Sunday, December 15, 2013

Keeping Annoyance Under Your Thumb

Jenny had a great job. It was a job she liked. But she found herself getting easily annoyed. It began to encompass everything and everyone she was involved with. She began to dread going to her job.

Jenny would swing back and forth between thinking that she worked with a bunch of incompetents, to thinking that it was she who was incompetent. Neither was productive or enjoyable.

It’s not easy being around a “Negative Nancy.” Someone who is always annoyed with everything can really affect your opinions and feelings of the situation. It’s even worse when that negative person is you. If it were anyone else, you could distance yourself from them. How do you get away from yourself?

Jenny told me that she started do see a big change when she realized that her negative emotions were all tied to stories from her past.

“The anger I was feeling was stemming from past insecurities...ones I fear will rear their ugly heads again; the feeling that I was always wrong turning into the obsession with always being right. As a result, my defense was to be highly critical of others, but I was highly critical of myself.”

“I would look for things to go wrong. When all you are looking for are things to go wrong, you will most definitely find them. I would feel very self righteous, but was pretty miserable.”

When she observed certain [usually innocent] behaviors from coworkers, it brought her back to those insecure days. It reminded her of how she felt back then and how she dealt with those negative feelings. It brought everything back.

“I had to learn to keep my annoyance under my thumb or I was miserable to be around.”

She learned to stop and separate herself from the past insecurities. She changed the stories associated with those memories. They wouldn’t define her anymore.

“Once I started doing that, I was able to say,  That’s not me anymore...I’ve grown up.”

As she learned to accept those feelings, the situations didn’t annoy her anymore.
She learned to welcome those reminders from her past as proof that she had grown....that she was growing.

c. 2013 

Friday, December 6, 2013

How to cook a turkey
My mouth watered any time someone mentioned having a left-over turkey sandwich. You know the kind, chopped thick off the bird with cranberry sauce and maybe some gravy mixed in. 

We went to my grandmother’s for Thanksgiving. It was great. We didn’t have to expend any effort except to eat. The thing is, we didn’t have left-overs.  I simply could not get the idea of warm turkey sandwich for lunch out of my head.

I became mesmerized by it. The next time I was in the grocery store, I got the biggest bird I could find and brought it home, much to my boyfriend’s dismay.

“I’m staying out of it, “ he said. [He actually was a good consultant and a big help].

I am notorious for “over-analysis paralysis.”  I am not a cook and I’ve always done my best to avoid cooking meat. Now that I had a huge raw bird in my fridge, I sort of had to figure out what to do with it....or get off the pot....or something like that.

How hard can it be, I thought.

I was beginning to regret my impulsive decision. The directions I found online just scared me even more, “reach in and pull the giblets out...make sure you sanitize your preparation area of turkey germs afterward with bleach.” Not sure this is what I signed up for.

But there he sat. So the next day I dove in. I cleaned the bird, slathered him in olive oil and popped him in the oven. Every 15 minutes or so, I’d peek in to see how he was progressing. He was browning nicely.

I sliced between the thigh and the breast, per the instructions, to see if the juices ran clear. They did indeed. I even sliced a bit off the top to taste. My, it was tasty.

Well, after a few more adventures and mistakes, we did indeed enjoy some yummy turkey. If I had planned it all out, I am certain I would have become so intimidated by everything involved that I wouldn’t have even started my delicious project.

c. 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reflections on the Ring

c. Lori Colombo-Dunham
 I was on the edge of my seat as Lori Columbo-Dunham described her whirlwind love story in Reflections on the Ring.  It is one that our throw-away culture would think could only end in disaster.

Every marriage is stressful to some degree, but an unplanned pregnancy and a shotgun marriage to a guy she barely knew would not seem the best foundation for a great life-long relationship. Even the most well-intentioned would advise to bail out.

Thank goodness she didn’t, if she had, she would have missed the ride of a lifetime.

She describes her frantic second thoughts as she’s preparing to get married in a cold, bland courthouse, rather than the elegant church wedding she had been previously planning.

She describes their humble beginnings in a cramped, one-sink condo, to their dream home, complete with a yard for her children; leaving nothing out. She describes in detail all of the growing pains; the “what am I supposed to do with this child”, the career changes, the “where is the money going to come from?” 

