Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Facebook has killed the Christmas letter

I have very clear memories of my mother spending hours and hours organizing herself to prepare  Christmas cards for mailing to family and friends. She would camp out at the dinner room or kitchen table for a couple of days and work from her list. 

Each card was selected from her stash with the particular addressee in mind. She would take the time to hand write a note telling the receiver of all the news from the Harty household in the past year. She would hand address each envelope and her one shortcut was the pre-printed return address labels she received from St. Jude's. 

Having this as my role model creates lots of pressure. I can still hear her critical comments when she would receive a Christmas card in return with no personal note. Even worse were the ones where the people would have their names pre-printed on the inside of the card. Lazy people, can't even sign their names. It might even have been an insult for her.

Fast forward to the late 1980's/early 1990's, when it started being trendy to include a Christmas letter with your card. (I think this was acceptable to mom, but at a much lower standard) 
I remember when my friends started sending Christmas letters where they would either outline the many successes of their offspring or the fabulous locations they had traveled that year. Or worse, both. Since I could talk about neither (unless I listed the ice rinks that I had visited in the past year), I would just use my creative writing skills and make them humorous, but still include various tidbits of what I had done in the past year. I did Top Ten lists, I wrote poems. Anything to distract from my semi-pitiful life.

A few years ago, I started doing a Christmas blog (Ye Olde Yule Blog) and would send everyone an email with a link to the blog post. I would claim "green," but honestly it was just so much easier and cheaper. (You don't claim "lazy.")

Now, because of Facebook, I don't even do the Yule Blog. I'm diligent in posting updates, so people can know my every move and thought (and isn't that something everyone wants to know??). And with so many people in my demographic group who are now on Facebook, I think the list of non-Facebook people to whom I would send a card is fairly small.

Regardless of that fact, right now, a bunch of boxes of Christmas cards are stacked on my kitchen island for the non-Facebook list and I'm lacking motivation. I worry if I work on these cards, my resentment might sneak through and I might write something like, "why the heck are you not on Facebook?" or give them a warning that unless they join Facebook, they risk being cut off from receiving highly-valued information about me. I mean, that's got to be a motivating factor, right? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Walking into the stream

Have you heard the phrase, "you never step into the same stream twice"? As a very non-philosophical person, I think it's a bit lame. For other non-philosophers, it means that, even if things look the same, everything has changed.

Or maybe I think it's a bit lame because I've had to accept its meaning whether I want to or not.

We've all had to accept it at some point in our lives. Those who don't, must live in their own happy, little world. The realization of the truth can be depressing, so denial can kick in.

A great example of this experience happens to most of us in our first year of college. During high school you were part of an awesome group, be it a choir, a band or a sports team. The memories can create a physical feeling of euphoria for you. And you want to go back to the experience and have those feelings again. But you're disappointed when you try and nothing happens. It's not the same group of people or the people who are still there, their lives have changed and moved on.

It's your clue to move on.

I don't know if many people have similar experiences when they're older, but being older doesn't make it easier. I know because I've had to face the facts and move on.

Fifteen years ago, I joined a choir with no clue as to what an amazing experience I was about to have and the people I'd meet who would enrich my life. I had sung in plenty of choirs, but nothing like this one. It was a large choir with almost 100 members in a church with amazing acoustics. The power we would feel when we belted out a song and have it reverberate off the walls for hours 10 seconds just rocked.

The Catholic Church is not known for their strong choral tradition - because they don't have one. This choir was an exception and we were proud of that fact. We cared about each other and I thought of them as my extended family. Christmas and Easter were marathons, but we thrived on them.

In 2006, I had to take a 18-month leave from the choir to work on my master's thesis and the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships (not to mention a full-time job). When I came back in March 2008, I immediately felt like an outsider, an intruder. It can be disconcerting when your expectation was to be able to step back into that stream as if it had been frozen in time.

I tried to reconnect, but it didn't work. Worse, it was affecting my mood, so I realized that it was time to move on. So without any fanfare or goodbyes, I was done.

Last week, the choir was giving a concert and I thought about going. I almost talked myself out of it thinking it would only cause me to be sad. But after getting some encouragement from a friend, I attended the concert.

The choir still is amazing and the music helped put me in the Christmas mood. Although there were many hugs and hellos, nothing was the same. I still felt like an outsider looking in, but it was easier because it was what I had expected.

I could step into the stream and not get swept away.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You'll never understand

You'll never understand because I don't think I even understand why I choose to be a figure skating judge.

Let me be clear, I know that I continue to be a judge because I love the sport and have become friends with people I would never have had the opportunity to meet, if not for being a judge.

What I question is my sanity for wanting to advance as a judge. There are various levels and disciplines for skating judges and to be "promoted" (quotes due to the fact that it is a volunteer position), you have to trial judge.

Trial judging means that you go to a select competition and pretend you're one of the officials judging the event. After the event, you compare your marks to that of the official panel and then talk about what you did within a small group (usually other trial judges) and explain why you did what you did. The discussion is led by a JET.

I won't leave you wondering how airplanes can talk or how we get the plane into the ice rink. JET stands for Judges Education and Training and our upper level judges volunteer to serve as a JET at these select competitions. The right JET can make or break your trial judging experience. I've been fortunate during my experiences to have a great JET 90% of the time. I choose to mentally block out the times when the JET makes you feel like you're a complete idiot or you watch as they rip another trial judge to shreds.

The optimal outcome for a trial judge is to agree with the official panel and have your marks in range with theirs. But you also have to able to defend your decisions. And when you have ADD, that isn't always easy. (short term memory can be impacted by ADD)

I traveled to Ann Arbor this past weekend to trial judge a synchronized team skating competition. Being a Synchro trial judge is a challenge because unlike Singles and Pairs (regular skating for you Muggles), you only have two or three select competitions all year to trial judge while Singles and Pairs usually have 6 or 7.

Trialing can be an emotional roller coaster as you stress about your marks and what you say in post-event discussion. Did I sound like an idiot? What will the JET think of my answer? (generally you pray that the JET doesn't call on you unless you're sure you have the right answer.) If one of your marks is out of range for the official panel, you would be asked to explain.  In other words, please explain what you were thinking during the 20 seconds of an element you saw an hour ago.

It's important to take notes. It is equally important to be able to read your notes when called upon by the JET. "I can't read my writing" or "I don't remember why I did that" are not acceptable answers. I've also learned to admit when I made a mistake.  

It's expensive to trial judge because trial judges have to pay their own travel expenses. Airfare from Minneapolis to Detroit runs between $350-$400 round trip, and a hotel room is about $100 per night. Generally the host club requires trial judges to pay a fee to cover the added expense of having trial judges. I've paid anywhere from $20 to $100 for a two-day competition.

