Sunday, October 4, 2015

Love you forever

Hello friends,

Are you enjoying fall?  Here in New England we are enjoying, in no particular order: football (college & professional), apples and all the yummy ways to make them unhealthy, crisp mornings and evenings, foliage, fires, return to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and even though I'm embarrassed to admit it, the return of my TV series - Nashville.  Now before you go judge me for putting a TV show on my top fall items, know this.  It's the only show I watch.   Well I might watch Downtown Abbey this winter, but based on last seasons plot line, I may just skip that one, so it's the only show I watch currently.  Also, I watch it from a DVR recording, so I'm not a slave to the network programming.  So, it's 1 hour a week, and it's my one guilty pleasure.  Well, I do read people magazine {gasp} so it's one of two guilty pleasures.

One of the fun things for us about the fall is that we celebrate our anniversary.  While most of you are celebrating x number of years of wedded bliss in the summer, Bob and I get to have our celebration at the end of September.  Since this year marked 30 years of wedded joy, we took two days off and headed to a luxury historic hotel for a night.  Know what we discovered?  The only people out and about on a Monday or Tuesday in September in a resort town are retired people in bus tours.  We felt so young!!  No seriously we bumped into several very nice couples, surprisingly most from New Jersey while exploring Bretton Woods for 2 days.

So of course I had to make Bob an anniversary card.

And you probably want to see pictures of our little getaway too.

The fancy hotel gave left us these chocolate strawberries in our room.  Yum!

We took the Cog Railway to the top of Mount Washington
We were happy to be on the summit, but glad we didn't spend the day hiking!
The resort had a very special spa.  I hope to get back there again someday.  Really lovely!

Lastly, I saw this great post about wedding vows.  I wish I could say that I do all these things, but I can say that if Bob and I both did these, we would have an awesome marriage.  Don't get me wrong - we have a great marriage, but we are not perfect.  A good read if you have the time.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.


After years of marriage I’ve realized…I know nothing about marriage…
It’s been six years since Tiffani and I exchanged vows. Like most soon-to-be-married couples, we had an idea of what marriage would look like. After all, we watched “chick flicks,” read a few marriage books, and spent time with older married couples.
Looking back, however, I realize I didn’t know much at all about marriage. The words I promised Tiffani at our wedding were idealistic and romantic. This isn’t much different from the traditional vows you hear at almost any wedding. “To have and hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
There’s nothing wrong with these vows. But, seriously. Who really understands what they mean?
I know what you’re thinking. Why do marriage vows matter?
Here’s why. Vows are promises. But not just any promises. Vows are markers that guide your marriage. So, while I’m not against writing vows Casanova would applaud, I am against vows that are more romantic and emotional than practical and honest.
Let’s be real. In a culture that idolizes romantic love, we don’t need any more Shakespearean vows. We need vows that will shape and impact marriages.
Here are 12 truthful marriage vows you won’t hear at a wedding.


When you get married, you vow faithfulness to your spouse. You vow exclusivity to them. You promise to never flirt, lust, or seek attention from the opposite sex. You promise to protect your mind from images that aren’t your spouse.
You don’t listen to music that degrades people. You don’t allow your eyes to view images or watch shows portraying people as objects and relationships as indispensable. These are obvious, right?
But when you vow exclusivity to your spouse, you vow more than physical purity. You vow emotional purity as well. You promise to never confide in a secretary at work or be flattered by someone of the opposite sex.
Emotional purity is much less obvious than physical purity, but it’s just as destructive. You must fight to give all of your emotions, your desire to impress, your attention, struggles, heartaches, and everything in between to your spouse. These don’t belong to other people. Fight for purity, both physically and emotionally.


There’s no such thing as a 50/50 marriage.
You can’t keep score in a marriage. There’s no such thing as a 50/50 relationship. That’s a contract.
Give 100% of yourself every day. Some days, 100% won’t be much. But on those days, trust your spouse will pick you up. Regardless, let go of this give-and-take idea.
Just give. Giving is the essence of love and the heart of the one who created marriage, God.


