Category Archives: Opinion

How to Drive Your Trainer Crazy

It’s been a long week. I’m a patient person, for the most part, but there are some things that make me believe this is my last time around in reincarnation.

from "Silly Daddy" :

from “Silly Daddy” :

Just like autumn is vibrant with color because Mother Nature is squeezing the last of her colors out onto the trees, my life is so incredibly colorful because this must be my last reincarnation.

I have a rich and colorful life, which I tried to fight, then just turned into journal fodder. In the last two weeks:

—-A student has come to class over an hour late and asked, as he breezed in, “Did I miss anything?” I did not say (although I wanted to), “Nope, not a thing, we were just hanging out waiting for you to start our life for today.”

—Another late-comer slumps in her seat, and at lunch declares she has no book. When I hand her one, she asks if I’ll fill out everything we’ve done up to that point while she goes to eat lunch. When I demur,  she gets angry. “It wasn’t my fault I was late, and now you are blaming me for it.” Well, good to know. I wonder whose fault it was that she was late–and will that person please show up to fill in the workbook for Ms. Late?

—Another student spends her whole time texting. When I ask her to wait for break, she tells me she is listening to every word and can multi-task. Two minutes later I call on her, and she slowly lowers her phone and says, “You’d better re-cap that for me.” She should have capped it the first time.

—-Three students didn’t wear their teeth to class. At least one of them had teeth,

as they were right next to the water bottle. When I couldn’t understand an answer, he suggested I might need a hearing aid. At break, I asked him to wear his teeth or put them away, something I never thought I would ever have to ask. He explained that they were his eating teeth, and he needed them for his lunch. Oh. Well, then.

My journal is full for this week. I hope your week was not quite as colorful

-Quinn McDonald is a trainer. She would not trade her life for any other.


Selling Dreams

The weather is cooler now, so the housing market is moving into full bloom.What happens in Spring in other areas of America happens in Fall in Phoenix. As snow birds begin to drift in (along with the real migrating birds), houses pop up for sale. Three weeks ago, my morning walk sported no “For Sale” signs; this morning there were six.

gty_house_for_sale_florida_tk_120801_wgThese are the houses that will become rentals for snow birds. Some of them become the second home for those who hate the cold of winter but don’t want to endure the heat of our summers, either.

Most of the houses that now have “For Sale” signs have undergone changes in the past weeks. I’ve seen paint cans, tiles left over from new floor installations, new windows, painted fences, new plants.

With each new sign I see, I begin to wonder why the inhabitants lived in less than they wanted or thought was pleasing until they decided to put the house up for sale. Then they spent money to please someone they don’t know to show them how nice the house is.

For sale signI wonder how many of them wanted those improvements, upgrades or changes but didn’t do it just for themselves, to make their home more of what they wanted.

Yes, I’ve done similar things in homes I’ve sold. But mostly, I put things back to neutrals, hiding my own eccentric taste–the summer melon hallway with Moroccan tile, the three-toned living room with contrasting trim that became beige before it went on the market. But I never made major improvements for others.

In my last house, we sunk an indecent amount of money into improving the kitchen so it would work for Cooking Man, only to have a real estate agent tell us, when we were ready to sell, that we could not expect to recoup costs of countertops that weren’t black granite or a single-space sink (good for soaking big pans) when the “only thing that would sell” was a big/little sink combination–the popular model of the day.

It’s interesting to see how eager we are to please others when there may be a financial advantage. And more interesting to see what we will live without.

And I wonder if we don’t do the same thing with our behavior–we upgrade ourselves to impress people but we don’t make that move for ourselves. We’ll live with those bad habits because it’s hard to change.

Maybe that’s what Brené Brown meant when she spoke of being vulnerable–being worth it to ourselves to be the person we’d like others to think we are.

Quinn McDonald needs to have her rugs cleaned. For herself.


Hate-Reading: Queasy Diet for the Soul

The second I saw the article in the New York Times (Style Section, page 19, Sept. 22, 2013) I knew it was worth a blog post. The article was about deliberately Life-Is-Good2reading social media posts that make us angry, crazy, upset or fills us with fury over someone’s perceived hypocrisy, goody-two-shoe-attitude or some other feeling we hate to feel but can’t stay away from. It’s called hate reading, and it seems a lot of people are caught up in it. Considering the comments I see on Twitter (about the new, East-Indian Miss America, for example), there is a lot of free-floating hatred.

The article cites different kinds of hate-reading. One person is tired of seeing endless posts from a friend about her dog and kids. Another person hate-reads an acquaintance’s relentlessly cheerful, hope-filled messages and wants to demand proof of that emotion.

