One day short of my 8th anniversary, I was laid off. I find myself feeling relieved. There were seven good years, and after the stress of the last year or so, I am grateful for the chance to regroup and start again. It was past time for me to move on, and this works.
It has been almost a month, and my mojo is returning. I’m catching up on all the things that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do over the last year. My hair and nails are getting healthier, and my dentist is making progress against the acceleration of gum disease. I am even getting poised to attack the “my brand” tasks (very uncomfortable for someone like me).
I have not yet decided the exact direction to take going forward, but am inclined to try something different. I could start my own business. I could turn a heap of text with rather bad dialogue into a real comedy novel. I could move into a different industry, or try a different role. When I think back about what I loved best about working at my old company, it was really about meeting a wide range of people who were able to rally around some core values in order to achieve something. I would like to find that again, but perhaps in a completely different context.
This is just a kind of landmark post, but I intend to blog again soon, if only to get back into the habit of writing. It doesn’t flow the way it used to, and the solution for that is always the same: write more.
For now, just feeling grateful for the privileges:
a little wriggle room to refocus
a clear, clean conscience
decluttering the home office
sleeping in a little, reading more, family time
“spring ahead Monday” at home!
the feeling of anticipation toward what lies beyond this new turn in the path
Sherlock Mentat Spock Fun – Calling for Quick Responses by 3 PM January 5th
Thanks to everyone that participated! I meant to post the solution to the puzzle, and… as soon as it makes sense to me, I’ll do so. 🙂 /Heidi
Be Sherlock, or Spock, or a mentat, and give this a try. Deadline: 3 p.m. January 5th, 2016
My friends, I ask if you would please look at the image below, and send ANY theories, observations, notes, information gathered or puzzle answer guesses – with your name and birthyear, to email@example.com. My young project manager at home has come up against the deadline for the science project without having implemented an effective communications plan. I am the official escalation point and have made a decision to allocate additional resources. My social media will be used, since he’s too young to have much of any.
Clear Channel takes down voter fraud billboards – The anonymous sponsor of the ads is still unknown. Clear Channel Outdoor is affiliated with Clear Channel Communications, which is majority-owned by private equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.
To understand the depth of my grief for the loss of my friend Art Schoeck, you’d have to know something about the context.
In 1991, I had applied to the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University, and moved from Iowa City to Atlanta without knowing whether or not I was accepted. I had intended to get my Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, but had taken a Masters degree and left when I wasn’t able to pursue my work in interdisciplinary studies in comparative religion. The Department of Religion was too conventional. The best I could do was to get a background in philosophical theology and contextual ethics. It was a valuable grounding, but I needed to pull imagination back into the picture. Religious studies was pastoral, bible-based, or… archaeological, not at all interested in the imaginative or speculative spirit. Literary studies was allergic to religion too, and I wanted to look at cultural productions – poetry, literature, art, music, film – in terms of truly human spiritual themes. It was difficult then. Perhaps it’s impossible now.
When I arrived in Atlanta, I didn’t have much. I got an apartment, and looked for some way to earn my rent while waiting to hear from the Emory program. I worked for a short time at a shop called Coffee Plantation – this was before Starbucks and other coffee shops had really taken hold. It was within walking distance of my apartment but within a week or two I was reassigned to a location in North Atlanta, and the manager… well, that’s another story. The appearance of Robert Roffwarg on his coffee run was always a bright spot in my day because he had a wonderful sense of humor. We got to talking here and there, and one day (after a particularly witty exchange) he suggested that he wanted to introduce me to a friend of his who might have a better job for me: Art Schoeck. So much followed that pivotal moment of humor and sympatico. Among other things, Robert married his love Georgine years later – in Art’s back yard.
I had the address in my hand, but I wasn’t sure it was the right place. It was just a house, not too far from my apartment and Emory. I wondered if this was a mistake, but I went in anyway. I really didn’t like the job I had. A small business could be run from someone’s house. I guess. Robert didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would set me up for a bad situation, but you never know. If there was something shady about it, I’d just hightail it out of there, that’s all.
