Two Questions for Summer

Since I hope you’re on a beach or by a lake somewhere, I want to keep this week’s post short. I have two questions:

  1. Do you feel supported and inspired by the people you spend the most time with? We are the average of the people we spend the most time with, so whomever we spend time with matters. If you have great people around you who lift you up, then you are fortunate indeed. If you don’t, then now is the time to make changes.
  2. Do you love the work you do? Work should allow you to use your greatest gifts and make a difference. When you’re doing what you love, you’re in the flow and feel like you lose track of time. You enjoy what you do so much that you could do it for free. If you’re not experiencing this, summer is a great time to reflect on what you could do that would excite you.

Happy July from World Stage Coaching!

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Summer Quiz Pt 1

Since summer is a time to slow down, relax, and have fun, I like to have summer quizzes off and on during the summer instead of writing full blog posts every week.

The first 5 readers to answer these 3 questions and email them to me at melinda@worldstagecoaching.com, get a free coaching session.

Here are the 3 questions:

  1. What is your favorite summer memory? 
  2. Where do you like to travel to each summer?
  3. What is the summer fruit you like the best?

That’s it– just 3 quick answers sent to me, and the first 5 respondents (who are not clients or family members) get a free coaching session.

For me, my favorite summer memories have been camping each summer with my daughter at her girls’ camp. It’s a 48 hour sprint through the woods, but after seven years, it has been one of the most special things we have done. My favorite place to visit growing up was a family camp in the Sierras in California. Now it’s going to Maine and New Hampshire to see family. My favorite fruits: watermelon and blueberries are tied 🙂

Have a great week and make sure you do what delights you!

Wishing you sunshine and fun from World Stage Coaching.

 

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Happy July 4th!

In a few days, I will be gathering with my parents and my husband and kids and my sister and her family to celebrate two important things: July 4th and my dad’s 80th birthday on July 6th. We will be in Maine, attending the small town parades, and there will be a lot of veterans marching and children waving flags. Last July 4th was the first Independence Day since President Trump had been elected, and my husband and I were so appalled by the damage being done, to foreign policy and the environment among other things, that we happily ignored the holiday. It also helped that we were traveling in Portugal at the time and could distance our family from the usual celebrations.

But this year is different because July 4th is important to my parents. Both my husband and my maternal grandfathers fought in World War II. My husband’s grandfather, whom I never got to meet, was a prisoner of war in Japan and went through severe suffering. Most Americans have family members who have fought to preserve our freedom, and many have soldiers out there today, sacrificing their lives and keeping us safe. It’s easy to get blasé and think that celebrating doesn’t matter, but it does. Even though I don’t agree with most of what this current administration does, I do believe in the flag and what it symbolizes. I remember that there have been times in United States history and in world history as well, when a leader has been destructive. But the earth keeps spinning and humans realize that this too shall pass.

No matter what country you are from, remember that your flag symbolizes what your country stands for. I am grateful that a bunch of rag tag colonists took on Great Britain, and, against all odds, won. I am grateful that our country finally realized that slavery was wrong and worked to abolish it. I am grateful that labor laws were created to protect women and children from being abused as cheap labor. I am grateful that people are finally waking up to the importance of #Black Lives Matter and #Me Too. I do believe that having a destructive president is forcing people to remember that our flag and our freedom and our democracy cannot be taken for granted ever.

In honor of all those who have fought, whether those brave colonists fighting with pitchforks if that is all they had, or abolitionists who helped redefine what was right, or women fighting for the right to vote, or blacks fighting for the right to be treated equally, I salute all of those who have fought for what matters. It may be a disheartening time right now, but we shall overcome this too.

And in honor of my dad, who almost 80 years ago came into this world in Portland, Oregon on a very hot July day with no air conditioning to a mother who had planned to have a few more children after him but stopped because he was so stubborn, Happy Birthday, Dad! The world would be a better place if everyone were like you– kind, fair, courageous, hard-working, honest, funny, athletic, great with kids and grandkids, and a great Canasta player, golfer and singer.

This summer, go find that world stage. And if you are an American, happy July 4th!

 

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Happiness is… Summer!

May this summer be filled with sunshine, adventure, family, and all good things!

Stay tuned for my summer drawings for free coaching. In the meantime, click on the title and post whether you are a beach person or a lake person, and you can win a free session.

Happy Summer from World Stage Coaching!

