Author Archives: Harbridge Christina

Deep-Fried Twinkies

What does a person do with a 12-year old nephew from Austin Texas? About a year ago, before the baby was born, we invited Brett here for the summer. His dance card fairly full with other relatives, we were able to negotiate a week of fun with this fast talking preteen.
He was only here for about 10-minutes when I let my husband know that we are not going to give him back. He has more energy and pep than 3 of the most hyper people I know meshed together. The first morning I woke up to the sound fo someone sweeping- this kid got up early and did some “chores” around the house without anyone asking. I let him know I would be responsible for showing hm the slacker side of life for the rest of his San Francisco vacation.
We take him to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. He has never seen the ocean and has only ridden on one rollercoaster. (two now) The ride down highway one was filled with questions and more laughter.
Kids will try just about anything. There is this concession sign that sells Deep Fried Twinkies… you did not read that wrong. Deep Fried Twinkies. Deep Fried Oreos… you name it. You remember Twinkies… they are that food we loved as kids… the food that is spray painted brown on the bottom so it appears the cake was baked.
I convinved Brett to try it. The pink faced boy behind the counter let us know the Deep Fried Twinkie is actually at the top of the food pyramid.
With much trepidation, he took the first bite. The look on his face was one of pure enjoyment and elation. I sampled a piece and truly folks, I could not believe how yummy it was. It is like the best yellow butter cake ever created. i was only allowed one bite so I can not elaborate.
Okay, so in this scenario it was really easy to break one of my cardinal rules “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” As I walked around the boardwalk after sampling the decadence of 100% trans fat and no nutritional value, I actively started looking for what I liked.
The foundation of my communcations training is for folks to watch for what they like in oher beings. It causes our cellular memory to retain the positive and it causes others to feel more open to us. This practice also lightens our mood and makes our communications pathways more open. Remember, I am a verbal communications coach.. I fail miserably in writing.
I realized that I was not following my own creed… as I walked around the noise and the rides I was not watching for what I liked. Once I began this process, once I stopped judging the twinkie by its cover, I saw some incredible relationships. Families. Friends. People.
It is a beautiful world out there.

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Being a parent (apparent) is a difficult thing to describe. My friend Corey, Willa’s dad, did a great job of it yesterday.
There is this room in your head, you see. It is a room you have known about your entire life. You see the room, saunter by the room… it is always there.
Until you are a parent, you do not have the key to the room. YOu have never been inside.
There are stunning revelations in that room. A feeling that is so difficult to explain or describe.

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And Baby Makes Pea

Today, Sebastian James Law learned how to feed himself. Not bad for an 8-month old with a control freak for a mom.
Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Control Freak
At each feeding experience, I gently place a bib around Sebastian and patiently feed the Organic Strained Peas or Turkey Vegetable (it is really Apples with a hint of Turkey and Vegetable) into the little boys’ mouth. I deftly avoid his grasp as he tries to take the spoon.
You see, he will get very messy if I let him grab the spoon. To avoid all of that funk, it is just easier if I just do it for him. To keep him happy and engaged, I just give him another spoon to play with while he waits for me to shovel the ground up yummies into the airplane hangar.
Today, he wasn’t having it. He wanted ALL the spoons… all the baby food jars… he did not want mom involved at all. So I gave him all the materials and just let him have at it. If mud bathes are good for the skin- I am certain baby food bathes must be a positive experience. He fed himself, went straight to the bath and dad hosed out the kitchen.
Today, As the Chief Executive Mom of my training company, I keep my eyes wide open for learning opportunities in both my professional and personal life. I suppose today’s lesson is about facilitation. Sometimes the best advice is to just get out of the way and watch the organic growth that can occur with out a shadow. kibitzing along.
Now the question is how to I convince an 8-month old that, as cute as sticking his little tongue out when he is excited is, when he falls down and goes boom… it is really going to REALLY hurt.

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I do not need to know anything else about you

