Social Exchange

This week I began teaching a class at a local university. I assigned a Blog Post topic to the class and have been reading the students’ entries this morning. The topic was Ethics. I allowed them to decide the approach they would take and invited them to either create their own blog site or to just send me the paragraphs that would make up a post if they did have a Blog Site of their own. I was impressed by the diversity of approaches I received for this assignment. Some talked generally about the subject of ethics and others looked at business ethics exploring the ideas from the text. My hope is that the students in this class learn a little bit more about themselves and each other in the course. I hope to learn more about communication in this digital age as seen through their eyes. I think we are off to a good start.

In just one week I start my new adventure on the Island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  I am equal measures of excited and anxious.  I look forward to being there, being part of something larger than myself and I am anxious about leaving my very comfortable home and the way of life I have developed over the past few years.  I will be staying on campus at UVI and I anticipate a very steep learning curve over this first month of offering classes and moving the intellectual property of PULSE to its new owners.

Am I ready? My suitcases are packed.  I have my airline bookings and my accommodations are booked.  I have made arrangements to have my apartment looked after.  I have paid my bills and notified everyone who needs to know including my cell phone company.  I have sent the proofs for the manuals for the courses I will teach. I have American money in my wallet.  And I still have a week to say my goodbyes to family and friends and put the finishing touches on the packing and planning for a month in the beautiful Caribbean.

Am I really ready? On the SHIFT scales of well being that I ask others to use I would say that I am still getting ready for this adventure.  SHIFT deals with five scales of well being for a well rounded look at how a person is experiencing the world.  This seemed like a good time for me to take inventory. How Sharp, Happy, Independent, Fit and Trusting am I right now?

The S in SHIFT stands for a Sharp Mind. It measures intellectual well being.  Intellectually I still have work to do to get the clear purposes, protocols and processes in place for me to serve the participants I will face in the next few weeks.  I want to be totally prepared to further their understanding of PULSE and the Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge that PULSE, the Frame, represents.  I have acquired so much information and experience over the years that my mind literally races as I search, sort and select, wondering about what to share during each of the programs and when.  Timing is important for understanding and I know that there will be nine perspectives on the world watching me deliver the programs.  Doing a good job of meeting all of those needs is important to me and my intellectual prowess will be tested as I juggle what I know with what they need to know and when. Even though I know that most of that I will learn in the moment by listening and adjusting as needed, I still feel some panic in this regard.  I think I will need this week to think it all through again a couple of times.

The H in SHIFT is for a Happy Heart. It measures emotional well being.  Emotionally I am not quite ready to go.  I am leaving behind my father who is pretty mobile right now for an 85 year old but who I worry about all of the time. I am leaving my children and grandchildren who will all be very busy with September’s glorious beginnings of school and after school programs, new adventures of their own.  I am leaving behind my friends from curling ( and occasional golf) who may need to replace me more often this year as the adventure unfolds. I am leaving my dear friends that I spend time with in St Albert and at the Lake.  I have created a wonderful network of support here and I know they will be here when I get back but I have never been away for a month before … except when I was in Calgary for 15 years.  I’m sure I will miss them all.  I am also sure I can keep in touch and catch up with things upon my return.

I am also sure that I will meet new friends and be reacquainted with old ones on St Thomas.  The sun and the sea always improve my mood.  There will be lots of reasons to smile and to feel happy as I meet new students and work with them so that they become conflict competent.  I hope to visit my favourite place on earth … the Baths on Virgin Gorda … while I am away and that will feed my smile bank for a long time afterwards.  I will not be less happy while I am away.  I will be happy in a different way and for different reasons.  Nonetheless my happiness scale will fluctuate as it always does.

The I in SHIFT is for Independent Spirit. It measures relational well being and today for me is very closely related to the H – Happiness measure.  I am independent.  I am Oprah in my Talk Show life.  I take charge and make decisions with careful consideration and deliberate thought.  I can also be completely clueless, not willing to ask for or accept the help I need to move to the next step.  I have more alone time than I need right now.  Spending time with “coworkers” and workshop participants is something I have been craving for awhile.  I am really looking forward to working with others and spending time with people again, especially like-minded people with similar goals and aspirations.  At the same time I am cautious because I will be in a new environment where there is a different social contract already established.  I will need to have my wits about me.  I hope to create lasting friendships and collegial (double entendue intended) working relationships in the most mutually agreeable way while maintaining my sense of Independence and self control.