While both must be invested in it, she describes the untold power the wife holds to either make or break the marriage, just by her responses.

This is certainly not your average marital self-help book. It is her story, but there are quotes from the likes of John Gray and Laura Schlessinger, as well as the Bible peppered throughout. There are questions at the end of the chapters meant to spark discussion or solution.

The best way to learn, I believe, is through a story. Whether you are married or not, you will find it truly inspirational.

c. 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Matisse's Mistake

Who says mistakes are always bad? Tell that to Henri Matisse who accidentally knocked over the statue he had been working on for weeks. It, of course, broke and crumbled [OMG!].

Well you can imagine his shock and frustration. His wife took him, mid-cringe, for a walk. The best thing you can do, if you can, amidst a bad situation is step back. The solution will often be waiting for you when you come back with new eyes.

Matisse came back to his studio refreshed from the walk and saw the ruins of his sculpture in a different way. He was inspired to paint a nude, but in an unconventional way, using interesting lines and colors. This would be the controversial and buzzworthy Blue Nude [Memory of Biskra 1907].

Blue Nude [Memory of Biskra 1907]
this image is in the public domain
Blue Nude, you may or may not know electrified the art world, inspiring other artists, including Picasso, who actually was green with envy at the sight of it. But don’t worry, he got over it.

Many don’t realize that Matisse was primarily a sculptor. He was inspired to paint after this frustrating mistake. [He did remake the sculpture as Reclining Nude I(Aurora).]

Matisse did what all artists do, took a common art subject; in his case, the nude; and added his touches to it. His use of color and line [which were very progressive for his time] made an ordinary nude, a revolutionary piece of art.

Artists are good at reinventing themselves. They have experience making mistakes. They also have the experience to see that what some people see as an “accident” or a misstep can become a masterpiece when framed the right way.

c. 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013



Sheila is bossing everyone around because the idea that she’ll lose control threatens her. Derek is passive aggressive to Sheila because his intelligence and competence are being questioned, [or threatened].

Both are acting snappish to the customers because it’s tense. The customers feel threatened by surliness of the staff so they respond in a like manner. The Café feels more like a battle zone than place of refuge.

Threat doesn’t have to refer to mortal fears, i.e. he threatened her with a gun. Anything that threatens your inner peace or well-being can be stressful.

It is not always possible to employ the “flight” response and leave every stressful situation.

It is also not moral or legal to destroy all of our stressors with the “fight” response.

And “freeze” just postpones things.

So how are we to respond?




Sheila is just as stressed out as Derek about something else. When we can recognize this, it seems less threatening. But it’s hard.

If Derek can recognize that Sheila’s issues are not about him, he can detach. He doesn’t have to be a victim. She ceases to be a threat.

It gets easier with awareness and practice.

It’s still annoying, but can be dealt with in a different manner than a threat would be. This slight tweak in your thinking will change everything. People can sense fear and it causes tension and gruff behavior. Though you still may still respond by fighting or fleeing, but your response won’t be powered by fear and you’ll have more control of the situation.

c. 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Post: A Higher Power and a Higher Self By Don Everett Smith Jr.

You're so mean when you talk/About yourself, you are wrong/
Change the voices in your head/Make them like you instead
         -Pink, “F---in’ Perfect”

In recent months I had been in a funk that almost touched on depression for several different reasons. Because of this I decided to call my old college buddy, Ralph Pinkerton, a writer from Fort Hawke (the home of the Lost Highway and the supposed home of a creature with black wings that the locals have nicknamed the Vampire).

He has stated publicly he is a recovering alcoholic and I consider him almost a scholar in Alcoholic's Anonymous (AA) Big Book. I knew he always offered a certain perspective on life, the universe and everything. And one day he was kind enough to hear me complain. You see, my wife and I were borrowing a car from a friend, because we were far from being able to afford a new one.

"This is not how this was supposed to turn out," I said to Ralph.

"How was it supposed to be?"

"I was supposed to be a famous journalist, comic book writer or screenwriter with, at least, my own car," I said.

(Granted there were several other things I was annoyed about, but for the sake of this blog I wanted to focus on that one issue).

