Author Archive

Dreamdoor Series: Part 1 – Blue Jays and Pheasant

Dreamdoor – those events that catch and hold our attention…a potential opening to another world, another realm.  It is a door, an opening, an invitation that can be taken, or not.

~Arnold Mindell, PhD, The Dreammaker’s Apprentice, page 159.



It was New Year’s Day 2012.  I was in my office.  The window shade was up to let the sun from the front yard stream in.


Screech!  Screech!  Screech!  Screech!  I looked out the window and saw three bright blue jays.  One was in the tree squawking emphatically down at the two other birds in an epic blue jay battle.  One jay was on top of the other.  Feathers were flying.  The jay in the tree was screeching, seemingly cheering on the blue jay gladiators.


I’d never seen anything like this before and it shook me.  I ran to the window and began banging on it to get the birds to stop.  I even threw the window open to yell at them.  They finally flew away leaving feathers on my lawn and me in distress.


I couldn’t shake the feeling of this bird battle.  For some reason it reminded me of our political system:  two parties battling each other to the death and the media sitting up in its pundit’s perch, enjoying the battle, urging it on, providing commentary.


An hour or more went by and I still could not shake my feeling of discomfort.  In times like this, I turn to my bicycle and ride my four-mile circuit to exorcise my demons.  Often, when I’ve gone two miles or so, something lifts and I can find some new perspective.


It was at that two-mile mark that I caught sight of a female pheasant.  I’ve seen male pheasants in the open field further up the street, but never a lone female.  She was hiding between a fence and some plantings near the sidewalk close to the greenbelt.  I slowed and made a big circle back to the pheasant’s hiding place for a second look.  The pheasant flew away.


I don’t know what it was about that pheasant, but the discomfort of the blue jay battle lifted and I was filled with hope.


Somewhere, hidden from view, discrete women are busy nurturing the “what’s next.”  The time of loud squawking blue jays is coming to a close.  Despite the continuing squawk that fills our airwaves, something fertile is being nurtured away from the noise and glare.


Judith MacBrine dba The Mirror Group © Copyright 2012

Dear Debt Super Committee: Be a High Performance Team, Please!

Dear Members of the Debt Super Committee:


Thank you for agreeing to be a member of the Debt Super Committee.  I am a small business owner very concerned about the impact of this committee on our economy, our politics and the confidence of our nation.  As a political leader, I will not ask you to set aside politics as a member of the Debt Super Committee.  You represent a voice of our system that wants and needs to be heard.


I do ask you to “do politics” differently between now and November 23rd when the debt-reduction plan is due.  Rather than polarize and tear each other and the country down, please develop yourselves into a high-performance team.


To create a high-performing team, three characteristics need to be present:  a high ratio of positive-to-negative interactions, a balance of inquiry and advocacy, and a balance of focus on self with focus on “the other.”


Ratios for the Three High-Performance Dimensions

Inquiry/Advocacy            Positivity/Negativity             Other/Self

High-performance teams                    1.143                              5.614                             .935

Medium-performance teams                 .667                              1.855                             .622

Low-performance teams                       .052                               .363                              .034


(See “The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams:  A Nonlinear Dynamics Model” by Marcial Losada, Meta Learning and Emily Heaphy, University of Michigan Business School.)


The ground work for high-performance teams is high ratios of positive-to-negative interactions.  Currently the US Congress is dominated by negative interactions.  Many can be identified as one of four toxic communication behaviors that kill relationships and team performance (see the work of John M. Gottman, PhD.):

  • Blame – A complaint about a specific action that attacks the person’s character or personality, e.g., “What’s wrong with you?”  “Can’t you understand that…?”
  • Defensiveness – Turning the blame and criticism away, often back at the original criticizer, the situation or someone else.  This escalates the conflict.
  • Stonewalling – Cutting off communication, the silent treatment, refusal to engage, withdrawal, being reluctant to express directly what you are thinking.
  • Contempt – Sarcasm, belittling, cynicism, name-calling, hostile humor, belligerence.  Contempt is the most poisonous form of toxic communication because it conveys disgust and condescension.  It has been found to be harmful to physical health.

Low-performance teams are characterized as having a low ratio of positive-to-negative interactions and a predominance of focus on self and advocacy.  Because of the highly negative environment, these teams are unable to be creative and innovative.  We, the US taxpayer, cannot afford for you, the other members of the Debt Super Committee, and later the US Congress and President, to be a low-performance team.

We will know that you are “doing politics” differently when we see you display the characteristics of a high-performance team (which are fast-acting and contagious):

  • A cessation of toxic communication behaviors.
  • An increase in positive interactions.
  • Inquiry into the positions and concerns of “the other.”
  • Advocacy for the positions and concerns of “the other.”

