Category: work

Have heart, have palpitations

Normal EKG contrasted with atrial fibrillation

Back in September, on a very early Monday morning I decided to go the emergency room for possible heart problems. I felt it was probably just a waste of a fairly large chunk of money ($1424 for labs, EKG, physician, x-ray), but if it wasn’t, I didn’t want to kill myself, I should just go in and be evaluated. That’s how I think now at this age (is this likely to kill me?).

I don’t know if you know the reasons women are supposed to go in, but they are pretty sketchy; dizziness, nausea, upper-back pain, anxiousness, prolonged palpitations, sweaty-ness and then the same things that men have; chest pain …. Well I’d had dizziness (but I have inner ear vertigo sometimes in the fall/winter), some nausea (but when I have vertigo I get a little sick to my stomach), sweat (yippee, I’m still in the zone of hot flashes), prolonged heart palpitations (this is the one that decided me) and anxiousness (well the prolonged palpitations plus the lack of sureness about the other symptoms did make me anxious enough to decide to go to the hospital).

So I drove in (yes, I know experts say call an ambulance, but really I couldn’t tolerate the excitement). And I spent several hours getting tested.

Surprised, nope, absolutely nothing showed up as abnormal in the tests. But, I know what I was experiencing wasn’t normal for me. The ER doctor offered me a prescription for beta-blockers, that didn’t make sense to me as I didn’t have high blood pressure (110/74) and my resting pulse is 60 to 66 so I declined. They also gave me a handout for lifestyle changes and wanted me to contact my regular physician for a visit. Yah, yah, yes, agree, let me leave.

Things that seem to drive heart  arrythmia or electrical problems (palpitations or fibrillation=rate 110-350) are: smoking, caffeine, alcohol, salt, stress, inadequate sleep, inflammation (overweight, inflammatory foods – like Omega 6 fats, sugar, corn-fed meats), inadequate or excessive exercise, hyper-thyroid, anemias (iron and/or B12) and chocolate and/or other heart issues.

I am overweight (as is most of America) and I like some coffee and chocolate and some salty things and my exercise plan had waned a bit (I’d had a series of injuries – ankle, knee, foot and these made it easy to skip workouts), I eat many healthy but goiter-causing hypothyroid, but not hyperthyroid, foods (collards, broccoli) and am mostly vegetarian (so B12 [anemia] possible low normal). My part-time job as a proofreader is stressful because of the perfection rush, and having hot flashes and palpitations interferes with good sleep (no kidding).

So I increased exercise walking daily, joined a two times a week weight lifting course offered by UW-Extension called Strong Women – which was great but made some muscles in my chest sore (?chest pain anyone), went decaffeinated (or at least tried to), reduced salt from an already low salt diet, gave up most of my chocolate, added Brazil nuts for selenium (protection for my thyroid) and still had palpitations that woke me up, often nightly. But they were a lot less than what I’d had for the several days before I went to the ER.

This went on for several months, as did the reminder calls from the local hospital/clinic that I was supposed to make an appointment with my provider. Yes, yes, I have a HSA with high deductible health insurance and so I dislike spending my healthcare dollars on useless (?) visits. Mostly palpitations are benign. Plus, over and over again lifestyle changes trump medication as far as real effectiveness in resolving a problem instead of just treating symptoms and giving you side-effects (I know there are exceptions; antibiotics, vaccines, and several others).

So I endeavored to follow a much more focused healthy lifestyle. The extremely cold weather and snow didn’t help much, but I persisted.

Well, things were going along (I have a whole bunch of decaff/herbal teas that I ended up not being able to tolerate – need some?) until I had a whole rash of palpitations despite my continued care for following a healthy program, so I finally scheduled a provider visit, which happened a week later when there were no symptoms.

More tests (labs were normal – below 200 cholesterol, good HDL,  LDL) I agreed to wearing an EKG monitor for two weeks. More sleep disruption with box and cords hanging off me. Push the button and it records whatever is happening to your heart. Get three recordings and dial-up the nurses to send them (usually at 3:45 am) and then they ask you “What were you doing when you made the recordings? (sleeping) Any symptoms? (fast, hard heartbeats) How are you feeling now? (fine) We received the recordings, there is no reason to contact your doctor.”

My most difficult thing was avoiding caffeine as decaffeinated isn’t really caffeine-free and I also seem to react to artificial/natural flavors so lots of things were eliminated. Lots of things, like stuff with natural vanilla flavor isn’t really vanilla, nor is anything that says natural _____whatever flavor. If the flavor was real it would just say the ingredient vanilla or honey or ginger on the label. I liked the taste of Celestial Seasonings herbal vanilla honey chamomile, but couldn’t tolerate it because of the “natural honey and vanilla flavoring.”

Recently studies confirmed that avoiding artificial flavors/colors (note ‘natural flavor’ is not real) is more effective than medication in helping ADD and since I felt jittery and felt better if I was moving (couldn’t get comfortable sitting/lying still) I figured maybe I was reacting just like the kids did. This was mid-monitoring when over and over there was nothing to report on my heart rhythm per the called up nurse.

Eliminating artificial and ‘natural ___ flavoring’ removes a whole lot of processed foods – almost all of them. Just take a look at the labels. Even Real Mayonnaise has ‘natural flavoring’ added. Eh, I like to cook, just get the real item basics and skip the rest. Seems difficult? Not so much, at least not at home.

Beverages are a problem: There’s water and milk, but I don’t like milk. Juices are made from cooked down concentrate re-colored naturally and re-flavored naturally to make them look and taste good again – the whole fruit is better anyway.  There’s plain soy, rice and almond milk, which are OK in small quantities.

The teas I like and are really caffeine free and only contain real mint and chamomile are Bigelow herbal mint and herbal chamomile. I put 12 cups of water in the coffee pot, put three tea bags (2 camomile and one mint) and brew it and leave it out. Hot I add some honey, but room temp I drink it plain. My homegrown mint, which I only dried a small amount of because I didn’t have a use for it then, is much more flavorful and better than the bagged tea mint. This year, now that I know I’ll want it, I’ll dry much more. That goes for all my herbs.

Then salt … well salt is added to lots of things in amounts that are surprising – bagels with over 300 mg per each, tortillas with 310 mg each and then all the pork and chicken with added salt (broth for flavor). I don’t each much meat, but now really not.

Calcium supplements have also been connected with heart rhythm problems esp. anything over 500 mg., remember high school chemistry? Ca++, sodium, potassium? Electrolytes that need to be balanced for proper muscle function? The heart is a muscle.

So I did all the things you do to avoid heart burn/acid stomach without using calcium (Tums or other product); raised the mattress at the head of the bed, quit eating by 8pm, avoided overeating even really good stuff – stopping when almost satisfied, used plain almonds, apple, lemon water as tools to settle acid excess. I put a little baggy of almonds in my bed drawer, in my jacket pocket and a plastic container of them in the car so I’d have them if I needed them. They work and eating the right amount of food at meals to keep me feeling good is a great side-effect.

I recorded and recorded and wrote my patient diary about my palpitations. I had three different times when my ‘palpitations’ or whatever were really worrisome to me and each time the Life Watch nurse said the electrodes weren’t connected (but I think they were – maybe). The second time this happened into ER I went, with the same result as the first time. Perfectly normal EKG, nice blood pressure, great pulse and more detailed handouts on palpitations, fibrillation and lifestyle interventions. I liked this ER doctor very well, she was reassuring and helpful with information – adding more details (I like details because then I can make better decisions). She said that if she had a heart problem she’d rather it be electrical than clogged. Well OK then.

The third time I awoke wondering ? V-tach?, hit the button to record, dialed in the recording, they said bad connection, I had new electrodes on, hmm I decided, whatever, since I felt fine and never really had any other symptoms and they, obviously weren’t able to tell me anything. I peeled the electrodes off and put the monitor in the mailer ($1100 worth of monitoring). The result – normal.

So whatever is going on is not bad enough to  find by the current system. There are multiple studies that show that too much contact with the healthcare system is bad for your health. As a previous member of the system, I know it’s true – the third (maybe second) biggest cause of mortality and morbidity is iatrogenic (caused by the system – medications, infections or other interventions).

Now – and these are not for you because you may be having a heart attack, but knowing what I know, I add to the list of warning signs 5-minutes of nausea (not caused by vertigo or bad cooking), same for dizziness, sweat that doesn’t build like a hot flash does or become cold just because it’s 40 below windchill out, chest pain sitting in a chair not caused by too many tree-hugger moves weight lifting, palpitations that don’t go away as soon as you get in the car or see a doctor.

I don’t want whatever is going on to progress, and keeping on doing the same things gets the same results.  So I tried to quit my stressful part-time job (I’d learned what I could from it – it was a good run, yah, yah so I’m still helping them) the stress from it was no longer worth the minor paycheck. I added vit B12 since I’m even more vegetarian than before. I added some Vinyasa yoga practice, which I am liking immensely, other than certain body areas that don’t particularly want flexibility. I quit recording or timing any palpitations (except for unusual quantities of them, which occur on a 4-week cycle, hmm)  I felt I had given them enough attention so I covered the night-light clock and if I wake up with palpitations I go right to yoga breathing which resolves them if they haven’t already resolved.

The other day when I declined a friendly offer of wine (alcohol) and reminded my friends I was a no alcohol, no caffeine. low salt. no chocolate (because you do need others help to make it so – unless you become a hermit).

Asked by a new acquaintance what I did for fun. Do you think she was dissing me? I think she was, but I pretended it was a real question and I started to list, but a different friend did it for me – play guitar, artwork, play with dogs, horses, sing … OK so maybe my embrace of healthful practices is irritating. (I worked with a big guy who was a serious weightlifter, now he was irritating. Nothing was important enough to interfere with his eating and weight lifting schedule. He had to eat at certain times, certain foods and when we went to a restaurant young teen boys would follow him and he’d ignore them. It was funny and irritating.)

And that’s the thing. It isn’t about the restrictions, it’s about finding things I like to have instead and making those available and easy. It’s about being healthier and following my body’s feedback. It told me I needed to change what I was doing. I’m stronger, resolved some things I didn’t know could be fixed and feel better than I did, but I also feel less invulnerable and that’s a good thing, because I can make changes now and not have to hit some sort of ‘bottom, bad zone’ and need major healthcare intervention before doing them.

I’ve gotten rid of things that weren’t good for me, tried blends of real things, planned more to do in my garden and read more labels than I have in years. I learned a bunch just because I needed to. I also wondered if some major change happened in the food industry  and I’m just one of the canaries.

Grocery shopping is definitely faster since there are so few reasons to go into any aisles, convenience stores are not really convenient – although KwikTrip has real bananas, onions, potatoes, fruit, herbal tea… it’s my gas station of choice. M & M’s have gone by the roadside. And yah, the Wisconsin brewery tour is not on my list of ‘gotta do it.’

I hope my litany of stuff is helpful to you if you’re dealing with any of the same worries. All the best to you, be well.

Related articles:


Maybe we’re a hobby farm

Maybe we’re a hobby farm. Maybe. We don’t sell our produce, but we do supply ourselves with vegetables, herbs and fruit throughout most of the year. We do concentrated gardening in raised beds from re-claimed lumber and boards from a local sawmill. The compost is from our horses and our produce waste. The place already had five dwarf apple trees when we bought it, but I’ve added pear trees, plum trees, cherry trees, an apricot (that was supposed to be hardy to zone 4 – no luck) and fruiting shrubs most purchased late season/discounted or on some sort of special to reduce the initial cost. So maybe we’re a mini-farm.

We don’t have any ducks, nor any chickens. Nor do we grow any animals to eat. Are those required? I would kind of like chickens for eggs, but the woman down the road has chickens and sells her pretty multi-toned eggs for a dollar a dozen and it only requires a walk, or drive, down Wester.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The garden and the fruit trees make enough work to think we’re farming. I thinned the apple trees, ya, ya so one isn’t quite finished and the ladder is still sitting there. But the apple harvest should be wonderful and bountiful in late August. This year is the first year the apple trees I planted have fruit.

The strawberries were done producing the first week of July. The June berries just made a few in late June. I picked the cherries; not many yet on the young trees and the birds love them. I picked the raspberries; not many yet, but next year I think they will be good. The plums aren’t ripe. The honey berry bush I planted last year looks good, but didn’t produce anything.

I’m afraid for when all my trees and bushes become mature and start really producing, eek! I have pear trees that have yet to produce, maybe next year and one plum and one apple tree that hasn’t. But I’ll have frozen and dried fruit picked in our yard for the whole winter and if I don’t get to it the wildlife will and excess apples can go to the horses. Last year, with the late frost I had few apples, not enough to dry and hardly any extra for the horses. Having eight trees on lean years might be the right number.

We’ve graduated to rotational planting in the garden, starting early usually and have given up on window sill starting of tomatoes and peppers – because ours were never as good as the purchased transplants.

The weather was not kind to seed starting this spring, we resorted to letting lambs quarters grow and harvesting that – it tastes close to spinach and is voluntary (a weed). The radishes were done a long time ago and new ones are coming up, the spinach came in and was harvested,  lettuce is starting to get old and new has been planted, the mustard has bolted, the collards have been cut back as has some of the broccoli. I really like collards, they seem to do well, are very nice to freeze. It’s fun to have something that nutritious.

Beans, green beans always too many of those since they aren’t my favorite although I do like them fresh occasionally. Carrots are still pretty spindly, beets not ready except for tops, and tomatoes – ate one yesterday. And squash, yellow summer squash now, the rest for later. Last year were potatoes and corn, this year neither. The voles loved the potatoes and the corn took too much water and too much space even with an under-planting of squash.

My herb beds have been overtaken by chive plants. I suppose I must whack them back, but they’re daunting. Chives don’t freeze well and dehydrated look good, but not much flavor- great flowers and nice fresh in salads. And borage, I planted seven years ago, keeps re-seeding itself. I do like the flowers and so do the pollinators. Borage is edible, but it’s kind of prickly, furry. The flowers are nice in salad. I’ve dried bunches of thyme. I even got to it before it flowered this year. The dill is ready to dry. Cilantro has been best frozen, as is basil. The garlic is mostly ready to pull and dry. I planted a new lavender plant and some more chocolate mint as my old plants that had done so well, didn’t do so well over this last winter.

Maybe the plants have taken over. When the plants schedule all your time, is that a hobby?

And flowers. This year the lilies I planted from bulbits two or three years ago (those round seeds on the stem of some lilies) actually made it to bloom. Astonishing that it worked.

Restarting normal, non-roadtrip life

I’ll never catch back up after my 10 days of vacation. There are too many do-it-now things to do. And the weather, what’s with the weather?

The grass and weeds are overtaking my landscaping, but I only have time to mow.

My horses need thorough brushing out, but I only have time to put up temporary pasture for grazing.

My desk needs a thorough sorting, but I only have time to write outlines and prep for the next classes.

My closet needs thinning, but I only have time to wash, dry and fold clothes.

The windows need washing, but I only have time to dust and vacuum.

triptoMasswithObe2013 022
Overlook by North Adams, Mass. photo by Jeanine Renzoni

And I need to write, but all I can think of is how many things need doing…which tomorrow I need to think about again.

Time passes, time passes…things get done and some things don’t get done.

Twenty days later … normal.

Looking back at this, vacation seems so long ago now and all the flurry is settled out. Although there are still a few weeds, now so many things are blooming it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Blooming chives    photo by Jeanine Renzoni
Blooming chives photo by Jeanine Renzoni

I got the wind knots out of equine manes,  they scrubbed their own extra fur off rolling and rubbing – they are summer shiny and sleek.

The desk is still not de-cluttered.  Part of the windows have been washed. And writing? I’ve put some time writing on my dog training blog, but this is the first I’ve gotten back to my life on Wester Ave…oops.

But the weather…what is with the weather?

Rain, rain, go away.  Photo Jeanine Renzoni
Rain, rain, go away. Photo Jeanine Renzoni

1999 – DP Challenge; Buffalo Nickel

Fourteen years ago some icy snow was still on the ground after the melt the week before, not knee-deep like this year, and the birds had started to sing the songs of spring. I was working, working, working; a corporate consultant with corporate email, voice-mail, name tag,

I'm still using the same corner desk, but multiple computers later.
I’m still using the same corner desk, but multiple computers later.

laptop, home office,  corporate American Express credit card, corporate headaches and gray (or maybe white or black or navy…I’d had them all) Ford Taurus  traveling across Wisconsin from Milwaukee to Superior visiting two to four nursing homes a week. But I also had four weeks of paid vacation, sick days, 401K, stocks from the corporation and a regular automatically deposited pay check.

