Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Good news and bad news, but that’s life, right? We’ve got to take the good with the bad, take away the accomplishments and pay the price for our flaws. In a world where you make larger mistakes, guaranteed the price will be paid a very long time. If you’re damned lucky, you’ll pay it off in time to reap some sort of reward.

Trusting in the law and that child support will be paid—I’m not the only one stupid enough to think that could happen. And then ending up in a world of crap… But let’s forget about that for a while. Maybe it’s better to forget about it for good. If we do, we’re more likely to repeat the events that got us here in the first place, though.

For you, my readers, I’ll simply post the photos and let you fill in the blanks to the events. In fact, let’s just do this week’s entry specifically in photos. It was supposed to be posted on Sunday and I’m wiped out. So, here are the photos I’ve taken this past week. If you have any guesses, post them. I’ll make sure and tell you how close you are to the correct answer—it’ll be fun! (And all in a week’s work.)

 

Living with Strangers on my Birthday

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We’re each given a canvas at the start of the day. Sometimes it’s dirty and sometimes it’s clean. It’s all ours for 24 hours.

We’re on our third week of living in the shelter called Family Promise. Cameron spends this weekend with his dad, snoozing in his own bed, watching cable networks on television, and he’ll golf. He enjoys that short commercial break of “living the dream” once in a while. But Cameron almost didn’t get to this time.

The family I mentioned last time, Shawn and Kiwi, came a week ago last Thursday. Although she was separated from the rest of us, the accordion curtain that separated our families wasn’t enough to keep her untreated illness from spreading. After a long three-day weekend, I woke up on my birthday with a headache, sore throat, and body aches. But I couldn’t let the dreaded Norovirus stop me for several reasons.

First, if you miss a day of work after a holiday, as with most companies, your holiday pay isn’t available. Second, I had already paid for my birthday celebration with my kids. And third, well, I didn’t feel like sitting this one out. It’s been forever since I’ve celebrated my birthday, so everyone else can suck it and let me have a good time being sick!

The Friday before, I’d been talking to my manager at work and discussed my plans for having a fun birthday and she suggested a place called, “Painting with a Twist.” It was fun, allowing Cameron and Nikki to freely express themselves on canvas. For my birthday, we all copied from the same painting, you can see the variation in each of our psyches and how it reflects on our outlook. Can you tell who painted each? (See bottom for answers)

We returned late and went straight to bed. I felt pretty bad. The night refused to hold any promises of sleep. Between the city nightlife of passersby yelling at each other and cursing with the competition of a runny nose, sore throat, throbbing head, and having to empty my intestines, I didn’t sleep very well.

The following morning was surprisingly worse. I went to work and was so worn I could hardly hold a thought, much less work. The day would have dragged if I could remember it, but it was a murky mess of mistakes and apologies.

When I arrived at the church, I discovered Cameron was also ill. We decided to take Wednesday off for the doctor. The illness was so nasty we were treated with medication that was a liquid-based prescription level ibuprofen that could only have tasted worse if scraped from the bottom of a farmer’s boot. We were each given a bottle of water before the nursing assistant cautiously left the room. I swallowed hard, twisted the cap off my water, and then downed the medicine in one fatal drink before chasing it with the entire bottle of water before coming up for air.

Cameron didn’t swallow his water with the same vigor as me. He sipped his, and then took a swallow of water—several times between intermittent mini-convulsions. Afterward, we were given Z-packs containing Azithromycin. Fun? But the paintings will last forever AND Cameron’s stealthy play won him a painting created by the instructor. The scowl I received with the suggestion he might consider it a gift to his girlfriend, Trinity, was at least notable. He smiled warmly and declined.

At the shelter, “residents” must be absent between seven a.m. and five p.m. for typical services and upkeep of the churches. So Cameron and I went to a library—a public library where we could cough and “share the glory” with others. Although, we did manage to stay in our own little corner and keep our breathing to a minimum. We always cover our mouths and wash our hands in an attempt to stave off infections. Doing what we could in distancing ourselves and keeping calm so we could heal quietly without infecting others, but gain intelligence at the same time.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 12.27.14 PM.pngFriday, I had a weekly review at work. I wish I could say that despite the havoc in the rest of my life that my job is going smoothly, but I can’t. Tuesday’s pathetic average worked itself in to bring my score even lower than it was, which was a very “unbirthday” surprise. My average of files per hour still sits at about eight. I have two weeks to bring it to a ten or I’ll be in danger of losing my job. All I can say to that is that it would really suck—but with two more weeks, I can only hope that positive occurrences happen.