Katie J. M. Baker, who writes for Jezebel, says, “Our motives rarely come from a position of strength . . . when I walk away from my computer, I feel like I’ve just binged on a butter-sogged bag of popcorn before the movie even started; I’m slightly nauseated but still can’t help licking my fingers for more fatty flavor.”

Dislike-Social-Media3Hate-reading fuels up our negative energy. Much like binging on sugar, it makes us feel oddly exhilarated to have caught someone in a lie, hypocritical posing or overt bragging, but the crash is as bad as the push up the emotion was gratifying.

The article says we downward-compare to feel better. But the feeling doesn’t last.

Professor Alexander H. Jordan, an adjunct assistant professor of business administration at Dartmouth, says “It’s when a person’s typically rose self-view is temporarily threatened that self-enhancement processes, such as finding people to ‘hate’ online, are triggered.”

Of course, the people we hate (or hate-read) become tethered to us emotionally, and, like an addiction, we continue the behavior.

We used to engage in this behavior only with celebrities, “hating” an actress when we didn’t know her personally at all, and simply drew conclusions from photographs and our own opinions.

And still, and still, we all want to be loved and heard. But it’s so hard to do it for others. Something interesting to think about, for sure.

Quinn McDonald is not above hate-reading. She’s going cold-turkey after reading the article. She’s received emails from people who hate her without knowing her, and has decided negative energy needs doesn’t need to be stored.  It can’t be harder than giving up sugar.

Speaking Truth to . . . No One

By the time the front-office employee hung up on me, I had been on hold for 22 minutes. More precisely, I’d been shuffled through menus for eight minutes and on hold for the other 14. The voice had said, four times at regular intervals, “If you want to make an appointment, leave your name and number and you will be phoned back within two business days.” But there was no opportunity to leave your name and number.

In a chain reaction, make sure you know where both ends of the chain are.

In a chain reaction, make sure you know where both ends of the chain are.

When the front office finally picked up, she told me that the doctor was not accepting new patients. I began to ask for another doctor in the same practice, and she hung up on me. Just like that. Lunch break was 30 minutes, and I had used 22 of them with no result to show for it.

This was a training issue. An overworked employee, overwhelmed by ringing phones, undone work, too much responsibility and no authority. Faced by a problem she couldn’t solve, she hung up on the problem. Bad training. Even worse customer service.

It’s a new insurance company to me, and luckily, they are publicly traded. Not exciting news, except I could easily find their annual report online.  Before lunch break was over, I had a phone number of a person senior enough to care about an unhappy client.

The phone call was brief. I left a message on his voice mail giving the date, time, of my disappointing call and the name of the person who hung up on me. I asked for a return call so we could take care of the training issue. And I asked for an apology.

In the end, that is exactly what I got. A heartfelt apology and a doctor’s appointment (with a different doctor). I posted a much briefer version on Facebook, emphasizing the training issue and the importance of customer service training for any employee who ever speaks with the public.

In a chain reaction, know what you are setting into motion. Know the end before you begin.

In a chain reaction, know what you are setting into motion. Know the end before you begin.

Instead of sympathy or other stories, a rash of comments told me to “speak truth to power” and name the company and the employee. I didn’t understand. The matter had been taken care of. There was no need to name a company or to hold an overworked woman up for derision.

It felt like relentless retribution–a senseless escalation of anger that would not be resolved or made better by “speaking truth to power.” I’d taken the steps that might solve the problem–spoken calmly to someone who had the power to create change, and received both an apology and the appointment I had wanted.

Sure, I had been angry. Seething. That’s an emotion that is strong. But every action after that emotion bloomed was my responsibility. Did I want this woman fired because she was overwhelmed? Had I not been overwhelmed myself? Did costing this woman her job equal my inconvenience?

Anger is a powerful fuel. It leaps along our brain, creating rationalizations. Demanding a job lost to justify our own importance. At that very moment, you have a chance to be fair. To give the fairness you were denied a new life in another circumstance. And it’s much harder to do than go for the throat

That’s truth to power.

—Quinn McDonald knows that retribution isn’t worth it.

Making Space

First, some good news: A few weeks ago, I saw that Niji Art, owned by Yasutomo, had an open call for a Design Team. Having demo’d their Splash Inks and liked them, I applied. And I was one of the designers chosen! For the next six months, I’ll be asked to use their products to design and create projects, then do the tutorial. It’s exciting–this is something totally new for me.