I had a personal mission statement in my Covey Franklin planner which read; “I value truth and information and new understanding. I value family and love and building relationships. I value excitement and adventure and physical harmony. I value achievements and accomplishments and recognition.

photos from 1999 004
I’ve long since gotten rid of the yellow jacket, Dad is gone, those knitted gloves on my daughter are still in the drawer and I can’t remember ice skating since. In 1999 Pearl Lake froze clear and without snow cover…the whole lake for skating!

I aspire to success in family, which is strong interdependence and comforts and optimum growth for all. I aspire to success in business, which is recognition and compensation. I aspire to lead to influence toward success. To teach wellness and healing and growing. I aspire to be an outstanding speaker. To be heard. And to always be learning and understanding. I aspire to personal well-being, physical and mental that will support the achievements of all my life’s mission.”

I often had a flight out to some meeting, Dallas or Memphis or Atlanta…somewhere with easy airport access. I was in demand for helping teams do projects, like business opportunity planning (how should a facility put together a plan for example an Alzheimer’s unit, or wound unit or what would be in and who would be on the teams that quality reviewed facilities). During February my big project was on staff retention. In the nursing homes we prioritized problems and worked to solve them, the success rate was gratifying. It was fun and I was doing what I had said I wanted to do.

I was worried though; my daughter was a ninth grader and I wasn’t home enough. She wrote for English:

Alone is a room with no doors.

It’s an empty room with black curtains and locked windows, frostbitten walls and holey floors,

They creak and stir with age.

Alone, is a crowd that stretches as far as the eye can see, yet not a friend in sight.

Alone, is silence, a restless silence, that burns and scorches the soul.

Alone, is me.

Cereal advertisement :)
Cereal advertisement 🙂

My husband worked for UW-Extension in 4H, which involves a fair amount evening meetings, he wasn’t home enough at the right times. And I was working, working, working.

We had a Disney World/Sea World, Orlando, Fla., trip planned for late April. I had enough air mileage that there was a free ticket to haul along a girlfriend for company for our daughter; it was a fun-filled trip. In between April and June, my husband, felt he needed to intervene ‘crossroads with daughter.’ I disagreed – too reactive.  Plus, it’s the time of life for changes, I kind of remember that age, ha ha. Of course, he did, too. Then in late June, she and I went for a week of horse camp, we had a great time and I began the planning decision to quit my full-time corporate life.

Ice skating on Pearl Lake 1999.
Ice skating on Pearl Lake 1999.

Interesting that the penny I pulled out of my desk drawer had such an important year stamped on it, a year that changed the trajectory of my career, but also changed some of my daughter’s life choices and gave me the chance to more fully honor my mission and values. And it all started in 1999,  when the birds were announcing spring, as the  snow disappeared in northern Wisconsin.


This writing challenge was based on the idea of finding a piece of change and writing about what you were doing that year of the coin. I pulled out my old work calendars, photos and journals and checked the NOAA forecast and Farmer’s Almanac for Milwaukee weather (since my records only mentioned workouts of walking and on the Nordic Trak…which indicated snow sports not happening).

Can you go back, find a year and write about it? Was it a changing time in your life or someone else’s?

In a crisis – near death, horses, flying and SCUBA

You ask, honestly how do I respond in a crisis?

And I am thinking what do you think is a crisis? From that answer you know how I respond in a crisis.

But you say, really, does that mean analysis, evaluate and then do?

Wow, you’re good.

But I’ll give examples:

1) I got a call four weeks ago, my mom had fallen and was unconscious in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. We were having a bad snow storm and the hospital was 160 miles away heading into the worst of the storm. I told my step dad, on the phone, that I wouldn’t travel in the storm. I didn’t travel until the next day, I called and emailed the rest of the family to tell them the situation and make plans. She regained consciousness after 22 hours, I got there, as did my brother, and stayed for three days until she was stable and ready to be moved out of ICU.

Mom's already got her halo
Mom’s already got her halo

She might have and almost did die, but my trying to drive and potentially get in an accident would have only added to the distress. She was unconscious – in other words, she wouldn’t know if I was there or not.

