Monthly Archives: December 2011

Say WHAT???

I am repeatedly struck by the impact tone of voice has on any one remark. Whether from a spouse, friend, family member or co-worker, the same sentence or phrase said with an ounce of care will carry your message much further and it really isn’t all that hard. Seems that all it takes is a little bit of awareness and keeping kindness and/or that person at the center of your mind, vs the specific desire to be right and/or make your point.


This seems to ring true especially with spouses or other close one who you spend a lot of time with, somehow concentrated in times of stress or over holidays! Take the common situation where you and said person are in a conversation either which each other or another third party and one of you says something incorrectly. Possible responses are (bold used for emphasis of tone):

No, that isn’t right, it was…
..that isn’t right, it was …
..that isn’t right, it was…
Actually, what I remember is

Amazing what a good choice of words and a kind tone will do for you.

My husband and I have agreed to call each other on these kinds of things when we see them and this is one area we are actively working on. The way I see it, I aspire for our dialog (and relationship) to be one couched in mutual respect and kindness that shines through… and therefore I am working on making that last option more of a default reaction.

I’ve also found this whole tone thing to be key when talking to our lil puppy Zuger (who is topping the scales at 100lbs now). It is too easy to be angry/impatient with a puppy when they have no idea what they are doing… for example, when you want them to come,  are you basically yelling their name or are you saying it in a very excited tone that indicates that if they do come, there will be so much fun in your current location that they shouldn’t miss it? I continue to work on that one.

So in a world where voice to voice conversations are diminishing in favor of the typed message… how do you work on this? Can you get do-overs? The best advice I’ve seen lately is as follows:

How can we guard against that tone?  If you feel it creeping into your voice, slow down or stop, take a deep breath, and start again.  Or, if you realize ,after the fact, that your tone may have garbled your message, make amends by apologizing for sending out a mixed message, clarify it, and then move forward.

… And I have to say, in a conversation with an employee recently, I stopped mid-sentence and apologized for the tone that was coming out of my mouth and said I wanted to start again. Repeating my words in a different tone changed the conversation.

I can’t say I’m advanced in this area.. But I am aware at least and isn’t that the first step to sustained change?

A very happy new year to you and your family!

~Michaela

A Very Maui Christmas

I had the opportunity to take a last-minute vacation this month and decided to make my first trip to Hawaii.  The initial challenge was choosing an island.  I searched the internet and found a scorecard.  Less than ten minutes later, I was looking for flights to Maui.

Coming home from Hana

After a few days there, you forget you are in the United States.  It’s so tropical, and beautiful, and diverse.  Then, you ask for directions or suggestions and the person easily understands you; the stores don’t give change you’ll have a hard time spending.

My most memorable experience was a whale-watching trip on the first day of the breeding and birthing season.  We started out at Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment shop where we had a brief introduction to the humpback whale, then were off in a Zodiac boat which quickly found a calf and mother with an escort!  The yearling entertained us by waving his fins while lying on his back (their fins are the largest appendage in the animal kingdom), and later leapt halfway out of the water!  He will eventually become larger than a school bus and weigh 40 tons IF he can avoid disaster, which normally comes at the hands of humans or something we have put in his way.

Being from Florida, I’ve seen my share of surfers BUT I have never seen surfers and windsurfers like in Hawaii.  Ho’okipa Beach is perfect for the sports and even has sharing rules.  Surfers have priority until 11:00 a.m. when windsurfers take over.  One morning, there were 60+ surfers visible from where we stood.  Another day, 30+ surfers and 30+ windsurfers shared the spot.  The churning waves make the water look like larimar.

There’s also great snorkeling from the side of the road.  It’s odd to lift your head from viewing healthy coral with beautiful fish and hear cars driving by.

You can visit black sand beaches, which I didn’t realize are made of black pebbles of varying sizes.  My favorite was at Wainapanapa State Park.  We found it on the ‘road to Hana’ which we luckily drove clockwise so we were against the mountain rather than the cliff when meeting cars on blind turns.  That road also took us to Coconut Glen’s roadside stand, which offers tasty diversions.  Glen sold my goodies to me, and his humble demeanor didn’t give away his secret.  Turns out he was an actual chef who found his paradise selling incredible ice cream and coconut candy on a mountain in Maui.

The road to Hana leads to beautiful sunsets, such as the one above from our drive or those seen from the Sea House, where we had multiple meals.  But, the restaurant we frequented most was Maui Brewing Company’s brew-pub.  They have wonderful craft brews (and unique cycling shirts – men’s sizes only).  My favorites were Old Chinwig and Island Hopped Red, which are occasional brews.  Their staple brews are available daily and even sold at other outlets.

Obviously, I’m not the only one that finds Maui awe-inspiring.  This is easily demonstrated by the property prices.  I could tell Makena Beach was a nice area and my smart phone quickly proved just how high a price beautiful views can demand.  Check out this house for $19.5 million or this one for a mere $3 million.

