😁5 Strategies to Praise

I’m reading Shawn Achor’s book, Big Potential, How transforming the pursuit of success raises our achievement, happiness and well-being. I was really struck by his strategies to use praise and I think it’s valuable information for anyone with direct reports, children, co-workers, coaches or partners.  Achor views praise as a prism rather than being a praise miser (one who keeps praise to themselves). He said, ““By denying the light of praise, we extinguish it. By bending the light toward others, we magnify it.” It is such a beautiful sentiment.  I think it’s similar to the analogy that lighting someone else’s flame won’t diminish our own flame.  Praise can be used in useful ways to transform a family, team or organization.  

Here are Achor’s strategies to praise:

Stop comparison praise.  Ugh!  Guilty as charged!  I have done this countless times with my children over their lifetime. And yet I know that as Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So, what makes me think that saying my daughter is the best writer or my son is the fastest on the team is really authentic praising. I never realized it but if you tell me I’m the best coach then, I have to wonder, who else has coached you or am I just the “best” coach today.  Anchor exposes not using superlatives like “best, fastest, prettiest, thinnest, strongest, and smartest.”  Much like stopping to say “why” in the last few years as it can be accusatory, using superlatives is a difficult habit to break. Achor says “Don’t prop people up by kicking others down.” This is a new realization for me and a new awareness I am trying to embrace.

Spotlight the right. This is catching things that are going right.  Just as focusing on everything that is wrong brings the whole team down, focusing on what is right can bring the whole team up.  We are walking around with a negativity bias so it’s much easier to focus on what is going wrong.  I’m trying to be the person who is finding what’s going right.  This ties into the Losada Ratio: The ratio represents the number of positive interactions with an individual, divided by the number of negative interactions, measured over a period of time. As an example, if you made five positive comments for every negative comment you made when talking with a team member, your ratio would be 5:1. For employees to feel engaged and happy they need at least a 3:1 ratio, for a marriage it’s 5:1.  As Achor espouses, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Praise the base. This is about acknowledging and sharing the love.  So, if your team put in the work to get the project over the finish line and people are acknowledging your presentation, be sure to point out all the work the team did to get you there. As Achor wrote, “When we help others become better, we can actually increase the available opportunities, instead of vying for them.” Teams don’t win championships without supporting the whole team to get there. And while I write this, I think about my brain trust of friends who read this blog for me for feedback and edits,  Thank you Susan, Janine, Susannah and Natalie, you are the reason this blog is still here after 12 years! Acknowledge those that got you here.

Democratize praise. Spread it around.  It’s like paying forward to some degree.  When the woman behind the desk at the swim center tells me to have a nice day, or I hold the door for someone at the coffee shop and they pick up the coin that fell from the man’s wallet and on and on and on. Kindness and praise is infectious; so spread it around.

Unlock the hidden 31. As Achor wrote, “31% of people are secretly positive but do not express it at work.  Instead of targeting the negative people, get the hidden 31 to start expressing their positive outlook and transform your culture.” There are terrific systems like Globoforce where folks can give positive feedback or Kudos to co-workers, direct reports and CEOs’. These types of systems can help unlock the hidden 31.  Figure out a way to get these folks spreading their praise and positivity.

The families, organizations and teams that figure this out can go far as is illustrated in the book’s title Big Potential.  Praise is a critical piece to transforming the culture into one of mutual appreciation and growth.  How do you praise?

🇩🇰 7 Surprises I found in Denmark

I recently returned from a 6 week trip to the UK, Ireland and Denmark.  Denmark was the last stop on my trip and I found it to be quite surprising.  I stayed at a flat in Copenhagen and really lucked out with the location.  It was only a block from Torvehallerne (a huge market open 7 days a week), the metro and train station. This made it a terrific jumping off point for traveling around Copenhagen, the countryside and made finding provisions quite easy. 

The author and her friend Alison on the canal in Copenhagen.

Here are the 7 surprises I found in Denmark:

  • Bikes, bikes and more bikes. I have never seen so many bikes ever.  When I got of the metro from the airport, I could not believe the massive amount of bikes parked at the metro station.  There had to be upwards of 1,000 bikes within a one block radius. As I walked to the flat, I saw bikes leaned up against every building and, to at least my untrained eye, they looked to not secured in anyway. Most of the bikes were basic black with a large basket up front. Copenhagen has the most cyclists per capita, and the city with the most cyclists with 62% of the population using bikes for the daily commute.  There are 6 bikes for every car in Denmark. 
  • Hej.  I studied Scottish and Irish before arriving in each country.  The thing is, while the signs might be written in Irish in Dublin, I never heard anyone speaking Irish.  On the other hand, in Denmark, people greet you will “Hi” which is how “Hej” sounds to me (Hej means Hello in Danish).  So I mistakenly thought that it was obvious I didn’t speak Danish but frequently, it was followed by something in Danish that I didn’t understand (although I did try to learn some Danish before arriving). The signs, the products, the menus are all in Danish although there is frequently a translation.  Everyone flawlessly (I mean without skipping a beat and in perfect English) would transition from Danish to English and then back with another person.  
  • Baby strollers.  They have taken baby stroller to new heights here.  Babies are cocooned in a padded cover, head covered and swaddled lying flat on a carriage with four sturdy wheels. In the US strollers are valued for being convertible and able to move from stroller to car easily.  When you don’t have a car (see number 1) you might as well have a Rolls-Royce for a stroller. Mom’s get 12 months of maternity leave (yes, 12 months) so why not make sure you can stroll with your baby in comfort.
  • Green energy.  As we took a canal tour of Copenhagen, we saw the very modern building called, Amager Bakke which is a combined heat and power waste-to-energy plant.  It’s shaped like a hill (ironic since Denmark is so flat) and while it’s converting waste to energy, you can dry ski down the slope, go hiking or climb a climbing wall.  Denmark has committed to being net zero on carbon emissions by 2025.  I have to say that for as close as we got to the plant, I didn’t smell anything and, probably due to so many bikes, I don’t remember smelling exhaust the whole time I was there.
  • Metro and trains.  Getting a train or metro ticket in Copenhagen was easy and simple.  There were kiosks at every stop and it was easy to buy a single or multi use ticket in English as well as Danish.  The trains themselves are immaculate and most that I traveled on, showed each stop of a lit board and let you know where you were on your journey. Every train had at least a half a car devoted to bikes and and baby strollers (see 1 and 3).  There was one point where I saw a man leave a stroller on the train and go sit down with his back to the stroller (through a doorway and about 10 feet from the stroller).  I could not believe that the man sat with his back to his baby and anyone could have taken the stroller off at any given stop.  I will say  I saw a least one mother stand next to their stroller while en route. 
  • Driving.  My dear friend Alison who is an American expat and has lived in Denmark for over 20 years. She picked me up at the train station with her car.  The first thing is that every road has pedestrian side walk on each side of it, has a bike path (one in each direction with bike traffic lights) and a two lane car lane.  This is found in the city of Copenhagen and out in the hinter land. Walking, biking and driving, are all equally welcome. The crazy part was that cars would park in the car lane in the middle of the street so as not to block the bike lane.  It almost feels like the bike is number one, followed by pedestrians and then, last on the list, is the car.  There is not right turn on red because of the bikers.  
  • Food.  I had wonderful food while in Denmark.  The highlight was probably the humble Danish which, as it turns out, they call “winderbrød” or Viennese bread.  So some Austrias who settled in Denmark, made the beloved pastry.  As opposed to what is called “danish” in the US, the flakey croissant like crust is amazing and the creamy rich center is divine. I also had a smorgasbord which is just an open face sandwich and they had many hearty breads on which they make the smorrebrød on.  There is also something called Flødeboller which is a chocolate covered marshmallow puff although the marshmallow part is light and delicate. The food was amazing.

I should mention the architecture and the all the color buildings along the canals, but you most likely already think of that with Copenhagen, I think that in the combination of electric transportation, their focus on green energy and the use of bikes, it’s amazing how quiet an pollution free it feels in Denmark.  That must be why it’s the one of the happiest places on Earth. 

💡 6 Secrets to Letting Go

I can get pretty stubborn when I think I’m right. I can get attached to an idea and be impervious to any other viewpoint that is contrary to what I believe. When I was on a low carb diet for years I would scoff at bakeries and ice cream shops. When I was a drinker, I would think that those who were sober were strange and uptight. When I was single without children, I could not understand how a parent could lose their cool with their child or not be able to control them at any moment.  Now I have been on both sides of the fence, I realize that I was clinging to a belief. That clinging was fixed and judgmental. I’ve learned overtime to ease up, to let go and that  I am always a work in progress. 

As Leo Babauta wrote these are the ways that we hold onto our beliefs:

  • I am right, the other person is wrong
  • That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change
  • My preference is the best way, others are wrong
  • This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else
  • I really don’t like that, it sucks
  • I should have that person in my life, loving me
  • I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life

In all these beliefs, we want reality to change.  We get fixed on our perspective and are attached. As Babauta wrote, “It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.” 

Here are 6 secrets to letting go:

Get silent.  I find it easy to run from contradicting  information or ignore signs that I am wedded to an idea.  Getting silent creates the space to reflect.  As Katarzyna Portia wrote, “You need to quiet your mind to go honestly within. To take a look at your feelings which will come up. Silence your phone. Close the door. Make room for your emotions.” When I race through life juggling multiple balls and projects, I can ignore the signs that I have become attached. I need to get silent so that I can investigate what I am attached to.

Feel the feels. I like to think of the Robert Frost quote “The best way out is always through.” To me this is to experience the anger, hurt, jealousy, boredom or regret.  To sense where it lies in your body.  Most likely in my shoulders or the pit of my stomach. I try not to run from it but to “be” with the feeling.  I was taught from a young age to not be so emotional.  I spend a good deal of my life to trying not to feel the feels and it’s caused me to either try to escape it or numb out.  Now I try to pay attention to the feelings as they rise up. 

Label and let go. Once I have acknowledged the feeling and experience clenched shoulders, or stomach cramps, I label it and let it go.  So, my shoulders are clenched and my stomach is tight, this is anger and stress.  Once I’ve labeled it, I find it easier to let go.  It’s as if the feeling wanted to be noticed and attract attention; now I can ease off into the ether. 

