Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Better Place

I was sitting in the airport the other day with my glasses on and a book in my lap but I was too doggone tired to read. I was daydreaming about that giant Boeing 777 airplane outside the window. Some lucky people were settling into their seats for a flight to Paris, or Barcelona, or some other beautiful place in the world. For some reason, this led me to think about “making the world a better place.” When it’s all said and done we want each girl, in some way, to be her best self and contribute to making this world better. Maybe that means saying “no” to friends who are cheating, gossiping or selling prescription drugs at school. Maybe that means saying “yes” to the college major she really wants instead of the program her mother prefers. Maybe that means being the first female president.

I think that how, when or why we say “yes” or “no” is a process of discovering our “voice,” or our true identity. Even though a girl grows and changes, and her environment changes, there are a few things that remain constant, meaningful and particular to her. She has a voice, a presence. When her voice is heard it has the dual effect of reinforcing that identity while uniquely affecting the people and processes around her.

That, you might think, is a lovely way to think about a girl’s identity. Let me ask you this: have you heard your own voice lately? Does your “yes” come out with tightness in your gut that says, “I don’t really want to do that”? Is your “no” a bit conflicted because a small feeling in your heart says, “go ahead and give it a try”?

This gets me to thinking that perhaps the first step to making the world a better place in general is to make my world a better place for me; to show up in an authentic way. To connect who I am with what I do. To speak what is true for me and make an effort to see my visions through. When what I believe is consistent with what I do, my voice has a quality that enriches my parenting, my work, my volunteering, my learning, my relationships…my world. Since I share this world with you, our voices together might sound like a chorus of intentional living. Who needs to fly away to find a beautiful place in the world when there is beauty right here in my own backyard?

Well, the truth is, I’d still like to go to Paris.

What is the Girl Scouts Leadership Experience?

Journeys and Guides

Volunteer Essentials answered a lot of the logistic questions I had–about registration, parent meeting, co-leaders, CPR certification, a troop bank account — which was great.

But in the week that’s passed since training — and as the date for my first troop meeting comes closer–I’m still not clear on the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. I don’t have a handle on the Journeys or the Girl Scouts Guides. So, I’ve searched the web for some more information. I’ve found this stuff helpful — and some of it fun. You may find it helpful too if you’re wondering about the GSLE. Take a look! Let me know what you think.

Experienced volunteers, tell me: What do you want to share about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience? How do you use the journeys and guides?

Girl Scouting is meeting girls’ definition of what it takes to be a leader with the New Girl Leadership Experience—a model that engages girls in discovering themselves, connecting with others, and taking action to make the world a better place. This model is more inclusive and empowering of girls as the experiences are, as much as possible, girl led and encourage experiential and cooperative learning.

Introducing Troop 40072!

Volunteer Essentials: Required Training

I went to my home council for the required training, Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson. “If you take two things away from this training,” our trainer Leigh said, “it should be 1) You can do this! and 2) there is lots of help available.”

She went on, “The biggest goal for your program is to be girl-led. It’s leadership; it’s girl-led.” We are teaching them how to lead.

While this is all very interesting — and why I wanted to start a troop, to nurture leadership in girls — what I really wanted to know was: What do I do when they show up that first day?

I do want to build girls of confidence, courage and character but I also want to make sure they don’t all get up and walk out of the room! Leigh was ready for that, and shared a typical troop session schedule:

  1. Girl Scout Pledge
  2. Girl Scout Promise
  3. Snack: Ask parents to sign up to bring snacks for each meeting
  4. Meeting Starter: Ask girls to share something about their week, sing a song, play a name game
  5. Activity: Working on a badge? Planning a trip? Going on a trip? Community service?
  6. Clean Up: “A Girl Scout always leaves a place cleaner that she found it” (If I can get my girls to do this at home, I will consider the whole experience a success!)
  7. Closing: Reflection, Song, Friendship Squeeze

“Create a community in your troop,” explained Leigh. “This is what we do.”