Second, poetry news: There are still places open for Jungle Gym for Monkey Mind, the online poetry class. It starts this Sunday and is not a traditional class. You’ll be writing poetry from emotions, experience, and your imagination.

Making Space: This afternoon and evening, I cleaned my workspace. I’ve let paperwork pile up. I’m a piler not a filer, but the piles were starting to mutter and threaten me. One of the benefits of being a piler is that when you sift through the piles, you can often throw out most of the material that other people would have neatly put in filing cabinets.


Art from discarded papers, from

As I sorted and threw papers our, put other papers in folders, I realized that my creativity needs a good sorting, too. I had ideas I wanted to follow up on, ideas that were half-baked, the beginning of the poetry class notes (it sure has changed in the six months I’ve been working on it!) ideas that had no legs and no motion. And like the papers I threw out, I cleaned those idea out of my mind.

The ideas might come back as something else, or they might stay gone. But not every idea is worth nurturing, and not every bright idea will light the way to completion. I carried an armload of papers to the recycling bin, with the idea of starting in the studio tomorrow.

This wasn’t some sad, “I have to let go of this” good-bye, there are six new ideas on index cards in my “development” slot. They are the best of what I’ve been planning, broken down into steps along the way. Cleaning up is also cleaning out, and it feels great. Almost like summer’s oppressive heat is blowing out.

--Quinn McDonald has designing ideas.

Past and Future

Yesterday, four boxes of materials came back. Two from Madeline Island (one more to go) and two from the publisher, with materials I haven’t seen since the photo shoot in February, and not for about six months before that.

VICTOR BREGEDA - Past, Present, and Future - 20 x 28 inches Giclee on Canvas

VICTOR BREGEDA – Past, Present, and Future – 20 x 28 inches Giclee on Canvas

It’s odd to look at materials that link the past to the future. The book will be out in about four months, and I’m holding the artwork that I did a year ago. It still has the tags on it from the photography session. (I’m leaving those on for a while). It feels like I’m being pulled through a time warp.

The materials from Madeline Island need to be divided and repacked for the Monsoon Paper class in Tucson and the rest stored. The studio has been entirely too tidy. A week ago today I came back from an experience that I had been worried about a week before and now wanted back again.

Odd how time moves at different rates at different times. It will probably fall back into place when I clean up the studio and the desk space. But for right now, I’m hanging on to the past and holding the future at the same time. And that’s just fine.

—Quinn McDonald has a lot of cleaning to do. Tomorrow.

Clutching Unhappiness

Yesterday, I wondered why we chase happiness, but don’t want to catch it. Perhaps we are clutching a big bundle of unhappiness and don’t want to put it down.

eckhart-tolle-unhappinessWe are comfortable with unhappiness. Often, we think we deserve it. “Deserve” is one of those words I see a lot of on Facebook and wonder how people know who “deserves” and who doesn’t. Deserving is a way of giving people permission to feel an emotion they are going to feel anyway.

Back to why we clutch unhappiness. It fills up the empty space in our heart that happiness has avoided. It fills up time. We watch others have what we want, do what we would like to do, get the promotion we drooled after. Unhappiness is familiar. We confuse ‘familiar’ with ‘comfortable.’ And we live comfortably with unhappiness.

There’s one more reason why we hold unhappiness instead of letting it go. It gets more results.  Share some joy on Facebook, and you get a few kind “likes.” Put up a tear-stained, painful post and people stand in line to comfort, advise, share their story or top your tale. Unhappiness gets results.

We’re an interesting folk. Chasing what we can’t catch and clutching what makes us miserable.

–Quinn McDonald wonders why people know that you can tell a joke just once and get people to laugh–the second time, it’s no longer funny. But an unhappy story makes us cry time and time again, without changing the situation.

Friends In Your Life

When we have friends we say, “I have X in my life.” It’s an interesting phrase. We often assume friends will be in our life forever. Oddly enough, we don’t expect the same from a spouse. Marriages break up, dissolve, or suffer from “irreconcilable differences,” but we expect friendships to go on forever.

BFFThey don’t. Sometimes we become friends over a specific project, problem, or event. We work closely together. The glue that holds us together is the work we share. Long hours of work, and we share personal stories. It’s a friendship. Then the project or event is over or the problem is solved. The bond is gone. The friendship drifts. And that’s fine. Friendships aren’t necessarily meant to last forever, and when they do, it’s a wonderful thing. When they don’t, there are great memories and shared skills and accomplishments.

Friendships at work can also be difficult. People to whom we’ve told our darkest fears and shared our dysfunctional family stories with are suddenly no longer our co-workers, they are the boss. Or the needy friend is suddenly a direct report.