The F in SHIFT stands for Fit Body.  It is a measure of physical well being.  I am never really satisfied with my levels of physical fitness.  Maybe that is because it is something that requires daily attention and takes time away from my intellectual pursuits which I much prefer.  Am I ready physically for this adventure?  I think so.  I have packed the necessities … tooth brush and other  tools for physical hygiene.  Although I will miss my first few tap dancing classes, I did put in a pair of runners just in case a university campus has a fitness facility.  I say that facetiously hoping they don’t and knowing they do.  Any excuse for missing a work out that isn’t tap dancing or curling is worth hoping for in my world.  I am armed with Yoga videos to maintain my flexibility and will TRY to walk everyday and because I will have kitchen facilities I am PLANNING on eating well … not out every night.

The T in SHIFT is for Trusting Soul.  It is a measure of spiritual well being.  Am I ready for this adventure spiritually?  Yes.  Firmly yes.  All roads have lead to this adventure.  At times it does feel beyond my control, that the universe is unfolding and that this will be my legacy.  I am ready for that and willing to work as hard as I can to see that through.  This opportunity is a gift to me that I will not squander.  I am grateful for it.  I intend to work hard to revive the PULSE dream of a world full of people who know how to be gentle and honest with each other, people who can use the tools of mediation to create wonderful relationships, people who recognize each other as whole and complete, where people take the time to honour each other with deep listening and careful consideration of other peoples thoughts, words and deeds in context, where people care about what they say, how they say it and the impact of their words on others. That is my personal vision and mission and this is another vehicle for me to accomplish these things on a larger scale.


The adventure begins next week.  Stay tuned for updates.

On Wednesday morning at 8:00 am Mountain I will be doing my first UVI-PULSE webinar.  I am really hoping you can join me.  The webinar is free and is the first in the series of monthly webinar I will be providing through the University.  If you can’t make it yourself please feel free to share the link with others.  Although I am confident there will be room for everyone, spaces are limited, so let me know if you intend to be there and I will make sure you have a spot.
For this webinar you just have to enter as a guest using the link below.  Future webinars will require you to register through UVI.
UVI website for registration: 
For many of you this webinar will be a review of the PULSE Frame and its elements. For some it will be an introduction to the three dimensional nature of conversations.  I am hoping it will serve as an introduction to the thinking that is guiding my book on “Mapping the Space Between Us”.  I am hoping to give everyone a peek into the structure of the PULSE tetrahedron, not just the triangle, to show what makes it strong as well as simple.
It is my first opportunity to work with the UVI in this way, as a partner.  I am very excited by the possibilities ahead of us with this venture. I am also grateful for the support I have had from all of you until now and look forward to what else we can accomplish together.

There is never any end to things like dishes and other kinds of housework.  As human beings we create messes and need to clean up after ourselves.  Dust accumulates while we are not watching and just when you thought you had a place for everything and everything in its place you decide to redecorate or someone else comes to visit and moves your stuff.  Life’s like that.

At the moment I am researching the balance between alone time and with time.  These past few years I have spent a lot of time alone. My new doctor seemed concerned when he asked if I lived alone and I said yes.  He prescribed outings everyday, spending time with friends and family and getting involved in the community as if I had some sort of disease.  He unnerved me enough that I didn’t go straight home where I would have been alone but chose to go to the nearest Chapters/Starbucks to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations for a while.  Of course listening to conversations is what I do best.

The Doctor got me thinking.  How much time alone is too much?  How much time should you spend with friends and family?  What’s the balance that works best?

I know that the answers to these questions are as individual as a finger print and that those answers are cyclical depending on time of life but there must be some general rules that I could use to make sure I don’t get what ever horrible ailment lurks in the shadows of my condo or my lake house when no one else is there but me.  I really don’t mind spending time alone as much as I used to.  I have lots of friends and I enjoy curling and yoga and tap dancing with others when those activities are in season.  I often say I have enough friends and, like in other aspects of my life, I am simplifying and down sizing my friend list.  It is a great list of wonderful people who already know me so I don’t have to explain myself and my life to new people, like my new doctor, who doesn’t quite get it.  I find that aspect of new relationships difficult.  I always feel judged.

I raised four kids and they were all teenagers at the same time.  I know what NOT alone is.  This week I am being reminded of what that was like as I entertain my grand kids and their friends at the Lake for a few days.  Cooking and cleaning and then cooking and cleaning again and then doing laundry and sweeping floors etc, etc, etc.  It takes me back and I wonder how I did that and taught high school full time and completed course work for my masters and coached a sports team. In those days I was only ever alone in the bath tub and when I sat down to watch MASH on TV.  No body bothered me then.

These days I feel as if I may have gone too far to the other extreme.  I find my self NOT doing things I might enjoy because I have no one to go with me.  Everyone has their own lives to live and those lives don’t always coincide with my need for companionship …. so I stay home.  Alone at home or alone in a crowd seem the same to me but maybe I am missing something.  Maybe I could start being out with people without knowing them.  Maybe the key to balancing the need for social interaction and the need for solitude is there in the together with strangers approach.  Those strangers are also doing what I wanted to do so maybe we can connect.   A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet, right? It takes courage and curiousity.  I’ll call it research….

