The house manager told me yesterday she came back from lunch to discover ‘the new girl in billing’ had left her work keys and badge on her desk along with a succinct note stating she had quit.  There was no explanation why she had suddenly bolted without due notice. Perhaps she was unhappy or she got a better job. Who can say. I never did learn the woman’s name; she had been ‘on board’ only a fortnight.  People come and go so quickly here.

The place where I work has a seemingly high turnover rate of office staff. Over the years I have seen countless administrative assistants come and go that I can’t remember most of them. They never seem to stay long.  I am not privy to the reasons why they skidoo and apparently most of the time thems in charge don’t know either. I have several theories:

1-  The jobs suck

2 – The management sucks

3 – The demographics of thems hired suck

4 – The pay sucks

5 – The place is cursed.

 

#1 has some merit. The roles of receptionist and billing and telephone operators are all ‘customer service centered’ in a clinic that serves the mentally ill. Most of the time the people who call do so to complain about billing matters or delayed prescription renewals or wanting to see the doctor NOW.  I sometimes have to remind folks the majority of people who come here do so because they have anger issues, bipolar mood swings, or they don’t play with others well.

#2 is doubtful. The manager and bosses are nice people. I think they do a good job at listening and problem solving. If they are cruel taskmasters I don’t sense it.

#3 is possible.  Thems that are hired tend to be young women millennial types who don’t often seem to have ‘people skills’ or work ethic. I may be showing my age here, but the younger generation doesn’t seems to drop out quickly when bored or frustrated.  A few of the recently departed were either dropping the balls or were downright nasty to callers. It was a relief to see them go

#4 – I don’t know anyone’s salary but perhaps people get better paid jobs so the clinic can’t keep’em.  Two ladies confided in me before they left told me they were going to a similar set ups but with better pay.

#5 – I haven’t heard any bumps or demonic voices telling me to get out, but I wonder.

Another possibility – let’s call it #6 – is the professional staff (the shrinks and the counselors) are demanding and needy.  I’ve seen no evidence to support such. Indeed, it seems just as hard to get and retain counselors as the auxiliary staff.

Whatever the reason, their heart or their shoes, the manager and bosses must hire more Whos.  I hope they are using what data they have to better the chances of hiring quality types who stick around.  I would volunteer myself to be on the hiring committee. On second thought I better now.  I haven’t any experience in hiring.  After the long series of all female hirees  I would go for the men and hire the pretty ones and end up doing all the work myself.

 

 

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One of the great curiosities of the human mind is something called pareidolia. This fancy word means we have the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful images in random or ambiguous visual patterns. In other words,  we see things that aren’t really there. It is a blessing and a curse.  We want – need? – explanation for why things are. Things ‘don’t just happen”; there must be a reason(s) for every event. When we can’t find an explanation we make them up.

Once upon a time the supernatural or the divine was the cause why weather/circumstances/events etc. went one way rather than another. Although we’ve sort of thrown out the gods pareidolia continues in the belief of karma and conspiracies. Even in my psychological training there is a word for it: synchronicity. Synchronicity is a murky word meaning significance out of seemingly random actions. Jung he wasn’t clear on the definition but thems who proscribe to his psychology tend to see ‘mere chance” as not possible. One can extract meaning out of everything.

In my practice, patients are always trying to find or make explanations for their happenings, especially along the line of some sort of ill-defined fate that caused them to be at the wrong place at the right time. They say it was “meant somehow”  to be in that car accident or witnessing a murder or when s0-and-so died etc.

Turn on the news or surf the internet and you will find endless conspiracy theories to explain what can’t be easily explained. They are as thick as fleas. Nothing just happens or happens for a simple reason. Behind an easy explanation (or worse, no explanation) there must be an intricate web of deceit. What this all boils down to is purpose: nothing happens without it.

The sad and terrible truth is banal and bleak.  Bad and good things happen and there often isn’t any reason or meaning to them. There. That’s it. There are no gods, no karma, no conspiracy. We have to accept there is  no meaning why the storm hit here and not there.* The stuff we see on the surface of Mars is merely stuff.  One is not fated from bad behavior or divine wrath to have bad things happen.

It is chance without meaning.

Better to make peace with fate without dressing it up as three dames dictating your life’s thread.

We would be better off to stop seeing things that aren’t there.

 

 

*Bad weather reported as ‘God’s wrath’ against homosexuality, abortion, or whatvever scapegoat-de jour is happening is especially irksome. 

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Today is the feast day of the nativity of William Shakespeare AKA Shakespeare’s birthday.  Although he is best known for his eloquent words, when he needed to Bill could be a bitch. In honor of the day I thought I would mention some of my favorite insults and slurs from his plays.   This one is for all you rampallians and fustilarians  – enjoy !

