Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Children's Theatre

Gar was part of the terrific cast for Kinkaid Children's Theatre production of Sleeping Beauty.  It was fun to see so many seniors, some of whom we've known since pre-k, create an entertaining and memorable play.  Watching the children in the audience actively engage with the actors was quite special.  Little did we know that the magic would continue after the play closed.  A most generous family hosted all the actors and the parents of senior actors for a lovely 3-course dinner.  The dinner was held in memory of their son, who had loved performing in Kinkaid Children's Theatre productions.  They reminded us that many lives are touched when a committed group works together to create a little magic. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Changing Traditions

We changed a long-standing tradition of spending Thanksgiving in Arkansas after Julia's freshman year in college.  This was our second year to host my parents for Thanksgiving.  We've discovered that by allowing our traditions to evolve, we capture priceless family time together.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Red and Green Friday

Retailers begin decorating for Christmas before Halloween. I think we need distinctions for holidays, and refuse to put out our first Christmas decoration until the day after Thanksgiving.  And though many gifts must be acquired, black Friday is one day that I refuse to shop.  Black Friday was red and green in our home.

It has begun to look a lot like Christmas as we carefully placed nativities, angels, santas, nutcrackers, crystal ornaments, holiday toys and needlework works of art. Christmas dishes and stemware were put into daily meal service.

Red and green Friday is a far better way for me to seize the Christmas spirit than fighting rabid shoppers for once-a-year deals.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Favorite Special T-Shirt

My friend Anna is an adult Special Olympics competitor in many different events. She and her mother are weekly volunteers at the Special Olympics office. Anna created the winning design for a t-shirt that was produced for summer campers.  I was so moved that Anna chose me as the recipient of one of her t-shirts.  Each time I see or wear this special shirt I am vividly reminded that we all have unique talents and that many treasured gifts are those that we make and share with others.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I Love Thanksgiving Leftovers

I love everything about Thanksgiving including the leftovers. I treasure the time with family, friends of all ages popping in for a visit, spades competitions and the Thanksgiving evening feast.  This year everyone except Papa made a signature dish.  It was fun having everyone in the kitchen infusing the food with love, talent and tradition.  And the menu evolves each year to incorporate yummy new recipes to complement our must have favorites.

As much as I enjoy every bite of the actual feast, I also eagerly anticipate the day after Thanksgiving leftovers.  The food is terrific when formally served on Thanksgiving Day and equally delicious when casually enjoyed the next day.  It's fun to see the contrast.  Everyone enjoys some of everything within their dietary restrictions on Thanksgiving.  The next day some family members choose equally broadly and others very narrowly. Some microwave a replica of the previous evening's meal; others choose only dessert or heaping sandwiches on reheated rolls.  And I can almost taste the potato soup that we'll create from last night's mashed potatoes.

I'm thankful for all of my blessings including Thanksgiving leftovers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lovely Surprise

I was so eagerly anticipating Julia's arrival yesterday, but anxious about her arriving at 8:00 p.m. on the busiest air travel day of the year.  Two of her classes were canceled and unbeknownst to us she called Continental and booked the last seat on an earlier flight.  To complete the surprise she called a friend to pick her up at the airport.  When Mama and I came home from a most successful shopping trip, Julia had just arrived.  There's so much to be thankful for including the lovely surprise of several more holiday hours with Julia.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Has Begun

I love Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for including family, friends, faith, health, career and volunteering.  Though I express gratitude for my blessings every day, it is wonderful to have a holiday focused on thankfulness.

We've been eagerly anticipating a long weekend filled with love and laughter. Mama and Daddy have arrived and Julia comes in this evening.  The fun has already begun.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Success Mapping

I've had the unique opportunity to read Arlene Johnson's terrific book, success mapping: Achieve What You Want... Right Now!, before hearing her speak on the same topic for our November Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheon in Dallas.  She is accomplished, engaging and determined.  We all left the luncheon without a doubt that we must determine what is important and focus on progress every day.

Her personal story of defying her doctor's projections that her oral cancer would prevent her from being understood in her verbal communications or even being able to open her mouth wide enough to enjoy a cheeseburger, vividly demonstrates the significant power of completely seizing and achieving personal goals.  We all benefit from the reality that Arlene overcame this dire prognosis to launch her successful speaking and consulting career.

