Monday, November 23, 2009

I heard a rustling by the bird the Kitchen Window

You can imagine my surprise - this bird feeder has been raided by squirrels but never at night - what could it be?
Do you think I should let the dogs out now???? No way - poor little Kaylee would be toast.

Something is Amuck with Meghan

Meghan is our wildcat. That's right, we have a wild kitty living in the house with us. One day, in 1996 - we found out that a neighbor was planning to trap a family of cats that has moved under his shed. His plan was to send in his two pitbulls to make short work of them. So, Guy and I sprang into action.
We borrowed some live traps and captured a Momma Kitty and 2 Babies. The Momma kitty was too wild to keep as a pet, she clawed and bit. But her 10 week old babies - Guy and I decided to keep. They were named Meghan and Rachel.
Now Meggie is 13 and losing weight - she never socialized properly and is a bit wild so her days may be numbered. She isn't a cat that can handle medical care - poor girl. Even though we never got to touch her or cuddle her - she was a great member of our pride.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It was dark by 4:30 today - yikes

The darkest days of the year are approaching. Dusk by 3:50 and dark by 4pm is not unusual for this time of year in this northern place. It's a time of cocooning and trying not to eat too much. My summer clothes are packed away and the warm, woolen ones are out. Heavy socks and non-skid shoes replaced my carefree sandals about six weeks ago.

So far so good, this winter - no 2ft snowstorms too early in the season - we can still get around well in the dark. We've had a few flurries but no permanent snow on the roads or the ground yet. It's really December, January and February that are the toughest travel months in Minnesota. Depending on the year either November and March can be rough too but so far so good for 2009.

We lost all the leaves on the trees about a month ago - "brown stick weather" is what I used to call this time of year when I was a kid. It's blustery, windy and dark but not cold and snowy yet.

It won't be long now until the snow flies. The saving grace of snow is that it is heavenly reflective. Once the snow is permanently down on the ground - winter really takes off and the sun beams and bounces light all around us- the nights are bright with snowglint on moonglow. Even though the darkest days of winter are yet to come, our snow lets us cheat those dark days by turning Minnesota's "snowlight on".

But...snow has it's challenges so there is no rush. There is slop and glop to mop up. Slippery roads and snow shoveling so there is a burden to all of this light that get heaped upon us for three long months in winter. There are always a few heartstopping skids on Minnesota highways and times when your heart is in your throat waiting for a loved one to get home on a particularly bad night. Snow is our light yet a faustian bargain for Minnesota - a treacherous and beautiful time of year.


Funny Quote by Johnny Depp:

When kids hit one year old, it's like hanging out with a miniature drunk. You have to hold onto them. They bump into things. They laugh and cry. They urinate. They vomit.

He never mentions that children are at least adorable but drunks not so much...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gots to Get Me Some EQ...All Day Everyday!

I have been reading quite a bit about emotional intelligence lately. Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient is measured by:

1. Your ability to identify and name your emotional states and understand the link between emotions, thought and action.
2. Your capacity to manage one's emotional state and understand the ability to shift from an undesirable emotional states to more adequate ones.
3. Your ability to enter into other emotional states at will, associated with a drive to achieve and be successful.
4. Your ability to read, be sensitive to, and influence other people's emotions.
5. Your ability to enter into and sustain satisfactory interpersonal-relationships.

Think about how powerful this is in the context of the Woodward family. Mom got stuck after Dad died and couldn't shift out of her depression/alcoholism cycles (though she had some good years). It's likely she had a low Emotional Intelligence IQ before Dad died and that contributed to her decline. Granted the EQ theories came out 20+ years after Dad died (in the 1990's), but it is an interesting idea that some people are more emotionally developed than others and therefore, more equipped with resilience because they can control their emotional state. I have been practicing to develop this kind of emotional control for at least 5 years - it is amazing to realize that each of us have the ability to DECIDE what we feel. We are not jellyfish that react mindlessly to stimuli - we can choose.

Having been raised in our slightly disfunctional home, for many years I was a reactor, responding to events and people with various emotional states washing over me as if I had no choice. Now, I choose my emotions and it's a far better life for me, Guy and the fur children. Do I still get stuck in the doldrums? Sure - but it's hard to get stuck for long when I am congnitively aware that I am making the choice to wallow in "icky feelings" when there are better, energetic and more satisfying options at my disposal.

This is also freakishly powerful at work:

EQ also becomes an exciting and dynamic dimension of Organizational Behavior and communication. EQ, when focused externally - toward others - is at it's basest form is empathy. Being able to feel what others are feeling, relate to it, and help them work through it to become more productive, and to form important work relationships. Many people want to work on their EQ in order to improve their personal relationships, and their well-being.

When there’s a lack of communication in the workplace, we begin to assume that everyone’s actions are founded in bad intentions. That, since everyone is out for themselves and those bonuses and everyone in the workplace must be every "man" for himself. There is the pervasive thought that each of us has to make a sacrifice for someone else to get ahead and we are all in this big competitive game of "king of the hill". If you have an organization of 100 people, and each is going out for their best interest, the direction of the company is split in 100 different ways, and mistrust is bred again and again.

Instead, we need to look toward Edward Deming (my hero!) In order to enact Deming’s principals, we must retrain our brains. We must retrain them to “assume positive intent” throughout all of our workplace interactions. At GE, all employees were trained in an extensive 3 day course of EQ. Dusty Staub, CEO of Staub Leadership, and author of “The 7 Acts of Courage” and “The Heart of Leadership,” has structured GE's EQ training to include ways to understand and be compassionate towards your fellow worker and teammate, instead of suspect and mistrust them.

Some of the most important parts of the EQ training are:

1. Seek to Understand; Instead of assuming that a colleague’s actions are intended to negatively affect you, seek to understand why they have performed these actions. Perhaps something is going on with them at home, or maybe they feel overworked. Things are not always as they appear.
2. Courageous Conversations; sometimes when there’s an issue, we prefer to be non-confrontational. This causes the issue to bubble under the surface, and causes us to act passive aggressively toward someone. In our EQ training we teach employees to confront the problem head on in a respectful, docile way–they should be seeking to understand.
3. Trust; We have to listen to and value our colleagues, trust what they say and that they are doing what’s best for the organization, just as we want to be trusted of the same.
Many large companies are employing some of the same techniques, such as McDonald’s
I say the follow mantra to pull me up out of organizational paranoia:
"All is well! Everything in this situation is working for my highest good and from this situation only good will come."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soul Urge

Numerology and your Soul Urge
I like to dabble in all kinds of metaphysical things and I recently ran into how to calculate the numerology "soul urge" number for both Guy and me. It was pretty accurate but all of these general statements can be s0 I know to take it with a grain of salt. The soul urge isn't everything about you or a full personality profile by any means - it's a peek into what motivates an individual and a glance into their "mission" in life. Seemed pretty on-target though....

Numerology #6 = Guy's Soul Urge
With a 6 soul urge, you have a sense of wanting to be needed and appreciated - it's an always present pressure. You have a strong need for acknowledgement. Fullfillment comes when you are looked up to by your friends and family or coworkers for efforts you spend on their behalf.

Numerology #4 = Joan's Soal Urge
With a 5 soul urge, you have an ever present need to feel secure in a financial and professional sense. You find happiness in your knowledge that your debts are gone and your home environment is solid and beautiful. Also, when others show an appreciation of your knowledge and expertise, you achieve a sense of fullfillment.

Seems pretty right on to me...wish I was less of a corporate, financial robot in my soul urge. What is your soul urge? Also, reminds me to frequently express my deepest gratitude to Guy for everthing he does.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Best Brain Limerick I Could Find Plus Norwegian Lamentations

A message from Garrison Kiellor, reporting what he did upon arriving back to his St. Paul home, Friday September 11, after being released from the hospital.
I came home Friday evening, had dinner, wrote a limerick about my neurologist, and started writing about the experience of having a minor stroke. Remember, Nothing bad ever happens to writers — everything is just material.

Last Monday I suffered a stroke
Which affected the way that I spoke,
But it revved up my brain,
Which they cannot explain,
And now, when I think, I smell smoke.

Bye the way, our Dad (Gary Lee Woodward) loved Prairie Home Companion - it was only on the air for a few years before he died. At the time, it was a kind of subversive, retro-America, entertainment that Dad enjoyed. He was a man of his time.

Dad liked country music (John Denver, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Elvis) - we watched these together on T.V. We watched the Elvis Hawaii special together and many episodes of Hee Haw (gulp!). We talked about country with a slight blue-grass twang to it as being Dad's favorite or Pop/Rock with a slight Country Twang. I, of course, championed the Monkeys or Captain and Tenille as the best music ever... Mom said that Dad was as handsome as Elvis was back in the 1950's :-) cute.

Dad's taste in music aligned with the musical acts on Prairie Home Companion and it's a priviledge to have it on the airwaves for all these years - Garrisson's voice very close to Dad's (but deeper) - it's the same calm and soothing voice like you are meeting with a therapist. When I listen to Garrisson's voice - I often get a wave of nostalgia remembering all of us going to the Jolly Troll or Country Kitchen and fishing a toy out of the wishing well...and stocking up on discount pop at the POP SHOP. Drifting back to the time of our wave of Scandinavian immigrants - when the Norwegian farmer's wives had the radio show on and all of us Scandinavian children came home for dinner to Mom and Grandma boiling potatoes and cooking our cod.

It's become more and more apparent that the our Scandinavian wave of immigration is comeing to a close - with only a small handful of Scandinavian stores open anymore it's sad. Ingebretsen's on Lake Street has been swallowed up by hundreds of Somali and Mexican stores all around it. It's a little island of a dying culture here. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anyone their wave of immigration to Minnesota, I am a grandchild of illegal immigrants - it's just sad to see our stores dying out. All of the true Scandinavian bakeries have closed - if you want Scandinavian baked goods - you have to learn how to make them yourself. The Palm Bakery and the Scandia Bakery closed within the last 3 years. Now there's 2 Scandinavian restaurants left (Petersons in Edina and Ikea) as Aquivit left years ago sad. I go to to find more places to get Scandinavian food over the holidays. I need my sanbakkels, meatballs, boiled potatoes, rutabagas, lefse and herring. It's a must have in the winter.

Makes me want to learn how to cook Fiskeboller - in a sad note - Bylerlys and Lunds (Scandinavian Grocery Stores) both stopped carrying potato flour. For those that don't know potato flour is required for homemade Lefse and many Scandinavian foods. What is my little nordic world view coming to in Minnesota? I will probably be the only one here saying "Minnesootah" in a few years. At least I can rent "Fargo" the movie to feel at home. By the way, that Movie was a 1970's view of the Twin Cities - not today.