He was quiet for a long, long moment.

"I have always said there are two things that I deal with that can be applied to you," he said.

"What's that?"

"I have always said I need to have more faith in my God and myself," he said.

Without turning this into a discussion of theology, psychologists have said belief in a Higher
Power and prayer help people live happier lives. Check out this April 2013 article about a study
from McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts:

Faith in a higher being has been found to significantly improve treatment for people 
suffering with a psychiatric illness 

"Let me quote from the Twelve Steps of A.A. ‘Made a decision to turn our will and or lives over
to the care of God as we understood Him’," Ralph said.

I had to admit that I had not done that.

Then Ralph asked me, “Do you believe in yourself?”

I had to admit, again, that I was not. Many of the issues I deal with today result from feelings
about myself after several years of elementary school peer victimization.
Or as some psychologists put it - “being bullied.”

“It is time to do something about that,” Ralph said. “Pick one small task and accomplish it.”
He also added, “Do yourself a favor, and keep a sense of humor. It will fill in the cracks left
when your faith in God and yourself is weak.”

I thanked him. I wish I could say I applied it perfectly to my life, but I do my best.
The first I act I did was making my bed. Just accomplishing that one thing was able to help me
feel a little bit better about myself and this led to other positive things.

Look what my wife and I were able to pick up this weekend thanks to the help and knowledge of
several friends: While this is not the end of all my issues and problems, it is, I believe with God's help, some belief in myself, a ton of assistance from my friends and the love of my wife Laura, it is a new

c. Don Smith
Sometimes, that is all we need.
Thanks, Brooke, for the spot!

c. 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Helen Keller, a lesson in optimism


 After learning of Gertrude Bell, I started seeking out more female role models that are not necessarily talked about in your average history class. Then I started reading more about the ones who you may have heard about: Helen Keller, Amelia Earhardt, Sacajawea…. History is full of inspiring stories beyond the generic template lessons we learn in school.

I just finished Helen Keller’s short essay, Optimism, which is available for download. I recommend everyone read it. [It’s free, you have no excuse].

If anyone seemed to lack the tools to be optimistic, it would seem Helen Keller, for certain. Yet, she writes an essay all about the need; indeed, the practicality of optimism.

She points out that all progress is powered by a will that things can be better, a presumption of accomplishment. She believed that “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” She points to the history of our nation…the history of anything, really. No idea can be carried out without optimism.

Being blind and deaf, it is for sure that the people around her, aside from her parents, weren’t too optimistic that she would do anything significant. But her parents didn’t treat her as a victim. They treated her just as if she were a normal child, with high expectations.

Reading not only about her successes, but her attitude makes me more than a little guilty about my whining when things don’t go my way. She overcame more than I ever will and kept a positive attitude as an adult. When she was very young, she describes her early schooling;

The few signs I used became less and less adequate, and my failures to make myself understood were invariably followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if invisible hands were holding me, and I made frantic efforts to free myself.”

How often do we feel that way, despite having full use of all of our hearing and speaking? Can you imagine how hard it was for her?

But free herself, she did. It was all in her attitude.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Moving on up

I want to begin by apologizing for not updating this blog in probably over a month. I actually have several starts and stops that I will eventually post. I’ve been on the ride of my life moving to my new home.

So after a long searching process, finding my dream home; and a longer closing process; fraught with bureaucracy and delays, I have been moving into my townhouse.

It’s just across town; Simple, right?

Well actually, 12 years of accumulated stuff is much harder to get rid of when you’re moving just a short car ride away. I found myself less inclined to toss, despite my boyfriends many pleas. [Yes, I really need to keep all of the many drafts of the graphic design project I did in college. They are cool to look at]. I’m surprised he didn’t just make secret trips to the dumpster, actually. It required numerous car trips back and forth and two large Uhaul trips.

Going through that many years of disorganized stuff is humbling, to say the least. Towards the end, I just wanted to toss it all.

The third night we came home to the security alarm going off. I certainly didn’t set it.
As the blaring sound became more deafening by the minute, I frantically looked for the scrap of paper with the code that was given to me at closing. Of course I couldn’t find it.

