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...