Creating the Best Environment

Last night, at around 2 am, I woke up and began to think of “relationships and dialogue,” which led me to ponder the difference between the kitchen table and the office. 

Most offices are structurally formal, meaning there is usually a desk for the person who works within the office, chairs for others, and perhaps a couch. There is a hierarchy, implied or expressed, that is built into the very environment.

At the kitchen table in a functioning home, the very shape and structure of that meeting place serve to flatten the pyramid. Ideally, there is no greater democratic and relationship-building environment. I cannot overstate the value of significant relationships and the dialogue that takes place there. Of course, the kitchen table isn’t always a physical environment. It can be anywhere that people feel safe and listened to. 

As I’m sure you know, I consider dialogue and relationships the most essential conditions between people who are important to each other. I became a better person and leader because I was fortunate enough to have fostered a kitchen table environment for my own inner circle. Those relationships played significant roles in my life that continue to this day.

We all need to ensure we have a kitchen table, whether figurative or physical, and we need to make good use of it. All leaders, whether professional or familial, have the power to create environments, often being unconscious of their own influence. That is both the gift and the curse of being powerful. Recognizing the difference between environments that empower and promote authentic relationships versus those that foster submissive and fearful pawns is the hallmark of effective leadership.

The Kitchen Table—Do not take it for granted—It is powerful

Lenette’s Memorial Celebration

Lenette’s passing on October 31 was a major trauma to me. I lost the girl I loved the moment she emerged from the crowd to ask about camp philosophy. I will always feel half-empty now that she is gone. I’m hoping you’ll be able to share her memorial celebration with me.

Although the venue remains to be confirmed, the date is set for the 6th of June in Reno. The event will include people who did not attend camp. However, there will also be a brunch the next morning (7th) only for camp people.

We’re hoping for a big turnout and need to know whether you can attend or not. Please let Merry know if you’ll come alone or with your significant other so we can get an accurate head count. If you can’t attend, please let her know also. We need your response by 

You can reach Merry by e-mail at: merrykogel(AT), or by phone at: four-o-eight-eight-nine-one-8326.*

*Trying hard not to make it easy for the bots to scrape personal info.

Current Events

I am working on the material that will be in my 4thbook. I’m brushing over all of my written essays to add a Haiku to each.

I love Haiku for obvious reasons. My intention is for them to capture the essence and point of the essay.

I admit to enjoying the process of making this so. When I’m finished, it will find its way to Amazon for printing and public purchase.

At this time, I think the title will be “The Kitchen Table.” I love the picture it paints.

As I’ve always maintained, Democracy exists there in its best form, where all who are seated are invited to freely be themselves. This is where participants acquire the tools that build relationships and where, ideally, genuine dialogue occurs. If not at the kitchen table, where else?


It is Wednesday, January 24 about 3:20 pm, and I sit at my computer. 

And my cat MEA sits on the desk watching me, nothing could be cuter.

She is my company, and most of the time, she cuddles with me.

She watches over me as Lenette once did a picture to see.

She knows I need her as company.

And I know this is true for both of us.

Although friendly and warm to visitors, it is me she trusts.

When in bed, she stays close to me.

That’s okay it is where I want her to be. 

She was close to Lenette and listened to her.

Not to me in the same way for sure!


I am working on my 4th book and like what I’ve written.

What I am doing is adding Haikus and none are like kittens.

They are, as Haikus should be expressed, lean.

They are naked as can be, and none are mean.

The sun is the sun, and the moon is the moon.

They express in so few notes the most basic tune.

I love its basic form and the lean use of words.

5-7-5 syllables are all that is written and heard.


He is “Danny” to me and the kids he grew up with. Yet, he is “Daniel” in the world he lives in now. After Camp Shasta, he earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Considering his work and achievements, he deserves the accolades others have given him. 

