4 out of 5

My girlfriend and I attended a great luncheon with a great speaker who did an outstanding job. We both agreed it was a great message and the speaker was wonderful. When the evaluation forms came around to the tables at the end, I naturally circled “5 out of 5” to compliment her great speech.

My optimistic friend circled “4 out of 5”. When I questioned why she did not circle 5 when we both agreed the presentation was great, she replied, “No one circles 5”.

We had a lengthy discussion on the way home about how we have been conditioned to not be “too happy”. My question is… “What is wrong with Pollyanna?” Why send that speaker home with an evaluation that may make her question how she could do better?

The other 3%

There is always someone who will be unhappy with what you do. In all my years of working in a garage, retail, renting tuxedos, producing fashion shows and trade shows and as a speaker, I know it is impossible to please everyone.

I love the Always Infinity ad (sorry guys feminine products!)
It shows a picture of the product and the ad reads:
97% of women who tried Always Infinity said they’d recommend it to friends.
The other 3% never like anything anyway.

Ha ha, how true is that!

Too hot or too cold

I was speaking to a large organization and every level of employee would attend my presentation.

The custodial staff were by far the funniest of the emails that were sent to me from the group telling me about their job.

A man who called himself “the janitor everyone needs” wrote this when I asked him “tell me about your job”.
“I love what I do. I don’t take a BlackberryTM home. I work alone and everyone needs something from me. I have learned that there is always someone who is too cold or too hot but you aim to please them all.”

What a great attitude. Indeed, there is always someone who complains about being too hot or too cold. Do your best, work hard and go home to the family you love. Isn’t that that point of this great life?

Great sign

One of my favourite restaurants is called the 13th Avenue Food and Coffee House. I love homemade vegetarian food and they are one of the BEST.

I loved the tip jar at the front counter so I wanted to share it with you.
tip jar

Please

I love polite. It is something I am very proud of in our children. They are exceptional at saying please and thank you. It is something we engrained in them as toddlers. I am amazed at how often adults forget to be polite. Jayda and John have been served by serving staff in a restaurant or in a retail store and they always notice when the staff are not polite.

I am often in the email loop with the planning committee for the conference I am going to speak at. One employee will ask another employee to send me something and it is rare that I see them ask with a “please”. How often do we thank our staff for all they do? Our spouse and children?

I was reading a copy of Woman’s Day magazine on our winter holiday this year. The story I was reading was continued on another page. Rather than saying “turn to page 98” the magazine said, “please turn to 98”. Just that simple “please” adds so much.

“Please” go about your day today and see where you could add something nice.

A Reminder to be Thankful

I was working in a beautiful, welcoming city in Ontario. I was invited to speak to the city employees. The local (well-loved and on his 5th term) mayor, Carl, was the man to introduce the day and welcome everyone. Before we got the day going, Carl and I were talking back stage and I asked him how many of the public complaint calls came directly to him. He laughed and said “a few”. As we chatted, I discovered we shared the same view that there are just some people you will never be able to make happy, no matter how hard you try – there are some people who will always complain.

Carl shared with me a great idea he had.

He said he would like to have a million dollars in a fund somewhere to use for this special project. Whenever some called to complain about something in their safe, clean, and well-run city, he would make them an offer. He would  try to resolve their issue and  offer to fly the caller to another country. The catch was it had to be a poor, third world country. Once there, the caller had to live with the locals for at least a week. Then when the caller arrived back in our beautiful country, he or she had to come to a town hall meeting and tell others of their experience. Carl thought this would help put their own lives into perspective.

I thought about that idea all the way home. As I listened to people in the airport complain about the long line at StarbucksTM, I wanted to tap them on the shoulder and remind them that there is a world without food right now.

As I listened to the passengers on the airplane complain about not having their Christmas shopping done, I wanted to turn to them and share our family idea. We only buy for the children in our families, no adult in our families needs for anything! We eliminated all friends exchanging gifts and give the money to charity. Not only are we helping others but there’s no shopping! It’s a win/win!

As I listened to my taxi driver on the ride home from the airport complain about traffic, I laughed out loud and told him I just drove through two hours of traffic in Ontario and hadn’t covered nearly as many miles! A ten minute wait in traffic teaches us patience. Use the time to breathe and be grateful for a car, a warm house and a family to go home too.

I often say the happiest people I have met have either been to hell and back or have traveled to some very poor countries and had a chance to see how the other half of the world lives.

So over this Christmas season, my challenge to you it this — be grateful. How many times are we thankful for our lives here in the greatest country in the world? Thankful to be healthy enough to celebrate Christmas and the money to own a computer to read these words.

