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?