try to heal the wounds. All the clichés. And the tendency is to stuff grief. Which is what I did. I threw myself into my children – busy, busy – worked part time as a nurse and two years later it really came back to bite me. And I found myself very, very depressed and not knowing what was wrong with me.

When people began sending recently widowed women to Audrey, her understanding of grief deepened. Then, she began to have panic attacks.

I actually started a support group for people with panic and anxiety disorder. Because it was one of the worst experiences during – you know, having lost Joe. I really couldn’t get a hold on it. I started incorporating meditation, emphasized guided imagery, came to my own regimen of things I went and studied to get me through my grief.

And her life continued to change.

I got my graduate degree in Health Education and I really armed myself with tons of information on how to be healthy, how to get healthy and then began looking into the whole idea of grief, because grief just beats the immune system down. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago, and I needed to say, what’s the next step in my life. I lived up in the Catskill mountains by myself for a year. So I took my sabbatical to figure out what it was – what steps I needed to take – in order to be doing the work I wanted to do. And I kind of just jumped in with both feet.

I studied at the Grief Recovery Institute in California. I went through the program years after losing Joe and it was still so powerful in moving me just a little more forward, since grief lasts a long time. It just changes. So, that’s where I am today.

Audrey’s work keeps expanding. She’s now working with more people grieving the loss of pets. She also has created corporate programs to provide something beyond the traditional 3 – 5 days of bereavement leave. Companies are losing millions of dollars due to sick leave, lowered productivity and other grief-related issues that do not even begin to show up until long after a loss. Audrey can put programs in place to provide support when it is needed.

Audrey’s life is pretty remarkable right now. She’s doing the work she is called to and has strong personal and family relationships. Here’s someone who uses everything that comes to her, who knows how to learn and grow and who serves women in need – that’s why she’s my Woman of the Week. – Oh – and she’s a lot of fun, too!

Forgiven and Forgotten

I have come to the end of what has turned out to be an unproductive business relationship. It started out beautifully, as so many relationships do. We had dreams. We had high hopes. We thought that we had thought this through carefully.

So here’s what we didn’t have. We didn’t have a contract. We didn’t have a business plan. Most important though, we didn’t have clear communication. And we never worked hard enough at establishing this all-important tool.

But that’s a topic for another post. Today, I’m thinking about moving on. Unfortunately, as the partnership devolved, the friendship also diminished. I’m sure there’s much to be said on both sides. For me, though, forgetting is the most important task on my list.

The old truism is forgive and forget. I’m working on forgiven and forgotten. When thereis someone you don’t want in your life, why would you want them in your head? I’ve forgiven myself for errors in judgment. I’ve forgiven myself for holding expectations that might still have been unrealistic even if (I forgive myself) I had expressed them. I’ve forgiven my former partner for wrongs. Oth real and perceived.

Now, I want her to be forgotten. I want to remember and use the lessons I’ve learned, but I don’t want to ever think a out her again except perhaps a fond memory or two about our initial encounters, decades removed from this venture. I wish that the self–work around this was as simple as unfriending her on facebook. For the next month or so, I will pause and shift focus if she drifts into my thoughts. Thanks to my buddy coach, I’ve used. Isualizations to let go of resentment and will work through possible guilt, second-guessing and worrying possible mistakes like a terrier with a one.

Forgive and forget? Not so much. Forgive yourself and anyone else involved. Then do the harder work beyond forgiven to get to forgotten.

Put Down That Phone!

I’m delighted to hear that Volkswagen employees will no longer be subjected to 24/7 messages. I spend countless hours trying to wean clients away from their communication devices. Their thumbs may be twitching from withdrawal, but eventually they’ll thank me for it.

I hope.

We all need a little down time. Time to reconnect with our friends and family. Time to savor a meal. Time to look at something beautiful. Time to meditate and reflect. Time to do nothing at all.

How do you arrange your day? Is there down time?

Try turning your phone off every so often. I learned this the hard way when, after having finally fallen asleep, I was dragged back into full alertness by a tweet about a missing Senior 3,000 miles away. I now turn off all sounds when I need some peaceful time.

Detach every so often. You’ll be glad you did.

Everyone Can Be a Coach?

Thomas Leonard, called by many the father of modern coaching, always said everyone can be a coach. I’m not altogether sold on that. What I do believe, though, is that everyone can and should use coaching skills. The kind of clear, open communication, deep listening, and support that exist within a coaching relationship can be learned and would enhance all our relationships.

The International Association of Coaching created nine Coaching Masteries™ that create a framework that describe excellence in coaching. They also describe a set of skills that could enhance the work of managers, health care professionals, teachers, parents, and, in fact, anyone who interacts with other people.

Here’s a quick look at the IAC Coaching Masteries™:

1. Establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust.

This is about creating a supportive relationship and a safe space for personal transformation. What would it be like if every teacher practiced this skill? How much more would our children learn?

2. Perceiving, affirming and expanding the client’s potential.

This one could change the world if we all tried it. What can you notice that’s special in everyone you encounter/ Do you let them know?

3. Engaged listening

Most managers have had training in Active Listening. And many forget to use the skills. Are you paying full attention to the conversations you’re in? Are you attuned to the subtleties? Body language? Intonation? There’s valuable information there.

4. Processing in the present.

How often do you drift in a conversation? How often are you focused on anything but the present moment? Staying in the present helps us avoid judgements. It stops the act of putting things off and the fantasy that all we need to do is wait. Processing in the present keeps coach and client, manager and staff, teacher and student focused on what is really going on.

5. Expressing

Sounds simple, right? This is about going beyond simple talking to being aware of all aspects of communication.

6. Clarifying

How can we communicate in ways that are clear, simple and direct? How can we help someone else set and maintain clear goals? Managers should have this as an integral part of their skill set. Health care workers could use this Mastery to work towards real health.

8. Inviting possibilities.

Are you curious? Do you wonder, “what if?” Do you explore not only all the available options but invent a few more?  this is expansion a its best.

9. Helping clients create and use supportive environments.

How can we all help each other develop and maintain support networks? How can teachers, managers, parents, friends encourage growth?

That’s a quick glimpse of a system that can work for all of us. How can you incorporate these into your life?

Welcome to Our New Home

Life-Work Cafe has been wandering again. It started as a call-in cafe, then migrated to a blog through BBlogger, then on to Typepad, to WordPress and now, finally, to a home of its own. 

You’ll find new features in the coming weeks, including greater searchability and  useful links. And you’ll still find this the place to be when you are thinking about your life, your work, your vision.