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Love Is All

Usually on Mother’s Day, our kids make cards for me and we do something special. But as my grandmother used to say to my father when he was little, “If you’re not going to be nice to me every day, then don’t bother with Mother’s Day.” I do feel that the overpriced brunches and corsages are a little much and not what women want. We want appreciation, and someone else to do the dishes and clean the bathrooms.

Somehow on Father’s Day, which is today, we tend to let things slide. Since it’s part of the mad-dash of year-end activities, the day often gets short shrift. This year we’re not really celebrating today because my daughter is on a school trip in Spain and my son is writing as much as he can for a musical he’s submitting to his school tomorrow for consideration for next year’s theatre season. Since I’m writing the music with him, that’s what I’m doing today, as well as sexy things like returning something that’s broken to Amazon, and contacting the doctor to fill out medical forms, and going through piles of papers. Since the laundry is overflowing, my husband is doing load after load even though it’s supposed to be his special day. This is why I love my husband. He’s not sitting around glued to the television, wondering when his snacks and beers are going to be delivered. He’s scrambling around trying to help us so that everything gets done. Given how much he’s been traveling lately, it is amazing to not only around have him around, but to have him do chores so that I can keep my sanity.

Here’s what I have to say to any of my female readers: the guy you want to marry should be the guy you’re attracted to and best friends with and someone who makes you laugh. But he should also be the one who does laundry on Father’s Day and is as happy to mow the lawn as he is to cook a Julia Child’s meal. The guy who knows how to craft the perfect email when there is a problem, whether with a teacher or a workman. The guy who can comfort a crying baby and intervene with a moody teenager.

Recently, I had my first professional singing gig in 12 years, and it was a huge success– standing room only and such tremendous applause, that I wish I could have bottled it. My parents got to be there, which is special since they live 3,000 miles away. And my son got to hear me for the first time in his memory. (My daughter will have to see me next time since she was still in Spain.) A lot of the audience said that their favorite song was one of the originals I played, called Billy and Me, which is a love song I wrote for my husband when we were first married. Twenty five years later, it still applies, and in fact more so. There is nothing sexier than a guy who is a great dad and who really supports his wife so that she can be a happy person.  Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

Love is all I know/Take me wherever you go

Love is all I see/Cause you take in all of me

So in honor of all the wonderful men out there who are great dads, here’s to you. A big part of finding your world stage, is being that person who allows others to claim their world stage as well, both children finding their way and wives needing the space to reclaim theirs.

HPIM2501_1.jpgThis is our family 12 years ago, right after I had stopped performing, since I was focusing on these guys.

Proud

Whenever I drive around, I see bumper stickers with something like “Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student” or I see an elite college on the back of the car for all to see. I get that people are proud of their kids, but it reminds me of all the senseless bragging on social media: “I’m just so blessed that little Timothy got into all eight Ivy League schools.” Or the endless hashtags: “#proudmama”, “#howdidIgetsolucky” and on and on. I think, though that in addition to too much bragging, we’re focusing on the wrong things. What about accomplishments that have nothing to do with grades and college or Division 1 championships? Those are the things that matter most to me.

This week has been one of those harrowing weeks in which my husband has been away on business in China, my daughter was on a school camping expedition for two days, then home for three and then off today for 10 days in Spain for another school trip. The exterminator came twice, my son had an SSAT class, then a math tutor, my daughter was the photographer at the school prom, my daughter had a cello lesson and then a tennis lesson, and my son will have had two soccer practices and two soccer games this week. In addition, one of my son’s friends had a family crisis that involved my intervention and both kids had hours and hours of end-of-year homework. In addition, my son decided he wanted to write an original music based on kids riding the rails in the Great Depression and needed me to write some of the music for his presentation– since it’s being considered for the school’s musical next year. And we had a lot of yard work that had to get done, in addition to packing. Did I mention that in all of this, I had to prep for my first professional gig in 12 years, in addition to my coaching business?

Here’s what made me proud this week. I needed to get a few hours of yard work done before Thursday morning, which was Trash Amnesty Day, meaning the town would take extra trash and yard waste. I asked my kids to help out and they ended up working in the yard until 8:30 at night, asking me to go inside after a while, since I was so exhausted from everything else, and then they finished up without me. I didn’t pay them, but they just pitched in and made it happen, even though they still had hours of homework. I needed them and they came through. In addition, one of my kids’ friends called late on Thursday night in crisis and my son was calm and supportive to him, since the boy was depressed, and also suicidal. I got on the phone and talked to him as well and then called the school the next day to talk to the school psychologist who then talked with him. She will get help for him. But it was my son who was there for his friend when he felt like he had no out. That makes me proud.