Most marriages struggle because the relationship is the end goal. The mission of most marriages is to provide stability to your life, to have a family, to have a companion. Get the idea?
But God created marriage, and because he created it, the goal is larger than selfish desires. The goal is to glorify him. Even in Christian circles, few couples make the gospel the mission of their marriage. And this explains why Paul said it was better NOT to marry (1 Cor. 7). Your interest would be divided between your spouse and God.
Your mission on earth is to serve God. Everyday. This mission doesn’t change when you get married. But if you’re not intentional, pleasing your spouse will take precedent over serving God.


For the sake of your sanity and your marriage, please listen. You can’t change your spouse. You don’t have that power.
If this is your goal, two varmets will infest your relationship: bitterness and resentment.
For years, Tiffani and I tried to change each other. It wasn’t until we stopped trying to change each other and started enjoying one another that we experienced intimacy.
One of the profound mysteries of marriage is two people with different values learning to love, flourish, and celebrate one another. It’s not easy, but that’s why you must rely on God and embrace the unique values He places in every person, including your spouse.
This sounds overly simplistic because it is…just love the person in front of you. Don’t long for a “fixed” version of your spouse. Don’t hope for a day when your spouse changes. Just love the current version of your partner. Doing this will transform your marriage.


Marriage isn’t a quest to find happiness or completion. God created you complete. You must learn to love yourself before trying to receive or extend love.
When another person is responsible for your happiness, you idolize that person. You obsess over everything. You check Facebook profiles, text messages, and missed calls. It’s a miserable way to live. It’s a terrible recipe for a quality relationship.
Be confident in the man or woman God created you to be. Then you will be free to love your spouse the way God intended.


This was probably the greatest barrier in my marriage the first few years. Tiffani and I had expectations that influenced our decisions and shaped our understanding of marriage.
Tiffani’s expectations for me were influenced by her dad. Tiffani has an amazing dad. I respect him. I’ve learned a lot from him. But I’m not Tiffani’s dad. Likewise, my expectations for Tiffani were shaped by my mom. I have an amazing mom. But it’s unfair to expect Tiffani to respond the way my mom responded. And these unrealistic expectations created a lot of disappointments.
Your spouse should never endure disappointments as a result of ignorance. State your expectations clearly. All of them. Be thorough. What do you expect from a wife? A husband? What does marriage look like to you? What does sex look like?
If you can’t state your expectations, either because you don’t know them or you’re too shy to say them, it’s a red flag that you aren’t ready for marriage.


Your spouse will hurt you and vice-versa. When this happens, search your heart, seek God, and forgive your spouse the same way God forgives you.
Don’t forgive with conditions. Don’t say, “I forgive you” when you’re really storing your spouse’s mistake to use as ammo in a future argument.
Unless you forgive the way God forgives you, completely and unconditionally, a wall will grow taller and taller in your relationship. Eventually, bitterness and resentment will make intimacy impossible, and your marriage will be nothing more than two roommates living under the same roof.


Many days you won’t feel like being for your spouse. But you must be for your partner if you want your marriage to grow. What does this look like? Here are a few examples.
  1. You pray for your spouse.
  2. You affirm your spouse’s strengths and gifts.
  3. You focus more on the positive aspects of your spouse’s personality and actions than the negative ones.
  4. You help your spouse pursue his or her dreams and talents.
  5. You make your relationship a safe place for hard questions and deep conversations.
When you are for your spouse they open up like a flower, stepping into their relationships, workplace, etc. with boldness and courage. Is your spouse living with boldness and courage?


God created marriage to be a private relationship between two people.
God created marriage to be a private relationship between two people. In the social media era, virtually everything is available to the public. Privacy is viewed as stinginess, almost as though six billion people are entitled to full access of your life.
Don’t buy the lie.
Your marriage is private. When you fight, your girlfriends don’t need to hear your husband is a jerk. Your homeboys don’t need to hear that your wife is irrational and ridiculous. No one, other than your spouse, should know intimate details about your sex life.
Don’t publicize a relationship God designed to be private.


