Monday, May 21, 2018

Reflections on Elena Ferrante's Troubling Love

I never thought that I would come upon a novel that would describe so accurately some of the feelings that I had as a child and teenager about my father’s quarrelsome siblings (three sisters and one brother). Confusion is certainly one word that described my feelings about them as a young child. Fear and anxiety were other feelings. There was a lot of drama in the lives of my aunts and uncle, and that drama extended to and included us when we were together with them. Being around them was nerve-wracking, because you never knew what dramatic spectacle would unfold when you were together with them. My father was the peacemaker in his Italian family; it was a thankless role, and one I am not sure he really wanted, but one that he felt he should take on given all the problems between the siblings. He was a good and kind man, stable and dependable, not prone to unpredictable outbursts of temper or emotion. His siblings were the opposite. Their behavior led to arguments in funeral parlors, crying jags in others’ homes, angry phone calls and snippy letters, returned gifts, perceived slights, arrogant behavior, inferiority complexes, and a whole host of other strange occurrences. Children were not excluded from their punishing behavior. If they were upset with my parents, they punished us as well, e.g. by not remembering our birthdays. Only one aunt tried not to be like the others, but the others ran roughshod over her because she was a passive soul for most of her life. I can remember Sunday family dinners that ended in conflict because my mother felt that it was time for my aunts and uncle to go home since it was a school day for us the next day, whereas they felt that it was their right to sit in our living room until they decided it was time to go home. It made for uncomfortable occasions, which caused problems between my mother and father; my mother felt that my father took their side, while they felt that he cow-towed to his wife too much. Then there were the letters detailing the perceived slights and insults they felt when they visited us (again my mother’s fault although my father came in for his share of criticism as well). Or the angry phone calls where my uncle would berate my mother to my father, who again was put in the position of defending his wife against his birth family, a position he hated. He wanted so much for both sides to be friends, something I knew would never happen. Even as a child, I knew this with absolute certainty. I’m sure my mother knew it too. The differences between them were too great. I remember being fascinated by adult behavior as practiced by my father’s siblings; it was unpredictable, unstable, dramatic, emotional, anxiety-inducing, fear-inducing, and ultimately childish. I may have been a bit scared (and scarred) by it as well. My father’s siblings were not really adults, but rather children whose emotional needs had been stifled (due to circumstances beyond their control that had to do with my grandfather’s financial losses during the Depression) and which led to their becoming immature adults. That’s the way I look at them now, and that has helped me to forgive their behavior. But when I was a child, I felt torn. I was intensely loyal to my father and mother, but I wanted to have good relationships with my aunts and uncle. It was not to be. I remember feeling suffocated at times by the idea of extended family. It seemed to me that family, as my father’s siblings defined it, meant that everyone had the right to have an opinion about what everyone else in the family did. They did not understand boundaries, nor did they understand that marriage meant that you put your spouse first, ahead of them. It was expected that you would listen to them and abide by their comments and advice; if you didn’t, you were subject to their tongue-lashings and scorn, as well as their anger about being ignored or slighted. I never really knew how to deal with my aunts and uncle when they lived, and when they died, it was hard for me to feel any emotion at all. My father was sadly the first of his siblings to pass; I often think that the stress of dealing with his siblings played a large role in making him ill. I felt mostly relief when each of my father’s siblings passed. I was free, we were free, and my mother was free. Free from behavior that threatened to suffocate and to annihilate one’s idea of oneself. Because the concept of wanting a life for oneself was forbidden in my father’s family. It was not allowed that one could want that, or want to prioritize one’s spouse and children. One had to exist for one’s birth family, and make choices that always included them, no matter what. One had to put birth family first ahead of spouse and children. Looking back, I see how strange it really was. But it was my only point of reference, my only definition of adult behavior that I had, and I see now in retrospect that it was warped.

