Monday, April 23, 2018

     Yesterday, I spent 5 hours in a very hard chair listening to an amazing woman tell a small group of us how she went from finding herself suddenly divorced from the man of her dreams to becoming a single mom with a dead-end job and a pocketful of anti-depressants. Only a few short years later, she is a successful public speaker and business coach earning six figures. What an inspiration!

      I can’t begin to list all the things I learned about marketing, speaking and re-inventing yourself. I thought I was the Queen of the latter, but guess what? I’m just one of many. This woman is amazing! If you need a business coach, check out Deb Cheslow out of Daytona Beach, Florida!

      I wanted to sign up immediately, but then wherever I am, that’s where I am. What? This

means that I get 200% into anything I’m pumped about. If I’m in a jewelry store, I’m all about diamonds. If I’m in a car dealership, I’m ready to buy. If I’m in France, I’m ready to apply for citizenship. That is not to say that the places I go are not fabulous and the products I see are not worthy of purchase. It’s just that sometimes, I must get away from the situation to gain perspective. Am I easily impressed? Maybe, but that’s ok. There is much about which to be impressed in my world.

     At this point, I can’t imagine telling en event planner that I would love to perform but my non-negotiable fee is $10,000. Yeah, right. That’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but the speaker’s point yesterday was “If you don’t think you’re worthy of what you believe you deserve, neither will anyone else.”  She started with depression, an empty wallet and a dead-end job. Never did she believe herself worthy of her fee, but in a very short time, she learned she was.

     I came away from both the Saturday NSA meeting and yesterday’s workshop with renewed energy, determination and purpose. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how tired you are, how rich you are. It matters how badly you want something and how hard you are willing to work to get it, according to the experts I just heard.

     Debbie says that the journey is not a flat line. Flat line = death. The journey is rocky with twists and turns, potholes and even a sink hole or two. The question is:  “Am I willing to risk knowing that up front?” Am I willing to drag myself out of the quicksand when everything sucks and start over? Am I willing to accept that it will take more time than I have, more energy than I can muster, more money than I could ever budget, more courage than most humans? If so, if I believe, not from my head, but from my heart that I can do this, then I can, and I will.

     So what do I want to do? I want to give a keynote in front of hundreds of people and have them so moved that they stand up and cheer. I want to write a book that I learn has improved just one person’s life. I want to speak to a group of advanced French students and tell them why learning a language changed my life and teaching was the best career I could ever have chosen. I want to take at least one grandchild to France and watch the expression on his or her face. I want to give back to Hospice and the Alzheimers foundation which saved my life when my father lost his. I want to perform my one-woman show in front of at least one more audience of 200 or more. I want to go to Rachmaninov’s, Chopin’s, Debussy’s, Gershwin’s homes and drool. I want to take one more trip alone to prove that I still can at my age. I want to spend a few days with both of my daughters in New York City celebrating that we have and love each other.
I want to continue walking on the shores of the Gulf with Mr. Wonderful counting our blessings.

     I can do this.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

     It isn’t often that we find ourselves in a room with over 70 people who are of like mind. Yesterday, I spent my 8th day at the Central Florida Chapter of the National Speakers Association meeting. These people are incredible. Every member brings a unique set of skills to this meeting, and the room is bursting with energy and promise.

    Yesterday’s speaker, Mark Lundquist, was a 36-year-old Asian man who in four years has made over a million dollars per year speaking to thousands of people all over the country. He told us his story, and many of us were stunned by how quickly he succeeded. Our introduction to this man was listening to him sing the National Anthem in a resonant baritone voice which made our spines tingle.

     His message was music to my ears, as I am not a keynote speaker, but my dream is to deliver at least one keynote before I head up to heaven to entertain my parents and other relatives who need my alto voice for the family singalong. Mark said that 2/3 of his event planners were looking for high energy and humorous and engaging entertainment. Content was third on the list. That was surprising to me, and although I’m not sure I believe that content is less important than humor, I do believe that all three are needed, and that his 2/3 are crucial to a successful delivery. The point is I can do those two—that’s me. All I have to do is plug those talents into a topic, and, according to Mark, I’m good to go. I was so hyped by his talk, I could hardly contain my excitement.

