Monday, December 28, 2009

The Coach

I think of him as a coach, but he's really our accountant. Alan Dennis is sensible and logical, conscientious, soft-spoken and intelligent. Exactly the attributes you want in an accountant. Or a coach.

Alan's first business is Dennis & Co accounting services, which he has owned and run for 18 years. He also has a newer business selling police badges and related products. Alan admitted, when pressed, that his ePoliceSupply business grew about 47% in 2009, a year in which many small companies let people go or closed their doors altogether. Clearly there is a market for these products and he knows how to reach it. His success in his businesses allows his clients to trust him without reservation, because he's right in there working hard with the rest of us, showing us how it's done.

Using the measuring stick of job satisfaction, business growth and long-time clients in two companies, Alan the businessman/coach is a terrific role model for the rest of us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


The year 2009 resolves to black and 2010 bursts to the forefront. Perhaps it's less a "burst" and more a fade-in. The change to a new year is not a big deal really, I just like to acknowledge and make sure I'm still on track with the same basic resolutions I've had for the last ten years.

Here's my current list:

  • Take time for gratitude daily
  • Exercise the body
  • Exercise the vocal cords
  • Learn something new
  • Laugh as often as possible

If I stick to this list I feel good about myself. It's that simple. It's also (although they may not realize it) good for my husband and two sons, my parents, siblings and my friends. Other beneficiaries include the customers and vendors of our business, my hairdresser and that nice tailor who hems my gig dresses. Everyone, really.

Taking care of myself
positively translates to physical and mental energy reserves for the rest of my life. It makes me a happier person; a better wife, mother, friend. Not a new concept, but putting it down on paper (even virtual paper) makes it seem more personal and valid. Incorporating the gratitude, exercise, learning and laughing into my daily life (instead of viewing them as chores) has evolved over time - I can get off track on occasion, but mostly it works well - sticky notes around the house or writing in a journal remind me when life overtakes my good intentions.

I received a copy of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" as a Christmas gift, as well as a new yoga mat and some wonderful DVDs and books, so my resolutions will be a pleasure to continue. For these gifts and my family and friends, I'm so grateful.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Merry Spitzmas

Tomorrow (actually later today, now that I notice the time) is the day we get together with all of the Spitz family for a Christmas celebration - it's a large group now with Joe's Mom and her husband, five siblings, their wives, children and grandchildren and of course us and our kids.

I think it's 36 people - pretty big group in our cozy house for a casual dinner and yankee swap, using our own quirky set of rules, re-explained each year by Christine to an increasingly boisterous family. If we're lucky, the swap will get a little chippy, like a basketball game where the refs turn a blind eye to blatant fouls; it's more fun when gift recipients grow fond of "their" gift and there's danger of it being snatched from sweaty palms by some lurker with a higher number. Is your family like this? Now that there's a sizable group of 20-somethings, they tend to battle with their uncles over gifts of alcoholic beverages or new release DVDs. Any year there's been a Batman or Terminator release, that's been the prize everyone wants.

A 20 pound ham and two large lasagnas wait in the downstairs fridge, and everyone contributes a side dish, snack, beverage or dessert - enough to feed the masses and then some. The snow won't keep them away . . . I hope.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Climate Change - Control of the Green

Guest blogger Joe Spitz, my partner in the Liberty Packaging Co., as well as in life, chronicles a recent debate with a friend on the subject of climate change:

My friend might be labeled a “climate-change denier”. He maintains it’s more accurate to call him “a proponent of the scientific method”. In our ongoing debate, he has some interesting points:

--> Man’s contribution to the trace gas carbon dioxide and its levels is insignificant compared to the entire workings of the planet and solar system.

--> CO2 is not an enemy; it is a building block for plant life and this planet.

--> For the climate, what are most influential are the natural earthly and solar cycles, climate changes are inevitable and man’s presence does not influence them. The earth and sun are always in motion.

--> Leaders of the “green” proponents are “control zealots” that want to control social norms and governments with their self importance.

--> He believes that the ‘green” movement is a money grab for some.

--> It has become a one sided debate with the science community, governments, and most importantly the media; anyone opposing the common belief of climate change is ostracized and/or ridiculed. Where is the discussion for all issues?

--> Because of the alleged doctoring of temperature statistics by a leading climate research organization, my friend has strengthened his position in our debate.

--> The rest of us are brainwashed by the media and academia.

There are many members of the scientific community on the internet with similar opinions.

There may be some truth to his rationale as to how scientists can accurately predict the future with something as vast as our planet and solar system. With that said, isn’t it wonderful how all of us in this country and the world can rally around a focal point? Shouldn’t we always be looking for more efficient methods? Many generations of Americans have used resources carelessly and this “green” movement has made us more conscientious with our environment. Cause and effect; isn’t this a good cause?

Companies now want to be on the “green” side and do the right thing. Elaine and I have been marketing and selling the truly “green” Intercept Technology™ packaging for years with resistance from certain organizations, often because change is difficult for some businesses. But now, leading companies are finding that lowering their carbon footprint is good for them and good for all. They experience an advantage to be publically recognized for their efforts for a better planet and not for polluting it like the disgraceful negligent and hazardous stories we would so often hear in the past. In the Intercept case studies, companies saved a ton of money; green can be less expensive.

