Appreciate the Work… and the Person!

“Thanks for _______. I appreciate it!” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. Perhaps we even say it a lot; after all, it’s good to let people know that their work matters. But it’s easy to forget that behind the work is a person. And people matter.

Our American culture is one of competition and achievement. Winners are celebrated and results are prized. In business, the public company focus on quarterly results drives a “what have you done for me lately” attitude towards employees from the CEO on down. In the “market” people become just the means to an end, and if the end isn’t perfect, look out. This is the market-driven culture in which we all work (to a greater or lesser extent depending on our individual situations). Do you feel continuous pressure to produce, and to keep producing? I’d be surprised if you don’t.

Well, we’d better get used to it. The culture’s not going anywhere, and results will continue to matter. So sure, appreciate the work.  But let’s also recognize the individuals behind the effort. Let’s be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings. Let’s understand that they have complex and problematic lives just as we do. It’s not easy being a person. Let’s appreciate them.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate you!

Sincerely,

Pete

PS – Two shout outs: one to executive coach Linda Cobb who helped me to learn to think like this earlier in my career; and another to Pat Morley of Man in the Mirror ministry whom I am appreciating, thereby being inspired to write this post.

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Social Media – More Harm Than Good?

I’ve been pretty quiet on social media lately, reading more than posting, and I’m not feeling too good about it. Decorum and civility continue to decline on Facebook. Sexy and controversial posts are now firmly established on LinkedIn, where boasting and shameless self-promotion have gone off the charts. In Social Media Land memes and provocation are the currency of the realm. Well-developed thinking is in short supply and wisdom is hard to find. Perhaps that’s my problem – wisdom is what I’m after.

Of course social media can be beneficial in many ways. I do like keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, and it, along with Twitter, is very useful for communication in “breaking news” type situations (like the recent hurricanes for example). Linked in has helped me professionally. It’s an address book that maintains itself and a good source of potential opportunities and new colleagues. I don’t want to give these things up, but I’m not interested arguing or jumping in the scrum for eyeballs, likes and shares. I’m after wisdom. How should I live? What’s important? What’s not? How can I be truly well?

I haven’t been posting much lately, at least partially because I feel like what I have to say doesn’t fit in on Facebook or LinkedIn where conversations seem to be happening. Apparently “nobody actually goes to blogs anymore.” Yet writing helps me to sort things out. And hopefully, my thoughts are also helpful to any readers seeking their own physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. So I’m going to try writing more often, posting here on Grace Based Wellness without sharing my posts elsewhere. I just don’t think they fit with the current spirit of the media. I’m also going to close the Grace Based Wellness Facebook page soon. If you’ve been following the blog that way, you may wish to change to an email subscription.

Thank you for your readership and encouragement,

Pete

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If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
– James 1:5-8 NLT

Margin – “Just Enough” is not Enough

Hurricane Irma has got me thinking about margin in critical infrastructure. As we all observed, Irma revealed a number of limitations of Florida’s infrastructure.

The interstate highways, although quite sufficient for normal commerce and travel, could not support the timely evacuation of major coastal cities. It’s kind of a catch 22 – you can only get out if you leave before you know if you need to leave.

Power was a huge issue. The volume of downed power lines/blown transformers prevented a quick recovery. Electrical damage in the Orlando area wasn’t necessarily severe, but it was widespread, and there are only so many linemen. Our power was out for six days, but once they got to work in our neighborhood, we were up in eight hours or so. Apparently we were low priority compared with hospitals and other more vital electric customers. (I’m not complaining, just saying.)

Then there’s supplies – Around the time you decide to get to Publix to fill the pantry and stop for gas on the way home, everyone else is also thinking they should do the same. Hence no food on the shelves and no gas in the pumps. After the storm, food and gas don’t come right back either, especially with the power outages.

Flooding is an issue of course – The seawall is two feet high, but the storm surge is seven feet. The drainage system can accommodate 11 inches of rain in 24 hours, but the forecast calls for 12 inches in five hours.

I could go on, but you get the idea. “Just enough” capacity or “just in time” inventory often isn’t when the system gets stressed. For that we need margin. Perhaps even a big margin.

Honestly, I doubt we’ll get much more margin in Florida’s infrastructure than we have already. It’s expensive and requires foresight, and politicians don’t do these things that well. I could be too pessimistic. New building codes since Andrew have been very helpful, but I think transportation and utilities are much harder to address.

So, I’m concentrating on my personal margin. How do I create the margin to manage through the storm? We actually did pretty well with Irma, but I’m making a few tweaks in our preparations. Mainly increasing supplies and creating redundancy, backups for the backup. Yes, it takes time and money. I might seem a little odd. People might say I’m “going overboard,” “it’s too much,” but when the storm comes too much becomes just enough.

