Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas I'll Never Forget

A couple of weeks ago, after a successful blog hop about Christmas ornaments, I suggested a blog hop about the "Christmas I'll Never Forget."  One of the bloggers thought it would be okay, but "not everyone has a Christmas miracle story."  This is not a Christmas miracle story. This is not "It's a Wonderful Life." It is a mixture of "Christmas Vacation" and "Christmas Story." 

December 1983 was a horribly cold and miserable month. The week of December 18-24 was the coldest ever seen in the month of December. We had lots of snow already and the temperature never rose above zero. The average was -16 degrees F and windchill ranged from -50 to -70 degrees F. 

I had graduated from college that spring and was gainfully unemployed and living at my parents. On Christmas Eve day, my brother and his family (well, wife and 2-year old daughter) arrived in the afternoon. My mom was working that day at the Roadrunner - a 24/7 roadside gas station she co-managed. The station was just on the outskirts of town, right off I90. 
My brother and I were driving out to pick her up and because of the slick roads and my brother's lack of fear of said road conditions, we ended up in the ditch. The windchill was dangerous and even a couple of minutes exposure could mean frostbite. Fortunately, another car came by, picked us up and took us back home. 

Opening the door to go back into the house, the metal handle of the storm door snapped off in my hand. 

I insisted on driving for the second attempt to pick-up Mom. As I was backing out of the garage, I noticed that there was a small drift of snow in the driveway, so I started to steer the car to avoid it. Unfortunately, the front end of the car was still in the garage. In my parents' new garage. The side of the car hit the garage door mental track and bent it.  
If you believe that everything happens in threes, you are going to have to continue counting. 

The car was drivable and while I was a bit upset about the whole garage thing, I was determined to still drive out to the Roadrunner. Mom was waiting for us and ready to go home. Yes, it was a 24/7 station, but it would close Christmas Eve at 5 and re-open the following morning, so Mom had to lock the place up. Which she did. When she tried to remove the key, it was frozen in the lock. As we pulled on the key to get it out, it broke. Half of the key was left frozen in the lock. At least the place was locked. 

When we finally delivered Mom home safe and sound, my sister and her hubby and two-year old son and 6-month old baby girl were now there. We had our Christmas dinner and when my sister started to mix the baby's formula, the can of formula was bad with what looked like grubs in the mixture. Since the two-year old had an allergic reaction to milk, we didn't trust just giving her regular milk.  It's Christmas Eve, there's a -70 degree windchill factor outside and there is no place open to buy formula and it's not like you can just walk over to the neighbors to borrow a cup. 

I don't remember how we solved the formula issue. But I do remember the decision I made that week. A friend of mine was going to attend graduate school at Rice University in Houston the next year and she thought I should go with her. One year later - January 1985 - I said goodbye to snow and windchill factors and I moved to Houston, Texas, bragging to my friends how I would never have to deal with those concepts ever again. 

It was my second day in Houston when the weatherman announced that snow was on its way and because of the cold temps, he warned Houstonians about the possible windchill and explained what it was. As I pounded my head on the table, they announced that the schools would be closed the next day because of the chance of snow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's the Holiday Season

It will be a strange holiday for me. New job, new town and a temporary living arrangement.  So, I'll have a Christmas tree, but it won't be my Christmas tree since I'm living at my sister's. Who, by the way, really gets into decorating the house for the holiday, as I witnessed when she pulled tub after tub of holiday decor out from storage. This ADD kid got a bit overwhelmed by it all.

Christmas is really very distracting for those with ADD as it is truly the holiday of bright shiny objects! Lights, tinsel and ornaments. 

I'll be honest and say that there were many years when I didn't even put up holiday decorations if I was too busy or not in the mood. Besides, the last thing I would need is something to further distract me. Plus I think single people have to be really motivated to decorate for the holidays.

If your home is small (like my condo), trees can take up a lot of space. I own two "wall trees" that I would hang on my ever-gawdy mirrored wall. These are half trees, so on the wall, they sort of looked fuller - or at least I thought so.

The two trees have different themes. One is my angel tree and the other - no big surprise to anyone who knows me - is a skating tree. (Suddenly I get a visual of tree skating, but I digress.) 

I am SO NOT an angel person, but WAY back in 1988, my mom - who is also a holiday fanatic and should have owned stock in Hallmark - started giving me a Hallmark ornament series - Mary's Angels. As those you who are good with numbers have figured out, I have 21 of these ornaments, with #22 under the tree (hopefully). They are named for flowers and the first one was Daffodil. At least that's my memory of it. I can't be sure because all of my holiday decorations are packed away in a storage unit about 100 miles away from where I am right now. (The photos here are from a website called "Hooked on Hallmark")

I remember opening the gift and looking closely at the ornament and getting a weirded out feeling when I saw the artist's signature on the bottom of the ornament - Mary -was dead-on to my signature when I sign my full name Mary Elizabeth. If you look closely at the ornaments, they also have a very tiny, ridiculously small triangle with a number in it that tells you what number it is in the series.  Even when my eyes were younger, I couldn't read it.

My other tree is the Skating tree that has so many ornaments that I may have to get a bigger tree to hold all of them.  Many of the ornaments were gifts (hmmm, what do you give a skating judge at Christmas???) and sadly, I might not be able to tell you from who or when I got them - except for one. It was the first one and it was also from my mom. It was Christmas 1978 - my senior year in high school. Mom and I were at the Hallmark store at the Mall and I spotted the ornament and begged her to buy it. I really wanted something special to remember my senior year and an ornament with a skating theme seemed perfect. It hung on the family tree for many years. I don't remember precisely when she gave it to me for my own tree, but I've had on my tree for at least the last 10 years.  

It, too, is packed away in storage, in its original box with an old rubber band wrapped around it (that was how my mom would secure all the ornament boxes).  Mom wrote on the back of the box the date it was purchased and "This is Mary's." And it is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm A Shopping Machine

I am not, in any way, a power shopper. No one with ADD could be a power shopper as there are far too many shiny objects out there to distract us. But it doesn't keep me from shopping on Black Friday (and Saturday)

I will also claim that I'm not one of those crazy people who stands outside of Target or Best Buy or any other big box store for "doorbuster deals." (How can it be a doorbuster if the deal lasts until 1 p.m.? hmmm???)