Elena Ferrante’s book Troubling Love describes an Italian family quite different than that of my father’s family. Delia, the main character, has complicated feelings about her relationship with her mother, Amalia, who separated from her physically-abusive husband when Delia was a young woman. When Amalia is found dead (drowned in the sea) and Delia goes to her funeral, it unleashes a torrent of thoughts and feelings that we are privy to as readers. The story involves other characters and sub-plots that help us to understand (without accepting or forgiving) Amalia’s husband’s jealousy and rage. But Ferrante is unflinching in her description of abusive men, for whom she has no use. She depicts them in all their garishness, naked rage, and lust. It is not a pretty picture. Ferrante is so good at describing exactly what it is that Delia feels, but at the same time, we end up wandering with Delia through her tangled nightmares as she relives the traumas and memories of her childhood and youth. There were events that happened in her childhood that should not have happened, and behavior that she and her sisters should have been shielded from. But they were not. It is the feelings Ferrante evokes via her writing that struck a nerve in me. She can describe those feelings of suffocation, of cloyingness, of bewilderment, of duty, of need, in a way that I intuitively recognize and remember.

As I grew older, I made myself a promise that my life would be so different from the lives of my aunts and uncle, and it is, but only after much reflection and risk-taking. When family life is not about love and loving others, but rather about hatred, conflict and jealousy of others, it is no small task to try to undo that or to surpass it. Troubling Love is not a book for everyone’s tastes; many people will find it disturbing and uncomfortable. It is both those things. But if you have experienced the claustrophobia of one type of family life, you will be drawn into her story, and it is well-worth the read. I don’t know if I could have appreciated Ferrante’s book had I read it in my twenties; it is the only book written by her that I have read so far, but I do think that I could manage to read more of her writing. A lot of years have passed and I have the distance necessary for me to read such stories. One can ask, why do you want to? My answer is that it is a way of facing those early fears and bewilderment and finding out that one has overcome and perhaps understood them. Literature serves many purposes; for me, it is not solely about entertainment, but rather about finding answers on this life journey. It has always been about that for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The royal wedding

I was fairly sure that I wasn’t going to watch the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan, but I ended up glued to the tube, just as I was for the marriage of William and Kate, the marriage of Charles and Diana, the funeral of Princess Diana, the marriage of Haakon and Mette Marit here in Norway, and the marriages of both Swedish princesses. I don’t consider myself a royalist, but I am interested in their lives, mostly from a historical perspective. It is fascinating to learn how things are done in royal circles. Certainly watching the Netflix series ‘The Crown’ has been very enjoyable and enlightening. It is so well-done that it feels as though the past is actually happening right now. I’ve learned a lot about British history and politics from watching this series. It’s interesting to see how the royals do weddings, funerals, baptisms and other events that draw many spectators and well-wishers. Their traditions, rules and customs are fascinating, if a bit infuriating at times, and this became only too clear when watching The Crown. Rules about whom one could and could not marry, associate with, or about what kind of work one could and could not do, shaped and/or destroyed the lives of the born royals and those who married into the royal family. I found it difficult not to judge them too harshly, and yet, they were the products of their times, and that is what I eventually focused on in trying to understand the past. One cannot use the mores of modern times to judge the past. Considering all the drama and chaos that have been a part of the British royal family for the past half a century, it’s no surprise that they’ve loosened up a bit. Marrying a non-virgin or a divorcee is no longer taboo, thank God. What is important is love, and that was what the sermon by the U.S. Bishop Michael Curry focused on at Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Not just romantic love, but all forms of love. When we non-royals marry, we take for granted that we can marry those we love; that has not been the case for many royals. Throughout royal history, royals did not and could not always marry for love, but married rather out of duty—to parents, to tradition, to the church. It must have been a tough life for many of them; some of them opted to pursue extramarital affairs in order to make their daily lives bearable. In that sense, it makes it easier to understand that Charles, who was pressured to marry Diana, chose to continue his relationship with the woman he really did love—Camilla (deemed unsuitable as wife material). His behavior toward Diana was reprehensible, but so was the behavior of those who forced him into a marriage he did not want. As fate would have it, he ended up with Camilla, but only after Diana was killed in a car crash. Princess Diana was the first person to really bring a breath of fresh air into the royal family; she paved the way for the changes that have come about in the past twenty or so years. Meghan Markle is another breath of fresh air; as Harry pointed out—she and his mother Diana (had she still been alive) would have been as ‘thick as thieves’. In other words, good friends. It’s not hard to imagine that at all.

