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.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Week, Another Article on Adult ADHD

I don't search out articles about adult ADHD, but I usually seem to find at least one or two articles a week.  I read them to see how the disorder is presented and to perhaps learn something new. About 90% of the time, the articles will only focus on the negative and never talk about the positive aspects of the disease.
The most recent article was in this weekend's Parade Magazine and after reading it, I felt compelled to have a giant "L" tattooed on my forehead.

According to the article, I'm eight times more likely than the general population to take dangerous risks, twice as likely to get into traffic wreaks, 50% more likely to be unemployed and earn about $15,000 less than others, have unstable relationships, mood swings, disorganization and am more prone to alcohol and drug abuse.

I guess the alcohol and drug abuse could be true since I'm so depressed about being a messy, unemployed relationship-destroying individual with a smashed up car.

Yes, I'm more likely to take a risk, but by taking those risks, I may find greater opportunities and learn new things.

I know that I'm fortunate to have been diagnosed because I can coach my friends and family on how I communicate, how I learn and what I do as coping mechanisms that they may not understand (Such as when I go to a restaurant, I'll sit with my back to the entrance so I don't spend the entire dinner getting distracted by their newest guest).

Helpful hint to reporters writing about adult ADHD: try to talk about the positives as much as you talk about the challenges. If you don't, you're not really giving an honest portrayal of the individuals living with the disorder.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Switching the Brain the wrong time

So much have been going on in my life in the last 30 days, that I'm starting to be physically exhausted at the end of the day. Logically, I would be sleeping well each night. But I'm not and I'm blaming my brain.

I've talked about all I've learned about ADD and the brain from the books written by Dr. Daniel Amen. His research shows the difference between the ADD brain at rest and when trying to focus. Instead of kicking in when trying to focus, the prefrontal cortex of the ADD brain shuts down when it's supposed to power up. And the reverse is true - when you're not trying to do anything, that's when your brain starts to fire up.

Starting a new job means that I've been learning so many new things and trying to absorb it all. Now, I've been doing okay staying focused during the day thanks to my friend, Mr. Ritalin. What goes wrong happens when I'm trying to sleep, my brain won't shut down.

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 3 a.m. with my brain going full steam, obsessing on leaky bath tub faucet. Seriously! And I couldn't get back to sleep. I would try to push the leaky faucet out of my head only to have it replaced by moving the furniture out of the condo and then to skating stuff.

I've had episodes of my brain switching on in the middle of the night before. I had many sleepless nights during the months leading up the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships (I was the event chair) and my doctor wrote me a prescription for Ativan. I took it only when I was desperate for sleep. I didn't want to become one of those people who started the day with a stimulant and then end the day with a downer. 

Even worse, Ativan seems to last into the morning and I'm just as tired as I would be if I hadn't taken the medication. Maybe even worse.

I don't hear many other people talking about this type of thing happening to them, so I wonder if it is strictly an ADD issue? Whether it is or not, it is certainly a pain!

I guess I should really take the time to learn meditation to help me on nights like these. Meditation not medication. Ommmmmmm...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Humility of Being a Newbie

If you ever want to feel humbled and a bit helpless, change jobs.  No, let’s make that more complicated – change jobs, change companies and move to another city.  That’s how I’m feeling as I start my second week at Mayo Clinic. Very, very humble.
One month ago, I was a busy and productive employee of Hazelden. If I needed something, I knew where to go or who to ask. I could speak at meetings and feel confident that what I was saying was pertinent to the situation and perhaps provide a solution. If a meeting was scheduled, I knew how to get to the meeting room.

Not feeling very confident right now.  Thankfully, the majority of my meetings are in the department, so I just have to walk down the hall.

 It only took me two days to work up the courage to tackle the voice mail set-up. The system at Hazelden was so complicated that painful memories were blocking my progress. I’m happy to report that Mayo Clinic’s voice mail system is much easier once you tap into the knowledge of two or three members of the administrative support team. Then have another staff member point out that you have to turn off your “Send Calls” in order to receive calls.  I haven’t actually received a call on my phone yet, but I think eventually someone will dial my number by mistake. 
On a purely materialistic level, I’m adjusting to not being the geekiest person in the department and that means I don’t have the coolest computer set-up. I know, I know… that’s not important and it’s not that big of deal, but I’m pretty sure the computer I have right now is steam-powered since it takes forever to pull up a document. I am comforted by the knowledge that it’s scheduled to be replaced in the coming month. 