Lat night at 4am, my son woke with quite a howl. We had taken him to the doctor yesterday with a steadily climbing fever of 102.4. As a new mom, of course I was completely calm and composed.
The tests they did on him, I will not discuss them here as I hurt thinking about it, indicated he had some sort of infection, possibly of the kidney. They convinced us that antibiotics were the only key and an ultrasound next week will help decide if it is a genetic abnormality.
So he gets this ridiculously painful shot of antibods… we waited 30 minutes before taking him home… and they told us to give him more antibods before he goes to sleep.
Well, I get this ‘mom’ thing. I call the advice nurse and tell her I am not comfortable double dosing him.. he is only 8 months old. She gets a doctor to agree that I can wait until morning to see if he gets a rash.
4am- Hello major rash. More Kaiser. More tests. Sleep and see. This morning. More Kaiser. More tests. We are still in wait and see mode.
So much of what I teach is about trusting intuition. A bad allergic reaction can cause some serious effects… I am so thankful I listened to my gut. We still don’t know for sure what is going on- though they seem confidence everything is now fine.
The point of my story, I have a new client who is running for office for the first time. He is a dedicated public servant who has given so much time and energy to the public good. When I take on a candidate, I force myself to do a little investigation to make sure I am aligned with a good deal of the beliefs and qualities of the person I am training.
Our first meeting was going to be today. With everything going on, I had to cancel the session last minute. Keep in mind, this candidate has an important situation coming up and needed me today. With th stress in a campaign, he has every right to be a bit miffed at my backing out.
What does he do? He picks up the phone and calls me to make sure my son is okay. He says he heard in my message the regret I had for missing and he wanted to make sure I knew it was no big deal and that I was doing the right thing. Please don’t worry about me or this- we will see each other soon.
I know everything I need to know about this candidate now. I do not need to know anything else about you, Mr. Candidate. You got my vote.

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Being sorry means you stop doing it

The world is my communication science lab.
This will be a very boring blog today – I’d stop reading here if I were you. Basically, I am not at liberty to share the details of my experience due to a confidentiality agreement I have. I sat here tonight and tried to think of creative ways to present the experience today with out leaking Mr. Sanders secret recipe. It is an important lesson in here.. I just am unsure how to present it,
Having failed, I will say this:
If you are lucky enough in you life, to have a person tell you that you have hurt their feelings, think of the following ideas before you respond. Now, I say “lucky enough” because a person who tells you that their feelings are hurt is basically saying to you that they care enough about the relationship to navigate some discomfort with you. This is a gift.
If someone tells you their feelings are hurt, here is a surefire list of things that will destroy the relationship:
1) Tell them they are being defensive. The moment we accuse a person of being defensive, they really have no choice but to stop talking. We accuse people of defensiveness to take the heat off of ourselves. When we sense someone is “defensive” we can ask questions to help them navigate out of that place. There is not a human on the planet who will be less defensive when we accuse them of being so.
2) Accuse them of something else. “You are seeing this in a negative view,” or “you are too sensitive” or “No one else feels this way” When we do this, we basically are telling them that not only do their feelings not matter- they do not matter.
3) Ignore them. This is a good one. Just pretend you didn’t hear it or get the e-mail. This is a very powerful statement of ‘you don’t matter to me.’
4) Talk about the situation with out them in the room. Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is so healthy. (Said as sarcastically as I can muster.) The moment we discuss a situation with out the person in the room, with a few other people, we become fanatics for our ‘side’. That is the side of ‘what the hell is wrong with you, there is no reason for you to feel upset.’ Get 3 people in a room talking about something and forget ever trying to change their collective mind. To add even more power to this idea, tell the person the next time you are all together that all you did when they were gone was talk about this issue. “I called Joe when I heard about it.” (Not, I care enough to call YOU and see if you are okay.)
5) Remain silent. If you have privately let them know you agree with them, do not say anything when the group is together. If you do say something, totally water it down so it doesn’t really seem like you agree. This helps the group feel the person is a lunatic – and makes teams so much stronger. The person will likely forget you ever agreed with them so don’t worry about it.
6) Never, ever say you are sorry. It is their problem and it is your job to convince them it is their problem. If someone has their feelings hurt, do not express concern or sadness that you may have inadvertently hurt their feelings, instead, do your best to drive your agenda and make sure they know they are wrong. This is super good for relationships and will earn you the National Medal of I Wasn’t Wrong. Wear it proudly.
7) Raise your voice. or. Soften your voice and tell the person you are afraid to say anything because you might hurt their feelings again. This will make the person feel safe and loving toward you. Don’t worry, it isn’t transparent at all.
OK. So I sound like a pissy bitch. Here is a better program for improving relationships through communication. When conflict happens, it is the time for us to create the foundation for future trust.
If someone tells you their feelings are hurt:
1) Be sorry. Truly and emotionally. Even if you have NO IDEA what you did, at least, if you care about the person, feel sorry that they are hurt. Express this. Often this is enough for the person to feel safe again. They at least know you care. “The last thing I wanted to do is make you feel bad. What can I do?”
2) Ask them to explain to you what happen. Listen with out agenda. Do not talk over them. Let them talk. Often folks will end their talk with.. you know it wasn’t that big a deal. We have ALL felt hurt. When we felt hurt, yes, sometimes we are reactionary and seeing things out of perspective. It doesn’t help us when someone points that out. If ya really care about the person, take the risk that they can convince you that you were an ass and maybe you are not perfect. Take the risk that they are right.
3) Let them be right. I have learned this recently. In the middle of a conversation lately, I just said to a group of people, okay, you must be right. Who cares if they are right. Why is this so important. ?
4) Listen for where you made a mistake. Actually quest for this knowledge. This can only make you a better person, to know when you are being a butt. Why we are so afraid of this, I do not know. (I am guilty for it)
5) If you are in a group, do not allow people to process without the person present. You will be a hero if you just stand up for anyone who is not in the room.
6) Speak their side. Truly try to see things from their perspective.
Relationships are fragile. Think of what is going on in our world right now. Times are tough, wars are going on, people do not trust …. why add to it by having to be so damn right all the time.