After I picked Nikki up and left Cameron at his dad’s, we entered our room to discover things had been moved. Nothing major has been noted missing, but I have a real issue, especially when chaos is breaking out around me, to have everything organized and placed evenly. Although my suitcase was still positioned in front of the closet door, the door wasn’t latched and my suitcase was half unzipped. Now we lock our door when we leave and have the host open it each night when we get back.

The family of Erica and Justin with the kids—a five-bedroom home has been found for them if you can believe that. It’s a lower portion of a home, which must be gigantic to have five bedrooms in half of it! I’m happy for them, but a little sad because that’s the only family we’ve been conversing with regularly. Awaiting the next family is like playing the shell game. I figure we’re here for another four months or so. I still have a lot to learn about finances before we can move.

When I went into the playroom to notify Erica of the Norovirus, because I heard the Hispanic grandma hacking up a lung in the room half an hour earlier, the host entered just after I finished relaying the warning signs of the virus. It’s both viral and bacterial, meaning the room most likely churns with contamination. But as I was leaving, Erica informed the host that the Hispanic boy urinated in a bin and carefully placed the lid on top just as her son entered. Norovirus doesn’t seem so dangerous all of a sudden, OR perhaps this is exactly where it was born.

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Washing hands helps. When others touch your food with contaminated hands, you could get ill.

Shawn came running out of his room next to ours yesterday screaming about having bedbugs and demanding he saw a really big one. I’m thinking, if it was that big, it probably wasn’t a bedbug. They’re relatively small.

Cameron still suffers withdrawals from his friends, which is only to be expected. The school he’d left behind is the only real group of friends he’d associated with, but the adjustment is necessary. He’s trying to find some resonance with reality, but it’s hard.

The resilience of Nikki beams out of every pore of her body whenever school studies are mentioned. It’s fun to watch her boast about her typing scores, but we have discussed the importance of humility. I’m happy to see her excited.

Both kids plan on joining the CERT training at the end of the month through their school, Utah Military Academy. This provides the certification necessary for rescuing people from flood, fire, or other catastrophic events. Empowering–we need this.Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 12.36.56 PM.png

Today is Sunday. It probably sounds petty to say we’re not eating breakfast because it’s the day the church doors are open to feeding the homeless. While there are courteous transients, addicts, pedophiles, etc. in the mix, I’m guarded. When it comes to my kids, I’d rather avoid than take the time to sort— it’s quicker and safer.

Meanwhile, I’m working on an interesting story that’s a bit off the beaten track of what I normally write. Could it be the position in which I find myself? There’s some blood and death—maybe because my dreams are a bit askew at the moment.

My goals for my next birthday include living in a separate dwelling, barbecuing, and the three of us going out to an incredible play after we eat. Time to pull out the blank canvas and start on those plans for the future.  

My memory will always hold this birthday as the learning experience of a lifetime.

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Nikki’s crow on a dead tree has no idea it’s about to become the owl’s dinner in the light of the rising sun; Cameron’s is a tree with the sun setting behind it; mine is cherry blossoms by a still lake on the mountain front after a long and prosperous day.

 

I Dare you to Beat This!

I’ve always been competitive as a kid growing up. Had a big family of nine kids total. The situation with our parents was sort of like puppies fighting for nipples when there never seemed to be enough nipples. With that many pups, getting your share was pretty tough. It took the right kick in the right place to ensure your place in line without getting caught by the watchful eyes of my parents and sent to the back of the feeding line.

The best part of being part of a big family was the hand-me-downs. There’s nothing like getting handed down your sister’s Halloween costume of a homeless person. It always fit each kid too, no taking anything in or letting it out. It was one of our favorites. Plus, on Halloween, we found the parents with the bowls would offer us more candy than they offered the pretty princesses. Once in a while, even the other trick-or-treaters would donate from their own bags. We’d make that candy last for six months! Sometimes we’d each place a share into our family community Christmas bowl. Trust me, there’s nothing like seeing a wicked chocolate witch mingling with a marshmallow Santa for the holidays. The true spirit of Christmas!