And I do miss my dual 22” flat-panel LCD monitors. Do you think that risk eye strain from a mere 15” monitor?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome to the Land of Oz

I was finally able to sit at in cube and "start working." So far I've been orientated, identified, given more numbers than I'll ever be able to remember, assigned a pager, got my iPhone attached to the Mayo Microsoft Exchange server, finished paperwork and, most importantly to be a fully functional Mayo Clinic employee, figured out where you can get Diet Coke on campus.

The administrative staff in Public Affairs are amazing. I had so many of them asking me if there was anything I needed, just ask. I assured them that I was pretty low maintenance as I had been an admin support staff myself years ago, but after saying how low maintenance I would be, I proved myself a liar. 
  • I guess I need a different keyboard.
  • Any chance to get a phone headset?
  • Is there an extra track-ball mouse around? 
  • How do I get my iPhone sync'd up with my Mayo Clinic email account? 
  • Who do I have to call to get additional programs downloaded on my computer?
My support staff buddy may also attend some of my meetings since she knows the resources and the best way to work in the Mayo Clinic systems. I met with my manager yesterday and got a better idea of some of the areas that I'll be working in and who I will be partnering with in various areas. Everything is sounding exciting and I'm ready to jump in!

I'm not the only new person in the division - there was a Welcome Potluck Lunch today for the seven new hires. 

I saw the poster for the potluck and it had photos of all the new staff members, but I hadn't started at the time they created it, so they pulled an avatar drawing I had created for my Facebook profile. The staff might think I'm either a cartoon or have a strong need to be anonymous. (And I suppose coming from Hazelden, they might read something additional into that.)

My office is in the Ozmun Building on campus which, I've been told, used to be the courthouse. The cafe on 1st floor is in an old holding cell and is called the Jail House Cafe.

The staff like to refer to the building as "Oz," as in the Land of Oz. Today's potluck was held in a conference room nicknamed "Auntie Em's."  I'm looking forward to hearing more of the nicknames. If I start to see munchkins parading around and singing, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," I may have to reduce my medications.

I'm loving this week's Dilbert. Perhaps Scott Adams followed me around because I'm sure that Monday & Tuesday's cartoons were based on my former position at Hazelden. I think you'll agree.(Thanks for the heads up, Chip)
Click on the cartoon to see it in a larger format

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day Two

I'm all done with my two days of Mayo Clinic New Employee Orientation and I think have hit capacity for new information processing.

The first 90 minutes of the morning was all about benefits - health insurance, life insurance, dental & vision plan, long term care insurance and even identity theft insurance. Mayo Clinic has three different health plans and I've been studying all the information since my third interview for the position. I was ready to check off box #2 until I got the in-person explanation today and ended up being unsure about which one. Granted, I have 31 days to make the decision, but figuring out my benefits is something I would like to check off my "to do" list.

At the end of the formal new employee orientation is the employee-manager connection time. That's where your supervisor comes over to the orientation location to bring you to your new office. It's a nice touch, but I kept flashing back to having your parent pick you up from your first day of kindergarten.

You have about 75 minutes before the end of the work day after they meet you and take you to the office. In 60 minutes, I was shown my cube  - nice corner unit with a window- then I was walked around the floor and introduced to about 20 different people whose names I doubt I will remember tomorrow, and finally given my computer log-in information.

I had taken the commuter bus from Kasson and the last bus was leaving downtown at 5:15 and I wasn't 100% sure where I was picking it up, so as the clock started edging past 4:45 p.m., I was starting to getting nervous. It was one of the support staff members who was helping with my computer and Outlook set-up and I told her at 4:55 that maybe we could finish the set-up tomorrow. She was very understanding and said she would finish the process for me. As it turned out, I needed the extra time since I ended up being a block off where I was supposed to be.

I had two fashion malfunctions today. The pair of shoes I wore were too loose around my heel (and I had worn these shoes several times) and they were slipping as I walked the five blocks from where the bus dropped me off to Charter House (the orientation site). I tried not to look like a four-year old wearing her mom's high heels, but I'm not sure I was very successful.

