Monday, October 14, 2013


Fact: Of the 313 million people in the United States, only one thousand and three of those American citizens are U.S. Figure Skating Judges. That's just 0.0003% of the entire population.

Because we're a small group, there is a sense of family among figure skating officials due to the hours and hours we spend together, our shared experiences in the officials' room (what happens in the officials' room, stays in the officials' room), and our love of the sport. I've been a judge since 1996 and in those 17 years, I have made many, many friends from all over the country. 

I was only a few years into my judging career when, as I looked around an officials' room and saw the span of generations, I began to wonder what it was going to be like when the senior generation started to pass away. You don't want to think about that stuff, but I am Irish and thoughts like that are part of my genetic make-up.  

If I consider all U.S. officials family, I think of the Minnesota officials as my immediate family. We have watched as some of our officials have battled cancer and others fade away because of Alzheimer's disease and old age. We had time to say goodbye and many of them had the opportunity to say goodbye to us. 

But my Minnesota family recently suffered a loss that we weren't prepared for when Marlys Larson passed away.  I had just been at a competition in Madison, Wis., with Marlys three weeks earlier and she was healthy. There is nothing that stands out from that day that would have made me think her days were numbered.  Since I knew that her mom had lived past the age of 100, I was pretty sure Marlys would outlive me. 

But one week later, Marlys suffered aortic dissection while in Iowa for a dog show (more on that topic later). She had surgery and seemed to have come out of the surgery fine. I was thinking, 'well, she'll rally back from this.' Then five days after the surgery, she started having strokes and I went from thinking that 'she'll rally back from this' to 'it might take her a bit longer to rally back from this.' The next day, I learned that they had found bleeding in her brain and all they could do was to make her comfortable until the end. I, as well as many others in our family, were not ready to accept that she wouldn't survive this. She passed away early morning on October 5th. 

Since I hadn't grown up in the Twin Cities, I didn't know of Marlys before I started judging except that she was the mother of one of the coaches at my club. In getting to know Marlys, I discovered she was a dog lover and showed dogs. My immediate assumption was prejudiced by painting Marlys as an 'Edina housewife' and I figured she showed poodles or some fancy breed. I was floored when I learned that Marlys' dog of choice was the slobbery Saint Bernard. It was her passion outside of figure skating and I always enjoyed hearing stories of Axel and Linus. 

As we said goodbye to her this past Saturday at the Lakewood Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis. we were surrounded by beautiful mosaics of four strong women (Love, Hope, Memory (in the photo) and Faith) and it seemed very appropriate for a celebration of Marlys' life. If there was one word that describes Marlys, it is strength. 

Now, just like in blood families, Marlys and I argued about a lot of topics and there were many times that we drove each other crazy. We shared the "blunt talking gene." But we also had many times when worked very well together. During her first term as President of Twin City Figure Skating Association, I served as the secretary. During those four years, I spent more time with Marlys than I did with my own mother. 

And as much as we argued, I never lost respect for her as a judge. She knew the rulebook inside and out and she was the one person you wanted to be around when the judges' exam was out. (it was open book, so we weren't cheating) Marlys was also a monitor for new judges and she was always generous with her time. Equally so, Marlys provided skaters and coaches with great feedback and many sought out her opinion. These judges and skaters will be part of her legacy to the skating community. She is going to be missed.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happiness is
The Charlie Brown musical has a song called, "Happiness is..." that tells us that Happiness is two kinds of ice cream and so on. 


I had a new one yesterday when exchanging views with someone. 

Happiness is 
the smile that comes across your face 
and the sense of satisfaction you get 
when you realize that you made the right decision thirty-some years ago, 
after consuming too much alcohol, 
standing a frat house porch, 
when you said no.

So maybe not the Charlie Brown musical as much as the Lion King and the "Circle of Life."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who's responsible for these kids?

I think if I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’ve been going to a lot of high school sporting events in the last few years – even more since I moved to Albert Lea.  But of all the sporting events at different Big Nine schools, I haven’t seen anything near to the type of poor sportsmanship I saw last night at the Faribault (MN) High School during the Albert Lea vs. Faribault volleyball game. And the only other time I’d seen anything like it, was at a basketball game in Faribault last season.

And it wasn’t the parents or the coaches or the players. It was the high school fans at the game. It was a prime example of mob mentality with hint of Lord of the Flies. I suppose I could blame their parents or the school administrators, but mostly, it’s the kids. Some might blame culture or society, but if that was the case, we would see this at more high school events, but I haven't.