Back to the debate with my friend: does it matter what the motive is when we work as a community to be better and leaner? My position is to find the balance so that we do not “throw out the baby with the bath water”. I hope our legislators do not compromise our industrial base by grandstanding to the environmental issue. We need good manufacturing jobs in order for our economy to prosper. But if we can all concentrate on things in our lives and jobs that are more efficient and friendlier to our fellow workers, our companies, and community, then embracing green practices is smart and sensible.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bio-Burden on Electronics Can Spread Infection

Microscopic yucky stuff grows all around us. I think I can speak for my fellow germophobes when I say this is something we'd rather not even consider.

In fact, a study of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection conducted by Dr. Eddy Weir in the UK showed significant bio-burden load on equipments’ circuits and boards coming in from Asia. These bio-burdens (i.e., germs) can then easily be spread when the board is inserted into a system and the cooling fans turned on. The study showed the cause of the growth on the boards to be food residue left during manufacturing; fingerprints and/or tape adhesive are also known to be a cause. The simple act of installing and using these boards can easily result in the spread of various microbes in the work place, or in hospitals, wherever the boards and systems are being used. See example of bio-burden on circuit board above, courtesy of Dr. Weir.

Pretty disgusting, right? I'm happy to report that help is readily available. In 2008,the EPA approved the registration of antimicrobial copper alloys with public health claims. These claims acknowledge that copper, brass and bronze are capable of killing harmful, potentially deadly bacteria. Copper is the first solid surface material to receive this type of EPA registration, which is supported by extensive antimicrobial efficacy testing.

A revolutionary source for abatement of these bio-burdens is Intercept Technology™ Packaging, which is a Bell Labs invention, made with plastics and copper. The copper is reacted into the polymer matrix where it cannot migrate or slough off. The Intercept packaging’s initial purpose was to provide short and long term corrosion protection and permanent electrostatic discharge protection. With these newly published studies, backed by testing of Intercept in Singapore, Intercept packaging materials can be considered a passive mildewcide and an active anti-microbial agent able to eliminate dangerous bacteria and spores.

Manufacturers should note that copper-based Intercept Technology packaging for circuit boards is an easy fix to ensure better health in hospitals, nursing facilities and the workplace.

Naturally, I must mention that, as President of Liberty Packaging Co., Inc., with Intercept Technology™ Packaging as our flagship product line, I have a personal stake in spreading this good news. Liberty Packaging Co., distributes packaging on the East Coast of the United States.

Keep your products clean and safe. Call us at 800-776-5756.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Luxurious Laundry

San Lorenzo
Originally uploaded by romephotoblog

I love my washer and dryer: the supersize front-loading washing machine and the tumble dryer with upper compartment for hanging items to dry or scent them with fabric softener. The dryer even has screens that slide into the top compartment, on which to place your sweaters and whatnot, for drying items flat, per the instructions on the garment label. I rather like doing laundry - nearly instant gratification, when you consider it takes little more than an hour for the wash and dry, and a few minutes to fold.

As I was walking through Boston a few weeks ago, I spied a gigantic laundromat, well-lit and well-appointed, with so many machines and dispensers for detergents for every type of fabric imaginable - it seemed the perfect place for getting the job done. The only problem as I see it is getting your stuff there and getting it back home. I know people do this every day of the week and don't think twice about it, but for me it seems like a chore I'd avoid until the last pair of clean socks was gone. It got me thinking that every place I've ever lived has had a washer and dryer. Pretty luxurious life I've lived. Doing laundry, to me, is one of the simple pleasures of life and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I'll never take my washer and dryer for granted.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Stewart - for more from Jessica, please go to Rome Photo Blog.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Positive Spin - the Rally Cap Edition

Driving toward Boston over the weekend, I noticed a scrolling electronic road sign informing me that it was "Drowsy Driver Prevention Week". It got me thinking about all of the groups, clubs, drives, guilds, walks, marathons and other organizations for preventing, battling and fighting against diseases, afflictions, viewpoints and politicians. Of course, I agree with the good intentions behind many of these organizations; those who give money and time generously and with the intent of improving our communities should be appreciated. I'm simply pointing out that perhaps we rally for "Alert Driver Awareness" week, or something that makes you think of the circumstances in a more positive light. There's no denying there are sleepy drivers on the road and that it's a safety issue, but let's think of the glass as half (or even more!) full.

In fact, the University of Newcastle in Australia performed a study in 2007 - showing the value of emphasizing assets and attributes within a community rather than focusing solely on deficiencies.

The more I read about and practice the law of attraction, the more validity it seems to have. Some may call it the placebo effect. No matter; if you think it's real, it'll become real, whether it's fear or gratitude. Let's call it "Thank you for Staying Awake While Driving Week" or "Healthy Lungs Month" or "Protecting our Athletes' Brains Campaign". Perhaps you could come up with better catch phrases to acknowledge our assets (I encourage you do do so), but you get the message. I'd like to think we can overcome our need to fight AGAINST the negative, and rally FOR the things we prefer. Some may call it spin or even avoidance. I call it positive thinking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. Spitz Goes to Washington

Joe recently spent a few days in Washington D.C. for a conference and enjoyed some sightseeing time.