Regardless of the circumstances in your marriage, never spend more time looking in the rear-view mirror than the windshield. You must always believe the best is yet to come.
Why? God is a futurist.
He always leads people towards the future, towards the unknown. This forward movement is rooted in hope. Hope that the unknown is better than the known because God forges the path.
But here’s the lie our world says: future circumstances are tied to current actions. So, if your marriage is miserable right now, it won’t get better in the future. But the future isn’t dependent on external actions. It’s dependent on internal perspective.
In other words, you must choose to believe tomorrow will be better than today. If you choose this, it will be true, regardless of the actions of your spouse.


Marriage is about intimacy, and intimacy requires time and exclusivity. Here’s what this means practically. You must learn to say no. Go ahead and practice now.
Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Boundaries In Marriage, says, “A marriage is only as strong as what it costs to protect it.”
Saying yes to outside influences means saying no to your marriage. You will hurt people’s feelings. Your parents won’t understand. They might even call you selfish. Your golf game might take a hit. Your friends will send you passive-aggressive text messages because you aren’t spending time with them. Your co-workers might think you’re uncommitted because you choose to spend a night with your spouse instead of working late on a project. Unfortunately, even your church might make off-hand comments.
I’m giving you a heads up because these are the costs you must take to protect your marriage. If you don’t do this, your marriage will fail. And, trust me, it’s must easier to implement this vow on day 1 of your marriage than several years in.


I’m going to be real here. At some point, you will want to give up. I know what you’re thinking. “Not me. I would never leave my spouse.”
That’s real sweet and all, but you’re naive.
Marriage is crazy hard. Eventually, your spouse will wound you deeply, you will lose the will to invest in your relationship, or you will come to the realization that marriage is more work than you signed up for.
When this season comes, the line between giving up and pressing forward will be drawn by your community. If your community caters to your ego and feeds your “woe is me” attitude, the line will be easy to cross. If you aren’t plugged into a local church, doing life with a group of Christians, the line will be easier to cross. If, however, you surround your marriage with a community of Christians who are for you, the line will be much harder to cross.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Masculine Birthday Card

Hi friends,

I needed a masculine birthday card.  Sigh.  This is probably my biggest card making challenge.  What to do, what to do, what to do....  So I cheated.  I went to Pinterest and found a card that inspired me.  I did not have the same flower stamp/die set, but I took the basic idea and came up with this.

Using blue's and browns was my best attempt to make a floral card look slightly masculine.  It's not my favorite card, but it will do.  Below is the card I made.

And here is my 'inspiration' card from pinterest.
This came from a crafty website called Scrappin and Stampin in GT.

So let's talk about being thrifty.  Do you think that being thrifty is the same as being cheap?  I don't. In my mind, someone who is cheap is someone who is stingy with their money and selfish.  A cheap person is someone who never takes his wife out to dinner.  A cheap person is someone who tips less than 15%, or only tips 15% when the bill is under $10.00.  A cheap person is someone who is not willing to pay someone for their hard work and looks to cheat people out of fair wages.  But a thrifty person?  Ah, that is something very different in my mind.  A thrifty person is someone who is careful with their money and looks for ways to repair an item before buying a new one.  A thrifty person is not hung up on brand names and will consider a brand that is not well known and consider buying a purse that doesn't have a fancy name, if the bag seems to be well made and fashionable.  A thrifty person is willing to buy second hand items when a need arises.  And, of course, a thrifty person looks for coupons and sales for times when they are buying new to get the best deal.  A thrifty person doesn't only buy from 'big box stores' and is often willing to pay more for locally made or hand-made items, but a thrifty person is aware of what they need and looks to get a good value for their money.

So, I would hope that my family and friends would lump me in the thrifty category.  Have you ever heard of a store called Savers?  It's my favorite store!   Savers is basically a thrift store, similar to the Salvation Army only much better quality and variety depending upon the store location.   There is a Savers very close to my office and I go there often, especially when looking for household items.  On Monday they had 50% off all furniture and large items.  I got a pasta bowl and three lawn chairs for $10.00.  (-:  A few weeks ago I found a salad spinner for $3.00.    All items are donated and the profits from sales all benefit local charities.  I feel good about buying things there.

I don't generally buy my clothes or shoes there, but have been seen browsing the jeans and belt section for my dear husband.  Especially when he kept wearing a pair of jeans (for cutting the grass) that were two sizes too big for him.

