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Archive for April, 2009

Creating Magic & Mojo – Part III

April 30th, 2009

In Parts I and II of this series, we took a good hard look at both sides of “responsibility”; first what we ARE responsible for and second what we are NOT responsible for.

The next part of creating Magic and Mojo involves mastering a very, very rare skill. But if you’ve made it this far, I know you are up for it! (Some of you may recognize this post from February. It’s an important part of the M & M series – so here it is again!)

The Art of an Apology

No one ever taught me how to apologize. I know that sounds silly, but it is a skill that does not come easily to me. For a long time I thought mumbling “sorry” under my breath was as good an apology as anyone could expect from me. And, I only did that under extreme duress.

Now I find myself struggling to teach my son how to master this difficult skill. As I ungracefully slog through the mechanics of how an apology works, I realize that these days when accepting responsibility for the harm we do others is not exactly in vogue (witness Enron among others), making a heart-felt apology
can feel a lot like leaving yourself open to a shark attack.

What I now know, though, is that mastering this skill is one of the single greatest things I can do to foster the growth of my own integrity. It also lays the foundation for healing and for magic in any relationship. Apologizing is good for me and I can get better at it with practice. And so can my son.

So, how do we make a sincere apology? This outline I’ve put together is a good place to start:

1. Use good timing. Apologizing as quickly as you can is a good rule of
thumb – unless you have really screwed up and your apology needs to
be thoughtfully approached.

2. If at all possible, make your apology in person. Doing it over the
telephone is for wimps. If an in-person apology is absolutely
impossible, hand write it (no e-mails, not typed-up letters) and put
it in the mail.

3. Look the person in the eye.

4. Use a warm, sincere voice.

5. Throughout your apology, be sure you emphasize how important the
other person is to you. “I really value you as a co-worker.” Or “Your
friendship really matters to me.”

6. Own what you did and be specific.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you. Yelling is never okay.”

7. Acknowledge its likely impact – causing pain or doing damage.
“My yelling has jeapordized our realtionship and I am sure it hurt
you.”

8. State what you intend to do next time to keep from repeating your
mistake. “Next time I feel angry enough to yell, I will take a walk around the
block instead.”

9. Ask for forgiveness. Depending on the severity of your mistake, the
other person may not be ready to answer and that is okay.”Will you forgive
me?”.

Here’s the tricky part of this last step (especially for my son). We must be
prepared to live with a “yes” or “no” answer. Though we hope to be forgiven,
we are the ones who screwed up and we can’t force the other person to respond
a certain way. If we go into an apology expecting a certain outcome, we are not
apologizing – we are manipulating.

10. Listen to and validate whatever feelings the other person wants to share
with you about the impact of your actions. I cannot over emphasize the importance
of this final step. This is the step that will let the other person know your apology is
heart-felt.

Now, here is a list of what NOT to do:
1. Do not make excuses.
2. Do not explain or rationalize why you did what you did – then the
apology becomes about you, not about the other person and your
relationship.
3. Do not say vague things like “I’m sorry for whatever I did to make
you mad.”
4. Do not apologize for how someone else feels – “I’m sorry you are
hurt by what I did.” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

For me, the best part about apologizing is that, even though I am scared to death while I am doing it, I feel so much lighter after I’ve done it. I may still wish I hadn’t screwed up in the first place, but cleaning up a mess I made is the next best thing. It’s all about taking responsibility for myself and my actions.

Now to explain the benefits of magic, morjo and apologies to a six year old…..

Making Room for Something New

April 27th, 2009

Over ten years ago I read about “making room for something new” in a book – for the life of me I can’t remember which one. Perhaps one of you may know and will share so I can give credit where credit is due.

The idea is that is our lives and physical spaces are crammed to the gills with too much, there is no room for anything new to come along. New ideas, opportunities (and even cool stuff) will bypass us because we have no place to put it. We must be willing to create – and tolerate – empty spaces.

Sounds easy enough, I know, but in our hyper-minded western culture where more stuff is a badge of honor and “crazy busy” is a source of pride, tolerating empty spaces in our homes, our lives and in our businesses can be a tough row to hoe. And I oughta know. I’m the child of a child of The Depression. I have a terrible time getting rid of anything or anyone because “I might need it or them someday”.

BUT, I am going through some kind of crazy metamorphosis these days. (As an aside, did you know that when a catepillar crawls up into its cocoon, it doesn’t just sprout wings and antenna. Oh no, it completely breaks down into goo and totally rearranges it’s DNA into that of a butterfly. Pretty amazing visual, I’d say.)