Merry Christmas!

Umma

I try very hard to live with no regrets in my life. I work hard at communicating with the people I love and telling them that I am proud of them and I love them. There will always be 10%s but I work hard at seeing the 90%.

My Mom and I never had a perfect relationship. But is any relationship perfect? We had a rough start. My Mom got pregnant with me at 16 years old. My Dad raised me in the early seventies. My Mom remarried twice, had a family of her own and I only saw her on holidays. I always wanted to be closer to my Mom but it was like we never knew how to be close. When I was pregnant with our first child I knew I needed to talk to my Mom about my feelings. I was 31 years old and I had never had a real conversation with my Mom. I was so worried I would bring some of my unfinished “10%” feelings into my own motherhood role. I really did want to be closer to this woman I felt I hardly knew.

I invited her for a visit and a walk. I was very nervous as we started walking and I told her that my hope for this walk was to be closer to her. I wanted to get to know this woman and hear her side, something I had never heard. We walked for hours. For the first time in my life, I was having a real conversation with my Mom. She told me stories of hard it was to leave me, her fears when she lost her leg in a motorcycle accident and her journey with breast cancer. We laughed, we cried, we fought and we bonded. I will never forget that walk.

Shortly after, she sent me a letter saying she would try hard to be my Mom, but to be patient because she really didn’t know how to be. She wrote she would give as much as she could but didn’t know how much that would be. I wrote back promising her that I would try not to have unrealistic expectations. I would meet her where she was at, not where I wished she would be. I would see her through my 90% lens. It was the start of a much closer relationship. It wasn’t always easy being her daughter… but sometimes it wasn’t easy being my Mom either.

This summer was the best. I have never felt so close to my Mom. Our visits were full of love and laughter. Watching all of her amazing grandchildren in her yard made her the “happiest woman in the world”. Her grandchildren all call her “Umma”. I never left our visits without a hug, I love you and she ALWAYS said, “You know I am very proud of you right?” I left our last fun summer visit with a bag full of unripe tomatoes from her garden and I feeling like I was finally connecting with my Mom like I always prayed I would.

A week after our last summer visit my beautiful Mom died suddenly. She was only 59 years old.

There are layers of lessons I could write about. A lesson in communication and how important it is to be brave enough to say what we need to say to those we love. And a lesson in expectations. Sometimes we expect a relationship to be how we want it to be; in the meantime, we miss out on all the 90%s. A lesson in forgiveness. I wrote in my book that “My Mom taught me forgiveness. Life is too short to carry around the burdens that do not bless your life or the life of others”. Every time I came home from our visits this summer I would say “Wow that is the best visit I have ever had”. Thank God for those peaceful happy memories.

I went my Mom’s funeral feeling that nothing was left unsaid. I came home to her unripe tomatoes. My girlfriend said “If I could choose the way I might leave this world and my loved ones, it would be with nothing left unsaid and tomatoes ripening on the counter.”

Reminders

In this busy world, I love reminders of what is really important. Reminders of the 90%s in our lives.

One of the highlights of our summer holidays was a visit to Great Grandma’s farm. I grew up with lots of change and “GG’s” farm is the only place that remained unchanged during my childhood. The only place I went that nothing was different. I was our son’s age when my Dad married my second Mom (of three) and this was the farm that was introduced to my life then. I remembered the first time I visited this special farm as I shared the stories with my own children. After the divorce, I rarely went back. Something I truly missed.

I don’t visit as often as I would like to and I hadn’t been back to the farm with my children since they were born. We are officially too busy when we can’t make time for these important things.

Driving to GG’s with my children in the back seat took me right back as I pointed out abandoned farm houses and places I used to ride my bike. I felt so much emotion welling up as I pulled up to her house. The winding driveway seemed so much bigger as a child.

“GG” was standing on the porch waiting for us with a smile so big you would think royalty had arrived. She toured my excited children and I around the four-story farmhouse and told them the story of how her late husband and his Dad built the home. I was so humbled by how much of it was exactly the same as I remembered it. The iron beds, the home-made quilts, a simple TV in the living room and no computer.

We visited her huge garden, beautiful flower beds and the small trailer she likes to sleep in on hot summer nights. I was humbled by how she still makes time for her three-mile walk every morning. The barn looks like every great old barn you see in pictures, weathered to perfection. We pried the heavy sliding door open. I was shocked to see how well it had withstood our frigid winters and hot buggy summers. A small cupboard housed my late Grandfathers “things”; a tobacco can, tools and even a pair of gloves lay waiting for him to return to work. It was like he had been there yesterday not the decades it has been…

This special woman made us what she called a “simple farm lunch”. The dishes she served on were the ones I ate on as a child. We looked through photo albums and played records on the record player as we visited. I felt like time had stood still.

