Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


Proud to be Mrs. G.

Happy to be the Mrs.

Happy to be the Mrs.

I never thought I was the marrying type.   I always had serious relationships, but I also had serious commitment issues.  It was a running joke with my older brothers that the “Francisco sisters had commitment issues.”  We were too independent.  No man was ever going to tell us what to do.  My Mom wanted a lot for all of us kids: to grow up and be liberated men and women – go to school, graduate from college, get your Masters then Doctorate, get a great job so we never needed to depend on anyone.  Then, we could fall in love, get married and have that great part of life.  I think I listened too well to some of the story, but missed that “happy ending” part.  So I waited a long time, loved some really great people but didn’t think that wedding ring was in my future.

Then, to my great fortune, my best friend became my great love.  I was so incredibly humbled that he would love me, convinced he was a much better person than I ever would be, and in awe that he would want to spend his life with me.

And you get married… the greatest day of your life.  Your emotions are so big that your heart feels like it is about to explode.  You walk down the aisle, and see your husband standing there… the sunlight radiant.  He is radiant.  He is brilliant.  He is strong and kind, smart and giving.  You are the luckiest person on earth.

And years go by.  No matter how much you love your husband or wife, time mellows that brilliance.  You become accustomed to it.  It is familiar and comfortable.  That bright summer sun is more of an autumn gold.  Sometimes you are short with him or her.  He cleans the kitchen for you, and you notice it and are grateful, but you don’t mention it to him.  You expect that he knows.  He works hard, picks up the toys, and still you grumble if he leaves his socks on the table.  You sit a cushion away on the couch, instead of next to each other.  And sometimes, you forget a good night kiss.  You love him deeply, but can’t remember if you said it when you walked out the door in the morning.

Then one of those times comes when you see him new again.  Tonight was one of those times.  My husband has been working hard on a project for almost two months now, and while I’ve supported him, I’ve also grumbled when he has to take a call late at night and spends all evening sending emails, making arrangements, doing what he needed to do for a charity event he’s putting on.  I still grumbled when I drove up, cranky that he was not with me while he was running around doing “more important” things.

And suddenly, I found myself nervous for him.  Tonight had to be a success.  All the maddening things over the last few weeks, I saw them in another way.  As he went from person to person, calm, smiling, organized and passionate – taking care of them, taking care of arrangements, taking care of everyone – he was new again.  Those curtains of routine fall back, and you can see what is right in front of your eyes.  I fell in love with a man who gives more of himself than most people on this earth, who would be (and was for me many years ago) the only person show up to help you move mountains of boxes in a tough time – even though he had only met you two days ago.  I fell in love with a man who is often unappreciated… who’s gruff surface covers one of the softest hearts and gentlest spirits.   I fell in love with a man who believes in justice, in black and white, with an unwavering commitment to that which he loves.

As for me, who hovers around in shades of grey, I am yet again humbled that he loves me and wants to spend his life with me.  He is a much better person than I will ever be, and I am proud to be Mrs. G.

I was reminded tonight that you can never say “I love you” often enough, that you should always sit next to each other on the couch, and that a sock is just a little bit of cotton and your spouse is your life.

Is there anyone in your life that you need to say “I love you” to?  Is there anyone in your life that you need to say “thanks” to?  Years may go by, but they may not.  Don’t delay.


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Something Old and Something New

Image   My brain is officially Friday fried – left and right hemisphere.  I still wanted to share some great content with you… it’s just not my own today.  So, here’s something old (a fave) and something new (deep as all get out).

First, I have followed Anthony Demangone’s “Musings from the CU Suite” blog for years now.  He has great management tips, things to think about in your personal development and cute pics of his kids.  Plus, he is a credit union industry rockstar.  Side note: If you aren’t a credit union member or haven’t heard of them, you need to find out about them.  Join now!  They are awesome.

Back to Anthony, it’s worth your time.  Here is his post from yesterday, about taking a look at what you should NOT be doing:


Second, if you haven’t heard of Lori Duron’s Raising My Rainbow blog, don’t miss this.  I found it recently and was so moved that I had to run out and get her book.  Whatever your views may be on the subject, she writes a brutally honest account of parents learning how to parent, and raising their kids in the best way they know how.  There’s a lot of love in this blog.


