Tag Archives: authors

Columnist with A View Featured Column


Am I Normal Concept

I was lucky enough to be asked to write a column for the up-and-coming website “Columnist with a View.” My piece is “Writing to Survive.” My column is a very personal piece about how I got started as a writer.

Be sure to check it out along with all the other wonderful columns by awesome writers. I highly recommend it to all!

Losing My Choice


bloody background with a knife

I hadn’t planned to have surgery when we moved to the Chicago area. Unfortunately, my body decided NOW was the time to resolve an issue that I didn’t even know that I had.

A couple of weeks after arriving at my sister-in-law’s, I began having unbearable pain on the left side of my abdomen. At first the pain was just annoying, so I didn’t think much of it. Slowly it became bad enough that I spent most of my time on the couch with a heating pad wrapped around my belly. I began feeling like so much pressure was building up that my body would explode like a macabre pressure cooker. I finally gave in and told my husband that I needed to go to the emergency room (I grew up “learning” that you only seek medical attention if it’s absolutely necessary because healthcare is expensive, yo!).

After almost four hours of blood tests and a CT scan, I returned home with the cryptic knowledge that I had a mass around my left ovary that was three inches in diameter – according to the doctor, “about the size of a clementine orange.” Part of the mass was cystic, with which is unfortunately something I am familiar. The other part of the mass was solid – no telling exactly what it was with only a CT scan. Cue panic. My family has a long history of female cancers, so not knowing what was growing inside of me caused me a great deal of mental discomfort. However, I kept reminding myself of something important – the women in my family are unbelievably strong and always beat cancer. I took a great deal of comfort in thinking of my 11-year-old niece Megan who has beat AML leukemia twice. Yes, we come from strong stuff – if it’s cancer, I’ll beat it!

I had many follow-up appointments, two ultrasounds, and an appointment with an OB-GYN surgeon. All during this time, the pain was so intense that I stayed medicated on pain pills most of the time. Even when I was “numb,” I would lie in bed, roll over onto my left side and feel a hard ball pressing against my insides. To add to this discomfort, the ultrasounds showed that the mass was pushing against my uterus in such a way that my uterus was in an “S” shape, to which I spastically thought, “Hey, maybe I’m turning into Super Girl.” Yeah, not so much.

Thankfully my blood tests showed no markers for cancer which was a shining beacon of relief in my fog of pain and hydrocodone. Still the surgeon laid it out straight – the mass was solid, meaning my body wouldn’t absorb it. I needed to have it surgically removed. Originally my surgery was scheduled three weeks out, but after hearing my pleas about the pain – and having to have an increase in pain medicine – my surgeon arranged his schedule so I could have the surgery as soon as possible.

I was eerily calm about the surgery, much more so than my husband. I’ve had abdominal surgery before, and aside from general anesthesia nauseating me, I had no fears about the procedure itself. As life would have it, what we learned after the surgery was the scary part.

In my surgeon’s words, internally the surgery was “very traumatic.” Before the surgery all we knew was that I had a mass. We didn’t really know what the mass was until he got in there poking around in my guts. Internally very traumatic meant that the surgeon had a lot of work to do. The mass was endometrial tissue  that had been growing outside of my uterus, along with scar tissue that my body had developed in an attempt to protect the surrounding organs. The tissue had amassed so much that it fused with my colon. With the intent of removing all of the bad tissue and preserving my colon, my left ovary and fallopian tube were destroyed. I was interestingly okay with this. In my head I was thinking, “I still have my right ovary and uterus, so all is well.” Maybe not so much.

A week after the surgery I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon to discuss in depth what it all means. The good news, no cancer. The bad news, I have Stage IV endometriosis. Given that my husband and I had been talking about the possibility of having another child, the prognosis is horrible. The surgeon gave me options, none of which are ideal. For temporary relief I can either get pregnant or begin medication that will throw me into menopause. The pregnancy part is risky because given the extent of the endometriosis, I need to get pregnant within six months, and I have only a 10% chance of doing so without medical assistance (such as IVF). The medication that would put me into menopause comes with all of the delightful side effects that “the change” has to offer – hot flashes, mood swings, depression (hello! I’m already mentally ill, don’t need more, m’kay?). These options are considered temporary treatments because after the theoretical baby is born or if I would stop the medication, the endometrial tissue would start growing again every month when Aunt Flo visits.

