There is no easy way to write this. We euthanized Scrubby on Monday evening. There is no good time to intervene and say goodbye, but the actual euthanasia was peaceful. I held him in my arms. My husband rubbed his ears. Once he was gone, we cried and spent some time with his body.
It was hard to say goodbye, but Scrubby was very brave. I wanted to be brave, too.
I have been trying to keep all of this private and off the internet. It’s been a horrible few months, and I lack the vocabulary to describe my feelings. I wish I could crawl under the covers and sleep for a week, but that’s not how adulthood works. So I stumbled my way through Tuesday and Wednesday without an elegant or graceful way of discussing Scrubby’s death. And there were a few times when I nearly broke down in public and cried.
For example, I was hosting a live CareerBuilder video chat on Tuesday afternoon. Scrubby was barely dead. Steve Browne’s audio was jacked. I kept fumbling my lines and misreading the screen. And I forgot to unplug my landline and the phone rang. It was the pet crematorium, and I could hear them leaving a message on my answering machine. They wanted to know how I would like to handle Mister Scrubby’s remains.
If you go back and watch the video, you can see the look of bewilderment on my face. Do I answer the phone? Do I interrupt the show and announce to the internet that my cat is dead? Do I just go about my business and pretend that Scrubby is alive?
I just tried to roll with it. I channeled my inner Carrier Underwood and thought, “Jesus, take the wheel!”
Many of you have been reading my blogs for over a decade. You’ve known Scrubby since the moment we rescued him. In some weird way, Scrubby was our collective pee cat. So thank you for always asking about him—at HR conferences, in public bathrooms, on airplanes—or just indulging my cat stories simply because you love me.
Your kindness means a great deal to me, and I appreciate it.
Nobody has better work-life balance than a pilates-loving cat mom who travels the world and sees cool places.
I’m talking about myself.
Even when I’m burned out, I’m not burned out. So here are some of my tips and techniques to achieve real and lasting work-life balance.
Say yes when someone else is burned out.
The best way to get help is to offer help when your friends and colleagues need it most. If you see the signs of exhaustion, swoop in and offer comfort and support.
Say no and mean it.
Saying no doesn’t mean being a jerk. Saying no doesn’t mean being cruel. Sometimes we say no but we don’t have a clear tone of authority in our voice. Sometimes we say no but our body language says, okay, I’m saying yes but I’m a whiny brat about it. Say no, but be helpful. Find a solution so that someone else can say yes.
Don’t make perfect the enemy of good.
We live in an all-or-nothing culture that is tricking us into thinking we can’t have balance unless we have ALL THE BALANCE. Can’t be a great parent? Be a good enough parent. Your kids won’t know the difference. Can’t afford to join a gym? Walk. Can’t afford to eat spinach and kale? Skip diet soda. Your black and white thinking sets you up for failure before you’ve even made an effort.
Guard your sleep.
Young kids kill sleep. That’s a fact. But you know what else kills sleep? Books. TV. Your phone. Your animals. The radio. Older kids who walk into your room without knocking. If you don’t guard your sleep, nobody else will.
Diversify your life.
I love passionate people, but I love interesting people who do more than one thing in life. Passion is a one-way path to mental exhaustion. Be curious and differentiate your life. Seek out new people and new adventures. Obsessive people are often bored and lonely.
Finally, I have one more piece of advice.
I’m a big complainer, and I started to realize that complaining was my lazy and ineffective way of asking for help. So I learned how to ask for help. Whether it’s with housekeeping chores or financial management, I am starting to raise my hand and ask for help more often.
I’m prideful. I am obstinate. I like to solve problems. But I can’t be the only one who scoops litter around this house if you feel me. So follow my lead and ask for help when you need it. Trust that it will be given. And be generous and loving with those who need your help, as well.
Work-life balance is possible as long as you think about how your actions can help others to achieve balance, too.
Years ago, I just put my head down and wrote like a motherfucker.
Then I blogged.
Then I used a WordPress plug-in to automate that laborious task.