Open awareness. As Babauta exposed, “Open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.” It’s like moving from the mirror to looking out the window.  This is more than just about me.  

There is beauty. I try and find the present moment.  I can’t be angry about the derisive comment from a co-worker or family member when I am aware of the goldfinch on my bird feeder, or the feel of the cool wood of my desk or the warmth and scent of my tea. How incredibly marvelous to be here right now with a laptop, lamp, heat and my snuggly dog asleep on the floor. It’s it all just so beautiful.

Not knowing.  Step into the abyss of unknowing. As Babauta posited, “From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.” Embrace the unknown and uncertainty with curiosity and openness. 

I think it’s the parable of the monkey trap.  The monkey has a prize in a bottle and he won’t let go of the prize so that he can remove his hand and figure out another way to get the prize.  Letting go isn’t the only solution but sometimes the most obvious solution, to let go, can be the one thing that we can’t comprehend. How do you let go?

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿20 Peculiarities of England

I’ve been traveling around southern England for the last two weeks and I have found many things to be a bit peculiar. I’m born and bred in the United States and have lived on both coasts so I know variances in behavior. So, even though we speak the same language as the Fatherland, I find several things to be interesting and quite captivating. After my first day or two in Southsea, Hampshire, I started keeping notes of what I found to be unusual.

The author on the Westminster Bridge in front of Westminster Hall and Elizabeth Tower in London

Here are my 20 peculiarities of England:

  1. Mind the gap.  If you ride a train in England this will be said at every station, it will be on every doorway and between trains.  It’s also on subways.  It’s polite and proactive without being overly cautious about the gap between the train cars and the doorway and the platform.
  2. Love.  People from practically every walk of life called me Love.  Whether it was a guy moving a hose out of the way on the street, the host at a restaurant or a bus driver.  I find it so refreshing for everyone to be called Love instead of Ma’am or Hey you.  What’s not to be loved about being called Love?
  3. What’s on.  Almost every town (including those outside of England like Dublin and Glasgow) had bulletins around saying “What’s on”. It is announcements about upcoming events or a pub might have a listing of upcoming acts.  I find it inviting and positive.
  4. Opening hours.  These are the hours when an establishment is open. Quirky in that it sounds active, which I guess it is although in the US it would be announcing a grand opening instead of an ongoing business.
  5. See it, say it, sorted.  This is an interesting safety announcement that is repeatedly announced in train stations and on trains.  If you see something, say something and we’ll sort it. Short, snappy and memorable.
  6. Way out.  This is the exit.  It’s disconcerting for me as I was looking for lighted red exit signs which is the norm in the U.S. Way out signs are typically green, which I find to be much more inviting.
  7. Mail slots.  Every apartment I’ve stayed in has a mail slot in the front door of the apartment. I ran into this in my first stay in Glasgow and the first afternoon I was there and heard something drop on the ground I about jumped out of my skin.  Then I saw the mail on the floor of the front entryway.
  8. Fairy dish soap.  This is the Joy or Dawn of the United Kingdom.  Every kitchen has a bottle of green Fairy soap on the counter.  I just love the name.  It sounds magical.
  9. Sorry.  People don’t say excuse me or pardon me.  They all just say sorry when squeezing by on a too narrow sidewalk or pressing the button to open the door on a train. I think of all the posts I’ve written about over-apologizing and it would be a hard sell here.  I was on a train the other day that was three minutes late to the final destination and the conductor kept apologizing for the delay.  Three minutes! 
  10. 10. Two ticks. Several service people said that they would be with me in two ticks.  I assume it means two ticks of a clock. Charming, don’t you think?
  11. 11.Alight.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never used alight or fortnight (which means two weeks) in a sentence ever.  This is constantly announced at the arrival at a train station to be careful as you alight the train. I love these words that I would never use;like… ever. 
  12. 12.Washers. I selected only apartments that had washers available.  Every washer was in the kitchen, which is unusual in the US. And it was only a washer.  So, every week I washed my clothes and hung them up to dry.  Which, to my surprise, typically only took overnight for most things to dry.
  13. 13.Dogs. I think about 30% of the dogs that I saw were off their leash.  This is very unusual at least in North Carolina where I live. A dog off a leash is a lost dog in my mind.  Not so here.  There many times I was in a cafe on the pier over the ocean and dogs came in with their owner arriving several minutes behind because that particular cafe was a regular stop for doggie treats.
  14. 14. Full English.  This is a massive breakfast with sausage, bacon, black pudding, hash browns, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, toast and butter.  In Ireland it’s called a fry.  You will not go hungry and the eggs will be sunny side up.
  15. 15. Calling at.  The announcement on the trains for the next station or the order of coming stations is always “Calling at Guilford, Barnham, and London Waterloo.” I think of calling as something you do on a phone or trying to get someone’s attention across a crowded room, not a train announcement.
  16. 16. Safety vests.  Construction workers, train station attendants, pre-school children on outings to a playground are all in brightly color safety vests.  I saw one group of kids that had to be about 4 years old, all buddied up holding hands and everyone, including the teachers, had a vest on.
  17. 17.Carriage.  This is what a train car is called.  Going between carriages or how many carriages are going to be on the arriving train is a mental adjustment.  Makes me think of being in a horse drawn carriage.
  18. 18. Small forks and spoons.  I was served what to me looked like a fork to pick crab out of a crab leg to use in eating cake at afternoon tea. It was miniature and dainty.  The spoons for tea as well are super small, really more of a stir stick than something to eat with.
  19. 19. Sunday Roast. This is served from noon to four or five on a Sunday afternoon at most restaurants and pubs.  I was able to have one in Southsea where I had a perfect Yorkshire Pudding alongside a nut loaf.  There were tons of vegetables and roasted potatoes.  It’s not to be missed.
  20. 20.HP.  The sauce is on every table and packets of HP sauce are given with takeout sandwiches as well.  It’s named after London’s Houses of Parliament. I think I was surprised that this is much more ubiquitous than Worcestershire sauce or ketchup. Which are also British. 