I wish Harry and Meghan well; they seem to really love each other. It is always uplifting to watch young couples starting their married lives together. An open and unwritten book lies before them, one that they will write as life moves them along. I hope too that they will make a real difference in the lives of those around them, and that they will work tirelessly to promote the charities and causes that they have supported and continue to support.

A good article: Ten jobs with the best work-life balance

Back in 2011, I wrote a post about the work-life balance in Norway  ( I made the point that the work-life balance in Norway, and in Scandinavia generally, is better than in the States, for so many reasons, and that is documented in numerous research articles that have studied the topic in depth. I grew up thinking that hard work got you to your goal, and I still think it does. But hard work is not the same as working overtime or working yourself to death. I see that I did not make that point completely clear in my original post. Hard work is not the same as being available to your employer at all hours, on weekends, and on holidays. My point is that it is possible to give what you need to give to your employer and still have a life outside of work. It is possible to work in a focused way for the seven to eight hours you work each day, and then to go home and close the door behind work. It should not make you feel important when your employer contacts you routinely late in the evening with questions and requests for meetings and such things. There may be periods in life when you need to work overtime or on weekends, but this should not be the norm, nor should employers expect this of their employees. Why Americans continue to believe that giving their all to employers is an admirable thing is confounding. Because when the time comes for companies to get rid of employees due to budget cuts, they don't discriminate nor do they waste time, and will do what they need to do regardless of how loyal employees have been or how much time employees have given to their employers. We've seen it time and again.

In that context, I found the following article quite interesting, and wanted to share it with you. It is a list of the ten jobs (US employers) with the best work-life balance. For young people looking to have a balance between work and life outside of work, I urge you to check it out.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Garden update May 2018

We are enjoying an unseasonably warm spring, with temperatures the past two weeks hovering around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And it's been sunny as well. Perfect conditions for the garden. It just amazes me how fast a garden comes to life when all the conditions are right, especially after a long hard winter with a lot of snow. It's hard to believe that there was still snow on the ground on April 11th; most of the snow had melted in the garden by that point, but there were patches here and there.

The greenhouse has been invaluable in helping me get started this year. I started most of my seeds in mid-April, and all of them grew and did well in the greenhouse. I learned a lot about what the seedlings needed in terms of light and air. If I was there during the afternoon, I opened the window to let them have some air, but I kept the window closed at night when temperatures hovered around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the sun has grown stronger and the days longer and warmer, I have kept the window open. All of the seedlings have done well, and I planted most of them this week. I will be growing tomatoes and gherkins in the greenhouse the entire summer, but I have also planted gherkins outdoors so that I can get an idea of what works for this part of the world and this part of the country.

I planted two different types of string beans this year, as well as two different types of pumpkins. One of my work colleagues is from Italy, and she is trying to get a hold of some seeds from pumpkins that are native to Italy. According to her, they are sweet pumpkins; I hope she will manage to get some seeds for me. Otherwise, I have planted different kinds of flowers this year--grape hyacinths, a peony plant, sweet rocket, sunflowers, hollyhocks, and plants that resemble hollyhocks. Last fall, I also planted two different types of tulips, and they have now bloomed and look lovely.

Here are some photos of the garden as of yesterday. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Two good songs--Hotline Bling and Why Can't We Live Together

I like a lot of Drake's music; Hotline Bling, from 2015 is another favorite. Ok, maybe the video isn't quite my style, but the song is. When I first heard the music, it reminded me of an old song from the 1970s called 'Why Can't We Live Together' by Timmy Thomas. When I explored this further, I found out that Drake sampled Timmy Thomas' song; I also found out that composers Drake and Nineteen85 acknowledged Thomas (who owns the music he wrote) in the credits on Hotline Bling.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Systemic organizational dishonesty

Modern workplaces are often characterized by their runaway bureaucracy and obsessive need for control and micromanagement of employees by the bureaucrats who have been given an immense amount of power. I don’t think it’s ever been as bad as it is now. We work for the bureaucrats, not the other way around. They were once there to serve us in capacities ranging from secretary to administrative assistant to middle-manager to accountant. They were once there to support their organization's important professional activities. Now it is the regular employees who serve the bureaucrats and who use massive amounts of time and effort trying to coddle them and their whims. Another reorganization for the umpteenth time during the past five years? No problem, we’re on it. We’re adjusting, changing, and evolving—all the time, 24/7. We’re flexible and adaptable. Our budgets are non-existent but hey, we’re smiling. We try our best to accommodate the administrative gurus over us in the system—the ones you never get to know until they decide to get to know you. And usually when they notice you, it won’t be a pleasant experience.