Other interesting tips:

  • I’ll need a First-Aid kit at every meeting
  • CPR and First-Aid training is strongly recommended
  • Write up a calendar for the year with meeting dates, place, and time
  • I’ll need a troop account at TD bank
  • I’ll need a registration form from each girl before they are covered by insurance so registration is REQUIRED before starting
  • The official volunteer uniform is a plain white shirt, khakis (pants, skirt, shorts), vest or sash
At the end, Leigh gave us the name of the contact person we email to get a troop number. I sent in my email however, they didn’t have proof of my completing the training. After clearing that up, I got the information: We are Troop 40072!
Tell me:  What do you think is essential in training for a new volunteer?



Why Change?

I have a ChapStick habit. Over the years I’ve changed from glossy, to all natural, to tinted, to medicated. I’ve even used different brands but never gone out with naked lips. That would feel funny to me, and according to the advertising professionals it would also be unhealthy, unattractive, and affect my quality of life. So I’m in! I love my ChapStick.

Suppose I was suddenly, and without consultation, deprived of my ChapStick. This is no laughing matter, because as Mark Twain says, “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” Even if it’s for a good reason, abrupt change is hard! And I can’t think of any good reason to give up my ChapStick. But what if it wasn’t my decision?

It’s the same with organizational change. Moving from familiar tasks, procedures or policies to new ways of doing your job is a process that takes time. Have you asked any of these questions in the last five years: Why do we have to change? Why are these the right changes? Is this organization capable of handling the changes? What will the organization do to help me through the changes?

Or you can always feel free to look around for yourself. The important thing is to learn ways to change habitual actions in your own life, and then bring that knowledge and skill to the organization for collective change. It’s a life skill, really, and one that our girls, our families and our neighborhoods need to practice in order to enjoy a healthy quality of life. And that new shade of ChapStick- Hibiscus- doesn’t hurt, either!

Go With The Flow

Have you looked at the underside of your elbow lately? You might want to have a look, because the other day I noticed a thing there. And the next day the thing was bigger. Of course I was leaving town in two days and I pictured the thing growing to the size of a watermelon, and then exploding in public. I’ll call Dr. Forest, I thought to myself, and make an appointment for tomorrow. He can poke the thing, get the stuff out and wrap me up in no time (hope you are following all that medical jargon). Unfortunately, Dr. Forest was not available So, I proceeded to self-diagnose (thanks to my friends at Google) bursitis on the underside of my elbow. Doesn’t look like I’ll need to amputate, but chances are I’ll favor my elbow for the rest of my life.

Great. That’s just lovely. The thing is here to stay.

Then while I was out of town my husband emailed me that he and Sophie the beagle were enjoying the Wendy’s dollar menu. For three days they enjoyed the Wendy’s dollar menu. “You mean Sophie got to lick the wrappers?” I asked, to which he replied, as if it were perfectly normal, “Well, no. We were out of dog food and we both went to the drive through window for dinner.” For three days.

Great. That’s just lovely. The dog who is allergic to beef (imagine!) is going to be an itchy, scratching mess by the time I get home.

Unpleasant, unexpected events can make me feel annoyed. Correction- I choose to respond with annoyance. As if any one of them would be the end of the world as we know it…. The dog eats a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. (For three days). But still, I have to choose my reaction.

I love this little line by John O’Donohue, the Celtic philosopher and poet:

I would love to live like a river flows,

carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

He added the title Fluent to that a little line. Fluent, as in easy, graceful, or smooth. I would love to live an easy, graceful life, too. I would love to be delighted at the unfolding of my day, graciously accepting what comes my way. It’s my choice to go with the flow or not. So tell me, how do you make those choices? How do you live a gracious life?

Are You Listening?

In his book, The Lost Art of Listening, Michael Nichols says that effective listening requires attention, appreciation, and affirmation. Though listening may be silent, it should never be passive. However, it’s interesting how often times it is difficult to fully pay attention. It takes effort to focus, and stay focused, on the person who is talking. Appreciation generally has to do with the listener’s frame of reference–do I really care about this person and what they have to say? The truth is, if I am to affirm what they share with me, I need to pay attention and care about the details and their feelings about the details.

Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to offer advice. If we’re sure of ourselves we might say, “If you take my advice, you will surely solve your problem, if you take my advice but fail to solve your problem, you didn’t try hard enough,or if you fail to take my advice, I did the best I could.” This way, no matter how things turn out, we’re covered. Maybe that explains why we often feel that “no one really sees us, hears us, or understands us.” How can we understand when instead of listening deeply, we rush to repair each other?

When you open up about your life you don’t necessarily want to be fixed. You may simply want to be seen and heard. The best thing I can do is give you my undivided attention, thank you for being honest, and acknowledge, or affirm the validity of your experience or feelings. This takes time, energy and patience. It seems like we tend to seek safety in abstraction, sharing our opinions, ideas and beliefs, instead of learning about ourselves and each other. But when we speak and listen from the heart, we find common bonds in the shared details of the human journey.

Learning By Doing

Have you ever thought of “learning by doing” as a process? It’s certainly not just an activity that we plan for girls and say, “Now this is learning by doing,” only to wrap it up right at 4:00pm in time for the meeting to end. If learning by doing is, in fact, a process, then what are we doing along the way in order to get it right? Are we taking little detours, making mistakes, adjusting, tweaking and laughing at ourselves? How about getting frustrated, asking for help, giving up or feeling proud?

If I’m the adult watching the clock I may be more concerned about punctuality than process. I can finish up the last of a Brownie cooking project more easily than I can motivate a second grader to learn to finish by cleaning after the project is complete. I can hardly blame her because how many times have I tried to lose 10 pounds and not quite finished? In her world, cleaning up a cooking mess is just as hard as going to the gym regularly in mine. Maybe if I think of it all as a process I’ll be more patient with both of us.

What helps you keep going in the learning process when it isn’t fun anymore, but you still need to finish? How does that influence the way you facilitate the learning process for girls? I’d like to hear from you.

Tales from a First-Time Volunteer: Finding My Way

Getting Started

From the Girl Scouts Research Institute report, Voices of Volunteers 18–29.

I really did intend on going through the normal channels to start a troop at my daughters’ school, where Girl Scouts used to have a strong presence. Really.

I mentioned it to one of the teachers I saw while waiting in the carpool line. I put it on my to-do list to go to the local council website and sign up. A week passed. And then another.

Then, the local volunteer coordinator emailed me. Someone from the school had contacted her. There had been a fabulous troop leader at the school a few years ago and they wanted to reinstate the tradition.  “Let’s get a great troop going again!”

“Uh, great,” I said. So, no pressure, or anything.

We met in May. We sat on a bench outside the school and chatted for 45 minutes. I got my folder, filled with information, a badge book, notes for parents, and sign-up forms for girls. I signed the background check permission, and learned about the next steps in getting started.  I heard about the new program materials and local council events.

See the Volunteer Essentials Training Book from Girl Scout Council Heart of the Hudson.

She explained I could arrange the troop meetings at a time that worked for me. The next step was to go to Volunteer Essentials training after my background check came through.

I wasn’t concerned about scheduling the training, as it was the beginning of June, and I wasn’t starting the troop until the fall, the start of the new school year. Plenty of time… right?

Suddenly, it was the end of August! I scrambled to sign up for a Volunteer Essentials training. I couldn’t seem to do it online – my name wasn’t in the system. I needed to call or email my volunteer coordinator but I couldn’t find my volunteer folder.

Mild panic was followed by going through stacks of papers, books, mail, children’s work from the end of the year, all accumulating in my office while my girls were home from school in the summer.  I called and emailed the local council.

Once I finally found the folder, I emailed the coordinator too, who got in touch with the council office. Turns out, I wasn’t in the system even though I had done all the paperwork.  But they put me in and I was able to sign up. I’ll be going to Volunteer Essentials in mid-September at Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson.  Stay tuned!

Tell me: How did you learn about being a volunteer for the Girl Scouts? If you were going to give a volunteer one tip, what would it be?

If you don’t have a contact through a school or location, you can go to

You can also find your local Girl Scout Council through the council finder tool: