Who Hates Changing Email Addresses?

Um, that would be everyone, right? I’ve known I’ve needed to do it for quite a while, since we downsized our real estate work and parted (as good friends) from our Hermit Haus Redevelopment partners. Eventually all that internet stuff will get retired, though I need to figure out a way to archive our blog and photos of our work.

My reward for boring as heck work.

I’ve never liked using Gmail but it’s the best option for right now. My presence at Hearts Homes and Hands is very minimal, since I’m not beloved in all parts of our community. I’m no longer too concerned about it. Life at the ranch is good, and that’s what counts! Anyway, I’d only use that email account for business.

Speaking of the ranch, this will grow up to be the arch going over our cattle guard or second gate. It’s happening!

Still, it has boggled my mind when I realize how many logins, sign-ins and account names are tied to your email address! I spent hours this morning changing things, and I’m nowhere near finished. But, it had to be done, and I certainly don’t have many expanses of unbooked time at home!

After I at least got my major accounts and lists switched over, I tediously went through my Gmail account and deleted spam and ads from 2015 until today. 20,000 plus emails. Fun times. I didn’t want to delete them all, since there might be personal email in there. Yep, my sister, my friend Pamela, and two others had been sending me things I never saw.

I’d rather have been at the pool!

Actually, that’s what prompted moving at this exact time. My sister, who is the latest person to say they are going to the Farm in Yorktown for a weekend and not returned, texted me to “check email.” Nothing like a cryptic text to get me concerned, you know? But I couldn’t find anything on my work or personal accounts. Was something wrong? Did I mess something else up? Finally I looked at Gmail. Whew. There was a message there. I’d forgotten to send some money in our confusing travel stuff.

All, right, I said, it’s time to start using that account and phasing the other one out. Once I figured out how to delete everything from a particular sender, it was only slightly unbearable. And at least I could look out at the ocean while deleting. It was fun mass deleting email from presidential candidates who won one and l0st another election. Quite a trip through time.

I’d rather have been in the ocean. Yes I went in. No jellyfish got me.

Now I have that account organized and set up to store email right. Still, I have to figure out what stuff I get on Hermithaus I want to keep getting. And I have to figure out why the new signature I made refuses to show up. This is why I didn’t want to embark on this task. Ugh

But, I’m at the beach, in the shade, and drinking a drink out of a bucket. And my ranch family is busy planning a swimming pool.

Everyone is saying my obligations can wait, so today is just Beach Day. Hope you’re doing well and handling what can be a hard weekend for some of us.

Evening Exploration

It was a long day of “working from beach” today, but it was fun doing my individual meetings on the balcony. I still have things to do, but I’m plowing through them, and some of the stuff is getting interesting.

I guess I’m relaxed

We had to leave for a while in the early afternoon, because they were going to turn the power off in the building for some test. We took that opportunity to visit the new and trendy Market Commons area, which is sort of like the Domain in Austin, but a bit prettier.

Dining spot.

Lee was not impressed, but I’d have a lot of fun with Kathleen or Anita there. The shopping looked excellent, and there were many nice places to eat. We had sushi, and it was fresh and interesting. My lemon roll was divine, and I also had a yellowtail ceviche in a ponzu sauce. The air was just right for outdoor dining, too.

Lemon roll.

Of course, Lee found numerous plants to be allergic to, especially the gorgeous plantings of jasmine. But hey, he’s not allergic to azaleas! He says if he lived a hundred years ago none of this would be bothering him, since he’d have died from some allergy in childhood. Cheery!

Lee wasn’t allergic to this palm flower.

When I finished working at 6, Lee wanted to go see small towns, so we drove on the inland road to Georgetown, SC. We passed many beautiful forests with hardwoods, Wild magnolias, and pines.

Speeding by woods

Much of it looked exactly like northern Florida from my childhood, including the many plantings of pines for harvest. All the big rivers and swamps we passed also made me feel at home.

Pine forest, thinned

As we approached Georgetown, Lee wondered if we were near the sewage plant. Nope, another memory from childhood blasted in and told me what I soon confirmed: there’s a large paper mill just outside of town. You can’t miss that smell.

Stinky but cool.

Other than that, though, Georgetown is beautiful, one of the oldest cities in South Carolina. It currently has a scary looking old steel mill as another industry.

