June 21st, 2018 3 comments


Here we are suddenly at the summer solstice and here in New England, we finally have weather that feels like summer. Being an active volunteer with my therapy dog, Rudy, I believe that he has the right idea about work. This morning we went to our local high school where the students were taking their final exams. They were stressed out, anxious, and tired. As soon as they saw Rudy, their body language softened. They smiled. They got down on the floor. They were glad to see him. And while their exams weren’t forgotten, they were put in perspective.

Rudy has only been a therapy dog since March, when he turned a year old, so he’s still new to this work. But he threw himself into it. He had lots of hands touching him at once. He was in a strange building. As I shared his story:  one of nine puppies in a litter rescued from Tennessee, he did the real work just by being there.

He is now sound asleep in the bed by my desk. He’s resting until our next adventure. He’s willing to go anywhere I go because we’re a team. We trust each other. We look out for each other. When I noticed him getting tired, I told our contact at the high school that it was time to leave. So like Rudy, take time this summer to stretch out, relax, find times to do nothing, and notice how restorative that is. See how it helps you be present when you’re working. Enjoy your dog days!

Categories: Jean Tags:


April 17th, 2018 6 comments


I hate getting lost. Whether I’m on my way to a business meeting, or just out doing errands, I like to know where I am. But sometimes, getting lost is a really good thing. Sometimes it leads us to possibilities in our lives that we hadn’t considered. But here’s the thing:  you’ve got to be able to tolerate being a beginner. You’ve got to not panic when you’re lost.

Last year, I worked extensively as a speaker, and I not only spoke on topics that I’ve given before, but I was also invited to help associations with issues such as customer service, and I went back to my college to give a presentation on careers for English majors. I was flying. Busy. It was fun.

Then December came and I didn’t notice how quiet my work had become because I was recovering from all the travel and talks I had given, and I was focused on the holidays. But when January hit, I was like a hiker out in the middle of nowhere without a compass. It was really quiet. And my wonderful dog, Bella, my therapy dog died.

As I worked through my grief, I saw that I could either shake the bushes and look for more speaking engagements, or I could use this time to think about what I really want to do. It seemed important not to be too busy. Having worked as a writer throughout my career, it gradually dawned on me that this was where I wanted to put my energy.

There were bumps in the road, but having written for children years ago, I joined an association of children’s book writers and illustrators, and I signed up for their retreat. Now I have traveling companions and support. And one of the picture books I’m working on is “Bella and the Scaredy Cat”–a fun reversal where the cat saves the dog.

I can’t tell you how you’ll find your compass, but I hope my example helps, and that you’ll be less afraid when there are no road signs.


Categories: Jean Tags:


February 4th, 2018 No comments


Here is a beautiful illustration of a human pyramid, and having spent a cold, winter’s afternoon with my three oldest grandchildren (ages 7, 9 & 11), I had the clever idea that we could build a pyramid. I, of course, was on the bottom, and as I felt their bony knees digging into my back, I held my breath, not wanting to be the one who brought the youngest child crashing down from the top. The parents were out and I had images of rushing one or more of them to the ER for stitches. We did not stand up. This was an on all fours pyramid and a wobbly one at that.

We tried different variations–two of us forming the base, then one, and the smallest again on top. No matter what we did we laughed so hard that the structure shook and collapsed. The dog thought it was a game and licked as many faces as he could reach. There is a certain kind of joy in destruction. I’m sure that’s why people like to watch buildings implode.

Build to crumble. Make something that can’t last. Fall down with it. Roll on the floor like a kid. Or a dog. Mess up. I haven’t had so much fun in ages, and no one was hurt in the making of this memory.

(Image courtesy of Adobe Images)

Categories: Burnout, Jean Tags:


January 16th, 2018 No comments

IMG_1061 (1)

Henry and Rudy waiting by the door, watching the geese in the field.

I don’t  know about you, but I’m terrible at waiting. I don’t like to do it, whether stuck behind a car that has suddenly stopped for no reason, or in line at a restaurant. It makes me twitchy. But I recently heard a sermon about emptiness–really about how we have to tolerate “no” before we can get to a “yes”, and that helped me look at waiting a little differently. (And by the way, Henry and Rudy are really good at this.)

Emptiness is scary. It can make us feel alone, useless, uncertain. But the sermon I heard helped me see it’s also a creative time–a time of possibilities. It’s time when we can reflect, pause, breathe, and let go. It forces us to be present, and like meditation, gives us the gift of the here and now.

That’s my goal for the New Year. To wait, consider, take my time, see what happens.

Categories: Burnout, Jean, job search Tags:


December 21st, 2017 No comments


My best and oldest friend, Nancy, makes these elegant ikebanas. They are a form of meditation and invite us to contemplation. Wishing all of you a good holiday and some moments of quiet to help you prepare for the New Year.

Categories: Burnout, Jean Tags:


December 1st, 2017 No comments


That’s no easy thing, is it? Believing we are enough just as we are. With what we have. Without someone else telling us how wonderful we are. Here’s what made me think of this.

I had an incredible fall. I was asked to speak to diverse groups, from an insurance association to library groups to assisted living professionals. Topics included stopping burnout, presentation skills, lessons from an unlikely therapy dog, and included a workshop on customer service. Then I got to go back to my college and give a presentation for English Majors:  “What You Have, Where It Will Take You.”