And you don't just do one competition in a season. Oh no, you would generally do two or three competitions in a season if you want to get the promotion before you hit retirement age. So take the afore mentioned costs and multiple them times three. So you have to get creative. I was able to afford this past weekend because I found a last minute $200 roundtrip airfare, I had a friend who let me stay with her in her hotel room, and I split the cost of car rental with another trial judge - she got a killer deal of $35 for the entire weekend.

I had a couple of stressful moments this past weekend after hearing one of the official judges talk about her marks for an event and realizing that I was much lower than her. When I was finally able to see the final results, I was indeed lower than her, but there were 6 judges on the panel and not all of them were as high in their marks.

So I guess I didn't have to drown my sorrows at the bar that night, but it sure felt good.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Home Ownership - NOT!

As of this afternoon, I am no longer a home owner. It was a long and, at times, ridiculous path to sell the condo with more and more hoop jumping requested by the bank.

I've talked about my problems with the bank - classic one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing. And that continued until the very bitter end. 

When I had a viable offer and the bank had finished processing their paperwork (which only took from August to November!!), their lawyers notified me that the bank had ended the foreclosure proceedings and, if the pending sale did fall through, I would be able to do deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure. Deed-in-lieu is basically just giving them the keys.

Speaking of keys and one hand not knowing blah, blah, blah ... <outstanding transition, eh?>, I got quite the surprise earlier this month. The buyers were going to do a final walk-through with their contractor on November 11th. Brian (my agent) called to ask me if I knew what happened to the lock-box with the keys. It wasn't hanging on the garage door. Ironically, I had discovered it was missing just the day before, but assumed that he had taken the lock-box down because of the sale approval.

I told him not to worry, that I was going to St. Paul the very next day to do a final cleaning of the place (lots of odds and ends left in the condo as well as more than a few condiments in the fridge). I would get a new lock-box, put a set of my keys in it, and would leave it hanging on the garage.

The next day I looked around the complex to see if someone just put the lock-box on someone else's garage by mistake. Nope. So I headed into the building and up the stairs to my condo.

Just looking at the condo door, I immediately knew something was different. The dead bolt and door knob looked far too shiny. Well, my bank and/or their legal minions had cut off the lock-box and changed the locks on the condo door. They would later explain that they were worried about the place since no one was living there.

When I returned to Rochester, I gathered all the remaining keys - building key, garage door key and mail box keys - and sent them to Brian and he contacted the bank to get the new keys. It only took the bank two weeks to figure out which minion had the keys. Brian received them just this morning - the morning of the closing!

I know that I'll miss some parts of being a home owner - going to Home Depot to pick out paint and hanging pictures using whatever method I want - but I'm not going to miss the stress of mortgage payments and condo association dues and having financial decisions that impact me decided by a vote of association members. I'm not going to miss the neighbor who had memorized the association rules and would tattle if you broke any.

I'm done with being a home owner for awhile. Anyone need a room painted?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I am a member of the most misunderstood, despised, and maligned groups in the world.

I am a figure skating judge.

And while the vitriol about the evil figure skating judges only really comes on strong every four years, it is not an easy life.

Figure skating judges live their lives of quiet desperation in cold, dark places known as ice rinks. We travel as vagabonds from one location to another, following a trail of multi-colored sequins that lead us to the next competition.

We sequester ourselves away from the rest of humanity at the rink since we have accepted the fact that we scare small skaters and, quite often, their parents. We hear their hushed voices, whispering, "That's one of the judges..." as they turn their heads away.

We spend endless hours in ice rinks, sitting rink-side and freezing our patooties off. (I'm certain that there are parts of my anatomy that have perma-frost and may never completely thaw out.)

When our friends discover a wool winter coat in our car on a hot and humid July afternoon, they assume that we're lazy and just never got around to bringing it into the house. The reality is, if you flip open the trunk of most judges' vehicles during any month of the year, you will find boots, wool socks, mittens, gloves, a warm coat and an assortment of fleece blankets with figure skating club logos. We must be ready for service at a moment's notice.

We are volunteers. While we don't get paid, we often receive gift cards (or fleece blankets). At anytime, you can find in our wallets 3 Barnes & Nobles, 2 Caribous, 2 Paneras and a partially used Starbucks.

There are many misconceptions about us. We are not, as a majority, French. Most of us don't own mink coats and the closest we will get to judging the Olympics is yelling at the 53" flat panel TV in the family room.

So please, as I begin my crazy time of year, when I have a competition nearly every weekend from now through spring, be kind to me. And if some Monday morning, you find me wandering around the office with a clip board looking for the judges stand, just tell me the event got canceled and I can go back to the hospitality room. I'll snap out of it eventually.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad blogger feeling good about what I did

I'm very much feeling like a neglectful blogger. I haven't posted since September 26th. And there are plenty of reasons excuses for the absence.

My number one excuse is <wait for it now ...> I was distracted. I had a huge skating project that I can honestly say I was ill-prepared for and was basically flying by the seat of my pants. My own stubbornness put me in this position and I had a lot to do that I couldn't delegate to anyone else because I hadn't even figured it out for myself.

When I have something hanging over my head, my focus <at least the very little that I have> goes right out the window. Add to that I was stressing about it, so just as I would get into bed, my brain would fire up and start problem solving while my body wanted and needed sleep. It was bad.

Excuse number two is see excuse number one.

The project was the Minnesota Basic Skills Competition Series. It is for our beginning skaters (you know, those cute little ones with the cute little outfits that make you go, "Aww...") and I took it on because "the powers that be" wanted to make it exclusive instead of inclusive.  I'm not about excluding any club or any skater. I recognize that I wasn't fabulously organized at the start, but eventually things started moving forward. Then, this summer, I got word that the rug was being pulled out from underneath me and I would have to shutter the series after one year.

The final part of the series is the on-ice award ceremony for the skaters in each level who accumulated the most points. Honestly, I think it is the most important part because it's about the kids and only the kids. They get to skate out to the podium just like they see on the Olympics. I placed a medal around their necks and told them what a great job they did and then I would step out of the way so the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in the stands could take photos. And boy did they!

But the event is over now with some minor clean-up to do, but most importantly, I felt great at the end because I helped to make some young skaters feel very special and I had parents thank me for doing it. Having a parent thank me? That was huge.

I've heard that the new Basic Skills series (the one replacing the Minnesota Basic Skills series) isn't planning on doing the on-ice awards. They planned to just mail the awards out to the skaters or something. After seeing what it meant to these skaters this past Saturday, I am happy to hear that they are reconsidering it.

Ya gotta take those little victories.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear Wayward Facebook Friend

I will be the first to admit that I'm a techie geek and that I absorb everything I possibly can about social media. On the negative side of this "personality trait," I can be a techie snob who will roll my eyes when I read a Facebook status update that's really just a rumor or something lame - Facebook is going to start charging, etc.

To help me get my frustrations out without releasing my evil twin upon the world, I started writing letters that I'll never send.  Here are two examples of past letters that I thought I would share with you, now that sufficient time as passed.

Dear Wayward Facebook Friend,

I realize that you're not a Facebook genius and that it is really just one step above a regular website for you, but there are some Facebook functions that I would like to bring to your attention. I'll go slowly as I know that sometimes your dial-up connection loads the pages slowly on your Commodore 64.

There's this handy, time-saving function called "Facebook Notifications" that I love. I have my preferences (which are my way of telling Facebook how I want it to behave) set to send me an email anytime someone posts something on my wall. So as soon as you write something on my wall and hit enter, Facebook sends me an email with your entire message contained within it.

Now I tell you this because, for some reason, you deleted your recent comment from my Facebook wall. Since it was a rather innocuous comment, the fact that you deleted it baffled the heck out of me.

And thus leads me to my next point, deleting comments. I'm okay with people changing their minds and deleting something they've written on a friend's wall, particularly if said comment was written on a Friday night after consuming an adult beverage or two.  I would especially recommend hitting delete if the aforementioned comment causes mutual friends (of which we share many), to message me with the subject line, "WTF?"

Please take the time to learn about these lovely Facebook features.



The second letter was written a couple of years ago when I was employed at a place that is NOT my current employer.

Dear Wayward Facebook Friend whom I am currently blocking,

I am writing to explain how social media works since you have so obviously not bothered to understand how this new communication system works.

I believe that you're aware that social media marketing is one part of my job description and that, unlike other staffers, I may be on Facebook for several hours each day. It's called "listening." I need to know what is being said out there. You should also know that I do my work utilizing my own personal account. (something I will be changing very soon.)

I know that you know about PTO - also known as vacation. I know that you know about it as it seems that you take a lot of it. Well, don't be shocked, but PTO is also offered to other staff members. There are times between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday that I may be on Facebook, but not at work. That's okay. Utilizing Facebook during vacation is normal.

During these non-work hours, I might talk about non-work related hobbies like figure skating - a hobby that eats up much of my free time and, to be honest, much of my vacation time.

I'm telling you all this because you felt it was important to inform my supervisor that I'm spending way too much time on Facebook and that I'm talking about topics that are not work related. While my supervisor may have acted shocked and told you that "it" would be discussed, please understand that my supervisor has a clue and the information only caused me to roll my eyes and shake my head.

I have only one thing I would love to say to you: in order for you to "tattle" on my abundant Facebook frequency, you would also have to be on Facebook for several hours. See the correlation? 

So, I have taken it upon myself to un-friend you (Google it) and block you from ever seeing my activity.

Enjoying my obvious superiority,


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering the day that changed the world

In the past ten years, I have watched countless documentaries on September 11, 2001 hoping to understand why and how something like that could happen. I even read the 9/11 Commission Report. But in the end, I've concluded that my brain may understand the facts, but my humanity cannot and will not comprehend it.

I was running late to work because I was watching the Today Show talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Suddenly another plane hit the second tower. It was the moment of realization that it wasn't an accident.

As I arrived to my office at Hamline University, our secretary was listening to the reports on her radio. We tried to focus on our work, but every 15 to 20 minutes, the situation changed. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. One of the tower collapsed. The second tower collapsed. There might be more planes.

I couldn't stay at work. I went home before noon and sat on my couch and watched the news. And I cried. I cried a lot.

I started emailing friends on the East Coast to be sure they were okay. I finally reached my best friend that afternoon. She was in St. Louis and trying to get home, but with all the planes grounded, she didn't know when that would happen. Mary and I had a long history of talking on the phone while watching history unfold on TV - first time was when Baby Jessica was pulled out of the well.  Talking with her provided a small piece of normal to an extremely un-normal day.

In 2001, I was a member of the Basilica of St Mary Cathedral Choir. We were asked to sing at the prayer service at the Basilica that evening. It was the perfect place for me to be since the choir was my family. I found a lot of peace being with them, singing together and from the words and the emotions shared at the service.

The Basilica was packed that night as everyone was needing the same thing. I remember walking to the back of the church during the recessional and seeing everyone was crying. And whenever I see someone cry, I cry. Crying came so easy that day.

In the days that followed 9/11, it were the news reports from New York City that impacted me the most.  Pictures of the missing were posted all over New York, asking anyone who may have seen their loved one to let them know. The TV reporters would let the people searching to talk about their loved ones and you could hear the pain and desperation in their voices. And I would cry.

I had a small obsession in the days following the WTC attack. I would look at all the photos of Ground Zero and search for office furniture in the rubble and debris. There were thousands of chairs in the tower, how could there not be a single photo with office chairs or desks among the debris? It was just dust and beams and paper.

In the weeks that followed 9/11, the New York Times started running short stories about the 2,600+ people who died at the World Trade Center and I would read them every day. And I would cry.

I didn't know anyone who died in attacks, yet I cried and it took months before I would stop. 

In the past week or so, I've been watching the special coverage of 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and I still cry, but not like before.

As I said, my brain understands the facts of 9/11, but my humanity never will. If I do, I think I'll be lost.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I was nearly wrong

Sometimes, milestone birthdays freak people out.

And no matter how many times you tell them that having a birthday beats the alternative of not having birthdays, some will still feel uncomfortable with the aging process.

I remember back to July 2001, telling my best friend that turning forty is no big deal. After all, I had done it 18 months prior, so she should be able to handle it. I reminded her of everything she had accomplished in her life and her two beautiful daughters.

This conversation happened when she was home visiting Minnesota. As we went our separate ways - she was flying back to Atlanta while I was heading home to Saint Paul to start a new job August 1st - I joked with her one last time and told her, "The world won't end if you turn 40, so enjoy your day."

Mary's 40th birthday was September 12, 2001. I was nearly wrong.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When will I have my heart attack?

That sounds like a silly question, but in reality it is a pretty important one. 

I was surprised to learn that a 37-year-old former co-worker had a heart attack last month. She blessedly survived, but hearing the news just set me back on my heels. Jen is a healthy, active (i.e. marathon runner) mom of two and I would never imagine that she would have a heart attack.

Me? Have a heart attack? That's just far too easy to imagine. I've been thinking about it since I was 11. 

[Flashback sequence] During an exam with a new pediatrician, he was concerned about the slow pace of my heart. I had to do a stress test right away and that freaked out my mom. He couldn't find anything wrong with my heart and I'm sure mom's heart must have stopped several times during the visit.

Immediately after the appointment, we stopped by my dad's office (which was right next door to the clinic) and, after hearing the story, he chuckled and told mom that I have the Harty heart; my heart just didn't go as fast as others. His mom had the same issue as did her mom. It's a family thing.

As any 11-year-old will do, I shrugged it off and moved on.

I think I was in junior high (1970's) when the cardiologists at Mayo Clinic found a blockage in my dad's aorta. They didn't operate because they felt the surgical mortality rate was too high. From that point on, our family started waiting for something to happen.

In 1988, my dad had emergency quintuple bypass surgery at Saint Marys Hospital and for the next six years, we had many trips to Rochester.

In April 1994, my dad suffered congestive heart failure and passed away. In the weeks leading up to his death, his diabetes was out-of-control and that also contributed to the heart failure.

In doing my family genealogy, I was able to view the death certificates of many of my ancestors. Both my Grandma Harty's (my dad's mother) and my great-grandmother's (her mom) death certificates listed the same cause of death: congestive heart failure with complications from diabetes.

So that's what Dad meant about having the Harty heart. Oh, joy.

So what have I done about avoiding my family's legacy? Actually very little because who has heart attacks in their 40's? I figured I would start worrying about it in my late 50's. 

I guess I have been lying to myself. It's time for me to be pro-active and learn about heart disease, get off my duff to start exercising, and start eating right to avoid diabetes.

All things considered, I just might be over-due and running on luck.

P.S. My former co-worker has started a blog about her experiences and recovery, you might want to check it out. She's a fabulous writer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I think I'm supposed to care about this

For the last ten plus years, the Minnesota Vikings have been trying to convince the State of Minnesota that we should build a new football stadium for the team to play in. That Metrodome is SO yesterday and, besides, [be sure to say this in a whiney voice] "all the other kids (re: sports teams) have got a new place to play." (Granted, Target Center needs an update.)

I'm sure I'm supposed to care about this and have a solid, unchanging opinion. Only I don't. Because I really don't care. I'm either supposed to be upset that we're building a sports stadium during a tough economy or that we're missing an opportunity to create jobs by funding this big project.

Maybe it's because I don't care about the Vikings. I think the last time I gave them a second thought and actually watched a game, Ahmed Rashad was still on the team. Or maybe it was when Tarkington was quarterback. Can't remember and don't want to waste any brain cells contemplating it.

I hear people talk about Minnesota losing the Vikings to Los Angeles and how horrible that would be to our economy.  I guess I doubt that because I figure those discretionary dollars maybe would be spent on tickets for the Wild, Twins, Wolves, Saints or Lynx instead. If they want to go to amateur sporting event, we have the Gophers and our high school leagues. Honestly, if you've never been to state hockey tournament, why do you live in Minnesota? If football is the only sport you care about, you must not be a Minnesota native.

I wish people would get as passionate about funding our schools and educating our kids as they do about building a football stadium for the Vikings. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jealous, a bit

It's been almost a year since I started my job here at Mayo Clinic and moved to the Rochester area. Shortly after moving, I put my condo on the market, knowing that I will have to do a short sale since the condo market had tanked.

I was thrilled in May when I finally had an offer and the Realtor (Brian) sent stacks and stacks of paperwork to the bank for processing the sale.  Brian told me that it usually takes about six to eight weeks before we would hear back from the bank with the answer. However, Brian had worked with this bank a lot and they had been getting the paperwork through at a much faster pace. Great news!

At the same time, two of my co-workers here at Mayo were also in the process of selling their homes. Since I knew the stress of waiting, I wasn't even sure I should mention my news. Jessie' townhome had been on the market since January or so and wasn't getting much activity while Alicia had just put her home on the market. Soon after my offer, Alicia got one and we were keeping our fingers crossed for Jessie.

A big surprise came at the end of July when I learned that the bank had lost all my paperwork and NOTHING on the sale of the house had been processed. Then we had to stress that the buyer might not be willing to wait to do the process ALL over again. The frosting on the cake: I received notice of pending foreclosure! (Bank: Short sale? What short sale?)

For two weeks, Brian struggled to get things straighten out with the bank. Even faxes were getting misplaced. Most of the month of August has been spent trying to get everything back on track and moving forward.

Good news arrived for Jessie in the month of August. She got an offer on her house and the buyers wanted to take possession within 2 weeks! Today, she's out of the office, at the closing. Alicia's closing is tomorrow.  I will admit that I'm a bit jealous.

Okay, a lot jealous.

I knew what I was getting into when I started this journey, especially considering the economy and the housing market. I am also completely aware that there are so many short sales and foreclosures going on that the people at the bank processing those stacks and stacks of paperwork are over-whelmed. I just wish it wasn't my paperwork that they had to misplace.

You might be surprised to hear me say that the people that I've talked with at the bank have been awesome, polite and understanding. Vice versa, I've decided that there's no reason for me to treat them poorly; as individuals, it's not their fault.

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the bank. I could use social media lambaste them, but why bother? They've treated me like a nameless faceless person. I think I'll do the same back to them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Regaining a slow childhood

August has always held a certain amount of symbolism for me. As a child, it was the month of transition from summer vacation to the start of school. August is my warning bell. 

August is a fair sandwich. The start of the month is the Freeborn County Fair, my hometown county fair, while the end of the month is the Minnesota State Fair. The State Fair starts in August, but ends on Labor Day - also known as the last un-official day of summer in Minnesota. Because in Minnesota, the day after Labor Day is the first day of school. 

Then it's fall and Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas and then 2011 is over. Kinda depressing, eh? Especially for all the things that you planned to accomplish in 2011 that you haven't started yet. 

www.nataliedee.comWhere did the time go? The days and months go faster when you're a grown-up. Why? Why, as adults, do we not get the slow lifestyle of our childhood? 

Maybe it's a choice. Maybe because we try to do too much. So I thought I would challenge myself, and anyone else, to regain those slower moment between now and the end of the year.

Feel free to leave a comment and add some ideas for this 30-week challenge. Choose one thing each week to slow down and enjoy for yourself!
  • Lay in the grass and notice the clouds
  • Spend a day doing nothing except relaxing
    Eat your lunch outdoors
  • Get a massage
  • Turn off all your technology for a day (try to remember what it was like to be unreachable!)
  • Hang out at Macy's and have them do your make-up
  • Have Champagne for no reason at all except to celebrate life
  • Call an old friend for lunch
  • Compliment a stranger
  • Compliment a co-worker
  • Buy fresh flowers at the Farmer's Market for your house
  • Ask a question and listen to the answer
  • Brag about yourself and something you've done (it's okay to be proud of something you've done!)
  • Say hello to a person on the street
  • Pretend that you don’t know your age
  • Make cookies from scratch (double the batch cuz you know you'll taste-test lots!)
  • Smile
  • Do a random act of kindness- possibly to a teacher
  • Write a note to someone that impresses you. don't sign it
  • Donate to a charity (and expect nothing in return)
  • Eat your favorite ice cream without thinking about the calories
  • Enjoy a bubble bath and a good book (the paper kind)
  • Look through old photos and put them in a scrapbook. Write notes in your own handwriting.
  • Make faces to amuse a baby

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I would have preferred retail therapy

Mayo Clinic opened a new space at Mall of America last week that caused lots of buzz.  It's called "Create Your Mayo Clinic Health Experience" 

Last week, I sort had my own "Mayo Clinic Health Experience," except it involved surgery instead retail therapy.

Alas, I gained a patient's perspective last Monday (8/8) when I had my gallbladder removed laproscopicly laposcropicaly thru little incisions. Perhaps because of my job at Mayo Clinic, I looked at everything differently. And hopefully, I wasn't too annoying for the staff asking them lots of questions.

It was obvious that the surgical team did not receive my list of likes and dislikes and scheduled my surgical call time for 5:45 AM. Did I mention that I am not a morning person? Even worse for my sister who was coming with me since she lives out in Mantorville and had to come and pick me up.

My surgery was at Saint Marys (SMH), which sort of surprised me, and others, since I thought most day surgeries are done out of Methodist or Gonda. Unfortunately, being at SMH would come in handy later.

The admissions lobby actually has que lines for checking in that have your check-in time on the stanchion - 5:30, 5:45, 6:00. Don't know if they change them later in the day. They pointed us over to the waiting area to be called and we hadn't even been there for a minute, when my name was called.

We went up to Joseph 1. (if you don't know SMH, it has various wings named for Saints or Nuns) I think it was a former patient floor instead of a pre-op area. Just felt like an old hospital wing. (Not that that's a bad thing)

I was given a hospital gown and robe to put on. Not bothering to read the directions, I put the gown with the opening in the front not the back. I figured the surgery was on the front part and having it open in the back didn't make sense. The nurse, of course, informed me that I would need to turn it around.

I hopped into the wheelchair and she took me through a maze of hallways to the real pre-operative center. All pre-operative areas I had been in before were private little cubicles. This one reminded me of a large service station. There were spaces for about 20 people to get prepped for surgery (IV, medications, conversations with surgical team, etc.) and each station had a metal cabinet thing, filled with devices, hanging from the ceiling. Seemed a bit Space Odyssey.

The nursing staff checked my vitals - the first of one million checks - and then they taped a small card to my gurney. OF COURSE, I had to see what was written on it. It was a check list of what has to happen before surgery. That way, other staff will know what had and hadn't been done without having to log-in to a computer. Smart.

During the 90 minute prep time, gurneys continued to be parked at the various stations and I began to say thanks for my health. I felt a bit like a lurker, even though I was a patient, too.

Best perk of pre-op area - free heated blankets. 

During the wait time, a gurney was rolled into the spot directly in front of me and one row over. Unlike others, this patient was young and her mom and dad were there with her. The mom was trying her best to remain calm, but you could see she had been crying. I concluded that the young girl was a special needs child and something like a surgery could be a bit confusing. When the surgical nurses came to her gurney, one nurse talked to her in the friendliest tone I'd ever heard - like they were best friends - while the other nurse talked with the parents. I was so impressed with that young nurse. She never talked with the parents - only focusing on the patient. I saw the nurse holding her hands and I felt like they connected.

The surgeon, that I had had my pre-surgical visit with weeks ago, had a last minute trip and wasn't going to be able to do my surgery. I was very impressed when Dr. Jenkins (the surgeon, not his assistant or secretary) called me on the prior Friday to personally explain the situation. He wanted to make sure I was okay with the change. He told me all about the surgeon who was replacing him. Dr. Jenkins' last-minute meeting concerned trauma care for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like I would argue with that!

My new surgeon was Dr. Rivera. I tried not to let the fact that she was so young I could have babysat her, bother me. She told me where my four incisions would be and that the largest one (5cm) would be in my belly button and "hardly noticeable." She told me that since she's woman too, she understood the need to keep looking good. Sweet, but not really something I was worried about. 

When I was eventually rolled into one of Saint Marys bazillion surgical suites, I was greeted by the anesthesiologist and was introduced to the rest of the team. I remember moving from the gurney to  surgical table and that's about it. The next thing I remember, I was in the recovery room. Really out of it, but got asked the magical question for the first time during this visit, "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being unbearable pain, how would you rate your pain?"

I hate that question.

What if the worst pain I ever had up to that point was paper cut? I realize what and why they have to ask it, but it's all relative. I could have been a smart-ass and started to have philosophical conversation about it, but I think the drugs stifled that.

They took me back to my day-surgery room at about noon for the transition time before you get to go home. There was my sister waiting for me.

When you have surgery, you don't get to leave until your pain is below 6, you can walk around and you can pee. I only managed the first two.

For the next 6 hours, I drank as much water as I could and nothing. Nada. That's when they called for a visit from urology and to get me a bed for the night. UGH! The tech from urology did an ultrasound of my bladder to see how much I was holding in. She said about 600cc (or was ml?). I guess we have a rain gauge on our bladders. This was not good news. Can you say catheter?

I was moved up to Joseph 2 where Flavio helped get me into bed. (My sister Sue is still hanging in there with me.) All of a sudden there were about four more nurses in my room with looks of astonishment on their faces. I guess they didn't know I was coming to join them and they didn't believe Flavio when he told them I was in the room. Flavio must be a joker or something. 

It was about 6 o'clock and I was hungry - hadn't had any food since the day before. I didn't have any diet restrictions, so they handed me the room service menu.

No, you read that right. The "Room Service" menu. Patients can order their meals at any time between 7 am and 7 pm and choose what they want. I knew I couldn't eat much, but I ordered a sweet potato, 1/2 chicken breast and some orange jello. (I figured I couldn't get that real hospital experience without jello)

I told Sue to go home at about 7. I would not be giving them what they want anytime soon.

Believe it or not, this was my first hospital stay. I was hospitalized when I was 3 or 4, but really have no memory of that.  (I do have a great story about that childhood stay that I'll share in future post) The care was awesome, but we need donors to cover the cost of decent mattresses. Could not get comfortable and I didn't sleep much over night.

I had visitors at 6 a.m. when the rounders stopped by to check me out. They also removed my band-aids over the four incisions. Dr. Rivera kept them all small like she promised.

