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Travel Lightly

I have spent many hours aboard planes and normally I build myself a fort and hide in the little space I claim at my seat. Sometimes a friendly smile will sit down beside me and, although I have something to read or watch and my pillow and face mask and headphones, my personal protective gear, is at the ready, I find myself in delightful conversation with a perfect stranger.

Everybody has a story. Listening to that story makes both of you happier. 

I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Talking to Strangers” and learning a lot about what bad judges of character we are as human beings, for both better and worse. So, on my flight yesterday, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman next to me to see what story he had to tell. What a fascinating story he shared, complete with pictures, of having been to Africa to spend time with his girlfriend. He was so obviously in love and so desperate to be living in the same place as she was, where ever that would be around the world, that I was moved and began to wonder how I could possibly help.

We talked about travel and time and distance and compared airports and hotels that we had experienced and the time we traveled moved quickly.  Before I knew it, I had reached my destination and, even though I had had very little sleep, I felt rejuvenated by his excitement and anticipation of a wonderful life with the perfect partner.

In Hawaii, they call it “Talking Story” and it is embedded in the culture of the Maritimes where I will be spending more time over the coming years and I am encouraged. People are weird. Their stories can be uplifting or very, very sad. Even so, they take us to places we have never been, through experiences we have never had and they enrich our world.

Talk to strangers…

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Filled with gratitude today. I have a wonderfully talented family. I have wonderful friends who take me to concerts and include me in things. I have a career that is sometimes difficult to manage (back to the being two places at once theme) and is so rewarding that I cannot imagine giving it up. I have a wonderful home in St Albert and a new one under renovations in Halifax.  And I get to be Nancy, or sometimes, Charlotte.

Hmmm … Maybe that is where the need to split and do two things at once comes from. I have two names which I use in different situations. Interesting.

I have been reading Gretchen Rubin for book club and then she came up in a staff meeting at work. Another thing that made me go ‘hmm’. She writes with so much vulnerability and candor that I am always impressed, even when I don’t necessarily agree. The passage I read this morning was on gratitude so I thought I would try it our here. The fact is I do have LOTS to be grateful for and I understand that others may not feel as fortunate. One of my father’s favourite sayings, when he met someone less fortunate, was always “There but for the Grace of God …..”.

That saying has kept me grounded over the years. I have a good education and I have ‘means’, as my cousin puts it, and I understand the responsibility that comes with good education and good income. I do what I can to help others. We all take things for granted from time to time and so a little check in on how we are doing and how we are contributing to this wonderful world is important.

I continue to be grateful. At the end of the week, I will be working with my friends from the University of the United States Virgin Islands again. I haven’t been there since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck in September 2017. I know they have been through tough times there and I am anxious to see for myself how people are recovering and to understand what lasting effects there might be there. I will keep you posted.

Take care. Be the best you, you can be this week.

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Here We Go…

Blog day is great. It gives you a chance to sit and think about how you have been spending your time. I have done a lot of shopping this week. I took possession of a condo in Halifax and I have been shopping for kitchen tiles and cupboard door pulls, for closet doors and paint, for shower curtains and new towels and cleaning supplies … and, well, you know what it is like to have a new place. The lists grow even as you scratch things off.

This new adventure began in 2018 when I applied to the University of Kings College at Dalhousie here in Halifax. The course in Creative Nonfiction begins in June 2020 and represents a two-year commitment that I have made to myself to complete another Masters and live in the place of my birth, reconnecting with friends and family that I left fifty years ago. Hardly seems possible.

Fifty years ago, Halifax was very different and so was I, or was I? In many ways, I feel like the same teenage girl who left. Reconnecting with people who knew me then reinforces the “you haven’t changed” theme. So, my entire adult life spent away, learning and teaching and raising children has brought me full circle, back to myself as I was then. That is cool, don’t you think?

Getting settled will take time but much of the groundwork was done this week as my wonderful hosts and friends helped me shop and decide and arrange for renovations and deliveries and move closer to creating a comfortable space for me to entertain guests (you are all invited) and study and work for this next stretch of my life. I am grateful for all of the support from family and friends and colleagues. I couldn’t make this happen without you.