It takes a strong heart and mind to know when a friendship is working. It takes a lot of spine to end a friendship that is draining you dry and not supporting your dreams and ideas. A friendship is a balance. That means sometimes you won’t be on the receiving end, but if you are never on the receiving end, then you may want to re-evaluate the relationship. Which is no longer a friendship.

It’s hard to reconsider, and it’s easy to claim loyalty as a part of friendship, but a real friendship is a bond that is stretchable, not brittle. It floats, it doesn’t hold either party down. And it grows and changes as both of you grow and change.

Walking away is a hard road, but sometimes it’s necessary to your health, soul, and heart.

--Quinn McDonald is deeply happy that her friends put up with her.

Undermining Overwhelming

To-do lists are my energizing principle. Where there is a to-do list, there is a path of action. This week is lining up to be busy. With a class last Saturday, and class coming up in Madeline Island, the to-do list was getting long. The class on Saturday was the same one that kicks off the week-long retreat, so I couldn’t sent the packages ahead. They needed to be packed on Sunday and shipped on Monday. Today, as you read it.

Meanwhile, I’m teaching all day on Tuesday, and have to create two flyers foroverwhelmed upcoming in-person classes, put the finishing touches on the poetry class, write the ad for that, too. There are coaching clients this week, a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription I need for the trip, I have eight articles due this week, nine if you count the new one for Somerset Studio.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And for a while, it looked like I would. That’s the job of a to-do list, too. It’s not just what you has to happen, it also helps me know when each step has to be done. What looks overwhelming when you see the length of the list can look different from another perspective.

The other end of my logo.

The other end of my logo.

The key to not panicking is to do one thing at a time, and focus on that. Today’s task was creating the final schedule for the class, day by day. From that, I created a packing list, then put all the items on the kitchen table, checking them off as I go, and packing them. It did take six hours, and every time I began to wonder how I’d get through writing the articles, I reminded myself to focus on what I was doing right now. Tomorrow I will tackle what needs to be done tomorrow.

No worrying about what isn’t done tomorrow while I still have work to do today. Tomorrow is set up, and I need to work through the list. Feeling overwhelmed comes from thinking I have to do everything at once. As long as my focus is on the task at hand, I can stay in action and move ahead.

True, there is not much wiggle room. But then again, if I move in a straight line, it should work. And that makes me feel . . .not overwhelmed.

-–Quinn McDonald needs to cook hummingbird food and then she can go to bed.

Having Your Cake and Being Slammed for Eating It

We are a crazy, schizophrenic, confused culture. We talk out of both sides of our mouths, and need a simultaneous translator into nonsense while we do it.

We criticize fat people we see in the mall, but the food court is packed with choices of fried, sugar-loaded, and crispy-salty calories.

A cronut is croissant dough, fried like a donut, filled with sweet, flavored cream, and iced.

A cronut is croissant dough, fried like a donut, filled with sweet, flavored cream, and iced.

Gluten-free diets are touted, restaurants highlight menu items; the same restaurant will have nothing safe for a diabetic to eat. Point it out, and the waiter may well say, “Gluten free is much healthier, you should try that.”

The news stories decry the horrors of our sugary, fat-laden diet, and the infotainment section segues into an article about the popularity of the cronut.

I’m really surprised at how many restaurants have one or two menu items that are safe for diabetics, in a menu that runs six pages. Salad dressings contain honey, maple syrup or simple syrups, or, “just a touch of sugar.” When I asked how much a “touch” was, it turned out to be two tablespoons in a cup of vinaigrette. Yep, vinaigrette. That’s about 26 grams of carbs in the salad dressing–roughly your whole carb intake for a meal. yes, I know, I’m not drinking a cup of it all at once. It’s still way too much sugar for a salad dressing.

Tomato sauces are loaded with sugar, and almost every meal comes with a carb-heavy side–rice, polenta, pasta, potatoes, bread. It’s possible to make a diabetic-safe dessert, but you’ll never find it in a restaurant. And yet, 25.8 million adults in America are diabetic and 79 million more are pre-diabetic.

We love our frozen margaritas, nachos, pasta and pies. But realistically speaking, with almost 2 million new diabetics being diagnosed each year, we need to start offering sensible food choices to at least provide an alternative to pancakes for breakfast, french fries with lunch and pizza for dinner.

–Quinn McDonald no longer eats food with added sugar or more than 25 grams of carbs per meal. She’s surprised how hard it is to eat a healthy, low-carb meal while traveling. KentCooks stocks a diabetic friendly fridge in their house.