Beetle-headed flap-eared knave.

A fusty nut with no kernel.

O gull, o dolt, as ignorant as dirt.

A lump of foul deformity.

An infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker.

All eyes and no sight.

Highly fed and lowly taught. 

Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch!

I do desire we may be better strangers.

Long-tongued babbling gossip.

Light of brain.

His wit’s as thick as Tewkesbury mustard.

Mountain of mad flesh.

Not so much brain as ear wax.

You canker blossom !

You poisonous bunch backed toad!

Thou art a boil, a plague sore!

and (my favorite)

The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans.

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I am nearly done making a shirt and I am not certain if I will finish it.  As I worked on it this weekend, I am sensed a strong desire to stop and throw it away despite it being nearly done. In all my years of making Spo-shirts, was is the first time I have felt such.  

Once upon a time I used to feel obliged to finish a book or a meal ordered in a restaurant even when I wasn’t no longer enjoying it. Nowadays I don’t force myself to do either – so is it OK to do so with sewing projects?

The shirt in question doesn’t have a major fault to it but rather an accumulation of little disappointments.  The pattern is a whimsical assortment of tropical birds on a bright white background I now find a bit puerile.  Sometimes I buy fabric I think will be fabulous only to grow disenchanted with it as it evolves into an actual shirt.  This ‘Toucan” shirt has a lot of minor blips and errors to it – things I should be better at avoiding by now.  The seams have a jagged edge to them just enough to make me displeased.  Said shirt merely needs the buttonholes and buttons to be concluded, but the joy is gone. 

I thought of finishing it and posting a photo here at Spo-reflections or on Facebook and announcing ‘It’s yours if you want it. Free Spo-shirt !” I would count the raised hands (if any) and make it into a lottery. Out of vanity I probably won’t do this. With its blips and hiccups I would be embarrassed to have someone receive it. This runt of the litter may  have to stay home and be back in the closet, where I can look at it from time to time, and feel guilt both to discard it and to keep it. 

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. Maybe I have obtained the wisdom not all my work will be wonderful or worth keeping. Despite the time and energy (and expense) I put into these shirts, it is OK to crumble them up like paper of a bad sketch and into the rubbish it goes. 

All the same, it is a bit of a downer to feel a disappointment. It is one thing to put up with a tedious job but a tedious hobby makes no sense. 

 

Update:  soon after I wrote this I went into the other room and finished it. 

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I was going to dictate charts but Someone wants to use the computer. He told me to go write a blog entry or something.  So here I am. 

I woke this morning feeling rather refreshed, which is nice. As is my wont I arose at 5AM. Having a regular wake up hour is the cornerstone to a lot of health benefits, so I try to do so even on weekends. It’s a moot endeavor: if  I wanted to sleep in like a slugabed Harper wakes me anyway for canine-centered needs.  So, I got up, walked the pooch, tidied up the kitchen, and went out to get bagels.

I am a morning person.

Morning people are reportedly more chipper and virtuous than night persons for arising in the wee hours and bouncing about like a pinball. Mostly they are seen as annoying by the night owls.  Neither type finds the other understandable nor do they convey much empathy.  I think when people are dating they should ask each other when they wake and sleep to avoid the tragedy of becoming hooked up with the wrong type of sleeper. 

When I was in med school I was taught any sleeping pattern different than 10PM-7PM was a pathology in need of treatment. We now know this is like forcing lefties to write with their right hand. Nowadays it is vogue to discover the patient’s ‘chronotype’ viz. when they like to wake/sleep, and try to get their world to fit to that. If you are happy and healthy staying up to 3AM and sleep until noon, so be it. Best to get a job and mate to fit that and not the other way around.  

Someone’s chronotype is almost similar to my own, although he can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Lucky fellow.  Harper’s chronotype seems to be a subtype based on the need to sleep whenever possible. It’s a dog’s life. 

Spo-fans: are you a ‘morning person’?; does your significant have a similar sleep time to your own? 

 

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It is curious to see how my partner and I dress to go to work. Someone wears the same outfit every time: black trousers, white shirt with neckwear – always orange. Sometimes they are bow ties; sometimes they are long ties. He irons the shirt and pants to make them sharp and wrinkle free.  This outfit does not vary; it is the dress code where he works.  In contrast I basically wear what I want, which is often whatever is at eye level. Mostly it is a Spo-shirt and khakis, the latter I admit are not always pressed and some of them have dog-eared cuffs.  When I wear a white shirt/dress pants ensemble it may or may not have neck wear.  My boss has never conveyed a dress code*; I can wear what I please.  So I do.