The program he started for girls in Nigeria, Africa, is now run by women from the region. The director is a “leader of leaders” and is developing and training leaders from within the population. These Nigerian women are expanding the program and are creating even more opportunities for young girls. To date, they have reached tens of thousands of girls, teaching them reading, writing, and mathematics. It has helped many avoid early pregnancy and enabled countless others to build small businesses. 

While the Nigerian women keep the process moving and growing, Daniel remains their mentor. Incidentally, he attributes much of what he has done to the things he learned at Purple Sage and Camp Shasta.  I couldn’t be prouder.

Now, technology offers me an opportunity to join Daniel in mentoring the Nigerian team. Daniel and I are going to do remote workshops with the inner circle of women who have already achieved so much. Everything about the program is extraordinary.

CNN recently featured the program in a photo essay on their website. Check it out.


Nigeria, where something special is taking place.

Young girls are being helped to find their space.

To find, to know they can live a better life.

To hear from their teachers that they have choices better than strife.

To choose a better life, a future for their own sake.

They discover there is much more to life and decisions to make.

A freedom to be themselves and not another young mother.

They learn that they need not be smothered.

To chose for themselves what they want to be. To choose for themselves to be free.


I wrote of Nigeria in my last.

A story to tell all and one not past.

It continues its growth to reach as many as it can.

Money as gifts is a necessity within the plan.

We must be grateful to those who give.

For what they give many young girls live.

How good that this takes place.

An act of charity, an act of grace.

That there are people who do this and are one of this kind.

It is the overall love of people. This on their mind.

The world is better because of them, that by their giving they mend.

I Write Because I Must

I am writing because I must. It is what I do.

When I worked with children, that was what I did.

When I worked with professionals and entrepreneurs, I discovered power and its abuse as the major problem at work and at home.

In my study of power, I met leadership as its seat.

Only in the last few years did I understand the leader of leaders concept and that those within an Inner circle are not leaders without the leader of leaders.

It took years for me to realize and understand that the leader of leaders is destined to assume that role because they are driven to build organizations and communities.

Most people choose to become leaders of themselves, as leaders of leaders are rare because others are essential to them, and Society exists because of them.


I write because I feel I must.

That my writing contributes to my not turning to dust.

And there are times that I search for what to say.

The problem is wanting my writing to be me each day.

To make nothing up, to keep what I write my story and real.

I write what I know; I write what I feel.

Serendipity, I love the word and what it means.

And not a moment of my life is made of dreams.

Experiences galore I have had, and most have taught.

Not one, I would hope. Has gone for naught.

A Brief Update on “Celebrating Lenette”

We want to let you know that no firm dates have been set for this event, so please disregard the previous post in that regard. Merry will email a “reserve the date” notice once a venue has been booked, along with other details that will also be posted here. 

As always, Sy and the organizers welcome any feedback you wish to share.

We’re all looking forward to sharing our memories and love!



It is one of my favorite ways to communicate what I feel.

Yes, and it’s also one of my ways to be real. 

I don’t use words to be cute or play games.

It is me being me and, when necessary, naming names.

And yes, I do try to write what is meaningful and true.

I write what I hope will have some impact on you.

Often, I stumble, looking for words that I feel are right.

Words that connect, not words and lines that are trite.

Challenge me to write poetry that brings light.  

We Need Your Feedback!

Hi All,

We need to know what you think about the celebration and memorial for Lenette.

We are looking at June 4th and 5th for the dates. At that time of year, hotel rates will be low. Also, flying to Reno on a Tuesday is much less expensive. The Dinner Banquet will be on Wednesday.

Car rental is unnecessary. Most Hotels will provide pickup and delivery. Arrival on Tuesday and departure on Thursday will allow for people to get together and share old times.

What are your thoughts about this? Would you consider coming to this celebration?

We know that many have stories to share about Lenette. All will have this opportunity, and seeing old friends is always fun.

We know that we have about 6 months to bring this event together. 