A member of the surgical team stopped by about 11 a.m. to check on the status of my ability to pee. Sorry. "Just so you know," she explained, "insurance won't cover another night, so if you don't pee, we'll have to send you home and show you how to catheterize yourself."

Thanks for the pep talk!

After that motivating and uplifting conversation, I became very, very determined! About 1 p.m. -SUCCESS! I was so elated that I felt like a two-year old who had conquered potty training. I was finally discharged about 5 and sent home with my Oxy (pain drugs). And home for the next couple of days would be my sister's house (just like being back home). I slept for most of the time I was there.

I'm now seven days post-surgery and I'm a bit disappointed in myself. I had poo-poo'd those who told me that it takes about three to four weeks to feel normal again. The incisions are healing, but they itch like crazy. It's my energy level that I expected to have back up by now.  I had only planned on two weeks off from work.

The message from the office - take the time you need to get healthy. It's hard to admit that you might have been wrong. Especially me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to back up a trailer

There are skills, every day skills, that our parents have taught us to make sure that we are self-reliant adults when they finally send us out into the cruel, harsh world.  Some of these skills are universal such as how to change a tire, how to read a map, how to swim, how to sew a button and how to parallel park a car. 
One skills that I'm glad that my dad taught me was how to drive a standard transmission. It amazes me that more people don't know how to do that. My dad gave me one or two lessons and then handed me the keys to our 1970 Ford Maverick. It wasn't 'four on the floor,' but 'three on the tree.' By the time I had access to the car, my three older sibs had already driven it, so shifting really only required the use of two fingers to change gears.

This past month, I have found that I lack a skill that would be extremely helpful to have. And I've learned that many of my girlfriends also lack this skill. For some reason, I've never been taught how to back up a trailer. Granted, I never needed to know how to back up a trailer until this past month, but that's besides the point.  

This past month has been all about moving. Moving into my new place, moving stuff to storage and moving stuff out of my Saint Paul condo. My brother-in-law Paul has a nice sized trailer and was letting me use it.  And as long as I didn't have to back it up, it wasn't a problem. Except there were going to be times when I would have to back it up. 
The first day of moving into my new place, I had the trailer filled with boxes and stuff to be moved into the new locale. I was on my own that day and I was going to have to back up the trailer eventually.  I made arrangements with my nephew to stop by at a pre-arranged time to back it up.  About 30 minutes prior to his scheduled arrival, I sent him a text telling him that he wasn't needed, I was able to turn the trailer around. 

It's important to notice that I said I turned the trailer around and not that I backed it up. There's an open field next to my new place and instead of having to back it out, I could just turn the trailer around by driving through the field. 

This past Sunday, my sister Sue and I were going to be taking the final trip up to the Saint Paul condo to get move out a few remaining pieces of furniture. We wouldn't need the big trailer, we could use an old van from Paul's business. The night before, Paul asked Sue what we were moving and then reminded her that the van had shelves! We would have to use the trailer. Sue doesn't know how to back up a trailer either.

Big points to my brother-in-law; Sunday morning, he checked the Northern Tool + Equipment website and found a solution. (Kudos to Northern Tool + Equipment for being open by 9 a.m. on Sunday morning) He got a swivel wheel for the hitch and a trailer dolly.  Once we got to our location, we unhooked the empty trailer from the SUV and then hooked the dolly to the trailer and Sue and I (okay, mostly Sue because I was giving directions) were able to turn the trailer around, re-hook it up to the SUV and we no longer needed to have the skills to back-up the trailer. 

I still would like to learn how to do it, there's just no rush right now.  

I would also like to have a standard transmission in my next car. I miss that clutch!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recycling Convert

I am a late bloomer baby boomer ... okay, not really, it just sounded fun to say.  

Start again ...

I am a baby boomer born on the cusp of Gen X . The recycling movement really came into being during my college years and I remember recycling aluminum cans and later newspapers. 

I'll be honest, I've never been a good recycler, mostly because recycling bins always took up too much space in my traditionally small apartment/condo. I would recycle cans and newspapers since it never seemed a hassle to organize and recycle them. 

The condo complex where I lived in Saint Paul made it pretty easy to recycle with several labeled bins alongside our garages, but I was still only doing the cans and newspapers until my niece Kelly lived me for a summer. Kelly is a Gen Y kid and recycling to her is an expectation and just a part of keeping a home. She got my recycling going that summer, but the habit didn't stick. 

In my defense, I do use those reusable shopping bags. I just always forget to bring them in when I go to the store. 

In the last 10 months, while living with my sister and her family, I caught the recycling bug because Dodge County, where they live, makes recycling as easy as falling off a log. You don't have to separate your recyclables; they let you mix them together! (thus less space) One of the cabinets in their kitchen island is set up to hold two recycling bins, so you just have to dump things in there. Eazy peezy. 

So, now I've moved into my new digs in swanky NW Rochester. It's a newer building and is managed by a reputable company here in Rochester (Paramark). So, I was more than a bit surprised when I inquired where the recycling area is, only to be told that there isn't one. I was so stunned that I asked the question a second time because I was SURE that the manager had just misunderstood my question.

I'm not sure what was more unexpected - that there isn't any recycling at an apartment complex or that I was disappointed in the fact that there isn't any recycling at my new home. 

For the last two weeks, a good part of my living room had been taken over by a growing stack of flattened cardboard boxes that I had planned to put in the complex's recycling area. I had also started putting my cans, newspapers and plastic bottles into bags for recycling. Here I was all ready to be responsible and I got shot down.

With a new, and highly unusual, determination, I used the Google to look up "recycling in Olmsted County Minnesota." I found a recycling center on the other side of town where you can bring your recycling, they just can't be mixed together.  Okay, I can live with that. 

So last night, I loaded up my car with that stack of cardboard and the bags of newspapers and cans, ready for my first of many trips to the recycling center.  This morning, before going to work, I drove across town and went through the recycling drive-thru, with its several, clearly-marked bins for the various materials. I unloaded my stuff and drove on to work feeling highly satisfied and a bit smug.

I've also started thinking about how I can set up sorting bins in my new place ... When did I become a tree hugger? 

Maybe I am a late-bloomer, baby boomer after all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oh the gall!

I'm counting down the days till my gall bladder surgery. Nineteen days from now, I'll be going under the knife here at Mayo Clinic.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of video taping for various projects (Have flip cam, will travel) and since any personal medical issue I have is an opportunity to show what we do here at Mayo Clinic, I'm wondering if I can bring in my flip cam for the surgery.

"Oh hey, Dr. Jenkins, is it okay if I just put my tripod on the gurney with me?"