The more nameless and faceless bureaucrats there are, the more systemic dishonesty permeates a workplace. It's that nameless and faceless aspect that allows for it and even encourages it. When you know that you can never be taken for your bad behavior, procedures and routines, you help to construct and defend systemic dishonesty. It goes something like this--take a research institute as a typical example. A scientist receives funding from an external foundation for a project that he has designed, written and applied for. He receives said funding from this foundation. He is informed by email and letter that he has received this funding, and he contacts the accounting department to inform them that it needs to set up an account for him so that the money can be transferred from the foundation to this account so that he can use it to buy consumables for his research project. The money from the foundation is transferred into this newly-created account in mid-November. He looks forward to being able to use it once the new fiscal year starts. January arrives, and he starts to buy needed items for his research project. The orders are processed and he receives the items. April arrives and he suddenly receives a rude and aggressive email from the accounting department saying that his account is in the red and that he needs to cover the deficit with other funds (of which there are none because this is one of those scientists that modern workplaces consider to be non-existent and unimportant because they don’t drag in tons of funding). In other words, he owes his institute money. He checks this new account to make sure that he hasn’t overspent, and he hasn’t. He calls the accounting department, and finds out the following. The accounting department did set up an account for this money; but it was an account that couldn't be transferred into 2018, so as of January 1st, the money just 'disappeared'. The account was in other words zeroed out, and there was no way to find out what happened to the money (no possibility to track it). His institute used it for something else and will not inform the scientist what became of the money. Neither the foundation that granted the money nor the scientist whose money was taken from him understands this accounting practice. It is explained to the scientist in glowing terms—that this is something the accounting department must do to balance the budget. Of course the institute hasn’t stolen the money—it just got placed in another account, one that cannot be accessed by the scientist in question. The scientist continues to insist that this is an unethical practice—that this is stealing money from scientists. But the accounting department does not listen, nor does it care. These types of practices are built into an organization, and they facilitate the systemic dishonesty that I am talking about.

Every time a department or departments within an organization explain away bad behavior, unethical routines and processes, mobbing, harassment, and abuse of employees, they further systemic dishonesty. It grows like a vine, insinuating itself into all aspects of an organization. It is defended by the nameless and faceless bureaucrats who are unable to stand up to an unethical system, to call a spade a spade, and to fight to abolish this system. Such a system will destroy those who try to destroy it. That is almost a given.

But this scientist did not back down. He continued to call what the accounting department did, stealing. He told other scientists in his organization about what had happened. They called it stealing too. He threatened to report the entire incident to the foundation that had granted him the money. And then the accounting department woke up. They became alarmed. A rebel in their system. A resister. A potential destroyer of their carefully-built systemic dishonesty. A rabble-rouser who was going to force them to take responsibility, to be accountable for their behavior. That couldn’t be allowed. So they told this scientist that he couldn’t and shouldn’t contact this foundation, that it would have an unfortunate signal effect. They’re true diplomats when they need to be. The scientist replied that unless they gave him back his money, that he would make the report. And within a few hours, the accounting department caved. And suddenly they were pleasant and accommodating to this scientist. Willing to help him in whatever way they could when he needed to order items for his research. The scientist won this round, and systemic dishonesty lost one round. But the latter continues in the form of banal corruption, unethical practices, cushy seminars for administrative leaders, useless leadership courses, and a host of other useless and non-science related activities that don’t benefit ordinary employees in the least.