Sure, we were poor growing up. With that many mouths to feed and parents who missed graduating from high school, we had to fight for our food. Dinner time was the most organized our family was, we each waited until my father was served before we helped ourselves. No smacking, no reaching, and no talking ’til my father finished and left the room. Sort of like he was the king. But after he left, it was every man for himself.

Everyone had a favorite; mine was potatoes. You wouldn’t guess it then. I was so small, my choice was to either have the waistband so huge my belt gathered my britches around my waist or absolute floods that hit halfway between my ankles and my knees. I usually wore the belt cinching them up with safety pins strategically placed on each side. That way, no one could see my unmatching socks so big the toes were doubled over. All of our socks were interchangeable that way.

Because we couldn’t afford lunch, we reused our lunch bags for a week. Some people consider that cost conservative. It isn’t like there was anything to ruin the bag. Every day a peanut butter sandwich and some change for a milk. Multiply that with the number of kids and my father’s meager income and you can get a fuzzy picture of where we were.

Still, I remember fighting this big kid named Mike in elementary because he wanted my lunch. The kids were standing in a circle around us as soon as I told him I wouldn’t give my peanut butter sandwich to him – sort of a modern-day David and Goliath story going on in the schoolyard. A hefty boy against a scrawny, four-eyed little girl too hungry to back down. One hefty punch was all it took. Yes, from him. I was a twiggy-armed girI half his size! I didn’t see him for the rest of the day – or anyone else for that matter. He’d knocked my glasses halfway across the playground and broken them. The rest of the school year I looked like one of those nerds from the television sitcoms with tape holding the nosepiece together. But the bullies still didn’t bother me after that and I’ve never trusted another Mike. And I continued to receive little notes in my lunch from my mom–usually the highlight of my day and the main reason I was excited about lunchtime.

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Here I am, allowing Mike to draw first blood for my peanut butter sandwich!

We moved a lot too. The longest I went to school in one district was two years. There were several I went to less than half a year, and that was tough. As soon as my name was no longer “the new girl,” it was time to change schools. You can imagine my horror when at one school another girl stole my “new girl” title. I was pissed. That’s when I became “Michelle Z.” There were already two girls who had the name “Michelle.” It made sense that in addition to being new, I was also always the last in line. And no one could ever pronounce my surname. Nine letters long and starting with a Z; I was proud of anyone for making an effort to sound out the extensively long German name. Even the people of my immediate family had an individual way of pronouncing it. I chose the shortest – Zetner.

I remember in school one time, in third grade when we lived in Bradenton, Florida. I went to a school called Orange Ridge Elementary. Yep, third grade was a long time ago. But I’ll never forget that school and Mrs. Sanders, this black woman that kept forgetting I was in her class. The principal called over the speaker system to, “Please send Michelle to the office.” Mrs. Sanders explained she had two Michelles and needed to know if he needed Michelle Winters or Michelle Barker.

There was silence for a moment before he continued, “Could you please send Michelle Z-e-h-e-n-d-n-e-r to the office?”

My third-grade teacher exploded, “We ain’t got one of those!” That’s when I understood why she was a third-grade teacher.

I raised my hand from the back corner of the room. “I’m talking to the principal,” she reminded me. That’s when I explained my name was Michelle Zehendner. Her face softened for a second and then she said to the speaker, “Here she comes.” You’d think she’d remember me after that – but she didn’t. That’s okay because we moved a few months later.

I have a feeling my parents moved so much to dodge the bills. You can’t do that as easily now. Yep, those were the Good Ol’ Days. It finally occurred to me one Sunday after church. My mom had already run away from home to “find herself.” I don’t think she ever did, but I’m certain she had more fun searching than sticking it out at the “Zehendner’s Funny Farm.” So my father and five kids get home from church. I was the new mom at 14-years-old and four siblings remaining. My dad jumps from the car and runs up to grab a paper from our front door. He comes back to the car and announces, “We’re going to play a game, okay?” I was old enough to understand anytime my dad said there was going to be a game, you definitely didn’t want to be the loser.