Steel mill

But, as I read one of the information signs around the boardwalk, I recalled where I’d heard of this place. Not only was it a center for growing rice (as evidenced by the rice museum in town), but it was also an early indigo growing center! I’d read about it in the book on indigo I read last year.

And there are boats!

I must say, this is a gorgeous town, with a fixed-up downtown harbor area, a boardwalk, and many places to shop and eat. We had another outdoor meal, with a bonus of watching a Great Dane sit on a kid’s lap.

Both of these families own Great Danes, so the kid was fine with him. He just kept scratching the dog, and the dog kept smiling.

We are glad we will come back later for one of our boat rides (assuming I book them), so we can see more of the beautiful old homes and such.

This old house is a museum.

Lee and I both are excited about our upcoming adventures! We wish we had folks with us, but wow, there’s a lot going on!

Sunset in the rear-view mirror and reflected on our vehicle. Artsy.

Once again, I’m thinking of all my friends and family who have been undergoing treatments and surgeries and such. Healing wishes to you all.

News from Back at the Ranch and Seaside Sights

It’s a good thing folks back home sent me news, because I literally had meetings at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the books today. Luckily one got moved and a few of them were short, so I had time to breathe. And I snuck in some content creation, too. Go beach me.

News from the ranch ranges to worrisome to great. What’s worrisome is that Apache still isn’t 100% and Trixie the farrier/body worker isn’t sure why. Even on his extremely limited pasture, he’s managing to put on weight, too (still seems thin to me). Sara is taking good care of him, and even got to ride him. It turns out though, that Apache’s favorite object is now Sara’s back massager. Trixie used it on him, and according to Sara, he “melted.”

Happy horse time. More, Trixie, more!

We will figure out some way to get Apache’s diet right so he can feel okay again. That will be made better by the fact that I ordered a major ton of pipe yesterday, which will provide the foundations for our new world of fencing, pens, stalls, cattle working area, and expanded dog run (so the dogs can sit with us out front). This is going to be SO much work!

Look at all that pipe! And you can see dogs, too. Hi dogs!

Luckily we had the equipment for dealing with this stuff. We heard the Kubota tractor could not handle the weight of the pipe, so the front-end loader had to come to the rescue. We just knew that purchase was a good one.

I can handle anything.

We also hear that the dogs are having lots of fun “helping” out on the project. I can tell Harvey is having a good time!

I got to go for a ride.

Over here at the beach, we’d wanted to go back to Brookgreen, but I had too much work! I did get a moment to pick up a thank-you gift from Irina, the lady who helped us get more condo time. She is the first person I ever met from Moldova, and she was so impressed I’d heard of her home country, that she shared some of her wine with us. Who knew that Moldova was “the wine country?”

Can’t wait to try this, though I’d like to share it with friends and family.

I also got a tiny walk in between meetings, where I saw that workers were testing out some of the fancy new rides being set up near our condos. It looks like it will be a permanent installation amusement park, not a roving carnival. I will tell you this: I will not be getting on that roller coaster with a section that goes around and around in it.

Nope, not getting on that thing, ever.

It was really windy today, so we probably didn’t miss much not going anywhere to look at nature. Of course, I continued my hunt for natural beauty on Myrtle Beach, because I can’t help it. I found a rock with rainbow bubbles and a fresh little fish, soon to be seagull food.

But, the best thing we found were these jellyfish that washed up. They are just the most interesting creatures. It’s hard to believe they’re real when you look at them up close!

And now, it’s on to another evening of ocean watching, wine drinking, and eating delicious food (I made a huge piece of salmon last night, and seasoned it with crushed Doritos, since I’d forgotten to get any seasonings, and it was surprisingly tasty!).

We got to so many families enjoying themselves playing games together, got to watch a dog who couldn’t believe how lucky he was to find so much dirt to dig holes in, and even met a woman walking on the beach alone, wearing a tiara. It was her birthday, and she was rejoining her family in our building. I hope you are having fun enjoying the simple things, wherever you are.

From the Pit to the Pinnacle

Whew. This has been a weird-ass week. I was really pessimistic about work over the weekend, and Monday I found out some changes were happening, right when I was supposed to be gearing up to contribute to an initiative.

