Anderson-Messeder Holiday Card 2018

Another Year passed already!


As I write this in early December 2018, Tom is 21. Gabby is 19. Kieran is 18, and Devin is 15. It’s been an interesting year. When I sat down to decide how to write this year’s e-card, I quickly glanced at a few older ones and had to chuckle about how I continue to write that the current year has been a growing experience for me. I can say without a doubt it’s again true this year, more true than ever. It’s been tough, but I’ve also enjoyed every small step of the way – even the ugly ones… because this is it. It’s the only life we have and we are to experience and take in whatever it brings with it.


For me it was the year of PTSD, running, and blogging more than ever. Here is a quick highlight from each season for our gang –



January – always the opportunity for a new start. It’s a cold and dark time of year. This one kicked off with my brother Mario coming to stay with us for a while, trying his hand at Uber and beginning a new life. Tom moved back home from college and started working locally. Daren & I took a birthday present trip (for Kieran’s 18th) to NYC to see the Opera Tosca. Daren made his first batch of beer. In February I went on a work trip on weekend with Daren to Austin, TX where we had the WORST wine tasting ever. Koji hurt his paw and was on limited duty for a few weeks. In March Daren and I went to Costa Rica with a great group of folks from my yoga studio, and then on another work trip that I accompanied him to down to New Orleans, LA. We spent as many weekends as we could in Branford, and at the end of March brought in the new season of renters, but not before we got back down to the city for Devin’s birthday present from his girlfriend who took him to see an Islander’s Game while we enjoyed some grown up time (eating Ethiopian).


Winter Blogs:

On Giving Gifts that Heal this Holiday Season

On the Mysterious Secret of Slowing Down

Lexapro Journal (Continued)



The weather started warming up (just a little at first). The sun shone for more hours. We took a few trips down to Long Island to visit our families. The outdoor work began at both houses. We did not plant a garden this year (surgery for me), but did create an attractive herb garden off the back porch. Gabby came home from college for the summer and took up a job at Stop & Shop (where she also works at URI) as well as weeding during the day for one of her friend’s from high school’s father’s landscaping company. Mario moved along to work with our cousin Paco who opened a pizza kiosk in New York City, just a block away from Columbus circle. Kieran had his senior prom and graduated from high school. I had carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand. Daren and I took a long weekend and went to York, Maine (my birthday present). Tom bought his first car on his own (used of course) and officially stopped going to college for now. Devin completed his first year at Cheshire High School. I completed a 500-hour yoga teacher certification in June.


Spring Blogs:

On the Wonder of: What’s wrong with me?

A Frigid New England Morning

On The Monkey Mind vs Spirit

On Our Human Inchoate Brain

On the Sound of Silence

On a Song for Someone

On Vagueness

On the Sun, Moon & Tides

On Being AWOL Through Life

On Understanding Panic Disorder



As the summer rolled around the days were officially hot and long. Tom and Gabby worked their summer jobs. We hit up one of the concerts on U2’s latest tour. Daren & I went to Branford for a few weeks but it was cut short by a really bad episode (PTSD related by yours truly) which is how I will pretty much remember this entire year unfortunately. The good part is that I finally took my diagnosis seriously and started pretty intensive treatment. From that point on it is fair to say it’s been my sole focus. Daren, his father, Kieran, and Devin took a 12 day sailing trip along the coast from Mystic to Nantucket and back. My girlfriend Sherrie and I went on a long weekend getaway to an all Women grown up version of camp up in the Berkshires. Around this time I became a bit more serious about running and self-care as well. I spent a lot of time on the trail that is 1.25 miles from our door. I finally got out to NYC to see the pizza kiosk Mario worked in this summer with my friend Lucy & her daughter (before he took up an even better painting job). In August Kieran and Gabby packed up for college. Kieran to Harvard as a freshman and Gabby back to URI as a sophomore. This semester Gabby moved into a beach house with 3 other roomies. I underwent carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand and spent time in recovery blogging and painting with my left hand. Daren and I took a trip to Nantucket after a brief stop in Boston for a work function he had.