At any rate, I am literally felling sismic shifts happening from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Change is coming – BIG change. Some of that change I invited to the party, I know what it is (and it is huge for me and my family). But there is other, more fundamental change. I can feel my DNA rearranging – into what I do not know yet.

Like a caterpillar following it’s instincts, I spent the entire weekend making room for this new thing, whatever it is. I’ll share my to do list for creating empty space.

1. Cleaned and redecorated my home office. Found bright red burlap and cotton curtain panels on sale. Moved a piece of furniture and cleaned out two file drawers. They now sit empty, waiting for this “new thing” to fill them.

2. Same for desktop surfaces. With the exception of things I need like paper, pens, my phone and my computer – everything else is put away. Empty surfaces are more inviting to new, great stuff I think.

3. Piled up all my clothes that I don’t just love. Clothes I don’t wear; clothes that aren’t just right; clothes I tolerate. Closet is pretty empty. wonder what kind of wardrobe I’ll need for this new thing that’s coming?

4.  Same for shoes. I’ve made many a bad shoe purchase and then felt guilty and kept shoes that I didn’t like or that hurt my feet. They are gone now. I have no idea what kind of shoes I’m going to need. In the meantime, I’ll live with the few pairs I have.

5. Took broken stuff and stuff I just don’t like to the Habitat for Humanity Store, the Men’s Mission and Salvation Army. I would rather give to someone else who wants it and needs it than feel icky every time I look at it.

6. Choose the three criteria an an opportunity must meet if it is to get my attention. These criteria apply to social, family and business opportunities. Keeping my criteria simple helps me make good, solid decisions – and make them quickly. Beats the heck out of agonizing for days and days.

So, that’s what I did this weekend. The trick will be tolerating these new empty spaces and resisting the temptation to fill them with whatever happens along.

I’ll let you know how it goes. :-)

Creating Magic & Mojo Part II

April 22nd, 2009

In Part 1 of this series, we covered the idea of Taking Responsibility For Your Life- a critical foundation for creating Magic and Mojo. I hope you enjoyed reading and TAKING ACTION on the exercises so you have a little more clarity about all that.

Today in Part II we’re going to look at the flipside of that idea:

Knowing What You Are Not Responsible For

In my coaching practice, I often ask clients to make a quick list of things in their life they are not responsible for.  More often than not, they look at me as if I’ve asked them to recite the multiplication tables backwards – they are dumbfounded.  When pressed, they might admit that they are not responsible for, say, the weather or the stock market. 

Because our world puts such emphasis on our ability to control and influence everything around us, coming up with an answer to my question feels like admitting some kind of mortal weakness.

So, I’m going to cut to the chase here and give you some ideas on what you are not responsible for:
1) Traffic – unless you caused the wreck
2) The cleanliness of your grown son’s apartment or bedroom
3) Your teenager’s forgotten homework
4) Your boss’ temper tantrum
5) Anyone’s drinking problem besides your own

You get the idea.  Once you realize all the things you are not responsible for, you will feel a ten-ton brick lift off your shoulders.  However, if you expect those around you to be thrilled with your new lightness, you’ll probably be disappointed.  They’ve all gotten very used to having you carry the load and being able to blame you when things go wrong.  Gently explain to them that their life is their own and they are going to have to learn how to take responsibility for it.  You’ve got all you can do taking responsibility for yourself and your own life.

Easier said than done sometimes, I know.  If you are in deep doo-doo over this one, seek out a professional who can help you work through it.  This shift in thinking can take some time and practice to soak in.  Be patient and be willing – that’s all you need.

Exercises:

1.  List five things you know for certain that you are not responsible for:

2. List five people that you are willing to give up being responsible for:

3. Let’s write out a simple strategy that you can use the next time you feel compelled to take responsibility or someone tries to get you to take responsibility for something that you know is really not yours to take.

  • First, acknowledge to yourself that it is happening. “Oh, look.  Here’s that responsibility thing I learned about.  I’m trying to responsibility/they’re trying to get me to take responsibility for ______________.
  • Then, take a deep breath and choose how you will respond.  If you are just dealing with you, you could say “Well, I am just going to have to let that person be the grown-up he/she is.  My job is to take responsibility for myself.”  Throwing in a walk around the block usually takes the edge off particularly tempting cases. If you are dealing with someone else, you might have to say, very calmly, “No.”  A temper tantrum of some kind could ensue.  That is their problem, too, not yours.  Just stick to your guns.  You are not responsible.  Again, a walk around the block can help you regain your perspective.

I know that sometimes this is much more difficult than this strategy sounds.  Just keep practicing.  You keep getting better at it – I promise.