Here are some of his recollections:

On his nighttime automobile tour, my friend and business colleague in the Intercept Technology Group, Keith Donaldson, who has spent many air miles in his world travels, commented: “We have a capital in this country that we can all be proud of; it is a beautiful city - I can’t think of a more beautiful capital anywhere else in this world.” Keith’s tour brought us first to the front of the Capitol Building, awash in light, accenting the strength and beauty of the building. We traveled between the Supreme Court and the Capitol, near the White House, by the Ford Theater and the home where Lincoln died; around the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, then to Keith’s favorite, the Jefferson Memorial. Keith is right, at night or any time, our nation’s Capital is an architectural and historical marvel.

The next morning I had breakfast in the Rayburn building’s cafeteria, the House of Representatives' offices. I was thinking I might see a legislative celebrity but instead viewed vibrant young people buzzing about with coffee cups in their hands. Security is everywhere and all entrances to all government buildings require scans; so the “bad guys” get us on that one. What the heck; it is better to be safe at the expense of that small loss of freedom.

My own walking tour led me across the street to the Capitol and Library of Congress. E Pluribus Unum - one from many; what a grand experiment this country is. What a storied history filled with courageous heroes, many making extreme sacrifices in their duty to our country. Speaking of which, why doesn’t our great patriot John Adams from Braintree, Massachusetts, merit statues or memorials in his honor in Washington D.C.? Besides George, is there any greater person that influenced the independence of and the framework to our United States? A Sam Adams statue represents MA in the Capitol; good beer, valuable instigator, but his cousin John was the man.

The Library of Congress has the prettiest rotunda I have seen, on a level with the amazing Vatican Map Room and Sistine Chapel. The Library of Congress houses Jefferson’s books; an extensive collection from a well read man.

Prior to World War I, societies were governed by kings, queens, emperors, religious leaders, etc. and a compassionate one versus a selfish one depended on the times and the integrity of the generational leader. Whether or not they were good leaders didn’t matter as much as that this form of governance offered continued stability for its people.

In contrast, standing in front of words on parchment representing the ideas that are the basis of our government and security is quite moving. The National Archives has on display, along with many other important documents, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution of the United States for all citizens and visitors to view. There are many school groups touring Washington and in the “Charters of Freedom” rotunda there is a hush among visitors as they view the founding documents of these United States. If you haven’t experienced this lately (or ever), make the journey. You’ll have a newly refreshed appreciation of our country and its history.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Feed and Water your Relationships

This is my gorgeous flowering cactus, given to me by a favorite cousin-in-law who now lives on the west coast and whom I haven't seen in years. When Karen gave me this plant 18 years or so ago it was much smaller and had just a few flowers. I don't remember the occasion, but it was a very thoughtful gesture and having the plant in my kitchen prompts me to think of her often.

My cactus has flowered reliably twice a year, usually right after Thanksgiving and again in the Spring, for many years. It's survived a move, a couple of repottings, lack of sun, overwatering, sunburn, and near drowning in June of 2006 when I left it on the back porch while we had record rainfall here in New England. It's been knocked over, had branches broken off by passersby, and hit with a football, a tennis ball and whatever other kind of ball my guys would play in the kitchen when I wasn't looking.

For the past year or two, my old friend the flowering cactus was mostly dormant, flowering sporadically if at all, and looked pale and unhealthy. I realized, at last, that I hadn't been paying much attention to this old friend and it was suffering from simple neglect. After a few well-timed doses of plant food, water and summer sunshine (but not too much), it's healthy as ever and blooming like crazy.

It occurred to me that relationships, whether business or personal, can suffer equally from neglect, and can be revitalized with a little TLC. Thank your spouse for the delicious breakfast, tell your child he did a great job on that math test, email a friend you've missed, call the customer you haven't heard from in a while and ask how she's doing. You know what to do . . . .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thank You For Listening

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." I'm sure you've heard that one. Famously uttered by a very young Paul Newman in the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke" it's become a much-used catch phrase in our American lexicon.

The reason I bring it up is that I'm wondering, with all of the sophisticated tools we have for communication, if anyone is still listening. We have email, IM and Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, WordPress, SMS, MMS, Blackberry and iPhone, PC and Mac, laptop and desktop. Etcetera.

With all of these tools for communication, it sometimes feels like a lot of noise with no one listening. We need to remember that it's human nature to want to be heard and understood. Think about the people you enjoy having around you most - the family, friends, and co-workers that listen to and understand you. Remember to return the favor.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Remarkable Dreams at Age 80

My Dad turned 80 this past summer and of course we threw a big party to celebrate with him. It was a wonderful backyard BBQ with family and friends; just the kind of celebration he relishes. Simple, low key and all about the people. And the hamburgers, too, but mostly about the people.

Frank's been a gifted singer pretty much all of his life - an accountant by trade, a really good athlete for fun, but always a singer by choice. He passed his love of music on to all five of us kids; we've each performed in one way or another, professionally or casually, since we were little kids. He probably still has reel-to-reel tapes of us singing around the Christmas tree back in 1966. Dad, Mom and all of us sang in the church choir at varying times; you'll still find my Dad there on Saturdays and Sundays. He sings for funerals as well - people request him because they love his ever powerful, beautiful tenor voice.

You might think of an 80-year-old man as one who sits in a chair, watching TV and talking about his various ailments, but that's not my Dad. He recently purchased a bicycle and still plays a mean game of ping-pong. The only beings he loves more than family and friends would be horses, and he'll go riding whenever there is an opportunity. But music is really his passion.