To find your world stage, forget the values of social media, which are mostly fake anyway. Remember that how much money you have or where your kids go to college or what you do for a living– those are all superficial things that in the end don’t matter. What matters is helping out your family and being a good friend. And this week, my kids showed me that they understood what mattered, and that makes me incredibly proud.

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Know Your Limits

We all have limits, whether imposed by laws, like speeding limits or self-imposed, like dietary rules. We also have limits of what we’re able to do– whether it’s how many miles we can run, or how high a note we can sing. Those are easier to see, but the limits that are harder to recognize are those on our spirits. We are daily bombarded with robot calls and endless emails. (I get about 100 emails per day and my husband about 300.) We have multiple forms of news and social media, which are hard to shut off. We have endless requests from people, whether it’s a needy child or a demanding friend or a difficult co-worker. We may have learned to set boundaries and even how to re-state our boundaries if they are ignored, but that doesn’t mean that others will listen and respect them and follow suit. With my coaching business, World Stage Coaching, my clients often talk about stating boundaries that others don’t respect, whether it’s a boss demanding more work and more travel, or a parent assuming they can crash at your apartment, or relatives who expect you to take care of their kids when they come to visit. Ultimately you can set boundaries until you’re blue in the face, but if others don’t hear you, it can feel useless. Here’s where limits come in. It’s helpful to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m at my limit here. I am not able to___________ (fill in the blank).” And then you leave.

This week, both of my teenagers are inundated with end-of-year school work, my husband is gearing up for a week in China, having just spent almost a week in Colombia. My daughter needs food and supplies for an up-coming camping trip and after she returns, she is home for three days before she leaves for 10 days for a school trip to Spain. My husband will not be around for any of this and we have no family nearby.  A few night ago, I found myself writing a welcome card for our new neighbors to go with the box of cookies I bought, while talking to the exterminator who was droning on about ants and how best to handle them, while my husband announced that he forgot he was going to be on a Korean radio talk show and would be on the air (from home) in the next few minutes– and this was 8pm at night. My son was on the phone with his math tutor and my daughter had just come back from a tennis lesson and was trying to write an English paper. After the Korean interview, we did dash over to give the neighbors cookies. I don’t even remember dinner. And that was only last Wednesday night between 8-9pm. It occurred to me that boundaries didn’t come into play here. The reality is that I had reached my limit. After a certain point, I told my family I was off duty and focused on myself.

Yesterday, I got a massage and got my hair done, because I knew that if I was going to survive the recent demands on my time, I was going to need to keep taking care of myself. I told everyone in the family last night that I was going to focus on getting ready for my up-coming cabaret concert. But both my kids wanted to sing by the piano– which is sweet for absorbed teens– so we sang songs, while my daughter strummed the ukulele. My son had also decided last night that he wanted to write a musical about teens riding the rails in the Great Depression and had already written 1-2 songs and a scene by 10pm and wanted me to set one of the songs to 30’s music, which I did, because I was happy that he was excited about this new project. Still, it tested my limits last night and again today, when he was asking about how people talked then and what names were common– all great questions, but I had reminded him that I will have more bandwidth for helping after my show is done. Did I mention that I haven’t performed professionally in 12 years? Today, it became clear to me why I couldn’t get back to it earlier. There is so much non-stop giving that happens if you’re a really committed parent. People talk about how kids just need an hour of quality time. It’s not true. They need lots of quantity time– so that you’re around when they’re excited about a new show they’re writing or they ask about why kids are trying drugs or how to ask a girl to dance. They need you around a lot when they are teenagers, just as they did when they were babies.

So, today, like yesterday, after a certain point, I had reached my limit, and I shut the door and took a nap. It wasn’t completely uninterrupted, but it was good enough. I will no longer try to defend boundaries I have chosen over and over. Instead, I will let people know that I have reached my limit and I’m done— whether it’s explaining, giving, or finding missing objects. It’s a good feeling not to be available to solve every problem. I look forward to implementing it more often.

To find your world stage, know your limits and inform others when you’ve reached them. And then go take a nap, or have that massage, or do something else nice for yourself. You deserve it.