As far as future crisis, I have previously tried to get her to talk about what kinds of medical interventions she wants and doesn’t want, but she wasn’t ready to discuss it. I’m her will executor, but my step father will most likely want all the interventions possible and Mom no doubt knows that so any discussion is mostly moot.

2) I ride horses. It’s fairly easy to have a spook or some other weird thing happen. The most recent one was two summers ago on Blomberg bridge. Scout was not wanting to go back over it and he dodged to the right, I weighted myself to the left and he decided to go across, but my left shift caused the saddle to twist sideways.

Blomberg bridge it's longer than it looks here.
Blomberg bridge it’s longer than it looks here.

I grabbed mane and tried to get the saddle moved back to the right, which unfortunately didn’t work and sped him up going over the bridge. This bridge is maybe six feet wide and 20 feet long with metal rails. In a non-bridge circumstance I would have just gotten off, but here there wasn’t room for screwing around and I didn’t want him or me or both smashed into the rails or falling into the rocky creek below.

I had decided, not long after I rode over my first bridge on a horse, that if I got in trouble on a bridge my first rule would be to get off the bridge…I followed my plan and hit the ground on the far side when his mane in my hand sheared off. A couple of bruises, but I wear a helmet, always, so I was fine – needed a new helmet.

3) I used to travel/fly a lot for work and after a meeting in Salt Lake City I was on a flight to Minneapolis when the plane did an abrupt dive, the oxygen masks dropped out and the flight attendants were on the speaker system saying the pressurization of the cabin had malfunctioned and so we would be flying at a much lower and bumpier altitude. It was rough, we re-routed to Denver to land.

English: In-flight safety demonstration on boa...

There was screaming and moaning and wailing – one woman seemed to have truly freaked. I sat there thinking if I were more scared would my motion sickness disappear? But then again being more freaked wasn’t going to help the plane or its crew or me.

4) Let’s go back to the first time I ever remember panicking. I was in eighth grade, I had won free SCUBA diving lessons because of my swimming record that season on the North Ft Meyers swim team. We were supposed to dive to the bottom of an eight foot deep outdoor pool to then clear and put on all the SCUBA gear. I was the youngest student and first to try it. I went down, blew in to clear the mouthpiece tubing of water, picked up the tank/back pack and started to take a breath…well it wasn’t cleared and I didn’t have the tank up high enough and I got water blasted into my lungs. I was tough and tried a little more unsuccessfully and then basically panicked and went to the surface choking and coughing. Nobody scolded certainly, but the directions were clearly restated and I knew I hadn’t followed them well enough. I didn’t like that I had screwed up and I certainly didn’t like panicking…nobody said I did…but I knew I did. I let others have their turn so I could quit coughing and then did it again, but right this time.

So in a crisis, I may not be the quickest to respond, but I will usually be effective. I will resist panic (which doesn’t mean I won’t yell or scream if startled) and am irritated by unreasoned panic in others. And if it is something I have had any experience with usually I will have some planning steps ready for use.

In crises, which are more the survey/regulatory/legal, long kind, staff has said they like me because I have high standards but I don’t ‘go postal’ like some managers seem to, which is probably why I used to do crisis management consulting in long-term care. But working with this is exhausting because it drags on, people need so much support/coaching and reassurance and I would give it…that is why I stopped.

Have you had situations where you acted in a way that you regretted because it was a crisis or do you really do well under pressure? What meaning did you take from that experience?

Polite/impolite Company – working with hot button topics

We could hear the yelling voices down the hallway even though the thick fire doors were closed.”

OK so the topic wasn’t politics or religion in the usual senses of the words, but it was about money and quality which are basically other terms for politics and religion. This was the worried look explanation when I got asked to help a project about quality reviews. They hadn’t been able to come to any agreements and the non-agreements were fraught with lots of yelling and red faces.

My VP took me out to dinner the evening before the group was to start and explained his side of the back story. I politely listened, but when he outlined what he wanted for a result I had to tell him it just didn’t work that way. The group would decide on the result; that’s why they were in agreement that I could facilitate it, because they knew I’d honor the process.

“I don’t hear any yelling.”