But we loved games, so we were chomping at the bit. Perhaps that’s where my competitive edge stems from – everything was a competition. “Who can eat their liver first?” was always a game I lost at. But this game was to see who could pack their things the fastest. The amazing part was how many of the toys we’d been fighting over the day before were lost in the name of winning the game. For us, winning was everything!

I believe I won that time. My brothers were only six and four, so they still didn’t have their bearings straight. They packed all their toys. Clothes weren’t that important. Then again, they would have been happier naked with an excuse to remain that way. But it figured their toys were always first because they were never taken out of the box. They stayed in the bottom of the closet with the flaps tucked inside like big toy boxes. But if they ever got tired of their toy box, they’d simply stomp on it so they could have a new one to decorate with markers. They actually became pretty good at styling their boxes.

My sisters who were about 3 years younger than me were about eleven months apart. A lot of times my parents would dress them as twins, although one was blond the other brunette, and they were absolutely nothing alike. Still, the real fun came when only one outfit was packed and when we unpacked, they fought over who actually left their outfit behind. They became so engulfed in winning, they’d rip the outfit to shreds fighting over it. Needless to say, my family participated in cheap family entertainment. Perhaps I’ll share some later.

But we did something that day that I bet 98% of American families could never do. We moved within 5 hours – in my favorite white church dress and heels.  So you can guess where my tenacity of being a single parent with a university degree, and standing up to fight rather than running comes from. I may have been born in the depths, but I’ll be damned if I don’t rise to the top!

Beat that!

When the Unexpected Happens

You’ll hear bizarre stories of unexplainable occurrences that can be explained no more than calling them freak accidents; there are instances of a man being pinned by a train for an extensive period of time before their rescue, or a beachgoer tumbling into a hole and suffocating. Such mind-grappling scenarios that have truly happened. When these people woke up that day, they had no idea what Fate had in store. The unexpected happens when you least expect it.

A thought that always troubles my mind at the most unusual part of the day is I’ll be in a bathroom stall and think I hear someone in the stall next to me without having heard them enter. My curiosity gets the best of me and I bend down to see if there are feet next door, but it isn’t feet I see. Instead, I see someone gazing back at me. Now I don’t know if I expect this person to be another curious woman or a sadistic male killer, but I’ll bet my scream would be the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that sometimes great things happen to people as well in an unexpected way. I’ve certainly had my close calls where Fate seems to step in and save my derriere. So tell me, what was a time that something totally unexpected happened to you that ultimately changed your life?

Here’s a story I’ve written that may shed more light on this scenario. READ “STIFF”

Gotta Let the Animal Growl

At the circus, I’m always torn. I mean, I love to see how intelligent the animals are and I’m in awe at every feat they manage. But on the other hand, I’m saddened by the fact they’re supposed to be wild. Emotionally torn, like last night. A responsible person always has demons at war between pleasure and sensibility. For me, last night, I walked the line like a tightrope walker.

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The Greatest Showman (2017)

Being a single parent who works and has no life can be a daunting experience, especially when two opportunities to go out on the same night exist. One gathering was for an open house for a friend’s new business, directly following work. In fact, I left a bit early to attend. I had a beer and rubbed shoulders a bit, making a few connections and walking away with a spectacular work of art from a raffle. I have no idea what the original picture is I’ve won, but I know it’s going to be spectacular. The place I visited is one that anyone with an interest in creating films in Salt Lake should justly visit, and it’s called Creative Guild Studio. I’d go into details, but I’m trying to keep this short and sweet. It was awesome, and you would do better in checking it out for yourself.

When I left this event, I rallied with my new friends from work at an apartment where they partook of “God’s Sweet Rolling Hills.” I’m happy to say I was cautious enough not to

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Remember this scene from film classic Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke? (1978)

include myself in this activity. (That’s all I’d need for “you know who” to cause friction for me and my children.) However, I drank several shots of Fire Ball, the best cinnamon whiskey I’ve ever sampled. Needless to say, I’m happy I didn’t get pulled over after resting up, my clothes no longer smelled like Gain clothing detergent. And through the cautions of said friends, I managed being detoured from my nemesis, tequila.

So, after “climbing the ladder and strutting heel to toe across the wire,” I arrived with a few new memories to last me a while longer. I tasted freedom and independence for a moment, and it was good to let my wild animal growl a little.

 

If Energy Never Dies, Where Does it Go?

If energy never dies, where does evil go? Physicists have spoken for years about energy and how it never grows or dissipates, it changes from one form to another. Sort of the way ice melts, changing into water. While they’ve changed physically, the components of the H2O remain the same. This is the simplified version of what I’m trying to express about energy not disappearing but changing from one place to another. So, if energy never dies, what happens when someone evil dies? Where does the energy go?

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Men of science say energy doesn’t evaporate.

 

When someone has the death penalty or anyone we consider an evil person dies, what happens next? Are there ghosts or haunted houses? The energy remains. I have a little bit of a story about this happening, although I wasn’t decked out in Ghostbuster’s gear. In fact, I was working at Utah State Prison in Draper’s administrative offices. Seeing how the experience was about a decade ago, the government offices are way behind technologically, and Utah is reportedly about an additional ten years behind our sister states, it’s not a surprise to know my job was taking the hardcopy files and typing them into electronic files. And there were rows and rows of files, practically stretching to the ceiling.

One day, shortly before my supervisor left on vacation, I turned up an interesting file which had been misfiled. In fact, it wasn’t actually one file; it was three big fat ones. They were the files of Gary Gilmore. I’m not sure if you even know who he is anymore, but he was a murderer who insisted on being executed. And, he wanted the firing squad. Controversy surrounds Gary’s father of being the illegitimate son of Harry Houdini. But, regardless of whose son he was, his father, Frank, was an irresponsible and reckless individual as was his son, Gary. The apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree. Gary’s last words were reportedly, “Let’s do this!” With that, Tommy Lee Jones got a role in The Executioner’s Song, about this occurrence. If you get a chance, look up the story online.

 

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The shelves were jammed from ceiling to floor, both sides, and practically endless.

Anyway, as I grabbed the file, unknowing whose it was, it was crammed into the back. I felt determined to get it out, but I did it. Without glancing at the name, I plopped it on my desk and opened to begin the mundane task of typing the contents. I have to admit, many of the folders contained crimes that desensitized me a bit. For this, I’m glad that my supervisor had two men escort me from the office the day before her return from vacation. Mrs. Redding determined to take credit for locating the file herself.  But the electricity that ran through my fingers as I turned the pages, reading this intelligent man’s train of thought during these killings was evil — for sure — but it was unlike any I’d ever felt. My only thoughts are of the two people who received his corneas before his cremation. If I felt the evil run through my body from my fingertips, what of the people’s eyes? And with that energy flowing through them, was their good strong enough to win?

 

Sometimes we wake up in a bad mood and it follows us throughout the day, causing a chain of events. My daughter Nikki was waking up every morning at 4:00 and coming into my bathroom. Being a sleeper so light that an ant farting powers my eyes open, she undoubtedly awakened me by walking and finished it off by flushing. I begged her to empty her bladder before bed thinking this would help. It didn’t. It wasn’t until I took her phone, for her misuse of it, and placed it in my closet did I discover the truth. Her alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. I was angry. I immediately woke her up, describing I had been getting five hours of sleep every night because of her shenanigans. Her reply was that waking up that early allowed her time to prepare for school–except, she would always return to bed! I was the only one who stayed wide awake until taking her to school.

I was so angry, nothing else seemed to go right that morning. It wasn’t until I stopped to take inventory of myself that I made the decision to have a pleasant day, regardless of the events. Turns out, it was one of the best days I’ve had at work. Energy begets energy, whether it’s positive or negative. But, my friend, energy never disappears. So what unfortunate person roped it for his own? Honestly, I wash my hands of it. I got rid of it and so can s/he. The only point I can make for certain is I haven’t killed anyone.

 

Friend or Foe; What Should You Know?

Have you ever wondered, when you see someone in an uncomfortable position, why he or she continues existing in that environment even when it’s obviously a bad situation? Let me share a story that is great information to share with your kids or yourself.

