Saddle Up for St. Francis Shelter


Planning an outdoor event can be a risk in Salem.  At any moment the sky could open up and rain on your buffet.   However, luck was on the side of St. Francis Shelter, at its Saddle Up for St. Francis event Sept. 13 at Crystal Springs Ranch. We enjoyed one of the last nice days of the season.

We dug out our boots and giddy’d-up to a social to benefit St. Francis Shelter, which provides temporary housing and assistance to about 50 families in our community, with a goal to move toward permanent housing.

We had a big welcome from greeters Larry Davis, Marcia Hutchins, Jayne Downing and Kathleen Callero. Executive Director Kim Lemman introduced me to William Barnes who provided me some high quality photos for this article.  Sofia Blanco-Mills, Kelly Mills, Paul Camuso and Megan Cogswell and I talked about the start of school.

We toured around the ranch and saw some historic coaches, cool statues and horses.  One took a liking to Kristan Mitchell.  We listened to the Jenny Sizzle Band and enjoyed a signature margarita in a jar. Wes Helmer and Elesa Doll got into the spirit in western wear.

Food was delicious, catered by the Wooden Nickel.  I was seated at a rowdy table that included Lisa Joyce, Ellen Brittingham, Karen Kimball and board member, Diana Ramallo.  Other leaders I saw there included Marilyn Boman, treasurer and board member Brena Lopez.

Since 1987, St. Francis Shelter has serve Marion and Polk Counties by providing temporary housing for homeless families with children. In 2014, St. Francis provided temporary housing and professional case management to 47 families, which included 112 children.92% of those families have transitioned into, and remain in, permanent housing. To contact, volunteer or donate to St. Francis Shelter: St. Francis Shelter call (503) 588-0428 or


Making the year better, month by month


Month by month, your year comes  to a close and if you look back you are most likely not the same in one way or another. Think about it. You are either healthier or “not-as-healthy,” saved more or spent more, learned something new or forgot more than you remember. If you just work and work and feel like a hamster on a wheel, it might be time for some good, old fashion work life planning month-by-month.

January:  Make a plan. A simple plan (perhaps based on these guidelines) that sets up a goal a month is a good start. Instead of planning to “lose 10 pounds,” how about just drinking more water and walking 10 minutes a day to start off your January?

February:  Put a little love into your work. Be the office Valentine by bringing flowers and candy to work.

March:  Gimme a break. Just as you’re getting sick of the weather, you may have a spring break or summer vacation. This is a great time to start thinking about where you could spend a week when the weather gets nice. Rest is good.

April:  Do some spring cleaning. A regular workplace cleaning day (both in the physical space and the electronic one) can do wonders for morale.

May:   Save for a rainy day. The government’s taken a good piece of your income in taxes by now, so you can start saving some for yourself. Set money aside each month in a qualified retirement plan. Try to do it automatically.

June: Downsize:  Paper files overrunning your cabinets and storage units?   It’s time to purge and you can use the IRS retention rules to get your started. Scan critical documents, shred or recycle the rest.

July:  For many businesses, this starts their corporate year. Make sure your employee’s files are in order. Do you have everyone’s reviews completed?  Is your handbook up to date?

August:  While you go from hot outside to freezing cold air conditioners inside, think about energy efficiency. Have you had an energy audit?  Consider one thing your business can do to be a good steward of the environment. In Marion County, you can learn more by becoming EarthWISE certified.

September:  Children are going back to school so resolve to learn something. I forced myself to use Prezi (instead of PowerPoint). I figured out how to update websites on WordPress and buy Facebook ads.

October:  Visit your financial planner and accountant. It’s time to plan for the end of the year, so set an appointment before they get too busy to do your tax planning and maximize your deductions.

November:  Send Thank You Notes.  Every day someone is making your work life a little easier, whether it’s the person who makes your latte or keeps your car running. You are not ever too busy to be thankful.

December:  Take inventory. Just like a business’s strategic plan, you need to evaluate in what areas you made progress and which you did not. Adjust your plan and start all over again. (I suggest you do take a vacation, however. All work and no play…..)