The start of autumn was still incredibly warm for a while. The days however were getting shorter, and the trees more colorful. We did a LOT of weekend traveling this fall. I began by going down to Florida to visit with my aunt Fran who was also hosing my cousin Camille who I hadn’t seen since 1992! It was really special to spend time with them. Daren and I spent our anniversary by going back to Jonathan Edwards where we got married and had a wonderful long weekend in Mystic. We also got out to Cambridge a few times to see Kieran, and down to New York City again to see the Nutcracker and enjoy a truly Nordic meal at Aquavit. Daren had an unexpected trip the ER one lovely Sat eve (kidney stones). The fall baking took place, followed by the fall planting, and then lots of holiday baking! It only got colder and darker as the weeks went by. We had our first snow in mid-November. We’ve hiked a bit, me more so than Daren. I’ve continued to run, topping out at 18 miles for the longest run and shooting for 10Ks for my “short” runs. I’ve also been spending a lot of time by the dark windows meditating and contemplating the beauty of the earth. It’s a beautiful pastime at sunrise and sunset.

Autumn Blogs:

Life in the Slow Lane

On “Her Story”

On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

On Why I Love Teleworking

On the Harvest and our Minds

On Fear and Suffering

On Navigating with Love

On the Possible Spiritual Aspect of Halloween

Rainy November Morning Walk in New England

How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

Hygee (Hoo Guh) & How I Plan to Embrace Winter this Year

A PTSD Triggered Morning

Weekend in New York City

And speaking of sunsets – … the sun is now setting on 2018. Happy Holiday Season from our family to yours.

~Anderson-Messeder crew


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How to squash a motivated employee

imagesI’ve lost my mojo at work. I’ve known this for quite some time, but this morning it really hit me. I was standing in my closet with this really super fluffy, super large gray robe I bought last week on a whim while picking up some toiletries in Target. I was so warm and comfy. The weather is starting to change and getting dressed just seems to take more effort than ever this year. I was just staring at the clothes in my closet trying to decide what the most comfy thing would be to wear that would resemble anything even slightly professional. I didn’t want to get out of that robe. My beautiful clothes that I used to take such pride in just sat there staring back at me like little soldiers waiting for their turn. My clothes seemed so stifling now. They resemble everything I’m starting to detest. The commute. Discomfort. Work.

Work. As in a job work. I always loved work. I always loved getting up and getting dressed and going to work. Until now and present job excluded, I had a one job in 24 years I wasn’t crazy about. But I did like to work, even at that job. And I liked to work hard. Ever since my first job I always took serious pride in what I did. Whether it was scooping ice-cream, resolving a customer issue, painting a stanchion, or creating a managerial dashboard; I took pride! I wanted to make a difference. I wanted my customers (internal or external) to be surprised by getting more than what they expected. I wanted people to walk away with a smile on their face and even possibly even motivated to surprise and help others too. I loved chatting with people. I loved walking around and noticing things that could be done better and then just taking the initiative without being asked to do my best to make it better.

This is going to sound so cocky, but I was the most motivated person in real life that I knew until recently. It bothered me a little that others didn’t care so much, but it wasn’t such a big deal to me because I was getting enough enjoyment just doing my own thing and doing my best to such an extent, that what other people did or didn’t do truly didn’t matter to me that much. I am self-motivated and self-directed. When I finished high school and joined the military I wanted to get a college degree but couldn’t fit going to school in, especially after I had a new born. I bought some study guides and decided to CLEP credits since it was free to me as an active duty member. I earned all but 3 credits toward an associates degree that way. But why stop there? I took an online professional secretary’s course. Then I got my bachelor’s degree online. After that I took a few years off, taught myself to properly type, use a computer, and become skilled in the Microsoft Office Suite. When that became natural I went back to school and got an MBA. Not sitting on the couch and watching TV to read hundreds of business articles and write peer-reviewed researched papers takes a lot of drive. I didn’t think so at the time, but I don’t know if I’d have it in me anymore. That took some serious motivation. I always cared about the work I did too and I’ve spent the last 14+ years at the VA hospital doing as much as I could administration wise using the skills I learned on my own with my own money to make my organization as awesome as it possibly could be. Yes, there were frustrating times I complained and got annoyed, but it never really stopped me more than a day or two at the very most from dusting myself off and picking right back up where I left off.