I was preparing, researching, creating PowerPoint presentations, rehearsing and finally getting myself to the conferences and giving the talks.  It was exciting and exhausting. I was running on super drive. And then, the engagements stopped and my phone was silent, and I told myself that this was good–that I needed to recover. (In the middle of all this I caught a virus and lost my voice–just to add to the drama.)

But after a few weeks, I was hungry for affirmation. I wanted someone to call me up and ask me to speak. I wanted to fill my calendar. I wanted someone from the outside to do the work I needed to do on the inside. That made me stop. As a flaming extrovert I like noise and excitement and affirmation, but I also know I can’t depend on it. So in this busy holiday season, in this time when the afternoons are dark by 4PM, when it’s getting colder, I’m watching, waiting, seeing what happens if I don’t need all that busyness.

My new dog, Rudy (a puppy nine months old), has the right idea. Stretch out on the couch. Take it easy. Enjoy walks in the brisk air. Pay attention. And he too likes to be told, “Good dog,” but I think he knows it even when the house is quiet and all you can hear is the cat snoring.

(Top image courtesy of Adobe Images.)


Categories: Burnout, Jean, job search Tags:


November 16th, 2017 2 comments


As we approach the holiday season, I thought a little poetry might be a good gift. A way to pause, breathe, slow down. Here are a few lines from Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, translated by Coleman Barks. This is the last stanza of a poem titled “A Bowl.”

“The universe and the light of the stars come through me.

I am the crescent moon put up

over the gate to the festival.”

(Image courtesy of Adobe images)

Categories: Burnout, Jean Tags:


November 1st, 2017 2 comments

IMG_3040 (1)

It’s taken five months, but at last, all three of our pets are getting along beautifully. Henry the cat–who thinks he’s a dog–was fine with the new puppy, Rudy–the black lab mix. But Bella, my wonderful therapy dog who is now going on 11, was not at all sure this was a good idea. She was territorial. Upset. And we saw a lot of snarling. But now, she plays with Rudy, still has senior privileges, and has discovered that it’s kind of fun to have another dog in the house.

This got me thinking about office politics and change. Yesterday I was speaking with the head of sales at one of my publishers, and after 26 years she’s had two bosses in the past month and her company is being acquired. I tried to lighten her mood by suggesting she read the book I wrote that they published: “The Essential Job Interview Handbook.” She laughed, but I could hear sadness and shock that the world she had been part of for so long, was coming to an end.

We can read statistics about the number of jobs and careers we’re all likely to have, but that doesn’t lessen the hurt. You’ve built something, been part of something, and now it’s gone. Chances are you aren’t the only one affected. And you know people who have gone through this before at other companies. Like my wonderful cat and two dogs, share the dish. Help each other. Acknowledge that this is a rough time, but take one small action every day to move forward. That could be updating your resume, making a networking call, or starting a list of organizations that interest you.

Today I’m flying to Chicago to give a talk at my college:  “The English Major:  What You Have, Where It Could Take You.” Like my message to the students, remember that you have choices, that few careers follow a straight line, and that you’ll be surprised by what comes next as long as you put in the effort. Share the dish.

Categories: Jean Tags:


October 22nd, 2017 No comments

Sometimes we learn things from proximity. In the past few weeks I’ve been on the road–out to Lancaster, PA for a wonderful conference of the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association with my dog, Bella, and then back in Connecticut for a session on customer service for library professionals. As I was thinking about it, the two have a lot in common.

Here’s the easy similarities: both categories involve non-stop requests at work, both deal with deep issues that affect our communities such as poverty, disabilities, aging, etc., and of course both are at the heart of our communities.

Here are a few things from each session that might be helpful to everyone.

  • Nonverbal support is powerful (this is one of the many reasons why therapy dogs are so effective)
  • Information opens doors
  • You can’t fake patience or kindness
  • You must take good care of yourself if you’re going to be effective in caring for others
  • “No” is a wonderful word–just be careful how you say it
  • Humor is really important, too. There’s something about these two dogs that cracks me up!
  • Take advantage of your co-workers. They may be better at something that you’re struggling with. Team up and learn from each other.
  • Use mini-breaks to refresh yourself and regain perspective.

It was a long ride home after the conference in Lancaster. Bella didn’t mind–she slept for the six hours. It’s a tough job being a dog!

Categories: Jean Tags:


September 17th, 2017 No comments

IMG_1074 (1)

How bad could it be? San Diego, the Del Coronado hotel, and an international group of life insurance professionals. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking to this group on two topics:  How to Stop Burnout, and Presentation Skills. As I stood on the stage in the Crown Room–underneath an impressive crown–I felt so lucky to be there and grateful for what I learned from this audience.

Some of the issues that were leading to burnout included:  trouble sleeping, feeling tired and sometimes afraid, losing weight, feeling overwhelmed and lacking in confidence. As we went through strategies to lessen burnout, individuals choose to exercise, keep a sense of humor, listen to music, learn how to turn work off, and to team up with others so that they weren’t facing work challenges alone.

For the afternoon breakout session, “Stand Out Every Time You Talk”, we practiced solid eye contact, and how gestures make your ideas come alive. Everyone had a chance to see themselves using gestures to describe, differentiate and emphasize key points. We talked about how to run an effective Q&A session, and what to do if the audience tunes out or is distracted.

Lastly, it was a magical place. I had never given much thought or attention to palm trees, but I fell in love with their variety, elegance, and delicate fronds dancing in the wind. The place itself–with flowers everywhere–was an amazing burnout buster. I hope everyone went home energized and ready to use their new connections and knowledge to have their best year ever.

Categories: Burnout, Jean Tags: