Monthly Archives: January 2013

“What did you mean by that?”

Some of you wake up every day, year round, to blue skies and t-shirt weather, but this time of year some of you wake up hoping for a high in double digits. Or at least no wind. Isn’t it interesting that we all say January is “winter?”  Since Santa with a white beard and red outfit is a European creation, that sleigh and reindeer combo makes perfect sense for delivering gifts in snowy December. If you live in Boston, or Minneapolis, or Missoula you might not think about it much, but if you live in Tampa or Sante Fe you need to make adaptations. I don’t live in a warm climate so I don’t know how Santa gets around to those chimneys, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t use that sleigh.

But back to the idea of “winter.”  We all know winter is one of four seasons, from December through February, but my perception of winter is probably different from your perception of winter. I like the idea of a cold season, but in my small town the temperature can be anywhere from 30 degrees to 70 degrees, and snow is unlikely. Freezing rain is common. My friend out in Salt Lake City just emailed me that the temperature is minus 2 and they have five feet of snow. So how do she and I talk about “winter” and really understand each other?

Content is one thing (definitions, facts, figures, even concepts) but context is so important in communication.  How I think about winter is shaped by my experience of it. So here are a few things to remember in our conversations with each other:

  • Suspend judgment about the other’s perspective. Maybe what they mean is not what I’m picturing as they speak.  I need to keep listening without evaluating.
  • Don’t assume you get it- ask lots of questions to enhance your understanding.
  • Try to paraphrase (summarize in your own words) so that your interpretation can be assessed by the other person.

If concepts we all learned in kindergarten  (spring, summer, fall winter) can have different meanings in different contexts, think about a conversation that includes words like “performance,” “satisfied,” soon,” or “patriotic.”  Maybe we should make a New Year’s resolution to ask at least once a day, “What did you mean by that?”

Miracle on the Hudson

This month is the four year anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” US Airways flight 1549 that landed on the Hudson River after an intake of Canadian geese choked both engines (can you believe it’s been four years?).

It’s not often that you see an Airbus A320 splash down in the Hudson. That wasn’t exactly where they were going. My life isn’t quite as dramatic, but there are plenty of times where I’ve gotten off track and ended up far, far away from where I thought I was going.

Steven Covey talks about staying on track in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. Three things are essential, he says, a clear vision of where we’re going, a flight plan, and a compass. It would be nice if all we had to do was stay focused at work, but many of us come home to husbands, partners, children, parents and dogs that also need our time and attention. Life, even when it’s really good, can be distracting. A vision can be as simple as visiting a section of your closet that you haven’t seen in a few years. I have a clear vision of myself in those size six corduroys again! I see myself balancing work and family. I see myself moving into a management position.

A flight plan is the way from A to B. US Airways 1549 was headed from New York LaGuardia to Charlotte, North Carolina. Pilots perform a detailed pre-flight check mandated by the FAA that covers airport functionality, weather, routing, aircraft performance, and many, many other things. If I’m really serious about those corduroys I’ll need a flight plan myself. What will I eat, how will I exercise, when will I need motivation, what are my support systems? As the old Chinese proverb says, “Unless we change our direction we are likely to end up where we are headed.”

The third thing Covey mentions is a compass. I’m sure Captain Sullenberger never dreamed he would be navigating the Hudson as a landing strip, but sometimes things happen. Detours, delays, problems, distractions, significant uncontrollable events- it’s just a given that we’ll get off track sooner or later. That’s why a compass is so handy. We need a way to figure out where we are in relation to where we really want to be, and then make adjustments.

Sometimes it seems like I need a “miracle” to stay on track… how do you do it?

National Hugging Day

Quick! Write it down on your planner- Monday the 21st is National Hugging Day! Who knew?

We all know that babies don’t thrive without physical holding and affection, and nothing soothes an upset child like the hug of a family member. But in this country, it is not uncommon for parents to stop hugging children as they reach puberty. In fact, in the young adult years we might have become uncomfortable ourselves with physical affection by confusing it with emerging sexuality. The amount of physical nurturing we receive continues to decline as we age, even as medical studies confirm that the health benefits of physical touch extend throughout our lives.

For example, oxytocin levels rise during a good hug, which trigger bonding and compassionate responses. Affection also lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which makes way for two “feel good” brain chemicals called serotonin and dopamine to surge and lift your mood.

If you need inspiration check out the official website: which updates you on the “Most Huggable People of 2013” and provides tips on technique like the bear hug, the cheek hug, and the side to side. You can even order a shirt or a NHD bracelet.

The NHD website prefaces their hugging message with “ask first.” That’s good advice, since some personalities, and some parts of the country, are more into physical touch than others. And then some of us just might be out of practice. In 2008 artist and designer Keetra Dean Dion came up with a fun idea to promote hugging: The Anonymous Hugging Wall.

You don’t need 20 yards of fuchsia fabric to start celebrating National Hugging Day. Heck, you don’t need to wait until the 21st.  Hugging is caffeine free, nonfattening, doesn’t require batteries, has no removable parts, is free of pesticides and preservatives, requires no monthly payments… you get the picture. Although I do need to warn you that it could be habit forming.