I didn’t want to rule the world either. I was never interested in senior leadership or becoming a Director, Associate Director, Department manager or anything to the like. I just wanted to do the best job I could from whatever seat I was at. My family life and work-life balance was actually equally if not slightly more important to me. I didn’t want to have to travel, because I didn’t want to miss story time at night with the kids, or one of their plays, or the ability to make a home cooked meal at night. As they got older I worried about who they might have over and just preferred to be home in my house, and in my bed with my kids close by. Even though I did do extra work at home and check my emails, I never wanted to be in a position where it was a necessity. I liked that I didn’t have to and only did so when I was so excited about something it was difficult to stop working on it. I liked that it was my choice. I always put way more into my job than I got back. I worked far more hours than I was paid for.

I’ve spent the last 22 years working for the federal government. 4 years active duty, 4 years reserve, and 14 years as a public service employee. I have 22 years of outstanding performance reviews at the highest possible rating every single marking period. 2 years ago I took the chance of taking a job that I knew little about. I was getting a little bored in my previous job because I stopped growing and thought I would be able to learn some new skills and help my organization with the skills I already have. It was a promotion on paper but not with my salary. I did not choose money, I chose growth. It was a new position that did not exist before.

When I started the job I saw so much potential. There were so many directions to go in I knew I had to deliberately choose a path and branch out from there. I never had a supervisor or anyone as a matter of fact to even sit down with me to discuss direction, so I created direction for myself and my small staff of 3. I had an awesome motivated little group. I didn’t do anything on my own, I floated every idea by our senior leadership team and our hospital director. I got the green light on everything I suggested. And I broke up the work amongst my little group so we call could grow and learn and cover one another.

Well, after a little over a year I was starting to burn out both personally and professionally. Since I moved in with my husband and we blended our families almost 6 years ago, my personal life got more and more complicated and exhausting. Professionally I started to see the writing on the wall that although senior leadership verbally supported the work I floated by, they didn’t really have any idea what I meant, had no time or inclination to digest anything, and truly didn’t seem to care. So when push came to shove and we got push back from the hospital employees; they did not support me, my staff or the policies they signed off on that I’d put in place. I felt like stopped growing. I felt like I started managing non-sense and no one was willing to sit down with me who had any power to discuss the barriers I faced to moving anything forward that was worthwhile.

For the first time in my life I couldn’t stand driving to work. It started to actually feel nefarious to wake up from not enough sleep, get dressed in uncomfortable clothing, leave my house in a rush and go sit at a nice desk with a window only to be accomplishing very little if not anything at all. I am getting older. I have less energy and a crazier life with 4 teenagers and many things to deal with outside of work; both physically and emotionally. We could live with the lessened income and improve the quality of our home and our lives if I didn’t work full time. After 22 years I took the crazy chance of asking if I might be able to work part-time. I asked about this possibility on May 11th this year in an email to my acting supervisor with the hospital director copied. The immediate response the next day was absolutely, we would do anything to keep you here in your current job; you’ve been outstanding. I was flattered. I didn’t know what answer I expected, but I wasn’t too surprised that someone thought I was someone worth keeping around.

Well… days, weeks, months elapsed. I didn’t have a real supervisor because mine was promoted and the job was empty. Human Resources was going through personnel changes and no one was really in charge. I got the run around, many promises and supposed final answers with a question mark at the end. It was stressful. I have been anxious the entire summer and now well into fall about how this would turn out. In the meanwhile I started working only 3 days a week and kept my job duties up. As suspected I was able to handle my full time job on a part-time basis.

To make a very long story short, I still don’t have an answer. The only thing I know is that I’ve had several assurances made to me if I do this, that or the other thing we can work something specific out. Each time I’ve delivered on my end but someone at the end of the chain disapproves the request. I would have been willing to leave back in May or consider staying on full time if I was told honestly upfront that part-time wouldn’t be possible. I would have looked for other jobs. I’m now completely unmotivated and disenchanted. I have sparks of motivation that inspire me to take incredible pride in what I’ve started, but that motivation is almost always shot down immediately by another short changed agreement that will no longer be explored.

