Posts by: Laurie Ruettimann

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Every time I think about ranking something in my life, I think about Steve Boese.

For years, he’s ranked everything from The Outsiders characters to the Founding Fathers to upgrades on airlines. If you want to know where something stands, chances are he’s written a blog post about it. Ranking things? Well, it falls squarely within the purview of Steve Boese.

So, last week, I’m in the basement reflecting on cat litter. Over the past 42 years, I’ve used just about every brand on the market. Clay. Crystal. Wheat. Newspaper. You name it, my cats have peed on it.

I’m pretty sure Steve has never ranked anything related to cats, so I offer for your consideration this unresearched, incomplete, unscientific, completely subjective, and 100% accurate list of cat litter.

10. sWheat Scoop. All kittens should use wheat-, corn- or newspaper-based litter for potty training; however, once they graduate to clay litter, they never go back. Wheat litter is better for the environment and has barely any dust, but I couldn’t bribe my adult cats to use this litter for all the tuna in the world.

9. World’s Best Cat Litter. It’s number 9, so you can see that it’s not the world’s best. I tried to get my cats to convert by using good old fashioned trickery. I stuck some of their existing urine clumps and poop in a new box of this litter. I think Molly gave it a try, but the rest were wholly unimpressed.

8. Yesterday’s News. Newspaper litter is just cool to see, but like its predecessors, it’s useless for my adult cats. Ain’t nobody got time to pee on pellets.

7. ExquisiCat® Micro Crystals. Crystal cat litter is interesting because it absorbs a lot of urine. Unfortunately, it’s expensive, and you have to use a lot for the cats to bury their poop under the crystals. I’m not a fan, and neither are most of my cats. They’ll use it, but they aren’t happy about it.

6. Boots & Barkley Scoopable Litter. As far as scoopable litters go, clay-based litter is pretty much the same everywhere. If you’re going to use a scoopable litter, use something without a scent. We liked this Target brand except that it is super-clumping and gave my cat, Jake, a condition called cement shoes. The cat litter sticks to his paws, and he can’t clean himself enough to get rid of it. It forms a hard shell on the bottom of his foot. So we had to give it up.

5. Precious Cat Dr. Elsey’s Senior Cat Litter. Speaking of Jake, he can’t breathe for shit. We decided to try this litter, which is crystal-based, to see if his breathing would improve. The cats liked it. We had it out for a week, and there was a powdery white dust everywhere in the basement including all over my cat, Roxy, who is black. Plus it was super-fine and messy. So we threw it away.

4. Ever Clean EverFresh Cat Litter with Activated Charcoal. It is probably the most popular litter I’ve ever used in my life. Even my dead cat, Scrubby, liked peeing in his box when we used it. Unfortunately, it was unbelievably dusty and hard to contain. There was a dusty haze in my basement, and I had to use an air purifier. We had to give it up.

3. So Phresh Advanced Odor Control Scoopable Fragrance-Free Cat Litter and Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Clumping Cat Litter. It’s a tie. The first is Petco’s brand of cat litter. You can buy it in bulk from a “litter bar,” and it works pretty well. The second litter is from Dr. Elsey, and it works great. The downside? Both are dusty AF. Not as dusty as Ever Clean, but still pretty messy. My cats like both.

2. Fresh Step Clay Cat Litter. Right here is the cheap stuff. It’s old school cat litter that is over-fragranced and doesn’t clump, and at least one of my cats love it. I have no idea why. I have a hooded cat litter box that I keep off to the side and away from the main litter boxes, and I scoop the poop daily. Since the urine doesn’t clump and can’t be removed, I dump the entire litter box every two weeks and start fresh.

1. Precious Cat Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract Scoopable Cat Litter. Welcome to the holy grail of cat litter. This, right here, is probably the most expensive cat litter on the market. Thankfully, it works. If you have a cat who pees outside of the box, try this brand of litter. Also, it’s probably the least dusty litter that I’ve ever used. The clay is fine. It might track everywhere, but it’s worth it. I went back to using this litter in our two main cat boxes, which are long sweater boxes from The Container Store, and my cats sent me text messages with emoji prayer hands. They were thrilled.