[It kind of left me wondering what the point of an alarm is, if it doesn’t sound outside the house (which I was grateful for), and doesn’t notify a police station. What is the good of the alarm if the only person it alarms is me?]

We are kind of running into each other, tripping over stuff, when we called the ADT service center printed on the alarm box.

Yelling through the mind stunting noise,

“No ma’am, I don’t know the code, but I live here.” I am doing little thinking and more reacting,

She is surprisingly sympathetic to me. I guess when you are an ADT operator, you are used to situations like this. She told me calmly, and in all seriousness,

“There are two wires, a red and a black one, pull either one of them.”

“WHAT?!  Can I pull both of them?!”

My ADT operator is probably more ok than I am with being yelled at. Not because she does a bad job, but just so she can HEAR me above the alarm.

“Oh NO, you just want to pick ONE,” she said firmly.

I had never heard of such a solution. Though I was uncomfortable with it’s ambiguity, I was content to risk possible electrocution than to listen to another minute of that noise; I yanked one of them, I forget which. Blissful silence ensued.

Our next discovery was that some of the outlets don’t work, actually a good number of them. When I couldn’t make coffee the first morning, I was so ready to move.

We called an electrician to fix the outlets. Ever hear of a GFI outlet? Why would you?

The neighbors are very cool. Not as many characters as the old place, which seems kind of boring, yet relieving at the same time. I still plan on writing a book, possibly a series, about my old neighborhood. It will probably go easier from a distance.

I absolutely LOVE my new townhouse, but I’m sure I will have many more adventures to post about. Stay tuned….

c. 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Every time I glanced at the calendar & saw May 30th circled, I would get a surge of excitement. [And not just because my birthday is the day before]. That was the scheduled closing date for my “new” condo. I am beyond excited. I am probably overblowing the fantastic-ness of it in my mind….but it’s pretty great.

Finally after all the weeding out the ‘maybes” from the “definitely nots,” and then the “absolutely” from the “maybes,’ it was all settled. We are moving to a much bigger, much cheaper condo not too far away from where we were. It is a new area of town, with lots of exciting, new things. I am truly dwelling in possibility, as Emily Dickinson describes.

May 30th has come and gone....The word is that it might be the following week, but most likely the week after that. My lease is up June 30. I was indulging the idea of a leisurely month to move. We could take our time painting and making upgrades, not to mention that I have 12 years of accumulated stuff that I cringe at the idea of sorting through.

The idea of having to do it all in a weekend or a shorter amount of time scares me, but cutting it so close scares me even more. There is a distinct possibility that we could have a week where we are homeless. Our parents are there for US in a bind, but what am I going to do with my STUFF? [This is a perfect teaser for a future post I foresee on learning to letting go of crutches, props and material things, but I digress…]

It's comforting that the most upsetting thing is also possibly the most adjustable, is that my ideas and plans were infringed upon. This happens, and I should be used to by now. There are more certain solutions to my fears. I can pay for an extra month, I can put my stuff in storage, and stay in a hotel. These would definitely not be my first choice, by any means. But last resorts are still options. 

I am slowly learning to make friends with uncertainty.  I will deal with whatever happens. If it’s good…great! If it’s bad, I will have plenty of material to write about!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Living your Dream: A Profile in Passion, Dr. Leila Denmark

Photo credit: Lynn Johnson

"Anything on earth you want to do is play. Anything on earth you have to do is work. Play will never kill you, work will. I never worked a day in my life."
Dr. Leila Denmark

I love to write about people who are passionate about their jobs. They really don’t work a day in their lives. It’s so inspirational! I found out about Dr. Leila Denmark while researching another project that I’m working on about amazing women in history.

In an age where medicine was a male-dominated profession, Leila Denmark stumbled upon her passion for healing. She grew up tending to the wounded farm animals on her Georgia farm. She had such a tender heart and a real knack for healing. This talent later translated to tending to humans. She was the only woman who graduated from the Medical College of the University of Georgia in Augusta.

In her 50 years of medicine, she treated thousands of patients in the private pediatric practice she opened in her home in 1930. But she also volunteered at the Central Presbyterian Baby Clinic, where she treated many more children of destitute parents who wouldn’t have been able to afford healthcare. She never turned anyone away.

