Cats

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One of my very best friends told me that my blog is boring when I write about human resources.

“Where is the human in human resources? I go there for you. You are at your best when you write about politics, cats and running. I don’t want to read about HR technology or employee engagement. Draw your HR lessons from more inspired places.”

So I said, “Uhm, yeah, I didn’t ask for your opinion.”

Which is totally true. If anyone wants to offer an opinion, do it behind my back. I don’t mind.

But since we are discussing feedback, let me get defensive and tell you that all niche blogs are boring. In any industry — including HR — writers use “big boy” voices to demonstrate authority. I hate that. And in the HR space, my colleagues want to boss the audience into believing that HR — which includes recruiting, retention, marketing, compliance, engagement, social media, sales, technology, consulting, payroll, compensation and benefits — is significant and relevant.

You and I know the real secret about human resources.

None of this is necessary. HR only exists because business leaders are too lazy to do this work themselves. And the trend is to integrate HR into normal business operations, which means a shrinking share of voice and ownership for the traditional HR professional.

But since HR exists — and no one is the face of the HR market — it might as well be me.

(Is it Josh Bersin? Is it Bill Kutik? C’mon man. Let’s get real.)

While my friend thinks that my HR blog is boirng and needs more LFR, there are other people who think that my posts about cats and running work against me.

But as much as I don’t listen to my friends who want more cat blog posts, I don’t listen to my critics who want me to put on my big-boy-pants and regularly write about boring stuff like big data and HR analytics. Being a human resources leader worth her salt is all about building relationships and meeting the needs of multiple consitituiences while staying faithful to a personal belief system shored up by confidence and integrity.

I have a belief system. I have confidence. I have integrity.

And while this blog may be boring at times to some people for a variety of reasons, I think it strikes a balance between relevant HR lessons and observations about work and life.

I trust my readers to see lessons in the cat posts. I trust them to dig deeper on posts about politics and culture, too.

And I still think my blog — HR or not — is more interesting than anyone else’s.

Prove me wrong.

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Some of my friends have been asking for Scrubby updates. If you don’t know anything about my boo, Scrubby is my famous pee cat. He’s not a horrible monster, but rather, an OCD ginger cat who likes to pee on cat bedding (or other stupid shit around my house).

I should own stock in Target’s pet bedding supplier.

Scrubby has been on Lexapro for the past 45 days. I think it’s going well. By well, I mean that his pee incidents are almost gone.

You know what else makes him not pee — besides Lexapro? Isolation in our basement. If we keep him down there, away from the other cats, he is miserable but doesn’t feel compelled to mark his territory.

But we can’t do that.

We don’t run a shelter for asshole cats. Scrubby can’t live alone in our (nicely accommodated and climate controlled) basement. Despite the fact that he pees on Jake’s favorite blanket, he likes Jake. Why should I keep them apart if they don’t fight?

"That's cool. I don't need you to unfold the blanket." #jake #cats #catsofinstagram

A photo posted by LFR (@lruettimann) on

And Scrubby is a fun cat. He does all sorts of tricks that I should get on YouTube so he finally earns his keep around here.

Unconditional love is never easy, and it’s probably not worth it, but I am a woman who loves hard and doesn’t let go. It’s the kind of love that he never requested and might not choose for himself, but if you asked him to choose between my house and a barn with no heat, I like to think Scrubby would choose me.

Maybe.

That fucker.

I love him so much.

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scrubby saucony

Don’t pee on these, Scrubby!

It’s week four of marathon training.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I know how the training schedule works, which is why I broke down and bought some new shoes.

I know this seems like a boring blog post, but buying shoes isn’t a simple thing. Not only are there a bazillion products on the market, these shoes are très expensive. It’s easier to secure financing for a nightclub than it is to buy a simple pair of trainers.

(Just don’t buy the nightclub where Suge Knight was shot.)

Everybody who’s ever run (or not) has an opinion on running shoes. Your mom, who once ran a 35-minute 5k back in 1997, called me and told me about her favorite pair of New Balance.