As Steve always says, you could disagree with these rankings. But guess what? You would be wrong. And one more thing: for optimal litter box experience, scoop daily. It takes two seconds, and litter boxes are less disgusting than your daughter’s bedroom. Keep on top of the litter box, and you won’t dread the work!

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A friend of mine recently asked me why I never talk much about my trip to India, last year. I like to travel. Where’s the long and winding blog post about my observations and experiences?

“You just wrote a boring blog post and never spoke about it, again.”

So, yeah, it’s been about a year since I went to India. The hospitality was great, and I had a wonderful time at an HR conference for two days. Then I spent a week by myself touring around the countryside and up to the Taj Mahal.

I didn’t get sick, nobody tried to hurt me, and I have a ton of phenomenal iPhone photos. Many people were warm and welcoming, which is consistent with how Americans are greeted by almost everyone in the world. And I only saw a small slice of a large country. I barely scratched the surface.

But the trip was challenging at times. I’m still so overcome with the lingering mental images of childhood poverty and human desperation that I can’t manage to write a blog post without crying. I’m too Western and too privileged and too white to write anything helpful or useful. My progressive liberalism isn’t practical, and I’m not equipped to advance a discussion on poverty and social inequality in India.

What do I know of the wars? The struggle for independence? The long-standing faith-based battles between the different regions? The good work that’s been done by NGOs? The future investments that will be made by an up-and-coming generation of Indian entrepreneurs?

I know nothing. And it’s not like America is entirely awesome, either. We grapple with homelessness and crime, and there’s no shortage of human depravity from small towns in Appalachia to the suburbs of Seattle. In that way, some of the communities I saw in India were similar to neighborhoods in Alabama and Oregon. When society fails women and children, it fails the entire family.

But there’s a special kind of heartache about the poverty I witnessed in India. According to Wikipedia, 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism and 14.2% adheres to Islam, while the remaining 6% adheres to other religions (Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and various indigenous ethnically-bound faiths). But when you look around and the conditions in which some people live, especially migrants and individuals looking for work and begging on the streets, you can only come to one conclusion: there is no God.

While I have beautiful memories of touristy sites and towns, I also saw humans and wild boars rummage for food from the same trash heap. I saw how people go to the bathroom on the streets and in rivers because there aren’t toilets or they choose not to use them. And I saw how people earn money when young women and children are “engines of the economy” and not simply human beings who deserve an education and a safe place to sleep.

India is chaos on steroids, which is fine for some people but hard on my heart. Everywhere I went in India, people asked for my help in leaving their country. At the hotels. At the HR conference. In line with other Indian tourists while visiting local mosques. At breakfast. During lunch. While eating dinner. My tour guides all over Delhi and beyond. Even in my car on the way to the airport, my driver asked for my assistance. He loved America so much that he named his brand new baby “Ryan.” Could I please help him find work in the United States?

It’s hard to tell someone who is locked into a system of economic inequality and poverty that the American spirit is rooted in the firm notion that nobody can solve your problems better than you. Nobody has better answers to your life’s questions, challenges, and struggles than you. Nobody can deliver on your dream other than you.

And I wasn’t about to tell my poor driver that Americans are all about self-determination, and we believe that we can defy the odds and make things happen based on our sheer will. I couldn’t say it because the American dream is unavailable to most Americans, and it causes us an infinite amount of emotional heartache. Why start this conversation with someone who earns less than $2/day?

So, here’s what I did in India: I embraced the American stereotype of smiling and saying hello. I tipped well. I encouraged people never to stop dreaming. While I couldn’t truly help a single soul, I tried to be an ambassador for a brand that doesn’t even live up to the hype back at home.

Then I came home and cried for a few days from the jetlag. And, when I shared my story with seasoned American travelers, many of them told me that my first experience with India was very typical and not at all xenophobic. Future trips will get easier, and, also, more enjoyable.