I’d love to know what you think about them both, and happy reading!



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Fighting the Chompys



If you have kids, I’m pretty sure you know who the “Chompys” are.  For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know, they are the baddies from the massively popular video game, Skylanders.  Disclaimer here: I am neither a Skylanders fan nor a video game fan, but I’m outnumbered by the men in the house who think games are pretty cool.  Deciding to choose my battles wisely, I caved on this one and allowed games into the house… but with rules attached. You can play on the weekends only, for no more than an hour and only if you behave nicely while you do it.The rules have been working pretty well, until this past weekend.  The boys found themselves exploring a new section of Skylanders and found a “chompy pit.”  Think Gladiator-lite: you battle these cartoon thingys and do it as a team.  Well, Boy #1 charged into the chompy pit using his super belch (not kidding) to drive the chompys away.  Boy #2 had another idea.  He was not up for the grand battle, but instead wanted to find jewels, move rocks and do other smaller tasks… earning more life force and strengthening his player.  But Skylanders is clever.  The game warns you when you are too far from the other player, and eventually if you don’t head in the same direction, you just get stuck: pulling against each other and going nowhere.  The volume in the house went up, and everything descended into madness.  General Mom declares the game is over, and now both boys are wailing over the lost opportunity.

Watching them face the chompys reminded me of teams in the work place.  Like many of you, I’ve been fortunate to work with passionate, goal driven people who want to make a difference in the world.  We have our eyes on the same goal.  We just have different ideas about what path to take to get there.

So everyone knows the corporate goal.  They’re fired up and onboard.  But what’s the best way to get there?  When you have a lot of talent in the room, finding consensus on the tactics or the path can be tough.  There are a lot of great tried and true ideas that are proven.  You know that they work, that they generate results and the team knows how to execute them.  Just like Boy # 1 who charged straight into the fray using the moves (ye olde super belch) he knew worked, the team can achieve its goal.

There are also new ways to get to your goal, new technology, new metrics.  Perhaps they’re unexplored or undefined.  They’ve worked elsewhere and may work for you, and you want to understand and test them, taking your time to plan, prepare and then execute.  So you do A/B testing, focus groups and research.  You’re finding more jewels, earning more life force and strengthening the plan, preparing yourself and then getting to the goal.

Now, your smart, passionate team is struggling internally.  Some head one way, wanting to stick with what’s known.  Others want to prepare.  And the entire team gets stuck, pulling against each other and not marching towards the goal.  So what’s the better way?  Rely on the way we’ve always done it?  Or go Blue Ocean, monitor, measure and then move forward?

Neither.  Both plans work.  It’s not about how you get there, but instead it’s about building consensus and doing it as a team.  As leaders, it’s our job to bring people together, to foster collaboration and open communication, to paint a compelling vision and then find a win-win solution that everyone buys into and commits wholeheartedly to.  Great ideas will come from a great group of people.  A leader demonstrates how the great ideas fit into the goal, and then helps the team focus and prioritize so they make the right decision each time.

So back to the Skylanders.  After my “Command and Control” leadership debacle, we decided to try again the next weekend.  Boys 1 & 2 came to battle again.  We paused the game, talked about what came next with me guiding the discussion, and they agreed on the way to win that was right for them.  Score 1 for the boys.

How will you help your team fight the Chompys?

P.S.  Major respect to any of you that can tell me which character in the picture has the Super Belch.  It is pretty effective!

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A Boy and A Blue Balloon

Close up of a blue balloonThis morning, I had the honor to be a small part of something special.

After rolling out of bed before the sun came up, I was pretty tired.  So were the hundred or so fellow travelers I shared Southwest Airlines Flight #150 with this morning on the way to Sacramento.   Engrossed in our smartphones, on auto pilot, we picked up our bags and began to exit the plane.  That’s where the magic began.