If you need help crafting a strategy for a particular situation, seek wise counsel – a trusted friend or a skilled professional.

Great work!  Look for small opportunities this week to apply what you have learned in this lesson.

It's Hip Hop Baby!!

April 20th, 2009

It's Hip Hop Baby!: Things We Do EverydayI just love it when I find something fabulous. As Shama Hyder says, “Sarah, when you love something, you REALLY love it!”

This particular find, however, isn’t just loved by me – it is loved by my six year old son, The Young Turk – so it is a double score in my book.

What is this fab find? A new video called It’s Hip Hop Baby!  Before I tell you about it, let me give you just a little background.

Two years ago the Young Turk started asking for Hip Hop lessons ( I totally blame Reading Rainbow for creating this demand!). I must confess he is quite the dancer – even his pre-school teachers used to say “That boy’s got some moves!”. I searched high and low for Hip Hop lessons for his age group and kept coming up short. Every class I found was for much older kids.

So we settled for some creative movement classes, which kept him happy for a little while. Still, he kept asking specifically for Hip Hop. And, if you know anything about The Young Turk, you know he is doggedly persistent when he gets his mind set on something.

Then, through a serendipitous blog post reading, I found out about It’s Hip Hop Baby!  We’ve watched it over and over again for the past few weeks. At first I thought it was just going to teach my son some dance moves -which was fine by me – but the DVD is so much more than that. The producers incorporate Hip Hop moves, Yoga moves and other creative movement into lessons about things kids do every day – like brushing teeth and getting ready for bed.

The Young Turk – at 6 and a half – is probably at the top of the age range for the DVD – oh how I wish I had found this two years ago! Still, he loves watching it a following along with the Hip Hop Dance instructor when she starts teaching new moves he can take to the playground.

As a bonus, the DVD was created by Chicago mompreneur Candi Carter who set this mission for her company: to educate America’s children in a fun and exciting way. We are dedicated to providing stimulating educational products that are fun for the entire family. Hip children across the country can enjoy the educational DVD, “It’s Hip Hop, Baby!”. This multicultural video is a great way to teach toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2 to 6, key developmental concepts at an early age.

Read more about the entire DVD collection at It’s Hip Hop Baby!

And I thought I was a maverick…

April 16th, 2009

Well, I have a thing or two to learn from Susan Boyle. If you haven’t seen the video that is sweeping across cyberspace of Susan’s performance on  Britain’s Got Talent (Simon’s UK version of American Idol), you can watch the unbelievable video of a woman who defied everyone’s preconceptions a literally blew the judges away by clicking here (get a hankie first): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Il5TBgD9kHI

Now, after watching this, I’ve taken notes from Susan that will serve in good stead on my Maverick Journey and I thought I would share.

1) No excuse or reason can stand in the way of a dream.
I mean honestly. Do you think Susan could have come up with a million and one perfectly reasonable excuses for NOT auditioning? Let’s start with age, lack of sophistication, a beige dress, gray hair, a double chin…shall I go on?  Do you think she could have come up with a million and two MORE perfectly valid REASONS not to pursue the audition? Like, no one will take me seriously, they will presume, I don’t l look like a star,  they don’t choose people like me, no one will be rooting for me…again I think you get my point.

Nothing – and I mean NOTHING stopped her from pursuing her dream. I stand in awe.

2) Check you assumptions about everything at the door. This has two parts.
a) Check your assumptions about yourself – what you are capable of, what you can achieve, what is holding you back, etc. – at the door. Remember what your mom said about the word “assume”?
b) Check your assumptions about others. Can you honestly sit there and say that if you’d been in that audience and seen Susan standing on that stage declaring her desire to be famous that would have thought it possible for her? Or would you have been like everyone else in the audience and judged that book by it’s cover? Again, re-visit what your mom said about what the word “assume” makes out of all of us.

3) When you get that moment to stake your claim, declare yourself in front of those who can make it happen, know how to pick your material.
Do you think over 7 million people would have watched Susan if she had tried to sing a Pop tune? Maybe – if she’d chosen well. But truly, was the song “I Dreamed a Dream” the absolute perfect song for her in so many ways? It highlighted her vocal abilities and it seemed to be HER story. She knocked it out of the park because she executed perfectly and that packed an emotional wallop to boot. Well done.

4) Take the bull by the horns and never stop. Never stop. NEVER EVER EVER STOP! When the video above ended and I recovered my ability to think, this was the phrase that rang in my head over and over again.

So now, I have excuse for not opening up all the stops. Pushing myself to play bigger and bigger. To live closer and closer to the edge. And anytime I think I have a very good reason or a very convincing excuse, all I have to do is remember Susan Boyle. I hope I can do her inspiration justice.

