Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Works!

Saying "Something wonderful is going to happen" actually works!

The Seed Connect Summer Social was yesterday's something wonderful. Founded by Erin Seabold, the Seed was created to unite women and resources around the world with the vision of providing education and connecting women-in-business with the resources they need to succeed.

Erin's gift for connecting people is unparalleled.  I came away so jazzed from meeting Nancy and Jen, the super cool founders of Trendz Boutique, Danita "Zilla" Nixon of ScrappingZilla, with her fabulous digital scrapbooking services, and Charlotte Spraggins, authentic, savvy, and passionate rep for  one of the smartest-ideas-I've-heard-about-in-years team! Network diva, Christina Schulz shared with us all the acronym FORM to ease our off-line social and business networking encounters. At your next networking event use this quickie tip to ward off wallflower syndrome:  F is for Family or you have a family? are you from here? O is for occupation...what do you do? R is for Recreation... what do you do when you're not working? and M is for -oops can't remember the exact words, but pretty sure it was Make a plan to follow up (within 48 hours). Such good advice, I am going to give Christina a call and do just that!  Louise Walsh and Josanne Cossio from the Denver Downtown Chapter of American Business Womens Association (ABWA), Nancy Walsh from the Colorado Women's Chamber, along with a cadre of other fabulous women and a few very smart men 
(hey, they must have heard Adrienne Rich proclaim "The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.")

You couldn't have asked for a better setting than the The Hilton Garden Inn at Highlands Ranch or a better pick-me-up than Zebra Vodka. Am happily downing my complimentary swag bottle tonight!

And, the best part of this whole Paving it Forward thing? I get to do it all over again tomorrow! I urge you to join me...just click your heels 3 times and repeat after me: "Something wonderful is going to happen today".  And let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Camp Experience of a Lifetime

Something wonderful is going to happen today. That is what I said to myself when I woke up this morning. This is what author and speaker, Elisabeth Fayt, refers to as a powerful pre-pave.  She was one of several phenomenal keynote speakers, workshop leaders, and panelists who shared their hearts, souls, and time with 200 women campers at Camp Experience in Copper, Colorado this past weekend. 

Sunday was the second time I've had the incredible good fortune to hear Elisabeth speak; the first was at Camp Experience's one day workshop back in February. Now that I think about it, it was just after hearing her explain the laws of attraction seven months ago, that positive things began happening in my life.  As she explained then, people spend more time choosing what they are going to wear in the morning than they do choosing how they will connect with people, how they will feel or what they will accomplish. By choosing what we will focus on, we can create the energy to achieve anything!

It was a good time for a reminder.  Like many of us, I had fallen into the habit of being so busy and being so stressed, that I forgot I have the ability to choose how to be.

When I'm meant to learn a lesson, it's funny how many teachers suddenly appear! I had to chuckle when I recently read about  Melanie Mills and her 'best job in the world', which she translates as "Restoring hope to people by reminding them what they already know." I already knew I had the power to choose how to be, I just needed someone to remind me.

While we can choose how to react to the world's external signals, we cannot choose our brain's internal signals. Ten years ago, Sharon Underwood's letter to the editor roundly defeated the myth that sexuality is a choice. The kind of love demonstrated by moms like Sharon, and Jeanne Manford, founder of PFLAG, is the kind of love that we do have a choice about. It is true love, in its purest form...

The challenges of mothering prompted Betsy Henry's self-reflections about the nature of nagging; they reflect another kind of brave love with which so many women can identify. It takes a boat-load of discipline to express your love by keeping your thoughts to yourself!

Jean Guyton describes a rare love as well. When she and her husband embarked on their Ayurvedic Journey to India last December. The image of this well-traveled and well-educated American philanthropist being brought to tears by the respect and reverence of the young Indian woman kissing her feet, is one that will stay with me, and resounds another echo in the theme of choosing love.

A desire for a more balanced life with less stress is the number one reason that people downshift their lives, according to writer Michael Bloch of Green Living Tips.  Hmmm, that seems to lead me full circle back to the fact that I have the choice to assert that "something wonderful is going to happen today".  I owe my gratitude to each and every one of these people for reminding me that love is a choice, and that I have the power to choose!

I may just have to tie a little string around my finger so I never again forget to pave it forward.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pain: You Can Feel Mine if I Can Feel Yours

Last Saturday I attended the 2010 Denver SOBCON event.  SOB does not stand for bawl loudly; it stands for successful and outstanding bloggers (though I would have been equally intrigued by the idea of openly bawling all day).  There were several savvy speakers, each with a message or two about the importance of goal-setting, strategy-shaping, and the ins and outs of social media. I learned a lot.  Despite the brain damage I suffer every time I take a day or two away from the computer, 90% of the time, I learn stuff that is powerful.

One of the lessons that really resonated from this event, was taught by....Jonathan Fields who boiled marketing down to this: You cannot make money unless you're solving someone else's problems. To do this you have to live inside their head; listen, and learn your customers' (or potential customers') pain points.  And then find a way to resolve them.