I've already signed a release to allow Mayo to video tape the surgery which they don't expect to do, so why can't it work both ways?  Think about would have the rare opportunity to see me in a loose-fitting gown that isn't in my color palette AND I'll be wearing those sexy compression hosiery.

Thinking about it further, maybe I should just do the pre and post-surgery. Shooting the surgery would mean exposure and let's just say "my core" isn't as toned as I would like it to be. (Not that it ever has been)

Many people have been surprised by the fact that I scheduled my surgery almost five weeks out instead of doing it immediately. "oh, you must be in so much pain."  I might be spontaneous on most parts of my life, but with things like this, my inner control freak comes out.

I couldn't do it in early July because of the move - can't lift more than 10 pounds after the surgery.  Then there were work retreats during the last two weeks of July that I didn't want to miss and, well, the first week of August is the Freeborn County Fair and my bestest friend will be home that week. 

My calendar appeared pretty open after that and Dr. Jenkins seemed fine with the date, so August 8th it is! He just told me that if I start to have a lot of pain or start to turn yellow, I have to go in early. Well, if it works with my schedule...

The whole gall stone thing surprised me because, after doing lots of Web surfing, Dr. Harty had diagnosed kidney stones and figured, "these, too, shall pass."  Only they didn't.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I'm trying to be positive here, but the first four days living in my new abode have not gone smoothly. Packing and unpacking and organizing was the easy part. Each day I've faced one failure after another and I'm beginning to think I may be cursed or something. 

It started on Saturday with the installation of DirecTV. I've had DirecTV for years and I love it. I got a great deal with upgrades and an internet bundle because of the move and I was feeling a tiny bit smug with not having to use the dreaded Charter Communications. The installer was coming between 8 and noon Saturday morning. I called DirecTV at 11:50 am because I hadn't heard anything. Seems the installer was lost. 

When he arrived, I showed him the deck where the dish would have to sit because of the restrictions of the apartment management company. He was quick to point out that I had a western exposure and not a "clear view of the southern sky." He wasn't going to be able to install it and I was now without television service. 

At least I wouldn't have to pay a cancellation fee to DirecTV because there was no way they could get service. On Sunday, DirecTV called to tell me that they have to send a technician out to my place to verify that they couldn't put a dish up before they would cancel my contract. "They'll call you to schedule a time." Seriously? I am not waiting for someone to show up when you just have to look at my deck from the outside and you can see the problem. I still haven't heard from the technician and DirecTV still hasn't confirmed the cancellation of my account. 

And now I'm feeling bad for telling the people at Charter to take a hike; I would have to grovel now to get cable service. 

The second part of my DirecTV bundle was Qwest Internet service and that would start on Monday. I called Qwest on Monday because I hadn't received my information and they told me that UPS was delivering my modem that day. Strange, I told them that I didn't need a modem since I already had one. The service was to be switched on Monday at 5 p.m., but I wouldn't get the modem until Tuesday afternoon (I had to reschedule the UPS delivery). 

There are seven combination phone/cable jacks in the condo; two in each room and one in the kitchen.  I followed the installation directions step-by-step, but it wasn't working. I called Qwest customer service and they were no help. They didn't know which jack was the one that was activated; I would have to check all of them. Customer service asked me what time it was - I said 5:50 p.m. "Oh, maybe the service isn't on yet. If you wait an hour or so, then try again." Their records said that my service was to be turned on at 5 pm on Tuesday not Monday. And it didn't say which time zone for that 5 pm. 

I checked all the jacks and then waited two hours and tried them all again. No luck. I called Qwest Customer Service a second time. They said that since I don't have regular phone service (who does anymore?), they couldn't tell me what the issue was. They would be happy to send a technician out and check the outside lines to see what the issue is. If they couldn't determine the issue on the outside, they would need to come in and check the inside wiring for "a nominal fee of $85." 

I laughed out loud and repeated what she said back to her - "a nominal fee of $85!? Forget it! Cancel my order. I'll ship you back the modem tomorrow." Oh, no, I would have to call a different number in the morning to cancel the order. UGH!!
I'll also have to call the Charter Communications guy and find out if they would add Internet service to my cable TV order.  Grovel, grovel...

Monday, July 11, 2011

The 800-pound squirrel in the room

I'm in the midst of an adventure that I less-than-lovingly call The Never-Ending Move.  This past weekend, I was finally able to move into my new apartment in NW Rochester.  It has not been an easy move and it has certainly not been a very well organized move.

Since I started my job in Rochester and put my Saint Paul condo on the market last fall, my worldly goods have been scattered to various locations.  In this case, various locations means three locations - a storage unit in Albert Lea, my sister's place in Mantorville and the Saint Paul condo.

I wish I could say that there was a thoughtful and organized plan behind it all, but there wasn't.  I took whatever I thought I couldn't live without to my sister's; put whatever seemed to be clutter at the condo in storage and left the rest in Saint Paul.

Now it's time to bring everything back together and I can honestly tell you, I'm a mess. The condo is a mess and I have no idea where anything is right now.

Two weeks ago, I packed up a few things from the Saint Paul condo (enough to fill the PT Cruiser) and then last weekend, we grabbed several boxes and pieces of furniture from the storage unit and put them into a trailer. I spent many hours last week, organizing my belongings at my sisters and prepared for the move.

Saturday morning, I unloaded the trailer into my garage and started moving things into the new place.  Since I was on my own on Saturday, I would carry up a couple of boxes and then unpack them before I go back down for another load.

Sunday was designated for moving the furniture and belongings from my sister's place. Due to unfortunate circumstances, my sister Sue and my nephew Riley had to help me move. Riley and his baseball team were supposed to be playing in the state tournament, but didn't make the final cut, so instead Sue and Riley got to help me move. (I swear I did not pray for that to happen, but I was thankful for the help)

In about 90 minutes, we got all the boxes into the apartment and got the bed set up. After that I sent Sue and Riley on their way (to Flapdoddles).

That's when the 800 pound squirrel broke into my house.

There must have been 50 boxes scattered between the kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom and office (oh, and the closets). Logically, you would take a box, unpack it, put things away and move on to the next box.

Logically isn't an adverb used for most people with ADD, at least not in the face of mountains of boxes. Here's an example of how my "unpacking" went yesterday.

Unpacking a box with clothing, I decide to sort them into two piles: stuff I can wear and stuff I wish I could still wear (wink, wink).
     'Oh, I should put these into another tub to put back into storage...'

I realize there is empty tub in the bedroom and wander in there to get it. I spot a box with stuff for the bathroom and stop to pick it up and take it into the bathroom, where I unpack it.