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A Spider Monkey on Crack in a Disco Ball Factory (Daylight)

It’s official. I am channeling another being, as referenced in the title. It seems my once focused and drven panther-like self has been replaced with a “spider monkey on crack in a disco ball factory in the sunshine.” In other words, if it sparkles.. I am RUNNING to it.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see so much opportunity… “I know, I will try that….” It took me about five seconds to name my last company- it has taken me 5 months to name this one. And dear, I still do not have a name I love.
(I just got really excited for a second there and thought I’d found the name of my company.. .HocusFocus… damn. The name is taken.
Today I took a break from all this namegamehoopla and took my son swimming at the Brisbane pool. I was so pleased to see all the Brisbane moms I know at the pool with their kids. I realized that this could be my life – if I could just sit with it for a second. (The pool was sparkling you see.)
I walked back up the hill in 90 degree heat schleping a toddler size airplane for my baby boy gifted to us from the street. I had to stop every tiny little shade spot to regroup and breathe. I gave Sebastian his wet t-shirt to cool off and he kept cooing each time I put it on his head. I received a call from a company wanting me to create their curriculum for training their executives. I could do that. (The cell phone was sparkling you see. Perhaps a mirage from all the blacktop heat.)
I come home to find my husband out on the deck swabbing brain cell killing wood covering on our deck. As I watched him I realized the garden needed a good weeding. I could get into that.
I just heard a noise. My little tyke is watching me type. It is time to stop – you see there is this little gleam in his eye…

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Um? So What!

SO I am sitting at a stop light (in my car) waiting for the light to give me the go… along side me comes rumbling up.. a 1965 Plymouth Fury. Aaaaah. I have been looking for one of these- it was my first car and I am still in love.
Am I creating my universe or do we just get back what we focus on? Does that sentence even make sense? My point, amidst my caffeine headache, did I see 4 of these cars the past 3 weeks because I was looking for them…. were they always there and I didn’t notice… or did I manifest some parallel universe where these grand machines live in abundance.
I remember a few years ago when I traveled to Santiago Cuba my amazement of the time-stood-still vehicle time machine. So many of the vehicles are from the 50’s when Cuba could purchase America cars before the ’63 embargo. Thirty years later and the 50’s American dream cars were alive and well.
Yet, the past few weeks I was not in Cuba. I sense that I see all these ’65 machines because I am alert and looking for them. They have been going along fine in their life, all around me. And now, I see them.
What we focus on is what we see. It bothered me today. I had someone call me to interview me as a potential speech coach. I asked them their number one desire in the training. They felt they could use some basic speech training, “You know, get rid of the ‘um’s.” It seemed they had taken a Toastmasters class and each time they said um a coin was dropped in a jar. They wanted someone to help them get rid of the ums in the same way.
Um, can I be honest with you right now? I absolutely HATE Toastmasters and all they stand for. The last thing a person needs when they are embracing the joy of public speaking is some silly person dropping a coin in a jar.. letting the person know what they are doing wrong.
And who said that saying UM is bad anyway? Why as a people do we hate this word so much? People have been conditioned now to listen for it and grade the speaker based on this ridiculous litmus test. We focus on the um’s.. we get the um’s.
You can say 13 UPS (Ums per speech) and I will not care if you related to me as a person… engaged me… got me involved.
Take my advice, be careful who you accept crticism from in public speaking. Your way just may be the right way. The goal of a speech is not to be perfect.. well, it is to be perfect as YOU. Be You. Folks come to hear YOU not your words.
Do also avoid loving a car that is 40 years old, bad for the environment and gets 10 miles to the gallon….it is heartbreaking to, um, want something so ‘bad.’