(Do you have fallen arches? Do you have bunions? How do I find a delicate way to tell you that I don’t care?)

With a ton of information in my head — from friends, fellow runners, advertorials in Runner’s World — I went to my favorite running store and humbly submitted myself for a fitting.

This part was sorta easy. Once I got over the fear of making the wrong choice, which I know is ridiculous, I sank into the process. I was given three options, and all of them were fine. I picked the Saucony Ride 7 because it was the most comfortable fit on my Fred Flinstone feet. I can return them if they suck. (They won’t.) And I was happy to learn that I no longer need super-clunky stability shoes.

(I need more stability in my life, but my wee little feet are fine.)

I ran 10.2 miles on Saturday, and the shoes served me well. No blisters. No drama. No problems. I will keep my old shoes for mid-week workouts and dance parties.

(Whatever. I don’t go to dance parties, but if I do, I have options.)

My new shoes will carry me through the marathon on November 2nd, and now I don’t have to participate in discussions about foam density and mid-sole stability enhancement.

Hooray!

Now bring on the lectures about running gear and other accessories I don’t need.

(One thing every runner needs? A RoadID. Get one.)

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My neighbors have a dog who is quite an escape artist in her old age.

rescue dog

Last time she escaped? It was the dog sitter’s fault. This time? It was an invisible fence failure. The family wasn’t home, and I found the dog darting back and forth across a country road. I called the dog’s name and she jumped right into my car. We went back to my house, and I called my neighbors and read them the motherflippin’ riot act.

My neighbors have a bunch of kids and they travel. I don’t know all of the details, but I do know that I hate solving other people’s problems. My footprint is relatively small. I don’t ask the world to step in and help me out. Where’s my Laurie Ruettimann?!

But as I was thinking about this situation, I realized that I wasn’t irritated with my neighbors at all. They are nice people. I was mad at every single person in my life who has a bunch of kids and pets — or extends themselves in other ways — and is surprised when the world doesn’t fold in for their own person needs.

You’re busy? You are broke? Your kids are bratty? Your pets are a pain? Yeah, okay, maybe get your shit together.

Except, you know, that is a toxic way to live.

The world is chaotic. Dogs get out. This is no big deal. And if something happened to my cats, I would want my neighbors to rally around me. I would need their help. Also, rescuing this doggy was pretty fun. Nobody died, and my cats were able to have a fun adventure.

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So in short: while you need to get your lives in order and keep an eye on your children and your pets, I need to chill the hell out and offer a little more grace to my neighbors.

Let’s do this together, okay?!

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I flew to New York City on July 6, 2004 with a Coach briefcase full of anxiety.

I didn’t want to work in human resources. I never wanted to work for Pfizer. But I was twenty-nine years old with no purpose in life. I was just sitting around, killing time and waiting for the world to unfold.

This is a common theme in my life.

We had just relocated to a college town in western Michigan. I had no local friends. I didn’t have any hobbies. I thought I might die of boredom and loneliness if I didn’t find something meaningful to do.

I also liked nice things.

So I hauled my ass to New York City on a hot and stormy afternoon to confirm my employment and begin my orientation as a regional HR lady at the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. I put on a frumpy black suit and pretended to care about talent acquisition, culture and engagement. I remember smiling a lot, but people mistook my Midwestern kindness for naïveté. I was asked a lot of questions about New York as if I had never been to the city and smelled hot garbage on a summer afternoon.

“You like it here? Have you tried the pizza? You see Times Square, yet? Some traffic, am I right?”

It was fine, I suppose, in a depressing way. I had only lived in Michigan for a few months, but it was abundantly clear that it looked like I had just fallen off the pumpkin truck to my colleagues.

I just smiled and nodded to get it over faster.

“The pizza is great! Yes, I saw the Empire State Building!”

As I was packing up and leaving for the airport at the end of the trip, my boss went on a rant. He warned me that I better not cross him.

“If you fuck me or keep secrets from me, I will rip your head off and shit down your throat.”