I've seen the people camped out in front of Target on Thanksgiving Day. I have to wonder if the person you are buying for would rather have time with you on Thanksgiving instead of the materialistic item you are waiting for? And if not, are they really worthy of your generosity?

Traditionally, I go Black Friday shopping with my two sisters and while we check out the ads and plan our travels around town, we start very slow, with breakfast at 8 am and then shopping by 9 am. 

This year, my sister Chris couldn't make it, so her daughter Kelly took her spot.  After a good breakfast at Perkins, we headed to Rosedale. Walking through JC Penney's was a bit disturbing with very, very long line at the registers. We learned from one of the workers that their computer system had crashed about 30 minutes prior and while the system was back online, the programming was messed up and none of the sale prices were ringing up. They had to look up all the sale prices by hand! Talk about a retail nightmare. 

As we exited JC Penney's (without buying anything - not surprising), we walked by a woman with several packages, slumped over on the bench, asleep. Underneath the bench were several empty 1/2 & 1/2 cups, perhaps for the cups of coffee she was trying to ingest to keep her awake.  I would have taken a photo, but thought it would be rude.

Herberger's was almost as bad, except they hadn't had a computer glitch. The lines were long in the housewares department, but not in the women's department, so while others waited 30 minutes in line, we had maybe 5 minutes to wait. Those shoppers were obviously novices! 

When it was time to leave a couple hours later, we discovered that a tire on my sister's car was flat (not until we were driving - ugh!). Got to a service station close by and filled it back up with air.  Re-checking it several times that day and it was solid from that point on. Thus, I concluded that we perhaps ticked someone off by taking the parking spot they wanted and they got their revenge by letting the air out of the tire.
We spent the afternoon in Woodbury, teasing my sister as she kept referring to it as the Woodbury Outlet Mall. It isn't an outlet mall, it's just outside. 

We ended the shopping day at the Mall of America. I know Black Friday at MOA may strike fear into the heart of many, but we learned long ago that after 5 p.m. on Black Friday, MOA is relatively normal.

We finished the day with dinner at my favorite Hawaiian steak house - Outback Steak House. (That's sort of an inside joke that has to do with my only visit to Hawaii, several margaritas, drunk dialing and lots of time in the bathroom.) 

Kelly had to work Saturday, so Sue and I were on our own. We started at Best Buy at 8:30, but they didn't open until 9. So, we went to the Galleria in Edina (Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn!), but they didn't open until 10! Ok,back to Best Buy (which was just opening when we got back). After a few hours at the Galleria and lunch at Chipotle, we traversed down I-35 to the Medford Outlet Mall - which really is an outlet mall, but has seen better days - and then to Cabela's to spend quality time looking at stuffed animals. I'll admit the place really creeps me out. 

Finally, we got back to Kasson-Mantorville and our final stop of the day was the Kasson Hardware Hank store.  Yes, I certainly covered the full spectrum of retail from the Galleria to a Hardware Hank store.

Did I get all my shopping done? Hardly - since many of my purchases were for self-gifting.  One of the best gifts I got myself are these "baby beads." They are brightly colored wooden beads that I can fidgety with during long conference calls. Although primarily for babies, the guy did say that people with ADD really like them. Must be the bright colors - now if they were only shiny!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

It's been one year since I started this blog - November 21, 2009 - and as I look back, I am so thankful for all I have learned in this past year and all the positive changes in my life.
 Photo by Schlusselbein2007

Last year, I didn't spend Thanksgiving with my family. On purpose.  I wasn't in the mood for Thanksgiving as I had been having regular pity parties for myself leading up to it.  I figured that I needed something to snap myself out of the funk, so I volunteered to spend Thanksgiving with strangers, working at homeless shelter serving Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to remind myself that I was blessed even when I couldn't see the blessings; that I was successful even when I was feeling like a failure. And that your life can change in an instant.

There is a wonderful book out right now that I've downloaded from Amazon called "Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of the Homelessness" by Kevin Hendricks (who by chance lives in St. Paul)  It contains the stories of families, children, veterans and executives who are now homeless.  All the profits of the book benefit a project by Mark Harvath called - Mark shares the real stories of the homeless in their own words.  And Mark knows homelessness himself, so to say he has the credentials is an understatement.

So next time you think your life is a challenge or start to throw a pity party for yourself, spend 10 minutes watching one of the stories on or reading one of the chapters in the book.

Mark usually ends his interview with the question, "if you had three wishes, what would they be?"  Their answers show their humanity and their true character. What would your answers be and what would they say about your character? 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Small World Indeed

I was feeling left behind...

First, my bestest friend Mary (who lives in Atlanta) told me about her planned Thanksgiving trip for her family to London. Very cool! Then another best friend Mary Jo (who live in Albert Lea) told me about her planned Thanksgiving trip to London to visit her son Chris (on a semester abroad) and while she invited me to go with her - the lack of vacation and funds were a big hurdle. 

Now, Mary and Mary Jo know each other and knew that the other one would be in London at the same time, but they didn't plan on meeting up. As Mary Jo said, we'll leave it up to God.  As it should happen, while visiting one of God's houses, Westminster Abbey, the two traveling groups ran into each other!  

Mary called me back in the states - "Guess who I'm standing next to at Westminster Abbey?" Since I had just seen the news about William and Kate planning their wedding at Westminster, I blurted out, "Will and the future Queen?"  Mary laughed and repeated what I said and I could hear laughter in the background. "Wait, no, you're there with Mary Jo!"  

They were surprised to run into each other - but I wasn't. 
   "I figured you'd see each other somewhere. It's not like it's that big of a town." 
Mary exclaimed, "It's a few million people!" 
   "Yes, but you were both doing the touristy things and that would reduce the number of possible locations by a lot!"
They both just laughed. I was touched that they would call me! (mixed in with my envy...)

It reminded me of the only international call that I've ever made.  

I was in Paris in 2000 to celebrate my 40th birthday and to visit another best friend, Jessie. Jessie was studying in Paris and she had a cell phone that could call internationally. (This was WAY BEFORE Skype) We were standing on a high point of the Eiffel Tower and I immediately thought "I bet the cell phone reception up here is pretty good."  Jessie asked if I wanted to call someone. Sure! Figuring out the time difference, I decided to try to call my dear friend and choir director Teri - I suspected she would be in her office. 

When she picked up the phone, I asked her to guess where I was calling her from.  She remembered that I was in Paris, but where was I in Paris? 
   "Oh, hey, I'm calling you from the top of the Eiffel Tower, with a full moon, overlooking the lights of Paris." 

Her response?  "You suck."  I laughed out loud since it was a pretty sassy way to rub it in.  But it's still a story we both tell and I'm sure the call from Mary & Mary Jo will be one I will tell many times.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I've been having a very interesting discussion with myself for days now and I still don't know what to think. 

I learned about a situation where an organization had expelled a couple of members for making threats on Facebook. The organization did the right thing, but wanted me to warn people about the "dangers of Facebook."  

I reminded the gentleman that Facebook is the tool and not the problem. What they needed to be concerned about was the behavior of these young women.  He disagreed with me and felt that young people were not educated on the implications of what they did on Facebook.  

Seriously? Now it was my turn to disagree. If young people are not getting the message, it isn't because they haven't been educated, it's because they don't care and they don't think the rules apply to them. 

And whose job is it to educate them on the dangers of being stupid on Facebook?  The schools try, but they already have so much to teach with ridiculously limited resources.  To me, it goes back to the responsibility of the parents.  And I asked that question - what did the parents have to say about their children's behavior on Facebook?  (Still waiting on that information)

I was given a pdf of one of the members' Facebook wall communications - all 22 pages of it.  I was warned that I would be sickened by what it contained. I'm sure the gentleman was referring to this person's vulgar language, but I was sickened more by stupidity of the conversations. I hope her parents haven't invested much in her education because all I saw on those 22 pages were the conversations of a pudden-head idiot and her friends.

The actual threats were only four or five lines, so I couldn't figure out why I received 22 pages. All I could imagine is that they wanted to show the character of the individual (or lack thereof). I really didn't need to see the 22 pages to agree with them regarding the threat and the need for explusion.

I think the thing that most bothered me was MY lack of feeling shocked by it all. Yes, the threat of harming another person was deplorable, but her vulgar language and sexual conversations annoyed me more than nauseate me. (I wanted to Gibbs-slap her and tell her to get a clue.) Am I unaffected by this behavior because I've seen it elsewhere?  

I did check out Facebook walls of several of the young people whom I have friended. Luckily, my young friends are much more intelligent, wittier and of higher character than this young woman. 

My conclusion: stupid existed long before Facebook; now, they just have a public avenue to display their stupidity.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hello! My Name Is....

What's my name?

I haven't suddenly been struck by the classic soap opera disease, amnesia, although this might qualify as an identity crisis.  So, I'll ask you again, what's my name?

There isn't a right or wrong answer, but there are several answers.  

I was baptized Mary Elizabeth Harty way, WAY back in 1960 and for the first twenty years of my life, I would say my name is Mary Harty. (As a child with a speech impediment who couldn't pronounce R's, everyone thought I was from Boston when I introduced myself) 

Once I got to college, I started using my middle name instead of my first. For the past thirty years, when I introduce myself, I'm Elizabeth Harty. My Facebook profile is Elizabeth Harty, not Mary Elizabeth Harty and I know high school friends haven't friended me because they don't know an Elizabeth Harty (seriously people, look at the picture - I haven't changed that much since high school)

I've had several occasions when friends find out that my first name is Mary, they'll tell me "you just don't look like a Mary." (Discuss amongst yourselves what a Mary looks like and get back to me on that)

I started using my middle name for one very good reason - being Mary Harty meant being one of many. There's my aunt Mary Harty, my niece Mary (MJ) Harty, my grandmother was Mary Harty and I have four cousins named Mary Harty - most of whom kept their maiden name when they married.

Don't get me wrong because I like all the other Mary Hartys - heck I'm related to almost all of them, but back then, I wanted to set myself apart. And now, after thirty years, Elizabeth is my identity and I'm comfortable with it.

I'm in the midst of another identity crisis right now at Mayo Clinic that I've never experienced at any of my previous jobs.

Since my Social Security card shows my name as Mary E. Harty,  that is how human resources set-up my email and my company profile. And it is confusing the heck out of everyone. 

Last week, one of my bosses was sending an email to set up a meeting and she referred to me several times as Mary when she knows me as Elizabeth - the email address really threw her.  If you search for Elizabeth Harty on the Mayo Quarterly (it's the Mayo online phone book), you won't find me.

Oddly enough, when people who know me as Mary call me Elizabeth, that too seems a bit strange. There's just no making me happy, is there?

I've asked several times to have it changed, but as long as my SS card has my name as Mary E. Harty, that's how it will appear on EVERYTHING at Mayo Clinic. Some people may see this as a sign to surrender; I see it as time to change my SS card.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recovery Is Not For Wimps

I saw the most amazing news story last night and had to share it with you. Fox 9 News told the very moving story of young woman's journey through recovery from alcoholism.

Heather King is a blogger, a mom and a recovering alcoholic who is brave enough to share her journey with others.  

The story was not just about Heather, but about the challenges addicted women face. I was proud that Trish Van Pilsum, the Fox 9 journalist, tapped into the resources of Hazelden's Women's Recovery Center and Hazelden's Butler Center for Research.  I learned so much about women and addiction during my time working for Hazelden. 

One of the most eye-opening experiences I had while at Hazelden was through their Professionals in Residence program.  During my first month on the job, I spent a week learning about addiction and recovery from Hazelden researchers and addiction professionals. It wasn't just lecture; I spent time on the units talking with individuals going though treatment. I was privileged to be included in their small group discussions where often times the true essence of addiction is revealed and break-throughs happen. 