Not too long ago at work I was super energetic, super motivated, & super duper naïve. I saw many people that had been here a long time and couldn’t understand why they were so bitter or why they seemed to have given up. They would talk about how we’ve already been there, done that. They were over it, riding it out until their retirement. I was completely unable to digest how someone could get to that point. I read about motivating people in college, through articles I had to read for conferences and materials that were sent as part of professional groups and mail serves I belong to. I felt I knew how to motivate the people I worked with, but there were these others that wouldn’t budge. As part of many other things I’ve read I can’t help but think about what I’ve learned intelligently about disengaged employees and the cost to the workplace. So much of it has to do with a good leader. It sounds like an ethereal concept because it’s not exactly tangible, but it’s the key to running a good organization.

I studied business and management and had to take many, many classes about supervision, change management, organizational development and leadership. I’ve read about the traits of good leaders. It seems obvious to me about what kind of people should be in charge of what kinds of things. However that is not the case in my organization at least. I don’t know much about how the outside or corporate world runs, but it’s apparent that the right fit was not made if you look around for a New York second and see many managers and supervisors floundering because they’ve never been trained, didn’t really want the position, hate confronting people with anything negative or are just unorganized and lack administration skills. Or feel like they have no choice about anything because they have a lousy leader that will not let them made a single decision so they themselves are unmotivated and have given up.

My car, my clothes, my office with the personal mementos I’ve accumulated over the years from all the people I’ve worked with who touched my life…unknown none of it means anything if I’m not doing anything useful and I’m sitting in meetings and at my desk like an automaton ornament as a participant in creating the same disorganized chaos for years on end. Amongst a bunch of other people who either don’t care or are feeling equally if not more disgusted.

As with anything the higher and higher up you go in an organization, the more and more important it is to have the right fit in the right jobs. I’m not a good fit there. I need out for my mental health and sanity. I would like an answer about what direction I’m going in and what my schedule will be. I’ve not received an adequate explanation about why my very reasonable request was denied. I’m disgruntled. I’m stressed. I no longer like going to work. I’d rather stay home in my bathrobe and not pretend I’m making any kind of difference in the world.

How to squash a motivated employee?

  • Ask them to do as you say, not as you do.
  • Don’t consider their track record when considering a reasonable request.
  • Don’t talk to them about expectations.
  • Give them a super generic performance plan with goals they’ve accomplished several years ago.
  • Don’t support them in the things you approved them to move forward with, in fact throw up your hands in confusion and reverse past decisions.
  • Never follow-up on what you asked from them, and for the few who do go out and do what you asked; don’t be available or act like you care.

Take all you can from them. Give them nothing in return.


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On the passage of time



It still hurts after 10 years. The same exact pain at times. The same heart wrenching squeeze that comes in waves over and over while I’m experiencing grief. It actually feels a little like my heart is being rung out. The first time I felt this so strongly was around this time of year 11 years ago when my mom had first been diagnosed with lung cancer. She died 10 years and 2 months ago. She was only 49. October 25th would have been her 60th birthday. My grandmother who I was even more close with than my mother passed away a mere 11 months later. Also from lung cancer. She would have been 89 this year on Nov 21. I miss them. Tonight I’m especially missing them.


Them. Because they passed away so close together we often refer to them as “them”. I don’t think about this often, but tonight I’m mourning and it’s on my mind. I was crying and having a difficult time breathing in bed, so I got up and decided to pour it out on paper (well figuratively… as it’s with a keyboard and screen really).


People who’ve lost others who they were close to would understand the how strong feelings of grief can capture you by surprise at times, and release strong emotions throughout your body. Emotions that are so strong, there are moments you may wonder how you might ever not feel seized by sorrow again. They may also understand the comfort you might feel when you desperately need the departed and you can actually feel their presence with you. When I’m inconsolable I feel them. Both of them. Always together and always comforting. I don’t know if it’s my memories, lingering energies or anything not of the world we understand; but I’m really certain something about them helps me get through the times I need them.


Tonight I was thinking about the two of them and how we group them together. I was thinking particularly about who the “we” are who groups my mother and grandmother together. It really is just a handful of other people in the world. My two brothers and my aunt come to mind first. I talk to them the most about mom and grandma. Anytime I want to reminisce or tell someone how I had a dream about one or both of them, or that I was thinking about them and got upset; my brothers and aunt are there and completely understand.