Well yesterday I was too busy feeling my own pain to worry about yours. I'm talkin' prescription-strength pain. No, really.  Prescriptions are my pain point.  We have a family of 7 battling everything from ADD to acne, not to mention generalized anxiety disorder which may or may not have genetic roots, but is surely exacerbated by the stress of having ADD and acne, or for that matter, a mother who blogs about your ADD and acne.

Managing our many prescriptions in today's paranoid pharmaceutical landscape is enough to drive one to drink - as for that, no prescription is required- and yes, that is my official excuse.

Explain to me again the point of HIPAA? Isn't it something about protecting my privacy?  If so, it isn't working. We've had to switch doctors and insurance companies so many times, that by now half of all folks employed in the medical industry know every sordid detail of our bodily functions and dysfunctions?  Not to mention that, as a blogger, I've pretty much thrown privacy to the wind, anyway.

I'd love to get my hands on the wise guy who decreed that all controlled substances (re: ADD medications) must be handwritten and delivered in person to the pharmacy. For any Forrest Gumps (or cruelly clueless bureaucratic legislators) reading this, that means: call the doctor, wait through the "push the number" game, get put on hold, speak to a disinterested receptionist, drive across town to the office to pick up the prescription while praying they didn't close early for their two-hour lunch hour, take the paper to the pharmacy, wait in line (behind the stanchions-to ensure you don't impinge on the privacy of the customer ahead of you), sign the HIPAA papers (yes the same ones that you've signed 456 times), fill your cart with stuff you don't need while you're waiting 20 minutes for the prescriptions to be filled, wait in line again to pay. Then go home and get a call from your daughter saying that she is out of her ADD medicine and needs it ASAP as exams start Monday.  So you get to do it all over again...but this time you add in a stop at FedEx.

Frankly I don't give a damn if every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the country finds a way to get their hands on Ritalin,   I only care that our family members who need it, get it, without me jumping through hoops every single month.

Okay, I showed you my pain, now you show me yours...or better yet, you be the marketing genius and figure out a way to resolve mine-and then I'll actually have some freed-up brain space to identify and resolve yours!

Monday, September 20, 2010

My name is Gretchen and I'm a Coffeeholic.

This morning I rolled over and admitted that without coffee, there was no reason to get up.  This is a sad state of affairs, I know.  But I'm sadder that I can't have coffee than I am about being a coffeeholic.

I often put off scheduling those medical tests that require you to fast. Even though I eat very little in the morning, it's just the idea of not being able to, that makes me want to puke (or stab the doctor with a fork when he's 45 minutes late for the appointment, and I've been starving since midnight).  But this time, not only no food, but no caffeine as well, AND the test isn't until 4:00 PM.  Now that's not right.  And the scheduler took exactly zero pity on me when I began to howl like my dog when he's left alone.

Several months ago, I wrote a smug post about my ability to jump out of bed in the morning.  I take it back.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Everybody Loves a Party

The balloons reminded me of another party; fifteen years ago, we hosted a backyard cocktail party at our home in New York.  My five year-old niece had been diagnosed with a fatal genetic disease. Living in a different state, with four kids of our own, it was impossible for us to do much to help out on a regular basis.  One day, I had the brainstorm to have a party and raise money for research.  Despite the doubts of many, that first event raised nearly $22,000, and served as a catalyst for a whole bunch of fundraising parties with a purpose.  Over the course of ten years, our extended family raised over $250,000 for research into Batten Disease.  Tragically, we still lost our beautiful blue-eyed, blonde-haired Betsy.  But not until she had touched tens of thousands of lives, and the research done on her behalf had helped researchers pinpoint the wayward gene, develop carrier and fetal tests, resulting in the birth of a healthy baby brother. 

I will always remember the night of that party.  It was a huge endeavor, and I had never felt so passionately about the power of love and friendship.  The outpouring of support for this little girl was staggering, and I think it's the only thing that saved my brother's sanity as he and his family walked through the valley.

Last night, the feeling that I had walking through the rooms of Pomegranate Place , was very much like the one I'd felt those many years ago, as scores of women, some of whom I'd not even met, mingled, and shopped, and laughed, and shared, and embodied the soul of MidChix.

We were blessed by the generosity of Tom Curcio at Happy Canyon Wines, the musical grace of harpist Lily Kellogg, save-the-day server recruitment by mascot chick (she's barely over thirty!) Ally Ryan, plus the tireless efforts of Mama Holli, Lise Amos, Kirsten Heckendorf, (who had to miss the fun as her daughter endured a third knee surgery), and event planner, Denise Smith.

Everyone was in a festive frame of mind!  I connected with friends I hadn't seen in months, women I'd never met, and experienced that powerful somethin' somethin' that comes from seeing people you like connect with other people you like... hey, that's what MidChix is all about!

Our vendors were spectacular and made the party extra special-who doesn't like to go home with a little trinket?  EveyK had her usual unique pieces and accessories that make her boutique such a hot destination.  Both FORSSE, the coolest new on-call personal security app for Androids and IPhones, and Girls Fight Back, the beneficiary of our event, wowed the crowd.  Chix loved Joni's Silpada jewelry and Beckons Organic Clothing. Ophelia's Oracle was a wonderful find!  A book loved by girls and women alike.