Creating Magic & Mojo Part 1

April 14th, 2009

After reading my friend Tom Morris’s post at Huffington Post today about the Death and Re-birth of Responsibility, I’ve decided to re-engage with an article series I started long ago on a blog far, far away!

This is a five-part series called Creating Magic and Mojo. It isn’t a passive article series – there are actually exercises at the end of each post so that you can start applying and incorporating Magic and Mojointo your life and business – right now.

So, I encourage you to be one of the handful who will actually take action during this series. Do the exercises. Learn. Grow. That is where Magic & Mojo begin!

You Are Responsible For Your Life
_______________

Now I know this sounds painfully obvious, but I know lots and lots of grown-ups who refuse to take responsibility for themselves.  When asked why their lives are not what they want them to be, they will reply… “Oh, it’s my parents fault because….” Or “My ex-wife expects me to….” Or “My boss will think I am a loser if I don’t…”. 

While I understand other people have expectations of how we should be running our lives, they are not in charge of what we choose to do.  This responsibility lies squarely on our own shoulders – and a huge responsibility it is!  Otherwise we would not put so much time and energy into trying to hand it off to someone else, where it doesn’t belong.

What you do by embracing the idea that you are responsible is recognize that giving away the responsibility for your own life (read blame), leaves you feeling powerless and stuck.  Accepting responsibility gives you the power you need to move forward.

For me, this whole concept is both frightening and liberating.  Frightening because it gives me access to more choices that I ever thought I had – and choices equal power; liberating because suddenly I can pursue any life, dream, career, relationship that I choose to pursue.

If there is something, someone, some career, some place to live, etc. that you really, really want – you are the only one who can get it for yourself.  And – this is the tough part – no one can prevent you from pursuing it unless you let them.

The first step toward transforming yourself, your work, your relationships and your life starts with Accepting Responsibility for Your Own Life.

Exercises:

1. List 5 people preventing you from pursuing what you want.

2. What is it exactly they are keeping you from pursuing?

3. Now, using the list you just wrote out above, rewrite each item and take responsibility for wanting it:

I want ____________________________________________.

I want ____________________________________________.

I want ____________________________________________.

Congratulations for taking responsibility for what you want in your life!

4. Now, for the sake of this exercise, let’s say the whole universe wanted you to have everything on your list. Pick one (and only one) item on the list that makes your heart leap. What single, simple step could you could take toward getting it (examples: look up a phone number, go to the library and check out book, Google it, etc.)?

5. Can you take this small step today or this week?  Do It! 

Great Work!  In the next lesson, we’ll take a look at another critical piece of the Responsibility Puzzle -it eludes some of the smartest people I know!

Pepper the Dog endorses K9 Cuisine

April 10th, 2009

I realize that I haven’t shared much about our dog (let me rephrase that – the young turk’s dog) Pepper. In so many ways she brings light and joy of the doggie variety into our lives.

She positively dotes on the young turk. He sits on her, holds her tail, pushes on her all day and she never protests. At night he will not sleep until she is curled up at the foot of his bed. When he is sick, she lays on him with eyes wide open, watching over him in the night. And, when the young turk steps in it and gets sent to his room, she is right behind him.

Here is a picture of the love of the Young Turk’s life, Pepper The Dog (taken by The Young Turk):

Now, I am not one who is prone to over-spoiling a dog. I do buy higher end dog food because I’ve learned the hard way that cheap food winds up costing me at the vet’s office. In fact, when Pepper developed chronic yucky yeast infection in her ears (what fun), I read that they are caused by a food allergy to gluten in food. So, I switched her food.  And that handled it – for a while.

Then the infections came back. Another trip to the vet’s office and more treatments with an earwash that smells like vinegar. No one involved in that equation was happy about it (plus we wound up with a stinky vinegar smelling dog!). So, back to the research table to discover that even – the rice and venison dog food I was buying at the pet store had gluten in it – aaaagh!

Then, miracle of miracles, I was asked to review the dog food products of K-9 Cuisine. Well, actually Pepper was asked to review them and then I could write about her response!

First, let me say that K-9 Cuisine is a busy mompreneur’s dream come true. Online shopping plus free shipping means one less errand that has to be done – yeah! AND the high quality, organic, gluten-free products that we got to try mean fewer EXPENSIVE trips to the vet – yeah!

But let me just tell you about Pepper’s response to K-9 Cuisine. Before I could even get the box open she was sniffing it and pawing at it. When I finally opened it up she started jumping around (she’s not prone to that kind of behaviour usually) until I could get a package open for her to dig into. She grabbed her treat and ran off to eat eat in hiding – I guess she thought I might want her to share!