But, I wrote myself that perky pushback post, read some of my other messages to myself, and by gosh, I pushed back. I figured out a way to empower one part of my team, make their work more visible, and engage other folks to share their value.

I only had three half days to do this, and I required help, but it happened. One of my colleagues really stepped up to help, and between the two of us, we went from feeling defeated to feeling renewed. We could have just sat there in Eyore mode and moped, but no, we did something.

I was a little worried about the amount of initiative I took, but after enduring me excitedly outline my plans, my boss was impressed, not upset. I felt supported and validated. All it took was leadershipping, as we call it.

Knowing that I’ve developed the skills to pick myself up and start again validates the hard work I’ve put into becoming the person I’d always hoped I could be. You really do have to slog through the pits if you want to reach the pinnacle of your personal growth goals.

On to the next challenge.

By the way, we stayed at a hotel near Tyler, Texas last night. It’s known for its roses, so I had to take some pictures for the blog readers. The white ones even smelled good.

You Can Choose to Do Nothing or You Can Push Back

One of my activist friends, Jonathan K. Horstman, had a social action campaign a few years ago, focused on not just sitting around and watching our communities deteriorate. It was called [PUSHBACK] and I liked the idea and what his team was doing. While he’s off doing other great things in the community (as well as acting, doing music, and raising two precious children), I’ve been thinking about my own tendency to retreat when faced with pressure, setbacks, and lack of respect. What’s that gotten me so far? A big ole bag of seething resentment. That’s not helpful at all. I no longer want to retreat in a corner, because as Jonathan said:

So, yesterday, I took a bit of a blow, and decided that rather than sit around and stew about it, I’d put my energy into creating something good, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That is not a new analogy. I did this once before when my team at La Leche League was deemed to be not embracing the new ways of working well enough. We just worked our asses off until we were told we were redundant. While I was sad, I was also proud of how hard we fought, how well we organized, and how respectfully we treated each other.

Nice shirt!

THAT is how I plan to treat my coworkers as we regroup and move forward. We will come up with a plan, do good work, and feel proud of ourselves, whether it’s acknowledged or not. I went from wanting to run and hide yesterday, to wanting to proudly push back and say we’re here, we are good at what we do, and we’re going to contribute!

I’ll be busy as a happy bee

There’s always more than one way to get things done, and it really helps to bear that in mind when you’re surprised by changes, re-prioritization, and such. It’s normal for that to happen, especially in the workplace, so you may as well, jump in, see where you can be of use, and find your fulfilment in doing work you’re proud of. That’s my goal! No more seething resentment when I don’t like how I’ve been treated. I’ll take it as an opportunity to find ways to win respect, at least within myself, because after all, other people’s opinions don’t define you, now do they?

Yes, I’ve been lecturing myself on Facebook, where there are cute graphics.
My coworker today was this beetle.

I hope my latest lecture to myself has been helpful. I enjoyed how Barbara said in a recent comment that she often needs to hear these things, too. Just like I need to periodically re-read Brene Brown, I need to periodically repeat things I thought I’d learned a long time ago. And that’s just fine!

What do you have to tell yourself frequently? I’d love some more pithy aphorisms!

Book Report: Inclusion

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I just finished Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace and the Will to Change, a 2016 book by Jennifer Brown of JBC (Jennifer Brown Consulting). I had a kind of odd experience reading it. I’d be all interested in a part, then it would feel repetitious and I’d zone out. That’s unusual for me. There is lots and lots (and let me say it again, lots) of information here that would help any company wanting to increase inclusion and diversity among the workers.

One thing I found very useful was that Brown stresses that the younger people and non-people managers need to be both consulted and listened to, since that’s where the diversity is usually found. Including these voices and perspectives in decision making is one very helpful way to create a more inclusive workplace.

In fact, Brown had a message just for me:

The golden rule, treating others as you would like to be treated, is out. The platinum rule is in: treat others as THEY would like to be treated. You will have to learn to ask what that entails.

(p. 46)

I’ll be revising all my little sticky notes at once.

Since I work with ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) where I work, I especially enjoyed Brown’s history of ERGs and thoughts on their future. She rightfully notes that you can’t just start them and ignore them; they need to be nurtured and their contributions valued. Employees also need to know that the work they do on ERGs reflects well on them. There’s also information on how ERGs may change in the future, once the more diverse and inclusive workspaces become the norm.