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Remembering

Those of us who are American are heading into Memorial Day weekend, which is the time that summer seems to start, even though technically that doesn’t happen until late June. It’s a time for barbecues and relaxing into summer mode, even though most schools are still in full swing. It’s also, of course, a time to remember all of our soldiers who have died, but all too often that gets lost amidst the picnics and beach time. When I was growing up, my parents would often get out the flag and hang it up to remember that my grandfather volunteered for World War II in his early thirties, because he had intelligence gathering skills that he knew would help the war effort, even though he was leaving a wife and child behind. We hung the flag to commemorate all the heroes who have fought in wars, whether they made it back or not.

Last fall, I wrote about Veterans Day, which is more specifically geared to all veterans who have served and continue to serve, whereas Memorial Day is devoted to remembering all those who died in our wars.  Here’s what I wrote:

I think of my grandfather Horace, who left his young family to volunteer for World War II in his thirties because he felt that he had to fight for our freedom. He was among the early boats that landed at Normandy in June 1944, and described years later the terror of arriving on that beach, knowing that the Germans who were planted up the hill would just be shooting at them non-stop as they tried to make their way from the water on up. Many didn’t make it, but my grandfather somehow did. When I was twelve, I visited Normandy and I couldn’t believe how steep the hill was and how unprotected that beach was. It’s amazing that anyone made it out alive. And yet that landing was a key turning point in the war. With over 150,000 soldiers, the Allies’ successful attack created a victory that became the turning point in the war. Today, I honor all the soldiers who have served our country throughout time. I am grateful for your sacrifice and for the freedom you fought for, so that we could all be free. America is great because of all the soldiers who shivered in the cold, in trenches and huddled in boats… . 

As we gather around our barbecues and celebrate the sunshine and the return of warmer days, let us not forget all the men and women who fought so that we could be free, particularly those who never returned. And let us not forget that democracy is not a given, but is something that must be fought for over and over. As you seek your world stage, don’t forget that we have an obligation to remember those who bravely came before us and sacrificed their lives, so that we may have the freedom to choose our own path. I will always be grateful.

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Soccer Lessons

When I was little, soccer was just coming to the States as something big in California, and by the time I was in third grade, most of my friends played it. I remember playing in the hot fall sun, running up and down the field and following the ball, since I didn’t know how to hold my position, and my grandfather asking my mother if I was going to have a heart attack because my face was beet red. In one of my first games, I scored two goals, which thrilled me since my dad took me out for ice cream sundaes to celebrate. Soon after, however, the coaches realized that I could kick far and was better on defense. I became the full back sweep, the last person before the goalie. I prided myself on protecting the goal and clearing the ball down the field. I ended up playing five years through my childhood and one year in high school before I hung up my cleats. I wasn’t the best player– some of those went on to Division 1 soccer in college– and I wasn’t the worse. But I loved it.

Because it was the seventies and eighties, my coaches were mostly women, some of whom had never played soccer, since the boys got the more experienced coaches. The coaches I had for most of my years were a team of two women, one of whom, my main coach, was disabled. She had an aggressive form of MS, so each year she coached us, she was less mobile. The first year she tired easily, which is why she had her assistant to help. By the last year, she came to practices in a walker. I never saw her kick the ball, and I’m not sure the assistant was much better at soccer, but they knew how to coach, we did well as a team, and most importantly we also learned a lot about life.

When my daughter was in second grade, I decided that I wanted to coach my own team, not because I had been a great player, but because soccer had taught me so much that I wanted to pass on. When I got my team list, which was supposedly a “random, computer-generated list” I realized that I was given all the beginners except my daughter, who was a strong player. (My husband, who understands statistics, reminded me that this was not random, but generated by a mom who worked for the town and wanted her daughter on a team of stars.) I had 14 six and seven year-old girls, and part of the challenge was getting them to focus long enough to learn the game of soccer, in between chatting and cartwheels. We were the Bad News Bears of soccer, inexperienced and expected to lose, but the good news is that none of the parents were pushy, because these families wanted their girls to have fun, not to push them to get on travel soccer by age eight.

The nice thing about our team is that no one expected us to do very well– I wasn’t a known coach and the team had almost no talent, or so people thought. I read books and watched videos about how to coach, and every week we had circle time before our practice started where we made sure the girls knew each others’ names in the early weeks, and could talk about what was working and not working on the team in later weeks. We played both in the fall and the spring, and each week the girls got better and better, so that in the final game, which was the championship against the hardest team– the team that had all the star players– I reminded my team that I was proud of them no matter what, but that since no one was expecting anything of them, this was their chance to shine. And shine they did. We won, to the other teams’ shock. We won in spite of rain and mud and injuries and the other team so sure that they were going to win.  I have never seen such a triumphant group of little girls, their white shirts covered in mud, with huge toothless grins on their faces.