Next step,  move the furniture across the country. Here we go….

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Nancy at the lake
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It Will All Come Together

Sometimes vacation allows you time to really get away from it all.  Sometimes the timing isn’t quite right so what seemed like a great idea when you booked it 8 months ago, lands in the middle of a male storm of to do’s for a big move across the country.

What was I thinking????

I had a great vacation by the way. Good friends. Good times. Good weather. My favourite location.

Scattered throughout were things calling me back to reality. A webinar, a realtor, an insurance agent, a moving company and others, all intervening as needed to make next week’s move to Halifax smooth and easy.

BUT… there are still sooo many details to attend to and I have had only two nights in my own bed before I am off to Halifax on the red-eye tonight.

It will all come together. Plans always do. It is the frantic bit in the middle that I forget to account for when I am making plans. I feel a little bit like this…

I can do it.  I have always managed. Everything will be okay in the end and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

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I am in Hawaii and on the Island of Hawaii at one of my favourite places in the world.  It is a familiar place. The Aloha spirit surrounds me as dawn breaks and the darkness gives way to the crystal blue skies. I love it here. I am back at a resort I have been coming to since 2004. As I sit and contemplate the changes that have taken place here at the resort, I am also considering the changes that I have experienced over the years. I am continually surprised by what happens next in my life as I become an older version of myself.

Like the people who have traveled this path before me, my elders, I am becoming the way-finder, breaking trail and pointing the way or, at least one way, to live life in your 60’s. Spending time in this beautiful place, filling my soul with the warm sun and the sea breezes are highly recommended. Follow me here.

I have been inviting friends to come with me to this resort to experience this place for all of the 16 years that I have come. I have never come alone. Someone has always said yes to my invitation. This year I feel especially lucky. I have six friends who have joined me. They represent a wonderful grouping of like-minded individuals who do not all know each other well but who have committed to this trip, each for their own reason. Some are new friends that I have met over the past five years. Add to those two wonderful, dear friends that have been in my life since high school.

As navigator and guide, I now realize the awesome honor and responsibility this is for me. I will be using the way-finder tools from Chapter 3 of Mapping the Space to guide the group as we make decisions together that we would normally make on our own, in familiar surroundings.  Each person has a different expectation. One is experiencing her first taste of the magic that is Hawaii. Others have been here many times with others or with me so we are all starting from different perspectives on what is possible. That will allow us each to learn and grow and share as we build a shared experience of this fantastic place.

Yesterday, the forward guard, the four of us who arrived first, dealt with the disappointment of lost luggage and the disruption that can cause. AND we saw whales and rays and a beautiful green flash at sunset. What will today bring? 


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Connecting in Social Reality

If you were going to embark on a journey into the social space between you and another person, what preparation would you need to make? I would definitely pack my smile and both of my ears. Connecting with others is all about listening and learning about who they are and what kinds of things you might have in common.

If you are meeting someone who works in the same field as you do then you will likely be connecting through the jargon used, the TLA’s or Three Letter Acronyms commonly used in your line of business. You will have shared experiences and may talk about best practices and the road to share understanding could be easier than it might be with someone from a different industry.

This week I was fortunate to connect with fellow mediators as we explored together the world and work of coaching. Our shared understanding of micro-skills served as the glue that pulled the group together. It was a treat to meet them where they were comfortable and move them to where they could transfer many of those skills into a coaching practice. The time spent together was invigorating, enlightening and well spent. It is not always that way.

Sometimes we meet people who have little in common with us.  As we begin the journey, entering into a shared social space, we may share different purposes as well. The connection is not strong. Uncertainty, fear, distrust generate static on the line and moving forward becomes difficult. This is where you may find it useful to engage a WAY-FINDER.  

WAY-FINDERS in social space can help you position yourself for the best results, can help you map a safe route to your destination and point you in the right direction. With the help of a WAY-FINDER, you and your fellow traveler can build a stronger connection and move forward together.