Systemically dishonest organizations are full of sycophants, liars, cheats, and unethical individuals. Their boardrooms contain cowards, blowhards, aggressors, harassers, and morally-relative individuals. These systemically-dishonest people envy others who are intellectually inspired by their work (because they themselves are not). They envy scientists who believe in putting their research first and themselves second, who believe in something good in this world. Systemically-dishonest people must destroy that which they cannot embrace or understand. They are the moral nihilists of this world.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Those immortal egotists

There are people in society generally who think they’re going to live forever. They don’t acknowledge that they’ve gotten older, or if they do, it’s always got to be at the expense of someone in their vicinity. As in, ‘yes, I know I’m 75 years old, but you’re getting old/older too’. It’s as though they can never accept that they are old and that the world is no longer their oyster. They also cannot accept that the younger generation is replacing them at work, nor do they want to facilitate this process in the slightest. They will be lying on their deathbeds protesting that they still have so much to do, that their work is so important, and that no one can take their place. Never have I heard one of them say that they are satisfied with their long careers and that it’s time to hand the torch to the younger generation. They grudgingly give up their cushy leadership positions, they resent that they cannot get funding past a certain age, and when they are hospitalized for a serious illness (true story for one person I knew, now deceased), they are already making travel plans to hold their next lecture in one or another foreign country. They refuse to acknowledge old age or infirmity. Mortality does not exist.

I am no age discriminator. I am happy for the past-retirement age people I know who are still happily working in my workplace. Most of them have made their peace with their age and their retirement, and work part-time helping out on different research projects where they can contribute with their expertise. Win-win for all involved. The people I’m talking about are the few retirees who think they still rule the roost and that everything revolves around them, their wishes, and their projects and ideas. The egotists, the great immortal scientists, who cannot accept defeat or the fact that the younger scientists are taking their places. If you are one of these people, you will get zero sympathy from me. Why? Because everything is about you, your career (mostly on ice), your 'promising' future, your next research project that’s going to make you a star. You are pissed that the rest of the world doesn’t see how great you are or how much you have to offer. It doesn’t matter that you don’t care about the rules and regulations that have grown up around the practice of science; no, you want to do science, and you want your students to do science, the ‘way you always did it. It worked for me. I don’t care about the rules and regulations, and neither should my students, because I said so.’

I have no problem with a lifelong intellectual interest in science; I see that I will also have it when I am old. But I have a big problem when your unlimited ego interferes with the lives and careers of students who depend on you to be a mature person, to let go of your ego and to put their lives and careers first. But no, the great almighty immortal egotistical scientists cannot do this. They cannot let go, because that would be tantamount to admitting they were old and mortal. They cannot see reason, they cannot be mature, they must throw tantrums when their wishes are hindered, and they must get their way. All in the name of what? What is it they are going to achieve now in their mid-70s? I don’t doubt that their contributions are still worthwhile. I do doubt that their contributions are going to lead to abundant funding for their immortal research projects. I think that the really good scientists in the world are those who can pass the torch to their students and to the younger generation, who are generous with help and praise, and who do not set up roadblocks every step of the way for the students they mentor. These are the non-egotists, and these are the scientists who will be immortalized by history.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Day 7 Favorite novel FB challenge

I remember how much I enjoyed reading Rebecca as a teenager. Daphne du Maurier wrote a classic novel of deception and suspense. As I reflect on some of my favorite novels, I realize that the theme of deception runs through many of them. It's how the main characters deal with being deceived that interested me as a teenager, and still interests me as an adult. I too have experienced deception; I was deceived early in my life by a man who professed to love me. Suffice it to say that I was not the only one he deceived, and that is often the case. Walter Scott said "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive"; how correct he was. Rebecca is a story of misplaced loyalty, of jealousy, of envy, of evil. It may not be the darkest kind of evil, rather a more banal evil, but  nevertheless, it is evil, and the more you learn about Rebecca and her world, the more you understand that she thought nothing of manipulating and controlling those around her, including her husband, Maxim de Winter. I won't spoil the novel for you if you are planning on reading it; I will say that it is absolutely worth reading.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Day 6 Favorite novel FB challenge

Stanislaw Lem's book Solaris blew me away when I first read it. I remember thinking that the author could not have been of this world. He managed something so few other sci-fi writers manage; to write about another world as though he had been there to witness and experience it. It gives you a strange feeling when you read it; you understand in some uncanny way that the author had first-hand knowledge of this other planet. But how could he have? The story gets under your skin and doesn't leave you. I recommend the book, and also the 2002 film Solaris, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. Like the book, the film also got under my skin. I've read the book twice and seen the film several times.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Day 5 Favorite novel FB challenge