Twenty Five years ago I was teaching at Sturgeon Composite High. I taught French and Social Studies. My daughter Julia was one of my students so I came to know the class of 1990 as a teacher and as a parent. I can hardly believe that those teenagers are now in their forties.

Next month at the Celtic Knot here in St Albert they are having a get-together to mark the 25th Anniversary. If you were a teacher at Sturgeon Comp in 1990 you are also invited to attend on Friday, June the 12th at 6:00 pm for appetizers and cocktails. It should be a great time. They were wonderful children… a little on the wild side … who have turned in to great parents and people.

It is also a great excuse to reconnect with the staff. We were wild and crazy then too. We were so good at air band and other activities that made fools of ourselves and we had fun. Many of those people are still teaching at the comp and many have gone. If you know anyone who taught this class please let them know so we can visit with the students and get our own table together to catch up with each other. Spread the Word.

Let me know if you plan on coming. or just stop in. It will be great to see you.

This year after many years, no decades, I have taken up tap dancing again.  It was at the instance of my lovely and talented daughter who teaches the class of exceptional adults on Monday nights.  My daughter loves these ladies and the time she spends with them and thought I would too.  She was right of course.  They are wonderful and FUN.  We laugh so hard sometimes I can’t even breathe.  Last night was classic.  It is getting close to performance time so on Saturday we had a stage rehearsal.  With three people missing I got completely lost on the formations.  It was humbling.  My daughter was laughing pretty hard as she video taped the number as evidenced by the jiggling on the play back.  Last night she was showing the video to my grand-daughter who was one of the members of our group who had missed the rehearsal.  Let’s just say they were thoroughly enjoying my confusion on stage.

Last night’s class was much better.  I finally got the steps I could not master before.  We reviewed a number of times the changes in formation and the transition steps so I am feeling much more confident that I can pull this multi-generational number off  … as long as I practice my behind off for the next three weeks.  What keeps me going is that I am not alone.  Others who have been taking the class for five or six years also experienced confusion with formations and the more difficult steps and we all agreed sitting on the patio after the rehearsal for a beer was the best part. These people enjoy each others company.  They laugh at themselves and with others every week.  They play jokes on each other in a good-natured way. Last night the teacher ( my daughter ) left the room and they jokingly dared a class mate to block the door so she couldn’t get back in because they felt they really needed a rest.  So it was blocked.  A little tug of war ensued and when the door opened there were peals of laughter.  It was fun, innocent fun and so good for the soul.  When we all managed to get the line and do the step together a loud celebration broke out spontaneously.

It struck me that they have SHIFT covered.  Sharp minds remembering steps.  Happy hearts dancing with joy. Independent and interdependent relationships where they rely on each other and understand their own responsibility for the success of the group. Fit bodies actively improving control and stamina. Trusting that it will all turn out in the end.  I am thoroughly impressed by them each week as we learn more together.  There is a clear performance goal and a light-hearted approach that will get us there.   I love it.

I love this time with them and I look forward to helping them bring home the gold the way they have for many years.  My goal is to be brilliant or at least to not mess up so bad that I break the streak for them.  The cool thing is they would take it in stride.  One said to me after she saw the video of me standing in the wrong place, not once but twice ” At least you didn’t run of the stage…”  Hmmm I didn’t think that was on option.  I am sure my daughter/teacher would prefer I stay on stage and entertain in what ever way I can.  It is a performance thing.  Stages don’t scare me but I definitely need to be more confident about what I should be doing there before our next venture into the world of tap competition.

Learning new things at any age is commendable right????


Last week I had a chance to help some people come to agreement on a long-standing issue.  It’s always satisfying when you can see what’s in the way and help them move around or through or over or under what ever that is.  It made me realize a couple of things about practice and mastery and how reading people is essential in this business.  It is not just about reading people and identifying their criteria for resolution but also ready what behaviours are infuriating or frustrating the other people in the room.  So you watch EVERYBODY and you notice your own responses and you name it.  The naming part takes courage but it is really all you have to do.  Finding a gentle way to tell someone that their behaviour is not helping can be tricky but well worth the mental effort it takes to cushion the words and use language you are confident they will understand. When you do SHIFT happens.

I was reminded that the PULSE Frame is very effective.  It is part of my MO now in most situations and in a high conflict one the elements are more obvious and their strong grounding in theory makes them very dependable.  Prepare for the conversation.  Then Uncover what they have come to resolve today.  Then Learn why its important to them, their criteria for resolution. Then Search possibilities that could resolve the situation and meet the shared and individual criteria.  Then write a plan of action that contains detailed items that are within their authority and will be shared with those who are involved in its implementation.  Introducing the process at the beginning … the process, purpose and protocol … and wrapping it up at the end are also important to give everyone confidence in the outcome.