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Fiddlenecks & No Tan Lines

Today was scary. I have endured illness, my country in a pointless war, a tough pregnancy, months of bed rest, a birth of my son, sleepless nights.. nothing prepared me for the horror of our untamed and neglected backyard. All of the rains this past year resulted in a weed emporium of epic proportions.
Michelle and I planned our new business, weedwacking with out tops, as we pulled an entire flatbed trailer full of weeds. My husband John spent 5 hours slaying the 13 foot RoseTreeDragon and tonight looks like he got thrown into a bag of rabid feral cats on crack.
What is so sad about today? My garden looked incredible this time last year. We had hired our friend Nicole to create a floral oasis only to let it be choked out by Ivy, Crabgrass, Cudweeds, Fiddlenecks and Foxtails. The neglect of our home, of what once mattered, in full polychromatic glory. Sure, we can blame it on having a new baby, a new business and those last 17 lbs of nasty pregnancy weight. Alas, it might be something else.
My favorite book is “The Little Prince.” This affection was created at a very young age, as my father read the book to us often. I think of one of the quotes in that book that fits today: “We are forever responsible for those we tame.”
Of course, this statement is about love and commitment. When we moved into this house, the garden had some rosebushes and succulents- totally low maintenance. Once we tinkered with the garden, we became responsible for its upkeep.
The same is true for me. For you. For anyone who starts down the slippery slope of self-improvement and aging. Oh if I could only go back to the days of being 20 years old and knowing everything.
Our school system does not focus on the good kids. Jim Collins wrote in his book “Good to Great,” that “…good is the enemy of great.” When we are good at something, we are often never coached to be great. We have been taught that when we are coached, we are wrong or deficient. I suppose as in the Little Prince, the committment price is high we we agree to coach top performers. This day has reinforced my belief that any training must involve some serious interactive coaching- particularly to the top performers.
My co-conspirator in the SansTop Garden Society , Michelle, is going to take a class at Berkeley Extension on Fairytales to plant some new blossoms in her head. I suppose it is time for all of us to sow and plant so we can harvest with new energy our untamed soul. Egad.. do I sound like Deepak or what? Yikes.
Clearly I have had too much sun.

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The Earth is Really Made of Playdoh

Ever get the feeling you are Jamie Lee Curtis in the move Halloween? You remember the part.. she can’t find the keys and Jason is coming. Feverishly searching all the pockets of your favorite denim pants… hearing the music in the background…..“Keys… Keys… KEYS….” knowing that you made a grand mistake.

That was me this week. I had the challenge of teaching the upper-brass of a private school. This sounds a wee bit uninteresting until you hear the scary music begin to play… you see, the Board of Trustees forced the school to have the training. Okay. Cool. I have handled a tough audience before. I can do that.

Then I dropped the keys. Here is a word to the wise, when sending something in writing to a group of academics- make sure you triple check the grammar. Now, this girl is not the grammar champion. I can’t tell a dangling participle from a lexical ambiguity. When I received the pre-training surveys back, my mistakes were corrected. Most of the respondents made it clear they were not interested in the training and did not appreciate the sloppy work. Picture Jason knifing through the closet slats and cutting my arm.

I didn’t need Jason to knife me- I knifed myself. And not in the cool Hari Kari way either. No romantic notions here.

Those of you who know me- know that I am a wee bit weird. I tend to act like an 8-year old in terms of my strong need to play. I always bring toys to any training that I do. It all started, the toys I mean, at some thrift stores in 1993. I started picking up bags of fun toys and putting them all over my house. People started to tease me about all the toys and fun figures I had. The day I bought a glue gun and a hacksaw is a day that will live in stylistic infamy.

I digress, I often do, back to the toys and private schools. There is a reason I bring them to every teaching experience., allow me a paragraph or two just to give you the brief history. It all started when I was teaching a class, Dale Carnegie Human Relations, where I was asked to wear a suit and be normal. I actually spray painted my orange hair brown for one class. I kid you not. One night, on the way to teach, I threw about 20 toys in a shopping bag and put them on the chairs in the room. I didn’t say anything… just watched the reaction.

It was at that moment I realized there are different types of learners. Powerpoint is for visual learners, the speaker for audible and the toys for those who are tactile. I watched folks interact with the toys and it felt the learning was cemented.
Ever since then, I bring toys to every training I do. The more conservative the audience, the stranger the initial looks I receive. It causes a little bit of a hurdle for me in terms of being taken seriously; however, I find the benefit to the audience, and me, is worth it. What does this have to do with Jamie Lee Curtis and the private school?

I was told this group does not like silliness. When I started to put the toys out, one of the folks from the school warned me that this would not go over well. I lifted a couple of the toys and for a split second started to put them away. I stopped.

Aphorism by loose definition means to stand so solidly on principle.. to be unshakable in what we know is right. I know toys help adults learn and I had to face my grammar mistake, their belief that I was an idiot and their potential disdain for my toys.

It was an incredible training day. The people I met at this school proved to be so incredibly lovely and caring. I have yet to see any group more dedicated to the future dreams and aspirations of your people. I will always cherish the Playdoh earth presented to me at the end of the day by one of the participants.

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