Then I used Twitterfeed to cross-promote other people’s work.
I now use ManageFlitter to organize my Twitter account. I can categorize accounts that I’ll always follow even if they don’t follow me. I can block accounts that suck, too.
I also jumped on the Buffer bandwagon to share great articles that I read online. I let Buffer figure out when to share those posts for greater visibility.
I downloaded Freedom to limit my time online on my computer when I need to write. I use RescueTime to monitor my productive and unproductive time on my laptop, and I use Moment to now track my time on my phone.
You know what? I spend approximately four hours a day online. Not bad for a woman who seems wholly immersed in the social web. About 80% of my time is considered “unproductive,” but imagine how much more time I would spend if my social media presence weren’t automated.
Anyway, this is how the sausage is made. It used to be more difficult to be social, but social media automation has made me more human and less confined to my desk all day long.
But I don’t owe anyone an explanation of how I use my time or how and when I connect with people. Neither do you. Every judgy moment spent rationalizing these behaviors — or criticizing someone else for being too social or anti-social — is a moment that could have spent having fun.
I think most of us miss having fun online, honestly. Well, I do. So that’s been my goal, as of late. Less introspection about the impact and meaning of social media. Fuck that, you know? More cat photos and articles about feminism and politics. And more writing like a motherfucker, of course.
That’s what matters most in my life.
I was born in 1975. My brother was born in 1978. Our parents were youngish baby boomers, and my dad was very nostalgic and sentimental. He loved to take pictures of everything.
Unfortunately, there was no good way to preserve photos from that period. My father doubled-down on 35mm slides. He “scanned” our childhood images to photographic slides that can only be seen through a slide projector.
(Do you kids even know I’m talking about? Damn youngsters. See links above.)
I recently discovered about 700 slides in my basement. Not the ideal conditions for archival footage. For my brother’s birthday, I took advantage of a Facebook coupon and converted those slides to digital images through Legacybox.
(Facebook advertising works! My brother said, “These photos are amazing. Thank you.”)
I’m glad he is happy. I am the opposite of nostalgic, but it is fun to see photos of the 1970s and early 1980s. Wrigley Field looks different. Clothes are funny, too.
For the first time, my brother was able to see his childhood. That’s pretty cool, right? I remember him looking like this.
Nostalgia is a slippery slope, however. It’s great to see my parents and family members look so happy and normal in the digital images. Everybody looks like they have potential, which is nice to remember. But then life happened. Just like many of you, my family has experienced its fair share of trouble. If I let nostalgia fester, I fear that it will lead to maudlinism.
(Who has time for that?!)
The nostalgia loop is powerful and seductive, but every moment spent looking back for the sake of looking back feels a little pointless to me. It is intellectually lazy to think that what our childhood offered was better or sweeter or simpler than what we have today.
(That’s rarely true.)
And in order to make progress in life, you have to believe that tomorrow holds the possibility of something greater than yesterday or today.
So I’m torn between celebrating these images and storing them in another box — in the cloud — and never looking back. It’s amazing to see photos of my childhood cats, Taco and Biggles. It is fun to see my grandparents and family members looking so young and carefree. But sometimes enough is enough.
Roxy turns six months old, this weekend. She just survived her first experience with our awesome babysitter.
(She’s growing up so fast!)
I prefer to celebrate “gotcha days” more than birthdays, but six months is a big deal. First up, she is still alive. That’s a milestone for a kitty who comes from the city streets of Durham. Also, Roxy has been battling intestinal bacteria (ugh!) but continues to gain weight. Hooray for mom. I have to practically beg her to eat, which is something that I’ve never experienced with a cat.
(Have you seen my poonchy Emma? Enough said.)
But this weekend is a big deal because we have a goal for Roxy: she has to be six months or seven pounds to go in the basement and hang out in the rafters with Scrubby.
Six months is here! (And she’s about 6.5 lbs!) We will be capturing video and photos of our big girl as she kills me with her courage and silliness. Before we let her rule the roost, we have to add a few safety platforms to Scrubby’s rafter kingdom so she won’t die. Otherwise, I think she’s ready for new adventures.
