Fresh Start

Birds and Bees

Mommy, where do books come from?

Well, when a person has a story to tell, she writes it down and sends it to a publisher, and the publisher makes a bunch of copies, and binds the pages together with glue and string, and then he sends them to bookshops for us to buy.

But Mommy, where do stories come from?

Go ask your father.

Where do you get your stories? This is not a rhetorical question!

Fresh Start

There Is A Person Behind This Face

Image by VISHNU_KV on PixabayI

I was visiting with one of my best friends the other day and I could tell she was having a tough day. She seemed a little distracted, sad, beat down. Eventually she got around to spilling it; she had been reprimanded at work for a safety violation.

It wasn’t the write-up that bothered her. She knew she was in the wrong. She had forgotten to replace her safety glasses after taking off her hoodie. She’s very conscientious and had not been written up before. It was the way it was handled. The guy got in her face and yelled, violating her personal space and embarrassing her in front of her workmates. She is not an overly-sensitive person. She has worked in the public her entire adult life (not to mention a good part of her adolescence). But he had frightened her and she was still rattled 12 hours later.

I suggested that my friend file a complaint with the human resources department, but she said she didn’t want to appear petty.

Image by geralt on Pixabay

“Happy International Women’s Day, Mr. Safety Manager. I got you this. It’s a Free Pass.”

Now, this woman is smart, tactful, and has a wonderful vocabulary. I know that she could graciously accept her reprimand without accepting that kind of abuse from a superior. In reporting the incident, she would be doing herself, the safety manager, her fellow workers, the company, and society in general a good turn. Maybe the guy was just having a bad day, in which case nothing will likely come of it. But if it’s part of a pattern of bad behavior, maybe he needs training or reassignment.

So how do you complain about (or to) a supervisor while still maintaining a relationship and not looking like a whiner?

  1. Decide whether the incident deserves reporting. Was this a one-off or is there a pattern of misbehavior, poor communication, or abuse? If you’re lucky, you may be able to approach your manager with your concerns or wait for skip-level reviews, a chance for you to review your boss’s performance to his boss. If not…
  2. Review your company’s policy about up-level complaints. If you work for a company of any size, there will usually be a formal complaint process or skip-level performance reviews.
  3. Remember, there is a person behind your boss’s face, too. Bosses have bad days, sleepless nights, pressure from above, sick children, and cars that won’t start. If the complaint needs to be written, write it, but don’t be nasty.
  4. Just the facts. “On Monday, January 28, Mr. Safety saw me violate Safety Regulation 47(b). I appreciate the reminder and accept responsibility for the oversight. However, I felt the way he handled it was unprofessional. Mr. Safety approached me walking at a high rate of speed, got within 6 or 7 inches of my face and yelled at me for what seemed like a very long time, although it was probably on 15 or 20 seconds. He is quite a bit larger than I am, I’ve only met him twice before, and I felt very uncomfortable and a little afraid by what I perceived as an assault on my person. Company policy states that reprimands are to be done in a private area with one other manager present, but Mr. Safety yelled at me in front of my workmates. I was stunned and embarrassed. As a result, my mind was not on my job for the final 90 minutes of my workday, hampering productivity AND safety.”

I hope you never have an experience like this in the workplace (or anywhere!), but if you do, take responsibility for your own peace of mind by learning your rights. Reporting improper behavior is not weak or whiny. Done right, it’s the responsible thing to do.

What do you think?



Family, Fresh Start

My Anxiety Fish

About six weeks ago I was given custody of my grandson’s Betta while he and and his mother went to Texas to visit her family. I have worried and fretted over this fish for the past 42 days, bought him special water, kept a room extra warm for him, read up on why he might not be eating, talked to him at meal times, left detailed notes about his care when I left town… It was crazy. I was crazy.

My grandson’s parents assured me he wouldn’t be traumatized if his fish died, but I was obsessed with making sure this fish survived his time in my care.

Now this is particularly silly because we also have one of their dogs, a beloved and totally lovable Labrador Retriever who, to my knowledge, didn’t come from Labrador and doesn’t retrieve. He would be very much missed if anything happened to him, but I didn’t worry about him except in the normal way one worries about a dog in their care.

My husband calls the Betta -my anxiety fish, and I think he means that I am going to fret over this fish until he is returned to his own home, thankfully tomorrow. But I think it’s something deeper. With my life so full of things to cause worry, it’s easier to concentrate on the anxiety fish. Sick, elderly dad? Eighty-year-old uncle with pneumonia? Failed business and financial ruin? These things I can handle. But this fish…

Last night I dreamed that instead of the one fish I have been caring for, it turned out that there were three, and two of them were getting really hungry. As I was looking for their food, I kept finding tanks and tanks full of fish that I was supposed to be taking care of, each needing different food, and some of them were supposed to be fed to the others. One was supposed to be fed linen glitter, whatever that is, but I could only find regular glitter… It went on and on and on.