The last option is permanent and irreversible in that I would no longer suffer from endometriosis pain again, but I would also never have kids – a full hysterectomy. When he told me this, I cried uncontrollably. So many different thoughts crashed through me, all revolving around one main theme – if I have a hysterectomy, I no longer have a choice about getting pregnant. Something about not having a choice in the matter made me feel like I was being psychologically and physically violated by my own body. Unlike other instances, I can’t get away from my abuser because my abuser is ME…well, at least a part of me.

The surgeon wrapped things up by telling me that if I did nothing and just managed the pain, I would likely require surgery again within five years. Not exactly something to look forward to for the future.

Dealing with this has been beyond challenging. I went to the ER on July 21 and had my surgery on August 31 – over a month in pain before I got some relief. I’m still recovering, but the post-op discomfort is a randy party compared to the pre-op anguish. I’m still processing all of it. I foresee more blog posts focused on issues such as this that affect women, and how we deal with them socially and psychologically (because hey, that’s how I psychologically deal with it…I write about it).

For readers of my work, I have been slowing working on projects during all of this, but obviously not as much. I’m also editing and proofreading novels for Booktrope Publishing – an exciting addition to my artistic inclinations. I will post more about those as novels get published. Until then, check out Booktrope’s website for more info on lots of great books.

Blessings and healing to all.

Author Takeover Event Tomorrow!


dracula

My author friend S.H. Townsend is having a special cover reveal event tomorrow, March 10, 2015, on Facebook from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. EST.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1569896283245239/

Yours truly will be taking over the event from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST (11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PST). I will be having some awesome giveaways:

– 3 free copies of The Source from Smashwords.

– 1 free physical copy SIGNED by me of Vampires Romance to Rippers an Anthology of Tasty Stories (various authors).

– 1 free physical copy SIGNED by me of Vampires Romance to Rippers an Anthology of Risque Stories (various authors).

– 1 $10 electronic gift card from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble to alleviate some of your TBR pile.

How can you win? I will be posting trivia questions throughout the hour – the first to answer the question correctly will win the stated prize.

Finally, I will be unveiling my FIRST video log!

Mark your calendar and join in on the fun!

The Evil Empire


The company I have been discussing in previous posts, my soon-to-be-former employer, is the eCommerce juggernaut Amazon.

I used to love this company. I fully bought into and accepted the vision of what we were continuing to create 12 years ago. Like I’ve stated previously, I began having concerns in the past 6 years, specifically in how employees are treated. We expanded so quickly that we quickly hired many managers and decision makers who never fully internalized the vision in terms of employee relations.

Not long after I started with the company in the Huntington office, Jeff visited and spoke to all of us. One of the things he said that had always stuck out in my mind was that retailers were missing that mom-and-pop store feel. It’s something that he, that we, wanted to perpetuate in how we treated customers. And at that time, customers meant both external and internal. Things have changed.

I’ve seen a lot, I’ve heard a lot. Hell, as a cog in the machine, I’ve been a part of some things that I didn’t entirely agree with at the time. I’ll have to live with that. I was in denial. I would think, “Surely this is not what it looks like. There has to be more to the story than what I know. Anyone who has read a leadership 101 book knows that you will never be successful if you treat people this way. Employees are not loyal to a company, they’re loyal to their direct managers – and if the manager mistreats the staff, things begin to fall apart.” Well, that is what has been happening because although any good manager knows these things, there’s no place for it in the current Amazon climate. As I’ve stated before, the current leadership style is that it’s acceptable to be an asshole to your employees.

These things had to hit me square in the face for me to realize it. The first nudge was a couple of years ago.

Those of you who have followed my book, 80% of the proceeds of “The Source” go to Megan, a child who has survived leukemia twice. What I haven’t broadcast (except on my radio interview on The Rudebuoyz on WMUL) is that Megan is my niece. Her mother, my sister, used to also work for this eCommerce juggernaut as a manager. Her career with the company came to an end, involuntarily, when she over-extended her FMLA because she was taking care of her 8-year-old child who was being treated for cancer. What kind of company does that? Sure, it may be legal. Sure, it’s not against company policy. But is it an ethical or moral practice? In my opinion, abso-freaking-lutely NOT.

I had an emotional crisis at that point. This ugliness happened to my family. I wanted to rage against the machine then. Yet, I had convinced myself that I needed to trudge on, for the benefit of my own daughter, so I could provide the best I could for her – and ultimately use some of my income to help pay for Megan’s medical bills. Well, I’ve already discussed how non-competitive my pay was in the Seattle market. I’m sad to say that I’ve only been able to send $300 to help, along with the meager royalties from book sales. Still, $300 is better than nothing, right?

Then I was hit with it directly, as described in What Did You Like Least About Your Job. It took me getting broken to accept the fact that this company that I have loved for so many years actually views me and other employees as expendable.

I get it now. Message received. The Universe knows that sometimes I need to be hit between the eyes with a 2 x 4 before I clearly see things for what they are. My Third Eye is bruised, and I’m tired of being treated as less than what I AM. I’m also tired of others being treated the same way. If you are reading this, know that you are worth so much more than you realize – don’t let anyone ever try to convince you otherwise.

Still, I was broken. The great thing about this is that I now get to take the pieces and re-create them in the image I want, not the image someone else tells me to accept.

“Rise. Rebel. Resist.”

What Did You Like Least About Your Job?


This is what my former employer, Amazon, asked me. This was my response, and is solely my opinion on the events that have happened over the past 6 months. **WARNING** some strong language.

Over the past six years, the leadership approach has changed significantly. The company is currently in a state where in leadership, it’s acceptable to be an asshole to your employees, even when that means being demoralizing, demotivating and condescending. I’m worth more than that, and it’s not something that I will accept. The company doesn’t pay me nearly enough to put up with it. This all started back in June, right after Ms. X became my manager. During our first 1:1, she asked me about the length of the eLearning courses we developed, and when I said that our target was for none of them to be longer than 20 minutes, she had a full-body reaction on the scale of Kramer from Seinfeld. My interpretation of her body language was that I just received a full-body eye roll, which implied that the work I had done was sub-par. I withheld comment at that time so that I wouldn’t speak from emotion. I scheduled a follow-up meeting with her to discuss my concerns with her communication and that with her being new to the team, I wasn’t certain how everyone would react (I specifically mentioned X employee, who later left the company because of these issues). Ms. X advised that she had an agreement with her last team that when she did these things, they were to speak up and ask what she really meant. My first thought on that was that if her previous team had to have this agreement, and it’s still going on, what does that say about this leadership approach? Immediately after this meeting, I began having tingling sensation all over, tunnel vision and felt like I was going to lose consciousness. Through drinking water and deep breathing, I was able to make it over to urgent care who sent me to the ER because of the possibility of a heart attack. The ER doctor concluded that I had had a severe panic attack, but noted that my blood sugar was higher than it should be. In my follow up with my PCP, we learned that I’m diabetic. I struggled after the diagnosis to get my blood sugar under control. At the time, the other ID had left the company and I was fulfilling the job of two IDs. Not long, we got a request to develop training for another team. Ms. X wanted us to provide data, facts as to why we couldn’t take this work on right now. In my e-mail message to her, I stated what I was working on for two people (since the other ID left), how long it would take me to complete, and what it would take to complete this new work. I followed this up with the following: “Additionally, what these facts/data do not capture is the human factor. I have a few medical conditions that are negatively impacted by stress, including one condition that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. I cannot take on additional work stress without escalating the current negative impact on my health. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow (7/1/2014) to discuss next steps.”