I was struck by the difference between the discussions that happened in the men's groups and the women's groups. It was an Ah Ha! moment for me. 

There were core points talked about in both groups - what happens when I leave Hazelden? How will I handle life when I have to face what I left behind? Their answers were different - men talked about jobs and the financial repercussions of their addiction, while the women were concerned about their relationships with their families and feeling ashamed of themselves.

Before you accuse me of stereotyping, remember that these were small group discussions and the topics were common denominators, not what each person had to deal with individually.  Men in recovery worry about relationships and women in recovery worry about jobs, too. 

Unfortunately, addicted women have more barriers to getting help, some perceived and some real.  If you are a single mom, you wonder who will take care of your children while you're in treatment? Could you lose custody of your children?  What will people think of me? (I've only heard of one center that is set up for women to bring their children with them to treatment.) So often, women put their care giving duties before their own personal health.

When Hazelden opened their doors some 60+ years ago, they only treated men. After all, women weren't alcoholics. (It would be another seven years before Hazelden would open a facility for women.) Thank goodness, we've moved beyond that belief.

Thank goodness we have women like Heather willing to take us along on their journey. 


IMHO: There is a difference between reporters and journalists. I don't believe the terms are interchangeable - a reporter stands in front of a camera and reads the facts while a journalist tells a story with words and images that engage you and connects with your emotions.  I saw proof of that last night in this story. Fox 9's Trish Van Pilsum is a journalist.  Kudos!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kids Will Be Kids

Last Friday, a blogger friend of mine (@MollyInMinn) wrote an awesome post about adults behaving like two-year olds. It made me laugh and smile. Click here if you want a smile and to see if you recognize any behaviors you've lived through. 

While Molly's post walks you through the day as a two-year old attending business meetings and causing general chaos, it's really about completely dumping filters - saying what you want, when you want and how you want. Dancing on chairs, eating the cupcake before dinner or making a fish face at someone who bores you. Societal norms may tell us we shouldn't live without filters, but it doesn't stop us from dreaming about it. "I wish I could have said..."

Oddly enough, on that same day, Seth Godin - a marketing guru and blogger, had a post called, "Childish vs. Childlike."  It was the perfect companion piece to Molly's blog because it points out that acting like a child isn't a bad thing.(Childlike makes a great scientist)

This past weekend, I judged a Basic Skills skating competition where, if I could give points for cute, every kid would win. The sheer joy on their faces was contagious and 99% of them have no fear.  They don't know they are supposed to be nervous skating in front of lots of people. They don't know they are supposed to be scared of the judges. They just know that it's fun, that they're with their friends and their family (mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles & cousins) are all up in the stands cheering for them.

As Seth says in his post, "Childlike is fearless and powerful and willing to fail." Oh, that is so what I want to be. Let me dance on the chair - just be nearby to catch me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Now I'm Cooking

Well, technically, I'm not cooking, but I'm watching someone who is cooking and learning about cooking and that has to count for something, right?

One of my first Ah Ha! moments after my ADD diagnosis was about why I didn't cook.  I had always shrugged it off to lack of interest or something, but I realized that I shied away from it because it often required multiple steps. I couldn't pay attention for that long.  Forget about baking, too.

A side effect of not cooking is lack of control over what you are consuming. If you're trying to eat healthier, most of the prepared meals out there are poor choices because they are usually high calorie, high fat, and/or high sodium. If you prepare your own meals, you're the one driving the bus.

I figure it's time for me to start driving the bus.

The Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center offers a weekly demonstration called Fit & Flavorful where one of the Mayo executive chefs and a DAHLC dietitian share recipes and nutritional information.  I went to my first class Wednesday entitled, "Sensational Seasonal Fruits" and walked away with three recipes that I think I could actually handle.

Chef Nick started with a Pear, Fig & Spinach Salad (total calories: 253 but with 3.7 g of protein & 10.1 g of fiber).  It was my first experience with figs besides Newtons and I liked 'em. They're pretty cool looking, too.  And according to the nutritionist (Katie), they're pretty high in fiber, iron and calcium. Besides watching the demo of the prep - you get samples! And decent size samples, not like the puny ones you get at Byerly's on Saturdays. 

Next up was Peach Roasted Pork Loin (total calories: 333), but instead of using peaches, Nick used nectarines. I learned that with recipes that use a "stone fruit" - plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines - you can interchange them if you prefer one over the other.  The flavor was great and I think I would do it with nectarines, too (my apologies to all Georgia peaches).

Finally, desert was Granola Stuffed Apple Halves (total calories: 148).  I didn't like this one as much as I thought I would. The recipe has molasses in it and I didn't like the flavor it gave to the granola.  I was surprised that the meat of the apple (or whatever the appropriate term is) stayed white after cooking, but I guess that is a characteristic of Cortland apples.

The next Fit & Flavorful cooking topic is Holiday Veggie Medleys and I'm signed up for that one.

DAHLC offers a whole series of cooking classes called "I Am the Chef" and I hope to register for the next round. They also offer a monthly class called "Wielding a Knife" that sounds a bit dangerous, but perhaps I can be trusted with sharp objects again soon. 

Stay tuned for My Adventures in Cooking (without burning down a house or causing bodily harm).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Whatever happened to muffin-sized muffins?

It was the early 1990's and I was working at Fairview Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis. One of my responsibilities was ordering food for meetings, most of which were breakfast meetings.  I ordered a variety of muffins for the meetings and I clearly recall the first time I saw the tray of muffins that were delivered. They weren't muffins; they were mega-muffins. They were three muffins rolled into one. 

Eventually, they stopped calling them mega muffins as they were adopted into the main stream of muffin culture. Thus our standard muffin portion was destroyed.

I blame capitalism, but I'll come back to that.

I'm not making any earth-shattering pronouncements here, but portion control in this country is completely out of control.  My lunch today was a reminder of that fact.
I ordered a small portion of Pollo Bianco from Victoria's Express. I ordered small since I was feeling guilty for ordering a white-sauce pasta dish in the first place. They put it in a 5 1/2" square styrofoam container (again more guilt for destroying the environment). They filled the whole, blasted container. Their small portion was something most would have considered as a full portion.

"Would you like a whole wheat or sourdough roll?" they asked. Whole wheat, of course, since I'm all about healthy foods.  I'm thinking dinner roll (you know the three-section ones you get with Thanksgiving dinner?) The "roll" portion was equal to a large kaiser roll. 
So why do I blame capitalism?  It's free market competition: Muffin Vendor A sells regular sized blueberry muffins when along comes Muffin Vendor B (or W for walmart) who wants to destroy, umm... beat the competition. While they could sell the regular muffins cheaper, they figure they could lure more consumers away from Vendor A by charging the same price, but sell a bigger blueberry muffin. Muffin Vendor W puts the information on the nutritional label that the muffin portion is now 3 instead of 1, but who reads that stuff?

Using this thesis, I can now blame the entire problem of obesity and sky-rocketing healthcare costs on capitalism. Oh, sure you could try to convince me that personal responsibility may also play a role, but I'm sticking with blaming capitalism.  

I believe my work is done here...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Used to Love Politics

I used to love politics, but now I loathe the culture of politics.

And this election cycle has done nothing to renew my passion for the sport... ah... um..., no I'll stay with sport.  Just a very bloody and violent sport.

Our culture and/or society has become so extreme, almost radical. If I tell someone that I'm a Democrat, they automatically assume that I'm far left.  I can't have a decent political debate with anyone any more because few are willing to talk about the issues with an open mind and they spend most of their energy trying to devalue what the other person is saying. 

I would love to see one political ad where the candidate tells you what he/she will do rather than rip into their opponent. They should say what they mean, mean what they say, but they don't have to say it mean. I despise the fact that corporations are throwing money into the campaigns and trying to sway the electorate. I think it just adds to the corruption.

Political Science was my minor in college and I pictured myself having a career in politics - not as the candidate, but the political operative. I think I got that from my Dad. He was involved with local politics, but enjoyed the back room politics more than being upfront.

I had an internship in Representative Tim Penny's Mankato office and determined that I like the action of the campaign versus the governance process. (I would guess that is my ADD since campaigns are constantly moving and changing.)

I worked on several campaigns while in college and in the years following. I eventually got a real job out of financial necessity, but enjoyed many conversations with my Dad as we watched the early CNN political talk shows (before they turned into snipefests). 

I'm still a political junkie as I will be watching the election returns this Tuesday night and listening to the analysis and missing my Dad. The first time I realized how much I enjoyed talking politics with my Dad was the night of the 1994 election (when Newt and his boys took over).  He had passed away the previous April, but there were several times that night that I wanted to pick up the phone and call him. 

I don't think my Dad would be enjoying politics anymore either. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes the truth is overrated

It's time to get up off my bum and get back to the work of improving my health. I was doing pretty well this past summer with the 5K and such, but then the Mayo interview process started, followed by all the activities to move, etc. and exercise was not at the top of my "to do list."

Between the great food and sweets at the B&B and the goodies that regularly appear in the office, I saw the scale going in the wrong direction and that just had to be stopped immediately! The fastest route to that might be to toss the scale or to resist the temptations around me, but neither of those scenarios are likely to happen.

I had no other option, I joined the Dan Abrahamsen Health Living Center (DAHLC) at Mayo Clinic. It is the super cool fitness center for Mayo Clinic employees, families and volunteers. The location of the DAHLC is across the street from my office, so it will be convenient. 

While the facility itself is rather awesome, the resources that are offered by the DAHLC are even better. You can have a wellness evaluation to help you set your baseline for fitness.

The evaluation provides you with information that you already know, but may have been in denial about. Your body composition and resting metabolic rate are determined by sitting in the Bod Pod, an egg-shaped device using Air Displacement Plethysmography. (Yes, I looked that up and no, I don't really know what it means. Google it.)
If you're claustrophobic, you won't like it. 

They recently added a BVI Patient Scan as part of the wellness evaluation. It is a technology that uses a 3D white-light scanner to analyze your body fat distribution. There are only two of these in the United States and they are both at Mayo Clinic. This scan is better for the catastrophic since you stand in a 7 foot tall square booth (Reminded me of the photo booths at arcades). Sixteen sensors and 32 cameras measure you and produce a virtual body image.  Then they print it out to take with you. Oh joy! I was already completely aware of the location of my body fat, I did realize that my posture sucks. 

The final part of the evaluation involves a treadmill and a gas mask. Technically, it's not a gas mask, but I don't know what the technical term is and it looks like a gas mask. The mask is attached to your face (breathe normal - seriously? With this thing on my face?) and tetthered to a computer that is measuring your heart rate and your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2).  

I must not have put my heart rate monitor on correctly because it went from 150 to 21 to 187 to 68. Or maybe my heart is just really messed up.  

At the end, you get yet another print out with the results of this test. The computer predicts your VO2 Max level and I thought I rocked because I hit 96% of the predicted level. But I was dragged back to reality when the tech told me that computer's prediction is based on a value scale and my predicted value was in the bottom percentile. 


So, now I begin the next part of my fitness journey. I just have to get my bum out of bed and get in a morning work out. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fatty, Fatty, Two by Four...

My uncles told me a story when I was young that I didn't realize was a joke until I was older. They would say, "Dad was training a horse not to eat. Just as he got him trained, it up and died on him."

I was reminded of that story today as I read a horrible and bigoted blog post today on the Marie Claire website and then watched as the Twitterverse and Blog-o-sphere went nuts beating up on the magazine editors and the blogger. The post was a critique of the new CBS show "Mike and Molly," a comedy about two people who fall in love after they meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. The blogger wrote about how obese people gross her out and how obesity is something that most people have control over, if they only put their mind into it.  Then the former anorexic gives advice on how to lose weight. How helpful.