The poor behavior started right away. The high school kids in the stands, sitting tightly in one section, were standing up with their backs turned away from the court as the Albert Lea players were being introduced. That was rude and disrespectful.

Then it got weird. For some reason, Faribault takes an athletic event and makes it into a theatrical performance. When it was time to introduce the Faribault players, the lights in the gym turn off and spotlights and laser lights turn on – I kid you not! Maybe the Athletic Director (AD) used to work for the World Wrestling Federation (or wants to). The only things missing were Jock Jams and “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

The Faribault High School band was there and did a respectable job, but could have gone with about ½ the number of drums. We’re in an enclosed gym, not out on the football field. Think indoor voice.

At first, I thought it was great for the Faribault team to have lots of fans in the stands, but later the mob behavior started kicking in. By the third game, I later learned, they weren’t just cheering and making noise (which is perfectly fine), they had taken to shouting insults and derogatory statements at the individual Albert Lea players. The AL coach had enough and asked the referees to do something about it.

The gym, because of the way it is built, is a very loud space, but the DJ, I mean announcer, must have been a former disco DJ and partially deaf – because he cranks up the tunes to around 90 decibels (Yes, I have a decibel meter on my phone) and I don’t think I heard any song recorded after 1983. During the time that the coaches, referees and the AD were huddling to discuss what to do about the students’ behavior, the DJ, I mean announcer, played music – he played The Pink Panther – no seriously, he played The Pink Panther. The conversation went on for a while, so the DJ, I mean announcer, had to play a second piece of music (still at 90+ dBs) – his choice – The Charlie Brown Theme music.

Finally the huddle broke up and the Faribault AD walked over to the students to talk to them about their behavior and poor sportsmanship. I don’t know how they heard him over the lilting strains of the Charlie Brown Theme. They acted contrite in front of the AD, but resumed the noise soon after. Couldn't tell if they resumed the harassment as it was difficult to hear over the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. 

The kids' behavior reminded me of a drunk in the cheap seats at Yankee Stadium, yelling at the opposing team’s outfielder hoping to distract him or psych him out. The drunk usually isn’t successful because (a) the outfielder is yards away, (b) is a grown man being paid millions and (c) could care less about what some drunk is yelling. All the guy (or gal) in the stand does is embarrass him/herself and annoy the people around him/her. Only in Faribault last night, the behavior was coming from high school kids and being directed at high school athletes. And perhaps worse, it was mostly young men doing this to young women.

I was proud of the AL girls because they didn’t let the noise or the distractions get to them and played great. The Faribault volleyball players also played very well and, even though they lost 3 games to 1, their behavior was respectful and appropriate.

I have a couple of friends with young children who live in Faribault. I hope for their kids’ sake that by the time they’re in high school, the school district will have stopped tolerating the type of behavior I saw last night.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Inquiring minds want to know 
Since I started teleworking in March, and especially after my move to Albert Lea three rent checks ago, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about telework. Primarily, if I like it and "isn’t it lonely?".

My answer to the former is I love it – I have three days a week when I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to wear, I don’t have to put on make-up or fix my hair (unless there’s a video call). I can work wearing sweats and t-shirt and all of my meetings take place at my desk, so I’m never late.

I do tend to laugh when they ask if it’s lonely. “Well, you live alone. Don’t you feel isolated?” 

Sorry, no, I actually kinda like it. I know people think because I’m outgoing and social and all that that I crave being physically around others. Honestly, not so much. Oh, sure, people are mostly okay, but a few of them can get annoying (and they know who they are).

When I was a little kid, my mom would put me in my playpen alone and I kept myself entertained for hours. The playpen was next to a big picture window and when it was dark outside, the legend goes, I would start to play with the cutest little girl in the window (early onset of narcissism) 

Then there’s my track record as a roommate. While no one has told me directly, I know I suck at it. And you can't ask any of my former roommates because none have kept in touch.

Except my sisters - they have to keep in touch with me. My sister Sue, who was my roommate for the first 12 years of my life, would tell you that I was a bit of a slob and that she refused to make my side of the bed. ('I’m getting back in there later, why make the bed?') My sister Chris was my roomie for a few months in late 2004 and she would just tell you that I was never home.

Isolated? Maybe when I lived in Rochester because I didn’t know as many people to socialize with after spending the day teleworking, but Albert Lea is the exact opposite. (Thank you Circle of Friends!)