Thankfully, there are homes or hotels that are more in reach.  And, the great views are always a short drive or walk away.  That means normal people like me can share the beauty of Maui and have a very Maui Christmas!

~ Lori

My kind of theme park

Sheality’s Top Ten Bad Holiday Gifts for the Busy But Balanced Professional Woman

When you’re a successful professional woman without children, many times, people have no idea what to buy you for holiday gifts; especially those who don’t share your lifestyle. People with children imagine us going straight from the office to the spa to the restaurant. Our weekends are spent shopping at luxury label stores, clubbing all night and napping and brunching all Sunday.

While it is true that we often have gotten anything and everything on our wish list for ourselves already, there is a way to gift a gift that means something and is nice…

What do you get the woman who has everything? Well, here’s some idea of what not to give….a lot of well intentioned but really crappy gifts.

  1. Anything Doga: I love yoga and I love my dog… but there is no reason on this green earth to combine the two. Don’t even think I would be interested in anything related to Doga (yes this is real)… dogs don’t need yoga. Period. 
  2. Toys: The kind of toys that children get, and apparently me at the age of 28 because my mom wants to “keep it fun.”  A cabbage patch at the age of 28 is not fun, it’s just ridiculous.  What on earth do you do with it when you go home? Put it on your bed?  No, it goes right in the trash.  Save your money.
  3. Desk accessories:So yes, my job involves sitting for hours on end at a desk in front of a computer …. BUT, a desk is a piece of furniture and I can tell you, it doesn’t need to be accessorized!  I travel light at work and highly recommend it (everything you can pack in a box!). It seems to me that any $$ spent on these hunks of crap imported from China (or other exploited workforce country) would be much better spent donated (here are my favorite sites for that… www.heifer.org, www.humanesociety.org, or www.surfrider.org )
  4. The Visa Gift Card: My brother has taken to giving me (and asking for) Visa gift cards. Aside from whatever is in your wallet, can you think of a gift requiring less thought? And how annoying are they? They are for a set amount so unless I am buying something for EXACTLY 50 bucks, I have to put the rest on another card or have like $5.85 left on it – sitting in my already crowded wallet – taunting me.  I propose that my brother and I just save the money and pass the same card back and forth to each other.
  5. Bad gifts for the cook:  I’ve posted in the past about having every kitchen gadget one could possibly have.  However, every once in a while, someone comes across something that I don’t have… and there is usually a reason I don’t have the gadget.  Past gifts have included a cherry pitter (I hate cherries) and a jalapeno popper grill rack (doubt that will make it out of the box). Really?? A grill rack specifically for jalapenos?
  6. Doggie Decorations:  Because I love my dog, I get a lot of dog gifts. And by dog gifts, I mean home decorations with dogs on it. Picture frames, pillows, throws, and my personal favorite – a yard sign with “Spoiled Rotten Dog Lives Here” on it.  I don’t even have a yard. Owning a dog doesn’t mean I want to decorate my home like my vet’s waiting room. 
  7. “Gifts” with advertisements or corporate logos: I have a family member who thinks that because I have a computer, I love anything that involves technology.   Every tchotchke she receives from vendors that pertains to computers, I get.  Think: wrapped thumb drives, cd cases, a reading light that attaches to a PC, etc.-  all having a vendor’s name stamped all over them.  Hello…. I know you got these free.
  8. Art: Let’s just say art is as personal a gift as lingerie… if you know me that well, by all means, get me art. But if you don’t, I would highly suggest you stay away from the gift of art and go for some great dark chocolate! 
  9. Heavy, breakable items that you then have to travel with: When I say the best gift you can give me is a Costco gift card, get me a Costco gift card.  Don’t give me a large, heavy gift from Costco that I then have to lug home on a plane… oh… say…  huge serving platters (12 x 12 and 5 pounds each) that sit on metal stands and a 2 foot wide lazy susan with five ceramic sections for goodies.  These items, while very nice, were purchased at a Costco in Tennessee, hauled by car to Florida, wrapped, and given to me.  I then have to carry them on my flight home due to the 50 lb checked bag limit.  Did I mention that these came from Costco? There is one less than 5 minutes from my house – I could have picked them up there… with the gift card.
  10. Bath and body anything: Two words: no thanks.  Like art, I think the scents that you choose are very personal and just because YOU smell good in something called Vanillatini doesn’t mean I will, or even want to.

In the actual spirit of giving, we would also like to add some good gift giving ideas:

Personally, I think you are always safe with the 3 C’s: Chocolate, champagne and cashmere.  – Jen

As for me, Lululemon, Athleta, chocolate and your favorite book. You can’t go wrong! – Michaela

Wine, books, and cute scarves are top on my list! – Erin

A phone call or personal email are wonderful.  If you feel the need to spend money, red wine or a donation on my behalf are great.   – Lori

The Heartbeat At My Feet

Last week I got that dreaded email from a friend – the one with just his dog’s name in the subject line. I didn’t have to open it, I knew what it said. Chloe was gone.  And then I had to cry at my desk and my co-workers, who don’t need a lot of convincing think I’m crazy.