Steve from the Youth Hotel and Merry from Purple Sage and Shasta are ready for any and all suggestions and recommendations.  Please let us know what you think.



Another Camp Shasta Memory

I spend a lot of time digging into my past, thinking of Lenette and our work together. When we worked together, we never sat in the same chair; she did her thing, and I did mine. In fact, I did my best to stay out of her way and hair.  Except, that is, to kiss her as often as possible.

Now, when I sit at the computer, I thank her for teaching me to type. The computer gives me the freedom and the ability to express my thoughts. It is one of the many immense gifts I received from her.

I have stories to share, and all are true. Today, I’ll write about Heidi at Camp Shasta. The wilderness around Camp Shasta was open range, with Bears, mountain lions, and free-range cattle wandering and living in the thousands of acres surrounding camp. Because of the dogs, most wild animals stayed away from camp, but now and then, cattle would enter the grounds.

Heidi took after the cattle as if she knew they did not belong. It took her mere moments to pick out the lead bull and run at them from all directions. She ran them off until none remained. Then She, the conquering hero, with tail held high, danced back to us.

As I’ve recounted before, Heidi was a hero in the eyes of campers and staff when she made marshmallows of our neighbor’s killer husky.

Heidi loved Kim and spent most of her time with him when he ran the stables. Yet, when Kim became a counselor, Heidi remained in camp.


I feel I have something to say.

And the computer helps me do this each day.

It does not speak for me; this is me alone.

I take full responsibility for each word and tone.

Whether a paper seeking dialogue or a poem.

Writing is my challenge, and I do this each day.

My thoughts and the words I seek to write are play.

When I lectured and did workshops, I loved our exchange.

Seeking dialogue between us, the best we could arrange.


Lenette and I visited Yosemite Valley nearly every year. Those trips were always very special for us. On most visits, we camped or lodged in Camp Curry, although we stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel a couple of times. On many visits, we brought our own bikes and biked and walked the valley floor. 

In the mid-50s, we began to backpack in the high country out of Tuolumne Meadows. These weeklong trips always included boys and girls from summer camp and were always memorable. We climbed mountains, crossed wild rivers, and camped next to clear-water lakes.

Besides food, we only carried a poncho, a sleeping bag, and a change of clothes. The heavy stuff was the food for the week. We got really good at preparing meals morning and night. Lunch was always trail mix and chocolate.  

At least once, we hiked to Glacier Point and watched the rangers prepare and perform the magnificent and unforgettable “Fire Fall” above Camp Curry into the Valley. We were also fortunate to witness this event many times from the valley floor.

When we finished our hike, usually down into the valley, we all showered and enjoyed a restaurant meal in celebration of our trek.  

One time, a camper at our celebration meal ordered a huge amount of food, enough for 3 people. I told him he would have to eat everything he ordered. He told me this was how he got his money’s worth from the trip. It took time, but he ate it all.

Among the other lessons he learned was that he could complete and achieve a difficult hike when he was willing to make the effort.

On one of our trips, it rained one night, and we all got good and wet. Lenette gathered up the shoes that were totally soaked and placed them near the fire that we kept going all night. When we went to get our shoes the next morning, they looked perfect and dry, but they crumbled into dust. Here we were with no shoes and a hike to make!

Lenette immediately asked for jeans, and using a sharp blade, she cut the denim and made sandals out of them. We used leather thongs to tie them on our feet, and we all had sandals to walk on. 

We soon discovered that the sandals wore down quickly. Lenette’s answer? Make them thicker, which she did. It worked! We made it to the valley with lots more memories. 


A poem is in me to write.

I think I have it in sight.

The words are there in my mind.

I know me, and I know they are there to find.

It is Lenette I know I want to write of.

It is Lenette I picture and the one I’ve always loved.

So beautiful a person was she.

She filled my life; she made me be.

And now alone, I feel she watches over me.

I have that sense of her being.

I have that sense of her seeing.

Of her watching what I do.

And knowing every word I write is true.