Peace x 50!

March 1 is the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, and as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV)*, Macedonia 2006-2009, I’m joining the celebration, here, on Facebook, on local TV and in print.

Did you know that over the past 50 years, 200,000+ Volunteers have served in 139 countries?

  • 8,655 Volunteers are serving in 77 countries, as I type. 
  • 60% female, 40% male
  • 93% single, 7% married
  • 19% of Peace Corps Volunteers are minorities
  • 28 is average age
  • 7 % of volunteers are over 50. (I was!)
  • 90% have at least an undergraduate degree 

What Volunteers do?

  • Education: 37%
  • Health & HIV/AIDS: 22%
  • Business Development: 14% (That’s what I did.) 
  • Environment: 13%
  • Agriculture: 4%
  • Youth Development: 5%
  • Other: 5% 

 Where they do it?

  • Africa: 37%
  • Latin America: 24%
  • Eastern Europe/Central Asia: 21% (Me in Macedonia, south-eastern Europe.)
  • Asia: 7%
  • The Caribbean: 5%
  • North Africa/Middle East: 4%
  • Pacific Islands: 3% 


Personal Virtual Celebrations

For a more personal look at what it’s like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), please join us on Wednesdays in March when I share the tales and triumphs, memories and moments of five adventurous folks, who served at different times in different places, but all  loved, or grew to love, their PC service. Until then you can read about other “Notable Returned Volunteers” on the PC website.

I’ll also be celebrating with a FB event. At least 80 PCVs or RPCVS that I know or my invitees know, will be posting a few words and photos about their Peace Corps service on their walls tomorrow, March 1. You’ll be able to see some of their comments on the Wishful Thinking Works FB page. Stop by. 

Local Fun

This morning I’m taping a local morning show. This afternoon, I’m doing an interview with a local newspaper; I’ll link when it’s published. And, best of all, Tuesday night I’ll be enjoying an international dinner with other local RPCVs that I haven’t met yet!  Can’t wait to hear their stories.

Hope you hear about Peace Corps everywhere you go, because if you do – it means we are doing our jobs!

And, if you have ever, even for a moment, thought of joining Peace Corps, I hope you find a way to make it a part of the life you really want. What will you do . . .   I did, and I will never regret or forget it! For my stories and photos, just enter Macedonia in the “Search” box above and hit “This Site”.

* Peace Corps calls all Peace Corps Volunteers, who have successfully completed their service “Returned”, not former Peace Corps Volunteers. It’s their way of saying once a Volunteer, always a Volunteer. I like that.

Instead of either/or

Do you have a hard time making decisions? When faced with two equally positive or negative options have you ever felt stuck?

Most of us at sometime in our lives have been paralyzed by the thought of having to choose between door one and door two. Here’s an idea that might help:

Instead of either/or, add one more

Huh? I know it sounds odd, and is counterintuitive, but it works . . .  

Instead of either/or, add one more!

The idea is not mine, but making it a cute little rhyme is. (And, as silly as the rhyme sounds, it’s more memorable, and I think it’s a line worth remembering.)

Instead of either/or, add one more.

Picture this, you’ve inherited a huge sum of money, never have to work again, and have been house hunting for months. You finally found two homes you love, and although they are very different each offers you a lifestyle you have always wanted. You can’t decide whether to go with the brownstone in Manhattan or the cattle ranch in Colorado and rich as you are, you can’t afford both. 

Or, you have two great job options, life coach in Florida or actress in Hollywood – naw, that one is way too easy, I’d choose being a life coach, anywhere! But, I digress.

I was recently reading brothers Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick”, and their comments about the paradoxes of how we decide things, led me to come up with my little ditty:

Instead of either/or, add one more. 

The decision-making research they cited reveals the value of adding one more choice to an either/or mix. Adding “one more”, helps us prioritize, which makes it easier for us to recognize what we truly prefer. We tend to think that by making things black or white, or narrowing down our choices to just two – this or that, we are making things easier on ourselves, but the opposite may be true. It appears that is easier for us to choose, when we look at and compare three options rather than two.

EX: Brownstone in Manhattan, cattle ranch in Colorado, and beach house in Florida. Did the picture get any clearer for you, it did for me. 

  • Manhattan/Colorado/Florida

Comparing three options rather than two, changes the way we think, and may lead us to faster and even less regrettable decisions. (It’s easy to spend our lives regretting either/or decisions; I think comparing three options reduces the drama, which may in turn reduce lingering regrets.)

So what would you choose, brownstone, ranch, beach house? There are no wrong answers, pick what appeals most to you.

Try applying the rhyme this weekend if you are faced with any either/or dilemmas. It works well on big or little stuff.

My most immediate dilemma is, do I want coffee or tea? Adding one more, a Mimosa sounds good, it’s Friday, and the weekends begin early on the Southwest Coast of Florida . . .

I chose the coffee, adding the Mimosa sounded wonderful, but within seconds of adding the option I realized that a perfect cup of coffee was what I really wanted. 

