Doodler and Schedulers Take Note

doodle-final-option4Ever try to schedule a get together with a group of friends and then embark on an endless stream of back and forth emails, each offering up a handful of dates, and then you’re left with creating a complex grid of names and dates to find where the commonalities are?

Well, life just got easier.  Check out Doodle.com.  It’s a very simple tool that gets sent out to a defined group of people with a list of dates, and each person checks their availability, and automatically it’s obvious which dates work for all.  It’s a very useful planning tool.

Give it a try next time you’re organizing an event!

Negotiation Skills – Raising the Bar

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SEE BELOW FOR DISCOUNT ON WORKSHOP!

Most of the time, we do not find time to do things for ourselves.  There are always so many competing priorities at hand – related to our own day time job, raising our children, and managing the logistics of running a household.

So when opportunities present themselves, try to take advantage of them – especially if it is an opportunity that’s going to get you to a different place, make you think a little differently and challenge the way you currently go about doing things. A very dear and extremely talented friend is teaching a course on Neogiation Skills – entitled “Bringing you to the Negotiating Table” at Barnard’s Athena Leadership Lab in New York.  The class is taking place on Saturday, March 5th from 9AM to 12pm.  For more details, go to http://athenacenter.barnard.edu/leadership-lab/course-catalog/negotiation/neg21.

Depending on where you are in life, you may think that you’re past the point where you need to hone your negotiating skills.  But if you truly think about it, there is probably not a day that goes by that you’re not employing some level of negotiation – whether it is with your boss or co-worker, your contractor or electrician, or even your children.

The Athena Leadership Lab at Barnard is dedicated to the theory and practice of women’s leadership.  And if you elect to sign up for this course with Cathy Bonzcek, the instructor, an in demand communications consultant, you will be in for a treat. Cathy’s personal style and keen observation of human communication dynamics – which to a certain extent is a lost art – will certainly benefit anyone who is able to participate in this workshop.  Currently, she is a communications coach to many Wall Street CEOs and executives, preparing them for speaking assignments and relationship selling.  She helped me with a couple of speeches I gave in the past couple years, and her ability to not only fine tune the message but also help with my delivery was invaluable.  Check out her website at www.ccb-communications.com.  And if you can pull off a trip to New York on March 5th, it will be worth your while.

DISCOUNT OPPORTUNITY:

To receive your discount, please enter the following information as you complete the online registration form:

At Step 2, Personal Information: when prompted, identify wisewomencoffeechat as the source from which you received a discount code.

At Step 3, as you choose your workshop(s), enter discount code Athena15 when prompted.

Get on Board the Meal Train

mealTrainBadge275275Lately I feel a day doesn’t go by when I’m not amazed by technology.  Probably a lot of this is driven by the fact that I just came into the modern cell phone era, and treated myself to an iPhone.   The ease of texting with my kids to facilitate their daily schedules has opened up a whole new world to me.   Texting on my old cell phone was just short of torture.

The latest very smart  website I just became aware of can be explored at mealtrain.com.  I’m sure many of us have brought dinner over to a friend or a neighbor in the past due to illness, a new baby, or a death in the family.  I’m sure many of us have organized neighborhood meal offerings as well – coordinating times, days and types of food being delivered.  Well, enter mealtrain.com – a website that makes this undertaking so amazingly easy for everyone.

Once registered on mealtrain.com, the recipient of the meals can specify any special needs, time/schedule requirements, and of course likes and dislikes.  The link is then sent out to a chain of friends and/or neighbors, who can then sign up for a specified date, and write in the menu that will be delivered.  You can see the schedule of meal deliveries, as well as the types of meals being prepared, so as not to duplicate.  You then will receive an email reminder before you are scheduled to deliver your meal.

Having been on the “manual” end of orchestrating a “meal train” – I think this concept is brilliant.  I just signed up to deliver a meal to a neighbor, and it was completely user friendly and hassle free.

This is the type of news I like to share – ways to make what we like to undertake as simple and straight forward as possible!

Ted Williams – My Superstar

Today’s Blog brought to you by Guest Blogger WW Ann….