The remarkable project Dad's completing now is an album of love songs (and others) -mostly music from the 1940s. It's remarkable because he still sounds great at age 80 and still wants so much to share his music. It's remarkable to see the tender loving care he's putting into this project and the great cooperation between him and my son, Greg, as the recording engineer.

Dad has also sent his vocal demo of the National Anthem to the Red Sox, hopeful that they'll choose him for the line up for next season. He's positive and passionate about music - in his quiet way he's the perfect role model. Here's why: it's a powerful lesson to realize that an 80-year-old person can still possess the talent, the will, and the passion to make his dreams reality.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Flint Farm - Taste the Local Flavor Part II

Two of the hardest-working people I've met are the proprietors of Flint Farm in East Mansfield. Beth and Don Flint (the farm was passed down through his family, and his mom still works there, as do Beth and Don's sons) are friendly, energetic, and extremely business-savvy. All of that explains the continuous lines in front of the ice cream window on a recent Sunday afternoon. "Richardson's Ice Cream is the best tasting ice cream around and my customers know it" says Beth. With a mind-boggling array of flavors and a helpful staff of young ladies who love working for the Flint Family manning ice cream scoops, the Flint's ice cream stand is a special treat.

Asked how many customers they served this season, Beth replied, "I can't begin to think how many ice creams we made!"

Beautiful produce abounds - this is the time to choose just the right pumpkins to decorate your front stairs, porch or mantel. And see what else is on the shelves of Flint's produce stand; like a Cezanne still life, the colors and shapes satisfy, then you bring your treasure home and enjoy the fruits of the Flints' labor. I've said it before: there's nothing so delectable as the flavor of locally grown corn, tomatoes and whatever else is fresh from the field today.

There are other fun activities happening at Flint Farm: some Sunday afternoons you'll find The Van Burens playing an acoustic set of covers and original music on the side lawn while little kids dance and everyone enjoys their favorite ice cream flavor. The new corn maze is open and is a delightfully old-fashioned experience. Saturdays and Sundays there are hayrides from 12 - 6 p.m. There is a nominal fee for the maze and the hayrides, but under age 3 is free. Family fun and local flavor at its best!

Flint Farm: 789 East Street, just off Route 106 in East Mansfield

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Love a Baking Challenge (it is so civilized)

"I love a baking challenge. It is so civilized." This is my friend, Mary Alice, the consummate baker and true Southern lady (transplanted years ago here in the Northeast) talking about baking a Lane cake. Have you heard of this delightful confection? It gets a mention in Harper Lee's heartbreaking and beautiful story
"To Kill A Mockingbird", which I recommend you read immediately if you haven't.

Created by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, Lane cake is something that appears on special occasions in the South. A big cake, says Mary Alice, with raisins, coconut, pecans, lots of eggs and a jigger of whiskey, then topped with luscious seven-minute frosting.

Civilized? Definitely. Delicious? I'll tell you later . . .

Fashion Me Red

Back in August I was browsing women's clothing catalogs online in places where I wouldn't normally shop because I'm not that cool or trendy. Understanding that the color red would be back this Fall, I felt exhilarated and eagerly anticipated adding that new red sweater or coat into my regular rotation of favorites. Red is a color that complements me and works reliably with the various black, denim or brown slacks, jeans or skirts I wear for every occasion. According to Wikipedia, the color red connotes a variety of signals including, danger, anger, communism, lust, friendship and honor. For me, red just feels good.

To my dismay, I completely misunderstood the trend. All of the new women's clothing catalogs in my mailbox and inbox are displaying sweaters, boyfriend jackets and tweeds in purple, lavender, grey and blue. There are some orange and yellow and green accents here and there, and they're very nice, but true red clothing appears to be out, for the time being. Apparently the more muted colors are reflective of our "tough economic times", according to Allan Barger of "Fashionising". I have recently sworn off the phrase "tough economic times" and still prefer Pantone 185 or 186 Red to American Beauty Rose or Burnt Sienna.

I trust that my new red sweater will turn up eventually; I can be patient.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The One and Only Packaging Diva

When you see the word "diva", you normally think of an opera singer like Jessye Norman or even an R&B singer like Aretha Franklin. Barbra Streisand and Mariah Carey come to mind. I've never made acquaintance with these divas, but agree that they fit the profile, given the Merriam-Webster definition of diva, which is "a usually glamorous and successful female performer".

The Packaging Diva, JoAnn Hines, deserves the diva moniker because of the breadth of her interest in and knowledge of all things packaging. She has been around the business for so long that even the likes of Bill Clinton (she's been to the White House twice) and Faith Popcorn have called for JoAnn's input before they made a public statement.

To put it simply, JoAnn Hines knows how products should be packaged so that people will buy them. Whether you are launching a new product, retooling a tried and true favorite, looking for a packaging vendor, need input on a packaging design already in the works, seek a packaging expert to speak at an event, require help to stay competitive in the marketplace, or are looking to expand your market or target a specific demographic, Joann has the qualifications to steer you in the right direction. She has affiliations with universities, publications, manufacturers and pretty much anyone who has anything to do with packaging. JoAnn has even developed her own Packaging University with myriad opportunities to learn to integrate your packaging with the needs of the consumer.