Margin’s not just for hurricanes. There are other storms in life. Job loss, illness, stress. I’ve been fairly stressed out lately, and I’m taking Irma as a more general wake up call and considering how to create margin in other aspects of my life – especially my emotional health. How about you? Many people have little to no margin in physical, emotional or spiritual health. Let’s be different than that. Make some margin for yourself, and as always, let me know if I can help.

Pete

Powerless? – Yes and No

New ceiling decor

Irma is gone but her legacy remains.  Overall we did well through the storm.  Only one roof shingle is gone.  Something leaked, as there is a new water spot on the ceiling in the front hallway.  I think it’s likely just wind driven water through the roof vent, hopefully no major repairs are needed.  The landscaping did pretty well too.  No trees or  large limbs down and my little palms are still happy.  All in all that’s pretty minor damage.  Oh yeah, the power is out.

The power went out Sunday night.  Today is Thursday.  Bummer.  Fortunately we were well prepared with the Prius power project and that has been working well for four days now.  We are able to power the fridge, some lights, fans, devices, and very importantly the coffee maker.  (not all at the same time)  It’s using a little over one and a half gallons of gas a day.  We can cook a bit with the charcoal grill and a portable butane single burner stove.

The water service is operating, although we did have a “precautionary” boil water alert for 48 hours after a water main break in our neighborhood.  This is pretty common for big storms as the roots of uprooted trees break underground  pipes as they topple.  Although we have stored water, it tastes a bit like plastic and we’ve just kept drinking from the tap.

It’s still hot in Florida in September. Yesterday we got to 92 and there wasn’t much of a breeze.  Today’s forecast is a high of 89 with rain likely.  So we sweat inside or outside and wear beach attire at all times. The late afternoon is the worst, and our sleep has been disrupted.

We’re not unusual of course.  Half the state and most of our county lost electricity along with us.  The power companies tell us they are doing the best they can, and they probably are, but everyone’s a bit frustrated by the situation.  In our neighborhood we have little obvious damage, but we have seen no power trucks, and our power company simple says that service should be restored to the entire county by next Sunday night.  There is no information specific to our neighborhood.  So we wait.

Because the power outage is so widespread most people’s internet service is also out as is ours.  Cellular service, which was unreliable for about 48 hours post Irma, is now returning to almost normal.  Our carrier is giving free data to everyone affected for a week after the storm.  It’s much appreciated.  Many other businesses and individuals are reaching out to help others as they are able – sharing ice, air conditioning, wi-fi or perhaps a chainsaw and a strong back.

Our adult daughter and her cats are staying with us as she has lost power too.  We get along with her just fine, although we are all used to our own space and would like it back soon.  Unfortunately her cats and ours don’t mix.  So we have arranged cat segregation/rotation system that allows all of them to share the run of the house, just not at the same time.

So it’s a bit stressful.  Some are waiting patiently – that’s what we’re trying to do – others not so much.  People are upset and frustrated, and they get irritable. Us too, but we are trying to recognize this and to be extra patient with one another and with ourselves.

Yes, we are powerless over a lot.  Not just with hurricanes and not just now.  All the time.  But we do have power to decide what we will do, how we will respond to events.  In that spirit, we are doing the best we can to stay calm and positive, to manage our own sitiuation well, help friends and neighbors, trust God, and to patiently wait on the power company.

Pete

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photos follow:

The Prius power project

Power coming in. Routed through hole to be able to keep the door closed and the cats in!

 

The little plams made it!

The heliconia didn’t. (But they will regrow from rhizomes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Calm Despite the Storm, 10 Steps to Living with Hurricanes

The weather forecast? Pleasant today, all hell breaks loose tomorrow. Enjoy the Sunshine State!

If you live in Florida as we do, you’re going to face hurricanes. We’ve had a good decade or so, but now they’rrre back! Hurricane season runs from June through November, but collectively we Floridians hold our breath in September and October, the heart of hurricane season, when the worst can be expected. This September we are off to an early start with Irma, expected to hit early tomorrow morning.