Job Hunter’s Dilemma


I have been working as long as I can remember for the family business. I have had to apply for jobs in the past, but settled into the public relations industry. While I’ve looked for clients from time to time, I haven’t been job searching in a while. My son, home from college, is doing that now.  I asked him to co-author this article on the job hunter’s dilemma. As an economics major, he’s taken a very businesslike approach to the process:

While searching for work offers its own set of challenges for young professionals entering a competitive job market, selecting which offer to accept is often just as daunting. Common sense would dictate that the best job is always the one that pays the most, but this assumption isn’t often true. When evaluating any potential opportunity, there are often less obvious factors that one must consider in order to make the best decision possible. Economists refer to these choices as opportunity costs, or the limited resources you have to give up when you make a decision. If you or someone you know is currently seeking their first real job or deciding on a career change, here are a few additional things to consider.


Would you take a well-paying job if it meant working 12-hours a day? For most people the answer would be no. While this job would certainly award you with a plentiful salary, it would cost you a significant amount of time that you could be spending with family, doing household chores or engaging in leisure activities. Ask yourself how much you value your personal time and how much of your time you’re willing to use for work versus other activities.


Would you take a well-paying job if it might be more physically or mentally taxing than you could handle?  For most people the answer would be no. While a college graduate could make a decent income working on an oil decker in the middle of the ocean, the high levels of physical exertion of the job, along with its dangerous nature would make the opportunity far less appealing.

On the flip side, a college graduate could reduce physical and mental energy working as a video game tester but would only earn a small income. How much stress you experience in your job often determines how much energy you can put into your relationships and hobbies. Stress can also be detrimental to your health. Ask yourself how much you value your mental and physical well-being when selecting a job?


Would you take a well-paying job that you absolutely hated in lieu of an enjoyable job that doesn’t quite pay the bills? For most people the answer would be no. The amount of pleasure a person receives from a job is often a critical factor in determining the job’s value. A person with a passion for painting would be willing to tolerate an inconsistent income as an artist while another person would tolerate a “less than fun office job” if it meant making a decent living. I often hear the phrase “do what you love and the money will come” but there are often times in life when picking a job you “love” isn’t completely practical. Ask yourself how much you value your personal pleasure when selecting a job?

Regardless of how you balance Time-Energy-Enjoyment, you will learn something from any job you are fortunate enough to get. You might learn what you “don’t” want as a career. If you are lucky enough to have a choice, consider your values and what jobs can put you in the closest proximity to your future career interests. Remember to use those economic principles when making your next big career move; make sure you know your opportunity costs of your decisions.

In Love with Yourself: Dealing with Narcissistic Personalities at Work


Love is an interesting business subject. I’ve written about loving your job, being in love with a co-worker or working with a spouse you love. But what if you are working with someone who is totally self-involved, in love with him or herself…a narcissist?

We may toss the term around, but narcissism is a real psychological condition in which one has an excessive interest in oneself-far beyond what is normal. While positive self-esteem is important, there’s a big difference between having a positive self-image and believing in one’s superiority to others.

The term comes from a Greek myth about the beautiful Narcissus. Upon seeing his own reflection in a pool he fell in love with it. He didn’t know it was his own image and fell in the water and drowned because he was unable to stop looking at himself.

A narcissist, while often entertaining, puts strain on relationships. It becomes especially difficult in a professional environment where people’s financial futures are on the line. Having a boss or co-worker who feels that he or she is the “smartest” or “most accomplished,” can manifest itself in a refusal to listen to other’s ideas or a need for constant praise. This person can be overly sensitive to clients’ criticism and that not only makes for bad personal relationships, it makes for bad business.

Wondering if you’re working with (or are) a real, clinical narcissist?  Here’s a fun test from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to determine narcissistic personality disorder. A clinical narcissist, according to the manual, has five or more of the following traits I summarize here:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  1. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
  1. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people (or institutions).
  1. Requires excessive admiration.
  1. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  1. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  1. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  2. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  1. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Seriously, it’s very unlikely that your co-worker or boss is a clinical or Gordon Gekko-style narcissist. Most normal people are likely to have at least a few of these traits and even those can be annoying. At this point you may be asking yourself: what’s the next logical step to overcome the power of narcissism?  There are a few ways to manage a relationship with a narcissistic person in your life.

  • Primarily, recognize that extreme narcissists are not interested in you and it’s not about you. Accept their emotional limitations. As soon as you accept that, your relationship will be easier. Don’t take things too personally. They probably aren’t thinking about you, your feelings or your reaction.
  • Communicate with care. Negativity is difficult for the narcissist.
  • Understand their motivations. Is it money, power, relationships or physical attractiveness?  When you understand what drives the self-absorption, you can learn to work with it.
  • Know you probably can’t outmaneuver, out-charm or out-work a narcissist. They are most likely very motivated and socially skilled.
  • You cannot please a narcissist. They are by nature unsatisfied. Finally, especially if you are in a work situation, you might just have to accept someone with a narcissistic personality for who they are. As long as you take care not to expect too much emotionally, you might just be able to sit back and enjoy their ramblings about me, myself and I.

Are you naughty or nice at work?


It’s the holiday season and this means the workplace can take on a new personality.  Some co-workers will tempt us with candy and baked goods or maybe play loud holiday music.   They might be sneaking in a moment to shop online or trying to avoid participating in the “secret Santa workplace gift exchange.”  If Santa were looking at you and your business, would you be considered “naughty or nice” at work? Let’s explore what criteria Santa might use to decide.

Thoughts on naughty:

Co-workers are like roommates you can’t really choose.  If you leave your stuff all over and play loud music all night, you are likely to create problems.  At work it’s not nice to inflict sights, smells, or sounds on everyone else in the form of messy habits (not picking up after yourself), strong smelling perfumes or aftershave (or worse, no deodorant), loud talking or music.   Loud and stinky:  Definitely naughty.

You also might not make it on Santa’s list if you aren’t contributing at work. (He sees you when you’re sleeping!)  That can be in the form of not doing your job or not participating with the team.  I agree that sometimes teambuilding activities can be silly and I’m not always crazy about meetings, but your scrooge-ish behavior just makes it hard on everyone.  Play nice in the sandbox.   Not performing:  Really naughty.

You’ll definitely fall on Santa’s bad side if you are mean.  Work can be competitive, stressful and sometimes downright unpleasant.  This is one of the reasons it is called work and we get paid to do it.  However, you can move relationships in a positive or negative direction based on your behaviors.  Gossip, nasty comments, blame and pouting will soon label you as the “person to avoid” in the office.    Negativity at work:  Super naughty.

Thoughts on nice:

Spending a lot of time with people at work and striving for harmonious relationships is definitely a nice quality.   When you seek to recognize the best in everyone and to understand his or her personal challenges you are truly a workplace gift.   If you’re on top of your projects, help your workmate finish his.  If you have an extra minute, pick up the staff room or offer to reorganize the storage closet.  Helping others:  Very nice.

Are you fun to be around?  You might have a serious or intense job, but that doesn’t mean you should take yourself too seriously.   If you bring your best to work each day, along with a smile and a nice word then you are definitely moving up Santa’s list.  Remember colleague’s birthdays and special occasions.   Join or invite your co-workers for after work socials.   Bring joy to the world:  Ultra nice.

It feels good to let go and be thankful.  Sometimes our office mates won’t feel well or will have a bad day.  Seek to understand their situation and forgive missteps.   If we have a job at all we are more fortunate than many others.  There are many reasons to be thankful for our employment. Life can be tough so be nice and gentle with colleagues.  Be a blessing to others at work.  Superbly nice.

You better watch out!  Your co-workers know if you’ve been bad or good at work, so to avoid a lump of coal in your workplace sock, be good for goodness sake!

Mary Louise VanNatta is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations a PR, Event Planning and Association Management firm in Salem, OR. or

Falling in Love With your Job


If love is determined by how many hours you spend together, your “human” significant other might lose out to your job.  There may be no one thing you spend more waking hours with than your job.  If you don’t love your job, or at least like it; it’s time to find a way to improve your relationship.