A successful business is all about connections, isn't it? If you're in the packaging business, make that connection with The Packaging Diva - you'll be glad you found her.
The Packaging Diva

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saturday at the Farmer's Market

Have you been to your local farmer's market? Sponsored by Sustainable Braintree, the Braintree Farmer's Market is open on Saturday mornings through October in the parking lot of town hall, where you'll find vegetables and fruits (some exotic, others familiar), meats, seafood, homemade pies, cookies, soaps, granola, plants and other great items you likely won't find on the shelf at the grocery store. One lucky day I even found the Friends of Thayer Public Library selling gently used paperback books on the cheap! I bought a couple of books that day, but return faithfully each Saturday for the vegetables. Everything there is super-fresh; most of the produce was picked in the last 24 hours - unless you grow it yourself you'll find none better. Some of the sweetest corn and juiciest gigantic tomatoes come from The Farmer's Garden in Rehoboth. On a recent visit, owner Tammy Noons mentioned that the corn had been picked that morning; her table was crowded with buyers scooping up as many ears of corn as they could carry.

It evokes an uncommon, small-town, old-fashioned feeling; mingling in the sunshine with neighbors, while the proud farmers help you choose the best produce and even tell you how to prepare it if you need advice. As the summer winds down, find a farmer's market near you and enjoy the local flavor.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fully Committed

Riding down the highway the other day, I noticed a car, first because it was a brilliant yellow Mustang, which I thought was cool, and then because it had Red Sox stickers on it. (I'm a big Sox fan). Upon closer inspection (traffic was at a standstill), I saw that it was a young female driver, who obviously has a great love for the Red Sox, and for Dustin Pedroia in particular. She had the Red Sox logo on her license plate and in the center of the rear window, and the oval shaped "15" (Pedroia's number for you National League fans) sticker in the lower right corner. "MVPedroia" decorated the lower portion of the rear window, all adding up to a BIG LOVE for the very accomplished infielder.

We have a great tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves, as it were, for sports teams and causes, our country or our candidate. I recommend that each of us be even more committed to ourselves. Not for selfish reasons, but to be better people, for ourselves and for those around us. It brings to mind the safety instructions on airplanes: the flight attendants remind us, in case of emergency, to put on our own oxygen masks before helping others.

It's simple - if you're going to do it, be fully committed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

You Can Achieve Your Dreams - Ask Kathleen Hassan!

I recently had tea with my oldest friend, Kathleen Hassan, a respected motivational speaker, author and confidence coach. Growing up in South Weymouth, MA, Kathleen and I were neighbors at age five and remained friends through elementary school. While we travelled in separate groups through high school and college, we reconnected when our then boyfriends (themselves long-time friends) were roommates. Our life parallels from that point on quickly add up: we became engaged to those “boyfriends” then married (in the same church), purchased our first homes (in the same town) and each had two sons in quick succession. Twenty eight years later we remain fast friends, catching up whenever we can in person, by email, or on Facebook. I happily consider Kathleen one of my most loyal friends in the world.

I wanted to ask Kathleen about her enthusiastic quest to refine and reach her goals and her willingness to share her personal story to help people, especially teen girls, be their best.

E: Kathleen, you are my oldest and funniest friend. How am I doing so far?

K: Besides using the adjective “oldest” to describe me – you’re doing great!

E: At what point in your life did you realize you have a gift for helping people see their inner light? And please explain the term “inner light”.

K: When I was four years old, I knew I had a gift to be on stage and entertain. I used to star in garage shows and perform up on my dad’s workbench. I have an old, yellowed newspaper clipping from the time I donated my proceeds from a garage show to the South Shore Hospital. I was a philanthropist long before I could ever spell it! It wasn’t until many years later after embarking on a healing journey towards my own self-discovery that I understood that my purpose in life was to be a light for others. To me the term “inner light” refers to our highest and best self, that source of unlimited potential that is within everyone just waiting to be unearthed.

E: Can you name a couple of ways in which your own adolescence shaped the direction of your career as a motivator and confidence coach?

K: My dad died when I was ten years old and then my mother died when I was sixteen. I grew up hard and fast and made so many mistakes along the way just trying to fit in and looking for love in all the wrong places. But those challenges were the very things that set me on my quest for discovering the purpose for my life. I was on a mission to find out if there was more to life than pain and suffering. Once I discovered that within each of us lies the power to create a life we love, I was on fire to share these universal laws of success. I learned that it is not what happens, but how we respond that determines the quality of our life. I also learned that not everyone was aware of these success strategies and I modeled my career after some of the greatest motivational speakers and thinkers on the planet – the ones who had taught me how to unleash my own potential and shine my inner light. There are others, but uppermost in my mind now are Og Mandino, Jack Canfield and Zig Ziglar.

E: I know you speak in front of corporate groups and other adult-oriented programs, but you have a special focus on programs for teen girls. Why do you feel that group needs special attention?

K: As hard as I had it, growing up without parents, I believe that young women today have so many additional societal pressures on them to be “all that.” They are bombarded constantly in the media with unrealistic images and illusions of perfection. Reality TV has glamorized sex and drugs and over the top consumerism to the point that girls don’t have a clue who they are inside and they get their sense of self externally by having all the right “stuff”. These pressures can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, eating disorders and sexual promiscuity. The good news is that with a change of attitude and good coaching/therapy, (healing can happen when you stop blaming) these same girls can learn to shine their own inner light!
It’s a beautiful transformation and I feel so blessed to be able to help just one person.