So, I haven’t been asked to return to India, just yet. Maybe there’s something in my file. But I’m hoping to see more of the country at some point in my future, and, when I do, I hope to travel more with locals who can educate me on what I’m seeing and also what I should know as an American visiting their country.

A travel buddy who doesn’t need a visa from me would be great.

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You probably heard that the iPhone turned 10. I love my phone, and I’ll probably upgrade when the new model comes out in September, but that’s ten years of carrying around a brick in my hand that’s either bossing me around or trying to sell me something.

I’m sick of my smartphone. I want a dumbphone. That’s why I bought The Light Phone. Have you heard of it? It’s a second phone that’s linked to my iPhone, and it’s designed to be used as little as possible.

I have a job that requires travel. When I’m home during the summer, I like to ditch my desk and drive to the beach. But I have a seventeen-year-old cat who always seems like he’s on the brink of leaving this planet. Emergency phone calls are a real possibility in my life. Just this morning, I poked Jake with a feather-on-a-stick to make sure he was alive.

That’s why I bought The Light Phone. I want to be accessible in case anything goes wrong at home, but I don’t need to fall into bad habits and waste time and attention on the internet. I’m hoping this phone helps to restore some balance in my world.

And, for the record, it’s not like I don’t enjoy looking at your animal photos on Instagram. I just want to do the thing I’m doing with integrity and enjoy social media on my terms.

So, I’ll keep you posted about my experiences with The Light Phone once it arrives. I’m super-excited to experiment with being smartphone-free for an extended period, and I’ll be sure to blog about what it feels like to carry around a phone that doesn’t require a battery pack and weighs as much as a kitten.

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I met my friend Victorio Milian on a snowy day in upstate New York when I was 22 years old.

Just kidding, I met him about a decade ago at an HR conference. Which one? Who the hell knows. Doesn’t matter.

Victorio is a reasonable guy who doesn’t have time for bullshit, including mine, which is why it’s awesome to spend time with him. There’s no gossip, no drama, and no small talk. We can go years without seeing one another, but when we do, he’s direct and to the point.

Last week, we met in New Orleans and talked about gratitude and giving back. Victorio’s gratitude, not mine. I’m stuck in my head. Victorio saw right through me and talked about his life. He’s committed to addressing significant issues like racism, sexism, and homophobia. He sees the injustices, and he’s moved to act. But he also asks himself — How can I use my privilege to help others?

And, because he’s a good friend and no dummy, he got me thinking about how I can use mine.

Volunteerism.

    It’s easy to talk about volunteering, but it’s tough to get started. Volunteer orientations are boring. Those long Powerpoint slide decks are a bitch, especially for those of us who communicate professionally for a living, and sometimes those orientation sessions are inconvenient and only happen once-a-quarter or on every-third-Tuesday when I’m busy. Nevertheless, I made a list of local not-for-profits. It’s time to start giving back.

Amplification

    Plenty of people boosted me when I was a new writer. They shared my posts with their audiences and amplified my voice, even when I didn’t deserve it. So, I’m on record saying that much of HR blogging sucks. A lot of it does. Old writers like me have grown lazy and should quit hogging the limelight and let new writers shine. But I’m okay amplifying and boosting new and largely unrecognized voices. There’s gold in there, and I want to be helpful.

Introductions

    I have a sprawling network of leaders and professionals who could learn and grow from one another, but I never take the time to make introductions. There are executives out there bemoaning a lack of talent, and talented individuals are sitting at home wondering why they can’t find work. Now, I’m not a recruiter. I’m not very good at solving other people’s problems. But I can make some introductions and let the self-initiated go from there.

Victorio is a fabulous friend, and I’m lucky to spend time with him. I always walk away thinking differently about the world. How can I use my privilege to help others? Well, I can clear some time on my calendar and get involved in issues that impact my local community. I can boost other people who are trying to launch their careers. And I can start to leverage my network and make valuable introductions.