Fat-bashing is really the last acceptable bigotry. If she had taken her piece and substituted Black, Jewish, Hispanic or any other nationality, she might have realized what she was really saying.  I'll take one of her paragraphs and change all the fat references to Black.

"I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two black characters kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a black person simply walk across a room – just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair."

She's ticked off a lot of people. At last count, the blog post had almost 600 comments!  And I would assume Marie Claire had many canceled subscriptions.

Her comparison to an addict (regardless of her poor spelling) upset people, but it might not be very far off. An addiction to food is the toughest addiction to beat because unlike alcohol and drugs, a food addict still has to eat to stay alive. You don't see many alcoholics being told that they still can drink, but only in moderation. 

Our society's image of the perfect body is impossible to live up and there are hundreds of therapists who have a booming practice because of this impossible standard.

Interestingly, another magazine -Redbook- got blasted because they airbrushed a photo of Faith Hill because you could see her wrinkles and slightly messy hair. Faith Hill gets airbrushed?

So we can't age or gain weight or have a bad hair day - EVER?

My guess is that the blogger's body image issues manifested themselves as this vile post. Doesn't make it okay, but provides proof that discrimination touches so many people.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What is normal?

I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. 

I'm waiting for the moment when I start feeling normal again.  Normal might be the wrong descriptor.  (I've never felt "normal" in my life and I'm okay with that.) I'm trying to figure out my new routine and feel settled. 

There's always a transition time with a new job and this transition could take months. Maybe years. I'm getting assignments for projects, but then face the reality that I have no idea who I have to contact or what resources I have.  Genelle is a dream of an administrative support and her knowledge is great, but I've always been a person who likes to figure things out for myself.  That independence could be hurting my productivity and it's time to change. 

But my lack of routine extends beyond the job. I'm living with my sister and brother-in-law and while they are incredibly welcoming, it's still not my home.  I'm a guest, but not really. Most guests don't get their own garage door opener.

This past weekend, I was up in the Cities and stayed at my condo. Except it didn't feel like my condo.  Some of my stuff is there, but a friend has moved in with some of her own furniture, so it looks a bit different. One moment that was most "out-of-body" happened when I walked into the bedroom closet and it was full of someone else's clothing. 

I'm stuck between two worlds. The condo isn't on the market yet, but will be very soon. It could be months before it sells and I'll be living in this limbo until then. 

I guess I have to put on my big girl pants (what the hell does that mean anyway?) and create my own normal. 

I'll start by setting a couple of goal for this week. Today, I brought my lunch instead of eating out. (Cuz I bought a very cool new neoprene lunch bag)

Tomorrow is my wellness evaluation at the Dan Abrahamson Healthy Living Center and I'm going to get back to working out.

Normal will be whatever I decide it is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I shall suffer no fools...

(I was just walking around inside my head when I came across a soap box. It was just sitting there, waiting for someone to step upon it and start ranting. Seeing no one else around, I figured what the heck...)

If there is one character trait that I value more than any other, it is intelligence. And it doesn't have to be book learning intelligence. Some people just have it without having to get a Ph.D. (not that there's anything wrong with that...) I love spending time with smart people. Particularly, if they are willing to share what they know.

I divide them into two categories - smart people that can have a normal conversation and those that can't, as they are too busy babbling on about how smart they are. I like the former; not the latter. The second type are usually unable to share information without sounding like they're lecturing. 

I like people with intelligence because what they share usually will get my brain firing and I can stay engaged for long periods of time.

I'm not 100 percent sure why non-intelligent people irritate me so, but I have a very difficult time listening to them as they pretend that they know what they are talking about. I would respect them more if they would just own up, say they don't know, and be open to learning.
This is really a long build up to tell you how much the Delaware Republican candidate for Senate, Christine O'Donnell, just ticks me off and how I day dream about just slapping the back of her head (Gibbs-slap) and tell her to shut up before she says anything more.

Who is advising this woman? Who thought it would be a good idea to have her do a debate at a law school when she doesn't even know what's in the constitution? I was dumbstruck when she said that the constitution doesn't mention the separation of church and state. It's in the first amendment, so it wasn't even like she had to read the entire document to find it.

Granted, I can't list all of the amendments to the constitution off the top of my head; but hand me my iPhone and I can do it. Cuz you know, there's an app for that and I have it.

What's that old saying? It is better to be quiet and thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt. 

Christine, there are less than two weeks before election day. I would advise you to stop talking before Saturday Night Live is able to write an entire show around your brand of crazy.

(Stepping off the soap box and exiting stage left...)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remembering Bridget

I don't remember the exact dates and, frankly I don't care to remember the exact dates. I just remember that it all happened during October 1999. That's when I learned first-hand the human destruction of drunk driving.

I had a friend named Bridget. She was your classic Irish lass from the Philly area with a soprano voice that would soar to the heavens.

I first met Bridget in 1996 when I joined the Basilica Cathedral Choir. Bridget and I were new to the choir and we teamed up with two other new sopranos, Leslie and Mary Lee. The four of us bonded quickly and became our own support group for whatever issue was plaguing us.

In the summer of 1999, Bridget had fallen in love and we were all very happy for her. I didn't know the guy or ever meet him, I just heard about him when our gang gathered together.

On a Friday evening in October 1999, Bridget and her boyfriend went out on a date. The boyfriend had too much to drink, but chose to drive anyway.  Worst of all, Bridget trusted him enough to get into the car with him. 

Somehow on a dry and clear night, he managed to slam Bridget's side of his car into a cement abutment. When help arrived and they were getting Bridget out of the car, the boyfriend failed her again. Bridget's purse (and ID) were locked in the trunk of the car, so when the authorities arrived, he refused to talk and Bridget was sent to Fairview Southdale as a Jane Doe. 

It would be almost a day before they were able to confirm her identity and contact family members.  I wouldn't learn about her accident until Sunday morning. I went over to the hospital immediately and couldn't recognize her. Her face was puffy and bruised and there were wires and tubes everywhere.