As GG stood waving goodbye I could hardly keep it together. We did not want to leave this peaceful place as we drove down that winding driveway and returned to the city.

Our visit stays with me and reminds me of what is truly important. I need to finish writing now. I have plants to water and a walk to take.

Something Great

Last time I wrote about the teacher that has most impacted our son’s life, Ms.Merk, his grade three teacher. When he asked me the question “Mom, which teacher has had the greatest impact on you?” I too did not hesitate when I said “Mr. Majors”.

Mr. Majors was my Grade 12 chemistry teacher. I did not like chemistry. It’s not that I didn’t like chemistry – I didn’t like school. It was not a 90% for me. I really struggled at school. I did not like to sit all day, I loved to talk (go figure) and I would challenge my teachers all the time. I would ask my social studies teacher why I needed to memorize the names of lakes, I refused to dissect the frog because I thought it was terrible and gross, and on and on. I skipped a lot (which could help explain why my grades suffered) and couldn’t wait to graduate.

Chemistry was by far my greatest challenge. My constant questions to Mr. Majors were “why do I need to know this?” and “when will I ever use this in my life?”. My first semester I received an esteemed mark of 16%. Yup. 16%.

My year-end chemistry mark would determine if I was to graduate. I had my 1968 Volkswagen packed and I was ready to live my life. I knew I had to get serious about this class. I asked Mr. Majors if he would help me. I promised him I would show up if he would please give me a little extra help. He agreed. We worked hard together.

The last day of school when they were passing out report cards. I learned that Mr. Majors had mine and I was to go and see him after school. I thought the worst.

There he was at his desk. I could see the brown envelope. He looked up and said “Oh good I wanted to talk to you”. I could smell summer school in the air.

He held out my report card and I asked him in a quiet nervous voice “Did I pass?” He let me open the envelope and whew… I had passed.

He walked me out of his classroom and as I was walking the hall to “freedom” he said, “I want to tell you something”. My heart sank.. “what else??”

He said words that I will never forget. He said “Darci I don’t know where you are going in that ’68 beetle or where life will take you but I know a couple of things.

I know for sure that whatever you go on and do in your life, it will have absolutely NOTHING to do with chemistry.

And I know something else, that whatever you go on and do in your life, it will be something great”. And he turned and walked away.

I think about Mr. Majors and his parting words all the time. I think they have had a huge impact on who I’ve become.

Greatest Impact

Hi Everyone. I thought I’d share my newsletter posting here as well.

In our house, it has been one busy spring…you may be able to relate. In addition to our daughter’s health challenges our eight-year-old boy, John, has had a rough time too. John is dealing with a weather anxiety.

During the first big thunder storm last year, it’s like a switch flipped. Since then he has not wanted to go outside if its cloudy, for fear it would turn into a bad weather day. If it was raining, he did not want to go to school. Needless to say, it added a 10% stress to our morning routine.
John sees a counselor which is helping but he was still so fearful of “what if it rains once I get to school?” I called John’s teacher and explained our situation and she said in her calm way, “No problem, I’ll just let John stay in at recess if he is feeling stressed.” In one call, she took away a huge challenge for us. Whenever John would feel stressed in the morning, I would say, “No worries John, remember what Ms. Merk said. You can stay in if you need to.” He would take a deep breath and off to school he would go.

I love one-on-one time with our children. At a time in our house where we are dealing with a few “10%” situations, I find the focused one-on-one time to be a real “fill-up” for us. I like to unplug technology whenever I can and just sit and “be”.

I had a gift of time this week with John. There is nothing better than spending time alone with the nicest boy I know. He and I woke up before anyone else and he wanted to play a game called “The Family Dinner Box of Questions”. It is a deck of cards that asks unique questions to get dialogue going around the dinner table. We love playing it and hearing about “What wild animal would you keep for a pet?”, “Using one word, how would you describe your family?”, etc.

The question on my card to John was, “What teacher has had the greatest impact on your life?” Without a second of hesitation he said, “Ms.Merk”. He went on to explain in great detail how supported he has felt and what a friend she has been to him when he really needed one. He told me “I will never forget her Mom and all she has done for me”.

Her choice to be patient and loving added a 90% to a spring with 10%’s. I am so grateful for her.

Attitude in Action:
Take a few minutes and think about the people who make/made a difference in your life. Whose life do you make a difference in?