PS “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” ” is a great book; I will be sharing more about it in future posts.

WTW Dandelion

What do marshmallows have to do with success?

Will you or won't you?


Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener is one of the positive psychologists, whose work I follow and whose books I read. (Another nerd alert, but honestly these things really do excite me!) He recently sent an email about a famous study with preschoolers and marshmallows conducted in the 1960’s by psychologist Walter Mischel, which led me to a 2009 The New Yorker article about Mischel’s work. 

Here’s my summary of what happened:

  • Four year-old kids are left alone in a room with a treat of their choosing (marshmallow, cookie or pretzel stick). 
  • They are told they can eat the treat in front of them, or they can wait until the researcher returns and be rewarded with more of the same treat.

The experiment mimicked short-term/long-term dilemmas we’ve all faced: to eat or not to eat; to buy or not to buy; to say or not to say and to do or not to do. It measured the ability to delay gratification. 

In follow-up longitudinal studies, guess who had higher tests scores on their college entry exams, and were less likely to use drugs. Yup, the kids who resisted temptation – the 30%, who were then called “high-delayers”.

The point of sharing this news, isn’t to urge you to lock your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, students or staff in a room with a  marshmallow, but rather to share with you how the resisters, resisted. 

The high-delayers figured out simple ways to help themselves resist the treat. They closed or covered their eyes, or played hide-in-seek under the table, thus reducing or eliminating the sight of the temptation (out of sight/out of mind?). Or, they sang or otherwise distracted themselves.

Perhaps, when faced with a situation or dilemma that involves patience, persistence or the need for self-control, we could follow the lead of a group of four-year olds and:

  1. Create physical environments that support our goals. Don’t stock our shelves with junk food when we are trying to improve our eating habits. Leave the credit cards at home when we are trying to cut our spending.
  2. When we’re having difficult or stressful moments with our computers, projects, kids, significant others or the car in front of us, we can distract ourselves. We can: hum a song; take a deep and cleansing breath, look into their eyes, keep humourous items on our desk or dashboards to distract us, or get-up, move away, or pull over.
  3. Prepare in advance. Give ourselves a break by making lists of distraction options ahead of time so we have lots of go-to choices available.

Bottom-line? Never depend solely on will power for self-control; it is seldom, if ever, the best option. The kids, who stared at the marshmallows willing themselves not to eat it, ate it! Mastering our wills sounds good and might be the advice we heard growing-up, but it’s usually not as effective as distancing or distracting.

Perhaps it is time to test yourself with a marshmallow or two and see what happens. And, while you are delaying, figure out what works best for you – and remember to do that when it really matters.

BTW, I would’ve grabbed the marshmallow before the researcher was out the door! My long list of go-to options got me through undergrad and grad school, being a Mom, hundreds of business meetings, and continues to help me create the life I really want, each and every day. 

  WTW Dandelion

A glutton for joy

On Friday, I asked a number of open-ended questions in my post. Including:

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing with your life now, what would you be doing? 

What did you want to be when you grew-up?

I hope you answered them, at least in your head. Knowing the answers may be a step in the direction of creating the life you want.

Here’s one more question that is good for a slow-starting or an already-overwhelming Monday morning.

What one thing could you do today to bring more joy into your life?

Okay, you thought of your answer, now please do it. (If your immediate response was “I don’t know”, please take a deep breath, smile and then ask yourself again.)

Me? I’m going to take a walk. And when I do, I am going to listen to the birds, notice the flowers and trees, and search for color all around me – instead of thinking about something I am working on.

Oops, that’s more than one thing. I guess I’m just a glutton for joy.

WTW Dandelion

PS For more Wishful Thinking Works posts on “joy”, please use it as a search term at the top of the page and select “this site”.

Writing, chatting, and apples

I took two mini-risks yesterday. The first one involved attending an online writing chat. Attending the chat was actually an accident, I thought I was going to be watching a webinar, but instead I ended-up chatting – in writing, about writing. The only visuals were the guest and moderator’s Gravatars. The set-up felt odd at first, and I thought it might be boring, since I’m a bit of a bells and whistles kind-of gal.

The featured guest was Roy Peter Clark, a PhD in medieval literature and V.P. and Senior Scholar at the world-renowned Poynter Institute, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Clark has authored or edited 14 books. (Believe it or not, that was the exciting part to me – nerd alert!)

The Poynter Institute is:

“a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It promotes excellence and integrity in the practice of craft and in the practical leadership of successful businesses. It stands for a journalism that informs citizens and enlightens public discourse. It carries forward Nelson Poynter’s belief in the value of independent journalism.”

Their web site, hosted the chat, which focused on the power of asking open-ended questions. Clark was discussing them and we were supposed to asking them, which led to some tense moments for me and to my second risk of the day. I spent 30 minutes trying to work up the courage to ask a question, because as you know, taking risks scares me – big time. When I finally did ask, the discussion went like this, and yes, I am quoting:

Thursday February 17, 2011 3:33

[Comment From Patrice:] I am beginning to do a series of interviews for my blog. What are your favorite questions for soft news interviews?