Reading Arlene's book is the next best thing to spending one-on-one time working through her eight clearly defined steps for achieving personal and professional success. Each step is illuminated with instructions, worksheets and stories of clients working through the process. She helps us take the plan from theory to reality.

Embracing our potential, clarifying our options, believing that we will succeed, removing obstacles and executing our plan creates a map for individual success.

Two of Arlene's key questions to propel us forward are:

What do I want to accomplish that I haven't?
What are my benefits and consequences of doing and not doing this action?

"The strategy of hope without action robs you of the joy of experiencing progress today and dreams fulfilled tomorrow." Arelene helps us to intentionally plan and achieve our goals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Incredible Gift!

A dear friend created a fabulous gift that I'll treasure forever.  She saved all the Christmas card photos we'd sent through the years and created a beautiful album.  It brings great joy on many levels.  Friends, family, memories, creativity and thoughtfulness are captured in this unique gift.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dressing for Success

Most of us have heard the importance of dressing for success since preparing for our first job interview.  It absolutely makes a difference in the selection process.  Each time I stand in an airport security line, I'm amazed at how quickly accomplished business people can undress for success.  The movements are robotic as everyone places shoes, belts and jackets in the bins.  No one looks like a tip-top professional at this moment without our business armor.  The rapid transformations at the other end of the line allow busy professionals to regain their professional aura.  It's as if this temporary time out never occurred. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Does Everyone Else Have Twins?

Earlier this week 10 bankers hosted 13 special guests at a business luncheon. I always look for interesting connections. As I visited with three of our attendees, I became amazed that they were each the parents of twins.  Because this was definitely not a group discussion topic, it is possible that one or more of the other 10 attendees are also parents of twins.  My curiosity caused me to find the expected incidence of twins in the U.S. population.  It is 32.1 in 1000 births. 

This unusually high incidence of twins reminded me that when we look for commonalities, we will find them.  Common denominators are the fundamental building blocks of strong relationships.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We Can Only Control Ourselves

I've been quite stressed trying to cram another year's worth of important projects into the 4th quarter.  As a recovering perfectionist, it's difficult to accept the reality that regardless of how hard we try, we cannot control the actions or inactions of others.  As an eternal optimist, I approach each new project with the hope that my colleagues will seize each new opportunity with the enthusiasm, potential and urgency that I recognize.  Some do and others don't.  I've finally realized that I cannot control my colleagues' actions.  I can only control my actions, communications and opportunities delivered.

Dealing with others is fascinating, messy, imprecise and ever-changing.  As I've embraced the understanding that my associates are doing the best that they can, I've reaffirmed that though I can set expectations, I can only control myself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let's Speak Purple

Women naturally speak pink and men naturally speak blue.  Expressing ourselves in the norm of our gender is expected and important.  However, just as we wouldn't use acronyms, colloquialisms or slang when communicating with a non-native speaker, we must be similarly sensitive in communicating important messages to colleagues of a different gender.  Nuances are often as important as the words we use.  Though we need to be authentic in our communication, adapting words and phrases to ensure that we are connecting with our entire audience is prudent.  We all need to be adept at speaking in shades of purple.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Which Hat?

I'm not a literal hat person.  I only wear literal hats when required for costumes or sun/wind protection in boats, convertibles or outdoor adventures. However, I wear many figurative hats - individual, spouse, mother, daughter, sister, grandchild, niece, cousin, aunt, friend, boss, executive, employee, mentor, volunteer, mentor, board member, neighbor, familiar stranger...

Regardless of the hat that I am wearing, I aspire to provide what is needed and expected of those to whom I'm connected.  However, we must ultimately and importantly connect with those who wear one of our important hats.