The second fashion mistake was not brought to my attention until nearly the end of the day. I was wearing a new suit and didn't realize that the tag was still on it. It was in an unlikely spot for a tag - the left underarm.  I don't know if the people in the orientation session were too shy to point it out or it was out-of-view for most of the day. My pride hopes for the latter choice. But I doubt it.

My real job starts tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My First Day

I survived my first day of Mayo Clinic New Employee Orientation. It was a bit of information overload, but in a good way. And I still have another day of orientation before I get to the real job. 

The first surprise happened immediately when I got to the New Employee parking - where there was not just one bus, but two coach buses waiting to give the newbies a ride to the campus.

I had assumed that the orientation would be a group of about 20 to 30 people; after all Mayo Clinic has new employee orientation twice a month. Instead, there were about 115 new staff members participating in orientation. I was grateful that the orientation didn't feel impersonal and the facilitator was always asking for questions and participation. Problem was there were far too many introverts in the room. As always, I made up for their extraordinary quietness. 
Mayo Clinic has a wonderful resource called the Dan Abraham Wellness Center on campus and their very enthusiastic speaker gave us a nice afternoon stretching exercise that helped alleviate the tush fatigue from sitting too much. I'm sure I'll become a member, but since I have access to a very nice workout room here at the Knutson Bed & Breakfast (also known as my sister & brother-in-law's home), it might not be for a few months. 

Besides all the typical information that you need to learn as a new employee, we watched a video about the beginnings of Mayo Clinic and how it became One of the Best Places in America to Work. Their basic mission statement hasn't changed in over 100 years - "the needs of the patient comes first."  

The push to build the first hospital in Southeast Minnesota in late 1800s was driven, not by the doctors, but by a group of Catholic nuns, the Francisicans. I felt a certain amount of pride since the same order of nuns were my teachers in Catholic grade school. (not the same nuns as there was a time gap between the late 1800s and my grade school experience)

Of course, the first real challenge comes tomorrow when I have to figure out the transportation services. There is a commuter lot in Kasson (about 5 miles away from the Bed & Breakfast) that I'll try out tomorrow.  There's a certain amount of appeal to hopping on a charter bus and having someone else drive you to and from work. 

Rumor has it there is wi-fi on the commuter buses. You gotta know my inner geek was thrilled with that tidbit.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Think I'm Ready

Tomorrow is the day that I start my new job at Mayo Clinic and for some reason, unlike any other job I've started before, it seems a bit surreal. The first two days will be spent in orientation, so it might not seem really real until Wednesday when I'll be sitting at a desk and computer.

The last three weeks have been nonstop activity with finishing my job at Hazelden; packing, cleaning, throwing and selling as much as I could and finally, this weekend was the physical activity of moving boxes and moving me! Since I live up one flight of stairs, my quads and glutes are feeling a bit over-used today.

Because I won't completely move out of the condo until it's sold, I didn't hire a moving company - I recruited my sister to help instead. Not just because she has a truck and not just because I'm moving in with her and her family, but because she's thinks more logically and more linear than I can.
My ADD was really taking over these last few days. After packing boxes non-stop for ten days, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I still had much more to pack, but all the clutter and piles of things to be sorted was overwhelming me and packing was at a stand still. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get any further in the process until all of the boxes and extras were gone and out of my sight.

I could see that the truck might not be enough and rented a U-Haul cargo van for the day. When I told my sister, she thought it might be over-kill.  She thought that until she saw the stacks and stacks of boxes and tubs all around the condo and out in the garage. We completely packed the van full of boxes and small furniture pieces to go to storage and then loaded her truck with boxes for her place.

I loaded up my car today and said goodbye to the Twin Cities.

My sister's home is outside of Rochester in a small town called Mantorville, so it's really going to be small town living. As I drove into town, I experienced my first Mantorville traffic jam - it was Marigold Days, their annual celebration and everyone and their cousin was there. Had I been down here yesterday, I would have been able to attend the Firemen's Dance last night. Maybe next year.

So, it begins tomorrow... I can't wait. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Mother the Journalist

My mom was a stay-at-home mom because in the 1960's almost everyone's mom was a stay-at-home mom. She didn't work outside of our home until I was in high school in the late 1970's.  If my mom had been a career woman, she would have been a journalist or a historian.