You have a large and historic task in front of you.  Much of the rhetoric surrounding you is cynical and expects you to be partisan and to fail.  Right now, as indicated by US public opinion polls and by the volatility of the stock markets, you come to the task already judged as a low-performing team.


Prove us wrong!

Originally signed,
Judith B. MacBrine, Owner
The Mirror Group


Addressed and mailed to each member of the Debt Super Committee:

  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas (Republican and committee co-chair)
  • Sen. Patty Murray of Washington (Democrat and committee co-chair)
  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland (Democrat)
  • Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona (Republican)
  • Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (Democrat)
  • Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania (Republican)
  • Sen. Max Baucus of Montana (Democrat)
  • Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio (Republican)
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra of California (Democrat)
  • Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan (Republican)
  • Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina (Democrat)
  • Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan (Republican)

Small Business Bankrolls Big Business

President Barack Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500


Dear President Obama:


In your address to Congress on September 8, 2011, you said:


“My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own.  For example, if you’re a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we’re going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do now.”


I just want to let you know what a good job your administration is already doing in paying small business.  I am a sole proprietor in business since 2009 working collaborating with other sole proprietors.  I began a multiyear contract in 2011 with NASA to conduct training for their managers, supervisors and influence leaders.  My first and second invoices for work done against this contract were paid in eight and ten working days, respectively, from the date I dropped the invoices in the mailbox. Those funds went directly into my account with my local bank, First Northern Bank of Dixon.  I then made payment to my colleague and subcontractor in Greeley, Colorado, whose husband has been looking for work for 19 months and to my other colleague and subcontractor in Novato, California.  These quick payments have stimulated, in their own way, three local communities.  So I want to acknowledge the great service of the NASA/Shared Services Center FMD Accounts Payable unit.


The real problem with contract payments to small business is with Fortune 1000 companies.  As reported in the Washington Monthly and The Colbert Report by Jeffrey Leonard, CEO of the Global Environment Fund, Corporate America has adopted a Net 60 -120 policy making it possible for it to defer payment to businesses for 60-150 days depending on the date of the invoice.  Please refer to the attached website:

This is during a time when big business has large cash reserves and small business and the people it supports are struggling.  Small business should not have to bankroll big business.


If it’s not already in your plan, please do something to get Corporate America to pay its bills on time.  Perhaps the federal government could decline to do business with businesses that don’t have a corporate policy of Net30 or better.  In my estimation, the federal government is a model in this area.  Now, more than ever, we need Corporate America to step up and do its part.


Thank you for considering this request and for being an example of how big business should reimburse small business.




Originally signed,


Judith B. MacBrine, Owner

The Mirror Group



NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Representative John Boehner

Representative Nancy Pelosi

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Mitch McConnell

Representative Cory Gardner

Representative Lynn Woolsey

Representative Mike Thompson

The Colbert Report

No Labels

Wag More

Last year’s summer vacation took us to Asheville, NC, for a week of exploring new territory.  It’s the kind of vacation I love – lots of local art, beautiful scenery, good food (pig ribs, sweet potato fries, sweet potato pancakes, pecan pie), and bluegrass music to boot.  Oh lordy, what a fine week.

One thing, more than any other, captured my imagination.  I saw it on the bumper of an open air Jeep parked in the square in front of the Tupelo Honey Café.  “wag more, bark less,” it read.wag more bark less white words on blue background

I looked all over Asheville for that bumper sticker.  It wasn’t until Christmas shopping at a Seattle pet store that I finally found it.  “wag more, bark less.” And for cat lovers there was, “purr more, hiss less.”  I couldn’t wait to get home and proudly adorn my bumper with this message – my first permanently affixed bumper sticker ever.  More than once, having “wag more, bark less” on the back of my car has helped me refrain from flipping off some driver who unknowingly offended me.

Today on my daily four-mile bike ride around Davis, I saw a car outside the Davis United Methodist Church proudly sporting my bumper sticker. ”wag more, bark less.”  This was the first one I’d seen in Davis and one of the few I’ve seen since being home from Ashevillle.  “Wow, I wonder if this person has seen my bumper sticker too!  I wonder if they’re catching on.”

I continued my ride down Anderson Road, past the driveway to the shopping center where we buy groceries.  You’re never sure, when on a bicycle, whether people see you.  I waved and smiled at the car waiting to move onto Anderson Road.  “Hello.  Here I am.  I see you.”  A young woman in a headscarf looked at me from the driver side of her car.  She flashed a smile so beautiful my eyes began to sting with tears.  Then she waved back.  “Yes, I see you.  I’m here too.”  I continued my bike ride, smiling, thinking of this woman and her beautiful smile.

Hi.  I’m here.  I see you.

Wag more.


Judith MacBrine dba The Mirror Group © Copyright 2011