Art ushered me in, and said that I needed to take a behavioral style profile before we talked about what kind of job he might have. I had never heard of that before, but I enjoy taking tests, so it actually put me at ease. When he got the results, he was elated. “We can work to raise your D for the context,” he said, “but your I is just right. Low S – good, we need innovation and a quick pace. You’re trying to raise your S. You don’t need to do that here. C above the line. You’ll follow the rules – as long as you agree with them.” He went on to give an animated presentation of my strengths and weaknesses, the best ways to communicate with me and things to avoid, how I would likely react to stress. “Look here – the cat’s claw – don’t back YOU into a corner.” He laughed, and told me that he needed an employee part-time to start maturing the business. He had a box of invoices, post-it tabs marking the ones that were still unpaid. He was a corporate consultant, a troubleshooter on team-building, executive coaching, sales strategies.
During my first week, I met my first co-worker, Elaine Fuerst, a charming woman with a background in marketing (and who was the only one to offer a decent toast at my wedding years later). She showed me the introductory sales letter templates they had begun developing, and the materials to mail to prospective clients. In those days, it was quite a pile of paper. The DISC packet, the graph, a pricing list for diskettes, and so on. It seems centuries ago now. Frank Sproule was Art’s original mentor in DISC, and Victor Paul was onboard as a salesman. Howie Lichtman, that big luvable lunk, was Art’s friend, and worked for him in a side business of color business cards and magnets.
I did get accepted to the program at Emory, but I didn’t stop working at Data Dome, Inc. I worked for Art on and off for many years. He offered a very generous wage for part-time employment, and he was flexible about hours, as long as someone was there to answer the phone. He valued my particular mix of creativity and practicality, and I always needed more cash than what my student loan could provide. Besides, it’s always good to keep something very concrete in your life so that theoretical study doesn’t disconnect you from society and your reality on the ground. The flexibility was great for me – my life was ever changeable. When I went to live in Paris for a year, my job was waiting for me when I got back. When I had my son, the same. If I needed more hours, I’d focus on a new initiative, but I’d always leave everything easy to run for when I was there less often. If I had been interested in sales, I probably could have had a career doing that, but didn’t want to encourage any ugliness from any part of my previous Jehovah’s Witness evangelism that might still be lurking in my psyche. So instead, we worked to build a business profile and a support system that could support his growing client base.
When an economic recession hit Massachusetts, I encouraged my younger brother to move to Atlanta to finish his college degree. He was good with computers, and he worked for Art too – setting up the home network, updating it, creating an invoicing system that could run on Microsoft Access, advising on the purchasing of additional workstations, and so on.
Eventually, we moved from diskettes to online profiling, from mailing piles of paper to websites and digital publications. I wrote manuals, provided technical support, designed a web site, wrote press releases, and eventually mentored clients in their DISC certification (teaching is not selling). We enlarged the product base, so there was oral drug testing and 360-degree evaluations and integrity tests and skills assessments and values rankings, and a range of workshops and seminars.
He redesigned his house and yard – it was in Better Homes and Gardens – and I loved to play with their dogs and walk in the backyard, with its beautiful ponds and walkways. His wife Calland is an amazing interior designer, on top of all her other talents, so it was a great space to work in. It really is extraordinary what they did with that house and property. Art’s home was his castle. Calland was a gracious presence and I liked spending time with her too (not to mention that she always found some beautiful piece of clothing or jewelry for them to give me on my birthday). The atmosphere at work was either playful and low-key or very intense and focused – the interplay was perfect for my bursty style of working. I never stopped learning new things, and never ran out of challenges. I was always meeting new people, and I really enjoyed the environment and the people. Over time, Art and Calland became part of my family. Everyone came to my wedding.