She had suffered a traumatic brain injury as the force of the impact had bounced her brain around in skull and severed the brain stem. She was gone except for the machines keeping her body alive. 

I was so angry that someone that Bridget had loved had done this to her. He walked away with minor injuries. (Although charged with vehicular manslaughter, he only served time in a work house.)  I was also a bit angry at Bridget for trusting him, for getting in the car. She was smarter than that.

Bridget's family had to make the decision to remove her from life support. We were told that she would be removed from life support on Tuesday. I had said my goodbye to her and waited for the call. Only it didn't come. 

The next day I learned that, even though she had been removed from life support, her body was still still fighting to stay alive. I went back to the hospital that night and sat with another friend at Bridget's bedside. 

I'm glad that I did. This time, I recognized her. I touched her face and arranged her bangs - her forehead was very warm as she had a fever - pneumonia had been attacking her lungs. But Bridget was a trained singer and her lungs were strong and weren't about to give up so easily.

We sat with her and told her that it was okay to let go. I said my goodbye again. 

The next morning, she was gone. 

I remember I sent an email to my nieces and nephews that day (at least the oldest five). I told them about my friend Bridget and how she was gone because she got in a car with someone who was drunk - someone she had trusted.  I told them to never ever ride with someone who had been drinking, and regardless of the time or the place, they were to find another way home.

The saying: Friends don't let friends drive drunk, should be amended to say - Friends don't let friends drive drunk and most definitely don't ride along with them.

Bridget, we still miss you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving blood on a volunteer basis

I am a big believer in blood drives and giving blood. Blood transfusions have saved many lives and the need for blood never wanes. One blood donation could help up to three people.
Give Blood

If you’re looking for my gallon pin, you can quit right now. I haven’t given blood since 1986. That’s when the Red Cross and their affiliates recommended that I NOT be a blood donor. I don’t have any horrible disease that would disqualify me. They just don’t like having donors that pass out after giving blood. Not really ideal public relations.

Let me take you back to my last time giving blood.  It was January 1986 and there was a blood drive happening at the University of Houston for the Shriners’ Childrens Hospital Burn Unit. Now I have a soft spot in my heart for the Shriners because my nephew was helped by their Minneapolis hospital.  Add to that, although minor, I was once a burn patient. (oh, that’s a WHOLE ‘nother blog post)

It was about 2 in the afternoon and I had a 3 o'clock meeting, so I figured I had plenty of time. It took a bit of time to get the paperwork done before starting the donation process. So it was about 2:20 before they put the needle in my arm and starting collecting blood. I don’t remember the exact timing, but I remember seeing that my friends were already done and enjoying the cookies and orange juice while I was only about ½ way done. (something to do with my slow heart rate…)

I was going to be late for the meeting, so my friends went ahead and I would just be a bit late. When I was done and it was my turn for cookies and OJ, I was sitting in the chairs by the wall, looking at the clock. I remember feeling a bit light-headed.

When you think you’re going to faint, you are told to sit down and put your head down below your heart; basically between your knees. There is only one problem with that recommendation – when you’re in that position and you faint, your face hits the floor first.

I recall coming to and hearing people say my name. I thought “oh, they know me…” (You’re a bit goofy after fainting sometime).  I remember my cheek hurting and the staff offering me an ice pack. I don’t remember how long it took before they let me leave, since I was alone (all my friends were at the meeting and this was pre-cell phones).

The meeting I was supposed to be attending was in the lower level of the building and I made it there just as it was ending. I walked in and was starting to apologize for missing the meeting, but everyone was staring at me.

“What happened to you?”

“I gave blood.”

“Through your eye?”

The entire right side of my face was swelling up and turning colors. It was very pretty by the end of the week – the swelling went down, but there were so many colors involved with the black eye.

And that’s the last time I gave blood  - on a volunteer basis. And since I can't give blood, I encourage others to do it for me! And if you can't give blood - give money.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Everything I've far

It's the end of Week 4 of my great Mayo Clinic experiment experience.

It doesn't seem like I've been here for a month, but I've already received two paychecks, so it must be true.

I've already made my first mistake (the first of many, no doubt) and the place is still standing. I've been told not to worry, you won't break Mayo. 

Yesterday, Deb (another public affairs newbie) and I finished our first very big project and handed it over to leadership. Let me re-phrase that, Deb and I finished phase one of our first very big project, because we're sure that after the Monday meeting, where it is being reviewed, there will be more to do.

I got my official Mayo Clinic business cards yesterday and when looking at them today, I nearly hyperventilated (and thought I had made my second Mayo Clinic mistake). My phone number had the wrong prefix! How could I have screwed that up? I went to see Genelle (my AWESOME support person) with my head hanging down. She didn't laugh (out loud) at me as she explained that the prefix on the card was correct for external callers and the prefix that I had been telling people is the internal exchange only. "Oh... excuse me, I need to go change the signature on my emails..." 

While I'm adjusting to my little corner of Mayo Clinic, I am constantly in awe of what I see and hear happening all around me. Did you see the story of the Canadian woman who had cancer and to save her life, the Mayo surgeons cut her in half, removed the cancerous areas and then put her back together?

Then there is the first clinical Hand Transplant Program in the United States here at Mayo. Imagine the soldiers who have lost their hands due to IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan having the option to receive a new hand via transplant.

What I have figured out so far...
  • I have the subway system about 90% figured out
  • I have learned that no meetings start on time unless you're late for them
  • Where I can get Diet Coke on a Pepsi campus
  • I've learned that "We take out our own garbage" is not a euphemism - we actually have to take out our own garbage
  • I managed to get a Mac assigned to me - now I just need it to have network access
  • I found the list of "unwritten rules" online (technically that would make them written...)
  • I still have no clue as to how to work my pager or voice mail
  • The acronyms used here are the biggest challenge for new people - I can't assume a Mayo acronym is the same as a real world acronym
  • and best of all, I can use the "I'm new" qualifier for two to three years

As for the pager, I was given sage advice from my seasoned co-workers: Gather all the newbies together and page each other until you figure it all out.