Next week at this time I will be in Hawaii with six of my friends. Some of them know each other and some don’t. I will be watching closely as the journey of shared social space on vacation begins. I love the participant-observer role. I promise to keep notes and share the progress toward common ground that I am sure I will be witnessing daily.

Chapter 2 of the Mapping the Space between Us book is about Connecting in Social Space with the help of a WAY-FINDER.  Later this week you will find an excerpt on the Mapping the Space page. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. Whether you are looking for new friendships or relationships at work or you are navigating existing relationships of any kind, the map shows you the way. Feedback would be welcomed.

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Love Gathers Here

Things are going well here in Love Land. I have a wall decoration that says “Love Gathers Here.” The double etendue is refreshing. The Love family does gather here from time to time and it is glorious when they do. This weekend however it was a different kind of gathering. 

I have been working with Paula Drouin to create a “Coaching thought Conflict” program for mediators, and we are holding our first session over these two weeks. We have six fantastic, dedicated and smart mediators looking to add coaching skills to their toolbox of interventions for conflict situations. A small group, who already know each other and were willing to come to Paula and me in St Albert. So, I have been hosting them here. We have spent our time talking about Conversational Intelligence, Neuroscience, NLP, the Enneagram, Appreciative Inquiry, and so many other tantalizing topics, that have occasionally taken us into “Deep Time.” Classroom learning is handled in the board room downstairs where there is no internet, so the videos are shown in my living room … where the sign hangs. People who Love Learning have been gathering here, too.

If you are keeping up with things, and I know some of you are, you may be going to the website to read this blog. You will notice at the top, that a new web page has been added. I purchased that address a few years ago in an effort to move the book, that I have been working on FOREVER now, to the finish line. The book is called Mapping the Space between Us: Wayfinding to Common Ground. With the aid of my trusty sidekick and granddaughter, Kass, things are indeed moving. You can now find us by going to the address. If you click on the tab of the same name, it will take you to the introduction of the book, or at least to excerpts from the introduction.

My next job today will be to send Chapter 1: Here be Dragons, to Kass so that she can also post an excerpt from it. I have found the courage to read through and edit it again. I want to thank my friend Sue for helping me find that courage by reading it with fresh eyes and motivating me to get it out there. My hope is that you will also enjoy reading pieces of it enough to share it with others. Eventually, it would be great to see it published by a wonderful publishing house but for now, I am content to have you read it and comment on it as the nine chapters appear on the new site over the next few months.

Feedback is always welcomed and encouraged.

Take care everyone. Stay safe and warm.

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Untethered: The Sequel

In August I wrote a blog called Untethered describing a thought I had to spend time over the next couple of years in Halifax where I was born and spent my childhood. Control your thoughts. Thoughts become ideas. Ideas become actions and actions eventually become habits. I read that once on a Chinese tea label.

Well, you know how things go when you set an intention and then lean into it? Thanksgiving Day I looked at a condo in downtown Halifax and February 19th I take possession. Just like that.

It sounds so easy and as if no thought or planning has gone into this move. Sometimes life is like that. You have an idea and it becomes reality. It is like the curio cabinet I ordered from Wayfair that now houses my good glasses in my living room in St Albert. I knew I was going to have to move the stuff I valued to my home condo and rent out my second apartment. Intent on consolidating valuables and keepsakes I saw a need for extra storage/ display space. I figured out where there was a space that could accept another piece of furniture and measured it. Then I spent time online looking for just the right piece. When it arrived in pieces, I put it together and then filled it with my precious hand-painted Romanian stemware. Just like that problem solved.

The decision to purchase and fill the new space with furniture now occupying the downstairs apartment took some time. A million little decisions have influenced the thought that became the idea that is now becoming action. A renter appeared who wanted to rent my downstairs apartment for two years. Check. The condo in Halifax appeared. Check. My casual employment supported the move. Check. My program at Kings University College … walking distance from the new condo … accept me as a deferred student from last year’s program. Check. Other thoughts on financing and travel and real estate and furnishing and and and …. and POOF, just like that, I have a plan.

So, with the help of good friends, and with the support of my family, I will be in Halifax on April 1st to start yet another adventure, returning to be a part-time Haligonian after 50 years away.

