Trust Gratitude Inspiration Fun

TGIF – Happy New Year ! (Bonne rentrée)

Hello.  Thank you for the loooooong time off during the month of August.  I did the most amazing thing:  not open my computer for a full week!

As of Monday, France is back into high gear.  It’s the “rentrée,” the re-entry into professional and academic responsibilities.  Our local bakeries are open again.  The weekly marché is back into full swing.  It is like a new beginning.

Welcome 2019-2020!


How will I enter this new year?  I am trusting in “five minutes.”

Yesterday, I led a training in a vibrant startup learning to manage its growth.  Tensions rise between people in the field and those in support staff at the office; each interprets “urgent” in a different manner.  When the desired response is not timely, tempers rise…and things get said that cannot be retracted.  Bruised relationships require even more time (and energy AND humility) to mend!

When you and I insist on “my timing” (a.k.a. I am available now, so NOW is THE time), our attitude (bullheadedness) can lead to results which are opposite of our intentions.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the right time to fix a relationship problem is rarely when that issue surfaces.  It’s later, when everyone is calm, when emotions no longer cloud our vision.

I thought about his during a hike this summer.  I was walking along the crest and a crest and a cloud came up the mountain and engulfed the path.  Insisting on NOW is like walking along that narrow trail between steep cliffs in the fog.

Fog blocking view

If a mountain lion is nipping at my rear, I’ll move forward in the blindness.  Otherwise, I’ll trust in the time to step back.  In less than five minutes, the clouds had cleared.

Clouds clearing

Our emotions can calm in minutes too, opening the way to fruitful exchange.  Getting a drink of water, going to the bathroom, or looking at your photos on the phone only take a few minutes, gives your brain the time it needs to be able to think again. These simple actions can make a huge difference.


girl with braidsThis summer, my mother shared with me the boxes labeled “Denise” that she had stored for years.  “Remember…!” “Oh!” and laughter filled the air as we walked down memory lane.  I sure have come a long way baby.  Here I am in junior high…those very awkward years.

I am grateful to my parents for having believed in my potential when it was not yet apparent to many…not even to myself.

In whom will you believe today?  In your family? …and at work?!


I am inspired by the team at GoTandem who provide extreme sport experiences to people with handicaps.   What courage for those who give and take the rides!  Their joy was contagious.  Thanks.

Extreme sports for handicaps


No, I did not engage in extreme sports myself.  I did cuddle up with a novel, something I have not done in a long time.  Much of my usual reading is non-fiction and articles on the Internet.

My choice of lecture:  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday.  It’s engaging, got me laughing AND thinking.

Salmon in Yemen?  THAT’s why it’s a novel!

Yemen from Aljazeera
Yemen water shortage.  Read about it on Aljazeera.

It is good to be back.  Wishing you a great week.

A bientôt (next week), Denise

Neat & New Stuff

What’s Your Focus Word?

Boy looking through telescope. Searching Focus word!

The French “Rentrée” (re-entry into work and school) feels like the new year.  Why not start fresh!  Read on…

44 Things to Love about Work

What I Love about work

It’s tough to get back to work.  Check out these 44 ideas to inspire you to do your best.    Read on…

4 Ways Kids Can Help Parents Resolve Work Challenges

Kids-give-lessons-to-parentsYour children are smart.  They have been around you.  They also view the world from a different perspective.  In our difficulties, sometimes we lose clear vision.  Discover these ways you and your child can grow in intimacy AND bring clarity to a fuzzy situation at work.  Read on…

playmobile crushed by sneaker

5 Ways to Avoid Being Crushed by Power Struggles at Home or at Work

Do you feel like the world is crushing down and it’s out of your control?  Your boss imposes too long working hours?  The sound of bickering children is more than you can bear?.

How to get unstuck?

Step out of the Power Struggle.

What does you feel in your body when your soul feels under pressure?

Here is an activity from Positive Discipline workshops that makes that connection.

One person (let’s call him Andy) sits on a chair.  His job is to get out of the chair.  Two people (we’ll name them Beatrice and Clark) stand on either side of Andy with their hands on his shoulders.  Their job is to make sure that Andy stays in the chair.  Ready. Set. GO!

How EVERYONE struggles!  Andy tries to get up.  Beatrice and Clark push down harder.  This resistance gets Andy annoyed and determined.  He struggles even harder.  Beatrice and Clark reposition themselves to glue Andy into. That. Chair. No. Matter. What…

This activity generates loads of laughter. Everyone looks ridiculous.

All agree on the verdict: control begets control.  Power struggles, by definition, escalate.

So, how does one step out of a power struggle without appearing to “lose the battle”?  Can one “win” power-struggle free?

1. Decide which Battle to Fight

Boxing girl by Frank deKleineWhat’s your goal?  How will you define “winning”?

Your and my time and energy are finite.  Consider them as treasures to invest, not commodities to spend.