As I stepped out the door and onto the jetway, I glanced up and saw a blue balloon taped to the wall.  Odd, but not remarkable.   Then, there was another.  And another.  In fact, the jetway walls were lined with bright blue balloons – far too many to count.  Confused, I stopped.  So did everyone else. I heard our flight attendant bristling with excitement, lining up the pilots and prepping them for photos and the surprise.  And there, nestled amongst it all was a sign – “We’re honored to help!  Yay, Mason!”  As my dazed companions and I got moving again, I was struck by the bright smiles on the faces of the flight attendants, the crew, the passengers… and me.

I have no clue who Mason is.  I don’t know his story.  I overheard that he was headed to Orlando, so I think he is a child, but why is he going there? What made this trip so special that a team pulled together to create a thing of such joy for him, for themselves and for all of us who were brief witnesses to the moment?

The background of his story may be bright or perhaps tragic.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  What hit home for me is how someone on that flight crew cared deeply about someone they barely knew, had an idea and led others with love.

The notion of love in leadership may be controversial.  As we build our careers, we focus on learning the ropes, connecting the dots, generating the ROI and building a great strategic plan.  Those are all necessary components to any great business.  But where is the love?  Where is the emotional connection that is so fierce, so deep and so passionate that it leads you to chase dreams, move mountains and inspires others to follow?  Data, metrics and business plans provide a framework for any good enterprise.  Companies and leaders become great though when they inspire people to believe, to get uncomfortable, to go out on a limb and to give.  We have to take that risk and bring love into the equation.  It’s love for the company, it’s culture, it’s team and its customers.     It’s spending the time to get to know someone else’s dreams, what they want to achieve, and then committing full force… being there to help them achieve that dream.  It’s investing in what’s in it for someone else.  It reaps greater rewards for the giver than you can ever accrue for.  Even more, it reaps rewards for your team as they invest emotionally.  They go father, reach higher, work harder and smile wider.  They’ve shared the joy.

I still don’t know Mason and his story.  I think it’s better that way.  What I do know is that Mason was a king this morning, and whatever mountain he may need to climb, he is stronger today and has a hundred strangers cheering him on from the sidelines.  I’m among them.

Traveling on business has its perks.  Frequent flier programs can get you a window over an aisle, free wifi and sometimes, a front row seat to greatness.

How can you lead your life with love today?  Who will be your Mason?

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Agents in the Zombie Nation

secret_agentIt’s Friday, and I have that “Friday feeling.” After the work week adrenaline rush, I’m spent.  Mentally and creatively fried actually.  I need to recharge my creative juices.  And what did I come home to?

Both of my boys were bouncing off the walls, full of energy.  Trying to calm the storm, I asked them about their day.  Luke (my 3 year old) shared with me that he and Olivia played “Agents” at school, and promptly began to demonstrate the main point of the game: press yourself against a wall, look around furtively, then run and hide around a corner.  Pretty fun at 3. But not nearly as fun as playing “Zombies” I soon learned, as my 5 year old lurched up and down the hall, moaning and dialing his “Zombie Mom and Dad” on an invisible phone.  Soon, Agent Zombie Mom was lurching up and down the hall as well, singing “Secret Agent Zombie” (I know you can hear the tune in your head) at the top of my lungs.

How many times have you watched children play?  It’s a trip.  Toys are nice, but every parent knows that if you give a kid a cardboard box, it’s going to become a tent, then a train, then a cave, a boat or a turtle shell.  And when two children meet for the first time, after a few minutes they’re best buddies climbing a pirate ship or on a great adventure.  Creativity flows freely.  Their minds know no bounds.  There are no limits or obstacles to what they will create with their imagination.  Their dreams are big and loud.  It’s beautiful.  You dreamed loudly too, and so did I.

And somewhere along the way, as you get older, the dreams get quieter.   They’re a little smaller.  You may lose that reckless abandon or your dreams are more cautious.  You may be afraid to try.  You tell someone that you can’t sing or don’t dance well.  You can’t draw.  You don’t like your hair.  You’re not creative.  Whatever your personal “can’t” is, it follows you.   It saps you.  It drains you, and you end up with that “Friday feeling”… looking for a recharge, but why?

Someone along the way told you “you can’t.”  And it was probably someone older than you were – someone trapped in that Friday feeling – and it got passed on to you.  Now, you pass it on.  But I say “you CAN.”