If I were a ‘proper doctor” I would wear a white shirt, tie, dress slacks, and a white coat- but I am not in a usual doctor setting. A white coat would make me look like someone who is insecure about being seen as a doctor.   I dress not so much ‘what I want’ but what I am;  my shirts reflect me like nothing I could buy.  If a patient doesn’t like how I dress they can go elsewhere.  Rarely do I get something like the following:

“Why are you dressed like that?”

“Oh, (feigning concern), you don’t like it?”

“Doctors are supposed to dress [fill in the blank]”

I refrain from responding with

“And patients are supposed to [fill in the blank with something pithy]”

I have a three-month waiting list; I don’t need to coddle.

I am quite aware of the psychology behind ‘dress for success’. When you dress well people respect you more and you convey confidence, professionalism etc.  You even feel better and more capable.  I do sometimes worry  about first impressions with the new patients, some of them highly anxious and ambivalent about coming in to see a shrink. These nervous novices imagine I will be dressed like Freud or Hannibal Lector.  Seeing me in a bright colorful aloha-style shirt either assuages or heightens their anxiety.  But, I see new patient every day; they are going to encounter me in second-rate khakis and Spo-shirt so it’s best to shock’em right away.

There are two other significant factors in my choice of clothes:  the climate and culture of Phoenix. With temperatures usually above 40C a suit is most uncomfortable. They are hardly ever seen and they evoke not so much respect/confidence as suspicion.  Arizona may be the most dressed-down au casual place I know, where tucking in a shirt is considered dressy.

There are three basic clothes styles: Ruffian, Refined, and Rakish. I blend Rakish (colorful shirts without coat or tie) with Refined (quality shirts, trousers, and socks – no rubbish).  I have a good gig  provided I don’t show in last season’s Pradas.

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*My father once advised me to dress like the boss, but he often shows up to work looking like he just came in from working in the yard.

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I am not so disenchanted by the world that I can’t derive pleasure and satisfaction from the little things of life. Most of the time my mundane matters are hardly felt at all but a few of them still give me a mild euphoria. Thank goodness and all the gods for that.  I have experienced these comforts countless times before yet they still manage to tickle my dopamine receptors to get a grin and a sense of satisfaction.

Here be a few ……

It’s that time of year when I drive to work in the early morning sunrise. Morning sunshine tickling my retinas combined with a mug of hot tea (or iced) while listening to a podcast combine in a way to make me pause each time to feel gratitude.  I am alive, well, and going to a job I like to do. It is a sort of morning prayer of thanksgiving.

Walking the dog may feel at times a dull obligation but this is always negated by the excitement seen in Harper’s eyes and movements. After ten years she remains as excited as ever at the mere mention of the word ‘walk’. Her delight is contagious; I too feel excited to go out and see the world.

My phone has a playlist titled “Comfort songs”. In it are twenty-something tunes that have stood the test of time whenever I hear them my mind is flooded with warmth, serenity and fond memories.  If the day is frazzled I merely have to pause, close the door, put on the headphones, and listen to one. The Aegean stables of muck in my mind is purged away just enough to get back to work feeling refreshed.

The redolence of old books is another azoth of remarkable endurance. I have a shelf of old books. Some of these tomes are from my childhood. I remember where and when I read them. Encountering them is a full sensory experience. I start by running my fingers over their dog-eared paper jackets. I open one of them slowly; the crack of old glue and binding immediately lightens up switchboard in my brain. Before I read a favorite passage, I stick my nose deep in between the pages and inhale. The aroma of old paper, ink, and glue is like a sensual climax with the actual reading a sort of afterglow.

Not all of my panaceas are sensual. There are certain everyday tasks that surprisingly keep on giving a quiet satisfaction like a housewife watching the scones rise. Some Spo-fans will cringe to read this one: doing the laundry. Doing some never fails to conjure up a pleasant feeling of accomplishment. The never-ending act of putting dirty duds into the washer, spinning the dials, adding soap and pressing the ‘start’ button presses my button too. I am cleaning up. I am joining the countless generations of women (and menfolk) who continually battle with keeping the world clutter-free and providing clean undergarments.*

Sipping tea; reading books; doing chores; listening to music. It is a comfort and a blessing  some little things of life still make me feel good. May they always do so.

Oh yes, I forgot one: popsicles on a hot summer day. Bright, refreshing, and drippy… like my men.

What little thing(s) in life make you feel good? I would like to know.

 

*I should note it is downhill afterwards. The act of putting the damp cleaned clothes into the dryer elicits no pleasure and the folding aspect is a merely a drag.

