Category Archives: work

Signs of stress

I can always tell my level of work stress. All I have to do is look at my fingernails and cuticles. The more stress, the more chewed up are my nails and nail beds.

I have been an inveterate nail chewer since early childhood. I decided when I was very young that I hated my mother clipping my nails, and I started chewing them off. It is sort of like our cats, who hate nail trims (Don’t squeeze my paws!) I think it might have been a sensory issue for me, too, because I am only comfortable with the shortest of fingernails and toe nails.

I was appaled last week to read about the woman with the world’s longest nails. She finally got them cut when their collective length was something like 28 feet. I can’t imagine how a person could even function.

I haven’t bought nail polish for decades. I have no interest in stopping my nail chewing, but I am interested in stress reduction. I have three more years to get through for my job, and I need to be a good role model for positive coping.

How can you tell you are under stress. What is stressing you these days? What do you do to de-stress and relax?

Contain Yourself!

Photo Credit:  Bored Panda

After a request for photos yesterday, I thought I’d expand a bit on the wild dog story.

My first trip to South Africa was with a client who wasn’t crazy about working with my company.  Her previous company had just gone through a merger and she inherited the job of overseeing the travel programs.  We were already contracted for two programs when she came onboard so even though she had contacts in another incentive house, she couldn’t change suppliers at that point.  She was professional about this but she never seemed happy or excited.  Now it’s completely plausible that she just wasn’t a person who like to emote but we’ll never know.

We had a large group, bigger than any one safari camp could hold, so we needed to check out three different camps and decide which winners would go in each.  That meant that we had to stay in each of the three camps, one camp each night.  Boo hoo. These were luxury camps with incredibly nice rooms (all three camps had gorgeous indoor bathrooms and great outdoor showers), amazing food and, of course, the safari runs.  You got up very early for the first safari run of the day (think 4 a.m. early) – heavy “snacks” before you left then a massive breakfast when you got back 3 hours later.  Then a late afternoon safari, getting back in the dark for a huge “boma” dinner.  And you’re in Africa all this time.  Amazing.

It was all I could do to contain myself during the trip.  (Actually I can hardly contain myself on any of my trips.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve gone on a site inspection that hasn’t been wonderful.) My client was the opposite; she was doing her job by being there but she couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.  It wasn’t surprising when she bailed on the last safari run of the trip.  When the driver and guide came to pick up the Account Exec and me, they told us that they’d heard from other guides on the radio that there might be wild dogs up near “the cut line” (this is the edge of each camp’s territory.  Guides are not allowed to take their charges into another camp’s territory).  They said if we wanted to try to find the wild dogs, it would take a bit and we’d have to head straight there.  The Account Exec and I immediately agreed.  As we were driving up, we both acknowledged that if the client had been with us, she would not have wanted to do this.

Well thank goodness she didn’t come.  The wild dog pack was indeed on our side of the cut line and it was amazing.  They weren’t too worried about us so we were able to observe them for almost 2 hours.  There were a lot of puppies and they were very cute.  It was a defining moment during the trip, a trip with many unbelievable moments.  The photo above is not mine (long story about where those photos are currently stored) but it is very similar to some of the photos I took that day, especially when the dogs and pups came a little closer to the jeep. The puppies are much cuter than you would think, with huge ears and puppy faces.

Even now, after almost 20 years, I feel sorry for that client.  I hope she enjoyed South Africa, even if she didn’t show it.

What makes it hard for you to contain YOUR enthusiasm?

Being in the Right place

Last week as I was struggling with my usual insomnia, I started to do a room  by room inventory in my mind, visualizing each part of the house and deciding what furniture we would take with us when we moved, and what we would discard. I haven’t done that before, and I have no idea why I did it last week.  We have no firm moving date.  It could be as long as  five years  before we  leave here.   Doing that inventory sure didn’t help my sleep, since I got increasingly anxious about all the stuff we have, and how we could possibly move it.  The next day we got a New Yorker and wouldn’t you know, there was an article about a woman who decided that  her possessions were too burdensome and  her actions to get rid of the unnecessary.  I believe that both these incidents were signs from the Cosmos to sit up and pay attention and prepare for action. 