As a young employee, I did speak up when my male colleagues cracked sexual jokes.  One-to-one with my boss I mentioned that I felt uncomfortable with that kind of humor and wondered if our meetings were the appropriate place for it.  I got so much flack for that!  Yes, they stopped those jokes within my earshot…instead I became the laughing matter.  “Sh!! Denise’s sensitive ears are around.”

I may have “won” one battle but it turned into another conflict zone, and a more personal one.  I will not spend my energy on that battle again. Now, if someone gossips or speaks disrespectfully, I simply get up and leave the room.

Which battles do you want to fight at work or at home?

Here’s another common area of differing opinions:  the family dinner.  My idea of a great dinner is when we all converse and find out about each other’s day.  My French husband insists on table manners.  Conversations, if you can call them that, can go like this:

Me to son: “Honey, tell us something interesting about your day.”

My son opens his mouth to speak.

Husband to son: “Chew with your mouth closed.”



2. Reframe Issues to Create Multiple Winners

reframing with for win-win solution

Previously, I had felt hampered by my husband’s interruptions which put a dead halt to conversation.  I chose to focus on the larger and more appealing issue for all of us: to connect with each other at least once a day.  Mealtime still remains the most convenient time for that.

We worked together to set ground rules. 

“What do we need to do so that dinner time is enjoyable for everyone?”  Everyone contributed ideas which we summarized into the following

  • The dinner table is a place for pleasant conversation AND good manners.
  • Good manners include good listening AND table manners.
  • No snacking after 5:30 pm so that we are hungry for dinner at 7:30.

3. Use Humor Instead of Fighting

Funny glasses

Ah! Then, unwittingly, I used these collaboratively build rules to control my kids!

One son explicitly recounted a swear-word exchange during school recess.  I reprimanded, “The table is a place for pleasant conversation and good manners!” Another child complained that he never gets enough pasta and reaches for his brother’s plate to serve himself.  “Darlings! The table is a place for pleasant conversation and good manners!”

One evening a friend visited from out of town and joined our family meal.  When the kids went off to sleep, she turned to me with a twinkle in her eye and exclaimed, “THE TABLE IS A PLACE FOR PLEASANT CONVERSATION AND GOOD MANNERS.”

How embarrassing!  And how liberating!  Through humor she showed me how I had been putting pressure on the kids.  Yikes.  I was the crusher!!!

Humor can be delicate since many people experience it in different ways.  The process my friend used is simple and helpful: to mention the obvious with a smile. Several times.

Maybe you feel like your boss treats you paternalistically when he insists on correct spelling.  You are an adult and yet he tells you how to do your work in minor detail!!! Be a step ahead of him with a smile.

“Oh! And maybe I should check the spelling on the Power Points before sending them over…What do you think of the utility of going through spell check on the documents?… I wonder if someone thought of proof-reading.”  Smile.  Wink.  Smile.

Humor can remove a burden from oneself without crushing others.

4. Acknowledge that You Cannot Force Someone Else to Change

Have you tried to diet?  Or start an exercise program?  Or stop watching Netflix series?  Changing is TOUGH.  That’s why there is an $11 billion self-improvement market in the US and it’s growing 5.5% annually.

We cannot force change on others.  By adding pressure, we can affect change…until we stop pushing. Disengagement results.  Over time, we apply increasing pressure which render poorer results.

Why not admit our inability and transform a command into a request.

“I can’t force you to brush your teeth.  I’m asking you because I love you and because I don’t want you to be hurt by having cavities. Sweetheart, they are YOUR teeth.”

5. Choose How You Will Act and Do It

I love this story shared by a professor at INSEAD Business School.  How to balance the pressure to be present at work considering a one hour commute which doubles during rush hour?

As a Parisian mother of a school aged child, this professor wanted to respect her work commitments AND enjoy time with her kid.  She investigated among her other commuting colleagues how they managed the schedule.

“Do you come early and leave early?  Come late and leave late? Or do you come early and leave late?”

One colleague suggested she follow the example of the man in the group. “Come late and leave early.”

“He does?!!”

He strategically scheduled his classes and meetings and consistently performed well at work.  And, he kept a low profile about this schedule, reorienting discussions towards the work to be done.  He just did it.

What does “Choosing what I do and doing it” look like at home?

Many parents idealize about having a regular family dinner…and yet it rarely occurs especially when one spouse has unpredictable work hours.  Will they be home for the meal?  Or for the kids’ bedtime?  Or will the arrive in time for your night out to recharge?

Uncertainty can be a burden; it restricts the options for decision-making.

The parents who navigate with the most peace of mind the pressure of reconciling career and raising young children are those who decide on their own schedule and organize accordingly.

Dinner will be at 7:00 pm.  Food will be left aside for the late arriver.  The babysitter comes on Thursday evenings (zumba class) regardless.

Decide what you will do…and do it.  You can choose your actions.  And they speak louder than words.