E: Kathleen, I know that family is always uppermost in your mind and I’m happy to note here that you have two sons, each living his dream, working at a job he loves. Undoubtedly your philosophy of positivity and the power of choice helped guide Dan’s career in graphic design and Alex’s being drafted into the Red Sox farm system. Obviously, excellent coaching by their calm and collected Dad, Dave, had a positive effect on your young men as well. My question here is: do you continue the discussions with your sons about how they can consistently use positivity and the law of attraction to realize their goals?

K: Oh my God yeah… to the point where they roll their eyes and say “Mom, I get it!” And the fact that they get it is by far the greatest accomplishment I could ever achieve in my entire lifetime. The lessons that I had to learn the hard way are the things that have helped my sons stand head and shoulders above the crowd. They are both extraordinary young men and I am so incredibly proud to be their mother.

For more about Kathleen or to contact her,
please click: Kathleen Hassan is Your Confidence Coach

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An American in Germany

This blog has been written by guest writer, Joe Spitz, VP of Sales and Marketing for Liberty Packaging - yes, he is my husband. Here, Joe talks of his recent trip to Germany:

“You must order the white asparagus soup,” insisted my hosts, Frank and Peggy Krökel. This was the start of my infatuation with this delightful vegetable. The selected restaurant for my first night in Germany, located in Eisenach, served the soup and the white asparagus dish in a butter or hollandaise sauce. I chose the butter and it was quite delicious. May in Germany is a perfect season to indulge in this unique dish.

The white asparagus discovery was certainly a pleasure, but back to business. My Germany visit allowed me to participate in an Intercept Technology™ team building event for representatives and distributors from all around the globe. Organized by Frank and Peggy’s company CompTrade (European Intercept Technology Dealer), the event included a spirited off-road team competition in which teams of participants drove rugged vehicles through obstacle courses (see pictures) and also a day of sharing Intercept sales situations and packaging solutions from all attending parties.

Applications stories varied, but what was quite evident is that automobile manufacturers all around the world are accepting and appreciating the corrosion protection that Intercept packaging offers. Many wide-ranging tiered parts for the major manufacturers are being transported from diverse locations to assembly sites safely in Intercept, including engine blocks, drive shafts, manifolds; there are very few limitations. The groups’ creative packaging ideas utilizing Intercept were proficient such as bulk packing to save costs, and eliminating protective oil application and removal. Implementation of these ideas saved their customers money on packaging materials and labor, but the big savings came in costs associated with reducing reworks and returns.

It was a joy for me to visit beautiful Germany with its rolling hills, quaint villages, castles, fine cuisine, and friendly people. I am so appreciative of my CompTrade hosts for this experience. It was also illuminating for me to meet people from different parts of the world and who speak different languages that are as passionate about the revolutionary Intercept Technology™ packaging as I am. Intercept is truly worldwide. For more about Intercept Technology packaging, please visit Liberty Packaging Co., Inc.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Do You Do When the Internet Is Down?

We just spent an entire five-hour span without internet service. No email - no anything. What did we do before the Internet? Did we talk on the phone? Read? I cannot imagine - it seems like eons ago and I must have been busy baking bread and doing laundry with my washboard and ringer.

I think we acquired our first home computer about 15 years ago and I recall being a little afraid of it, like it was a dog that might turn on me unexpectedly. I felt so very sophisticated when I learned to use whatever word processing software it had (it was not Microsoft Word) and it all seemed so complicated and uncomfortable. I never dreamt I'd fall in love with email, and Facebook and Twitter and Google. Nothing else for it; I'm smitten with the Internet.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Utility Work Ahead

Utility Work Ahead. That is the sign that's been a beacon amidst the dust and roadwork outside my door for the last couple of days. Sweaty workers wearing safety orange vests and hardhats, driving heavy machinery and making noise. A great deal of noise. In fact, they were setting up at seven a.m. and are still working now, at 5:30 p.m. These men (they are all men, as far as I can tell) know they have to finish the job in a timely fashion and, accepting that, just keep working. When it comes to the basics: water, gas, electricity, people won't tolerate outages for long and the utility companies know this.

We should all think this way, whether it is laundry or homework, customer service or learning lines from Shakespeare. If we've chosen this job, whatever it is, we're obligated to get it done the best way we know how and on time. It's better still if we can enjoy the process. Even if the job is to find a new job. Utility work ahead.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disruption Leads to Change

A friend recently talked about her small child disrupting plans, as small children are wont to do. My friend wasn't really put out by this, but noted that flexibility is a requirement for being a parent. Truer words were never spoken.

Examined more closely, disruption requires flexibility which leads to change on many fronts - that can be good news, if you let it happen. If we were never interrupted, and left to our own devices 24/7 without contact from the world around us, we'd likely continue on our merry way without noticing that there may be a better way to look at things, accomplish things, treat people, reach goals, live dreams.