I tip my figurative hat to each of you who have enriched my life!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Motivation is Individual

I wish that I could motivate others to undertake beneficial tasks, projects and careers.  It's taken me half my life to realize that I can only motivate myself to do the things that I want and need to do.  For all others I can provide encouragement, create a ripe environment, contribute resources, nudge progress and give feedback.  Just as we cannot lead a horse to water, we cannot instill in another our definition of achievement or our model of striving toward success.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making a Difference in Classrooms

Sterling Bank's annual Thanksgiving grants benefited 28 classroom projects in high poverty schools in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.  DonorsChoose.org makes it easy to find projects and quickly learn of the impact through the immediate grateful feedback from these classroom teachers.  This appreciative letter from one of our Houston projects beautifully illustrates the difference these classroom grants can make.

Dear Sterling Bank, Aunt Pat, Mrs Salinas and Anonymous Donor, 
My students CHOSE to skip recess so they could learn more math! I could not believe what I was hearing when my students actually decided they would rather play our new multiplication Bingo than go outside for recess - WOW! They loved it!
They were so thrilled when the boxes arrived! They have even started making suggestions for how we can use the materials in workstations. It is so nice as a teacher to see them get excited about and take ownership of their learning.
Thank you so much for your generous contributions to my students and me. It truly will help me be a better math teacher and help them be better math students! Thanks again!
With gratitude,
Ms. W.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rubber Band (Wo)man

How often we discount the value of staples until they are unavailable.  I've seen so many rubber bands abandoned and tossed into the trash.  As an ultimate recycler this pains me.  I love achieving multiple uses for available resources. 

I actually use very few rubber bands.  Staples and paper clips fulfill most of my needs.  However my rubber band consciousness was heightened when Edgar started a rubber band ball.  His ping pong ball sized starter project has grown to a grapefruit sized bouncer.  It's been fun to contribute to this growing bouncing ball. 

In addition to the satisfaction of knowing that these rubber bands won't be trashed, I've enjoyed another family visual for recycling.  And I love the reality that rubber bands are the ultimate example of stretching without losing our identity.  So another identity I'll readily embrace is rubber band (wo)man.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's Open?

When our minds and ears are open more than our mouths, we learn more and offend less.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Predictably Irrational

Dan Ariely's fascinating book, Predictably Irrational - The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, gives us insight into the reasons that most people don't make smart, rational choices.  He explores the impact of relativity, anchoring, free offers, social norms, ownership valuation, price conditioning and non-cash cheating.

Relativity captures the concept that that most people must see a product or service in context with other like things before they know if this is something they want.

Anchoring is our practice of establishing a particular price to establish the worth of a product.

Our captivation with free offers often moves us to make purchases we would not otherwise consider.

Social norms can influence us to volunteer our service when we would otherwise be unwilling to provide discounted service.  When money is involved we tend to use market value to assess the situation.

Once we own something, we become vested and tend to elevate the value of the item.

Price conditioning can cause us to believe that a higher cost product delivers higher value.

Non-cash cheating takes many forms from increasing the value of a lost insured item to wearing and returning garments.  It is easier to rationalize these actions when cash is one step removed from the acts.

His excellent examples for each of these concepts provide a new lens for considering rational and irrational decision-making.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Following Bright, Shiny Objects

In a recent meeting, peppered with distractions, a colleague mentioned that we tend to follow bright, shiny objects.  What an apt description of what was happening!  Little did I know that this tendency to get diverted from a goal has been labeled Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. 

And the distractions don't just occur in meetings. With fingertip access to never-ending email, social media and search options, it's easy to rationalize our distractions.  The information is interesting, useful or important.  The unlimited new opportunities presented may be more fun the things we are working on. 

Laser focus on critical objectives can help us curtail our natural desire to detrimentally follow bright shiny objects.  Creating time to explore new possibilities is healthy.  Intense time sensitivity and goal orientation help us balance existing priorities and avoid being seduced by an unmanageable number of new bright shiny objects.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Time is It?

Technology is great when it works.  It's terribly frustrating when we're depending on it, and there's a glitch.  Last week, as I popped out of bed I noted the time on our radio controlled clock.  Terrific! I had plenty of time to get some things done before my 7:45 breakfast meeting with a non-profit executive and another volunteer.  When I went in to rouse Gar, he consulted his electronic devices and quickly realized it was far later than expected.  Because of the altered daylight savings time calendar, our clock adjusted to the last Saturday in October time change rather than observing the actual change which was to occur a week later. 