Art was always very generous – with one caveat. Everything always had to be completely honest and aboveboard. If he got the feeling that someone was yanking his chain or trying to cheat him, he would become very angry and legalistic. I can still hear him saying “Just to let you know, I’m recording this conversation” to some poor soul on the telephone. He was a loyal and honest friend and a formidable opponent. He taught me a lot even in that. I was a bit naive – but through his example I learned to document everything. You never know. And sometimes you do know. There have been times when such documentation saved my husband and me from a lot of grief. I learned to ask a lot more questions, and to debate things when they didn’t seem quite right.
I continued to resist sales, but because I handled such a wide range of creative and technical projects, I got great experience in everything from PR to marketing to technical writing to customer support to graphic design to html to content management systems to accounting. I could run a small business very effectively, I think, just because of what I learned working there. When we expanded, he hired the lovely Sandy Stigall to handle most of the non-sales client contact as well as the billing. I was very happy to train her to do just that so that I could focus on creating the business image and start learning about SEO strategies, online sales and marketing, and communication strategies. I set up the blog. We did some link-building. And we got good recommendations. Before too long, it became a very successful business.
The heart of the enterprise was his work. He had a deep understanding of how to really get benefit from these assessments, and testimonial after testimonial showed the extent of demonstrable value. And he loved it. He loved it. To listen in at the edges of an executive coaching call, or a mediation between conflicting personalities, or a consultation on using DISC to tailor sales to the style of the prospect taught me a million little things that I could never adequately relate. All I can say is – it sure gave me a lot more than my minor in Psych!
Art was a real personality, with charisma, and he mentored me. He forced me to talk to CEOs and VPs and Sales Directors until I was no longer intimidated by them. Because of him, I never was intimidated by anyone again, and I never hesitated to speak because of some misplaced notion of social position. He worked with me on my perennial frustration issue when dealing with difficult people, and would remind me that I already had the strategies if I just stopped to think about it. He was always right about that.
Eventually, I had to move on. By the time I finished my Ph.D., I had some debt. That debt had, shockingly, been accruing interest the whole time I was in graduate school. The situation was ugly, and I had to start paying. I also needed more benefits, especially in terms of retirement. My brother had finished his degree, and was in something like his third or fourth corporate job at the time. He returned the favor, and told me about a job that I could easily qualify for, and I got it. Such was my farewell to the world of consulting, and my entrance into the corporate environment.
I created a huge manual on how to do everything I was doing before I left. I did it more efficiently and accurately than anything I’d done before, I think. That exercise alone taught me useful skills in organization and priorities. I didn’t have much time, and I wanted him to be able to refer to something that would address any question I could think of that he might have. If I had only had that kind of motivation for my dissertation, I would have been done with it years sooner than I was.
One thing about Art was that he loved music. He played the church organ when he was a kid – raw talent – and his ear for it outlasted his tolerance of the world of organized religion. Sometimes when he was in the right mood, he’d disappear into the house (by this time, the garage had been converted into a two-story office of impeccable design and lots of glass) and play the piano. He had a special speaker system installed throughout the house and sometimes he’d play music over that. And yet – if a client was calling, he’d drop everything to focus on that. Art found a conceptual artist and writer – David Cohen – to help him with his book, the web site and the blog. I really like his work – maybe there’s enough to finish the book. More recently, he also found the talented Lisa Bouchard to help out with sales and training. Sandy is still there – the anchor – and being the anchor right now too, I think.
We talked often about a wide range of topics – religion, politics, relationships, experiences. He was a true friend. He always made me feel very special, and his confidence in me never flagged, no matter what. Our interactions became part of my existence – part uncle, part older brother, part buddy. I always enjoyed his company. We’d meet every once in a while for lunch and it was just like old times.
Over the last year or so, he’d had serious health challenges. He fought like a tiger, exercising in the hospital hallways, calling clients from his bedside. He never quit, and I hoped he’d win over it.