Why? Because this woman wrote about the day-to-day activities of her kids decades before there were Mommy Bloggers. I had a wonderful evening last night learning about the first five years of my life through my Mom's notes. It's important to remember that I'm the fourth of four kids, so the fact that I had any baby pictures at all is amazing, never mind that I can tell you that I cut my first tooth November 28, 1960, that I stood up alone for the first time on January 24, 1961 or that my first visit to Como Zoo was August 6, 1961. And I wouldn't go on any rides.

Dennis, Christine, Susan & ME (guess we didn't have booster chairs)
June 12, 1961 my mom was thinking I had the three day measles; the next day she realized it was just a mosquito bite. I don't think she would have been a good doctor because besides thinking a mosquito bite was the measles, there was the time she brought me along when she took my sister to see Dr. Demo and he put ME in the hospital - that pesky cough she noted that I had for two days prior to the visit was the croup. So I got to spend Halloween 1963 in the hospital. Don't feel bad for me because my siblings went trick-or-treating on my behalf - "This extra bag is for our little sister who is in the hospital tonight..." I got more candy than all of them combined!

But it was February of 1964 that showed my true individualism and refusal to follow the crowd:
1/2/1964 - Christine has the mumps
1/12/1964 - Rick VerHey has the mumps
1/20/1964 - Sue has the mumps
1/26/1964 - Peggy VerHey has the mumps
2/2/1964 - Dennis has the mumps
2/25/1964 - Mary has the shingles

Yes, the entire neighborhood has the mumps and I get something completely exotic and extremely rare for kids. I wouldn't get mumps until 1976.

I was a talented child - September 17, 1964 - "Mary knows how to whistle" (my uncles - her brothers - taught me).
And I was an annoying child - May 16, 1965 - "I took Mary to church and she whistled in church."  Yes, but was I at least in key? I'm sure that it was from this point on only my dad would take me to church. And we'd sit up in the balcony.

Thanks Mom for giving me my childhood history!  You could have left out the editorial that I was "not very nice in church" for cousin Catherine Ann's baptism.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One of My Favorite Days of the Year

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. And judging by posts on Facebook this morning, it is a favorite day for parents of school age kids.

School officially starts the day after Labor Day here in Minnesota, but I like to think of this day as Fall's New Year's Day. It's a new school year and all your notebooks are clean and un-doodled-upon. You get a clean slate!

I may not have the cool new three-ring binder (I'm just guessing it's the one with that Bieber kid on it), but as it turns out this year, my first day of my New Year will be next Monday when I start my new job at Mayo Clinic.

Here's the "Official First Day of School" photo from my first day of kindergarten before I headed up the hill to Abbott. Now, mom wasn't the type to take first day of school photos, so you got your photo taken on the first day of kindergarten and from that point, it was up to the school photographer.

(What kind of posture did I have in kindergarten?)

I'll have my official first day photo at Mayo Clinic - it's called the ID photo. Unlike school, where if the photo isn't flattering, you just somehow lose it; the Mayo ID photo is with me forever and I'll have to wear it every day. 

The outfit you wore for the first day of school was always important and the pre-first day of school shopping trips meant that you usually got some new clothes along with that three-ring binder. I love shopping now, but back then, not so much. Taking an ADD child shopping isn't easy or very fun for a parent.  Mom would take sister Sue shopping (we're 15 months apart in age) for clothes and just buy two of the same outfit in different colors. 

During my junior high school years, my obsessive-compulsive tendencies came out a bit when I wore the same first-day-ensemble all three years - powder blue knit pants, white turtle neck and a baby pink blazer. Why I ever imagined that was cool is beyond me! I used to call my best friend Labor Day evening to discuss our ensembles. Why didn't she clue me in?
I am envious of my educator friends since they get to experience the annual excitement of the kids.  Yes, it's their job, but you have to imagine the kids' joy at the opportunity for a new year and a new chance must rub off a bit.

I know some people will say that you could have that frame of thought each and every day, but it's not the same if you're the only person feeling it. The "First Day of School" experience is the flip side/positive version of mob mentality.