What has always amazed me about this book is that a man who never married, wrote it. Henry James wrote a masterpiece about a young independent American woman, Isabel Archer, shackled by marriage to an egotistical and spiteful expat American man (Osmond) who did not love her, and who was involved with another woman (Madame Merle). Both of them conspire to defraud her of her large inheritance. She discovers this, but by the time she can do something about it, she has become attached to Osmond's daughter Pansy, and decides to stay in her dead marriage. James' description of a lifeless marriage, defined by deception, cynicism and infidelity, is spot on, surprisingly, since he himself never married. But he had lifelong friends of both sexes, in Europe and America. I would guess that he spent hours talking to them about many things, among them love and marriage. If you have not read this book, I recommend it highly.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Day 4 Favorite novel FB challenge

I love Jean Rhys' books. They are wistful, sad, and reflective accounts of women's lives lived on the fringes of society. Her female characters don't do what women are supposed to do; they do the opposite, and they pay dearly for it. They are not destitute or homeless, but they are often desperate for male attention and for the money and gifts that men can lavish on them. They don't seem to be able to exist apart from men. Perhaps they are much like Jean Rhys herself, who struggled with alcoholism and an unhealthy dependency on men for most of her life. Wide Sargasso Sea is really a prequel to the novel Jane Eyre; it imagines the life of Mr. Rochester's first wife--the crazy wife from the West Indies who lived locked up in the attic. It tells the story of how she might have gotten there, and in doing so, it makes us empathize with a woman whose life was already over by the time Jane Eyre finally met her.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Day 3 of the favorite novel FB challenge

One of my favorite authors--Ray Bradbury. He was a writer who loved spending time in libraries; he said the following about libraries. “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”

He also said the following about books: “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Because if you stop reading books, you lose your sense of and place in history. 

Anyway, this is one of my all-time favorite novels--expansive, creative, way ahead of its time. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Day 2 of the favorite novel FB challenge

I can recommend both the book and the film (from 1988). Milan Kundera is a wonderful writer; I've read several other books by him, but this is the one I like best.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Facebook's new seven-day challenge--Post the cover of a novel that you love each day

Facebook now has another seven-day challenge: "For seven days, I post the cover of a novel that I love -- no review and no explanation -- and each day that I post, I nominate a friend for the challenge."

I'll be posting my favorites on Facebook and here too for seven days. Here's favorite #1--A Perfect Spy, by John le Carré. A Perfect Spy is really a perfect book; a masterpiece of psychological insight into the life of  double agent Magnus Pym, whose father was a con man and a huge influence on his life. I won't give the story away; I will just say that you won't want to put it down.

And after you read the book, I recommend the BBC TV series of the same name that was first broadcast in 1987:

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Reflections on Sun Tzu's insightful quote about knowing yourself and your enemy

A fan of my book Blindsided--Recognizing and Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Leadership in the Workplace sent me this Sun Tzu quote that he thought I would appreciate, and I do.

"Know yourself and know your enemy.
You will be safe in every battle.
You may know yourself but not know the enemy.
You will then lose one battle for every one you win.
You may not know yourself or the enemy.
You will then lose every battle".

It is one of those little nuggets of wisdom that resonate and stay with you (I am reminded of Randall Terry's quote "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me"). We are required to learn from our mistakes in this life and to protect ourselves by knowing ourselves. But we must also know our enemies if we are to protect ourselves in battle. In this context I am reminded of the quote "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer", often attributed to Sun Tzu, Niccolò Machiavelli or Petrarch. It sounds like something Sun Tzu would say, especially in connection with the above-mentioned quote.