I also love to scout around Craigs list whenever a need arises.  And, of course, I love a coupon or sale at my favorite store or restaurant.  Sarah and I enjoyed a yummy lunch last Friday at Paparazzi's with a free appetizer. Then we hit Joanne fabrics and scoped out the clearance rack for fabric for the glider.  We scored 5 yards of a nice gray linen blend for under $20.00.  Happy Dance.

How about you?  Are you thrifty?  Do you know anyone who is cheap?  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Thanks for visiting today.  Make it a great day.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Garden

 Hi friends,

Do any of you garden?  I love to garden, but I only love to work with flowers.  I've tried fruits and vegetables before, but when I've tried in the past I found it a lot of work and not a lot of reward.  I have some great local farmers market, so I consider it helping the local economy to NOT plant a garden and instead frequent those establishments.

My daughter is giving fruits and vegetables a try.  She and my son-in-law put in a pretty decent size garden at the start of the season and they are now starting to harvest some food.  It's fun to see how devoted they both are to the garden.  And I do enjoy having fresh things arrive in the kitchen in time for dinner!

But before I show you pictures of their garden, let me show you a card with flowers on it!
This was a fun card I made for my co-worker who just moved into her apartment.

So back to Sarah's garden.  She and Ivan dug out the bed and put up the fence in April. Throughout May they prepared the soil and in early June they started planting.  She's got a mix of herbs and vegetables and a handful of strawberry plants.  so far we've harvested Basil, Zucchini, purple beans, lettuce and kale.

Here's our proud mother with her babies!  She does baby those plants.  You should have heard her fret about the hard rain storms (with HAIL!) and how her babies were surviving and don't get me started on her worrying about her tomatoes (that are not thriving.)  She's very passionate about her plants and is really enjoying working out there each weekend.

Below are various photo's of the garden at each of the different stages of the season.

Weeding in August - Bob relaxing (a rare sight!)
August Crop
August crop (up close)
June - working and weeding

June - just getting started

May (keeping it moist with straw)
May - High Hopes
April - and so it begins
April - tilling the soil
April - Ivan working hard
April - the happy anticipation
April - working together

Thanks for visiting my blog today.   Stay tuned, I hope to be more crafty now that the heat waves are over and intend to blog more often.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Meeting the neighbors and from that naming the NH place

Hi friends,

So since we bought our NH place, we've been meeting some of the neighbors.  The first neighbor we met is a long-time resident of the neighborhood.  Felicia, her husband and daughter live in a lovely home toward the bottom of the hill.  One one of our first visits, when we saw a car in the driveway, we stopped in and introduced ourselves.  It was really neat the following week when we were checking out a local church to spot her in the congregation.  I whispered to Bob, hey isn't that our neighbor Felicia?  We went over after the service to say hi.  She was very friendly (both at her front door and at church) and she gave me a name for a pet groomer in the area.

She told us about the other neighbor that lives further up the hill, next to us.  She mentioned the guy is a doctor in Cambridge.  We keep watching for someone to be home there and have seen a car in the driveway every once and a while, but each time we drive up to say hello, no-one answers.  Ivan thinks the car we see is a worker doing some work on the place.  Now that summer is here, we might encounter the Cambridge Doctor.

Then two weeks ago, we saw a car at the bottom of the road and some work equipment.  Bob stopped and chatted with Mike.  Mike is the owner of much of the undeveloped land abutting our property.  Mike was there harvesting some trees for firewood.   He has owned the land for a long time and told Bob all about the different owners of our place.  I guess many years ago, the first owner was a politician in Boston.  When he owned the place it was a small place, just 3 rooms - a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and probably just a galley kitchen. He called it 'Poland Lodge.'  Everyone called it that and when he had some heat in Boston, he would escape to his lodge till things quieted down.  There were several other owners and several renovations - first the expansion to include the two bedrooms, expanded bathroom and kitchen.  Then later another renovation (by a different owner) to add the mudroom, loft and upstairs bedroom.  And lastly the final renovation to add the enclosed porch.  Mike had seen the place in all it's various renovation stages.  Bob encouraged him to stop by sometime.  I hope to meet him this summer.