Homeless-Man-With-Golden-Voice-Ted-Williams-ICEDOTCOM1When it comes to baseball I am now a Mets fan. In the distant past I was an avid Brooklyn Dodger loyalist.  Friends and family, especially those in New Hampshire, are raving Red Sox followers.  Some of the older ones still talk about Ted Williams – a success at baseball but, in my opinion, pretty much of a failure where it counts the most on my scorecard—off the field.

But in the last week major television networks have featured interviews with another Ted Williams who when perhaps dreaming to figuratively get a base hit has been talented and fortunate enough to hit a bases loaded grand slam. Unless you’ve been put into a hibernating state for the duration of winter (not at all a bad idea, you’d save on electricity and calories) you have most likely seen Mr. Williams and/or caught Facebook’s enthusiastic entries about him.

My Ted Wiliams has been living in Columbus Ohio for a number of years, most of his recent ones, homeless.  I won’t repeat all of the now well known details but I am curious if you became as enthralled in his saga as I did.  I really hope that his achievable happy ending will endure, as well as his “clean” record of no drugs, no drinking.  What endeared this Ted Williams to me was his honesty, his lack of pretension, his confidence and his sincerity.  His excitement at meeting Matt Lauer was childlike (click here to see Ted with Matt).  Maybe it’s that childlike joy that makes his story so appealing as well as his simple wish for one good job and home.

Our country has been characterized as one that likes the underdog and cheers for those who make a comeback.   Maybe our hopes and prayers would better be directed toward those everyday heroes who, unlike Ted Williams, will not become household names.

I believe we would all do better to congratulate those who struggle to make difficult comebacks rather than expend energy or even curiosity about a Lindsay Lohan or Mel Gibson, the former being a sad unstable young woman and the latter a hate-ridden star who managed to fatally tarnish his own reputation just by being himself.

So without further discussion of the baseball Ted Williams’ foibles, let’s rejoice in a true “feel good” story of Ted Williams of Columbus, possessor of a golden voice with golden opportunities ahead.

‘Tis The Season For Tipping

money_tree5After years of uncertainty, I have mastered the art (certainly not a science) of holiday tipping. Even still, I have a perverse need to compare my tipping habits to the various standards published at this time of year. Am I tipping the right person? Is the gift an appropriate amount? Is it really OK to NOT tip my hairdresser (or lawn guy or other service professional) when s/he owns the business? For this year’s annual comparison, I consulted CNNMoney.com.

Turns out, I’m in line - more or less – with the “norm.” 

  • I tip the paper carrier, house cleaner, garbage collector and mail deliverer.
  • If I use the services of a manicurist, hair stylist, massage therapist or dog sitter in the weeks surrounding Christmas, I provide them with a more generous tip. (Although I don’t give a set percentage/amount, nor do I make a special effort to go in and tip them if I don’t have an appointment scheduled.)
  • I do not tip (or give gifts to) the UPS or FedEx guys. (And, really, even if I did want to tip them, their stealth deliveries are usually so unexpected that they’ve come and gone before I even realize it.) 
  • For the entrepreneur whose team takes care of our yard each week, I send a cash tip with our monthly payment and a note indicating the tip is for his employees. (That is, I did that back when we actually used a lawn service.)    

All told, I probably spend $350-$400 on holiday tipping. Is that amount a lot? A little? I’m not sure. But, I do know it’s what I CAN give with an appreciative heart and in the holiday spirit. And, to me, that’s the beauty of holiday tipping being an art, not a science.

So, Wise Women, how do you handle holiday tipping?

P.S. For those of you curious how Kids Night Out turned out from last week, know that at 10:10 pm I was toasting a successful event with my glass of Merlot. Successful. that is, if you don’t count the desperate search for a NorthFace jacket that went missing, the need to call a parent to pick up her homesick children, the icepacks needed for kids who collided during theatre sports games (I still don’t understand how bodily contact even happened),  the escape artist child who eventually required a one-on-one monitor to keep him corralled, the brother/sister team who delighted in tormenting each other and required continuous separation, and … well, you get the picture. It was successful because it was OVER. And no one was maimed or lost during the evening.  And, from the looks of the faces of most kids, a good time was had by all.  Thanks to all for your support and empathy as I angsted about the event.