So, there you have it.  Although I know it’s not complete, I wanted to share these unusual things I found in my travels. What peculiarities do you have from England?

🦶My Pilgrimage to Walberton

As I write this, I’ve been in the United Kingdom and Ireland since late March, 2023.  I’m sitting here on a couch next to a window with a view of the English Channel in Southsea, Great Britain.  You may ask why I’m in a relatively small town on the English seaside when there are hundreds of other more compelling places to visit in Great Britain. 

What has brought me here is the work my late father did some 30 years ago on my family surname of Noice. He painstakingly documented his findings using various pre-Google and pre-ancestry.com resources. This involved obtaining info from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as Census and library records to find out where the Noices came from. In his introduction to his book about the 11 generations of Noices he says that he was spurred to write the book to answer his daughter, Cathy’s question, “Where do we come from?”  I’m mortified to report that I finally read the book from cover to cover about four months ago. I’ve dragged that book through at least five moves (even one cross country), and I finally prioritized reading it.

The road to Walberton

In reading the book, I was compelled to make a pilgrimage to Walberton, GB, where at least 4 generations of Noices made their home.  In fact, getting to Walberton was the entire underlying reason for coming to the United Kingdom although the trip grew as I learned more about other off shoots of my family including Dunfermline, SC, Armagh NI, Tipperary, IR and Wallingford, GB. The one thing I have learned in my genealogical research is that the best records are found in Anglican Churches in England.  Unfortunately for research, branches of my family were practicing non-Anglicans, who at some point fell out of favor such as Presbyterians in Scotland and, later, Northern Ireland and poor, famine-stricken Catholics, in the country side of Tipperary, Ireland. I found a lot of dead ends. But, at least I was there to find them! 

The first Edward Noice Sr. and my 7th Great Grandfather moved from Abbotts Ann, Hampshire, England, and married Elizabeth Risbridger in 1705. She had three children, including my 6th Great Grandfather Edward Noice Jr. but died shortly later in Walberton, Sussex, England.  My father was unable to trace back further than Edward Sr. but I have since found roots back to Hampshire England to 1596 and three generations of Richard Noyes.  This lines up with the majority of the Noice (Noyes, Noyce) surname to be located in Hampshire England in the 1850’s.  

The sheep along the road to Walberton

Edward Noice Jr. was born in Walberton, married his wife, Mary Stubbs, there on May 4th, 1736 at St. Mary’s Church and their son, Edward Noice III, was baptized in the same church in 1737.  Walberton was then home to Edward IV who was born there and baptized at St. Mary’s in 1771. Edward Noice V was born in Walberton in 1813 and he was the Noice who traveled to the United States with his wife Elizabeth. She gave birth to Edward Harrington Noice in 1839 in Princeton, NJ. Four generations of Noices and they all lived in the tiny village of Walberton, Sussex, England (population 2,174). I researched and found that St. Mary’s Church (founded in the 11th century) is still there.  I had to go.

The reality of traveling to Walberton was a bit more difficult than I realized.  I booked a flat in Southsea that had transit connections, places to visit, the ocean close by, convenient shopping and restaurants. Southsea had taxis, trains and buses.  Walberton did not except for a daily bus from Arundel (the opposite direction).  I found a train that took me to Barnham but I had no idea if I could walk (did it have safe walkways) from Barnham to St. Mary’s in Walberton although it was only 2 miles. I was dead set against renting a car as, even after three weeks of watching, walking and riding

A European Robin on one of the many graves at St. Mary’s Church in Walberton

 left side of the road driving in the United Kingdom, I just didn’t have the guts to get behind the wheel of what would likely be a stick shift car and drive on the left-hand side.  I really started to panic on Sunday when I couldn’t find Ubers in Barnham to take me to St. Mary’s.  I delayed my trip to Monday, hoping a regular workday would produce more Uber drivers. It did not.  I decided that Monday was the last day since I had ample time to walk.  I also was able to map the trip on Google maps and it showed me that there was a sidewalk/walkway for what looked like the entire trip.  Off I went on Monday at around 11 AM to catch the train to Barnham.