Someday all offices will look like stock photos, but maybe with someone over 30 and with a woman doing the talking. Image by @criene via Twenty20.

And then, what do you do with all the straight white cisgender men? Do you leave them out! Not at all! I love how Brown carefully lays out roles and opportunities for participation and inclusion in ERGs for them. She knows perfectly well that a lot of her readers will BE these guys, many of whom want to help make a better workplace for all, but don’t want to be perceived as trying to dominate. I also got quite a few “aha” moments out of a section (which I’d like to share at my workplace) about how helpful executive sponsors can be when they really understand the role and embrace it.

And about those open offices

My little heart welled up with satisfaction when Brown talked about whether the new open-plan offices really spark creativity, foster communication, and increase transparency. This is done for millennials AND because it costs a lot less than cubicles or enclosed offices. A large survey found that the most satisfied workers had enclosed offices. And that wasn’t just introverted technical writers like me!

Let me just slip in that I’ve not been impressed with the industrial/open setup we have where I work, mainly because I so rarely ever see anyone using those open collaboration areas. I’m glad, because when you do, everyone can hear you and it’s disruptive. When we were all together, it was really distracting when everyone around you was on a separate Zoom call, and you could certainly hear everything. So executives would have to go hid in tiny “focus rooms” to talk about sensitive issues, where they could not use their large multiple monitors and other helpful things. Oh well, there I go again.

No where to talk privately, nowhere to hide. My nightmare. I do like red, though. Image by  @Luis_in_nyc via Twenty20

The really helpful parts of the book that I’ve just talked about are why I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in creating a workplace where everyone’s talents, perspectives, and abilities are valued. I did find myself becoming annoyed by how much Brown talks about how great her own company is, and I am not at all sure why, but some of her attempts to share her personal stories fell a little flat with me. You’d think I’d be feeling all empathetic to someone who also wanted to be a classical singer (she did opera, I did choral music) but ruined their voice.

Well, we can’t like everyone right off the bat, can we? And maybe I had too much in common with her, so she annoyed me. I get told I brag a lot, so that’s a grain of truth I’ll mull over. Also, why do I turn everything into self-examination? My introspection can even annoy me!

Here, have a chick break. I think tail feathers are coming in. Here, they are all excited about Star’s food. Go back and eat the chick food!

Back to the book, shall we? It has a glossary that has got to be helpful for Boomers who don’t know all the current words for concepts around diversity and inclusion like cisgender, executive sponsor, LGBTQ, etc. I even encountered some new terms, like this one:

Holacracy: an organizational management strategy in which a company’s governance and decision making are distributed evenly among self-organized teams. Individual employees are viewed as both a whole group and part of a larger group.
[There aren’t many of these, she says.]

(p. 192)

I think many parts of this book are designed to make you feel uncomfortable, and that’s intended. Brown is yet another expert who wants us all to get uncomfortable with discomfort, which is what many groups of people have no choice about. It’s a new world, and it takes flexibility and some vulnerability to embrace the good parts of it, while accepting that it isn’t perfect either.

I figure, I either accept it or I retire, like the remaining few of us younger Baby Boomers!

The Unpopular Kid at School

That’s who I feel like this morning. We invited a lot of people to join a book club on unconscious bias at work. There are two meetings, one early and one at mid day, so people in different time zones can attend. There were at least ten people who accepted, were tentative, or hoped to show up. It’s halfway through the meeting, and the only thing I see on Zoom is darned familiar looking.

That sure looks like me.

It sure is easy to fall into old patterns, insecurities, and negative self talk. Luckily, it didn’t last too long. I’m mature enough to know that people were busy, or they are too uncomfortable with unconscious bias to want to talk about it (very likely), or they forgot. I’m not the center of the universe, after all. I think I’m over somewhere near the edge, to be honest. Still, I have lots of other stuff to do besides Zoom, so it was irritating to have to just sit there and try to look cheerful, in case anyone showed up.

Ah well. I’ll end the meeting and see if anyone shows up at noon! I think some of the more interested people are on the West Coast, and by all rights they should still be asleep!