In the business world, a disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is defined by Wikipedia as an innovation that improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect. A good example of disruptive technology would be Intercept Technology corrosion and static protective packaging. Intercept is a composite of plastic and copper - the copper acts as a sacrificial for any corrosive gases within the package, thus protecting whatever is inside that package from degradation/corrosion/rust. Intercept is disruptive in that it works like no other packaging. It does not outgas or particle shed, it is generally not necessary to vacuum air out of the package, it does not leave an oily film on the product it protects.

I could go on, but will end with this: the world of manufacturing could be completely changed by this disruptive Intercept Technology packaging; Liberty Packaging is where to find more info.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How 'bout a cuppa . . . green tea for Terry

Perhaps other Red Sox fans in Boston have heard Terry Francona's Bigelow Green Tea ad on Red Sox Radio WEEI. I heard it for the first time recently and found it funny initially, but maybe it's right in character. Terry's public persona is quiet, rational, sometimes humorous and I think green tea is a good drink for him (and his friend, Joe Torre). I wonder if Terry knows that you can swish tea instead of mouthwash to prevent cavities? This is according to a study at the U of Illinois in Chicago. Maybe that's why Terry has such a nice smile? Here's Terry with Joe Torre and Phil Simms, along with Cindi Bigelow talking about tea.

I went to the Bigelow Tea company site and learned that Bigelow is a local company, started in Fairfield, CT, in 1945 by Ruth Campbell Bigelow. Since then, Bigelow has grown from a one-product entreprenurial business to probably the most popular specialty-teas company in the U.S. And it is still 100% family-owned. Remarkable! Third generation Bigelow President, Cindi Bigelow, recently honored as one of the "Top 100 Women in Grocery" by Progressive Grocer, lives by this mantra: "Do the right thing and good things will follow." Couple that with the health benefits of green tea, and success is inevitable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Happened to the Courtesy Wave?

It is my new mission to be a polite driver (here in Massachusetts, if you believe the rumors, polite drivers are as rare as standing ovations for Johnny Damon). It was a dark and stormy night (much less rare here these days) and as I exited the grocery store parking lot, I slowed to let a small car cut in front of me. He drove directly in front of my car with nary a glance, never mind a courtesy thank you wave! Do you want to know why? I'll tell you why . . . he was too busy talking on his cell phone! If I'm repeating an oft-heard complaint, please forgive. I am just concerned for our safety and regretting the loss of social niceties.

The U News Center at the University of Utah published a study entitled "Drivers on Cell Phones Are as Bad as Drunks". An exaggeration of the dangers? Perhaps not.

The study's lead author, Psychology Professor David Strayer, notes: “Just like you put yourself and other people at risk when you drive drunk, you put yourself and others at risk when you use a cell phone and drive. The level of impairment is very similar.”

In the interest of full-disclosure, I must confess a penchant for cell-phone use while driving, but given the facts, am breaking that habit (with the occasional lapse).

Aside from all of the scary statistics and possible things that could go wrong, I simply miss the occasional courtesy wave from a fellow driver. Such friendly behavior can make us feel more connected. Isn't that what it's all about?
If you stop to let me merge into traffic, I promise you a courtesy wave and a smile.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let it Rain . . .

Yes, it is still raining here in the Northeast. That's okay, because our lawns are green, the trees are blooming and waving in the breeze, and everything smells clean and fresh. I am enjoying it for now, and will also savor the heat wave, whenever it gets here. It's inevitable.

I hope you won't complain too much about the heat; don't mind me if I ignore you when you do - I'll be too busy sunning myself (SPF 30, natch).

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's About Connections

My strength is in nurturing connections. I am a great supporter of people who value connections and see the worth of others. Really, it's what makes the world work better and we can all do more of it. Sharing ideas and connections makes us better people - there is plenty of (fill in the blank) to go around and our reason for being on this earth is to make it a better place, to be thoughtful and honest as individuals.

It may be a family member, co-worker, neighbor, the person behind you at the cashier. It's just a small effort, but say hello, ask about their day, hold a door open, or let someone cut in front of you in traffic. Pretty simple stuff to show that you care. And if you don't care, fake it at first. Eventually, you'll find that it makes your day a little bit nicer.

I had an uncomfortable conversation with someone today, a new connection, who perhaps needs a gentle nudge to understand that sharing your toys, your ideas, or your connections can be valuable. I feel that underneath, he recognizes the concept, but perhaps needs more time to implement.

Trust yourself and trust others - make connections - you'll make the world a better place, a little bit each day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ladies, Let's Talk about Razors

I know, it may seem a bit too personal, but when I make a good purchase, sometimes I just feel like sharing. Anyone shaving their legs (and it is beach season) will appreciate the wonderful features of the
Venus Embrace ladies' razor from Gillette. It has FIVE blades! One would think two or three enough, but what a close shave it provides. And, the wide surface area of the cartridge with the lotiony edges protects the ankles and knees - where I would normally knick myself.

This one has a little "pod" that you can stick on the shower wall, for storing the razor; this "Shower Pod" opens up for storage of a couple of new cartridges for a quick change when the blades become dull. The whole thing is very handy and the packaging is beautiful, which is why I purchased it in the first place.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What about Google Wave?

I've finished reading a blog about Google Wave by Lars Rasmussen, who, with his brother, Jens, developed this astonishing new software that links all of the communications we (some more than others) use: IM, text, Twit, email, etc. all onto one gigantic "wave", to which you can continue to add connections. Lars notes that after two years of development, the product is not quite ready for public release and he's inviting developers to a "sneak peek".