Arriving at the Barnham train station at about 11:30 and I was glad to see a taxi there but I just felt like that would be too short a ride and that I wouldn’t truly experience the walk to Walberton. I wanted my “boots on the ground”.  I decided to walk.  I have to say that I was glad to see several folks on bikes, moms with strollers and some joggers on my walk to Walberton.  The walk itself was bucolic. I walked on a separate bike path through several fields full of sheep and wild flowers.  Passersby were friendly and there wasn’t a single moment when I thought I was in danger of being run over by a car. The town of Walberton is lovely with several thatched roof homes , many of them having names like Dairy Lane Cottage and Chamomile Cottage. The main drag of Walberton is called The Street and the church is on Church Lane.  I enjoyed the walk so much as it really felt like a pilgrimage to my ancestral home and a way to honor them 

Myself in front of the St. Mary’s Church where 4 generations of Noices lived, baptized and married in the 18th and 19th century

St. Mary’s Church is surrounded by graves and headstones.  My first inclination was to walk to find some gravestone with Noice on it.  I realized this was probably foolhardy as most of the stones were unreadable.  I probably searched about 70 percent of the stones that were in the older section of the cemetery but most of the grave markings that I could read were from the late 1800’s, so I’m not sure how long they have been burying folks there. I was able to enter the front section of the church but the main church’s doors were locked.  It didn’t matter.  I could feel my ancestors there.  Here in this tiny village in southern England where 4 generations of Noices loved, lived and raised families.  I made it there and left a piece of my father’s ashes there.  He, too, has been brought home. My lesson in all of this is to seize the day, walk it if you can and lean into the unknown. I will always have that memory of a beautiful walk to Walberton and taking my father with me. 

☘️5 Places to Find Awe in Ireland

I spent two weeks in Belfast and Dublin in April 2023 wandering the Emerald Isle.  I ventured out into the countryside and roamed the streets of Dublin and Belfast and there were many awe-inspiring moments.  I’m never sure where I will stumble onto awe but when I do, I’m so glad I ventured there.  I never know when wandering will pay off but when it does, the experience touches my soul and fills me up.

Climbing around the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

5 places to find awe in Ireland:

Giant’s Causeway.  This is on the very northern end of Ireland.  I took a bus tour here and the three coves that make up this other worldly place are magnificent. Here along the cold Inner Seas of Scotland are countless hexagonal basalt columns created from 60 million years of volcanic rock. Traversing the hexagon stones with the many tourists was a game of hop scotch meets chess, strategically selecting the next stone to avoid running into someone else, not slipping on the rock and somehow getting to your intended location.  The myth is that Fionn (the Giant) tore up pieces from the Antrim coast and built a land bridge to Scotland to face the dreaded Benandonner. When Fionn realized how big Benandonner was, he returned to Ireland and placed himself in a cradle. When Benandonner saw how big the “baby” was, he decided that Fionn must be huge and retreated across the sea and tore down the bridge in his wake.  Hence, “The Giant’s Causeway.” It’s awesome to see these enormous hexagonal columns and wonder at the power, time and nature. 

The Dominican Black Abbey. The abbey is in Kilkenny and was established in 1225 and is still in operation today.  It has survived the Black Death in 1349, Protestant King James I confiscating the property in 1603 and Oliver Cromwell in 1650.  We arrived on Easter Sunday so I have to say, this made the experience quite spiritual.  As I entered the abbey, there were several parishioners and a priest reciting Hail Marys as I walked through the abbey.  The floor to ceiling stained glass at the back of the abbey is simply breathtaking.  I found awe in the stillness, beauty and chant of the prayers.

Cushendun Caves. These caves are located along the County Antrim coast. There is a free trail from the small coast side town of Cushendun.  The caves are 50 yards high in some places and there were several to explore.  These were formed by 400 million years of natural erosion and I was lucky to arrive there at low tide so that I could walk between some of the formations. These caves have become famous due to some scenes shot here for Game of Thrones.  I found it awesome due to the reddish hue of the rocks, the size of the caves and the sea coast in constant churn.

Glendalough Monastic Ruins. This is the early medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. There were 7 churches and an entire community built around the site even though English forces destroyed it in 1398.  The Glendalough Round Tower stands 30 meters high and was built in the 11th century.  St. Kevin’s Church was built in the 12th century and still has its original stone roof and is one of two fully intact mediaeval churches in Ireland. Kevin’s’ cross is a plain cross that was carved out of a single granite stone in the 8th century.  This place is steeped in history and pilgrims still journey here.  There is something awe inspiring about touching stones that were form over a thousand years ago and walking below a sacred stone arch. 

The Book of Kells and The Long Room (the old library).  At Trinity College in Dublin, there is a treasure which is the Book of Kells and the Long Room.  The Book of Kells in Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript.  It is written in Latin and contains four gospels of the New Testament and was drafted by Celtic monks in Iona (Scotland) in the 800’s. I found it interesting that if they made an error in the book, they drew little pictures to cover the mistake. The book itself is in a case.  Beyond that is the Long Room which is the most beautiful library I have ever seen and the smell of 200,0000 Trinity College’s oldest books is intoxicating. I really loved the busts at the end of each aisle of famous writers from throughout the world including Plato and Socrates. The old timber ceiling stands some three stories high. It’s awesome to me from the depth of history and countless hours of human thought and toil it represents. 