Time Marches On

Since I wrote the above, I’ve received a lot of kind feedback, most of which says it’s hard to get people to show up to book clubs at all. I think the only reason we had a good group at our previous work one is that we started pre-pandemic in person. The other reality is that unconscious bias is a difficult topic that many people might be reluctant to discuss. That’s valid.

Our learning and development group came up with some other ideas for discussion that aren’t book clubs, so we’ll try those, too. We just know people need a chance to talk about workplace concerns AND get to know each other, so we’re going to keep trying!

Hooray!

We had a great discussion at the second book club meeting! The West Coast contingent did show up! So glad I was patient. I enjoy facilitating meetings so much. It’s probably what I would do for a living if the introvert part of me didn’t get so darned exhausted from it. I truly get a LOT from hearing what other people think, and it always gets me thinking more. I’m going to really enjoy our unconscious bias book club! We’re reading The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias, which has so many good questions to talk about!

I Can’t Muster Up Schadenfreude

Wow. I’m not saying I’m a saint who never has bad thoughts about others, but when presented an actual opportunity to experience some good old schadenfreude, roll around in it, wallow for a while, and maybe even gloat, I find I can’t dredge it up.

Let me share what happened, as vaguely as I can. Last year, my favorite boss ever, was “let go” as they always said in La Leche League while firing anyone with institutional knowledge or history in the organization who didn’t drink some very bitter Kool-Aid.

Even though we were prepared, those of us who worked for this boss were sad, really sad, because we’d done a lot of good work together and were a great team. Of course, we had nothing to do with whatever the C suite’s issues were, and that wasn’t our call. But, it hurt some of us a lot, including the old boss.

Everybody’s beautiful, in their own way, right? This Japanese maple sure is.
Changes make me want to hide, like this budding hydrangea.

Fast forward to today, and the person responsible for that “letting go” (and for me losing the two coworkers I tried to hire last year) was let go today. I had dreamed of the day when that darned so-and-so got their comeuppance. I was ready to take immense pleasure in the pain of that other person, true schadenfreude. But, no. I felt sad, instead. I know how hard it is to see that unemployment train coming and have it roll over you. All I could feel was empathy toward my former nemesis.

Why? Well, I’d recently gotten to know that executive as a person, and saw them as more than just the instigator of a really bad year. I found out things we had in common, and our mutual humanity won out over my biases. Shoot, the stuff in those unconscious bias books is actually true; you really can’t hate someone you know as a well rounded person.

It’s okay!

How about that? I’m not as vindictive as I thought I could be, when it comes down to it. And that’s a good lesson to learn. I’m sure I’ll be fine as the changes keep coming where I work. It’s normal, corporate America stuff, after all. But I can still have empathy with former colleagues as I keep trying to keep up with the changes.

Actually, I feel like I had an omen or portent of the future this afternoon. As I was walking in the courtyard trying to get my bearings (me and big changes are just not friends), I found myself surrounded by common whitetail dragonflies, all female. They’re a symbol of change, metamorphosis, and good things to me. I felt comforted.

Book Report: Everyday Bias

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Did you think I was finished with unconscious bias books? You’d be almost right. I just have this one more book to talk about before I move on to books about diversity and inclusion. Totally different, yep. This one’s really good, though, even though it talks about many of the same topics as the previous books did. Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in our Daily Lives (updated edition), by Howard J. Ross (2020) is guaranteed to get you thinking, challenge you, and to my immense relief, offer some hope for humanity.

I really like the “voice” of Ross, which shines through all the book’s content. You feel like you’re right there with him figuring out that we’re all acting on our biases 24/7 and that’s just the way we are built. He shares lots of data about our friend, the amygdala, and how it’s apt to put us on autopilot any time something stressful or scary happens. And he notes that we can’t make that thing stop!

Somewhat garish cover, but great book!

Ross also reminds us that we can’t exactly help where we were born, in what community, and to which parents. All of these things get us wired in certain ways that we can’t control. I like that he declares it a waste of time to constantly apologize for being biased or to poke at people for having them. His best point in the whole book is that by constantly reminding people of the harm their biases causes others (like women telling men how they’ve been harmed, black people saying the many ways white culture has affected them) we aren’t going to make things better. The reverse is often the case, and can perhaps explain all the racist and sexist groups we are hearing from more and more these days.