So, the same weekend Bob met Mike, I met another neighbor.  This neighbor was not one I had any idea lived in the area.  I was driving up the hill (on the dirt road) in the late afternoon when I saw movement in the woods just up the hill from Felicia's place, but not quite to the Cambridge Doctor's place.  At first glance I thought it was a large dog.  Then I thought wolf.  Then a small black bear scrambled across the road, a reasonable distance from my car, but clear as day, just the same.   I arrived at the Cabin and I don't think anyone believed me, but Ivan hurried out the door going to look to see if he could see the bears tracks or evidence of the bears living space.  The next week, Sarah and Ivan encountered Little Bear in just about the same spot.

I'm glad our neighbor is a little bear (remember about the size of a large dog - maybe a German Shepard) and not a big black bear.  I imagine little bear will stay in his area and not venture up to our cabin.  There are lots of berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) so I'm hoping he is content to eat his berries and not come to our place looking for food.  There has been no evidence that he has been at our place.  We are very careful to not leave any garbage out in the shed or outdoor area, but I'll be extra diligent and I won't be leaving Tank and Joey outside unattended.  I did a quick google search and found several reports of black bears in our area.  It seems they generally leave humans alone, but it does say use caution around them and absolutely don't feed them!  Once they get acclimated to human food, it can be dangerous since they'll do whatever it takes to get to your food.

So, after meeting all these neighbors we decided to finalize on a name for our place.  Everyone liked the idea of calling it a lodge.  We do have comfortable accommodations and have been hosting guests there often and the term lodge implies a restful haven, which is what the place is to us.   We wanted to also include reference to our neighbor little bear, so the name 'Little Bear Lodge' was conceived.  Now, Sarah and I will be creating a nice welcome sign with the name on it.  We'll have some fun with that.

What do you think of our name?  What do you think  of our neighbors?  Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The porch glider

Hi friends,

Do you have any childhood memories of a place that represented happiness and love?  I have several places that fit that bill.  One such place, was my grandparents (and later my aunt's) lake house.  The lake house was originally called 'the cottage' when I was small.  It was owned by my grandparents and was a small two story place on Canandaigua lake in upstate NY.

My sister and I loved going to the cottage.  It meant time with our cousins, afternoons spent on the raft, evenings spent at Roseland (the nearby amusement park) and mornings spent on the porch.

One of my favorite spots was on the glider on the porch.  It was old and creaky, but how fun to sit in the glider, looking out over the small lawn and lake and socialize with the family.  The porch glider just overwhelmed you with the feeling of SUMMER.

So, as we were looking at how to furnish the porch at our NH place, when I saw an ad on Craig's list for a porch glider, I was all over it.  How fun to have our own porch glider at our weekend getaway.  I had to do a little convincing of the others - Sarah and Ivan were skeptical.  Bob's concern was how to transport it, but we contacted the sellers and made plans to see it.

I also reached out to my cousins, to verify that my memories of a porch glider were accurate.  They confirmed that the glider is a great addition to the porch so we continued our pursuit.

There were two gliders for sale in NH.  One was quite close to our place, the other was on the other side of the state.  We decided to look at the nearby one first.  Why make life difficult.

This Craig's list encounter was a tad challenging.  We arrive to location only to be greeted (after a very long wait) by a tearful women.  She was an emotional wreck.  The glider was her mothers and her mother recently moved from her home to a family members house since she was suffering with dementia.  This glider was the first thing this lady was selling from her mothers house.  She was a basket case.  We were empathetic and tried to be encouraging 'our family will hopefully get many years of joy from this, like your family did.'  It wasn't obvious what the right thing to say was.  We just talked to the lady and tried to be understanding.  After about 20-30 minutes, we had made plans to return the next day with a rental truck to take it away.  We felt too bad to haggle over the price, but she was asking a reasonable amount.  Who knows, maybe that was her bargaining technique all along.

The ironic thing was that as we approached the house, Bob says 'let's just get in and out, no telling stories of our whole life and becoming best friends with the lady.  Simple transaction and we go.' Well, obviously that didn't happen, but I wasn't the one doing all the talking.  She showed me her mother's wedding dress, talked about memories of her mom and didn't actually cry, but teared up on numerous occasions.