You can sing.

You can dance.

You can draw, and you can dream.

You are creative, if you give yourself permission to be you.  Give yourself permission to try, to make mistakes, to be embarrassed or scared or frustrated.  Move through that frustration and move on.  Even if the Friday feeling starts dragging you down, your mind is still powerful.  You are a creative being with endless energy.  I know you are.  After all, you were a kid once, and so was I.

When I was young, the floor was hot lava.  The couches were islands which we leapt across to be safe (sorry, Mom).  The bed was a raft that we were sailing down the Mississippi.  And tonight, I was an Agent in the Zombie Nation – so energized from letting the day go that I had to sit down and write this.

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Celebrate Yourself

Get ready to get your groove on!

Get ready to get your groove on!

Every day, you have choices to make. 

You may choose what you want to focus on for the day, which road to take to the office or what issue you want to tackle.  Making your decision, you start your day and – with focus and effort – you accomplish things.  You get a win.  One small one might roll into another, and then another.  And at the end of the day, you’re proud of what you’ve achieved.  You want to share the good news and celebrate it, so you call your coworker, friend or (insert a person here).  The news tumbles out in one excited jumble.  And how does the other person react?

Perhaps they’re as thrilled as you are, and you both are off to the races.  Most likely though, they are happy for you – but maybe not as happy as you hoped they’d be.  Or just maybe, they have a different take on your day.  Maybe they don’t see your win as a “win” after all.  Now, how do you feel?  Are you deflated?  Confused?  Let down?  Are you still as excited as you were before?  Does some of that joy come out of your voice, and do you move quickly on to the next chore on your to-do list?

People crave connections.  We’re social beings.  While I might be an introvert or you might be an extrovert, we all want to be understood.  Seen.  Validated.  Appreciated.  We look outward for reinforcement of whom we believe we are inside.   Our self-worth, whether it’s at the office, at home or in a relationship, may somehow be defined by what you see reflected back at you by another person.

I say you are selling yourself short.  When you accomplish something good, you know in your heart that you have.  You can feel it in your bones.  You’ve done great work, hit a goal or laid the foundation of a great future, and you know it.  Feeling proud of yourself is a good thing, yet so many people get that pride of accomplishment confused with hubris.  Instead of believing in the work they’ve done, they feel guilty, so they turn outward for validation – for “approval” to be proud – and find themselves disappointed.  Their friend is distracted, thinking about their own issues, and not providing the feedback you want or “need.”

Positive feedback is a good thing, but there’s no guarantee you will get it.  That doesn’t diminish the moments when you know you’ve made a difference.   Hubris is one thing.  Overt or excessive pride with no true accomplishment, that’s another story for another time.  You know it when you’ve done something good.  That’s a feeling that’s weighty, sits deep and resonates.  You don’t need anyone else’s permission to celebrate your job well done.  Throw back those curtains of self-doubt and celebrate yourself.  Then do more great work, and celebrate again tomorrow.

In fact, every day you can choose to accomplish something great and celebrate it again.  You deserve it, and your friends – those true ones – probably know a good party when they see it.  They won’t want to miss out on this one

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Finding Answers

Questions-and-asnwers“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.”  Og Mandino

When you begin a career or a relationship, you begin as a student.  You have a manager or a mentor who teaches you the ropes.  You discover who they are.  You ask questions, study books and learn as much as you can about the field you have chosen.  You make mistakes, learn from them and move on to the next lesson.  And time goes by.

You get more opportunity.  Becoming more experienced and more knowledgeable, you rise through the ranks.  And years go by.

One day, you turn around and find that you have become the teacher… the mentor.  People ask you questions.  They learn and you lead.

And leadership can be lonely.  There’s not a lot of positive feedback.  Sometimes, it feels like you give more than you receive, and you are still grateful to do it.  Perhaps you feel unappreciated or bored.  You love your opportunity, but yearn for something more.  You’ve stopped asking all the questions, because you know most of the answers about your business.  So you begin to search for new questions to ask, new lessons to learn and new places to grow.