I think it’s true that some folks are just going to continue on their merry ways with their biases against certain other people and groups, and there’s not much we can do about it. No one’s immune, so we are just gonna have Jews who are biased against blacks, gays who dislike Muslims, or so on and so on. No group of humans is without us versus them ingrained in us, because it’s normal.

Luckily, Ross reminds us of neuroplasticity, which is the ability of our brains to change. He then spends the last part of the book providing clear, helpful ideas for working to mitigate the effects of our bias in the workplace and in our personal lives. He gives great information on six things to work on in Chapter 7:

  1. Recognize that bias is a normal part of human existence. (Stop judging others so much and work on your own self. I have a few super-judgy trolls in groups I maintain that need this.)
  2. Develop a capacity for self-observation. (It turns out that relaxing, meditation, etc., can calm that amygdala right down and let you think about your thinking.)
  3. Practice constructive uncertainty. (Stop to figure out WHY you have a strong reaction to something.)
  4. Explore awkwardness and discomfort. (Figure out your triggers.)
  5. Engage with people in groups you may not know very well, or about whom you may harbor biases. (Get to know an Other!)
  6. Get feedback and data. (Facts!)

In the next chapter, he lists eight ways to work on eliminating bias in hiring, promotions, and that sort of thing in businesses. It’s quite helpful.

And finally, what warmed my heart is that Ross truly feels that if we pay attention to our biases, we can create a better world. He talks about how what appear to be groves of individual trees are in reality one big, connected organism (as I’ve read before), and uses it as a metaphor for people:

We look at the “other” as if he or she is separate from us. We see the other group as a threat. And yet, we are all deeply connected. We share a common destiny on this planet. We all seek pleasure and do our best to avoid pain. We all want what is best for our children and grandchildren. All of us are the products of that which we have seen before. And we are all (for the most part), unconscious about the “programming” that runs our thoughts and our lives.

We can transcend. We can, through discipline, practice, and awareness, find a new way to relate that honors our differences yet also builds upon our similarities.

Howard J Ross, p. 148

I think he finally put into words all the reasons why I have been so doggedly introspective for the past few years. I want to GET THERE NOW and do my part to fix some of my ingrained biases. It’s not possible to know all that’s going on in our busy brains, but with at least some of us trying to raise awareness of some of our areas of bias, it’s a start.

Fine book. Made me feel empowered.

Why I Haven’t Upped My Game Recording Myself Talk

Lee asked me why I’ve been recording my podcasts the way I have, quickly, and using simple software.

It’s a good question. If I’d never recorded myself before, the Anchor software would be where to start. It has sounds, transitions, and a way to record. There’s an easy interface for putting episodes together, and they publish them. Nice!

A floral interruption: hairy spiderwort.

But I recorded myself talking for a living for quite a few years. Yes. I made incredibly boring e-learning modules for large software companies. I had to have really good editing software to edit out all my flubs, burps, clicks, and gasps. There were a lot of hard-to-pronounce acronyms in those scripts.

I also put together simple musical pieces, and lived with a sound engineer. I’m able to do things like put music under my speech, too.

But, do I have me smoothly introducing the podcast over Declan’s guitar music? Nope. Do I edit out my errors in reading? Nope. Do I use my fancy microphone? Nope. Is it sort of annoying? Probably. Certainly for Lee.

Equipment. I have some.

But hey, I’m doing the podcast for fun, because I got requests. It’s not my job. Firing up Audacity and fixing all the glitches, silencing the background noise, and making fancy introductions and credits is…work. I am having fun, folksy mistakes and all.

I must say I was embarrassed that my previous podcast episode got recorded silently. Ya know, I really should have previewed it. Amateur!

But, Lee has a point. I’ll up my game, at least a bit! After all, I have supporters. I owe it to them. Ooh! And I owe them their benefits! I’m ready to start making dishcloths, too! A big box with one skein In every color of Dishie cotton yarn arrived today.

Yarn! Plus some for me.

I’m starting my first set of dishcloths tomorrow. That will be fun! As long as it’s fun, I’m going for it. (Psst…I’m hoping to make more for future supporters).

Looking forward to even more fun tomorrow, with horses (a new one!) flowers and all the usual stuff.