All the nervous talk prior to this project did make me feel a little tense, but I let the process do the work. Starting with agreed upon ground rules – seek to understand/listen, no name calling, etc. The group set them, I posted them. The agreed upon purpose with any clarifications they needed to state, also clearly up on the wall. Then all the things they wanted or wanted to avoid – they wrote these on post-its and then as a group we categorized them under group headings; again on the wall. Break time and of course there was no yelling. Everyone was being heard and had their say equally listened to.

Break time was quick and people didn’t separate into factions, I always see that as a good sign. I did some checking in to make sure they were on board so far, then quick summary and new angle of attack so they could see the issue from more directions – why were we having trouble with the current process, why was it a problem.

Hodag circa 1893 hoax in Northwoods Wisconsin. Really nothing to do with polite company, except he sure doesn’t look like he’d listen to anybody. The story goes that they had to use dynamite to subdue it.

Seek first to understand and then to be understood. We’ve got two ears and only one mouth, that gives us the ratio to live by. Way too often people assume they know what someone else is saying and dismiss it as foolish, dumb and ill-considered thinking. The regard for which other’s thoughts are held is easily seen from body language even without the words being expressed.

“Thank you, that was good. I think we really agreed on something we can all live with.”

“I appreciate it, but you guys did all the work, it was a great team effort. Very nice working with you.”

So was my VP satisfied with the result, actually he was, especially since it had the support from the other departments that had battled before.

When greeting a new person look at them, shake their hand if offered with a firm but not harsh grip, smile and repeat their name to help cement in into memory. Ask them about themselves, what they do, what they like, what hobbies they have and then embark on conversation about something you both can share tales about, preferably not religion or politics or any real flash point subjects because at this point neither of you has built up any reservoirs of good will for each other.

If you’re the host/hostess help them to meet any others and also to orient them to the surroundings, i.e. bathroom and food/beverage sources.

If you are planning a hot point discussion with friends or strangers first set up ground rules that will enable discussion and not enable name calling, swearing, fisticuffs.  Then shape the discussion so that points of view can be established and the background reasons can be exposed. Having a ‘Yes it is/No it isn’t’ argument is so middle school. Really….loose the Kracken! or Hodag.

I’ve been trying to resist resolutions, but they’re haunting me

At the usual time, 3 to 3:30 a.m. I wake up thinking I need to do something, that slightly anxious feeling like when a project is coming due, but isn’t falling together the way it should be. But I don’t have a deadline, except someplace in my mind I think I do, the ghost of goal setting past. And I was an extreme goal setter, continuous quality improvement facilitator, I mean this was my job and I really liked it.

“It might be fun to do a new bucket list. What new things to accomplish with riding horses this year? Start doing You tubes of dog training segments for clients? What about dietetics, you are a dietitian after all!” Wait a minute, I think I heard my mom’s voice in there. Could she be the ghost, well she’s still alive, but for a long time in my teens and twenties she was the voice of my conscience – irritating as it was.

No, noooo…well maybe I’ll do a mindmap. And I don’t have to make it realistic, understandable, measurable and achievable (RUMBA) or prioritize or include all my roles on a day planner book mark or revisit it daily, weekly and monthly to assess my accomplishments. or do any of the Seven Habits if I don’t feel like it. And I don’t have to do cost/benefit analysis, well I probably do, ‘cuz I’ll be paying. But definitely don’t have to do complete documentation, unless I want to.

Initial mindmap, color and details can be added as I go as can more branches
Initial mindmap, more color and details can be added as I go as can more branches and separate pages for each focal area if I want them. Notice my eyebrows…

There, I found drawing paper, lacking multi-color inking pens, grumble, grumble. OK then, I’ve got some things down. I’ve picked my calendars for some record keeping and eight general areas to focus on, one quarter of which can make money. Hm, maybe I’ll get out the book marks with roles and goals, I mean, I always need book marks (hate to break book’s backs). When would I want to check my progress…Mom, get out of my head!

Balance is in there without details as of yet. I know I’m a tad compulsive, yeah that used to produce a laugh from the groups I used to help get projects done, and so balance – well I’ll have to see where I’m tipping toward. I feel like tipping toward gardening.