I’ve spent a long time learning what I know.  I run my piece of the business, and at times, it seems quite easy.  I’ve felt restless.  I’ve been searching.  At times, I’ve felt unappreciated or undervalued.  (Don’t we all sometimes?)   I still ask questions, but not as often as I did before.  And yesterday, I was reminded how valuable – no, how critical – it is to always remain a student, not only of your business but also of your life.

Positive change is coming for our Company.  Yesterday, I began to share it.  I reached out to each of my team members to discuss the change, the implications and the opportunities.  The focus of each call was to talk about what this meant for them.  I learned what it meant for me.

I thought I knew who I was and what I did.  I thought I understood my relationship with each of them.  But we only see ourselves through our own eyes.  You don’t know who you are in someone else’s eyes until you ask.  Frankly, I didn’t really ask as I made each call.  That wasn’t on my agenda.  I “knew” my answers, until my students schooled me yet again.   And as I spoke with each of them and learned who they believe I am, I was floored, humbled and deeply moved.

I’ve been feeling unseen, unappreciated for a while.  But that wasn’t the truth.  It was what I saw in the mirror – a one way dialogue with myself.  My team… my friends… reminded me that communication is a two way street.  If you want to know how people feel about you, then ask.  If you want to know what you’ve taught them, ask.  If you want to know what you mean to them, ask.  And if you want to find out what you still have to learn from them, just ask.

There was a hole in my heart, and my team filled it.

There was a question in my mind, and my team answered it… and more.

They created new questions for me, and taught me that I still have a lot to learn.

I am grateful.

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Thoughts on Theft and Things

My truck was broken into last week as I ate dinner with a friend.  I’d just returned from a business trip, so I had a lot of stuff with me: favorite clothing, my computer, headphones etc.      While I am angry that someone felt the need to do something like this, it’s the loss of one particular item that I cannot let go of: my iPod.

My iPod was tragic.  It was a second generation model that I have had easily for almost 8 years or so, battered, slightly malfunctioning and filled with the music that I adore.  I have staunchly avoiding upgrading each time something better comes out.  I want to stick with what I know works.  Yes, it has been on the fritz, but it is mine.  Each song represents a memory, a time in my life that I cannot recover, just as I cannot rebuild that music catalogue as it was on that machine.  It was set up in a certain way.  I knew its quirks.  It was safe, dependable, loved and all mine.  It was my past and present.  It is not my future though.

Losing something is never easy.  You spend time looking back, looking around and looking at the loss.  You weren’t ready for it, weren’t prepared.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right time to let go… to move on.

Things are just that: things.  They are possessions that ultimately possess you, if you let them.  They can hold you back with a tune that is familiar, safe and beloved.  But a thing is just a thing after all.  It has no emotions.  Rather, it acts as a mirror, reflecting back at you only that which you allow it to.  The same goes for life.  Life, career, today… it can be safe, loved and a good place to be.  Or it could be holding you back as well.  Are you leading your own life today, or are you allowing “things” to possess you – to keep you from moving forward, moving up or moving on?

Letting go is hard.  I miss my iPod.  I am angry.  I am sad that it’s gone, and have to face the fact that it will never be again. I am moving through my emotions – moving on.  There will be another iPod, another opportunity to create new memories and new magic.  I will build the next play list of my life.  While the old one feels like it is gone too soon, perhaps instead it is gone at the perfect time.  Someone else will love that iPod and fill it with their songs and their memories.  They will make it new again, just as I make mine new again.

Someone told me once that “you are a slave to what you own.”  Possessions… these things.   They shall not possess me anymore.

Today, what is holding you back?  What will hold you down no more?

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Just Push Pause

Go ahead.  Make your day.

Go ahead. Make your day.

We got great news at work today – news that is going to make create amazing opportunities for our Company.  News like this also creates an amazing amount of work upfront when you are in marketing.  Your communication plan kicks into high gear.  There are internal memos, conference calls, press releases, phone calls to clients – you name it.  And it all rests on your head.  Time is of the essence, so you want to focus on it completely.

Unfortunately, what do you do when you get the news sitting in a hotel room in Seattle, far away from it all and already committed to an event that you can’t back out of?

That was my morning.  I was excited and feeling the heat.  After knocking down a few conference calls, I headed out the door – grumbling that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.  I made call after call on the 30 minute drive to the event, sat in my car and made a few more calls and then begrudgingly went off with a smile on my face to do something I felt was a “waste of time” when I ought to be doing something “more important.”

And a funny thing happened as I cranked my way through the first hour of the meeting: I started to relax.  Standing under the sun on the side of a hill, I stopped thinking about what used to be, what I needed to do today or the million things on the to-do list tomorrow.  Instead, for a few precious hours, I let myself BE.  I looked around, saw how beautiful the world around me was and allowed myself to laugh, to enjoy it and just to be grateful for the moment.  I just pushed Pause on work and let life in.

Today, that’s a hard thing to do.  We work longer hours and do more for less.  We make lists: the workday list, the grocery list, the chore list and more.  We rush through the day, checking things off the list, adding something else to the list, looking down and rarely looking up.  We ask for permission from our bosses, our spouses and ourselves for a few hours off and may feel guilty when we do.  But stopping for an hour or a day doesn’t stop our forward momentum.  It doesn’t stop us.  The world keeps turning just as the song keeps playing, even if you push pause for a little while.

Push Pause.  Work hard, yes.  But don’t forget to enjoy today.

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Discourse at Dinnertime

You didn't use your manners, Mom!

You didn’t use your manners, Mom!

As often as possible, we have dinner together as a family.  I’ve heard the same studies that you’ve heard about the importance of those nights: how there is a correlation between eating meals as a family to better emotional well-being, higher grades, better eating habits, lower obesity and lower risk of dependence on drugs and alcohol for the children as they grow.  So, every night we gather around the table to spend time together, share stories about our day and to practice our “attitude of gratitude.”  I have noticed recently that, while family dinner is healthy for the boys, it wasn’t feeling so great for me.

Now, my sons are 5 and 3.  They are wonderful kids and are wholly committed to the “war for attention” that siblings engage in.  Dinner lately has been a loud, raucous event with the boys battling for the podium, not listening to each other (or Mom and Dad).  Mom and Dad then get loud, and now no one is listening.  With my nerves jangled, my head on the table and the kids in time out, Steve and I decided we needed a new plan.  Dinnertime now has new rules.

  • We take turns when we speak.
  • We raise our hand if we have something to add.
  • We don’t interrupt each other.  We listen.
  • We lower our voice if we are upset.  We don’t raise it.
  • If we ARE upset, we take 10 deep breaths before we speak, etc.

The “new” rules sound pretty basic, right?  They are just common sense, just polite manners.  Absolutely!  You’re right.  It’s easy.  In fact, the rules are so easy that we adults often forget to practice them.  We adults frequently ignore the rules on television, in chat rooms, on Facebook, in meetings, just about everywhere.  We’re talking on top of each other, calling each other names, not listening to others when they speak, not considering other opinions beyond our own… not modeling the basic manners that we expect our children to follow every day at home or in the classroom.

Our world continues to change, becoming more connected and yet more polarized.  We share every moment of every day, and it can bring people together.  It also can drive people farther apart, ruining relationships and encouraging behavior in ourselves that we would never tolerate from our children.   Time may change the way we communicate, but it doesn’t change the meaning of common decency, kindness and compassion.  Time doesn’t diminish the value of intelligent discourse, of sharing ideas or seeing things from another point of view.  We may not change our opinion, but that doesn’t mean someone else’s opinion isn’t equally as valid as the view that you may hold.

When you’re passionate, hurt or angry, it can be hard to slow down and listen someone else, and maybe still agree to disagree.  It’s difficult to disagree in a hushed tone, to let someone else finish their thought and then to really consider it before we rush to speak.  It’s much more respectful though, and a healthier way to resolve something.  We may not raise our hands as children do in school, but we certainly should hold ourselves to the same standards of respectful communication that we hold our children to.  Good manners and healthy communication shouldn’t be optional, regardless of whether it’s online, in a meeting or around the dinner table.

We expect it of our children.  We should demand it from ourselves.