It’s been quite a while now, but I had this mysterious bump appear on my palm between my ring finger and pinky. After I first noticed it, I also noticed the bump was getting bigger every few days. I had no idea what it was, but it felt like a rock. I think it may have been a wart. When I tried using wart solution on it, there was virtually no change over the course of a week. So I grabbed this totally bizarre idea out of the air, as I often do, thinking that nail polish is paint; and paint prevents air transmission. Without air, whatever this is may suffocate. Who knows?

Anyway, after only a few days, the bump began drying up. After a couple of weeks, I noticed a peculiar crack around it. It resembled a stone deeply bedded in the sand. When I moved it, it rocked for a few days until I was able to wiggle it free. It was like a round stone falling out of my palm. Behind, it left a bizarrely smooth crater. Needless to say, I was relatively pleased I was thinking outside the box once again. But as time went on, I wasn’t the same. I noticed when I picked things up or held them in my hand, what I was accustomed to had changed. I found myself continuously rubbing the area of the absent wart with my thumb. Honestly, in a sick way, I missed the ugly, hideous wart simply because I was accustomed to it being there for so long.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 10.32.45 AMThere are dysfunctional relationships like that, aren’t there? Just because we’re accustomed to something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing. If that were the case, there would be no frog stew. As soon as the water got warm, the frogs would leap from the pot. But they’re used to it, and they stay — forever, or at least until the chef removes them.

 

Signs of Abusive Relationships

  • When they compliment you, you feel as if you’ve been slapped
  • They cut you down and then say, “I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?”
  • They’re only happy if they win
  • They’re unhappy if something good happens to someone else
  • They focus on criticism of other’s thoughts and actions, trying to make others feel inadequate
  • They’re coldly calculating, blaming everyone else for their own failed choices
  • They make HUGE deals over insignificant errors, repeating them aloud so everyone knows
  • They actually enjoy seeing others uncomfortable or in pain—it’s powerful to them
  • There’s an undeniable discomfort of what they’ll say anytime they come near
  • They always seem to know what’s best and insist everyone agrees or be ousted

Now, whether it’s the career choice we’re in, with a supervisor who abuses us psychologically by talking down to us or even making fun of us; at first it’s annoying, but then we put it aside because we fear speaking up will cost us our job—and it very may well. We often make excuses for the person. They just moved. Their spouse is dying. They have a heavy workload. Whatever it is, there’s no good reason for them to take it out on the people who are there to assist them.

The same thing goes for making excuses for relationships, whether a “friend” or an abusive spouse. Perhaps they playfully slug you and joke about it, but then it becomes pinching or slapping. Then they confess it’s because of a bad day and having no ability to take their anger out directly on the person at fault, so they take it out on their support system. Afterward, they’re very sorry. They may even make a purchase to make everything all better for a while. But then, it starts again.

As the cycle progresses, the results occur more often and the intensity grows until we’re numb. It’s easier to turn off emotional queues sometimes than face the cause. The same principles apply to a group of people anywhere, whether a roommate situation, a party, the office or anywhere people convene. And there’s always that one “Debbie Downer” in the group that’s unhappy and complains, gossiping about other people in the room or office because her own life is so damned miserable, she wants others to join in on her discomfort so she isn’t so alone. These people tend to exploit the same message, “Hey, I’m important, and I know everything that’s going on, so you should talk to me.” We’ve all heard “misery loves company,” haven’t we? Well, it truly does!

Don’t worry; all is not lost when you’ve been duped.

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Here are some keys for coping:

  • Do not entrust them to do your tasks, even if they offer
  • If they manage to upset you, kill them with kindness, not sarcasm
  • Save any documentation such as text messages, chats, emails, etc.
  • Confront them in a professional and non-emotional manner
  • If speaking to them directly doesn’t work (in the office), involve a supervisor

All you need to do to keep “the warts” at bay, is as soon as you recognize them talking about someone else, whether true or not—that’s your head’s up. Because you know damned well, anything you say can and will be used against you in the next few days. Asphyxiate that wart with nail polish and stay away from negative influences that have nothing positive to add. You deserve better because you are better — you deserve positive influences, not wart-causing gossip. Share that with the people you care about.