When I was a young girl, I used to love to pick up copies of my Mother’s Ladies’ Home Journal.  I’d always read: “Can This Marriage Be Saved.”   Each spouse took a turn.  She couldn’t stand his friends; he couldn’t stand her criticism.  She thought he watched too much TV and he thought she spent too much money on shoes, etc.  Then the counselor took a turn; hoping to provide a neutral solution to the problem.  But if you’re falling out of love with your work—Can your relationship with your job be saved?

Can you remember when you started your job?  You competed, negotiated and entered into the relationship; all starry-eyed and hopeful.  This time you’ll put your best foot forward, you’ll forget all those bad jobs and start fresh.  Everything seemed wonderful from the smell of Folgers to the charming giggle of your cubical-mate.

So what changed?  After the 90-day introductory period, what was once adorable has become annoying.   Folgers mixed with air freshener makes you queasy and that giggle sounds more like a cackle.  You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling and each day takes all your patience.  Soon, you are looking for 50-ways to leave your job. But before you “slip out the back Jack,” you should “make a new plan.”    Falling back in love with your job is possible and might help you get past your slump.  Try these tips:

  • Talk it out.  Plenty of people have been in your spot.  Find a professional counselor or life coach to help you pin-point the source of your issue and set you on a course to improve it.
  • Get a check-up.  Are you feeling OK?  Have your doc give you a once over to make sure your health isn’t influencing your mood.
  • Talk to someone at work.  There may be new opportunities for you at work to learn new tasks or change roles.  Those opportunities go to those who show interest.
  • Find joy and interest outside of work.  If your work place doesn’t fill you up emotionally, spend more time on activities and people who do.

Should you break up with your job?  That’s up to you, but one strategy is to try to remember why you were interested in it in the first place.  Work to rekindle what drew you to this job, these people and this workplace.  That spark may be just what you need to find a renewed satisfaction and keep your relationship going.

Mary Louise VanNatta is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations. or follow her on twitter at

Drama is for the theater, not for work


There are a few people who may take Shakespeare’s quote: “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players,” a little too literally, especially at work.  While drama can be entertaining in the theater, it can cause distraction and distress in the workplace.  Overly dramatic people can create dissatisfaction for everyone, slow work and impede a company’s success.

Now, we’re not talking about someone who faces a personal crisis such as a divorce or death in the family.  In these situations, it is natural to experience difficulties at work.  There are just some personalities, however, that thrive on continuing drama.  No one wants to work in a completely boring office.  Bland, uninteresting conversations with expressionless colleagues can make the eight hours drag on.  The diversity, creative spark, unique style and clever wit of co-workers can be a welcome break from a stressful life.  It also makes work fun.   Sometimes, someone, however, takes it a little too far.

Tolerance for drama varies from workplace to workplace.  A straight-laced accounting firm, with high profile clients, might encourage a more focused, calm environment.  An advertising agency could be a place for more creative energy that welcomes a more emotional personality type.  If the match is wrong, it can create an upsetting workplace for everyone.

How do you recognize a drama king/queen at work?  (Is it you?). You may notice:

Ordinary problems or work projects become challenges of epic proportions  or  over-the-top  emotional outbursts.  A dramatic person may also draw caring co-workers into their complex personal situations.  Some create dissatisfaction in work teams through encouraging alliances, gossip and dissention. Ultimately all these situations distract people from actually doing work.

How do you deal with a dramatic person and limit workplace drama?

  • Know your workplace.  If you are responsible for hiring, take the time to check references and ask about the job-seeker’s personality for the best fit.  If you are a supervisor, deal with overly-dramatic behavior at its first sign.  Make it clear that it cannot continue.
  • No matter how tempting, avoid trigger subjects for a dramatic person (i.e. family, politics). You’re surely in for an entertaining story, but it contributes to encouraging this culture at work.
  • Set personal guidelines for yourself and others on what you will discuss about your personal life, beliefs or other people.  Set boundaries about what behaviors you will tolerate from others. When that line is crossed, remove yourself from the situation right away.

So even if your workplace is a little like a theater, you can do your part to make a harmonious place.  Shakespeare may have said it better in Hamlet “Give your thoughts no tongue.”

Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE is the CEO of VanNatta Public Relations and Association Management, a PR, Event Planning and Association Management firm in Salem, Oregon. or