Stay tuned as the adventure continues.

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PULSE Conversations, SHIFT Happens, Social Exchange

It’s Saturday …

Weekends are not much different from weekdays at the lake.  The one exception is that there are more people around.  Lots of families are out this weekend to enjoy the new swimming pool in our little neighbourhood that opens tomorrow.  I hope to do that later in the week when there are fewer people around.

I just watched a TED Talk with psychologist Brian Little.  There were a number of things that caught my attention.  Dr, Little talked about the fact the there are ways in which we are like most other people.  Those he refers to as our biogenetic nature.  There are also ways that we are like some other people.  Those he calls our sociogenetic nature. And there are ways in which we are like no other person. Those he refers to as our idiogenetic nature, a term I think that might be uniquely his.  His basic premise is that we can be categorized with others on certain dimensions and we may be hard wired ( my term not his) to act in a particular way in a particular situation, but there is one other variable that allows us to move away from our usual MO and that is our “core project.”  In other words if we need to change the usual introversion to extraversion to protect our family then we will.  If we need to become disagreeable when we are normally agreeable then we can. .. for a purpose.  If we are normally open to new experience but our core project requires us to be safe then we may become guarded. So we do what we need to do to further our core project even if it is out of character. Cool.

DR. Little warns us thought that protracted out-of-character-ness can be harmful.  If we push our introverted self into extraversion for too long we can snap back like an elastic band and cause ourselves some difficulty, but generally speaking what he is saying is that we are not merely a collection of traits.  With that caveat in mind it is still nice to know that we need not worry about exhibiting this trait or that trait because we now know we can get over ourselves and BE what we need to be when required.

What difference does this make?  For me, for example … the penultimate balanced extravert/introvert personality type … I see now the significance of the balance for me.  I  need the balance between being out there and being in here.  I think most people do and that they manage themselves to find their own point of balance or fulcrum on the continuum.  I also think most people generally understand when they are off balance and need to make corrections.  Each of us has a range on the continuum … not just a point.  Movement within the range has been limited to a more introverted, even isolated position of late for me personally.  I have a core project that makes it necessary to behave differently than I may have in the past.  AND that’s okay.  I will heed Dr Little’s warning about protractedly wandering out of character and make the adjustments I need to keep sane and healthy.  Dr. Little has helped me understand that stepping out of character is a choice we make to achieve an end, a worthy core project and our ability to do that is part of who we are as a person … our idiogenetic nature … or should I say MY idiogenetic nature.  I also know that it is what many women my age do so that it is also in my sociogenetic nature. And it is a choice for me.

Dr Little sites five dimensions of personality that I found interesting maybe because their first letters spell something … OCEAN.  Open to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.  He talked about degrees of each but I wonder if he has considered the developmental nature of these dimensions.  I know for example that I have become more introverted than extraverted over the past three years.  It could be a function of age or situation.  I also feel that I have become less open to new experience and more conscientious.  I have become less agreeable on many fronts and possibly more neurotic. I was beginning to feel confused when the next TED Talk video started.  In it Philosopher, Julian Baggini explained that we are a collection of experiences, a process and not a permanent truth.  He used the metaphor of a waterfall that appears the same but is constantly changing.

Combining the ideas presented by the psychologist and the philosopher gave me comfort.  I hope it will also give you comfort.  You are the sum of your experiences which are changing constantly and you choose how to behave based on your core project.  RELAX, RELATE, RELEASE and ENJOY. Become the waterfall.  I certainly will later in the week when my core project will be to experience the new pool.

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The Healing Lake… a Father’s Day Tribute

I know that I have written about Lac St Anne before.  It is an amazing place with a summer pilgrimage each year to bathe in the healing waters.  The pilgrimage has been going on for centuries if not millennia. Where else would you take your father if he were recovering from near death experiences, a couple of surgeries and a foot that refuses to heal?