Not bad for a thirty-minute conversation. Thanks, Victorio. Super helpful. You’re the best.

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Mister Jake turns 17, this week.

Well, that’s an estimate. He was born in June or July 2000, and I adopted him in September 2000. That makes both of us old.

Jake was rescued from a parking lot on the northwest side of Chicago by some random chick named Lynn. Her mom worked with my friend April’s mom. I was a bridesmaid at April’s wedding, and Lynn came to my table and told me about a feral kitten with sharp claws who didn’t like people but had a good heart.

Ken and I were dating at the time. Barely. He didn’t want to get married, so I moved out of our home and into an apartment by myself to teach him a lesson. But I was pretty desperate for male affection at April’s wedding, so I said, “Please name your kitten Jake. I’ll pick him up in a week.”

Jake’s entrance in my life was perfectly timed with every other man being a total weirdo or a dick. Do you know how hard it is to date before blogging was a thing? Without social media? I was not meant to date without Twitter.

For example, Lynn heard that I was sorta single and tried to set me up on a date with a police officer from Chicago. This dude took me to a restaurant called Sabatino’s where I accidentally called him Ken. Whoops! A few weeks later, the cop called and told me that he wasn’t interested in dating me — just in case I wondered why my phone hadn’t been ringing — but he was available for casual hook-ups.

Casual hook-ups with an emotionally stunted Chicago cop? Sign me up!

Thankfully, I won the handsome cat lottery. Jake was an awesome kitten who loved me with his whole heart. While he retained much of his feral qualities, he loved me fiercely. I referred to him as my “first husband,” and I couldn’t ask for a more loving companion.

Now, years later, I’m married to Ken. Whoo hoo! No cops for me! And Jake and I are about as far away from my apartment on the northwest side of Chicago as you can get. Thank God. And Jake still offers unconditional love — like a cat stalker — on a daily basis.

But he’s pretty old and skinny.

Jake can’t see for shit, he’s nearly deaf, and he takes four different medicines each day. I also forgot to mention that he can’t breathe and his kidneys are falling apart. The good news is that Jake’s not in any pain because he’s an opioid addict and can’t operate heavy machinery due to his prescription Buprinex. But as long as he eats and drinks and pees in the litter box, he can sleep on a heating pad near the fireplace.

I’m not sure if Jake will make it to 18, but I’ve said that for the past few years. And it’s stupid to mourn someone or something before it’s gone. So, happy birthday, Mister Jake. Your the best “first husband” I’ve ever had!

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I’m doing this new thing where I do almost everything Jennifer McClure tells me to do.

If you don’t know Jennifer, she’s someone who never gives bad advice. She’s a former HR executive who runs a successful speaking and coaching business. She’s an advisor and leader, but, more importantly, Jennifer is a woman of character and substance. She operates with a high degree of integrity.

So, when Jennifer tells me to do something, I’m not taking that for granted. Short of finding a path to Christianity and buying a few horses, I’m on board for her guidance. And last week offered plenty of opportunities for counseling because we found ourselves in New Orleans, last week, having several of our world-famous talks about life.

The first night was fun. We went to Saint Lawrence and Hotel Monteleone. I practiced mindful listening and tried to give Jennifer the best advice I could offer about work and life. I’m an amateur. Basically, I parroted back all the smart shit that other people say to me.

The second and third nights were dedicated to Laurie-related meltdowns because I’m not at my best. We pre-gamed before going to Brennan’s and MeauxBar and talked about GlitchPath. No easy answers on how to improve a software product, but she suggested that I use more “we’s” instead of “me’s” when I speak and write about the company. I’m not alone. I have an excellent team of people who do good work. We’re all in this together.

Jennifer also challenged me to think more about my writing audience. (That’s you people.) She mentioned StoryBrand as a tool to understand my audience and what I bring to the table, and she honestly believes my blog is part of a total package that can help you solve some of your problems. She also doesn’t want me to abandon coaching for some reason, either.