No matter how good our tools are, we sometimes need human intervention to determine what time it really is.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Walking on Water

It's awesome to have our staunch supporters who believe that we walk on water.  It's especially beneficial when we feel like we're slogging through the mud.  When we're challenged, it's important to rely on our knowledge, skills, experience and relationships.  It's easy to get discouraged by focusing on the things that we find difficult when dealing with a challenging opportunity.  By focusing on the resources we have and drawing on past successes, we can plough beyond the obstacles.  Sometimes we have to slog through a bit of mud before we appear as if we walk on water. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

How Many Hands?

Ideally we are born with two hands. As we mature from birth to adulthood, we develop many skills and abilities which require dexterity, experience and practice.  As youngsters we use our hands as we learn to write, tie our shoes, dress and groom ourselves, create art, express love and concern, and nourish ourselves and others.

As we mature and choose to benefit others, we can use our hands by actively volunteering for many needed projects.  Hands on projects are as varied as the myriad organizations serving our communities. 

When we donate dollars to reputable non-profit organizations, we are choosing to give a hand up versus a hand out to the intended beneficiaries.

Everyone benefits from applause!  Whether we are celebrating our work colleagues, award winners, non-profit beneficiaries, family or friends, we have 2 hands to offer pats on the back or lead applause.

A handshake is an expected business greeting.

(And, a hand is the chosen measure - 4 inches - to express a horse's height.)

Generally with more hands applauding, creating, loving, nourishing, supporting and greeting others, we achieve more positive outcomes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Once a Debutante

It's hard to believe that Julia's debutante season began one short year ago.  It was an exciting year filled with presentation balls and parties.  There were numerous chances to visit with lovely friends and the opportunity to make many new acquaintances. We overlayed this whirlwind of activity into our naturally full schedules, proving that there's always time for fun family celebrations.  We have many memories to treasure.

As we drove into the club last evening for the first presentation ball of this season, we were once again merely relaxed attendees.  But this time we saw the presentation through fresh eyes.  We could fully appreciate the preparation, emotions and nervous energy of the 25 debs and their extended families.

As is the case with many noteworthy events, what we observe at show time is only the tip of the iceberg.  We are sometimes oblivious to the reality that only because of the careful planning and execution by so many others, we have the chance to be beautifully entertained.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


We all have expectations for every project or goal.  Whether we are optimists, realists or pessimists, we all have a view of how our expectations will be met, exceeded or missed.  High expectations, backed with appropriate skills and resources tend to create excellent results.  As we lower our expectations, we tend to get less stellar results.  When we continually accept excuses for missed performance expectations we are on a path for failure.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giving Thanks

Sterling Bank just hosted our 5th Annual Thanksgiving reception to honor non-profit executives and our 50-hour volunteers.  It's one of my favorite events of the year.  Our hardworking non-profit friends spend their days thanking donors.  This is our chance to turn the tables and recognize the significant impact they make in our community.  In conjunction with the celebration, we also announced Thanksgiving Grant recipients.  This year we doubled our grant funding to complete 28 classroom projects in high poverty schools in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. 

I'm thankful that so many wonderful individuals share their talents to make an enormous difference in our community.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who Has 500 Things to Share?

Amazingly, I've created 500 posts to share in the past 16 months, one post at a time.  We need to encourage our family and friends to share their thoughts, experiences and recommendations.  When we gain and share the input of others, we expand our influence and impact.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Our hard fought right to freely and peacefully cast our votes is a treasure that too many Americans relinquish.  I am most thankful for my right to vote.  Though I won't agree with all of the outcomes, I am grateful that we can easily express our preferences with no negative personal consequences.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Turn-by-Turn Directions

I'm the only directionally challenged individual in my entire family.  Turn-by-turn directions are a godsend to me.  The only time that north, south, east and west are meaningful to me is when I'm in my own driveway or on I-10 or one of the major thoroughfares that run parallel to this interstate highway. 

Julia shared the most amusing turn-by-turn directions that her friend discovered in Google Maps.  There are 82 steps to get from Japan to China.  Step #43 is by far the most challenging - jet ski across the Pacific Ocean. 

Even when we have turn-by-turn directions, getting to our destination may not be as easy as 1 to 82.