(Although I’m not sure I am ready for it.)
Can’t wait to see how this goes.
I’ve been telling HR professionals to be brave, bold and curious since 2007. I learned that from Oprah, and by now, those words have no meaning.
“Be brave? In human resources? That’s dumb. And bold? Okay, let me be bold about stuff I don’t control. But I am curious about a new job. You got one for me?”
HR people are always so literal.
I would offer that great HR needs people who are brave, bold and curious. But sometimes you got to be you. I was on a hangout with one of my clients, and Roxy popped her head into the video frame. We laughed at my adorable kitten, and I remarked how weird it is to be a forty-year-old mother of a kitten. It seems harder than I remember.
“It’s fun, but she is busy. There are a million ways kittens could die, and I haven’t slept a solid night since she came into the house. She wakes me up at 3:30 AM to kiss my face.”
So then we had a twenty-minute discussion about how the single thing that unites humanity is the love of animals. There’s a guy in Syria who, at this very moment, is taking care of stray cats and dogs affected by war. There are people in the Russian republic of Chechnya who are passionate about trap-spay-neuter initiatives. And there are men and women fleeing armed conflict all over the world who grab everything they can carry with them before abandoning their lives forever.
The list includes their children, a gun and the family dog.
Many HR professionals make the mistake of trying to impress an executive with spreadsheets, numbers and weird anecdotes from leadership books. If you want to be an effective human resources leader, and if you want to practice great HR, I think you need to be brave, bold and curious — but you also need to be human.
Be highly relatable. Have something to talk about other than HR.
It’s great that you’re passionate about your job, but sometimes the best thing you can do is give that passion a rest and talk about something that someone else might care about.
Dogs and cats always work!
I like their sense of entitlement. It suits them. I don’t like losers with low self-esteem, either. My cats know that I have one big philosophy in this house: go big or go live in a trailer park with other cats.
So they go big.
Here’s an update.
My oldest cat, Jake, is sick with a lower airway disease that makes it tough for him to breathe. He has ongoing heart issues and degenerative joint disease that makes his limbs shake, too. He’s on some medication for those issues. I was going to have a whole bunch of risky and expensive tests performed to diagnose his illness; however, the emergency room veterinarian told me that the biggest risk is finding out that he’s old. Since we know that, we are treating him with conservative medications and letting nature take its course. It’s a mature and responsible plan. Everybody dies. That’s a bummer to write, but hopefully we’ll get more time out of him!
Molly is fine. Still hates Scrubby. Still loves my husband more than she loves me. Likes me fine when I give her treats, though. Isn’t that how it always works?
Scrubby still pees from time-to-time. Ken and I spend hours debating whether or not he’s happy. Would he like to go live in a feral cat community? Would he like to live in a barn? Then he snuggles up next to me, and I’m like, dang, you’re my favorite. It’s like an abusive relationship. I love him. He pees on Molly’s favorite cat bed. Next he’ll be doing meth and asking me for my paycheck.
Emma is on allergy meds and shots, which is hilarious because I’m on allergy meds and shots. We are both allergic to dust mites, but we only have one major room with carpet in the house. Our bedding is regularly washed in high-end anti-allergen detergent. I vacuum daily, and I bought a Rabbit Air machine on Black Friday. (I have a Honeywell air filter in my bedroom, too.) So who the hell knows what’s up with us. The vet school told me that NC is a tough place for cats and humans with allergies. I am not moving, so we might have to buy a stainless steel house.
My little Roxy girl is awesome. She has tornado-like energy and is learning to jump up onto crazy-high spots in our house. She’s been in the basement rafters. She fell into a bathtub full of lavender epsom salts. Her new thing? She likes to pounce on Scrubby. Luckily, Scrubby is an easy-going cat and doesn’t try to hurt her. If anything, he wants to get away from her bullshit.
So life is a little hectic, but what the hell else am I doing with my time? Some people work for money. Some people work for personal fulfillment. I work for my cats.
I think that’s okay.
