Something Good We Can Be Up To Together


Hello, my friends and family. This is an experiment in what we can be up to together. Today I made a $100 tax-deductible donation to the Media Coordinator of a small elementary school in rural North Carolina. She’s raising money to buy books for her rookie readers. She only needs $335 to meet her target.

It’s easy to support teachers all over the US — Donors Choose at donorschoose.org has set up a system where teachers post projects that need funding and people all over the world able to make tax-deductible donations of any size do so. It’s great the stuff that we can make possible! Maybe you can finish off that teacher’s goal and we’ll take on another? What do you say?

I am doing this — and donating globally on Kiva.org (maybe you’ve seen Kiva.org on tv… Bill Clinton talked about it in his books and discusses it a lot on tv)– because I believe we can do better than the current gross disparity between the rich and the poor. We can do this ourselves right now. Thank goodness new media technology is making this possible quickly, too!

I also believe we can generate good news with projects like this. Mainstream media will shift to reflect the changing paradigm — the conversations on the planet are not all doom and gloom despite what you see on the daily 4 o’clock news. Wonderful, generous, important things are happening every day. The media do not reflect our power and kindnss back to us… yet!

Please join me in the incredible new movement to redistribute wealth and create new possibilities for people everywhere. Let’s see how much we can raise just from this little blog-a-thon! To donate to school teachers who’ve posted their needs, click here. I selected four projects I really liked and that are in high-poverty areas of the US. You can go to donorschoose.org to see many, many more proposals posted by teachers all over the US.

The Life List

Here’s a retake on the last post, which must not have been inspirational or motivational in any way, because nobody responded! :-0

So another way to think of it comes from this New York Times article from a few weeks ago. It’s about “Life Lists.” Apparently one trend sweeping the nation (& world) and about to show up as the plotline in a Rob Reiner film is the idea of creating a list of things you want to see, do, be or accomplish in your lifetime.

Hmmm… I like it.

I think I store my life list in my head, but you know how storing things in your head goes: one day it’s all I can think about and then I forget about it for years at a time.

I decided to search around a bit for info on life lists and found this great post by a guy who thought his wife would never approve of some of the things on his.

Some of the things on my life list include:
– scuba dive again
– become a beautiful skier
– have at least two books published
– get monthly massages
– pay or raise money for disadvantaged kids to get great educations
– keep connecting people with similar interests and commitments in different parts of the world

I don’t know what else will be on it, but I do know it’s changed. Have or adopt a baby used to be on it, but it isn’t anymore.

What would go on your life list?

Dreams Deferred: Feedback wanted!!

OK. It’s getting to be crunch time now in terms of creating what’s next. And I need your collective brainpower — even you folks I don’t know but I know are out there. I’d love to get a conversation started in the comments about this one.

Here’s the thing:

The other night Mom, Dad and I were walking along the lake under the full moon. It was just so beautiful that we threw the dog in the back of the car and drove down there. Seemed like the gelato stand stayed open late just on account of the moon on the water.

So we’re strolling along and an American couple starts ooohing and aaahing over Mufasa, not realizing that we understand every word they say. So I just start talking to them. This happens a lot when we take Mufasa out. I have a regular spiel I give to Americans, “He’s a mutt from the Boulder Humane Society. Part Great Pyrenees, part Collie as far as I can tell.” Blah, blah, blah. This couple, like many couples, was fascinated that we moved here. They said they didn’t think they could do it. This fascinates me. Why not? Some people say, “I have kids.” I think, “So what?” “We have a dog back home too.” So what? Anyone could do this and so many people want to and don’t. And it’s not just moving here. Don’t these people realize they’re gonna DIE and they won’t have done the things they really want to do?

Well, to swallow a bit of my own medicine: What I really want to do is:
1. sing — nothing huge, just regular gigs here in a hotel piano bar. I already know how. I have the voice, the repertoire, the experience, just need a venue and piano player and a work permit. I’ll even do the marketing and bring people in.

2. I want to talk to people about stuff like this, like living their dreams, making things happen — through an Internet radio show, a more public blog, podcasts, training/retreat weekends, a book or three or four… and make my living doing those two things.

Do you have ideas for how to build that?
Even just getting into the hotel piano bars, getting the Web site up, getting the book done seem somehow insurmountable to me. The good news is I did write over 3,000 words today.