When you need that extra Push…

212_degree_1209441860097I just wanted to share a quote that I saw last week that has really stuck with me.  I’ve shared it with my children, and it can provide inspiration when you feel like you’re about at the end of your rope.  Maybe that one last extra push is more than worthwhile….

At 211 degrees, water is hot.

At 212 degrees, water boils.

And with boiling water, comes steam.

And with steam, you can power a train.

One extra degree makes all the difference.

Now, go out and conquer.  Wouldn’t you rather power a locomotive than just be extremely hot and sweaty?!

When the Bed Bugs Bite

DSC_0767Endearingly whispering “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” in your child’s ears as they drift off to sleep seems to be taking on a new reality.  Once a sing song phrase that was interchangeable with “Mama’s going to buy you a Mocking Bird,” bed bugs seem to have arrived on the scene in a big, unexpected way. We’ve read about them in the press. Hotels are shutting down, retail stores are shutting down.  High end … low end … it doesn’t seem to matter.  Friends who are traveling take pause when booking their hotels, trying to determine which place will afford less risky sleeping accomodations.

I haven’t given much thought to this pandemic, until today.  My high school kids came home reporting that a student at school had brought a bed bug into school in his back pack.  This coincided with a newspaper article from two days ago about two other schools in town where the same thing happened.  Unfortunately, this student happened to be in my daughter’s health class, and she is reporting that she is not attending school tomorrow (“It will ruin my social reputation for life and turn our home upside down if I get bed bugs” she states).

The school called homes this evening to report this occurence, and to say that it was being dealt with in accordance with health department recommendations.   My son appeared out of nowhere in an outfit dug out of our basement that I had never seen before – reporting this is how he would dress for school in the AM, ready to attack.   Some neighbors are talking about stripping down their kids when they walk in from school and throwing everything in the washing machine, others are being a bit calmer and recommending prudent checking of surface clothing and backpacks.  Many high school students facebooks report a boycott of school tomorrow.

All of this has made me question, just where are all these bed bugs coming from … all of a sudden.  It is a bug that has been around, troubling souls, for hundreds of years.  But after WW11, bed bugs were essentially wiped out in developed nations with the use of the pesticide DDT, now banned of course. With the increase in international travel and immigration, bed bugs are back.  And you don’t want them near you.  It sounds nightmarish (on the level of dealing with lice, if not greater) of eradicating these things from your premises if you are one of the lucky ones they decide to visit.

Has anyone had any experience with bed bugs?  Somehow I need to convince my daughter that one bed bug in a large school does not require running for your life.  But I also must admit that my back has gotten awfully itchy while writing this blog…

Money Down the Drain

14sign_roadAs I was driving through town last week observing the many political signs placed in front of homes, businesses and schools, I started thinking, as I had two years ago, about the expense of running an election. One of the high profile spenders was from my state, Linda McMahon, who spent $50MM on her bid to become Senator.  Meg Whitman of eBay fame vying for the California governership, spent almost 120 million, $47 for each vote that she received.  Both women lost.  And oh, how that money could have been spent more wisely.

Almost four billion dollars were spent on political campaigns for the mid term elections.  That money could have gone such a long way in supporting education programs, community programs, feeding the homeless.   I would be thrilled if our political candidates could get their message out via media sources, public rallies and debates only.  After all, a poster in a yard or a postcard in the mail with a couple of sound bytes doesn’t tell me much about the candidate anyways.  When it comes down to it, I receive my most informative and actionable details for what shapes my thinking through the media, my friends, and public appearances by the candidates – not their many off colored commercials and direct mail.

Has anyone had these same thoughts?

Dining in the Dark….

klick1We know about Dancing in the Dark.  Well, what about dining?  I recently became aware of a most unusual way to dine  - totally in the dark.  If you eat at Pod Kridlemnoci in Prague, you’ll have to swap your sense of light for a sense of adventure.  Kridlemnoci translates to “Under the Wing of Night” and through this experience of dining in the dark, you are forced to let your other sources of smell, touch, taste and hearing take over.

