If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the world, what would it be?

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Human suffering.

The idea of putting an end to human suffering seems noble and ambitious. What is it and how would you fix it? I am referring to the physical suffering from poverty and disease as well as emotional and mental suffering that humans endure. How would you tackle such a global project? How about starting with two basic human activities, education and recreation?


Educate people about new concepts and ideas. Give them the tools to change their lives for the better. Make education available to everyone, globally. An article in today’s local newspaper mentioned subsidized daycare for preschool age children and babies. Government provides school for K-12 but not for earlier ages? Discrimination or simple oversight? More parents are educated with dual incomes in today’s developed countries. Since education became public, a lot has changed socially and economically. Think it is time to update the program into the millennium?


Recreation means play time. Give people a chance to recreate. Encourage creativity through recreation. It is the opposite of work. Recreation means time to play and time for leisure. Work is a business transaction or trade. There is an exchange of goods or services for a form of compensation… time or money. Western society gets caught up in the wheel of going nowhere fast or rat race. You work to buy to work to buy more. Recreation brings smiles to people’s faces and makes life worth living.

No more war.

Human suffering is caused by war, too. To put an end to war would be to change the way people think. Change the way people think by educating them, and arming them with tools to end their suffering. Sometimes people suffer out of ignorance. I also think education is catching up with us. The younger generations of western society seem better educated than their ancestors. They may not have the life experience of their grandparents but they know how to find information and they will benefit from guidance of the collective knowledge. I believe if we give families more recreation so that the young will benefit from the old, the old will benefit from the young, too. What old person is not entertained by the antics of a youngster?

With benefits to young and old, the world would be a better place. If that were true, then would not human suffering be diminished at least? If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the world, it would be human suffering. The how is better access to education and recreation, globally. What do you think?

Write a winning executive summary

How to write a winning executive summary

Every proposal presentation begins with an executive summary. Should an executive summary be one page or many? What should it say? What is the winning formula? Since a proposal is a marketing piece, often we find misguided sales pitches instead of an executive summary at the front of a proposal. There is no formula because every executive summary must be written from scratch. Following are some guidelines for writing a winning executive summary for your next proposal.

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is literally a summary for an executive. It is a write up of the client’s situation, your proposed solution and benefit to customer, for the decision-maker. Executives spend time in meetings, think strategically, and look outwards. They are not interested in technical details. They want to know quickly what the problem is, the goal sought, how to get there, and the benefit of your solution.

Two types of an executive summary

There are two types of an executive summary. The type I am talking about here is the one-pager you would normally see in most 200 page maximum proposals. When you have a complex situation and solution that takes about 500 pages to propose a solution, an executive summary may also be a pull-out document and average five pages in length.

Did you get the first tip? Most executive summaries are one page maximum in length. You want to hold the executive’s attention so they may quickly make a decision. The executive leaves the technical details up to the experts and only needs a high level synopsis.

Part One, The Situation Appraisal

Use your own words to describe your understanding of your client’s challenges and objectives. If it gets by the technical expert, it will help the executive understand, too. If you have nailed this, your proposal will make sense not only to the executive but also to the buyer of your services.

Part Two, The Solution

Describe how you are solving the client’s challenge and meeting their objectives. Use clear, concise language with which an executive will relate. If you have nailed this, you will have the executive’s attention.

Part Three, The Benefit

Describe the benefit to the client of selecting your solution and awarding you the contract. This is your opportunity to sell yourself by mentioning awards, leadership activity, references, and evidence that you are qualified and competent to deliver. If you have nailed this, the client will feel good about selecting your organization.

Keep to one page and be clear. The subject matter experts and professional buyer will read the rest of your proposal to get the information they need. The exec summary is for the person making the decision whose schedule holds one meeting after another. They have delegated the procurement task but ultimately hold responsibility for decisions. This person is your target. Speak their language and respect their time.

If you are a proposal writer and have other ideas I would love to hear them. If you are an executive and have other ideas I would love to hear them.

Why does Grandma wear braces on her teeth?

The summer my granddaughter first entered the world was significant in my life for two reasons.

  1. Orthodontic treatment program over age 50
  2. Firstborn son has girl child

Technology is changing everything. It is amazing how scientific advances in technology have trickled down to every day use such as orthodontics. As a child, there was no family budget for orthodontic treatment to fix crooked teeth. The adult working years flew by, consumed by activity. Now at age 50, teeth are still crooked and becoming problematic. One crooked tooth was about to fall off the bone. It was unsupported and stressed. If I lost it, the rest of the teeth would have too much space to move around and become more crooked. I had to do what I could to save it!