Husband and I had a discussion the other day about our tenure out here, and how we seem have been in the right place at the right time for us and for the communities we have worked with/for.  We both felt, though, that it was time for us to seriously think about that time ending.  Husband had just returned from doing some expert witness testimony for the Tribal Court in New Town,  his first time on the Reservation since March, 2020.  He felt good about his testimony, but decided that he really didn’t want to make that 100 mile journey any more.   I talked about how useful and needed I still felt at my agency, but how exhausting it was getting for me. Both of us are sick to death of the constant attention in the state to extraction industries like oil and coal.  The isolation from family is feeling keener.  

We have lived here for 34 years.  Given our family health history, we could both live another 30 years, and I really don’t want to spend all those years here.  I think I am going to start getting rid of the unnecessary stuff in the basement.   We may not move for several years, but I want to be ready.

When have you been in the right place at the right time?  How did you know? When did you know it was time to go somewhere else?  

Hometown Fame

I was never so proud to be from Luverne, MN when it was chosen to be featured in The War documentary.  Luverne wasn’t famous for much of anything before that, except for being where Fred Manfred lived, and for its marching band festival.  It really boosted the town and seemed to make the residents more cohesive somehow

Recently,  two North Dakota towns have been highlighted in the media-Minot in a Feb. 15-22 New Yorker article by Atul Gawande , and Williston in the book The Good Hand (2021) by Michael Patrick F. Smith. Gawande is a surgeon and public health researcher who was part of  the Biden Transition Advisory Board for COVID 19.  He wrote about the struggle in Minot city council over a mask mandate, and all the the antimask rhetoric and hysteria that swept through the community, a community that was severely impacted by the virus.

Smith’s book highlights what it was like to work in Williston during the oil boom, and what he writes about is pretty awful.  He is a a folksinger, actor, and playwright who left Brooklyn  to experience life on the rigs. Much of the book is about his own self discovery, but I don’t think many people would want to move to Williston after reading the book. I wonder what folks in Williston and Minot are thinking about all the publicity.

What is your hometown famous for? What would you write about in a book or article about your hometown or places you have called home?

Buzz Words?

Going back to work hasn’t been as traumatic as I was worried it would be.  The new software isn’t as daunting as I anticipated, although I shake my head that we’ve made things so complicated in trying to make them easier.  The steps to set up your various screens so you can “share” during an online presentation make my head hurt – luckily I don’t see that I will have to personally worry about this for quite some time. 

There is a new phrase that I’m hearing a lot since I came back (a whooping three weeks) … “socializing the idea”.  I don’t know if this is a Corporate America thing or just my company but I’ve heard at least 4 people use the phrase in various meetings/calls.  It basically means floating an idea by someone (usually a client) in a casual way.  As if you’re softening someone up to an idea before hitting on it hard.  The first time I heard it, I knew immediately what it meant – not sure if I’ve just been in the business-speak world too long or it’s a great phrase that needed inventing. 

But now that I’ve heard it four times, it’s beginning to grate a bit, so I’m wondering if this is just the new catch phrase of the month and it will be gone by fall.  There are so many buzz words in the business world that have disappeared off the horizon.  I haven’t heard anybody talk about paradigms recently and nobody seems to say “think outside the box” anymore.  Of course, “collaborate” is still going strong despite my prayers every night that it fly right off the world’s radar screen.

What words or phrases would you like to be retired?  Or kept on but at only 20 hours a week?


I have an enormous U-shaped desk in my office. It is far too fancy for me, but it is what they thought I needed when we moved to our new building in July.

I am a messy person who knows where any and all the  documents  are  in the piles on my desk. Please don’t make me clean up. It ruins my organizational strategy.  The larger my desk, the more and bigger the paper piles on it.

In one corner of my desk I have the collection of figures you see in the header photo. I got the Freud bobble head from my son. The red puppet I got in Bremen Schnoor district. He reminds me of Tyll Ulenspiegel. The vampire tomtens I got from my daughter.  I have no idea where the Viking came from. I have no idea what people think about  them, or what they think about me when they see them.  I sort of wish people would ask.