After selecting your meal in the “world of light,” you are led to the “world of darkness” where all visual stimuli disappears, leaving you to focus solely on the taste of your food, and the voice of your dining partner.  There’s something about this type of experience that really intrigues me.  If it’s true that when one sense isn’t usable, the others are heightened, the gustatory pleasures of dining in the dark may be unparalleled.   Plus, think of all the great faces that you can make at your dining partner and you can even pick the food out of your teeth without a care (sorry I had to bring it down a notch).  Might even be the perfect type of venue for a blind date.

Apparently this idea originated through an organization in Zurich called Blindehuh (Blind Cow), which creates jobs for the blind and visually impaired. Today dark dining spots can be found in many metropolitan cities across the globe, including New York, Beijing, Montreal and Sydney.

This whole idea was presented at a marketing offsite I attended.  It was presented to enable us to think about breaking away from the structure that typically frames our life, and to think about how we react to it.  If you can break away from this structure, often your mind becomes awakened to different patterns of observation and thinking. Typically when you’re in the dark, you are in a passive frame of mind – and most likely trying to drift into sleep.   Can you imagine sitting in the dark for a couple hours, carrying on a conversation and enjoying a meal?  I imagine every element of the experience is heightened.

I for one am anxious to experience this.  I’d love to know what you think!

Politics: From the Declaration of Independence to Witchcraft

DOI-Hancocks-DefianceI took my two teenagers to see the musical 1776 last weekend.  While I had seen this show many years ago, watching it this time struck a whole new chord with me.  As it opens up with the Second Continental Congress in session with President John Hancock presiding, the first point made very clear is that decision making doesn’t come easily to this group of men.  Bickering, discourse and stubbornness prevail; some are motivated by doing things for the greater good, and others motivated by doing things that will drive personal prosperity … there really seemed to be little difference between today’s Congress and the initial Congress that guided the birth of America 234 years ago – at least on a macro level.

John Adams was not a popular man – but without him, July 4th would have never happened.  Starting with a divided split among the Congress (half voting for the Declaration, the other half not understanding why we would ever want to be divided from the great country of Britain), Adams, Franklin and ultimately Jefferson were the leaders that guided the very painful process of getting to a signed Declaration of Independence.  The curtains dropped, with an illuminated stage sized Declaration in view, and I was touched at witnessing all the work and effort that went into giving birth to our great nation.  As I was driving out of the parking lot, I turned to the kids and said “did that give you the chills at the end?”  They both looked at me like I was crazy and replied no.

That brings me to the present and the climate before the mid-term elections.  Witnessing what is going on in the political world, you either want to explode, or just sit down and laugh in disbelief.  Divisive is almost too nice a word to describe it – it’s downright domestic warfare.  Sometimes I wish we could blow up the political ideologies associated with the Democratic, Republican, and Tea Parties, and discuss the common goals for the country – as one.  Aren’t we all in this together?

I do feel sorry for Obama.  He inherited quite a mess, and we can all argue ‘til the cows come home about whether his policies and actions have been the right ones or the wrong ones.  He still has a 91% approval rating among African Americans, but across the rest of America, he’s languishing in the mid forties.  This of course spells trouble during the mid term elections, where historically, a President who has under 50% approval at mid-terms looses on average 36 seats.  The Republicans would need to take 40 seats to gain majority.  We are a country of discontent – and I really think at this present time, any President, whether Democrat or Republican would be struggling.

For all the public lashings that Obama is receiving, I do feel a little better when I look back at history.  First, the President’s party almost always looses seats in the mid term elections, regardless of how he is rated by the public.  And there are some pretty heavy hitters that have had low approval ratings at mid term, and in fact lower than where Obama’s rating stands today.  Reagan’s first term mid-term approval rating was only 42%; Clinton’s first term mid-term approval rating was 45%; and George W. Bush’s second term mid-term approval was 38% (the lowest ever mid-term approval rating, followed by Truman at 40% in 1950).

I guess only time will tell.  Maybe Christine O’Donnell truly is the magic bullet.  Witchcraft may be the only way to accomplish anything in politics moving forward.

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word - excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.
Pearl S. Buck

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