Cookie Season is Here

Cookie Sale Managers

With cookie season upon us, I’ve been investigating the cookie selling process. People in the know (you know who you are!) have advised me to make sure I get a Troop Cookie Sale Manager. Two moms have volunteered! I found a job description for the role and talked to the product sales people at my council to find out about cookie sale training, which is planned for the beginning of February.

Below, I’ve shared the best description of the cookie sale manager job that I found (thank you Manitou Council!).


Reports to

  • Community Cookie Sale Manager


  • To assure that girls in the troop carry out the cookie sale in an enthusiastic, safe, timely and accurate manner.

Term of Appointment

  • Recruited and appointed by the troop advisor for the term of one cookie sale period.


  • Complete troop cookie sale manager training
  • Be accountable for all troop monies collected from cookie sale.
  • Follow procedures as outlined in the “Troop Cookie Managers Procedures”.
  • Attend a troop meeting prior to the sale to help the girls set a troop goal and to provide safety, sales, program and ordering information and again after the sale to assist them in completing the cookie sale evaluation.
  • Cookie Sale Parent Permission forms until after all money is collected from the girls. Collect and retain copies of original signed.
  • Record all sales in e-budde cookie sale online ordering system by the deadline dates.
  • Ensure for the distribution of awards and program credits to the girls in an accurate and timely manner.
  • Responsible for depositing all monies owed for girl sales into the COUNCIL bank account by established deadline date.
  • Assist the council in clearing outstanding, overdue balances from the troop or individual girls.


  • Become a member of the Girl Scouts of the USA and subscribe to the mission of Girl Scouting.
  • New volunteers provide the names of two references and agree to a background check.
  • Must have e-mail address.

As Troop 40072 gets ready to sell cookies, I’d like to knowWhat are your best tips for the cookie sales? How do you prepare yourself and your troop for the cookie sale?

How to Disagree

Creating space for disagreement is how we give diversity room to grow. In this movement many wonderful things are created by people working together, so knowing how to disagree can come in handy. We all have doubts, reservations and different opinions, so that isn’t news. In fact, I sometimes disagree and argue with myself!

In a top-down world, however, disagreement can be seen as disloyalty. Or negativism, or not being a team player. But if I can’t say “no,” then my “yes,” has no meaning. We will only let go of those doubts to which we have given voice. Once my opinion is made public and appreciated I can choose to keep it or change it, since I own the feeling rather than keeping it under wraps.

But appreciating disagreement- that’s the hard part. The person in charge doesn’t need to address everyone’s concerns. None of us do. Dissent is complete simply in having been expressed. So here are a few tips for authentic disagreeing:

1. Be honest. If you believe there is a problem are you acting as though the present situation is good enough?

2. Be respectful. Check to see if you are simply reacting to not being in control.

3. Be helpful. Resignation is just a passive form of control that alienates others.

And if you are the one listening, simply focus on that- listening. If you feel the need to defend yourself by answering someone’s doubts, then the space for disagreement closes down. Of course, if you can genuinely answer a question the resolves a difference, then do so. Most of the time, however, doubts are well founded and have no easy answer. Resist the urge to take it personally; the future doesn’t die from opposition, it disappears in the face of lip service.

Put Forth Your Best

In January of 1919 Juliette Low sailed off to visit Sir Robert and Lady Baden-Powell, intent on learning how Girl Guides were contributing to their country now that World War 1 had come to an end.  Before she left, she wrote a New Year’s message in the monthly newsletter from National Headquarters thanking Girl Scouts for their service and courage during the war years. She continued with an appeal to every Girl Scout to “brace up and strain every nerve to continue public service and help to make a newer and better world.” Beginning a new year, and in the new peaceful era, Juliette had three directives for the girls.

First: Stick to your studies. “Get wisdom,” said Juliette, “and withall get understanding.”  Let me translate for 2013: Look, kiddo, you have to finish that homework.

Second: Play fair. Get on a team and learn to play together, and “let not bitterness attend the result of a game whether you are victor or vanquished.”

Third: Make yourself strong. A Girl Scout, in Juliette’s view, should be an example of “womanly strength and fitness.” I don’t think she meant weight training, I think she meant strength of character. In other words, would you jump off a bridge if everyone else was doing it?

Great advice doesn’t go out of style, and as I was preparing to pass this on to my daughter, I had a little nagging reminder that I’m a Girl Scout, too. So I had to ask myself three little questions:

First: What am I learning? What do I want to learn in 2013? Can I see how I’ve developed a greater understanding in some area over the course of 2012?

Second: Am I getting along with the people at work, in my family, in my community? How am I getting along with girls in the movement? Am I fair? Gracious? A team player?

Third: How will I take care of myself this year? What character-building endeavor should I begin? Do I have the healthy diet, adequate rest and exercise to be the example that Juliette expected of the girls?

One thing that I love about our movement is that it is good for everyone. It “rises within you,” as Juliette summarized in that article, “and inspires you to put forth your best.”  So let’s share the inspiration: What are your thoughts for the new year?