I have a dog named Lyle who is about to be 14. At least once a day I lean into his ear and whisper “Don’t die Lyle.”  So far it’s working.  But I know one day it will be my turn to send out that email with just “Lyle” in the subject line. My friends are torn between setting up a mobile unit outside my house for 24 hour surveillance and just putting me in a medically induced coma when it actually happens.

Me and Lyle

It has been just me and Lyle for a couple of years now. I wake up and he is the first thing I see (and since I live in NYC I immediately get dressed and take him for a walk before anything else). I walk in the door and he is waiting for me, always thrilled to see me. I fall asleep to the sound of his snoring.  In relationships over the years some men get it, some don’t. My longest one would every once in a while threaten – “We’re going to have to talk about that dog.” He knew better than to ever give me the “It’s me or the dog” speech because he knew he would in fact be dumped for a dog.

I know I get a lot of eye rolling and even pity because he is such a central part of my life. Many people think that I think he is my child. Believe me; I don’t think he is a child. I am quite positive he is a dog. I don’t dress him up, have him barking into the outgoing answering machine message or sit at the dinner table with me. I don’t want a kid. I have plenty of great kids in my life and I love being with them and I love when they go home.  I like dogs. And to treat them like they are human is to do them a disservice and would make you (and them) miserable. Dogs have different biological and emotional needs and they need to be treated like dogs. If your dog is bred to herd, he needs to herd; if he’s bred to hunt, he has to hunt something – not sit on a leopard print pillow eating chicken flavored cupcakes watching Animal Planet (Lyle prefers NPR anyway).

I could offer the pat explanations as to why my relationship with Lyle is so important. But to say that he is a good companion or that it he is loyal and faithful couldn’t do it justice. Something much deeper happens when you share your life with another creature when there are no words spoken. But how do you articulate the wordless comfort that only he could give when my oldest friend died and only Lyle was able to show me that there is still joy to be found in living in the moment? That a lick on the face and the feeling of the soft fur of his head can make me feel tethered to the world on days when I feel like a speck of dust in this giant city? When you live in 600 square feet with a dog it is one of the most private relationships you can have.  He is a witness to my life and I to his, and for now, we are a pack of two.

Does that make me pathetic? To some people I’m sure; but any love generated in this world is valuable even if there are not two humans involved.  Meanwhile, does anyone know if you need a permit to park a mobile unit on the street in New York?

Retirement – I’m Ready !

I’ve spent the last five days in South Texas with my folks who are wintering here in a retirement RV resort.  It’s not what you think either.  These ‘RVs’ are single or double wide trailers, many with lots of add ons.   My folks are in one with a large ‘Texas’ room that makes for a huge great room.  It has two bedrooms and two baths with a great front porch and lots of room.   I’m thinking when I retire, this resort in South Texas  may be the place for me.   My husband and I have thought in the past that we would keep our house in St. Louis and maybe winter in Florida or someplace warm.  However, our St. Louis house is very large with a pretty high monthly maintenance.  I’m starting to think it’s best to consolidate into one smaller home in a friendlier climate.  It’s  winter here but it’s beautiful during the day (mid-80s) and cools way down at night (45 – 50).   Perfect in my book.  Also, because we are only a few miles from the gulf, there seems to be a nice steady breeze to keep you cool during the day.

There is no end to the activities at this RV resort – special outings to plays or to see Christmas lights, biking, happy hours, pot lucks, dominos, card playing, bingo (more about that later).  There is a large swimming pool, hot tubs, a golf course, wood working shop, tennis courts, shuffleboard and even a pool hall with regular couples tournaments.  You get the picture.  If you want to retire and keep busy, this is the place.  Most of the activities are free or are a nominal  fee.

About bingo, some in the bingo hall were none too happy to see a young whipper snapper like myself win at bingo.  I was warned by a lady when paying for the cards, “‘You better not win. Ha ha just kidding”.  We both knew she wasn’t kidding.  During a restroom break  after I won, guess who followed me in?  The same lady and she immediately dinged me for winning.  “I told you you better not win a game.  Ha ha – just kidding” (NOT!).   Then all the questions.  “How much did you win, did you have to split the pot…..”   Wow, I’m as competitive as the next gal but I guess when your source of extra income is bingo, the gang doesn’t want any outsiders coming in and taking the goods.  I walked out with a whopping $4 in winnings. 

Lots of the women’s mags I subscribe to are touting ‘reinventing yourself after retirement’.  The only reinventing I’m thinking I need to do is drastically downsize my life and work on my bingo strategy so I can piss off the old ladies in the bingo hall !

Susan