It was there that she did the research, which led to her development of the invaluable whooping cough vaccine.

She never seemed to tire of treating the many children. Her grandson, Steven Hutcherson has said, She would always say to the next family waiting in line to see her, 'Who is the next little angel?’”

She was a much sought-after doctor in her day. It has been said that she could determine exactly what was wrong just by looking at a child.

In the early 1960s, she began to handwrite her ideas and methods for childcare in  spiral notebooks. Those notebooks would become her privately published book, Every Child Should Have a Chance. It is her legacy, which has helped many parents who didn’t have the opportunity to get her personal counsel.

"She absolutely loved practicing medicine more than anything else in the world," said another grandson, Dr. James Hutcherson of Evergreen, Colo. "She never referred to practicing medicine as work."

 c. 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Worst first day ever

A.J. Clementes c.
 “F-----g s--t,” was probably not the best first phrase to utter on national TV on your first day as a news anchor.

First days on the job are generally not anybody’s best. I’m pretty sure I cried on my first day at Starbucks and I stumbled around so much on my first day at the Barnes & Noble Café, that they were probably ready to fire me right then. Several first days of my design jobs ended in fury, as well.

But A.J. Clemente had the worst first day ever….

His first job as a news anchor will not soon be forgotten. He was coanchoring at KFYR, an affiliate NBC station in Bismarck, North Dakota. He didn’t realize he was on the air when he unwittingly dropped the F-bomb. 

He was practicing pronouncing London Marathon winner, Tsegaye Kebede's, name, when the newbie let loose with a few other words that he, unfortunately pronounced all too well. Understandably startled, he stumbled through the rest of his newscast.

Van Tieu, A.J. Clemnte c.
The poor choice of words left the station hustling for damage control, and Clemente hustling for a prayer of a second newscast, which he didn’t get.

His co-anchor, Van Tieu explained.

"We were caught off guard and [Clemente] didn't realize his microphone was on. And while that was no excuse - we do train our reporters to always assume that any microphone is live at any time - unfortunately we cannot take back what was said. But, we do apologize and hope that you may forgive us and rest assured, that something like this will not happen again," she said.

Stress and nerves will definitely cause us to act inappropriately. It’s certainly not the first time something like this has happened. I’m sure everyone remembers FOX News, Shepard Smith’s embarrassing slip, reporting on Jennifer Lopez.

He seems to be taking it in stride. After the incident, he tweeted.
"Unfortunately KFYRTV has decided to let me go. Thank you to them and everyone in ND for the opportunity and everyone for the support."

Mistakes are going to happen. Your recovery is what’s most important. This is good publicity for him.

"Rookie mistake," Clemente said. "I'm a free agent. Can't help but laugh at myself and stay positive. Wish I didn't trip over my 'freaking shoes' out of the gate."

 c. 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Moving out of my comfort zone
My heart sank every time I went into the house across the street that I had built up in my head as the perfect house. It was close and easy, but the one bedroom was too cramped.

Granted, I had never actually been in it. I just knew that I wanted to move there. It was the perfect location, basically across the street from where I am now. I had seen pictures and had built a storyline in my head about how perfect it was. How dare it not meet my expectations! I had been unceremoniously thrown into the unfamiliar waters of house hunting.

I literally feel over my head and a bit discouraged some days. I’ve got great advisors, but OMG there is so much to consider! Not just minutiae I know, yet forget; but a whole other language of considerations that I’ve never heard of!

Did you know that mortgage literally means death-tax? Seriously.

Short-sell… foreclosure…. Oh, and pre-foreclosure doesn’t actually mean it’s for sale, even if it has a “For Sale” sign in the yard. One price for investors; but you actually want to live there? Well, the price is much higher then.

Why are homes over a decade old in crappy neighborhoods so overpriced? Why is  the “tax value” and price so different?

I feel like a bewildered stranger in a strange land. The first day I went with my realtor, [my gracious “host” in the foreign land of real estate] to look at potential places. I liked every single one of them! They all have good and bad points. I don’t want to give up storage space, just because the loft is so darn cute. This one is perfect, but it’s too far from everything.