Now I just have to find the directions on how to turn the pager on...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What color is my ribbon supposed to be?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Suddenly the month that used to be about oranges and browns, is all about pink. Why is that? 

How does one form of cancer gain a higher profile than another form of cancer? I know that breast cancer doesn't have the highest mortality rate - that's lung cancer (their awareness month is November). The last list I saw had breast cancer at number five. So how does breast cancer get so much press?

I think it is the combination of various factors - marketing, money, community and women.  

The Susan G. Komen Foundation is responsible for the marketing and the money. They have been brilliant on how they have brought their story and the stories of thousand of women to the media. They have amazing fundraising efforts - both event-related fundraising and major gift fundraising from philanthropic individuals and foundations.  Their events such as the "Race for the Cure" raise both dollars and visibility. Komen started the pink ribbon campaign. All I can say is kudos to this amazing organization. 

The last two factors are really inter-connected.  Breast cancer has a higher profile because a community of women have bonded together to face this disease head on. Survivors reach out to newly diagnosed women and those going through treatment. They give them the message you are not alone and we're proof that you can survive this disease. The more women who joined this unregistered sisterhood, the stronger it became. The survivors carry the Komen message forward and become advocates for breast cancer awareness and research. 

(I have plenty of friends who have battled this disease and, blessedly most have beaten it.  And I don't want them to think that this blog post is to diminish their experience because that is certainly not the case.  This is just me wondering out loud.)

I think the "women" part of the equation is most important. Our gender usually shares more of ourselves with other women. I'm not sure if a brotherhood has been created among the men who have survived lung cancer or colon-rectal cancer.

I did notice that the most outspoken advocate and fundraiser for colon-rectal cancer is a woman. Katie Couric lost her husband to the disease and has been speaking out ever since.  Women are just natural advocates and you'd be smart not to mess with any of us when we have found our calling!

When my sister was battling esophageal cancer two years ago, I didn't hear of any esophageal cancers survivors reaching out to her.  I couldn't find an esophageal cancer month or find out if they even have a ribbon. That being said, I did notice that the cancer survivors who did reach out to my sister and supported her were mostly breast cancer survivors. And a big thank you to them!

Cancer is a sucky, horrible disease that we all need to battle against, regardless of the type.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Maybe It is an Apple a Day

Health care should be focused on the kitchen instead of a clinic.

Dr. Preston Maring of Kaiser Permenente in Oakland, California believes you have to eat well to be well. Makes sense and I would love to be able to follow his example, but finding the time and the organic and non-processed food is always my challenge.

I am not holding myself up as a model of healthy eating, because you would leave the room laughing, but this New York Times article really started me thinking about what I eat. Considering my genetic lineage (my father had diabetes, his mother had diabetes, her mother had diabetes), I have a very high probability of getting diabetes, so what I eat and how much I exercise should be a priority for me instead of an after-thought.

I guess I've been thinking about nutrition and food a lot in the last couple of weeks after listening to a presentation by Mrs. Q. Who is Mrs. Q, you ask?  Technically, I don't know who she is because she's an anonymous blogger and grade school teacher who authors the blog called "Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project."  She writes about what we are feeding our kids at school and how our government cares so little for the nutritional needs of children. If the government really wants to have an impact on future health care costs, they should start with public school lunches.

France has a great school lunch program with very strict regulations that focuses on nutrition rather than costs. Their strict diet regimen is so high quality that most of us would consider it gourmet. Check out this story on CBS News.

I know organic foods are better for me, but I rationalize not buying them because they generally cost more than their non-organic siblings. However, if I were to spend a few more pennies or dimes on an organic product, what would it save on my health care costs?

Perhaps the best place for me to start is with the basics and take baby steps. Stop and think about my choices. Another Diet Coke or water instead? Candy bar or a banana?

Is it really that difficult to make better food choices?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet the Girls!

It's "Wordless Wednesday!" That's where Minnesota bloggers will only have pictures on the blogs. I've never been able to do Wordless Wednesdays because, well, I'm not very good at going "wordless." So, I'll just include more

I've always loved dogs.  They love you no matter what your day has been like and they are so thrilled to see you at the end of the day, each and every day.

Unfortunate for me, the condo I've been living in for the last decade won't allow dogs. Cats, yes. Dogs, no. And trust me, I am NOT a cat person.
Thanks to my time at the Knutson B&B, I'm able to get my dog fix without having actual responsibility for their care and feeding.

There are actually four dogs, but the two labs are outdoor dogs and the two indoor dogs are Tuts (pronounced "Toots") and Bea - or as I call them - "the girls."

Tuts, an English Bulldog, is the older of the two and I think she's around 5 or 6 years old. Bea, a miniature dachshund,  just celebrated her first birthday this past Saturday.

I would bet that you think that Tuts is a very odd name and you'd be right. She was named for our Great-Aunt Tuts (her real name was Susan). She was a colorful old lady who would sit around in her house dress, smoking cigarettes and listening to Twins games on the radio.

Aunt Tuts lived with her sister Harriet, but we just called her Aunt Har (hare). When Bea showed up last Thanksgiving, I thought for sure they would name her Har. Alas, I was wrong.

Bea and Tuts greet me when I get home each day. Tuts will bring that blue ball with the expectation that I'll be playing with her right away. And if I start to play with Tuts, Bea will be right there, nipping at Tut's ears and legs. Tuts will growl a bit at her, but not with much conviction.  

It didn't take me much time to learn that if I start to pay attention to one dog, the other one will show up. Now Bea is able to jump up on the couch and cuddle on your lap. Tuts, at about 50 pounds of sheer muscle and short legs, can't really jump up on the couch to cuddle. She'll just lift up her front paw and look at you with those puppy eyes while drooling on your knee.

They seem to travel as a set because if I go downstairs, they will both follow me. I think it's more because I'm the newest thing around the house. Tuts is bit more restrained, but Bea will go into the bathroom with me or follow me into my bedroom and jump onto the bed and bury herself in the covers.

It's great to get that kind of love and attention. As long as you have a lint brush handy.