Sadly, this week has not been a good telework week. Mostly because I haven’t been able to telework! I’ve had to go into the office FOUR DAYS IN ROW. I’ve been working on a video project and it’s tough to shoot video when you’re not physically there. 

You can’t imagine how exhausting this has been. I’ve had to figure out what to wear each day and I think I’m almost out of outfits. And don't forget having to do my hair and make-up. My cohort who has been on camera has the advantage of getting to wear the same outfit three days in a row for continuity. Lucky duck.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How I spent my summer vacation (2013 edition)

With Labor Day right around the corner and the start of school the next day, I figured it was time to look back on my summer. Although, with the current heat wave, it sure doesn't feel like summer is almost over. I'm not a big fan of hot weather, so I'm currently channeling my "future-old-woman-who-complains-about-everything-without-caring-who-is-listening" personality.

Last we chatted, I was finishing up cleaning and packing for my move to Albert Lea. Since I'm quickly approaching the third rent check, I guess I should fill you in on how it's been going.

First of all, I have a love-hate relationship with the apartment. It's a great apartment, but the kitchen is smaller than any place I've lived in, so I'm struggling to figure out how to best organize it. And I might be lucky that IKEA isn't right in town or I would be there with each new idea, and thus, busting my budget. 

And I have interesting neighbors. Nuff said. 

There's no way I can say that the apartment was move-in ready when I was ready to move-in. I spent quite a few days cleaning up the place to my low standards. I insisted the management company give me a cleaning credit for the number of hours I spent cleaning - and they did.

My apartment faces the ambulance bay for Mayo Clinic Health System (MCHS) in Albert Lea. (For native Albert Leans, translation: Naeve Hospital) The Gold Cross ambulances have a policy to not start the sirens until they are off Park Avenue and on to Fountain Street. That's a nice thing for them to do because the rare times that they have turned the sirens on early, I nearly jumped out my skin.

Even though the apartment was built in 1906 (or there about), the place has garages attached. But they're not very wide and I go into minor stress mode whenever I have to park in the garage. Thus I'm mostly parking on the street.

One weekend in July, I was walking out to my car (parked in front of the apartment) and I noticed it had a parking ticket, but it wasn't from the city. It was a MCHS parking ticket. Because I have a Mayo tag on my car, they thought I was an employee illegally parked. I stopped by the hospital's security office, explained the situation (hey, I live there) and the guy apologized and tore up the ticket. Only it happened again the following weekend. The time on the second ticket was 4 a.m., so I'm surmised that it was a very bored security guy looking for anything to do. This time I called the Director of Security at the hospital and informed him of the facts. I guess I'm now in their 'database.' (should I be worried?)

Hopefully they registered my license plate (SK8 4ME) and not the description (a sorry-looking, beat-up 2001 PT Cruiser), because I finally broke down and purchased a new car. I don't think of it as much as having a new car, rather I think of it as having a car payment.

I held off buying a new car for as long as possible, but when I reached the point where driving over 60 mph caused me to pray the rosary out loud, I knew I could wait no longer. 

It was that and 
  • the fact that the brake light would come on if I accelerated too quickly,
  • that my left rear blinker would only work if I slammed the trunk just right,
  • that the driver's side rear door handle had rusted off,
  • and perhaps because the check-engine-light had been on for the last 20K miles.
My new car payment is a 2009 Pontiac Vibe.

Earlier I mentioned that my garage is narrow, so as I was car shopping, I carried a tape measure with me. Many vehicle were ruled out because they were too big. Yes, the sales guy thought it was bit strange, but I'll be glad that I did it once the snow arrives. Which can't be soon enough for me.

The question that I'm most frequently asked is if I'm happy being back home. The answer is yes, but it's more than that. There is a level of comfort that I feel being back here. It's still feeling like I'm just here for a visit, but that becomes less and less each day. 

To be continued...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Moving Weekend

Have you ever been in the process of preparing for something that has a specific timeline (such as moving), only to reach a moment when you realize that you are way ahead of the timeline and might be done before zero hour? 

What if I reach the point where everything is ready for the movers and I have hours and hours of waiting with nothing to do? And the fear of having time where I'm just waiting and not doing anything slows me down? 

So I stop.

And then I start to feel guilty because what if I've miscalculated the amount of time to get everything done and this "downtime" will actually hurt me in the end?

Welcome to my world of mixing best case scenarios with worst case scenarios and creating mud - yucky, sticky mud that makes my brain hurt.