I’m on a bit of an information overload. So many choices. What if I make the wrong one? What if I have to give up my perfect location? My worst fear is that I’ll get all moved in and regret it.

 I may decide not to move, but I refuse not to move because I am overwhelmed. If I don’t move, it will be because I made a conscious choice not to; it will be because I have decided I am actually better off where I am, through sound reasoning. It will not be the result of my freaking out and going into freeze or flight mode, as I am very apt to do.

It sometimes occurs to me in more lucid moments, that on the rare occasion when freaking out can be somewhat satisfying in a cathartic sort of way, it is rarely helpful and more often damaging. It is so much more productive to breathe through the process, enjoy the ride.

Fighting and fleeing only postpone the stressors, making the circumstances much worse than if I had just dealt with them in the first place. But it takes higher thinking to discover that.

Some days you may still find me in my protective fort I’ve constructed with, objections, over-caution, and laziness. But I’ll make sure I have some home listings to peruse.


Monday, February 25, 2013

A lesson in parenting from supermom Maya Christopher

c. maya christopher

 “…Because you know I had a stroke and that was a big eye opener for me.”

A stroke, I thought, YOU’RE 34!

“I had no idea what was happening. I felt my face tightening up, I didn’t know what was going on.”


I met Maya through a friend in the wonderful world of Facebook, after she posted this status. I had initially wanted to interview her about the stress of parenting.

My child just learned a tough lesson in being grateful. We never have a traditional Christmas in my household and open their presents early. I got her an iPod Nano and Lil Miss (while turning up her nose), "You couldn't et the BIG one?" ......... Well as it stands now she got tears and a $22 1Direction CD for Christmas. Nothing else. A small iPod is better than NO iPod. Not raising no ungrateful, spoiled, unappreciative kids around here. So while her brother enjoys $100 gift card and baby girl enjoys her toys; she'll be sitting here looking stupid. #NoPunkAssParentsAroundHere

I was so impressed! In an age where too many parents seem to be propagating an entitlement myth, it was refreshing to see good parenting in action.

So how did she respond?

She learned her lesson. The next day, she came and apologized. I said to her, ‘You still understand that you’re not getting anything for Christmas?’

She said, ‘yes, I understand.’

You’re not obligated to get these gifts. I don’t have to buy gifts. Christmas is not about gifts it’s about being thankful for what you have.
Anyway, her dad surprised her with Justin Beiber tickets.

Oh, very nice!

Maya shares custody of two teenagers and an 8 year old. They stay with their dad during the week, and see mom every other weekend and holidays.

I’m the disciplinarian when it comes to her. Her dad never really disciplines her. So, [He] is getting all the teenage trouble. I believe a lot of parents want to be friends with their kids, and if you want them to be active members of society you have to discipline them….They have their chores, I don’t baby them.

I’ve found that kids today are totally different from when I grew up. There’s no respect.

I became a parent when I was 20, I was a baby myself
I still go to my mom for help, we have a really good relationship. I try to mentor a lot when there are a lot of younger parents, like 12 year olds think it’s “cool” to become a young parent. No it’s not cool.

They have no idea that this is a child that you have to raise for the rest of their lives.
There’s a lot involved in being a parent, a lifetime job.

Back to the stroke,  How in the world did this happen?

It happened on New Years Day 2012. I was living in Louisville, KY at the time and was cooking, baby sitting a friends kids and about to eat. As I was chewing my food my face felt really tight. I went to the mirror and my smile was crooked. I immediately went to the ER and after many tests was told I had a stroke. I never had high blood pressure or any other health problems. I couldn't believe it. It took a minute to process I had a stroke and it left the right side of my face paralyzed.

But 33 year olds don't usually have strokes...

My body just finally got tired and just started pushing back
I would snack, snack, snack, snack, snack, and started gaining weight that was a wake up call.

I made the best of it though and used it to help others and become healthier and eliminate my stress.

How do you handle stress?

If I can’t control it there’s nothing I can do about it just let it go, it will work itself out. The big thing was that I learned to say no. I started to spend time alone, letting my brain relax. Working out helped a lot

First thing first, I pray and then you work out I pray about it and let it go.