Peonies in June
Peonies in June

Is this how other people do it? Say no until the nagging in your head just makes it easier to comply? And who’s voice was your conscience? Anybody else dislike outline form? I think the world is less linear and more circular, hence, circular webbed plans. Anybody else feel like gardening? Mom’s not a gardener, but I keep seeing her in my mirror more and more.



High Noon Today – weekly newspaper proofing

An 1888 advertisement for Webster’s Unabridged...
An 1888 advertisement for Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a spider plant on the right far corner of her plain brown laminate topped desk, a well used Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary open at her right elbow on the side credenza, a full 2012 year at a glance calendar push pinned on the left gray carpeted cubicle wall and a pack of green fine point markers beside excess paper clips in the desk drawer. Reference copy is on the left, copy to be corrected is on the right under the green pen. She’s reading newspaper articles for a weekly, 30 pages, local paper and using a green fine point marker pen to note spelling errors and writing style fixes.  At noon the sports and entertainment section is complete, with cut-lines below photos of locals tubing on the newly opened hill and high schoolers hiking to a local food pantry  making their Christmas donation of non-perishables, and it’s displayed on slanted shelves where there is enough room to lay out all the pages of this section of the paper.

She sits at a desk, hunkered down, glasses on, chewing sugar-free watermelon flavored gum, resting on a maroon adjustable chair, in this small gray cubicle, the sound of the police band radio intermittently blurting out requests for assistance or information followed by 10-four, and the muted after holiday laughter and by-play of the sales staff coming from the front office area.

The building is tan brick, rectangular 50s modern with only high windows giving those of us seated in cubicles inside a view of sky, tree branches and the endless black wires of this electricity age.  She’s the only one without a computer, she deals in hard copy. Proofing and copy editing a day and a half a week, reading stories twice, once on 8.5 by 11 sheets and once in the columned final form. Everything from sports to news to obituaries to human interest, this is the time for yearly summaries, many photos and looking back so much of the proofing is easy. But now after having done it for a year all things are copy edited, all writing is proofed. She hardly even chuckles over the man from Green ‘G’ay or the cremation interment that will ‘b’ake place or the police who are called for cats at large. It’s all in a day’s work.

By noon the smells of various lunches heated in the microwave permeate the work area, somebody has had a cabbage dish and that sulphureous odor does not add any glamour to the surroundings. There are badly frosted Christmas cookies in the break room and a couple of decorations, but otherwise Christmas is over. In fact it feels like the year is wrapping up, just a rehash of the highlights that have already been done, almost goodbye 2012.

回形针(paper clip)


Anybody else work at a weekly paper? What do you think of the film noir style? Working there has increased my interest in doing more writing.

People are like food – I hear we waste a lot of food

Will create masks for party with hopes that the pre-party creation isn’t the highlight of it all..

Wouldn’t it be great if people would know you well enough to just invite you to things you would like and skip it for the rest?

I like people, with food.  I like people, with purpose. Food and purpose is extra good, add beverage and yippee!

I like people in easy to use doses, single servings individually wrapped, not too processed, more fresh organic. Or even small groups, casserole style pot luck. Occasional gelatin molds or cheese whiz, okey dokey.

I like dinner parties with murder themes or costume themes or country themes like Brazilian or Russian. I like games or sports that I can take part in, not just watch. I’ll sing for my supper, or just because there’s a karaoke  machine.

Acrylic on poster paper 40X48″, Celebrate the Season created for log cabin window in office decoration effort.

But not a banquet. Usually then it is no longer fresh, too many repeats, too large to be really good. However, if I have a purpose, then the largeness of the group isn’t an issue, if I’m the speaker, caterer, emcee. Just being there is not a purpose. Some people would say it is; being seen, schmoozing and telling your elevator story over and over, ew. Even if I plan that kind of strategy I feel it’s largely a waste, most people aren’t listening or paying attention and if they are; exactly why? Alright, so I’m cynical and not looking.

I don’t like waste people…waste of time, waste of food, waste of effort. And I don’t like seeing people I like doing things that don’t reflect well on them, sure that’s ‘see no evil, hear no evil, say no…’ but it protects my psyche, and why not?

I wouldn’t like too close, like store shelves, too many people’s wishes to consider, too many conflicting desires. I need a place to recharge where it’s quiet, somewhere near wild asparagus and empty gravel roads.

Wester Ave in the morning mist