Then put a little of the dog food (it comes in small, easy to handle RE-SEALABLE pouches) into her bowl. She doesn’t like having her food changed so I thought she would take one sniff and walk away. BOY I WAS WRONG! She scarfed it up and stood there looking at me with the “So, aren’t you giving me some more.” kind of look. I had to keep pushing her head to the side of the bowl so I could actually get more in there!

Now, I have to put her outside while I fill her bowl (to keep a dog from getting sick when you change foods, you have to mix their old food with the new food.) Then when she comes in she tries to pick the K-9 Cuisine pieces out of the mix. It’s really too funny to watch.

So, with K-9 Cuisine I get: 1) online ordering 2) free shipping 3) healthy food that keeps my dog out of the vet’s office (MAJOR savings!) and 3) food she loves to eat in packages my son can handle when it’s his turn to feed Pepper.

Don’t know who in my house is now their biggest fan!

Cirque Du Soleil's Ka

April 2nd, 2009

When I started thinking about posting a review of Cirque Du Soleil’s Ka, I was on an airplane with pen and paper. I wrote a few words then scratched them out. Wrote a few more. Scratched those out too. I truly could not find the right words to begin.

Those of you who know me (or at least read what I write) know that I am one to rarely, if ever, be at a loss for words. And yet here I am.

The experience of Ka is so moving, so wondrous, so poignant, so spectacular, so breathtaking and so filled with physical beauty and amazing skill that it literally swept me away for 90 minutes.

Since I clearly need help finding language to suit the experience, I called on some of my friends who saw the show with me.

Scott Strattenunmarketing@SarahRobinson i still cant describe it to people, and the was my fourth time

Miss IveMissIve@SarahRobinson I know. Want a quote? I’ll just send you this “(no words)”

Kimball-profile_biggerkimballroundy@SarahRobinson I hear you… Speechless. Nothing like it.Seems my lack of language isn’t unique.

Fortunately, a few other tweeple weighed in and at least gave me something to throw my grapple hook towards!

ConfessionsofaMomConfessionsMom@SarahRobinsonWORDS to describe Cirque du Soleil’s-KA: redefines unique, illogical, impossibly amazing, justifiable ticket price-hows that?

Helene ScottHeleneScott@SarahRobinson visual experiential bliss.


Here’s what is so unique about Ka. It is a story – a story told with physical movement. Sounds like ballet I know, but the movement I’m talking about is a combination of martial arts (wushu, I read at the Ka website), acrobatics, Capoeira dance, puppetry – and jump rope. Serious jump rope. Jump rope on top of a spinning cage that had the audience gasping again and again. As always, Cirque redefines itself and the genre it created.

(I say this because several reviews I read by people who were expecting a “traditional” Cirque show were disappointed that it was a story – rather than one act followed by another held together by a theme like “O” or “Zumanity”.)

The story takes place in another – and intentionally undefined – time and place. At the center are the Royal Twins who must flee their kingdom when it is attacked, are separated – each making their own heroic journey through perilous obstacles while being relentlessly pursued by their enemies. Along the way, each must transform themselves from budding youth into adult hero – with lots of help along the way.

I won’t spend a ton of time here giving  you a scene-by scene – you can get a wonderful overview at the official Ka website: www.cirquedusoleil.com/cirquedusoleil/ka/

I do want tell you about my very favorite scene, though. It wasn’t the human airplane flying out over the audience or the extraordinary acrobatics of Firefly Boy or the final fight scene – which defies gravity and boggles that mind – it wasn’t even the spinning cage/jump rope spectacular.

It was a quiet little scene – a respite from exhaustive flight. The court jester, who risks his life to protect the Royal Prince, sits close to the young boy and teaches him shadow puppets. Gently arranging his fingers and his hands in front of the light of a lantern to form a cat, a dog, a rabbit. Once the prince caught on, they put on a brief shadow puppet show together – with only themselves as their audience. The moment was so…so…so tender, so childlike, so warm – and still so beautifully and skillfully executed that I wanted it to go on and on.

Actually, I wanted Ka to go on and on and on. I pondered hiding under the seats so I could see the second show. The doorman (in costume of course) assured me that I would have been found and kindly escorted out.

Fortunately for me, I am returning to Las Vegas in June. I will see Ka again – even if I have to go by myself. But I’m betting I won’t have any trouble finding a few adventurers to go with me!

Ka is playing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. You find out more about it here: www.cirquedusoleil.com/cirquedusoleil/ka/