I listened closely to Jennifer’s advice at SHRM because she knows a ton about internet marketing and how to maximize influence. She also knows how hard it is to turn knowledge into action when it comes to just about everything in life. The only limiting factor in all of this? Your desire to do the work.

So, yeah, I have no desire to do anything. My first impulse is to roll back into bed and cry. I only want to do inner work where I only think about myself and my existential pain. But self-reflection quickly turns into an extension of narcissism if you let it. And since I’m committed to doing almost everything Jennifer McClure tells me to do, I made a list of things to tackle.

First? Exploring my most popular blog posts over the past ten years and trying to understand why people come here in the first place. Who are you, and what do you like to read?

I already knew the answer before I looked.

In aggregate, people like the posts where I’m mean about HR ladies and SHRM. The data is old, but a SHRM article is worth a lot in the marketplace. Then people like self-revelatory posts where I talk about myself and admit my mistakes. (Another aspect of this category is where I offer advice interjected with my life story.) Finally, some of my most-viewed articles are all about my cats. Put a picture of Emma in a post, and people love it.

Work. Life. Cats.

Have we been here before?

It’s great when life advice from Jennifer McClure leads me down a path to what I already know. The next step is all about crystalizing messages and understanding what I have to offer to readers and audiences. I think my personal brand comes down to this: I hate work, and so do you. I learn lessons the hard way, but I learn them quickly. You guys love that. And I have a bunch of cute cats.

“Tech CEO, failed human being, cat mom.”

That’s a helluva Twitter bio. Needs some work. But it’s a fresh start thanks to Jennifer. This is why I love her and you should, too.

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Mary Ellen Slayter turned 40, last week. I’ve loved this woman for years. Almost a decade-ish. Look at this dated-as-hell video of the two of us.

Jesus. That’s painful to watch. When I’m nervous, I adopt a Chicago accent.

I planned on writing a tribute to Mary Ellen and telling her about what it’s like to turn 40, but the thing about turning 40 is you discover that deadlines are for millennials without any power.

So, yeah, since I’m 42 and make my own schedule, lemme share a few notes about turning 40 and hitting that significant milestone.

  1. Turning 40 is only a big deal to people who haven’t done it.
  2. You’re more interesting with some age.
  3. The things that really bother you are bugging you for a good reason. Trust that instinct.
  4. You become the feminist you thought you were in your 30s.
  5. Nobody is going to force you to change your mind, which makes your mind soften and open up to new possibilities.
  6. People are nicer at the grocery store. Use that to your advantage.
  7. Reading glasses are sexy AF.
  8. It’s finally okay to say new music sucks because it does.
  9. You gain some compassion for your enemies, which makes it interesting and sometimes complicated when you crush them.
  10. The family-of-origin drama drops off, the family-you-make drama ramps up. But it’s the drama you choose, not drama imposed.
  11. Retirement looks really good and tremendously expensive.
  12. Time is worth more than money.
  13. You love the people you love with your whole heart.
  14. You outgrow your old fears. The worst didn’t happen, or, if it did, you survived.
  15. Dammit, making a list is tough.
  16. Okay, I’m done.

You get my point. Turning 40 is remarkable. I’m not saying it’s not all sex, power, and money. But there’s a lot of that.

Because Mary Ellen is awesome, she probably deserves a better list than the one I just wrote. If you have any advice on hitting this milestone, let’s hear from you in the comments below.

And happy birthday, Mary Ellen. I’m lucky to have you in my life. You create community wherever you go, and the world needs you to live another forty years and a whole lot more.

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Hi, everybody. My name is Laurie Ruettimann. I am forty-two years old, five feet tall, and I weigh 130 pounds. My BMI is 25.4, which makes me “overweight.”

Thankfully, BMI has always been bullshit. I’m sexy AF, climb skyscrapers that tower over America’s largest cities, and get drunk at business events and still wake up early to run. I do pilates, yoga, and I have another marathon in 20 weeks. I don’t have time for someone to tell me that I’m too fat.