He wanted movies. I sent the last Star Trek movie, Fellini’s 8-1/2, Stealing Beauty, Sherlock Holmes. I know that he saw the Star Trek movie – I don’t know about the others.
I meant to go and see him again recently, but his immune system was compromised – he’d been through so much with treatment. Whenever it was good for him to see me, I was worried about a cold or something that I or someone at home had, and I didn’t want to endanger him. The last few times we talked on the phone, he sounded unlike himself. The personality was strong, but the voice was weak. We ran out of time.
Howie contacted me earlier today. Art died, in the midst of a clinical trial, after having tried several other treatment options. Something went wrong, I guess, or maybe his body just gave up. I don’t know. I’ve talked with a few more people – my brother, Sandy, Robert, David. I hope we’ll all get together again to remember him.
Chastain Park in Atlanta is a perfect venue to see any concert, and I’ve never had a bad experience there. Of course, the concert experience is almost unrecognizable from my early years. On the positive side, it’s a scene that engenders no hesitation whatsoever about allowing children to participate. On the negative side, it’s become completely sanitized. Clothing is casual without being at all transgressive. Concessions are outrageously expensive. It’s a serious hike up to the one small area where smoking – of cigarettes – is still allowed. Next they’ll ban drinking. People in line were being told that their tables and lawn chairs didn’t meet the new measurement rules…
But live music is live music and it was a hot summer night in Atlanta. The small outdoor arena swarmed with fireflies, and the mood was hopeful. As you might expect, the Monkees drew an audience of young and old alike, but heavy on fairly well-preserved couples in their 40’s to 60’s. We stood in line with a dreamy-eyed woman in her early 40’s, escorting her two young daughters. Right next to us was a Garcia-looking dad with a Wiccan-looking wife, who had brought their enthusiastic daughter, a rare happy Goth. To one side, a small group of middle-aged women dressed young danced in moves reminiscent of the early 60’s.
At one point, John and I were doing the Twist. It wasn’t John Travolta and Uma Thurman, but it wasn’t bad (grin).
I wondered why only three of the Monkees were touring – what happened to the fourth? No need, with all that moolah from his mom’s invention of Liquid Paper? Were they going to be able to this pull it off? They had to be in their mid-sixties, and they hadn’t toured in at least a decade. I hadn’t realized that this was the first date of the tour, and I suspected that it was probably going to take them a few concerts to get back into the swing. Still – I love the Monkees, and they didn’t have to do much to meet my expectation bar.
I just wanted to get a good look at them, and hear my favorite songs: “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone), “She,” “Listen to the Band,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Valleri,” “Words,” “You Just May Be the One,” and “Daydream Believer.” I was also hoping they would still have that goofy feel. Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork each have characteristics that I enjoy, and even without Michael Nesmith rounding out the resonant quaternary, I was hoping that it would be campy and light. The trinity, like all trinities, was unstable, but they could have compensated with some better comedy. The things they did – such as the “intervention” when Micky wouldn’t stop playing the drums – weren’t in that off-hand style that made them adorable. It’s unlikely that it was a mistake when they said “hello” to Detroit instead of Atlanta, but it went flat. Things that might seem cute and endearing when you’re young end up sounding a bit odd later. I kept thinking of that somewhat ‘off’ optimism that one sees in people like William Shatner or Ringo Starr. It didn’t help that Davy Jones is starting to look a little like Tom Jones. There was a kind of sad dreariness to it, but that’s all superficial. I was there for the happy feeling that their music gives me.