The rest of the year may or may not be "all joy, all the time," but for that one moment, each and every year, there's a chance. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

This Week's Golden Squirrel Award Goes To....

Each week, I award the Golden Squirrel Award to the person, place or thing that distracts me the most.
This week's winner is larger than a breadbox, but smaller than my sister's garage. This week I'm being distracted by 990 square feet of living space with too many reminders of the late 1980's. This week's biggest distraction is my condo.

Home sweet home. Home white elephant home in a time when existing home sales dropped 27% in one month. (I've heard that the sales of non-existing homes is even worse!) Now, I'm facing the scary reality of trying to sell my condo during a weak economy.

But that reality alone isn't the whole story. It's the little voice in my head that reminds me that my condo, while charming in many ways, has some "issues." The condo was built in the late 1980's when the "hip happin' colors" were dusty rose and mauve - otherwise known as pink and light purple. Not colors you see used in many homes these days unless you're decorating a pre-teen girl's bedroom.

Only two items remain in the condo that would clue you into the original color scheme: the mauve carpet and the pink kitchen counter tops.  Yes, you read that correctly - pink kitchen counter tops. Pink counter tops are not something you see every day, but I've kept enough clutter on them to distract me from really seeing the pink. 

Should they stay or should they go?
Beside those two low points in the home tour, there is one other BIG item that is constant debate as to the value they add or the liability they cause. To make the living room look bigger, the builder put in one wall of mirrors that go floor to ceiling. Since the ceiling is about 15 feet, these are very big pieces of glass. How the heck do I get rid of these? Without causing years of bad luck?

On the positive side of the scorecard are the cathedral ceiling in the living room and kitchen, a roomy kitchen and dining area, newer appliances and a bathroom with a new ceramic tile floor.

I meet with the Realtor next week to start the process. He sent me some paperwork to get the process started. Page and pages and pages.

I'm stressing about a stranger walking through my place and critiquing it. I'm sure he will be thinking, "...really? Pink counter tops?"  Oh, please be gentle.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Moving on

Today is my last day at Hazelden. Not unlike other "last days" at previous jobs, it will be jammed packed with lots of projects to finish or to hand off, and saying good-bye to an amazing group of co-workers and friends.

Ten days from now, I will unofficially move* to Rochester, but these days, most my free time now is spent packing, throwing and sorting my worldly goods. I've been very reflective in the last week (reflective as in thoughtful, not shiny in bright light) and thinking of everything I will miss and what I won't miss.

I will not miss my 45 minute commute to work. Giving up seven and half hours each week to non-productivity while driving back and forth has been frustrating. Granted, I now know all of the songs from Glee and completely enjoy belting them out in my car, but I wouldn't consider it an investment in my future skill sets.

I will miss my condo, but not the location at the bottom of hill at the end of a dead-end street with hairpin turns that the City of Saint Paul tends to forget about after snow storms.

I will miss the Saint Paul Farmers Market - great people watching, fresh flowers and vegetables and always something new to discover.

I will miss Whole Foods, Byerly's, and Kowalski's. I thought I would miss Trader Joe's, but have heard that one is being built in Rochester.

I know that the number one thing I will miss about the Twin Cities is the Basilica of Saint Mary. I've been a member there since '96 and it is an amazing place. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Basilica Cathedral Choir for 12 years and I met some amazing people whose friendships I will always treasure. The choir was like my family when my real family was miles away.

I loved being able to say that my church "picnic" lasted two days, attracted 40,000 people and had bands like the Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs. I would add after saying that, in a rather snarky voice, "And yours?"

My holidays will never be the same because of my Basilica experience. I haven't been singing with the choir for the last two years and I haven't known what to do with myself during the Easter Triduum. It is the Catholic Marathon since the choir sang at most of the services for four straight days. Some years, I wouldn't have a voice on Easter Monday and one year I got a respiratory infection from an overdose of incense. 

The Basilica is unlike any church I've attended and I know whatever church I attend in Rochester, it will most likely never match the Basilica experience.

I moved to the Twin Cities in January 1991 and never imagined I would stay here for almost 20 years. I adapted to the big city lifestyle, but underneath it, I remained a small town girl. In the coming months, she'll have the opportunity to reappear.

Sort of looking forward to meeting her again.

*I will officially move when my condo is sold.