There’s one last item that I found memorable as well, and that was the spot (next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral), where St. Patrick baptized many of the local inhabitants in the 5th century. There was a small rock marking the place where Christianity was brought to Ireland in an understated way. Awe can be found in nature or in buildings or in the countless tiny lambs hopping across the countryside.  I found the experience enriching, awe inspiring and I’ll not soon forget it. 

😎An American in Belfast

As I write this, I am preparing to depart Belfast after a week of wanderings and discoveries.  Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which basically brought to an end “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.  

Northern Ireland  is situated on the island of Ireland and shares it with the Republic of Ireland (a member of the EU) to the south. Northern Ireland belongs to the United Kingdom with strong ties to Scotland. It is only separated by 13 miles of the Irish Sea. There were hundreds of years of traversing those waters for trade as well as religious reasons.  It also uses the British pound and is no longer in the EU due to Brexit. 

The author in front of the Palm House in Belfast, NI

I have discovered in my genealogical research (started by my father) that my father’s maternal family came from Northern Ireland and Scotland which is termed Ulster Scots or Scotch-Irish as it is typically referred to in the states.  The reason for the migration from Scotland to Northern Ireland and then onto Montreal in 1822 was for the right to practice their Presbyterian religion. Watts Cooke Sr. and Lavinia Donaldson Cooke (my 3rd great grandparents) traveled by sea in 1822.  The only reason I know it was that year, since I haven’t found any shipping records, is that Lavinia gave birth to their first child, Amelia Cooke, at sea. What a brave and courageous woman! 

Here are my musings on Belfast:

New city.  Belfast was established as a city in 1888 by Queen Victoria.  This is well after the American Revolution and the Civil War.  It was in the early 19th century referred to as Linenopolis because it was the biggest linen producer in the world.  There is an entire Linen Quarter in downtown Belfast and several of the larger older buildings are known for being a leader in the industry.  Most of the older part of the city is on landfill. Subsequently, the Albert Memorial Tower is actually leaning and has been shored up several times (it’s not as bad as the Leaning Tower of Pisa). The largest shipyard in the world was in Belfast and it was the home to RMS Titanic (yes, that Titanic) and the SS Canberra. After the Good Friday Agreement, tourism is becoming one its leading industries as well as financial tech and technology.  There are castles and fortresses outside of Belfast but the city itself is young and trendy

Eating out.  You can get breakfast until 5 PM in most restaurants that are open.  It’s like having brunch every day of the week.  The big dish here is called a Full Fry which is an egg, bacon, sausage, potato bread, soda bread, pancake, hash brown, mushrooms and tomato (yes…. ALL of that). I have found that if any food item has mayonnaise on it, it’s an obscene amount of mayonnaise; like spill all over your hands, need three napkins, amount of mayonnaise. And usually, you are given one thin napkin to keep yourself tidy.  In most cafes, there’s table service so a server will bring your food after taking your order; but you go up to the counter at the end to pay (so you have to remember your table number, or you might be buying someone else’s food!).  The waiters and hosts in Belfast have been greeting me with “Hey oh.” This is in juxtaposition to the Scottish servers who said “Hou’s it guan”.  Since I really like breakfast, this all day breakfast has been a pleasant surprise. 

Apartments.  I’ve been staying in Airbnbs for my stays as it’s easier to work and I can eat at home when I want to.  The heating in the flats is through radiators, which I haven’t seen since I left New York City in 1985.  It takes hours for the place to warm up but it’s not noisy which is nice. There are no electrical outlets in the bathroom and all light switches are on the outside of the bathroom.  I’m glad I don’t blow dry my hair but it’s still an adjustment. The shower is about the size of a small hula hoop which makes dropping a bar of soap problematic and I’ve had to open the shower door to lean over to pick it up. Every electrical outlet in the kitchen has an on/off switch attached to it; this, makes for a lot of switches for each countertop appliance. I scored at this Airbnb in Belfast because it actually had a coffee maker in this tea centric country.  It’s been a comfortable and interesting stay.

Walking around.  I went on an interesting walking tour of Belfast. That’s really when I realized how relatively young this city is. There are several alley ways in the middle of city blocks that have names like “Joy Way” and “Wilson Way”.  If my guide had not taken me down a few of them, I’m not sure I would have realized their existence. I’m pretty much dazed and confused when I’m walking around by myself and am always looking for crosswalks with “the little green figures” that tell me it’s safe to cross. Crosswalks are pretty confusing because the streets are not a grid, they come together at various angles and a lot of times they are one way. I realized coming home yesterday that I had thought the street outside my flat was one way but there were about 30% of the cars parked in the opposite direction on the same side of the road. This only affirms that I will not be renting a car.

There are tons of places to discover in Northern Ireland and I highly recommend coming to Belfast for a visit. It’s worth if for the museums, markets and gardens but there’s a whole world beyond that as well. I was able to go to the Giant’s Causeway on the very northern end of Ireland and it is a must see.  The fable is that Finn the Giant made a causeway to Scotland.  The stones and pillars are in perfectly formed hexagons and are amazing in that they are not man made.  Come to Belfast to see it all for yourself. 