It’s like Coach purses. I have a bunch — including an awesome, vintage Stewardess bag — but I saw myself mixed in with a group of frumpy women who had a bunch of Coach purses and it scared me.
(I was one clutch away from getting a french manicure. I made fun of it to show that I didn’t take myself too seriously.)
So back to cats: I have a few, and while I laugh about it, I’m pretty sick of hearing other people make fun of HR ladies for having too many cats. First of all, HR ladies have dogs. Lots of them. Little ones. Just ask Robin Schooling, who is America’s HR lady and recently adopted her dog — Mr. Crumples.
(She will tell you that HR ladies don’t scoop litter boxes.)
But it is true that HR ladies, in general, love animals more than people. Can you blame us? People lie about being injured at work. People try to cheat the system and blame the payroll department for not paying alimony, child support, and taxes. People with no ties to 9/11 still call in sick on 9/11.
People suck. People invent drama where none exists. People abuse children and cocaine.
(Animals are better.)
My cat, Roxy, lived in an open-air lot for the first few weeks of her life. She was discovered behind an abandoned washing machine with her younger siblings. She prefers old, dirty water to fresh water because she learned to drink from puddles. And she licks my face and tries to nurse on me because she lost her mother too soon.
You can make fun of me for being a cat lady all day long. But if it weren’t for sweater-vest-loving HR ladies like me, your hard earned tax dollars would be used for corporate welfare AND to euthanize unwanted animals in our society.
I can’t fight corporate corruption, but I can rescue smoochy kittens.
(Once again, HR ladies are bailing your ass out.)
You’re welcome, America!
That feels true, on the surface, because I always had more enemies than buddies. Work was a hassle, and nobody liked me. I came back from getting married, and only one person congratulated me. I looked around and thought, my god, these women are monsters!
I know two things to be true now that I’m a little older and calmer.
- Nobody wants to befriend a toxic whiner who hates her job.
- Nobody wants a needy friend. Trying harder to be “likeable” only made it worse.
I also know that, while I bring the party with me, sometimes people aren’t interested in my party. That’s okay. Not everyone has to like me.
I also realize that I am unnecessarily demanding of my colleagues, even when it’s not my place to demand anything from them. I have a sixteen-page agenda for my day with scheduled bathroom breaks and time to check my text messages, but some people want to come to work and talk about The Goldbergs. Who am I to get in the way of small talk?
I also know that friendships made at work aren’t always the healthiest relationships. The guy who sits as a proxy for your husband who doesn’t listen to you? That guy brings a whole host of issues to the table, and if you scratch the surface, you’ll realize that a quid-pro-quo relationship isn’t very smart.
So now I’m not sure if a meaningful relationship at work would have made an impact on my career. But one thing is certain: I thank Baby Jesus and Ganesh that I no longer have day-to-day responsibilities in human resources. I have more friends, and I am much happier.
Emma is my best cat.
Hands down, she is the #1 champ. She has the other cats beat in terms of personality and cuteness. Nobody can surpass her all-around awesomeness and poonchy tummy. Look at her smoochy face. Her little pink lips. The adorable flame up her face. I have some great cats, but when you combine Emma’s good looks with her sweet personality, she’s a winner.
We pay more attention to Scrubby with his pees.
And Jake with his old-man-breathing-problems.
And Molly with her diva-like behavior.
My cats aren’t anything like your outstanding employees, but I’m pretty sure you aren’t giving your best employees what they deserve. You probably brag about your marvelous culture and your fringe benefits. Maybe you do pre-cations, which deserves a ranty blog post on its own.
But you don’t give your best employees what they need.
Luckily, I think your best employees are like Emma. They get a quarter of the attention they deserve, but because they are so exceptional, it’s fine. They are autonomous human beings (and a cat) who can keep themselves occupied.
The one glaring difference between Emma and your best employees? Emma doesn’t have a choice about her employer. Not that she would go anywhere, but it’s nice to have her locked into a lifetime contract.
You better hope that your best employees like you as much as my poonchy cat likes me.