WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

October 29, 2013

The Power of WordFood Exchange

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 4:25 pm

Anyone who has ever gone on a long trip is familiar with all the final details that annoy, crop up, and land at the last possible moment. Today was no different. At about 6 am tomorrow the shuttle is going to carry me off for a month in Tanzania, and the amount of preparation for all the adventures has been enormous. The last week has been a flurry of getting bills paid, including pulling out funds for tips for porters, chefs, shuttle drivers et al, meaning that pretty much all my accounts are on fumes. Naturally, two days ago I got a notice that my car registration required an emissions test, and my car insurance payment came due, along with a slew of other payments that just happened to land at the worst moment.

Here’s where I got taught a wonderful lesson, in the form of the basement flooding that happened back in September. My USAA adjustor and I developed a relationship wherein I kept him in stitches about the repeated floodings, and I continually told him to take care of the Coloradans who had more need than I did. And I meant it. We talked football and since he’s from Texas I razzed him about the Texans and especially Tony Romo. Now it was time for me to ask a favor. I compiled and sent him a list of my damaged goods- some pretty big and pricey. When there was question about a value he gave me the benefit of the doubt and that meant, in some cases, several hundred dollars more. In about five minutes he tallied up the total, asked for my approval and sent it up the pole to get me my payment ASAP. That check will make all the difference between meeting or not meeting my responsibilities while on travel.

This is not to say that John wouldn’t have done this for any USAA client, because they’re good that way. But my guess is that I might have earned a brownie point or two because of the exchanges we had during September, and because I made him laugh repeatedly during what I knew to be a very high stress time for the USAA adjustment team. You pay into the bank of good will and when you need to draw from it, there’s an excellent chance you may be able to get what you need.

This just goes to show that even when we are in extremis, it’s good to keep perspective, and when people are trying to assist us, to appreciate and honor them. I didn’t expect USAA to do what they did today. I am beyond grateful for this help. We are not necessarily “owed” over and above service, but John reminded me today that we can most certainly earn it.

October 21, 2013

What We Say It Is, Is the Way It Is

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 3:50 pm

Towards the end of a long and utterly magnificent series of adventures in Argentina last May, I had the chance to share a dorm room with a charming American woman about a third my age at the Hotel Estoril in Buenos Aires, where I had first landed upon arrival. She was energetic, happy, bright, and hugely enthusiastic about being on the road, the kind of person you really want to bring along for an adventure. We struck up a conversation that lasted several hours.

This woman had already been traveling for months, exploring through Uruguay and Chile, Colombia and parts of Argentina. She was full of stories and laughter. Buenos Aires was a stop along the way towards more months on the road, and many more adventures to come. My kind of girl indeed.

At one point she regaled me with a story about a young man she’d met who verbally attacked her for her enthusiasm. He was also an American, but he was bored with his travel, and according to his view, “she’d get tired of it eventually.” He most certainly was. He was put out, annoyed and inconvenienced. After a few months in a foreign country, he wanted his McDonald’s, “people who spoke English,” and Starbucks.  This young man sat in his hostel and read books while she headed out every day to explore the countryside, rappel, river raft, hike and eat local food. What he called boring, she couldn’t take in enough.

We had a good chuckle, and considered how many people would have given anything to be able to go on the same trip this kid was dismissing as a bore. To have the funds to see the world and be exposed to another culture. Then we considered how one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and how in this case, an opportunity was being lost. The way this person was couching his experiences determined his experiences. His self-talk, “I’m bored, I’m annoyed, this doesn’t interest me” all led to his way of  viewing what could otherwise have been a terrific adventure.

The words we feed ourselves are very powerful. The experience, an event, whatever it is, is just what it is. What changes it is how we choose to frame it internally. My friend saw every travel day as a succession of amazing moments to be savored.  Some more so than others (eating a bug might count as a slight negative).  But her acquaintance had already decided to resist anything that his opportunity abroad could offer him. With his toxic WordFood, he’d already decided that nothing could please him. Time for him to go home, which she suggested. I hope he did before he ruined someone else’s sense of wonder.

Someone said recently how they hated the phrase “It is what it is.” Well, it’s true- it’s what we make of it, how we speak of a thing to ourselves that creates the impact. We tend to call unsinkable people Pollyanna- yet it is their extraordinary ability to seek the silver lining, the lesson in a disaster,  what a bout of cancer taught them about life- that’s what uplifts the rest of us.