The next person who comes to my mind is my ex-husband John. He was in my life and in my family when we were both really young and my parents were still married. He was just as much a part of my family and laughed with us, and could understand the irony and hilarity of their relationships. Particularly the relationship between my mother and grandmother. They were kind of opposite. They kind of annoyed each other and complained about one another even though we all knew they truly loved each other. I remember one night soon after my grandmother passed while hysterically crying, John cracked a joke that my mother must have made the snide remark “So soon?” when seeing my grandmother on the other side. I immediately stopped crying and started laughing. I laugh about it until today. It’s how they were here and just what my mother would have said. I don’t really talk to John very much anymore, but I do know that if I ever picked up the phone and needed to talk about them, he’d be there and laugh about it all. It would help me to feel better.


The following person who I know would naturally group them together is my father. My father is in his own world most of the time, but also has his moments of missing them. My folks were divorced and both remarried when my mom passed, but my father will often talk about her fondly and replay some highlights he remembers as a young man living and hanging out with my grandmother. I can likely count on him to pick up the phone and talk, but he could turn on a flash and remember something he didn’t like, with the potential of the conversation heading to a place I’m not interested in going.


The only other person in this world I imagine would lump them together is my Uncle Jack. He is my aunt Fran and my mom’s brother. We don’t communicate often and are not close. My own children would probably be right behind my uncle, but they knew very little of my mother because she lived in Florida when they were of an age of remembering anything. They do remember my grandmother very well and still laugh about her and her sayings. But they wouldn’t understood the relationship these two women played in our family and with one another. They were only 8 and 10 when my grandmother passed.


Tonight I was thinking about how few people on this earth knew them that I know and could understand the grief from losing these two particular individuals in such a close time span. There aren’t many, and fewer that I could count on. This got me thinking about the passage of time. Thomas is already a sophomore. My heart is also broken because he was supposed to come home this weekend for his Columbus Day break. He asked for the weekend off from his job in Maine, but he ended up on the work schedule. He told me Tuesday night after I had prepared his room and stocked up on his favorite foods. I was really excited to see him and super disappointed that he won’t be home. He tried to find someone to cover for him and until today I thought there still might be a chance. But no luck. I know I should feel happy that he is healthy and sound and a good kid overall, but I’m still sad that I won’t get to see him.


I thought about how this is Gabby’s last year of high school and next year I won’t see her everyday either. Then they will have boyfriends and girlfriends, then perhaps spouses and in-laws. That is great, except they will visit with these folks who very likely will not live anywhere in the vicinity of where I am living and be spending many holidays with their friends and significant other’s families. Until this point in my life I had them for all the holidays and special occasions. I made a little deal out of every holiday – even the small ones like Valentines Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, and especially Halloween. I LOVE the fall and usually bake fall goodies, make crockpot meals, decorate, pumpkin pick, etc… but soon there will be no one around to do these things for. Wow. It just really hit me tonight. I always knew this intellectually and talked about it and even felt sad about it. However, tonight I feel it deeply. My grandmother used to try to explain this to me and tell me to relax and enjoy my young family, but I didn’t quite get it. I do now. I likely will understand even more deeply as time marches on.


If we only had the wisdom of some of this deep knowledge earlier on. We should be listening to the older generation. The older generations try to tell the younger ones, but the lack of experience prevents them from understanding. They think they understand. I thought I did. I think I understand now, but ask me again in 20 years and I might say, boy I really really get it now. We all grow older. Our kids move on. People we are close with leave our lives for various reasons. The things we take for granted will not always be around. The world is impermanent and ever changing. Why do we think we can hold onto anything?


The real wisdom is when we understand that change is inevitable and sadness has just as much of a role as happiness. And the real serenity is when we can come to peace with this knowledge and just enjoy the ride on this big ol’ blue ball that is careening through space, spinning us around and around every day while whipping our line of sight past the moon and sun.


Time gave me more space in between episodes of grief, but it didn’t erase the grief. Time gave me older children but I don’t love them any less nor can I come to terms with their leaving the nest any easier. Time gave me more wisdom, but after some periods it might have been useful to understand it. Time put ten years of miles of space from where the earth was in the universe when my mom got sick. Time changed many many things from that point, and time will only change many more in the days to come.


Maybe this is all a little too deep for some. I’m feeling a little deep. I’m sad that the main child rearing years will soon be behind me. And all in all I just really miss my mom and grandma right now. To give myself a good laugh so I can get to sleep tonight I’ll purposely recall John’s remark of “So soon?”.






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