The rationale also included the fact that I still work for a living and need to remain competitive. The orthodontist made it sound so easy, too. A one year treatment program would take care of things. By the time my granddaughter was a year old, I would be finished with the braces.

The invisible braces called Invisalign were selected. They just sounded easier to deal with than the traditional metal railroad tracks. Turns out, am not sure they were, actually. You have to avoid red wine and coffee among other things because the liquid may stain the clear trays. You have to take the trays out while you eat and clean your teeth before putting them back in. You can imagine, that meant thinking about what and when you were going to eat anything. You needed a place to brush your teeth which is not always possible at a restaurant or on a trail.

Not to mention how funny I sounded with the plastic trays in my mouth. When I talked, I spitted and clacked too. Sometimes the trays were really tight and hurt my mouth, which made me tired. The extra volume of toothpaste I consumed, brushing my teeth and the trays was a hit to my budget, too.

My granddaughter will not see braces on her grandma’s teeth any more. Now grandma gets to watch baby teeth come in for granddaughter. The special granddaughter who has no idea how much she is loved. The summer my granddaughter was born, I had come to the conclusion that being female was like getting the short end of a stick. But my firstborn son and his partner had a baby girl. For now, everything is pink for girl power. Go girl, your daddy is the best.

One for the bucket

The iconic north shore mountain peaks known as The Lions are now in the bucket. Believe me, I love to climb hills and mountains but those two imposing peaks? Really?

For years, I heard people talking about hiking The Lions. I know why people talk about it too, now that I have done it. You only need to do it once. Then you are going to proudly tell everyone you did it. From the city, the imposing peaks look so majestic. From a distance, I found it hard to imagine how people would get up there. The lion peaks are bare rock faced at times, and snow covered at others.

You get there by driving past West Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay to Lions Bay. Park your car at the foot of a gravel logging road, and start climbing. You can return in one day if you start in the morning. Unless you want to watch the sunset and sleep on top of the mountain under the sky, close to the stars.

Your hiking time depends on your pace. Our return trip was eight hours total on a hot day in early July. We took four hours to go up and four hours to come back down. The first two hours were spent walking up a steep-grade logging road. It was quiet and sheltered from the hot sun. We passed only two small, flowing streams of water. The trail became a rocky path with foliage before it got really steep, soft, and rooty.

None of the trail was difficult, just relentlessly up. Eventually, the terrain became mostly boulders, shale, and open to the sky. The scramble over boulders would have been easy if not for fatigue from the elevation already gained. You had to ignore the mosquitoes or they would have been annoying. Patches of snow provided some welcome cool relief from the hot mid-day sun. We rubbed our legs, necks, and heads with handfuls of ice. We found some clean snow ice to add to our fruit juice for a refreshing mountain slushy.

At one point I was so hot and so tired, I did not want to continue. My friend convinced me it was not worth only going 80% of the way to the top and giving up. Not finishing the climb would have been completely pointless.

Ah, the incredible view from the top! I always have that feeling and maybe that is the reason I love climbing mountains. The view at any mountain top shows us the vastness of our world. It is amazing and comforting that I am a small being in the big scheme of things. The thought makes any kind of tribulation become insignificant.

Later, after a foot-soak in Epsom salts at home, the feeling is one of pleasant fatigue and a sense of accomplishment. One more for the bucket. I cannot wait to do the next one.

Power of Names

Weekly Writing Challenge: Power of Names


I would not say I like my name because I did not choose it. I have accepted it as a gift. My mother chose it for me on my birthday. It was her right. My name is also an emotion and I like to think it was how she felt after childbirth. The good parts about my name are that it is short in type and positive in feeling.

I legally changed my surname when I got married. I did not challenge the status quo of women taking their husband’s names. I liked my husband’s name better than my father’s surname. It sounded more European and people would not make silly jokes about it. A short first name and long surname are balanced, I think.

My two children’s names come from Hollywood. With my pregnancies, I perused baby name books. I spent hours considering meaning and matching with their father’s surname. My son’s name is Ryan, after Ryan O’Neill and Barbra Streisand in the romantic movie, Love Story. Ryan was drop dead gorgeous and his name means little prince.

My daughter Kristin, was named after the character on Dallas who played sister in law to Larry Hagman. She was an impish troublemaker and I loved her looks and attitude. The name means Christian, which I thought a positive thing. Christian as in charitable. I always thought I would shorten my daughter’s name to Kris or Kristy, but we never did. She is always called Kristin by friends and family, as far as I know.

I like mainstream names, the way royalty do it. For me, a selection of names that become traditional and are handed down, shared over the generations, bring stability to the civilized, human need to belong. As opposed to made up names that have no basis of linguistic meaning and stand out as unique in a community. Uniqueness is a whole different conversation.

Would you do an ultra marathon again?

It is done now. I did it. Participated in the Chuckanut 50 km ultra marathon on Saturday March 15, 2014. The start and finish was in the little town of Fairhaven, near Bellingham Washington. The course involved running 50 km, doing a loop, and climbing over 5000 ft. up a ridge. Numerous aid stations were set up by volunteers to support the runners.

OK, I have been trail running for more than five years now. Never had the desire to run a race – too much pressure! I can run 50 km but the challenge was to finish within 8 hours. I am too old. I do not even look like an ultra runner. Endurance I have plenty of, but speed, not so much. I found myself registering along with a friend who really wanted to do it. We registered and trained together, and decided we would see each other through the event. The training got us out of bed on dark winter mornings when it was tempting to stay under the covers. We shared many adventures and lots of stories.

We bailed at 32 km. We had not seen any other runners for a while and were curious about the time. When we arrived at the 20.4 mile aid station, the volunteers told us it was two o’clock – still a half hour from cut-off. Someone was just heading back to the finish line in his car. If we wanted a ride, it was good timing. We assessed our physical condition, the time of day, and decided a ride would be prudent. Her back was sore and my legs were real tired.

I read about athletes who push through fatigue. I wanted to avoid injury. Our backs told us our packs were too heavy. I noticed the elite athletes only carried small bottles of water. No extra layers, gloves, hats, or food. Because they were fast.

Who signs up for a 50 km marathon without having done any before? The trails were beautiful and the volunteers were fantastic. Do not think I need to do any more races. I can do without the pressure of being speedy. I know I can run the distance and my body will set the pace. We had fun.

How do you get the money shot?

The Money Shot

The Money Shot

How do you get the money shot?

The first thing you see when entering a room is the money shot, right. Some very bright people just don’t have a clue. My friend Mary, single and 60 with a successful career in sales, has travelled around the world but doesn’t know anything about home décor. Frugal habits mean that her 2‑bedroom, 2‑bathroom, condo is paid for but that’s no excuse for neglectful decorating. On the road more than she is at home, she has set up her place for relaxing. Influenced by her prairie roots, Mary loves oak and it’s everywhere. Oak is on the floor throughout. Antique oak from the farm furnishes the dining area, custom oak tables accent the lounge area, and there is even oak trim in the kitchen. Her travels have given her an appreciation for tropical style so she painted the walls green and put a brightly colored cloth on the dining table.

What would you do with the pass-thru?

My friend likes my taste and she asked me for some easy ideas to improve her space. The first thing you see when entering her south-facing unit is the pass through to the kitchen. What would you do about that? How to improve it? Mary already has an oak console table that would fit nicely below the pass-through. She could layer it with a brightly colored leather ottoman filling the floor space underneath. She could use the surface to display pottery, plants, or artifacts from her trips.

Would you paint?

To modernize a space with that much oak, I would paint the walls decorator white. I like white and plenty of natural light but Mary keeps the blinds closed all the time for privacy. Let’s assume she doesn’t want to paint because she likes the green and she already did the work. I think adjusting the furniture layout would be a simple and easy improvement.

Who puts a fireplace in the corner?

The builder of this condo complex put the fireplace in the corner, probably to keep costs down. It is hard to establish a focal point from a corner. To create a feature wall, Mary could slide the buffet over next to the fireplace. Since the odd angles of the furniture layout don’t work, she could square things up and place the sofa perpendicular to the long wall.


How do you make accessories count?

Introducing warm colors like coral, pink, orange, and texture with new cushions on the sofa would enhance a tropical theme. Replacing the traditional lampshades with drum-shaped would be a budget friendly way to update the space, too. The big square framed art piece is too large for above the fireplace, so I would swap it with the floral above the oak buffet. The colors in the floral art and the oak buffet don’t match either. It would look better paired up with the fireplace.

Do you think she’ll take these simple suggestions? Time will tell. I would love to hear your design ideas for the money shot.



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