I think my mind has fixated on to this fish as a way of not getting overwhelmed by everything else. I can still do what I need to do, but I’m not focusing on the things I can’t do anything about.

Do you have an anxiety fish?


Clean Start, Fresh Start

Christmas Lessons, Part 2: Using a Planner (or Old Dog, New Trick)

I mentioned previously that I am not a fan of planners (the objects, not the people). Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my daughter had already purchased by birthday gift when that post was published. It’s a lovely, flowery thing with inspirational quotes throughout; not too big, not too small… just right. She included a set of comfortable, smooth writing pens and an add-on for the planner, pages of moveable lists with the phrase ‘listers gonna list‘ at the top, just to add a welcome splash of hip hop to my day.

My girl is that rare creature, an organized creative. She started using a planner in college to keep track of work, classes, homework, etc. Over the years as her life has evolved, so has her planner. It now includes work, social engagements, general budgeting, and doctor and grooming appointments for herself and her pack of hounds. Her planner is a work of art and a wondrous combination of planner and diary.

I enthusiastically accepted her gift and the promise of coaching. On Christmas morning, we spent about an hour setting up a very basic planning routine. She emphasized to me that the planner is a tool to alleviate stress, not a master or a source of guilt, and that it’s OK if I make mistakes, don’t follow it exactly, or forget to use it for a week. (She knows that perfectionism is one of the hurdles I’m trying to overcome.) That gift, along with her pep talk, have already made a huge difference in my life.

If you are struggling with disorganization, stress, or both, maybe you could try a planner. Here are some tips for getting started.

  1. If you don’t have a planner, get one. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. In fact, there are all sorts of free options available online. The Handmade Home has some beautiful free printables, including some stylish covers.
  2. Write out some short- and long-term goals, and whatever steps you can identify to achieve those goals over the next days, weeks, and months. Mine included setting up a thank you card system (cards, pens and stamps in box), exercising regularly, drinking more water, blogging twice a week, and organizing my sewing room.
  3. Go through and plug in annual events like birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions. You can also put in one-time events that you already know about like upcoming graduations, weddings, or vacations.
  4. Next, add monthly events like meetings and standing appointments for the next three months, or whatever horizon seems useful to you. I only did one month because my primary job right now is homemaker and carer for my elderly stepfather, and my schedule is largely dictated by his ever-changing needs. At the end of January, I have a note to remind me to fill in February’s schedule. Don’t forget your goals! This is also a good place to plug in bills you pay and payments you receive on a regular basis.
  5. What weekly and daily things do you want to schedule? Probably your work or class schedule, especially if it varies from day to day or week to week. Again, don’t forget your goals. I placed a legend at the top reminding me to exercise, drink water, and organize my sewing room for a few minutes each day. In theory, I should place an asterisk or a check on the days I complete these tasks, but mainly I just use them as a reminder.
  6. Good start! As you go along, put in new appointments or events, or reminders to make phone calls and follow-up calls if necessary. Whatever will help you accomplish what you want to, but also free up space in your head. If something is stressing you out, think about how your planner can help. For example, I sort my dad’s pills into a pill organizer once a week, but it was always running out on Saturday evening. Every Sunday morning when I really just wanted a cup of coffee and twenty minutes to myself, I would have Dad wanting his coffee, pills, and breakfast, and the dogs wanting walks, attention, and breakfast. It was not the best time to be sorting pills, and I was cranky. I put ‘fill pill organizers’ on my schedule for Friday evening, and now my Sunday mornings are a little less hectic, and I’m quite a bit less resentful.

My daughter recommended that I leave my planner open in a place I would see it several times a day and not carry it with me. I sit down with it in the morning to review the day and the week ahead, and in the evening to add new appointments or make changes. I keep my monthly to-do list under ‘Notes’ on the margin, and use the ‘listers gonna list’ pages for daily and weekly to-do lists and shopping lists.

My stress level has plummeted over the past two weeks or so, and I know a lot of it is that I no longer have to try to keep so much stuff in my head. I’m sleeping better, and I’m seeing results.

Using a tip from an episode of the Clutterbug podcast, I set up a Google calendar. It’s nice because you can access it from just about any device, and you can sync it with Alexa, which I find very helpful to my ADD brain.