Ms. X’s response to this shocked me: “I appreciate your note. Is there some other role that gives you a sense that it will be easier to maneuver.

The instructional design work will increase… it can be really fun work. The Sr. ID will be tasked with allocating the roadmap for both internal and external facing assets. From the company’s point of view the business comes first, as the idea is people/leaders look after themselves and manage change.” Emphasis added by me.

I was totally shocked that, one, a company people manager would respond in this way when someone identifies themselves as having a disability, and two, that the people manager would be ignorant enough to write it down in e-mail. Really, how would people react that speaking on the company’s behalf, a manager responded to a person with a disability with “From the company’s point of view, the business comes first.” I read this as “If you have a disability, manage it, deal with it and do your job or leave.”

It really felt like a betrayal by the company that I had come to love over the past 12 years. Even HR recognized how bad it was because the HR Business Partner apologized to me when discussing this issue. I actually only discussed the matter with HR because Ms. X went to them advising that I needed “special consideration” in my job. The days that followed that e-mail and the time Ms. X went to HR on me, it was a constant barrage of suggesting that I needed some kind of alternate arrangements (I never requested such), a different job, maybe work part time, etc. I was mentally beaten down with this to where I felt like I was no longer trusted to be able to do my job. I regularly cried at my desk (as witnessed by colleagues) and began having regular panic attacks (the severe kind where I almost lost consciousness – this happened one time when I was on I-5). I made an excuse at one point to work from home for a week because I could not drive toward the office without starting to panic and feeling like I was going to vomit. During this time I didn’t even leave my apartment for that week because I couldn’t even manage the thought of being around other people. I met with my PCP and discussed these things, to which she said she was shocked because she had never seen me like that. Because of my condition, she referred me to both a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I was put on anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication, including Xanax. I was able to come back into the office, but I would regularly have to take Xanax to be in meetings with my boss just so the way she communicated didn’t make me feel worse than I already did.

Even with all of this, things did not approve. I had one more face-to-face talk with Ms. X where I expressed concerns over what she thought about me, because her e-mail communication came off as so condescending, it made me think that she didn’t have a very high opinion of me. Again, she said that she wasn’t going to change, and she would write e-mails to me the same way she would to the new ID. I pointed out that her leadership training with adaptive coaching and adjusting your leadership style to your employees’ personalities – I told her that it seemed that she expected the rest of us to adjust when she’s not willing to do the same, although it’s what she teaches. She didn’t agree with me and pretty much ended the conversation.

It was okay for a while, then on October 17th I received another e-mail where Ms. X had jumped to conclusions and felt the need to e-mail me about the proper process, including our contractor on the e-mail, when if she would have sought to understand the situation, she would have known that I did everything that she had assumed that I hadn’t. It hit a brick wall – it was never going to end. I called my husband crying and begged him, “Can I quit today? Please say I can quit today?” After seeing how I had been, he agreed that continuing on with this company just wasn’t worth it. That day I met with HR and explained things. I had a box with me and advised that my intention was to pack up my desk then and leave. She asked me to give her the weekend and she would discuss the issue with my boss’s boss (she had documentation of all the issues I had with Ms. X). She said she would follow up with me on Monday, October 20th.

When I got the e-mail from HR on that Monday, she advised that after looking over everything, it was determined that Ms. X had not broken company policy. That was even more concern for me. I knew then, without a doubt, that the leadership style at the company had changed. We no longer cared about being customer centric for internal customers. As stated previously, the current leadership style is that it’s okay to be an asshole to your employees. I can’t accept that. Right after responding to that e-mail, I walked into Ms. X’s office and gave notice.

During this time (in June), I began getting insight from an investigator with the Seattle Human Relations Commission. When I told her about the work environment and the impact to my health, her initial response was, “J.B., this company has broken you.”

NOT ANYMORE