It’s time to breath out. Now take some slow deep breaths. In and out. Stay calm. Yes, we do have more to fear than fear itself, but fear isn’t helpful. My family is as ready as we can be at this point and here are some of our “secrets” to serenity as the storm approaches. (disclaimer – this is soley my personal opinion)

  1. Get educated and keep things in perspective – Hurricanes are terribly destructive and dangerous, but the actual chances of serious injury or death are very small if you are in a structure built to current code and not in an area subject to storm surge or flooding. Take appropriate precautions and you are unlikely to be injured.
  2. Avoid the news media  The media is not your friend. They live for eyeballs and eyeballs come from exaggerating the threat, exciting emotions and exploiting fears. We check the National Hurricane Center for updates, which are issued every three hours, and some local news sources for information on closures and resources but stay away from much else.
  3. If necessary, evacuate to an appropriate shelter – meaning one built to current code and not in an area subject to storm surge or flooding. That might mean just 20 miles inland as opposed to, say, North Carolina.
  4. Be prepared all the time so you don’t have to struggle to obtain needed items in short supply.While everyone’s situation is different, here are a few key things that we do:
    – keep the pantry well stocked.
    – own several 5-gallon collapsible water jugs (designed for camping) thus eliminating the need for bottled water. Fill before storm. After the storm, empty, collapse and return to storage.
    – use my Prius as an emergency A/C power source with a prewired inverter. It’s limited of course, but we can power the refrigerator, lights, and the cable modem and charge our devices. For those of you with hybrid vehicles this is very easy to do. See here.
    – store 20 gallons of gasoline in the garage at all times (in appropriate containers, with fuel stabilizer, and changed out every 6-9 months)

    Get some of these

    Prius Power!

  5. Cook and clean – Get some meals prepared in advance, do all the laundry, and neaten up the house. It keeps you busy; you’re ready in case you lose power; and you feel better in a clean and neat home. Make some treats while you’re at it. While prepping the yard, we got the limes off the tree yesterday, and Sharon’s going to make key lime pie for us today.

    Soon to be a key lime pie

  6. Accept the possibility of loss/hardship – Hurricanes are destructive. You are likely to lose something in the hurricane. Perhaps it’s just your landscaping, but it might be your roof. Your power might be out for weeks. Hopefully the damage will be minor, and if so, feel blessed! Personally, I’m pre-mourning for my palms (many newly planted) and trees. If they do okay, how good I will feel!
  7. Don’t go outside during the storm – Yes, you want to know what the wind feels like, but it’s just a bad idea. I’m sure it feels exhilarating right up until you are hit by flying debris.
  8. Connect with family and friends – most everyone could use some physical and emotional support. Shelter together as a family. Stay in touch with your friends and help one another as needed before and after the storm.
  9. Be careful after the storm – Chill. You don’t need to be the first to take a driving tour of the destruction. Cleanup should be performed thoughtfully and in an orderly manner. Think safety! Stay away from downed power lines. Be careful around felled trees and those wielding chainsaws.
  10. Pray and trust God

Good luck to all my Florida friends. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the other side of Irma.

Pete

I hope these guys make it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back to the Books

Now I remember why I didn’t want to be an endocrinologist!

My internal medicine board certification is set to expire at the end of this year. It lasts for ten years at a time, which seems pretty long until the end gets in sight. Well, the end is now in sight. Bummer.

The internal medicine certifying exam is quite hard. A lot of the questions end with a twist. I’ll be reading the clinical vignette thinking – “I’ve got this! Yes it’s an unusual case but clearly the diagnosis is __________” only to find the question at the end is not “what is the diagnosis? but rather “the best treatment is __________” and five potential treatments (all of which are good for that condition) are listed. Which is best? Why? Back to the story for more clues. It can be pretty frustrating.

I don’t really need to be board certified anymore. My clinical practice days are over, and my most recent administrative jobs have been very high level. But it feels bad to let the certification go. So I’ve decided to hit the books and take the test.

I’m enjoying the studying. It reminds me of when I was a “real doctor” and medicine is indeed very interesting. But it’s also a bit intimidating. There’s so much to learn. A lot of new things in ten years, but even reviewing the basics is a massive and daunting undertaking. Did I really know all this once?

Honestly, I put my chances of passing at 50/50 with the amount of work I’m willing and able to accomplish in the next 4½ months. More will be revealed.

In any event, I’m trying to learn more than just the facts. What higher-level messages am I getting during this process? Here are a few that I already knew (and you probably do too) but are coming to me with renewed force:

Your physiology is very, very, very complicated and finely tuned. Everything interacts with everything else. It’s all connected. Your body really is extraordinary, a marvel, even a “miracle.” If you’ve never studied biology, it would be worth it to learn just enough to be convinced of this through your own study. It could change how you think about your health – or your life.

When something goes wrong, other things are apt to go wrong. This is a natural corollary of “it’s all connected.” I learned this from simple observation in resident clinic. Serious conditions occur together. If you have one, you’re likely to have a bunch. Not all of them are avoidable, but try not to get that first one. Take care of yourself.