Roy Peter Clark: Patrice, I don’t necessarily change my questions for soft news to hard news. But I do like the pattern in which you ask easier questions early and then tough ones later one. The rationale is that you want to gain confidence and not make source feel defensive — or make her leave the interview — until you have what you want.

As other folks asked questions and received answers, my courage began to grow. I decided to ask another question.

[Comment From Patrice:] When and how did you get hooked on the art of inquiry?

Roy Peter Clark: This may sound strange, Patrice, but I think it came from reading fiction as a young person. When I got “hooked” on a story, I wanted to find out what happened next. Or I wanted the answer to a key question: “Where was the treasure chest buried?” I also watched Perry Mason and still love courtroom dramas. Although they are not realistic, they have a narrative arc that mimics inquiry.

Roy Peter Clark: And thanks Patrice, for asking an open-ended question. One that no one asked me before. So I think you got a decent answer from me, an authentic original answer, rather than my canned quote. 

How cool is that, and oh, so not boring, which later led to another question . . .

Ellyn Angelotti (Moderator and Interactivity Editor at Poynter Online)

This is from Patrice: I’m a life coach, and did not realize there was such a crossover between a good interview and a good coaching session – the swing thoughts, re-asking the same questions, asking easier questions first and really listening to the answers. Thanks for helping me gain those insights. Question: If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

Roy Peter Clark: Another good question, Patrice. At the age of 62, I’m wondering if I have one more career choice left. I think I’d make a pretty good psychologist. And I wonder if I still have time for law school. What interests me about those two choices is the differences in the style of questioning. In an shrink’s office versus a courtroom. The first much more open-ended. The second more pointed. And I am a good piano player.

Be still my heart! Fun, drama, excitement, information sharing, learning. Proof positive that I am a nerd, but nerdy little me would have missed all the fun, if I hadn’t taken the risk of asking a question or two.

To read the entire chat, click here. If you’d like to learn more about Clark, you can check out his Facebook Page, read his article Twenty Writing Tools or his books:



And, now a few open-ended questions for you. Take a risk and share your answers with us:

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing with your life now, what would you be doing?

Even if you don’t share your answer with us, pay attention to it. Mine was swimming, no clue why, but I will work in a beach visit.

What did you want to be when you grew-up?

An actress or a lawyer, I saw them as equally dramatic and exciting.

If you were a tree . . . just kidding, just kidding, that’s Barbara Walter’s question!!!

But, wait, what if you were an apple, what kind of apple would you be? (Now that’s a much better question, one we can really sink our teeth into. Oooh, that was bad, but it won’t stop me from answering.) 

I’d be a Winesap – spicy, tangy, crisp and delicious, also I love wine and can be very sappy.

Have a great weekend, and, as Martha Beck might say taking a risk a day, keeps boredom at bay. What will yours be?

Okay, now I will stop.

My morning brew with my crew

Coffee Cup Memories

It looks like a cup of coffee, but it’s so much more.

The cup is from a caring and thoughtful friend, who lives in Italy. She bought Polish pottery cups for another friend and me when she traveled to Poland. After buying the cups she hand carried them back to America with her husband and two sweet little girls in tow. Hand carried! And, yes, her husband thought she was nuts; we loved her for it. Thank you, Sue.

The soft and frothy foam is a result of another friend’s kindness, she bought me a great mini-blender so I can easily foam my milk each morning. Thanks, Nellie.

The crunchy pumpkin pie and sugar sprinkles on top are a combo and process I created, but were influenced by my family and friends, who love to cook and bake and to talk about cooking and baking, which I love. Thanks for always inspiring me – Geri, Debbie, Bunny and Dao. (Created may seem like too strong a word for sprinkling and warming foamed non-fat milk in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, but it tastes so good and adds so much flavor. For a real treat, after warming and slowly pouring coffee through the center of the foam – it will rise beautifully in the cup – top it with one turn of grated sea salt. Honestly, it’s fantastic.)

The delicious aroma of my coffee, a bit of hazelnut, reminds me of all the rich and wonderful times I’ve had sipping coffee with friends in shops here and cafés there, and how many hundreds of times this magical brew has bonded me to friends old and new.

Making and sipping my version of cappuccino confirms that the little things really do matter to me, and that savoring the moments brings friends near no matter where they are.

Time for a second cup; I’ll be thinking of you.

Wordy Valentine’s Gifts

 “There are two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.”  Albert Einstein

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”
Anatole France

“Most of us have far more courage than we ever dreamed we possessed.”  Dale Carnegie

Happy Valentine’s Day. Today is the perfect day to share sweet words with the people you care about. Feel free to share one of your favorite quotes with us.

For those of you in the mood to keep reading, check out my 2010 post about my favorite Valentine’s Day – the offer in it still stands. And, I hope to do something with Sumnal when I return to Macedonia this May.

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