The next day with the truck was kind of more of the same.  She heard us pull up and ring the doorbell, but didn't come to the door for almost 5 minutes.  She apologized and said she had been up all night crying.  At this point we wondered why one of the other family members wasn't doing the transaction.  This was obviously very difficult for her.  Her mood brightened considerably when I took out 8 twenty dollar bills, so we took the chance to escape (glider in the back of the truck) and headed off.

The glider fit perfectly in the corner of the porch.  We removed the cushions and took the cushions I got from my neighbors garbage and re-sized them.  We added a blanket (or two) as a temporary cover and everyone has enjoyed sitting on the glider, enjoying the warm breeze and the creaking, comforting noise of the old glider.  Sarah is tasked with making cushion covers.   We'll have fun picking out fabric and working the sewing machines to finish it up.  Or, if we don't get motivate, we can leave it 'as is' with the blankets on it.  That was how the porch glider at the cottage was always decorated and it didn't take away from the charm one bit.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Turning a cabin into a cottage

Do you know the correct definition of cabin and cottage?  What do you think differentiates the two? If you are stumped by this question, you are not alone.  Bob and I have been debating it ever since we bought our property up north.

But before I get into that debate, let me share a card I made for my daughter Sarah to give to her friend Alyssa and Andrew.  They are getting married next weekend and Sarah is a bridesmaid.  Alyssa loves bird cages and girly things so even though I didn't have any stamps that matched that description I had lots of patterned paper and just got busy adorning the heck out of the card and voila - a wedding card for Alyssa and Andrew.  The only thing stamped is the sentiment.
So now on to the debate.  At first, I insisted it was a cabin because it had wood on the floors and walls and a big stone fireplace.  Bob insisted it wasn't a cabin because it had heat, running water and a full kitchen.

To me, a cottage was a quaint place on a lake or outside a village in U.K. and it took me a long time to try to re-imagine our 'cabin' as a 'cottage' but now that we've been fixing it up for the last few months, I'm finally ready to make the change.

Since we moved in, we added a lot of quaint and pretty little touches and now I'm happy to call our little getaway up north our cottage.  What do you think?

Below are some photo's for you to use to make your consideration.  What do you think?  Cabin, Cottage or other?
Mulched garden and doggie area

Mulched flower bed in front of enclosed porch

Hallway from main room to bedrooms
Tank on the cozy bed (don't tell Bob!)
Front Bedroom
Front Bedroom
Colorful Kitchen
Colorful Kitchen

Enclosed porch
Blueberries and flowers in the meadow
laundry on the line (drying in the sun!)
Colorful bathroom (with a toothbrush holder for everyone!)

Enclosed porch with son and papasan chair
Decorated mantle over stone fireplace
And probably some of the best photos of all, the view of the fishing pond and forest.  This fishing pond is a 20 minute walk from our front door.  There are no houses on this pond and the only access in is from trails.  Now that summer is here (and fishing season has begun) we do see an occasional fisherman in a boat, but generally it's very peaceful and natural.  Tank loves going to the pond (and going for a swim), Joey not so much so often he stays home for a nap while we head out.
The view of the fishing pond from the hiking trail
View from the pine covered clearing

It's actually pretty big.  Lot's of beaver dams.
The ferns in the woods off the trail
So what's your vote?  Cabin, Cottage or other?  Thanks for visiting today.  Make it a great day.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Daniel Shapiro (law professor at Harvard) you are an idiot' (said Linda Monroe)

Daniel Shapiro 
Yes, that is right.  I called Daniel Shapiro, Ambassador of the United States of America to the State of Israel and faculty professor at Harvard Law School an idiot to his face in front of an executive leadership class at Harvard.  Now that quote has to be understood in context.  You need to read the story below to understand.  But before you read please hear this. I think Daniel Shapiro is a brilliant teacher and negotiator and not in the least bit an idiot!  Oh and in case you couldn't figure it out from the title today's post has nothing crafty it in (that will come next week) but instead focuses on my 3 day experience at a fabulous Harvard Negotiation Class.