What would you pay for and/or want to see or recommend to your friends and family?

Could I pay you or someone you know to come be my agent in the Lugano music scene — get the piano player and the venue? Who do you know who’d be great at that?

Finally, and here’s the doozie… what are your dreams deferred? Why are they on hold? Mine aren’t even for very good reasons. I think maybe it’s just not easy and automatic, or maybe I’m afraid of what’s next after that.

Ladies Who Launch

Oh how far we’ve come from the days when you got a degree, a job, an office, a bigger and better office, an award or two maybe, slightly longer vacations and then a retirement party and a gift-wrapped watch. I was just reading this article in the New York Times, “Women Build Businesses Their Way,” and found this quote interesting:

Women follow their instincts and build businesses that stem from their lifestyles. They seldom begin with a business plan or financing. They multitask the many parts of their lives, hatching companies on the side while working in other jobs or raising families. And their careers rarely follow linear paths.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Frances Mayes did it. Marlena de Blasi’s doing it. Laura Fraser didn’t even move here and she’s done well off her vacations in Italy. Lots of people have made a living sharing about their experiences moving, or even just travelling abroad. So I’m trying to figure out how to get paid for what I already love to do. I’m living this rollercoaster adventure — there must be a way to tell the story that will entertain, make a difference, contribute to people in some way.

The second step seems to be creating a team around it. Do you know anyone who specializes in Web marketing? How about someone who’s built a similar business? What kinds of information and/or stories would you like to see? At this point I’ve pretty much got them all… from sneaking Mufasa over the German border at Christmas without his papers to getting him a Swiss passport of his own (and I don’t even have one!); how to get insurance when you’re unemployed in a foreign country, why dating French and Italian men became out of the question, how Italian men use online dating sites… the best places to eat and stay in and around Italy …and on, and on, and on.

Now what to do with all this information? What do you think?

On Funding the Adventure

I got myself a coach. Like if I wanted to learn how to play golf, I’d probably go down to the local course by the Agno airport here and find a pro to teach me some basics and watch me practice, give me feedback, etc. I got a coach for shaping the next part of my career. She’s from New Zealand and lives here in Switzerland but I met her online on Xing because she was offering free sessions through a women’s networking group.

Anyway, I got on the phone with her for my first call and we were just getting to know one another and already, about 7 minutes in, I was having these Aha! moments. She had seen my profile on Xing where I listed past jobs, interests, experience… but after I’d spoken for a few minutes she exclaimed all surprised-like, “You’re really creative!” I realized immediately that I separate out the creative parts of me from the work parts of me as if the creativity, it’s just for fun… but work, work is serious stuff; it’s where the money comes from. Interesting.

Then she asked, “Okay well you have a little time to put this all together. If in four months you could be doing exactly what you want to be doing, what would it be?” And here’s the revelation. It sounds so simple now:

I’ve wanted to do exactly the same things since I was a teenager and I’ve done other things instead. Over and over and over and over. And then they’re not really what I want to be doing and then I wind up at exactly this crossroads again. And here we are. You know what I want to do?

Sing. And write my own stuff and talk about it with other people.

So we’re making a plan, she and I. One thing she said was that it doesn’t have to be an either/or. I don’t have to either do the creative things I love or do the safe things that make money. I could do both at the same time. That’s probably how this will happen for now.

There’s a set of videos on YouTube about a guy named Paul Potts. His story starts here. If you click into other videos you can see what happens to him. It reminds me to go for it.

What about you? What do you reeeeeaaaaalllllyyy want to do with your time, with yourself? What’s your dream? And how do you think I could make money off these random musings? How to fund the adventure?

The Latte Factor

Everyone said living in Switzerland would be expensive. It isn’t at all. First of all, the horror stories I heard about food and… well, everything… being more expensive here aren’t necessarily true. There aren’t as many cheap restaurants, that’s true. But it’s not that everything is through the roof, either. You can get a good, filling meal for $10 if you like pizza hand tossed by a fat little Sicilian man. I do.

The thing that may make living in Switzerland actually less expensive than living in the US, for me, anyway, is that on most days my latte factor is zero.

