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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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