I have a ninety year old friend precisely like my buddy in Buenos Aires: eager to live, learn and experience. Her joy for life is just as infectious because she takes nothing seriously, or personally. She’s had plenty of terrible things happen. But it’s how she chooses to see these experiences that keeps her young, mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s the choice that makes all the difference.

What WordFood will you use to describe your life today?

October 14, 2013

WordFood of Win at all Costs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 9:28 am

The other night our local news channel ran a story about a Vietnamese woman who had come to America years ago. Happy to be in her new country, she worked to earn citizenship and joined the Army to serve for a number of years. She was honorably discharged with several significant medical challenges. She found work with the Federal Government. Today she has three kids, and is furloughed. While she can still get care from the VA, she doesn’t receive full benefits which would help pay all her monthly expenses. And like many of us who are 100% disabled, she is looking with real concern at the third week of October deadline when the VA says it will run out of money to pay its VA benefits.

This young woman is in much worse shape than I am. I have savings put away, a good chunk of which I just put in my checking account so that if worse comes to worse Wells Fargo can get its mortgage paid the first of the month. But millions of us vets, and Federal workers, and many others in similar situations are not so well off. And my savings bucket isn’t that deep. Republican or Democrat, Independent or Green, whatever your politics, I suspect we are all planning to throw the idiots out come next election. Except for one isolated little county in northern Georgia where they are quite happy to fight the good fight as long as Obama and immigrants and Obamacare and women’s rights and anything that looks like progress or change is stopped in its tracks.

Countries all over the world have long looked up to us for leadership and right now we are an international laughing stock. No matter who you blame- and it really doesn’t matter- this is about enormous egos and the stupidity of politics- those who are getting hurt are the people who put these morons in office. Gone is any semblance of graciousness, common sense, care for the common man. They wield words that say “the American people this or that” but their pocket and benefits aren’t being affected. We’re paying the price for their inability to talk to each other.

Obamacare doesn’t affect me- but it will give much needed insurance to a number of people in my life who didn’t even know about it. When I told them they were immensely grateful: to wit,  a 68 year old grandmother who is bringing up her grandkids. She’s been without insurance all her life. Take it away and she’s back in the same boat. I support it for those who need it.  But on the largest scale, to hold an entire nation ransom because you have an issue with a law? At a time when America is just now getting back on its feet financially? Then spend more time talking about your position in the press instead of genuinely trying to find answers?

I don’t know about anyone else but I look forward with glee to getting to the ballot box next election cycle. My suspicion is that all of us who have had to live in terror of losing homes, not being able to pay for food or basics due to Congressional shenanigans are going to become outspoken activists. Finally. If that’s what it took to get us involved in politics again, then I say terrific. We’ve needed something like this to wake us up to whose up in Washington having way too much say over our lives anyway.

October 9, 2013

The WordFood of Wide Horizon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 9:16 am

Wars are started over petty insults, which small egos take as great offense, and pretty soon millions of lives are being lost over what amounts to nothing more than a stung sense of self. On a much smaller scale, every day the little wars we wage inside our families or in the confines of our lives take terrible tolls because we feel we are entitled to be treated as special.

“Don’t you know who I am?” We want to shout to an annoying customer service agent. To him, we’re just another rude customer. He’s thinking about lunch, and you’re between him and his Big Mac.

Several weeks ago I was at my riding stables, taking lessons in the big arena because rain had forced us inside. I was with my trainer at one end, where we had some room to work. Another trainer was setting up obstacles for her student. Suddenly the place was swarming with girls on their mounts, blocking my way, and I couldn’t work. The other trainer, in a voice dripping with condescension, told me that I “didn’t own the arena and would have to learn to share it with others.”  The hair on the back of my neck prickled at the tone. I don’t mind learning the rules, I do mind, at 60, being spoken to like a 2 year old.

I later mentioned this to the head office, and indicated that if I were part of the problem, I would own it. However I didn’t care to be spoken to in such a way (hear: my tender ego was insulted). I followed up with an email to my contact about the situation, which instead of going to her, the trainer in question got it. That trainer sent me a tart, even more condescending note that said that I should get there early, and if I needed help with my tack, I could ask for help, both of which were unnecessary swipes at my skill level. Since  a simple conversation with my trainer would have told her that I am there an hour in advance of my lessons and that I not only own my own tack and am quite competent at setting up my horse, these insults could have been prevented.