🥾5 Ways to Stick to Your Path

You’re jealous because your coworker just got a new red sports car and your car is a beat up 90’s Honda. You’re upset because you weren’t selected for the super duper high profile project but your arch nemesis from work did. Your ex is posting cozy pictures of her new boyfriend all over social media and you’re home alone on a Grey’s Anatomy binge. You feel inadequate. You feel sorry for yourself. You are on the comparison Highway to Inadequacy. You need to get off that highway and focus on your own path.

I’m a speaker. An executive coach. A mother. A dog owner. An author. I don’t get paid what Tony Robbins gets paid to speak. I don’t have the same client list as Marshall Goldsmith. My kids (are awesome) but they aren’t on the cover of Time magazine or on a Wheaties box (yet). My dog hasn’t won any Westminster Dog Shows. I haven’t written a single book and, therefore, never sold one. The point is, how high is that bar for you? If I compared myself to everyone around me on all aspects of my life, I would be sorely disappointed. Stick to your path and quit looking at everyone else’s.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Acceptance.  Be Ok with the path that is in front of you. I was stuck in a should cycle for nine months on decisions regarding the rebuilding of my house post-Hurricane Matthew. I should have purchased all new cabinets. I should have bought new kitchen furniture. I should have gone with a different electrician. This is wearing you down. All that “should-ing“. Accept what decisions you have made and move forward. All that should-ing is making you dwell on the past and draining you.
  • Different.  I love this quote from Internal Acceptance Movement: “Everyone has their own unique journey. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. Your path isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad. It’s just different.” What I try to do, say when I see that new red sports car in the company parking lot, is tell myself: “Wow. Suzy really likes cars. Good for her.” Everyone values different things, be it material possessions or experiences. I love to travel and maybe my son doesn’t. We are on different paths and that’s OK.
  • Pace.  This is my biggest problem. I am always in forward motion. I want to accomplish the next thing. I want it done yesterday. This makes me incredibly impatient with other folks who operate on a different pace (i.e.: slower). It doesn’t bring out my best side. As I tap my fingers, waiting for a response to ten rapid fire texts to my assistant. Take a breath and connect with your inner Buddha. Acknowledge your pace and quit trying to have people get on board with your pace. That’s how people start to stumble. Stay in lane and keep your own pace and don’t worry about anyone else’s.
  • Suspend.  I know you’ve done this. You see that your coworker has put on weight or is wearing something that, from your vantage point, is unattractive. You pass judgment in your head. “Wow. Janet needs to drop a few pounds” or “What made her think that looked good on her?” It’s difficult to suspend judgment but you can label it. Say instead, “So Cathy, this is what judgment looks like.” Step away from the comparing paths and label it.
  • Present.  Be in this moment right now. And now. And now. Don’t try and recreate history. No, your ex is not coming back and that’s OK right now. Trust that the path you are on is just fine and it’s taking you in the right direction. Don’t “catastrophicize” the future. Sometimes paths cross and it’s lovely, and there are wonderful memories made, and then they uncross. There will be new paths to cross in the future. As you walk your path, be present.

You may not end up where you intended to go but you will be off of the Highway of Inadequacy. Trust you are exactly where you need to be. Trust that you are enough. You are enough.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿6 Observations about Scotland

I’ve been in Scotland for the first time this past week.  It’s late March , mostly overcast, highs in the upper 40’s and low 50’s.  So, the weather has not been great but it hasn’t been a major deterrent either. When I set up this trip I planned to look for my roots in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Until about a week before I left, I didn’t realize that I had ancestors who came from Scotland.  I was gratified to find my 10th great grandmother, Isobel Glossop Gillies, was born in Bendochy, Scotland in 1554.  This traces back through my paternal grandmother.  So, on a very tenuous, long thin string, I trace parts of me back to this beguiling place.

My 6 observations about Scotland:

Left side.  This is my first experience with cars on the left side of the road.  It’s been quite disconcerting.  I feel like I’m in a fun house of mirrors most of the time and end up triple checking both ways endlessly before crossing a road, and for the most part, have learned to follow a local like a lost puppy.  It doesn’t help that so many cars are hybrid or electric so, I just can’t depend on hearing as a warning.  There were several times where I saw children pop into the front right-hand side of a car and thought, “What the hell? Is that 10-year-old driving?” If I realize anything, there’s no way I’m renting a car while I’m here.

Museums are free (for the most part).  I’ve been able to see several museums in Glasgow (where I’m staying) and I’ve been really pleasantly surprised that they have all been free including the Botanical Gardens, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the ancient Glasgow Cathedral.  They all accept contributions and each one had a way to do so by credit card so it wasn’t critical to have cash.  The only exception was the Edinburgh Castle, which as a main tourist attraction and certainly the most popular place I went, makes sense if only to control the crowds. 

Hou’s it guan? I was seated at a restaurant on the west end of Glasgow and the server came to my table and said “Hou’s it guan?”. I immediately said just fine.  Then I realized she wanted me to give my order and she really didn’t care much about my state of being. I had to laugh at myself because I had watched a YouTube video about Scottish expressions and I recall that the woman said that this is just saying hello and you don’t respond with how you are actually doing. It’s funny when it actually happens to you and “Hou’s it guan” is really just a greeting and not a question.