My daughter is back playing soccer in high school, having taken a few years off, since she and we didn’t want her to enter the intense world of travel and club and select soccer. My son, however, begged us to be on the travel team, so finally he tried out at the end of 6th grade for the last two years of the program. His team plays hard and he’s improved as a player, but the boys aren’t particularly nice to each other and after months of playing don’t really talk to each other off the field. Most of the parents and many of the team just aren’t friendly, as though we are rivals of some sort, competing for the few soccer scholarships handed out, when in reality most of these kids will never play Division 1 or professionally. I’m not the first to point out that youth sports, particularly soccer, has completely lost its way, which is sad to see, because the lessons I learned have served me my whole life.

Soccer is so much more about “going for it” in general than it is about scoring goals.  It’s about your personal best, even if that isn’t perfect.  It’s about embracing the process of learning, not the end result, about learning grit and being kind to yourself when you make a mistake or lose, and being gracious when you win. It’s about friendship and fun and team work, and realizing that we all have an important position to play. These were the messages my coaches passed on, two older women whose kids had been long grown but loved being part of little kids’ lives. How to play became less important than how to be on a team, how to be in the world, how to show up on a field and go for the goal, whether you make it or not.

 

Some of my team in 2011– my daughter is the tallest in the middle.

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Real Friends

It gets harder to make new friends, as well as maintain friendships we have, as we get older because everyone is so busy these days. It’s bittersweet because I realize how much energy teens put into their friendships, whereas adults often don’t. I have a friend from college whom I haven’t seen in six years; he never calls or emails and takes weeks to get back to me, and only after several calls or emails on my part. Another friend doesn’t work but over-schedules her kids so much, that she is constantly exhausted, driving them to different states for sporting events. The only way I see her is if I initiate. The last time I saw her was at soccer tryouts for our sons’ travel teams. She spent the whole time complaining about how much she hated traveling to Connecticut and Rhode Island for soccer games and standing in the pouring rain, but her son wanted to be on a “select” team in addition to the travel league. I said, “You know, you could have said no. You were the one who signed the papers.” She looked surprised, but I was kind of done with the excuses. After all, we’re the ones who create all the busyness. It gets old trying to chase down friends who don’t want to take the time. I think people have forgotten what friendship really means. It doesn’t mean that you post occasionally on a Facebook wall, or that you wait for the other person to contact you, but that there is a mutual give and take and a commitment to being there for each other.

This spring, my daughter signed up to host a Spanish exchange student, who just left after ten magical days, and then they will meet again next month near Madrid. Maria showed up, in a way, like Mary Poppins, full of joy and energy and support and wisdom and soccer skills and insights, and so much more than we thought we would be getting. With Maria here, our daughter was more focused in school and felt happy having another teenager girl in-house to do things with, from karaoke in the basement to basketball outside to soccer to bowling to singing songs around the piano. Maria was a guest and we certainly worked hard to make her visit special, as we did last year when we hosted a French student. But there was something different at play. Maria became a friend in ten short days, not just to my daughter, but to my son and my husband and me. She was grateful and insightful and warm and present. She was, in a word, a friend in the truest way. After a bad soccer practice that made me cry because the boys on my son’s team were so mean to each other, she was there to comfort me. Before my daughters’ audition for the school musical, she was there to make sure my daughter was prepared. She joked in the car to make my son more relaxed before his exams. She made us all laugh in English, even though it was her second language. That’s why she seemed like Mary Poppins– she arrived and magically everything was better and more fun. The fact that a Spanish teenager who is 16 could be a better friend to me in ten days of knowing me than many so-called friends, definitely made me think long and hard about who my true friends are. People seem to forget that friendship means regularly checking in about how the other person is doing, and there has to be reciprocity too; it can’t just be one person doing all the tending. But so many people schedule themselves so tightly, there is no rooms to care for others, beyond their kids and their busy calendars.

To find your world stage, take a chance and host an exchange student. It may be a magical experience. And if not, remember that busyness is never an excuse for not being a good friend. If you take the time to check in and ask about how things are and be present, you will be light years ahead of most people, who use busyness as an excuse for not being there for others.pexels-photo-541518.jpeg