Dad and I have been here for only two weeks.  It has taken time to get him into the lake house and settled.  The son-in-laws have been marvelous.  Between them they have constructed a ramp in the garage and delivered a hospital bed and his motorized chair and put the hand held shower in place for him to feel at home, safe and at least somewhat independent.  The recovery, from my perspective, has been remarkable.  For sure he has good days and bad days.  But he walks down the hall to his room on his own.  He takes a shower on his own.  He watches his TV in his room or joins me for a couple of episodes of MASH each evening. There are challenges that come from being out of town but Dad has been out scouting out the neighbourhood in his chair and has spent hours in the sun on the deck, listening to the birds and looking longingly at the lake wondering out loud how we could get a boat. ( Once a sailor …. ) His appetite is  his coming back  and his colour is good.  He can be quite social.  He seems to be doing quite well.

There are side effects … good ones for me.  I have settled into a routine that involves preparing three meals a day, dressing wounds,sorting and administering medication,  gardening (I am learning) and WRITING.  The writing has been particularly surprising and may have happened anyway but I really feel that having Dad here with me has helped me settle enough to actually write everyday.  It has been a tough couple of years for me and it has often been  difficult to focus on what I know needs doing on the projects that I have underway.  I think I have moved at least two projects ahead leaps and bounds since Dad first got really sick in early April.  I think the page served as a distraction from the reality of his state of well being.  I was able to lose myself in the writing if only for an hour or so each day. AND that has made all of the difference.  The ideas are not just formulating in my head.  They are appearing in my penciled note books and then, with a little help from my daughter, Julia, they appear on the screen and are spewed from the printer to come back to me for penciling in edits and so it goes….

Manuscripts of the Mapping book have been distributed and gathered again.  Many thanks to those who took the time to read it and comment.  It means a great deal to me to have the feedback.  Now I can move forward with a greater degree of confidence to the next step.  The next version – Manuscript 2.0 – is percolating and should be available for publishers to read soon. ( mid summer??? she says hopefully)  If any of you know a publisher who might be interested in a book about mapping the space between people, please do not hesitate to pass on their information so that we can pester them with Manuscript 2.0 when it is ready.  So far the reviews are good from people who know the Enneagram and PULSE and Appreciative Inquiry and from those who do not.  There is polishing to do for sure.  I am on it.

UVI-PULSE is also moving forward with an ambitious project to put an on line UVI-PULSE “Leadership in Nine Dimensions Program” together.  That provides another chance to get creative as I freshen up some of the PULSE programming from a decade ago and breath fresh life into a classic program on how to do leadership in a changing world. Meanwhile I continue to provide webinars on a monthly basis and starting in July there will also be coaching sessions and office hours set up on line for those who are interested in learning more about UVI-PULSE and leading Conversations for Change.

Writing is like putting together the puzzle in the dining room at the lake.  We have completed one puzzle in the last couple of weeks and today we started a new one. Today I sorted another 1000 piece box of pieces into piles of colours and starting working on the edges.  By ‘we’ I mean my daughters when they are here, my brother who has come on weekends from Calgary, my dear friend Monde who has been sooo helpful with this transition and with many of the other transitions I have been through in our 40 plus years of friendship.  Who ever comes in contributes at least one piece to the puzzle. It is the perfect refuge from the strain or tension of everyday life.  When your mind is full or overwhelmed you can solve the mystery and create the picture.  It is so satisfying to find a piece and place it in to build a more complete picture.  There is always a puzzle you can go to to switch gears and allow the brain to move to present action and clear the thoughts and feelings that may have created stress.

Little do the people who stop by know that their presence also contributes to my writing in subtle ways I’m not sure I can articulate. The company that Dad and I get here is important to him and  his healing for sure and to me.  It has been busy but in a very good way.  It has been tough for sure but the opportunity to care for my dad while I also get to do what I love to do has been good for me …. and for him.  I would like to thank him for this unforeseen opportunity.  I would also like to thank St Anne wherever she is and whatever role she has played in not only healing Dad but in healing me as well.  AND to all of you who have sent prayers and good wishes for his recovery, thank you.  Whatever happens next I am satisfied that this last three months has been time well spent.

With Love from Love and Love….  Happy Father’s Day this weekend.


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