Wow, yeah, so there was that.

I took a car service back to LaGuardia on July 7th, but the airport was locked down on one of its infamous ground stops. I was advised to get a hotel room immediately or risk sleeping on the jizzy airport floor all night long.

(I picked a local Marriott.)

The next morning, July 8th, I made my way home from NYC and cried. As far as jobs go, there are worse things than working for a cushy-ass corporate titan; however, you know it’s going to be bad when even the HR dudes are jerks.

“Do I really need this job?”

I did. I wanted new landscaping. I wanted to pay down my student debt. I wanted to go back to Maui. I wanted a better car. I wanted to buy my husband nice gifts.

I took a long, hot shower when I finally got back to Michigan. I stepped out of my shower and heard some commotion outside. Sophie — my neighbor’s frankenweinee of a dog — was half-pitbull and half-chihuahua. She was in my yard and wouldn’t shut up. I went outside to yell at her, and that’s when I saw Molly.

Molly Ruettimann

Little Molly, scabbed-up face and broken teeth.
Little Molly, Brillo pad fur and judgy eyes.
Little Molly, whiny as hell and meowing for food.

I scooped her up like a momma bear. I fed her Fancy Feast. We drove to the vet.

“What’s wrong with her face?” I asked.

“Road rash. Fight with a possum. Who the hell knows?” the vet tech told me.

The diagnosis wasn’t good for this punchkin. Molly had herpes in her eyes, coccidia and roundworm.

“The coccidia is highly contagious,” the vet tech warned me. “Keep her quarantined from your other cats.”

“Oh,” I asked, “You can’t keep her?”

The vet tech looked at me like I had two heads. She suggested a local animal rescue that might be able to help.

And she was right. The local animal rescue was staffed with Pfizer employees who volunteered their time. And everyone was so helpful. They made it easy to keep Molly.

Molly Ruettimann 2

So because of Molly, several things happened.

  1. I learned a lot about cats.
  2. My husband started to like cats.
  3. I began volunteering at an animal rescue.
  4. Pfizer donated tens of thousands of dollars to that animal rescue through my volunteer efforts.
  5. I figured out why I was working: to facilitate a better life for animals.

Not bad.

One more thing. Molly hated me from the start. She fell in love with my husband. His kitty wife — That little bitch! That traitor! That adorable little punchkin! — crawled  into our bed every night and gave me the cold shoulder for four years.

FOUR YEARS.

Molly Ruettimann 3

But the good news is that Molly and I rebooted our lives over together in 2008 when our family moved down to North Carolina for my husband’s job. We didn’t know anyone. We didn’t have much to do besides hang out with one another and write. And we became pretty good friends.

Molly Ruettimann 4

I love this petite cat because she doesn’t love easily, but she does love hard. I love that human resources brought us together. But I really love that she loves me a little bit more each day.

Molly  Ruettimann 10th-1

Happy Gotcha Day, Molly! Ten years just flew by.

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Laurie RuettimannI had a great and glorious holiday weekend. How about you?

The cats didn’t fight. We attended a wedding and went to the beach. I ate like a champ. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I remember when I had a real job. The first day back after a long “summer weekend” was brutal. Employees were tired. Supervisors and leaders are bombed with email before they walk through the door. HR professionals around America are hungover but affecting a happy disposition.

(My boss once told me that I can’t improve employee engagement scores if I’m not smiling.)

I know the first day back is tough, but I hope you have a good day at work. America is built on a foundation of people who worked hard so you didn’t have to! They built railroads and interstates. They dug ditches and hauled boulders. They foraged, farmed and fought for a better society.

You work on a computer and don’t even answer your phone, anymore.

In short, you’re not gonna die.

Go easy on yourself, get another Starbucks, and don’t be too hard on your colleagues.

Welcome back to work, America!

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the new e-book, “I Am HR.”ow.ly/xIRbQ Click to tweet.

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Lucy_BW-300x200

A friend of mine told me that she buys cat food at the grocery store. She buys whatever is on sale. Yes, her cat is barfy. She is not sure what to do.

She asked, “What do you feed your cats?”

That’s a complicated question.

I have a cat who cannot tolerate grain. He loves Meow Mix, but he will barf himself into oblivion if I feed him the fun stuff. I want to make my life easier, so I feed my cats bunnies.

(That’s right. They eat rabbits. Canned and dry.)

Although it sounds gross, those bunnies were raised and slaughtered in conjunction with a thoughtful and transparent supply-chain process. It’s expensive food, of course, but a puke-free life is worth it.

If my cats didn’t eat bunnies, I would struggle to find the right food because commercial pet food is unregulated. Just because something is expensive and “natural” doesn’t mean it is good. Chinese suppliers have been known to take shortcuts. Many animals have died.

(Stay up to date on pet food recalls here, btw.)

Seth Godin says cat food isn’t for cats, which tells me how little he knows about anything other than himself. Cat food is for cats, and there are big differences in the quality and brands. If there were no digestive issues in our family, I would probably feed my cats Science Diet. It’s always been good to us.

Do you need to buy your cat food at the grocery store? Well, I fed my cats Fancy Feast for many years. My favorite cat, Lucy, died just a few weeks short of her 18th birthday. If Fancy Feast is good enough for Lucy, it’s probably good enough for your cat.

Here is my advice: do your research, introduce your cat to a new brand very slowly, and stick with that brand.

Good luck!

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Two weeks ago, I spotted a lost dog. She seemed freaked out. Ran away from me and into the woods. I hopped on my neighborhood’s social networking site to send a note.

Lost Dog.jpg

I went to a conference, came home and discovered that the dog was still loose. Thankfully, a neighbor had grabbed the poor girl and put her on a screened-in porch. When I saw the news, I got off email and reached out in real life.

I remember what it was like to volunteer at an animal rescue. It’s lonely. Everyone is sympathetic, but nobody has space. I said, “Thank you for snatching up the dog. I will help you get this dog back to its owners. She has been out for weeks, and you are not in this alone.”

My strategy? Although I posted the dog’s photo online, I also worked the phone. I reached out to local shelters and breed-specific rescue facilities in order to find this dog’s family, and those volunteers were amazing and helpful. They explained the animal rescue process in NC. They also gave me ideas on how to find the owner beyond getting this dog tested for an existing microchip.

I also reached out to friends who have Golden Retrievers and asked them to help me estimate the dog’s age and figure out how we might be able to make her comfortable. This poor dog has been missing for weeks and had dodged cars on a local road. She was nervous and wanted to wander. She wanted to go home.

And my awesome neighbor (who did 100% of the hard work with this dog) didn’t spend all day on the internet, either. She fed and sheltered the dog. She took the dog on walks, too, and one of our other neighbors said, “Hey, I think I know that dog. She lives down the street in an adjacent neighborhood.”

Problem solved. The dog is reunited with the family.

So, yeah, this whole incident is a good reminder that a) no problem is ever solved on the internet and b) just when you think you’ve reached your entire audience, you haven’t.

There is always someone who doesn’t know the story but might have a solution for you. Try harder to reach your target audience.

I also learned two more things.

First of all, I love my pet sitter. She sends me “proof of life” photos every day when I travel. Those time-stamped photos will be required from all future babysitters for the rest of my life.

Finally, if you see a dog, snatch her up. Nobody is going to do anything about it except you. She has been overlooked by hundreds of people. And reuniting a dog with her owners is worth it!

 

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Emma RuettimannThere is nothing more difficult than taking a cat to the vet, unless you have your shit locked down — like me — and have a cat like Emma. Taking my cat to the vet is easy. She is just perfect and adorable.

(Okay, that’s a lie. My shit is far from locked down, and taking her to the vet can be a pain-in-the-ass.)

Here is how you do it.