So you do your exercise, and pray. The kids are agreeable about the alone time?
I would imagine they would realize the importance of it.

They are actually really good about that. Other people are shocked by that.

What sorts of things do you do in your alone time?

Things like walking, reading on the couch.

 How did your kids respond to the stroke? I’m sure they were scared.
We make jokes about it because that’s the way they [the kids] cope.
My son is my mini husband. We practice smiling.
We joke, we are still the same people our faces just don’t work the same.

How do your kids handle stress?
They are really open with me. They know they won’t be judged.
They can go to their grandparents and not be judged.
I have conversations with my daughter
I can pretty much hone in on what s wrong

c. 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fear, Dread, Anxiety


I was watching an old episode of 30 Something where Michael and Elliot have 4 days to come up with an incredible ad campaign for an art museum. A daunting process, to be sure. Made all the more complicated because it was for a friend. It shows their creative process along with fear, dread, and anxiety personified.

I know I experience those three emotions on a regular basis. I got to thinking, how would it change my reaction if I began to literally think of them outside of my head, as 3 annoying people?

How would we treat people who talked to us that way? Would we let them paralyze us? Would we let them sap the energy out of us? We tell them to get lost, in no uncertain terms, and we would stay away from them, right? Or at least not be welcoming. Why, then, would we even think about entertaining these same statements, making them feel the least bit comfortable, just because they happen to be in our heads?

In a sense, it would almost be easier if emotions like fear, dread, and anxiety were people. Then you could just lock the door, tell them to go away, or get a restraining order. Unfortunately, they are very real nagging emotions, which are almost impossible to evade. They simply don’t go away that easily, despite our telling them to.

They show up uninvited at all the right situations; well, right for them, anyways. The little nagging voices in your head will swarm to stress situations, like bees to honey. They will thwart even your most well prepared venture, or try to, at least. If only we could learn to treat them like the uninvited guests that they are, and simply show them the door, or at least tune them out.

So how do we do it? It's actually very simple in theory.  It just takes conscious effort, and many "re-efforts"to get rid of them.

• "STOP!" the negative thought; Saying it out loud, cheesy as it may seem, is even better.

• Truth is your best weapon to combat these guys. Of course anything can happen, but you are well prepared and competent to withstand even the worst situation. List the reasons why you will succeed.

• Think of something else. Anything else.  Do not give them space in your head.

Back to the show: In the end, it turned out, that Michael and Elliot were indeed thwarted by fear dread and anxiety. Their campaign sucked, just because they allowed the terrible trio to invade their space.

We won't make the same mistake.

c. 2013 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even though you wish they were


“There was this Italian singer Vick Damone. Oh, he was just a little jerk washed up singer.”

When I said I hadn’t heard of him, Jorge said,

“He did a variety show in the 60s.”

I was talking to Jorge, a very quiet man, who works at the grocery store I’ve gone to all my life. He never seemed to have much to say, until I got him to open up about his amazing stories working in the Hospitality/Food business.

"Another room service waiter was assigned to him." Damone apparently demanded that he literally be served, i.e. set up his tray and feed him. Any objection was met with a string of obscenities.

“But the nicest was Tony Bennett. He chatted with me for 10 minutes, Bob Newhart was nice too.”

I was captivated. The stories were coming at me so fast I could barely keep up with them.

He was telling me about all his adventures and misadventures working at the Hilton for several years prior to working at our local Grocer's.

“It all started by accident,” he said. He started working at the grocery store as a cashier and a bagger at first. He went in to get his paycheck one day and his supervisor said that they needed some help in the bakery.

“Would you like to help them,” his boss asked.

So he went in just to help doing things like packing the cookies and pies. The supervisor was so impressed and asked if he wanted to work here permanently.
Jorge thought he was joking.  Doing packaging soon eased into baking.

He started filling in at other departments, one of which was the bread station. This was where he found his niche. He worked here for several years before he transferred to the Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

He still worked part time at the grocery store 3 nights a week, while doing room service mornings and afternoons at the Hilton.

It sounded like a really cool job, but I know that stress often runs high in the hospitality service. What was the stress level like, I asked.

“The stress level is perpetrated by department managers, who were very authoritative.”