Many serious illnesses don’t have an identifiable cause. Some are autoimmune conditions, but then what exactly causes auto immunity? Others are more obscure. Perhaps unidentified genetics or environmental issues are at fault. We just don’t know, and perhaps some cause will be identified sooner or later. For now, sometimes what you get is what you get and there just is no explanation. That’s a hard message.

Doctors have a tough job. There’s so much to know and a great deal of judgment is necessary to balance risks, benefits and competing priorities in managing any reasonable complex individual patient’s situation. Normal physiology is complicated. Pathophysiology is more so. Then you’ve got the various diagnostic tests – sensitivity, specificity, risks, indications, contraindications, etc. – and the treatment options come with a similar set of issues. Back when I was a doctor, this was everyday stuff, not something to moan about, but now that I’m out of practice I have a growing respect for those who are still in the trenches.

As my studies progress, I’ll try to revisit what I’m learning, but this seems like enough for now. My basic message – It’s no fun to be sick, and sickness often snowballs. Take care of your health as best you can. Even then, things might go wrong for no apparent reason. If they do, find a doctor you trust to walk with you on your journey.

And, although it’s not in any of my study materials, trust God.

Pete

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You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Psalm 139:13-14 NLT

A Lot of Maintenance? “That’s life, man!”

Last summer I bought a new car – new as in “new to me” anyway. Actually it’s 50 years old being as it’s a 1967 Triumph TR4A, now named “Trevor.” (Yes, Trevor the Triumph. I’m prone to alliteration.) Trevor is a cool car, but he’s certainly very different from modern cars. Automobiles were all mechanical back then. Remember hand-cranked windows, manual transmissions, carburetors and distributors? That’s Trevor. There’s more computing power in your digital watch than in this car.

Not having ever been a car guy before, I’ve got a lot to learn. But to me, that’s half the fun of ownership. I like learning new things, tinkering, and do-it-yourself projects around the home. Figuring out how Trevor’s various parts and systems work and fixing or upgrading them myself is part of the appeal. So far it’s been enjoyable.

Hmm…where do I start?

Of course I know my limits. For now, and perhaps even for the long term, I’m tackling the more minor aspects of antique car repair and maintenance, the “1-wrench” or “2-wrench” jobs, and leaving the more difficult stuff to the professionals. (Thank you to the expert team at Maitland Tire Company!)

The other half of the fun is driving. Trevor’s not fast by modern standards, but he’s fun and we’ve had some great convertible weather here in Florida lately. Almost every time out I’ll get a few honks and waves or thumbs up from other drivers, and pretty often people stop for conversation. They’ll ask about Trevor and talk about the sports car they had, or wished they had. I enjoy that too.

A few weeks ago on Saturday morning, I was stopped at a light when a well-worn, older model Chevy Suburban pulled up alongside. The driver, a 40ish-year-old man who looked like he might know his way around an engine, rolled down the passenger side window and leaned over for a conversation.

“Hey man, nice car,” he said. “What year is it?”
“1967,” I replied.
“That’s great, man. Man, my dad would love to have a car like that.”
“It’s fun, but it is a lot of maintenance.”
He laughed and said, “That’s life, man!” just as the light turned green. We waved goodbye and drove on.

That last thought has stuck with me. He’s right; there certainly is a lot of maintenance to life. Apart from automobiles, we all can probably think of a long list of “to do’s” – mow the lawn, fix the sprinklers, update computer operating system, change the A/C filter, etc. It never stops.

I don’t know about you, but often I resent the need for maintenance, perhaps because it seems to interfere with my autonomy. I don’t want any more “have to do” tasks on my to do list. Fixing things or maintenance often feels forced to me.   I think, Yes, stuff need to get done, but no one tells me what to do! Perhaps I’m a little lazy. I’ll do it when I get around to it. Of course, I need to get around to it now.

That hasn’t happened with Trevor yet. Yes, I’ve had a bit of frustration here and there. I’ve started some smaller projects only to have things be harder than I appreciated, but I’ve reminded myself, This is half the fun. You bought this car to learn new things and have new experiences. You like this stuff. And that’s all true, I do. Attitude makes all the difference.

What’s your attitude toward the “maintenance” required of you? Beyond your possessions, how about your health? Most of our health and wellbeing is simply the result of our regularly scheduled maintenance, or lack thereof. Some tasks are daily – eating, sleeping, exercising, and praying. Others are more infrequent – the annual doctor visit, lab tests, mammograms, colonoscopies. It’s easy to procrastinate or avoid doing even what we know is good for us.

With proper maintenance, and some professional help, I’m sure Trevor has a lot of life in him. The same can be said for most people. Unfortunately too few folks follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. I think I’m doing pretty well, but aging is challenging both physically and emotionally, and I’m still learning about how to best care for myself. How about you?

Take care,

Pete