     That was my first “AHA!” moment. The gentleman sitting next to me is one of our most sought-after mentors. He is not mine, but I respect him, and so I asked him at the break about a crossroads decision I’m trying to make. Within 15 minutes, he had his legal pad out, and he had outlined a simple path to my goal. He even gave me homework, and as a teacher, I jumped on that. (See tomorrow’s blog) Equipped with my second “AHA!,” I went to lunch and enjoyed three women who are making things happen, including writing a book. While I was sitting with them, listening to their book ideas and journeys, I discovered that one woman, whom I already know, formats books for a living. I’ve been looking for someone to format my third volume of humorous essays that has been sitting in my drawer for two months. I didn’t know she did that, and we are not in touch about when she will begin.

     It is not even 1:00 p.m., and I am on fire with all these new discoveries. This brings us to the afternoon meeting where two of our most polished and successful speakers (each making over six figures a year in their respective businesses).  The first one is a very creative and musically talented speaker. I am creative and musically talented, so I am thinking to myself, “If she can do this, so can I.” She proceeded to show us take-away gifts she offers her clients, and I now have a great idea for the prize for my next show. She also sang one of her original parodies that she uses in her presentations, and she told us how the audiences loved it, and that’s partially why they always remember her message. I write parodies. I can do this. More fabulous ideas from a fellow “like-minded” member. 

      The final speaker of the day is up in 7-figure category per year. She was a former Air Force pilot, and after a devastating divorce that left her a single mom with a boring job, she related her story of how she went from struggling to make ends meet to becoming a black belt and a highly successful speaker and coach. She was not what I would call dynamic, nor was she animated, but she had us in the palm of her hand. I am attending her workshop today (five hours) free. She usually gets $6000 for what she will give 30 of us who can’t wait to attend.

     Never did I think that I would be spending hours listening to public speakers with the intention of becoming a keynoter at 75! “Anything is possible!” she says, if we want it from your hearts, and we are willing to do anything to get it. More ideas poured into my head, and my “AHA!” now had me tapping me feet and writing as fast as I could.

      The bottom line is this:  Every time I walk out of an NSA meeting, I am stimulated, but yesterday, all the “AHAs!” fed my intellectual and creative hunger, and I can’t wait to get back to the table. 

      Keynote, karate, charisma—-look out world, I’m not done yet!!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

1961 Piano Recital with Margaret Anderson (our teacher), Sharon Leach and my Dad
                         Wedding #2 1993
Engagement 1941

National Cemetery, Florida 2009

          My father was my hero, my soul mate, my mentor, my cheerleader and my harshest critic. He loved me conditionally, even though he didn't realize it. As long as I did what I was told, reached the bar he set and kept raising, remained humble, I was loved. At least, that's the way I interpreted his love. Conditional love hurts. It means that the person who doesn't live up to the "standard," feels as though they are never "good enough."

      I do not say this to evoke sympathy; I say it to remind us all that the bars we set, the offhand comments we make can make our children feel that they can never measure up. I am still measuring up, and I am up in years. It has taken a long time to accept that the "conditional" love I interpreted was just my father's way of trying to mold me into the best human he could imagine. The words of our parents remain sacrosanct, until we realize that we are leading our lives according to values we never scrutinzed.

      The most powerful sentence I have read in the last ten years was from the book, The Four Agreements. It said, "Everything you have ever believed is a lie." What the author meant was that many of us grow up with beliefs we never challenge, until one day we say, "Wow. I really don't believe that, and I need to replace that with what I know." I learned that even after the death of my beloved father, the tapes I hear in my head are his values; not mine.

     He made me feel "special" by what I accomplished, so the message was: If I don't accomplish anything, I am not special, therefore, I am nothing and unworthy. Wow. That's quite a message for a young child to craft out of what her parents said and modeled.

     I loved my father. We shared our music, our stories, our ambition, our creativity. I miss him to this day, but this man I loved set me up for a lifetime of driving myself to the point of exhaustion. I never would have been as successful in anything I pursued if I hadn't had that drive. I never would have spent hours berating myself for not "measuring up," if it weren't for his programming and dictates.
This is called "conditional" love.

      The most beautiful message I have ever received from my two daughters is that they feel loved unconditionally.

Thanks, Daddy.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“Variations on a Theme by Fifi, la Folle”

     Yesterday, on fb, I connected for the first time with the parent of a former student. This student is now going for her PhD. Now this has nothing to do with me, but I must say that I celebrate all of you, my students, who sat before me from 1965 to 2005. I celebrate your accomplishments, milestones, weddings, births, and awards. I am the Queen Mother of all of you. You can do no wrong in my book. Vous êtes mes gosses!

     I feel so blessed to have answered my calling as a teacher. When I was a little kid, I lined up my stuffed animals and dolls on small chairs in my basement, and I taught them every day. I had a little blackboard on an easel with white chalk sticks, and I instructed them in various subjects. (Math was not one of them). 

     When I got ready to go to college, there was no question in my mind that I would become a teacher. I started out in the School of Music at the University of Michigan, but I abandoned my Choral Ed major because there weren’t any cute boys in the practice rooms. 

     One course I had to take (It was only one credit) put me in a classroom as a sophomore at some Ann Arbor High School. I had to help individual students, and I got to actually teach a lesson. This was the most valuable course I took because early on, I was sure that teaching was for me. 

     When I graduated from U of M, I spent the summer in France. I lived with a French divorcée who couldn’t speak English, and I attended graduate classes at the Sorbonne and traveled all over Europe alone speaking French in every country. That summer was the best training of my career, as I was forced to speak the language daily. The American program in which I enrolled introduced me to other American students, but we all spoke French to each other 100% of the time. My “Maman française” was truly a “mom” to me telling me to eat more and asking me what happened to the block of gruyère cheese that always seemed to disappear during the night:)

     If you’ve done the math, you recognize that my first students from Grosse Pointe South High School are now 70 years old! Yup. 70! My only regret is that I didn’t keep up with at least one of them. I’ve tried to find them, but with no success. The ones from Novi High School who graced my classroom from 1980 are the ones with whom I connect occasionally, and I feel so blessed. 

     I get to see Amanda’s baby, Eric’s guitars, Ashley’s wedding, Alyssa’s trips to France, Ben’s concerts, Patrick’s students, Chris’s adventures in Vegas, Megan’s 30th birthday quilt, Marie’s engagement photos, Scott’s adventures in London, Jenn’s crazy vehicles and extreme sports events, Tracey’s travels, Audrey’s wedding in Belgium, and the list goes on. 

      Je vous adore tous, et je suis tellement reconnaissante d’avoir trouvé la carrière de mes rêves. Vous me manquez toujours, et je vous embrasse tous!  


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fears about performance day:

  1. Growing a large zit on my face.
  2. Eating something that causes me to bloat up like a baby elephant.
  3. Forgetting all my lines and all my music.
  4. No one showing up.
  5. People showing up I’ve never seen in my life.
  6. A hurricane 
  7. Someone bringing a large dog who barks at the crescendos.
  8. Someone yelling out in the middle.
  9. Someone’s phone ringing to the tune of Jaws.
  10. Getting a sinus infection so I can’t hear or breathe.
  11. Having a coughing fit in the middle of the pianissimo.
  12. Forgetting to show up.
13.  The videographer forgetting to plug in the mike.
14.  People getting drunk on the wine and talking during the performance.
15.  The police breaking in saying my music is disturbing the peace.
16.  Toilet paper stuck to my shoe.
17.   Piano pedals don't work.
18.   Bra strap breaks at the FFF.

Yup. I’m totally calm:)

Monday, April 16, 2018

     How many times do we have to listen to the same message to really “get it?” I listened to a Ted talk by Celeste Headlee, a professional interviewer. She listed ten points about communicating in a world she claims, according to the latest statistics, is more polarized than ever in American history. 

     You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to recognize the damage that social media and technology have done to communication over the past ten years. She didn’t really focus on that, though. She talked common sense. She listed ten things that I learned in the fifties from my parents. 

     I won’t mention all ten, as you have heard them in some context thousands of times. That doesn’t mean you were really listening though, as “listening” requires more than our ears. I was all smug thinking to myself, “I know how to really listen. I do it all the time.” But, guess what? I was guilty of a couple of the things she claims we should not do while listening.

     The point is this:  We must listen not just with an open mind and fully focused attention, we must listen without the following:

a.  preparing our response in our heads
  b.  recognizing things we can relate to and responding verbally to the person’s point
c.  thinking about how this relates to ourselves

     She tells us to forget our stories and anecdotes that might relate. They don’t matter. Forget ourselves and just focus on the person speaking. It’s not about us; it’s about whatever the person is talking about. Focus without responding. Focus without relating. Focus focus focus.

     She also emphasized the point that we need to listen to understand and learn. If we are focused on learning something from a conversation, we are not thinking so much about what we want to say in reply.

      I often think I’m a good listener when I relate a personal story that seems pertinent to the speaker’s comments. That’s hijacking the conversation to me. It’s not about me. 

     I often get ideas when the person is speaking, and I share those ideas with the speaker. They are not relevant to the conversation if they’re only about me. 

     We must all recognize that listening is way more important than speaking. If we listened more and spoke less, we would be much smarter and wiser. 

     She also talked about making your points if you are the speaker. She tells us to leave out the details and the “because” in the message. Irrelevant details and stories detract from the listener’s focus, so there is a responsibility on the speaker’s part as well.

      The next time someone is giving you important information, ask yourself if you are really focused. Be aware of ideas that pop into your head that you want to share. Think about how your comments further the purpose and importance of the conversation. Pay attention to how you feel at the end of the exchange. If you are stimulated and feel “heard,” then the conversation has been successful. It wasn’t simply two monologues suspended in space. 

     I learned that when disciplining kids, the word “because” is the signal that they have tuned out. They want just the facts and the bottom line. Too many words, too many “because” clauses just irritates them, and your message is lost. They will say, no matter what your tone of voice, that you “yelled at them.” Yup. Been there. (She is now a public speaker who tours the country delivering warnings and wisdom about how to communicate in the age of technology.)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dear Grandma:

I miss you so much. You were such a ray of sunshine in my life all those years ago. I can still smell your delicious coffee brewing, and the memory of your homemade Swedish coffee cake still makes my mouth water. Your old house on Newport Road was a magical place for me as a little girl. 

I remember the prickly couch I used to sleep on. I remember the pantry on the stairway going up to the attic where your sewing machine sat proudly in the sunny extra bedroom. I remember the lace doilies you so delicately placed under the violets that were always full of blooms. I remember fig newtons, hard-tack?? cream of wheat sprinkled with brown sugar, and you curling my hair with a curling wand. 

In some ways, it seems like yesterday. It is so hard to believe that this was over 50 years ago. I still remember your phone number:  Valley 18898. I remember you calling grandpa from his workbench in the basement, “Axel! Axel!”  He would ignore you until you were furious, and then up he’d come slowly with a little smirk on his face. He would say nothing. 

Grandma, so much has changed in our world since then. Hardly anyone uses phones anymore, and sitting on the front porch having coffee with a grand-daughter is almost
(Aunt Saundra and you, Grandma) 

unheard of. Most grand-children have their noses into their cell phones, so conversations are at a minimum. The lost art of eye-to-eye conversations saddens me. (A cell phone is a cordless device the size of a pack of Camels that people use their thumbs to talk on. Don’t ask.)

Our President has been accused of sexual harassment, and our congressmen don’t speak the same language. People rush from place to place, and no one hangs clothes on clothes lines where they can chat across the fence. There are few fences except verbal ones.

Children carry backpacks to school and learn on computers (larger devices than cell phones where you type and communicate with people thousands of miles away.) Teachers are now being asked to carry guns because crazy people are shooting up our children while they are in their seats at school. 

In our society, “More is better.” The simple life of rocking in a chair or swinging on a glider next to your spouse is gone. Everything is instant—even cream of wheat. Oh, what I would give for your Swedish meat ball recipe.

No one writes letters anymore. Cursive is passé, and thank you notes (if there are any) are sent by thumbs on the Camel device. Spelling is irrelevant, and people don’t even know what grammar means. 

It’s not all bad though. The computer has made it easier and faster to do research and connect with people you haven’t seen for years. We can now talk to people face to face on this device, and we can do our shopping, banking and even grocery gathering on this device. 

We are more aware of what’s going on in the world, so we can help those less fortunate, and travel is now more reasonable for many, so we can go places and learn about other cultures. Hopefully, by doing this we gain some perspective as to how lucky we are to live in the United States of America.

I miss you so much, Grandma. I hope you are up there having dinner with Grandpa, Uncle Carl, Aunt Dorothy and Daddy. It must seem like old times. Is Daddy playing the piano and singing his Swedish songs to you?

I am a grandma now, and I sometimes find it so surreal, as I have the energy of a 25-year-old. I don’t act my age, and I think that’s a good thing most of the time. I’m married to my second husband, and we are happy and grateful most of the time. Sometimes he pulls an Axel and ignores me when I call him for dinner, but that only reminds me of you, and that makes me smile.

You have seven darling great-great grandchildren who bring us all joy. 

I love you, Grandma, and I miss you so much. I’ll be in touch. Have fun up there. 

P.S.  Get out your hanky because I’m playing the piano for 25 people in a couple of weeks, and I know you would be touched by the beautiful music. Do you have a CD player up there?