He said that Hilton had a habit of hiring immigrants to manage departments. “You have these foreigners ruling departments with an iron fist. “The regular people were very nice. But it was tough working for these ‘little Hitlers.’”

In Sarasota, Florida, the Hilton he worked concierge/room service at was across from an amphitheater where many “washed up, has-beens, retired comedians and singers” frequently performed. So he dealt with celebrities, musicians, movie stars, and lots of retired millionaires. “They were always the most difficult to work with.” 

“Diana Ross, sometime in the 90s tried to get the Supremes back together. Well, it was a disaster,” He said as a side note. “She’s very demanding. She wanted her bed changed three times a day, flowers in her room three times a day. Barbra Streisand had a perimeter of bodyguards who wouldn’t talk to you they would talk at you.”

He told a gruesome story about working the graveyard shift at the hotel he worked at in Atlanta. He said that they had an average of about 3 “jumpers” a year. The hotel particularly attracted jumpers because of the setting of trees outside one of the windows.

One in particular split across three trees. They had to call the SWAT team to evacuate the lobby. He wryly told of a fellow hotel worker, Fran, who directed him (with no authority), “Jorge, you get some sheets and cover up that mess.”
After he moved back to Charlotte, he transferred back to our neighborhood Grocer's, which I have seen go through many changes in all of the years I have gone there. He works in the Fresh Foods Department, where he says there is no stress.

“They respect you and let you take breaks when you want.”

But I’ll bet the stories aren’t as good….

c. 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Quentin Tarantino's response


I’m not a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino movies. He's very talented;  a great director, but his stories area a little too realistic for me. I prefer lighter movies that make me laugh more and cringe less. [Though, I did enjoy Pulp Fiction]. But I caught an interview with him on NPR’s Fresh Air, with Terry Gross that really impressed me.

Whether you agree with, or even like Tarantino, consider how YOU, personally, would react if you had been asked if your work had contributed to, or caused a national tragedy.

Terry asked a valid question in light of the current news of the day and she was very nice about it. Tarantino, not backing down, presented his side nicely as well. It was all very civil, in light of such an emotionally charged topic.

They are on such polar opposite sides of the issue that they go back and forth, almost as if they can’t believe each other really exist, in an attempt to find common ground.

She asked him if he ever lost his taste for violence in his movies, in light of the Sandy Hook massacre. In a very matter of fact way, Tarantino claimed that it was separate, and one didn’t have anything to do with the other.

GROSS: So it's so completely separate, that the reality of violence doesn't affect at all your feelings about making or viewing very violent or sadistic...

TARANTINO: Sadistic? I don't know. I do know what, I don't know. I think, you know, you're putting a judgment on it.

GROSS: No, no, no...

TARANTINO: You're putting a judgment on it.

GROSS: The characters are sadistic. The characters are sadistic. I'm not talking about, you know, the filmmaker. I'm talking about the characters. I mean, the characters are undeniably sadistic.

GROSS: You sound annoyed that I'm...


TARANTINO: Yeah, I am.

GROSS: I know you've been asked this a lot.

TARANTINO: Yeah, I'm really annoyed. I think it's disrespectful. I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually.

GROSS: With whose memory?

TARANTINO: The memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think it's totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health.

The interview went on very cordially and easily after this. I was so impressed with both Tarantino and Gross because they both made their points without getting ugly. I have had several political conversations that have gone the opposite way. It’s easy to get caught in the passion even if you are not fully vested in the issue…and then it becomes personal with the rude comments that will often ensue.
Tarantino on defense behaved much better than a lot of people would have. He chose to respond, rather than react. He made it clear that he was annoyed, but didn’t take it out on Gross, or resort to personal attacks. I kept waiting for him to walk out, as I might have been inclined to do in my reptilian mode; but he calmly defended his work. Terry Gross handled herself better than many would have after a tense situation.

I was very impressed with this exchange because it was a true and respectful exchange of ideas. There was no yelling, just honest questions and honest responses, which is the only way to really find common ground. There are always going to be people who seem to have extreme beliefs, just because they differ from you. 

We need more of these “higher brained” exchanges.

c. 2013