 

Walking the dog

It’s again that time of year when the 5AM dog-walks no longer are done in darkness. There is just enough twilight  now (for the sun rises at six) to assure more certain footing. Some of the trails normally shunned at night are again open for exploration. This makes for more routes and a larger source of sniffs. Sniffing posts, bushes, and what-not seem to be as important to Harper as walking itself. I read a dog’s sense of smell is extraordinary. She takes in redolence as keen as a tea merchant inspector.  My nose is congested from allergies so I can’t smell anything on these  sniff-excursions.

A bit of daylight is helping to be on the lookout for trouble viz. low-hanging mesquite branches and wildlife. I admit I am not always on my guard but I am looking down at my cellphone or listening to podcasts. I should always be on guard for advancing dogs or worse. We haven’t run into any rattlesnakes or javelinas in a while but you never can tell when they may suddenly pop up. Happily it is too cold at 5AM for snakes to be out and about but this is the right time for javelinas to go poking about.

Brighter mornings and warmer temperatures translate into longer walks. I am not as chilled or wanting to return home as quickly as possible. There is a narrow period of April and May before it  becomes now too hot to stay out for too long.  Apart from the allergies spring is a good time for long walks and sniffs and exploration of the same routes that always seem new and exciting – at least for the pooch. 🙂

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I was recently reminded of some aspects about human psychology that make we wonder how on earth we survive as a species let alone get anything accomplished. Spock-like I raise my right eyebrow at the lack of logic tin human behavior and cognition.  A grim phenomena that pops up over and over is our quick and inevitable proclivity to quickly form into groups to create ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ situations, sometimes doing so based upon the most trivial of reasons. Worse, we don’t seem to need an ‘us’ so much as we need a ‘them’  to shun and exclude.  Another depressing finding is the hopeful belief if provide people ‘the facts’ they will see their error and shift their views. Fat chance of that. Rather, people either don’t change their minds or they merely become MORE steadfast in their beliefs, as if you were attacking their whole wellbeing.  We are more likely to sacrifice our integrity than go against what our ‘tribe’ wants and thinks, lest we are ostracized and have to go over to ‘them’.  Oh the horror.

This point is illustrated by a study in which thems on the right and thems on the left are told of a fellow with a PHD in meteorology who teaches at Harvard/MIT and has decades of research about the weather. The groups are asked if he sounds an expert; they confirm they see him as such. Then, the Right is told this fellow supports global warming and the Left group is told he doesn’t believe in Global warming.  Rather than the members changing their minds both sides conclude the man is a quack.

It makes me want to pack up and move to New Zealand but of course it is no better there* as people are people.

The trap is to conclude our monkey-brain wiring system’s proclivity to choose group and group dogma over truth and individualism is inevitable. Freud had his many faults but his chief axiom holds true: that we are unconscious of gets acted out. Watching these inevitable human tendencies allows us a slight chance to choose otherwise.  We can cooperate; we can choose not to exclude; we can talk to each other without condemning them when we realize they don’t agree with us on some matter.   Let us hope so, anyway.

 

*The white wines are better in New Zealand.

 

For some days I have been waiting for a nibble of a blog entry like a patient fisherman sitting in my cerebral boat in the middle of Spo Lake waiting for a bite to haul in an idea.  The fish don’t seem to be biting today. Perhaps my bait is no good.  Maybe I should change the simile for I was never one to catch fish. I think I will haul up the nets and row to shore.  Alas there is no catch of the day on the menu. I will have to do what’s on the shelf or in Tupperware containers in the back of the fridge.

What is on the menu – or soon will be – is a freshly baked batch of Goobersnap.

 

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Never heard of it? Me neither.

I follow the Facebook shenanigans of an ex blogger who writes and blogs exclusively about food. He recently found this recipe for goobersnap in an old Midwest cookbook.  I sense he was bewildered and horrified by the ingredients as he likes gourmet and this recipe is at the opposite end of the food spectrum.  It is basically cornbread with some toppings no one would dream of using. Can it be any good?  Where does the dish originate?  The name alone is worth investigating.   I sense Stan was showing it as a ‘can you believe what people once ate?” entry, but my Midwestern stomach says this looks fascinating enough to try.  Someone likes cornbread; I suspect he would give it a try. I suppose if it is ghastly it isn’t too much of a waste.

Old church cookbooks from the Midwest intrigue me to read for in them I get to see what my forefathers ate and what the foremothers made. Did they consider this sort of food appetizing or was it merely make-do with what was available.  Goobersnap hasn’t worked its way into our collective memories and cookbooks suggests it was a food item for its time, like ambrosia salad or beehive hairdos. (oh the pain).

I will make some this week and report back to you how it was received in the Spo-house. I look forward to seeing if it makes a ‘return’ like Norma Desmond or it joins Lime-tuna Jello salad in the Midwest grave yard for extinct busy-day hot-dishes

 

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