This was Ben’s first concert, and he wasn’t pleased when the concert didn’t start at 8 as advertised, but I explained that you just never know with concerts…
A big screen was up the whole time showing bits of the show, and various other video. At first I felt really happy to see these clips. At first. Then I started noticing things. There were more issues about multitudes of girls, and the evident difficulty of choosing among them, than in “Fellini’s 8-1/2.” Girls mooning, girls chasing them, girls dancing for them (even what looked like an actual harem), girls with animated shiny stars in their eyes. Even the actress that played Cat Woman on “Batman” was there! A paternalistic idealization and objectification of women, ran alongside with an undercurrent of resentment. Well, I suppose that went with the time; the show aired from 1966 to 1968. I was only a little kid and must just have seen them in reruns. I also hadn’t remembered the incorporation of advertising into the show itself. I do prefer the Monkees to that horrible Cool Aid pitcher monster, and Kellogg’s cereals must have been a better choice than some others, but it was odd.
“Valleri” was perfect, and it got the best response from the audience, too.
They used “Listen to the Band” to introduce everyone that was playing for them, and that was well-done too.
There were a couple of good songs that I hadn’t known before, and there was a special treat. I didn’t know that “Different Drum” was written by Mike Nesmith for Linda Ronstadt! I wish that I had caught the name of the woman who sang it at the concert. She was fantastic!!! Older, heavy-built, with a perfect delivery that somehow made more sense coming from an older, experienced woman. She only sang the one song, but I wished she would have done more. Please comment with her name if you have it!
Everyone knows that the Monkees were a made-up band, but they did sing some great songs. What I didn’t know was that they had some really bad songs, too. They played too many of them. Things turned bad after the intermission, and there was a run of songs that were truly tedious.
I kept waiting for Micky to remember how to use a microphone. He has a lot of style, but there is wide variation in his voice. When he was belting things out, he held the mike too close, and when he went softer, he held it too far away. Whoever was mixing needs to be told to let the voices blend more – and take advantage of the harmonies. None of these are solo singers – they work better together. The voice mikes were drowning out the band, and it was increasingly unpleasant on the sinuses. People were holding their foreheads like Felix Unger. Not since I heard Flock of Seagulls at a beach concert had I heard such bad mixing. If they would have just fixed that, we would have waited for the last part of the set.
Ben said he couldn’t take it any more, and John and I had to agree. So I don’t know if they performed the songs I was really longing to hear: “(I’m Not Your) Not Your Steppin’ Stone,” “She” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” I didn’t know if they were even going to sing them, and it wasn’t much fun anymore.
So I picked up my tee-shirt, and followed my menfolk to the car. Maybe I’ll go ahead and pick up a copy of the movie Head. I never saw it, and I’ll bet it would seem even more surreal now. Jack Nicholson? Terri Garr?
Nine years ago today, I kissed Death. Death let me go.
Ectopic Pregnancy Loss and Musings on Mythology
John and I were expecting our second child to be born on September 11, 2002. Since my first pregnancy had been normal, I was not scheduled to go to my first appointment until I was more than 8 weeks along. The Sunday before the appointment, something went very wrong.
On February 3rd, 2002, I lost the baby, and nearly lost my life. I started to feel lightheaded and crampy in the late morning. I took a bath, and fainted when I tried to get out of the bathtub. My husband found me doing a wet and naked army crawl toward the bedroom. After I had vomited and lost consciousness twice, my husband spoke to a triage nurse at my ob-gyn practice. Unfortunately, she did not recognize the classic symptoms or timing of an ectopic pregnancy. She thought at first that it was morning sickness, then that I was having a normal miscarriage. The ectopic pregnancy was in my right fallopian tube, which ruptured. I suffered massive internal bleeding, not unlike a burst appendix.
The pain was incredible. I could not lift my head or move from one position without losing consciousness. I thought that perhaps I had cracked all my ribs when I lost consciousness. I stayed home several hours too long, but finally we called for an ambulance.
It was extremely difficult to move me into the ambulance, and they spent almost 45 minutes sitting in the driveway for no apparent reason. However, once we got to the hospital, I got a quick ultrasound and was in the operating room within minutes. As I started to go under, I heard a bit of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” in my mind.
I am told by my surgeon (A. Lovelady!!) that I got to the hospital just in the nick of time. After emergency surgery and a massive blood transfusion, my life was saved. If I had still been a Jehovah’s Witness, I would have refused the transfusion and would have died.