I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote a response four times before I deleted it. Then I bought some tack at the store where I had been referred to this outfit, and did my due diligence. I found out that she does this to everybody and that her father is exactly the same way. So was mine. In other words, she probably got plenty of condescension growing up, and this is just how she vents. It’s not about me. It’s just what she does. A little research reveals a great deal of how much we share with others if we’re not looking to make ourselves right. It’s so tempting to make it all about us, when it’s not.

So the other day some confusion caused me to lose half an hour of lesson and she stood in to give me my other half hour. After a sharply worded start, she did an excellent job of providing skills training. She softened as we worked, and gave me terrific guidance.  She asked personal questions and related her points to what I do to give them meaning. She went out of her way to provide value. In fact she gave me another 35 minutes, which was as close to an apology as I would ever get. This is a proud, strong woman, the kind of woman I am normally drawn to as a friend. That door is now open.

As we walked back to the tack room I expressed my appreciation for the extra time and the excellent training. And I meant it. We’re now fine.  When we can see the wide horizon of a situation and see ourselves in it, it’s much easier to let go of the need to be right. And in that path lies peace.

October 4, 2013

The WordFood of Chicken Little

Yesterday morning dawned bright and early, and it was a perfect day for a good long Epsom salts soak to take care of the sore back I’d gotten from Archie the horse (previous post), so I filled the tub. And soaked. Drained the tub. Then came downstairs to work in my office for a while. When I hit the bottom step, my next step into the basement was into water- for the third time in the last several weeks. This time there was a bubbling pool of it, coming out of my laundry room drain. I got the camera, and copped a wonderful shot of the bubbles of dirty water coming up over my bare feet.

Now you have to put this into context. A few weeks ago my toilet overflowed, putting three inches of water into my finished basement, ruining my carpet, my desk, my filing cabinets, damaging the walls, and much more. The floor under the carpet is also in trouble. USAA, in my opinion the best insurance company for us vets, had already just sent out the contractor to estimate the damage after the water mitigator folks had smashed a few things, left my desk sitting in the water, and basically acted like gorillas. Mind you, the floods were going on so I was last on the totem pole, for good reason. Sam, the contractor, had patiently gone through the house and informed me that the whole basement would need to be redone.

Now the other side of the basement, with the new linoleum floor, was sitting underwater.

There are many ways to look at this. There’s a part that can holler poor me, why did this have to happen just before I leave on a big trip, oh woe is me! Oh the inconvenience, I won’t get this fixed ’til spring, gripe, whine, complain. On the other hand, there is a part that can find this very funny. I’ve been in constant contact with my guy at USAA. Yesterday after I sent him the foot photo, I commented that I once considered buying beachfront property but now I won’t because surf’s up in my basement.

There are people all over Colorado who have no basement at all. Mine happens to be a little damp. I told John at USAA to take his time, and put my house at the bottom of this list. As long as there are big machines down here drying things out so I don’t have mold, I’m fine and dandy. How lucky I am not to be a flood victim. How lucky I am this happened before I left for Tanzania. How lucky I am to have USAA for a supplier. How lucky I am to have a deductible of only $500 and I’m going to get completely new basement, a new desk and other new furniture, new paint job and who knows what else. Come ON, I didn’t like the Berber carpet down there anyway.

This isn’t about being Pollyanna. This is about stepping back and seeing the big picture, and realizing that there are multiple ways to view what happens to us. Having a wicked sense of humor goes a long way. John has been overwhelmed with working with flood victims, and I’ve been making him laugh while working with me. So when spring comes along and I need something, chances are I’ll get right away. We’ve been having fun with this.

We all have a Chicken Little part in us. The sky falls on every one of us at one point or another. Whether we run around in circles yelling about it or put on the wellies and dance in the puddles is up to us. People survive cancer by using laughter. I have a sign over this computer that says “Put your big girl panties on and get over it!” Just reading it makes me smile.

My friends who are aware of my basement issues are all sending me condolences. Heck, I can’t wait for spring, when I’m going to get a brand new basement, courtesy of roots in the city sewer, and also because I installed a toilet handle backwards. Now that’s funny. Chicken Little can go lay eggs. I’m going to go choose new carpet.

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