Hairy Coos. I was so happy I planned a trip to the highlands and was able to see the Highland Cows.  They are everywhere in the gift shops, stuffy cows with big horns and a big shaggy coat.  We were able to see these gentle giants, as well has thousands of sheep, on the tour, but the Hairy Coos in real life grazing in a stone fenced field was terrific.  

On the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond with snow capped Ben Lomond behind

Dogs.  I was pretty surprised that dogs are allowed on the subway, busses and a lot of restaurants.  They are truly companions here.  The breeds are quite different than what I am used to seeing in the US.  Tons of Scottish Deerhounds, Shelties, Gordon Setters and Scottish Terriers.  I haven’t seen any pit bulls or Rottweilers in the week I have been here.

Weather.  My weather app might say it will just be cloudy all day but inevitably it will be raining when I walk out the door.  My first day exploring it was overcast, then sprinkles, then sunny and then rain followed by a rainbow.  If you don’t like the weather, just wait and it will change. I would take an umbrella but rarely bothered to get it out because then I would have to drag a wet umbrella around.  I’ve slowly adapted to take whatever comes.

I have to say that the ancient architecture is amazing, the history incredibly rich and deep and the highlands and its stark austere mountains by pristine lakes, is not to be missed.  I can’t wait to come back again. 

🫣5 Ways to Combat Guilt

I just took my 14-year-old dog, Baci, to the vet for her annual checkup.  I inevitably feel guilty by the end of the visit because I failed to brush her teeth or try out the pain reliever that the vet recommended last year. I also was told to listen to Baci when she does not want to walk more than a block.  Ugh.  I feel the full rathe of guilt as I walk my sweet Baci back to the car. 

I had a client who was unable to sign into the coaching platform I use. He was frustrated and opted out of coaching because of the poor technology of the platform. Ugh. More guilt. When my children come home, I frequently forget to stock their favorite cereal or snack. Ugh.  Guilty of being a bad mom. There are countless sources of guilt in my life and how I address it is important so that I don’t lapse into shame.

Here are the 5 ways I combat guilt:

Make a list.  Prepare a list of all the things I do for my dog, my children, my clients, my family, my friends and neighbors. I collect the evidence of what I do for others.  In Baci’s case, I have constantly said that “When I come back as a dog, I want to live Baci’s life.”  She’s fed every day, gets to go on a walk (when she wants), gets full run of the house inclusive of all the snuggly couches and love seats.  I drive her 90 minutes to a boarding place in my old town when I’m on a trip because they are so sweet to her.  It’s hard for me to feel guilty when I take stock of all that I do for Baci and others.

Ask for more information.  Check in on those that I feel I’m neglecting.  Obviously, my dog is unable to answer but I can tell you that she doesn’t cower when I am near her. She is always excited to see me in the morning and to head out for a walk. Baci does not feel neglected. My adult children are pretty clear about their expectations although there was a moment over the holidays when my daughter had expected dinner and I said “I didn’t think you’d be here.” I suddenly realized that she was hurt (she had to extend her visit for several weeks) and then I said “I didn’t expect you to be here for tonight’s dinner, I thought you would be hanging with your friend.” Sometimes guilt can occur because we aren’t explicit with our own expectations.

Self Gratitude.  I keep a gratitude journal every day where I write 5 things or people I am grateful for as well as one thing I’m grateful I did for myself, like writing this blog, walking, swimming or safe travels. I do this because we are wired towards a negativity bias. If your ancestors weren’t listening for the rustle in the bushes, they would not have survived the saber tooth tiger. This constant scanning of what is wrong in the environment skews what could be fun to look at to what is wrong; like I shouldn’t have eaten that bagel or I should have walked 5 miles.  I try to be grateful every day and look for my accomplishments and successes

Role reversal.  I try to think about if the roles were reversed. Obviously, this is difficult with my dog, Baci, but let’s face it, she is living the good life. As for my children, I think about this a lot as I try not to invade their lives too much but rather to be supportive when needed. My son can think that I know more than I do about what’s going on in his life. If he’s under a lot of stress, he can assume that I realize this, even when he’s not in the same room or city. I come from a place of “If he wants to talk, he will.”  Sometimes I need to be more proactive and reach out.  I think about how I would feel if I was in his shoes and it makes me more compassionate. 

Decide on boundaries.  I know that with Baci, I’m not likely at this point to invest in extraordinary means to extend her life. Outside of regular vaccines and vet visits, she’s been the center of my life for 14 years. Keeping a decent quality of life is what’s important. With my children, I try to be clear about how much help and support I’m willing to give and be clear in communicating those boundaries. If they’ll be arriving home after 2 AM, I appreciate a text. I stay out of their relationship with their father as it’s none of my business and I don’t need the guilt associated with trying to fix anyone but myself.  I’ve made and continue to work on my boundaries. 

I don’t get as overwhelmed by guilt anymore. I certainly get pangs of guilt like not flossing enough when I head to the dentist or staying 100% plant based when I get my cholesterol results but for the most part, I’ve done pretty well combating guilt.  How about you?  How do you combat guilt?