Can you tell the difference between someone who is being reverent and someone who is being irreverent?  I think they can mean somewhat the same thing.  if you are being irreverent is because at some level you feel a certain mount of reverence for the person, place or thing.  Otherwise you wouldn’t take the time to be irreverent.  It is kind of like “irregardless” to me.

That’s not really what I wanted to talk about today but it has been in my head for about a week.  I was introduced to Mrs. Brown on YouTube a week ago.  It is a BBC sitcom now I believe and it is very funny in an irreverent kind of way.  If you need a laugh, a belly laugh, I recommend you watch an episode or two as long as you are not easily offended.  Mrs. Brown says what the rest of us might only think.  She reminds me of my family from Newfoundland.  She has same irreverent attitude toward people, places and things that my mother and her sisters had.

It has been a long week.  Getting back in the swing of things often takes more energy than I remember from the last time I was away.  Meetings and visitors and curling and hosting parties and laundry and unpacking and it was a very full week.  This post is not as exciting as the descriptions of exotic places from last week.  It is home and it is routine and I love it just as much as being away.

At home there are always problems to solve and plans to make and things to do, the routine weekly, monthly and annual things that fill your calendar.  Those are the kind of things we think everybody else does better than us… keeping organized.  Staying on top of household accounts, repairs and replacements and social events and media and finding time to work too is not for the faint of heart.  It can be exhausting especially if you spent last week in an exotic place NOT thinking about any of that.

Back to the grind … with a smile on my face and reverence for all things routine.  Find the time to work on the book this week.  It’s going to be great.  Just wait and see. But as Mrs. Brown might say …”Too bad the &^%$@# thing can’t write itself.  It’s the only way you’ll get it done.” Irreverence … always a grain of truth.

I have always thought of myself as independent.  Even when I was totally financial dependent on others, I imagined that I still had decision making power and control over how things would turn out.  I acted as if my voice still counted and I took responsibility for those decision that I helped to make.

An independent spirit requires that you maintain a certain level of competence and distance from others.  It is not that you loose any sense of compassion or caring.  It is just that you take the observe role and see the situation from a perspective that allows you to observe the good and the bad in any and all possible outcomes.  You do not become lost in the needs of others nor do you ignore their needs to gain your own advantage.  It is this level of autonomy that keeps us sane and healthy in difficult situations and it is that level of autonomy that we lose when we slip into dependence – emotional, financial, physical, spiritual, intellectual or relational.

How do we guard ourselves against that kind of dependence?  First we must recognize the signs of waning self confidence and waxing loss of identity. Knowing your own mind, heart and body is the first step and being tuned into changes or SHIFTS is key.  When you begin to set aside your own needs on a regular basis is it is time to take stock.  When you are blaming others for your situation it is time to take stock and when you are making decisions for others it is also time to take stock.  It is a balancing act and you will know when you are in the GROOVE

Take good care this week. Keep in touch with yourself and your relational well-being.  Maintain a healthy distance from those you are not ready to trust.  Rely on yourself and on those with whom you have developed a healthy INTERdependence.

“Happy, happy, happy, happy”  What makes you happy?

Research is showing the our thoughts control our moods.  In other words, if you think happy you feel happy.  That is cool.  I have always felt more in control of how I think so this research is suggesting to me that if I can control my thoughts I can also control my feelings.

I like to feel happy.  I believe that most people do.  I also think that it can be a lot of work sometimes to maintain a level of thinking that keeps us happy.  Reframing our lives, even our past childhoods into positive experiences is always a choice.  We can accept what we see, hear and experience as happy or sad, good or bad, heaven or hell.  It really is up to us.

That’s a lot of responsibility.  If live gives you lemons you are EXPECTED to make lemon aid…AND DRINK IT.

Here’s the thing…We only know what happiness is because we have experienced sad.  Choice comes from understanding the contrast. I believe it is good for us to sit in the negative emotion for a while until we truly understand the source.  What thoughts or familiar thought patterns have taken us to the dark side.  It’s okay to wallow in it every now and then.  Chronic wallowing is not encouraged but sometimes it can be cathartic.  So go ahead and be sad, feel bad and live in the hell you are creating for your self.  Just know that happiness, goodness and heaven are just a choice, a thought away.  Your call.

Heart and head influence each other so much.  Give yourself a break and generate the happy heart you deserve.  Find the positive in the situation or the humourous and enjoy a good laugh.  It’s good for the heart.  So is a good cry.  Be Gentle and Honest with yourself and watch for the contrasts that can teach you how to be happy.


Take good care.

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