I am learning to keep calm in the face of danger, in the face of those who would wish to knock me down and to prevent me from achieving my goals. I am learning to strategize and to maneuver my way around them at work. They will not stop me any longer. They did earlier, at a time when I respected their viewpoints or took advice from them. But I was not treated well by some of these people, a few of whom sat in leadership positions. I now understand the tactics others use to prevent you from making headway, to defeat you, to disorient you, to demotivate you, and to destroy you. They no longer work on me. Firstly, I am no longer fooled into thinking that all people wish me well. They don't. They may smile and appear friendly, but I have learned to identify the snakes. Secondly, I know myself so much better now; I know my limitations, but I also know that I have a steely resolve that manifests itself as a protective wall. You will meet that wall at some point if you try to stop me from achieving a well thought-out goal. I will look right at you and right through you while you are talking, and it may appear as though I am listening intently to you, but my mind is miles away from what you are saying. Those are the tactics that work for me now. Once you have learned to know the snakes and how they behave, you appreciate your true friends so much more. They are the ones who have your back, who are there for you, who care about you, and who love you. Never confuse work life with personal life; never assume that colleagues are like close friends. Some of them may become good friends, and that is a good thing, but some may not and one should not expect that. One must watch out for those colleagues who are overtly negative or demotivating when they converse with you. One must curtail the egotists who only want to talk about themselves, or who only come into your office to complain; they are the ones who have no time for you when you need advice or help from them. One must also watch out for the gossipers and the time-wasters, as well as the procrastinators (I could write an entire post about procrastinators, and I will very shortly). Their motivations are questionable. They may be leaders or peers; it doesn't matter. They must not be allowed to lead you astray, to push you off course, to demotivate you, to destroy you. Your task in this life is to know yourself and to know them well enough to prevent them from doing that.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

Praise for my Blindsided book

I published the second paperback edition of my book Blindsided--Recognizing and Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Leadership in the Workplace in 2009. Nine years ago! I am still hearing from readers who are fans of my book. It is always heartening to read their words to me. Some tell me that they loved the book; others that it is insightful and interesting. They make me realize that I did a good thing by writing it. I shared disheartening work experiences at a time in my work life that nearly devastated me psychologically. I understand enough about myself to know that writing the book was therapeutic. I re-read parts of it from time to time and realize that many of my insights from that time were spot on. I wrote a good book, an inspired book. It is true what people say--times of sadness and depression can sharpen your insights and understanding. So if pain is good for something, it is good for mental growth. It forces you out of your comfort zone; it forces you to hop out into the unknown. And that is scary as all get-out. But had I not hopped out into the unknown, I would never have gotten the chance to become a writer. I am very glad that I got that chance. And I am very glad for the opportunity to meet my readers, and for the knowledge that I have in some way touched their lives. It's a humbling experience to hear from readers who share their stories with me. I think they feel less alone knowing that someone else has experienced what they have experienced; I know that I certainly feel less alone because they wrote to me. To all my readers--thank you from the bottom of my heart, not only for reading my book but for taking the time to write to me. And for those of you who might want to read the book, here is the link to it on Amazon:

My garden plan for this year

I thought I'd share with you my design plan for this year's garden. I've decided to try growing potatoes, so I've included them in the plan. I will also plant the regulars: corn, pumpkins, snap peas and green beans; I'll have tomatoes in the greenhouse like I did last year, as that worked out quite well. And of course flowers--lots of flowers. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Happy Easter

To celebrate Easter is to celebrate its message of hope, new life, and resurrection. We do not need to be weighed down by the past, but can begin again in the now and with hope for a better future. The death and resurrection of Jesus ensures that we can be reborn. It is never too late to start again, to be renewed, to discover nature, to get in touch with our souls.

(I found this lovely photo on the Country Living website:

Some inspiring Easter quotes

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life. --Janine di Giovanni

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. --Pope John Paul II

A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures. --James E. Faust

Easter is very important to me, it's a second chance. --Reba McEntire

The symbolic language of the crucifixion is the death of the old paradigm; resurrection is a leap into a whole new way of thinking. --Deepak Chopra

I think we need to do some deep soul searching about what's important in our lives and renew our spirit and our spiritual thinking, whether it's through faith-based religion or just through loving nature or helping your fellow man. --Louie Schwartzberg

Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, 'Christ is risen,' but 'I shall rise.' --Phillips Brooks

God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything. --Bede Griffiths

Remember Jesus of Nazareth, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of the defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God. --Frederick Buechner

If anyone or anything tries to curse or kill the Goodness at the Center of all things, it will just keep coming back to life. Forever Easter.” --David Housholder

It would behoove us to remember that the life we live involves the death of something so that it can become the birth of something. --Craig D Lounsbrough