The thing sounds really cool and Lars wonders whether this new Wave is the "be all end all" (my words) in communications. I seriously doubt it, and not because it's not great, but because of our need to do it better than the last guy. That's what's great about science and technology, music, literature and art.
Why do we keep at it? Because we can and it makes us happy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Plastic Wine Bottles May Be "green"

Whether or not you are a recycler (if you're not, you need to admit it to yourself and get started), you may find this interesting. It seems there is a PET material being used for wine bottles and you may see these new bottles on the shelves at your favorite wine merchant soon. For more details go to

and find the article "One Green Bottle" by Ben Canaider. Wine in plastic bottles certainly makes sense for frat houses and the boating community, as mentioned in the article, but does it make sense environmentally? Maybe. And will wine connoisseurs everywhere be willing to drink wine from a plastic bottle with a screw-on cap? Hmmmm.

I don't believe there is an ultimate correct answer for all of our trash and carbon footprint issues, but we certainly should think about doing things better. If there is a better way, we should consider it. All of these recycling concerns require trial and error; any improvements will be made using baby steps.

As an avowed wine ignoramus (opposite of connoisseur), I would be happy to drink wine from a plastic bottle. Please don't hold it against me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Want to Thank You, Sun

Thank you, sun, for shining! It feels like spring is really here - what are we doing indoors?
Everyone, let's go outside and stroll, have an ice cream and just catch up on what's going on in the neighborhood. That is one of the best features of spring in the suburbs: all the neighbors you haven't seen since you exchanged Christmas cards (if you're one for that) have reemerged from their winter garb, mowing and raking and mulching and planting. We barely recognize each other - time to get reaquainted.

Meet me at the back fence at 5:30. I'll bring the beer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breathe Easy

I saw a tee shirt on Umphrey's McGee's website the other day. The message was:
breathe easy.
think slowly.
dream focused.

Great message - it's posted beside my computer now, as a reminder for me to unhunch my shoulders, unclench my teeth, lean back and BREATHE! Can you share what works for you?

I recommend Umphrey's new album "Mantis" to reengergize. Turn it up to 11.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Accentuate the Positive!

Try this . . . put a smile on your face (even if it feels phony), stand tall and go do whatever your day requires. Whether it is a meeting, or errands, jury duty or just your everyday job. You will find that if you smile, look people in the eye and say hello, or thank you, or please - whichever is appropriate, most people will respond positively to you. Go out on a limb and hold a door open for someone - it works! Even if your errand is potentially unpleasant (like expressing your discontent with with a co-worker's behavior, for instance), if you do it with a smile and acknowledge that the other person is a human being, you will find life generally easier and more satisfying. As JFK said, "A rising tide lifts all boats".

I have tried this experiment many times. It works! And you should always assume ahead of time that you will be received in a positive fashion.

Because facial expressions generally mirror emotion, they are mostly involuntary. This can be altered even if you are not feeling happy - smile and you'll start to believe it!

Let a smile be your companion for a day, and see the difference. Here's a little silliness to help you smile: Jim Gaffigan loves Hot Pockets!

Monday, May 4, 2009

RoHS Affects Household Appliances

I've been discussing this with relatives, colleagues, friends. Since Lead-Free is now the rule for any items being imported into Europe (with some exceptions, including products for military use), we are now being told that the washing machine we just paid $1700 for will last 5 - 10 years, rather than the 15 - 20 years for older generation large appliances. Isn't that counterproductive? It seems we aim to fill up landfills with washers, dryers, TVs, fridges, etc., more quickly.

Even if these items can be recycled, the lead-free solder used takes more labor and energy to separate. Again, isn't that counter to our new environmentally friendly objectives?

It is my understanding that lead materials from landfills do NOT get into our drinking water throught the ground water, because lead is too heavy, and just remains where it lands. Food for thought indeed - we should always be aware that taking the easiest route is not always the best, whether it's homework, or housecleaning, feeding the neediest, or the "greening" of our consumption.

Friday, May 1, 2009

JFK Peace Strategy - Lessons for Today

The season of commencement is here and while we may feel sad because it is the end of something, it really is the beginning of a time that can be exciting and meaningful if we strive to be our best selves. Not just the graduates, but all of us who are paying attention.

I attended Brown University's Baccalaureate address last year, my eldest son in cap and gown, proudly receiving his hard-earned undergrad degree in music. Listening to (and sometimes laughing with) author, publisher, philanthropist and teacher-at-large Dave Eggars speak about our connections and responsibilities to our community and to the world was energizing! I wanted to find him and go work for him, immediately!

President Kennedy earned an honorary degree on the day he offered his strategy of peace to the 1963 American University undergrads - I imagine his audience felt how essential each one of them was to the peace process. Here is an excerpt:

"I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children - not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women - not merely peace in our time but peace for all time."

In this speech, JFK was talking about the buildup of nuclear arms and the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union; many of his points can be applied to our current world situation. As always, President Kennedy used the poetry and prose of others in his illustrations of how we, as American and citizens of the world, can be better; we owe it to the world to be our best.

Mike Lowe brings the words of JFK to life for audiences in Boston, New England and beyond - more at JFK Experience with Mike Lowe.