Before You Go to the Vet

  1. You must have a carrier. Cats get motion sickness. No need to medicate for this condition. They do better when they are confined to a box. It’s also safer for you as a driver. Get a cat carrier or ask your vet to borrow one for the visit. Really. Vets loan out carriers all of the time!
  2. Keep the carrier out in your home at all times. When your carrier is just another normal piece of furniture, it’s not a dreaded object. Move the carrier 1x/week to show your cats that you can move the carrier for no reason. The carrier doesn’t always mean the vet.
  3. Plan your vet visit for a time of day that’s pretty chill. We go in the morning because the cats have full tummies and low energy levels.

Getting to the Vet

  1. Breathe. This is no big deal. Really. You are a good parent. They are meowing, not dying.
  2. Pick a good blanket for the carrier. Cats do best with a blanket that they know and love. Also, a good (and ratty) blanket absorbs any accidental pee.
  3. Think (and trap) strategically. Two nights before a vet visit, I like to put our carrier in the room where I will trap my cat. You could try to establish a ritual and feed them treats in your “trapping room” for about a week before you actually trap them and take them to the vet.
  4. Load your carrier into your car with your garage door closed (if possible). Lots of stories about dropped carriers and cats who escape. If you live in an apartment, get your car as close to your apartment door as possible. Move like James Bond: with purpose and intention.
  5. Be quiet when you drive. The natural tendency is to talk to your cat. You want to calm them down; however, your weird and stressed voice makes it worse. Don’t play the radio, don’t sing, and don’t try to reassure your kitties through a prolonged conversation. If you do talk to your kitties, keep it soft and quiet.

More Tips

  1. Your cat carrier should latch into the passenger seatbelt. You don’t want your cat to become a missile if you are in a car accident.
  2. Be prepared for the sad kitty song. The Ballad of the Blue Kitty® is an old classic meant to trick you into opening the carrier in the car and petting your cat. Don’t do it. It’s not safe. Distracted cat drivers are dangerous, yo. Your cats will meow. They might pee, pant or even poop in the carriers. They are stressed. But this is only temporary.
  3. Keep it short. If possible, find a vet near your home. Keep the drive under 15 minutes to make everyone happy.

I believe that animals mimic our behaviors. If we are stressed, they are stressed. So CTFD and use your superior intellect to make the experience as simple and easy as possible.

Or find a mobile vet!

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You might think cats are independent and aloof. Not mine. I have velcro cats. They love me. They love my husband. They always want to hang out with us. I can’t go to the bathroom without someone coming to see what the heck I’m doing.

“You might be having some fun, mom. I want in.”

Sometimes I feel like I am a bad cat mom — especially when I’m on the internet — and I look over and see Emma making her own fun without me.

“I know Mom can’t play with me because she is too busy on Facebook complaining about SHRM. I’ll just attack the heck out of this cat triangle until she notices.”

Poonchy Emma

(Yikes, Emma, I’m sorry. I am reading about Solange!)

But I am relieved that Emma is killing the cat scratcher because I believe in unstructured playtime for children, adults, and even animals. You don’t need to mandate that 20% of your employee’s time go towards a creative project; however, just as you give a kid a box of Legos and she begins to dream, you can offer privacy and space to adults who will use that time to solve problems in new and creative ways.

Velcro leadership is toxic. When you velcro yourself to your children and employees — and offer big management tips, big motivational speeches, and big team building activities with cheesy HR consultants — you create small, needy and disempowered workers who can’t make a move without you.

My cats (and your children and employees) need to know that they are fully validated beings who exist with or without your approval. They just need some space and encouragement to play, have a little fun, and discover who they are without the presence of a (corporate) nanny.

A little separation goes a long way. I have learned that Emma just likes to attack the hell out of her triangle for no apparent reason. When given his choice of activities, Scrubby likes to watch birds. Molly runs through the house chasing shadows. And Jake has a “rattle mouse” that makes noise when he bats it around the kitchen.

(Maybe, at some point, one of them will actually kill a willy bug around here.)

Anyway, I dream of a confident and independent kitty workforce. You should dream big dreams for yours!

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