But I am currently in the market for a new way of eating. Turns out, I can’t digest foods high in FODMAPs. Also, long-time readers know that I have allergies to essential foods that make it tough to eat like an average person. White bread and sugar? Yes. Please. But fruits and vegetables will kill me. So will fish, nuts and tofu.

If you overlay my vegetarianism on top of this shitshow of a diet, you get a Venn Diagram that resembles the diet of a freshman in college. That’s why I’m back on the market for a new approach to food.

My pilates and yoga instructor is on the Keto plan. She likes it. I’ve also researched the anti-inflammatory diet and cooked a few meals from a delicious cookbook. There’s so my pseudoscience and garbage advice in the market. Should I start intermittent fasting? Count my macronutrients? Become a Breatharian? Unless I eat meat, I have no idea how I’m going to make it over the finish line of my marathon.

So I’m going to start eating meat, again. At least for the next twenty weeks. I won’t eat pork, I can’t wrap my mind around eating a chicken, and I tried to eat a cheeseburger and threw it up. Maybe I’ll eat whale. TBD.

But here’s what I do know: I can’t digest any of the protein powders on the market, and I’m sick of feeling sick by my disordered diet. It totally sucks that my values are incongruent with my behaviors. No animal should have to die for my body, but until someone invents a fuel-rich version of soylent green, I need to make some changes in my life.

Can’t wait to try torture-chicken and torture-beef from China. Mmmmmmmm. Wish me luck.

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“Always tell your friends you love them.”

This advice was given to me by my grandmother, and it’s pretty smart. What if people die? What if you die? If you care about someone, you always want them to know where they stand in your life.

I’ve shared this advice for ages but haven’t practiced it, lately. First of all, I don’t see my friends very often. That’s what happens when you are a sole proprietor and have remote colleagues over the world. But mostly I’ve been selfish and inwardly focused on my first-world problems. Who’s got time to love other people and express gratitude when you’re gazing at your navel?

When I saw my friends in New Orleans, this weekend, I felt renewed. (Well, no, I felt drunk.) But, also, reinvigorated. I have gifted and passionate friends. Men and women who make a difference and happen to like spending a little time with me. I’m grateful for it. I’m lucky to have it, especially because I’m not always deserving of it.

I love these people. Yes, even the ones in HR. So I spent the weekend saying hellos and goodbyes and telling people how much they mean to me. Not because I’m super freaked out that people might die. That’s a bit morbid. I said “I love you” to my friends because I meant it.

We extra. • • • • • #shrm17 #GNO #hrladies

A post shared by Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) on

My grandmother was right. If you have the capacity to do it, always tell your friends you love them. You won’t regret it, and it might mean the world to someone who needs to hear those kind words.

Bonus advice: always share music with friends. I curated what was on my Spotify while in NOLA if anybody cares to listen and share some new stuff with me.

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I’m in New Orleans for two birthdays and a meeting on Wednesday. This trip overlaps with an HR conference that I’m not attending My career is messy, my personal life is all over the map, and I’m massively hungover from drinking too much.

Dammit.

How much did I drink? Well, after weeks of relative weeknight-sobriety, it doesn’t take much to tip the scales on a Monday night. The good news is that I was surrounded by friends. The bad news is that those friends now have stories where I express my frustration with my weight by literally screaming.

My throat is sore.

But I’m employing the seven-seconds rule of regret. Feel awful? Say something stupid? Freak out at a bar and feel disoriented because you think you’re stranded and left alone while everybody else boards an Uber?

Don’t give it more than seven seconds of thought.

A ridiculous night of drinking with a ton of other drunk people doesn’t mean anything. And those awkward, crazy, drunken moments are proof that we’re all human and flawed. I’m more than a vodka cranberry and a glass of champagne. (Well, maybe two.) And so are you.

So everybody who has an epic drunkfest in life should get over it. I’m off to run and have breakfast. The seven-second rule is a gift from the universe. I hope you use it, too!

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