I don’t know whether the baby would have been a boy or a girl. Any of you who believe that this tiny fetus might have a continued existence on another plane somewhere, please continue to wing your good thoughts toward my lost one. My feelings about the matter are conflicted. I would like to believe in the images represented by many of the pregnancy loss sites – of a heaven where my baby is an angel welcomed and cherished by Jesus and God. But I don’t really believe this very comforting image. On one side, the expectation of the outcome of pregnancy is a living child – and I feel the loss of that child that will never be. On the other side, we don’t mourn the loss of the unfertilized egg every month, and I do not believe an 8-week-old fetus is yet a person. I am pro-choice, but if I had to decide whether or not to abort, I would deeply prefer not to do it. I simply don’t believe that it is a decision that should be regulated by healthcare systems or the government.
It turns out that despite all the rhetoric of the pro-life movement and all the references to God, there is no official spiritual status for an unborn. There is no ritual, no ceremony, not even a prayer. I called on other resources, and my friend Pat bent the rules a little to comfort me. Thanks, Pat, for the recommendation, respectfully borrowed from the traditional Nez Perce.
A very tiny little snowbird represents our baby’s guardian spirit. Birds represent the spirit in several world mythologies (including Christianity). Snowbird is a common name for two species of birds, the junco (here the dark-eyed Oregon junco) and the plectrophenax. Snowbirds are strong enough to survive terrible winters. They are plentiful in number and in kind, bringing cheer to the most severe landscape.
This image comforts me, in the sense of Joseph Campbell’s’ definition of myth – a set of images and narratives that help us to feel a sense of meaning and place. We have no functional mythologies for the loss of a pregnancy.
“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations.” ~ Joseph Campbell
I do know that there was no way to save this pregnancy. Whether God was involved or not, this baby was simply not destined to become a living child. There is nothing anyone could have done to allow the baby to continue to grow and thrive. We are mourning the loss of the child who would-have-been, but are also grateful that our living child (born in 2000) still has a mother. I have never completely worked through the grief of losing this child-to-be. I am deeply touched by the love and care of friends and family, and I am deeply grateful for my own life. There have been moments of deep sadness. A month after the surgery, when I went for a post-op appointment, I had to fill in a form. When I wrote “2 pregnancies, 1 child” on the form, I felt the first real deep pangs of pain.
A year later, I lost another pregnancy – perhaps because my husband and I are Rh-incompatible. It’s possible that the loss of this baby prevented us from ever bringing another to term. There was so much blood – the shot of Rhogam might not have worked.
There is one saving feature of this whole experience in that by putting our story up on my site, I might have helped to save other lives. I received several emails from women who got to the hospital in time, thanks to a search that found my site before there were many other resources on this topic.
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic (lit. “out of place”) pregnancy occurs when the embryo never makes it to the uterus and starts to develop in the fallopian tube. Sometimes the embryo can even develop on the ovary or in the abdomen; in this case, it’s known as an abdominal pregnancy.
If an ectopic pregnancy goes undetected, it strains the tube, which isn’t designed to expand. Then, 6-8 weeks after conception, the embryo will cause severe abdominal pain. Common symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are sharp abdominal cramps or pains on one side. Neck pains and shoulder pains are also common.
Ectopic pregnancies are very dangerous. If the tube ruptures (which mine did), there could be severe internal bleeding, which is a critical life-threatening situation. (For those of you with a medical background, I could barely breathe by the time I got to the hospital, and they irrigated me for 25 minutes once they had me open.)
Once the ectopic pregnancy is confirmed, emergency surgery and a skilled surgeon is required. This is delicate surgery. If the fallopian tube cannot be saved, it will be removed.
Some people consider those who have had to have surgery in this situation to have “decided to have an abortion” and feel free to judge them. I can only hope that this view is based more in ignorance than in disregard for a woman’s life.
Ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death.