So this past week, I had the privilege of participating in the Harvard Negotiation and Leadership training in Cambridge MA.  This was a 3 day training session that is part of Harvard Law School’s executive education program and was very worthwhile.   Let me tell you about my experience there.

First, it was VERY intimidating to walk into the Charles Hotel on Monday morning.  I do not consider myself to be an executive and knew the course would have some very smart people in attendance.  To help lower my self-confidence a tad bit, I found myself seated next to a woman who was the associate director of regulatory affairs who had a PHD from Harvard.  Luckily I have the type of personality that is not easily intimidated and I overcame my fears and started a conversation.  Turns out she now lives in the town I grew up in and we chatted about the bike path off Route 118 across from Turkey Hill in my hometown.

Next, I looked over the participant list.  Also, not an ego boost for me.  Here are some of the titles:  Director of security policy analysis African initiatives for peace and human security (from Nigeria), Supervisory attorney advisor government of the district of Columbia, office of labor relations and collective bargaining (Washington DC), Head of IT policy and strategy UN world food program (Roma, Italy) etc, etc.  There were some very powerful and smart people in that room.  About 150 of them.

Then, I see the credentials of the teachers.  Robert Bordone, Gabreialla Blum, Francecesca Gino and Guhan Subramanian; all professors at Harvard Law School plus Lawrence Susskind a professor at MIT.  Pretty impressive.  I was humbled as the program started and eager to see what I could learn in that environment. 

As the day progressed, I did not feel especially confident in my negotiation skills.  The whole program was about negotiation and I have very little experience with negotiation and am not especially good at it.  I don’t even negotiate when I buy things on Craig’s List and I make my husband negotiate all the real-estate and cars.  I really just hate the process and avoid it as much as possible, but here I was in the class and was forced to participate in exercises in negotiation.  My morning experience was fine.  Turns out my PHD lady from my home town also has little experience in negotiating so our first exercise I was up against her.  We worked out a fair deal we were both happy with.   Then came the afternoon session.  The topic of the afternoon ‘Diagnosing and responding to manipulative, hard bargaining tactics.’  Fun Times (NOT!)  In this exercise I had a partner.  My partner was a meek Asian man.  Our opponents were a large, loud man from Africa and a handsome conniving man from Europe.  We were doomed.  The exercise was a real-estate transaction where we were the buyers, they were sellers.  The market value of the property was between 350-440,000.  We agreed to a deal where we paid the sellers $550,000.  A lot of things went wrong on our end and they used lots of manipulative, hard bargaining tactics (including lying which wasn’t part of their script.)  They seemed quite comfortable with playing the role of ‘manipulative negotiator' and enjoyed the exercise far too much (in my opinion.) 

At the end of each exercise the professor asks around the room about the different deals and highlights a few things.  Of course Mr. Success (the conniving EU guy who was against me) took the mike and told the whole class ‘we got $550,00 for the property.’  The room was stunned at the deal and the above market price that was agreed to.  Mr. Success bragged about his aggressive tactics and the professor had to ask ‘who were you up against.’  Mr. Success proudly pointed to me and I was left to cower in my chair embossed and humiliated beyond compare.  My boss and bosses boss were in the room and everyone was staring.  All I could think was they were thinking ‘what a bunch of fools!’  But the point of the exercise was to highlight manipulative tactics, and that it did.  My opponent extracted every available penny (and then some) from his weak opposing team.  The point of the exercise was to recognize these manipulative tactics, and that we did.  But a deeper lesson that was in play was that in negotiation you can win a battle but lose a war.   I learned quite a lot about my experience in the exercise.   I don’t know if Mr. Success did.  I don't think he really picked up on the fact that the deal wasn’t as good as he thought.  In the real world, so few negotiations are single deals.  To leave a customer feeling humiliated and taken advantage of rarely results in long-term business success.  If I had been buying a car from him, I would not only never buy again, but I’d tell everyone I know that he was dishonest and a bully.  He should have left the exercise with an understanding that just because you can take advantage of someone in a negotiation that is not always in your best interest.  I don’t think he learned that based on the boastful way he described his success.