Do you know about the latte factor? There’s this guy, David Bach, who’s written a bunch of booksSmart Women Finish Rich, Smart Couples Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire among them. He recommends this, and I have to say I think I read it first in Your Money or Your Life, a book I think every human being should read. Anyway, do this: Record every penny you spend. Every single cent. You’ll probably notice that there are a lot of little things you spend money on — lattes at Starbucks being the prime example, Tic Tacs in the tube station, lunch out instead of packed, videos you never watch, afternoon snacks from vending machines… stuff that doesn’t add to your happiness or quality of life but when you add it up you’re spending a hefty sum on it annually. If you could have that 400 or 600 or 800 back, what would you do with it?

I’ll tell you what I do: buy airplane tickets and stay in decent to wonderful hotels.

In Switzerland on many days I spend exactly zero dollars on little stuff. Usually I go grocery shopping once a week and many weeks I don’t go anywhere else all week except to walk the dog. My next thing is bottled water. No more bottled water. It’s just ridiculous the resources it uses up.

Bach’s number one tip, by the way, and it is one I read in the New York Times this week, too, is never buy coffee outside your home. This doesn’t mean go cold turkey when you’re on business trips or anything as radical or stupid as that. It just means make your coffee, even your lunch, at home. Invest the hundreds of dollars you’ll save. Or at least spend them on something big because they add up. The first step, though, is to figure out your Latte Factor — how much you’re actually spending on these things. Then you can choose if they’re really worth it or not.

What’s your Latte Factor? Is it worth it?

Gratitude at work?

I got just this one photo snapped on our mid-day walk today before the batteries died. Can you see that the tree is busting out all over with white and light green shoots and blossoms? The weather rushes from rain to sunshine… back and forth, back and forth, moment to moment, morning to afternoon and on.

I need feedback on what I really want to write about today. Ask your friends, comment, send e-mails, whatever. Especially if you or anyone you know works in a corporate setting, but Mema you can even see this with the staff at Bishop’s Glen, I bet.

Here’s the question: How have you seen, experienced or expressed gratitude at work? What form did it take? And then what difference did it make? What were the results?

I’m giving a free lunchtime talk in Basel next Friday about Gratitude and most of the people will want to know how and why to apply it at work. In fact, maybe you could start the conversation in your workplace… how is gratitude expressed and received (or is there a real lack of gratitude and what are the consequences)?

I’ll share some examples of my own in the coming days, but would love to hear your stories! Please invite others to comment, too! A wide variety of industries from medicine to finance to education and beyond will be represented there, plus it might be interesting to see the patterns…

Thanks for playing!

Swiss Home Away from Home

Ever thought about a writing retreat or just getting away from it all for a few weeks at a time? How about running away to Europe for three weeks with almost no expenses?

You could live in lovely Lugano at the best time of year! It is paradise. Picture yourself strolling along the lake, savoring your gelato, sipping espresso in the main piazza, devouring pizza hand tossed by the little Sicilian man who runs the restaurant across the street. The world’s rich and famous come to soak up the sun here on the Swiss riviera.

You could mingle among them. And Mufasa needs to go for walks.

This lovely two and a half bedroom apartment sleeps five comfortably and can be yours FREE if you’re willing to share it with a furry friend.

DATES: approximately June 10 – July 2, 2007
NEAREST AIRPORT: Milan Malpensa
Car negotiable.

Saying goodbye

One week til I move to a foreign country and my Grandfather, who is in his mid-nineties and has always thought I was spectacular (we’ve had a special connection since he met my Grandmother when I was five) said goodbye today. I hadn’t thought about that I will be gone, far away, and may not see him again. In the last minutes before I left he suddenly had things to say, including, “I hope you find a man who will really love you.” Then he added, “…before I die.” I told him I’d be sure to let him know!

To tell you the truth, I’m making other plans. See the Kissing Princes poem in the last post. I definitely have a story that men are not to be trusted — big men, little men, sweet men, gruff men… in my experience most become disappointments eventually. I know this is not the most empowering story I could be telling myself about men, since I really, really like them, too. I find I’m making plans for life on my own. Should a man surprise me, loving me consistently and being count on-able over time, I will gladly allow him in over the long haul, but I’m not holding my breath. I didn’t tell Grandfather Stacy that.

More, I was so touched at the way we talked in those last few minutes I wished we’d sat down earlier to do that longer.

My Mema will be ninety next year and wants ideas for fun things to do with the family on the beach.