I bought a lil' bit of BodyBark, and have worn the boy shorts all day with not a single adjustment!  Going to invest in a few more... Kate's Sweet Pea Pockets were coveted by all; my new one made the rounds with me today. It was a struggle to choose among the many one-of-a-kind Anne Franklins Designs, and Tastefully Simple's easy to prepare and delicious meals were exactly what busy chix like us need to help get the fam fed. Diane Lather Belfour's Works of Light are beauty in the purest sense of the word, and the perfect gift for someone special. Elizabeth Cuckson and Barie Joy added the perfect finishing touches with their rare gifts of intuition and Tarot.

Donations by Pure Barre and Dr. Christine Rodgers enPointe added to the evening.

It was a night to remember, as, like that night in 1995, it was just the beginning of what promises to be a powerful and extraordinary movement of connection, and isn't that what life is all about...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kudos to Standard Parking and Denver International Airport-Parking Division

I'd never seen a money order before; wasn't even sure what it meant...until
yesterday afternoon, when one arrived in the mail, along with a thoughtfully written letter of apology and explanation from Herald Hensley, the Airport Parking Manager at Denver International Airport!

Not only was the $14.00 promissory note that had been given to me 12 days ago excused, but the $40.00 parking fee I'd paid at the time was refunded!

Hensley's two-page letter referred to my earlier blogpost , that had ripped both Standard Parking and DIA, as well as the NYPD, and our friends at TSA. This response was not the only surprise I received after my loyal MidChix team tweeted my foaming at the mouth for all the world to witness.  I also received a response right in the comment section of my post from Justin Brunner, Corporate Communications at Standard Parking promising to follow up with the folks on the scene...which he evidently did!

I want to give both Standard Parking and DIA's Parking Department a round of applause. Not only did they acknowledge my complaint, but instead of going on the defensive (a natural reaction) they addressed and resolved it.  Their willingness to forego $54 bucks and mollify an irate customer is even more impressive given that I'm a captive's not like I can just protest by never again parking at Denver Airport!

The good will engendered by such an unusual and admirable act may be hard to put a value on, but I'm convinced that good deeds are contagious and imbued with karma. Hats off to these folks who actually read about my experience, and responded as principled human beings as opposed to administrative automatons.

Brunner's comment on my post also speaks to Standard Parking's social media savvy. I'm guessing it's because they're tuned in to Twitter that the honchos there heard about my blog rage in the first place. Whether businesses like it or not, social media tools like Twitter are going to hold more and more of them accountable...too bad these tools weren't as powerful a few years ago when an obscene number of banks, and other lenders were having their way with our economy.

Having just finished reading Bob Garfield's The Chaos Scenario, on the flight prior to my parking fiasco, I was inspired by the result of his Comcast Must Die blog and the website that evolved as a result of his rant.  In fact, I was so inspired, I bought the domain name shortly after posting my previous blog.  Stay tuned for this coming site where victims of travel hell can share their stories, and maybe even find avenues for recourse.

Terrorists have complicated world travel, but technology is ensuring word travel...and that may just take us further anyway.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Passion for Compassion

When I was flying to NYC last Sunday, I couldn’t help but marvel at the elderly couple sitting across the aisle from me. An unrelated young man had the window, then wife in the middle, and husband, in the aisle seat. When I travel with my husband, if we can’t land two aisle seats, I often end up in the middle due to his extreme claustrophobia…so it didn’t surprise me that the man had the seat by the walkway. He rooted for me as I tried to wrestle my new rolling tote (which I’d  purchased that morning expressly for that purpose) under the seat in front of me, giving me an early glimpse of his kind-heartedness. 

About halfway through the flight, I realized that he was sitting there to better care for his wife. I watched him gently assist her out of the row and down the narrow passageway to the lavatory. Now I could see she was shaky, frail and unsteady on her feet.  It was a lovely and touching glimpse at what must have been a long-lived and loving relationship. An hour or so later, as he escorted her again, this time up the aisle to the gateway, I reflected on other moments when compassion's trumped ego..

How about the grace shown by both wronged pitcher Armando Gallaraga and the mortified ref who stole his no-hitter with a bad call back in June?

Who wasn’t moved by the story of Michael Oher, the subject of Michael Lewis’ book, and subsequent 2009 award-winning film, The Blind Side?

It's always telling to watch dads as they return to their cars following the first grade’s Fathers’ Day Breakfast…there are those that pull the lovingly decorated paper tie from their necks, and those who don’t.

One of my personal favorites happened more than nine years ago when we shepherded a gaggle of fifth grade boys to a local alley for pizza, soda, and bowling to celebrate my son’s eleventh birthday.  When his best buddy spilled cola all over himself and was fighting back embarrassed tears, Will, in an unusual show of solidarity, picked up another super-sized Coca-Cola and poured it over his own head.  It was hard to protest this natural instinct to make a friend feel better...

What stories of compassion have moved you recently?