What did or does your work desk look like? How did you make your desk reflect you who you are?



I will admit that while I was on furlough, I spent way too much time surfing on my phone (wow… talk about a phrase that would have made no sense 20 years ago!)   Lots of stamping sites, Vlogbrothers and Mark Rober YouTubes, too many dance compilations to the song Uptown Funk and of course The Trail.  This led to what I consider massive numbers of wasted hours as well as monies spent that could have gone to better purposes.

One of these purchases happened two weeks ago, after I knew I would be heading back into Corporate America part time.  It’s a Conference Call Bingo mousepad.  If you’ve spent any time on zoom or other online calls the past year, you’ll probably recognize some of the squares:  “Can everyone see my screen?”  “Can you repeat that?”  “I have to jump on another call.”  I laughed out loud when I saw it online.  It arrived over the weekend and I’ve had several chances to use it already.  I’ve been using paperclips as “the dauber”.   No bingo yet, but I’ve come pretty close a couple of times.

When was the last time you played Bingo?

Workplace Safety

My agency moved to a new building this summer.  We have adjusted to the new space,  and have worked on getting basic things like heating and cooling adjusted. One new feature of our  building is the electronic security.

All the waiting rooms in the new building are separated from the offices by doors that can only be opened electronically by staff who have special fobs that allow entry into  the labyrinth of offices beyond them.  Sometimes the electronic doors work.  Sometimes they don’t. They refuse to open for about 30 minutes each day.   The doors that won’t open vary.  It is intermittent.  It happens daily. No one can figure it out. When it happens, we have to take circuitous routes through other doors so we can get to our offices.

One consistent problem is static. Because of all the locked doors and their metal openers, we employees get repetitive shocks every time we walk down the carpeted halls and touch the metal door mechanisms  to open them.   The shocks are painful. I suppose the low humidity in the building accounts for this, but it sure is annoying.  I have to ground my body by touching the wooden door, and the then touching the metal opener. Sometimes I am in a hurry and I forget. Then I get a shock.  It is tiresome.

Tell about some “interesting ” work environments you have had.

Back To The Mine

The unbelievable has happened.  After several months of furlough, my company has asked me to come back half-time.  20 hours a week.  Half of my regular salary and health-care.

I have to admit – it never occurred to me that I would come out of all this with a job.  I have been assuming that I would get the call any minute that I would be officially laid off.  My company was extremely generous to keep me on furlough despite how devastated the travel industry continues to be but I just didn’t think it could continue indefinitely. 

What this means is that I have completely given myself over to the idea that I am done with work, despite the fact that I certainly haven’t gotten the hang of retirement.  Even after all these months, I tend to beat myself up for “wasting” time when I don’t get enough done during a day, even when I don’t actually have anything that needs doing.  The house is cleaner that it has been in years, cooking is happening, crafts are being done, animals are happy but this is not taking up massive amounts of time.

I accepted the work offer (if I hadn’t, then I WOULD have been laid off at the end of March) and I “start” on Monday.  Of course, I don’t get my new equipment until Tuesday morning, so my 20 hours won’t really start until then.  Several of my previous programs have re-scheduled or are in the process so there is actual work to be done, just not sure how much time it will take.  Work will still be done from home – our company has officially closed its offices until June and I will stay home until the pandemic has passed.  So my “lady of leisure” phase has passed but at least it’s for a job I like.  For now.

What job would you REALLY not like to do?

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

The only South Dakota news I noticed Saturday in the Fargo Forum was an article about a woman cracking open an egg that had four yolks.  Well, it is  1 in 11,000,000,000 occurrence, but I still imagine there is a lot more going on South Dakota than that. Plus, it is such a stereotypically Midwestern, rural story.

I have become a real news junkie over the past four years, mainly out of anxiety.  I do so look forward to the future when news might become more dull.

What sort of beat would you want to cover if you were a reporter?  What print media do you like to read?