So I left day 1 with my head low.  I felt shame.  I felt weak.  I felt humiliated but I also saw that I had both a lot to learn and had already started learning from the first day.  I went home, had a glass of wine, invited to dogs on to my lap, watched dull TV and went to bed early.  Sigh.  It wasn’t a good day.  I wanted to cry.

On day 2, I mustered a lot of courage to walk into the room.  I was determined to pay attention and learn as much as I could.  I also was determined to not get taken advantage of in any exercises.  Day 2 was a much better day for me.  The morning was spent on the topic ‘managing the tension between empathy and assertiveness.’  The afternoon topic was ‘Building Successful Relationships.’  I found that I was actually much more skilled that most in the room on these topics.  One of the exercises in the morning was on ‘active listening.’  I couldn’t believe how hard it was for the others at my table to actually listen and playback what the others said.  This was just basic to me.  In my job (for the last 12 years) I spent almost all my time drawing information out of people to get requirements.  I am quite skilled at asking inquiring questions, listening and feeding back information to ensure I get it right.  The others at my table simply couldn’t do this.   I did my best to coach them through the exercise ‘it would be better to not share the opposing view at this point, but to first ensure you really understand what Sue is saying.’

I went to lunch feeling much better and not hanging my head in shame anymore.  We returned from our afternoon break and our professor, Daniel Shapiro announced to the class ‘wow, we are really running behind this afternoon.  I know the agenda shows we will end at 5:30 today, but based on where we are at, we’ll be going till 6:15, maybe 6:30 and I need all of you to stay the full time’.  He then turned his back to the class and started to forward to the next slide.   The class murmured.  He turned around again and said ‘I’m just kidding’ but who believed me?'   Many in the room raised our hands.  He made eye contact with me and I was given a mike.  So began my discussion with Daniel Shapiro.  Our afternoon topic was on emotions.  He asked what emotion I was feeling when I heard his announcement.  I announced ‘anger’ because I had a parking ticket that would go from $17.00 to $28.00 if I didn’t leave the garage before 6:00.  The room laughed.  Then he asked what I felt about him.   I said ‘I thought you were an idiot! you are a Harvard professor.  You should know how to manage your time in a classroom to end on time.’  He and the class roared with laughter.  It was actually a pretty ballsy thing to do, but thankfully everyone agreed including the professor. Then he went on to talk about the importance of autonomy.  He explained that I had felt a tremendous loss of autonomy.  No-one asked me if I wanted to stay late.  I felt helpless in the situation and angry, frustrated and sad.  He described that in negotiations it’s important to try to enable people to feel they have some voice in the decision.  I left day 2 feeling much better and more confident.  One lady (a lawyer) asked me in the hallway ‘are you the lady who called out the professor in class?’ I smiled and she gave me an encouraging acknowledgment.  I was now a force to be reckoned with.  A courageous soul willing the ‘say it like it is.’  It felt good.  
Day 3 was awesome as we drilled into organizational obstacles and then put it all together.  Day 3 had several case studies that were fascinating.  It was fun to share ideas across the table with all those super smart people.  We studied the Challenger O-Ring decision and a case study on Fairstar Heavy Transport.  Both case studies were complex and intriguing.  I left the day with my mind full of thoughts on both studies and what the individuals in the situations could have done differently to get a better outcome.

Overall it was a fabulous learning environment.  I was so impressed with the quality of teaching.  Each professor was interesting and engaging. There was a lot of great information shared and I learned so much about negotiating.  I now know to consider my Batna (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and look for moving from positions to interests.  I know to consider the range of possible outcomes.  I know to consider emotions (mine and the others) and how they are impacting decision making.  I know now that it’s very important to discuss the process of the negotiation before starting and to leave room for a safe way to discuss possible mutual benefits prior to ‘dividing the pie.’  I know these skills will help me in my job and it will also help in my personal life too.

Sadly, I cannot be a Harvard Business student for life, although I would love to be a full-time student at a top business school.  I loved spending the day thinking about complex business problems and how to achieve optimal results.  Sadly, my days of being a full-time student are over, but I am reflective of how thankful I am that back in my early 20’s I was able to be a full-time student at a great business school and that I work for a company that values continuing education and that I was able to join a 3 day session on a relevant topic for my work.