Then I go back into the bedroom where I found the box and start to sort the socks before I put them into the dresser. As I'm doing that, I notice that I haven't found the pillows for my bed yet and go back out into the living room to find the pillows, only to notice that I never got the tub for the "non-fitting" clothes. 

At this rate, I might be unpacked by Labor Day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Moves in the field

The month of July will be all about moves.

The move into my new apartment.  The move into my new office. And, most importantly, the move OUT of my condo when (keeping my fingers crossed) the bank approves the sale.

The office move will be the simple part, at least for me. The move was at my request as I realized that my great experiment was not a success. Our division of Mayo Clinic Public Affairs decided to have a collaborative space for those people working on our intranet team.  This is an open space with six cubes, three offices with doors but no ceiling, and a meeting space that I call the penalty box, not because it is for bad kids, but because it is an glass enclosed meeting space.

I was one of the six people to share the cube area and although I was concerned how someone with ADD was going to do in a situation ripe with distractions, I said I would give it a shot. I gave it about five months and I told my manager that I need to get into one of the empty offices that has a door but no ceiling. The move is scheduled for next Friday, July 8th.

Also scheduled for next Friday, July 8th is the start of the lease for my new apartment. And I'm extremely unorganized for this move. There's an excuse a reason for that - I'm not sure where half my stuff is. Some things are still in the condo in Saint Paul. There's lots of stuff in storage in Albert Lea. And finally, there's a boatload of stuff crammed into my bedroom in the basement of my sister's house (with a small amount of overflow into the garage).

There's also the issue of I'm not sure what I can get into the new place. It's a bit smaller than the Saint Paul condo and I'm sure that my sectional will not fit. 

Unless I break it up into three pieces. 

It's a nice sectional and it's paid for. It's neutral in color and it's paid for. I would also have to find a way to get it from Saint Paul to Rochester - requiring both a vehicle large enough to carry it and strong persons to carry it down one flight of stairs (There's a sleeper in one part), put it in the truck and then carry it up the steps to the new place. I may have to pay out some $$ and get my friends at College Muscle Movers (LOVE THESE GUYS) to help out.

And then there's the need to call 1-800-GOT-JUNK to take care of the various items I have been trying to pretend didn't exist by storing them in the garage in Saint Paul.

I thought I would be able to get rid of my storage unit in Albert Lea when I found a new place, but there are several pieces of furniture that are either going to have to stay in storage or get put into storage (the dining room table & chairs, Mom's old buffet, the cedar chest).

I'm going to have to spend my 4th of July weekend thinking about this and that is just going to hurt my head. Maybe margaritas will help.

(my apologies to my skating friends who thought the title of his post meant that I was going to talk about skating. Really just wanted to get you to read my blog - I'm evil and manipulative that way)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Volunteering for fun work stuff

One of my co-workers was going off on vacation for a week or so and needed help covering a couple of her projects, so I volunteered. Now, don't go thinking I'm noble and nice or anything (because we know better than that!), but the assignment screamed fun to me, so I raised my hand so quickly I think I created a sonic boom.

The project was a video production that had a couple of shoots happening during her time off, but the shoot scheduled for a Sunday afternoon was my motivating factor. The producer and videographer wanted to get up to the top of the Plummer Building to shoot b-roll of the Mayo Clinic campus and the surrounding area. Besides being an amazingly beautiful 1928 wonder, the top of the Plummer Building also houses the Mayo Clinic carillon. And there was a carillon concert that day!
One of the 56 bells
If you look closely at the picture of the upper part of the Plummer Building (top right photo), the carillon is housed in the top part with the long "windows" (that aren't really windows as much as they are openings for the sound to go out). 

We didn't stay up on the deck for the concert as we didn't bring our earplugs. Jeff, the carillon player, is actually right next to the bells, but in a glass-enclosed booth. (Check out the YouTube video all about the carillon)

Nice photo of Old Glory without a telephoto lens
Besides having the opportunity to see the bells and the carillon up close, I was able to go out on the walkway that surrounds the tower. By sheer chance, I had my camera with me and captured some fun shots.

This used to be the Rochester Library, now it's the Mayo Medical School
The walkway around the building
You don't really have a view of NW Rochester since the beautiful Gonda building blocks your sight line
Looking directly down to the Children's Fountain below
Minnesota doesn't have scary gargoyles; we're too nice for that

If you're ever in Rochester, be sure to visit the Plummer Building. You might not be able to visit the top of the building, but the architecture is splendiferous. (used the thesaurus)

Technically, the doors are always open, although you can't always get in. The picture to the right is one of the massive doors to the Plummer Building that have only been closed a few times in the building's history. The last time was September 11, 2001.

The building also has a couple of historical suites you can visit that tell not only the story of the Mayo Clinic, but of the amazing doctor who helped to design the building. (Yes, Dr. Henry Plummer - one of the founding doctors - helped to design the building that bears his name.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Doggie Dilemma

When I move into my new apartment next month, I'll be leaving behind a couple of my newest buddies - Tuts and Bea. These last nine months living in a home with dogs has been so great and it reminded me what loving and affectionate animals they are.

The apartment that I'll be renting allows dogs with a $300 non-refundable deposit. I am seriously toying with the idea of becoming a dog-owner. I've been spending too much time on the Small Dog Rescue (SDR)of Minnesota website, looking at the available dogs and trying to picture how they would fit into my life.

And that might be the problem. My life.  I travel for skating, so I'll need to figure out doggie babysitters. I'm not always home right after work.

Then I see Charlie. He's a mix of a Jack Russell Terrier and a Korgi. The people who run the small dog rescue write a description/bio for each dog and tell you important things that you need to know, such as Charlie needs to go to a home with no other pets. 

I don't have any other pets...

Living at Knutson's, I've also grown to love miniature dachshunds.  There are three available from the SDR. I spotted Heidi on their list and would take her home right away except for the fact that Heidi really needs to stay with her buddy Dixie, another doxi. They were rescued from a puppy mill and SDR recommends a home with just adults. I wouldn't mind two dogs, but the apartment is small and I would have to pay two adoption fees. 

SDR has mature dogs and puppies. They have beagles and rat terriers and chihuahuas (like Milo)and those fluffy dogs - shih zhus and pekingeses.   

You can start betting now on how long it takes before I give in and fill out the adoption form.

My ADD Brain

The more I've learned about having ADD, the more I've learned about myself.

I have personality traits that some might call behavioral traits (okay, they call them problems, but I'm working on being positive here.)

One of those "traits" (personality or behavioral, you choose) was a point of discussion last week.  I was told that I'm too aggressive in conversations and that I cut people off.  I thought about that comment a lot this weekend and tried to remember instances. 

I've learned (by reading too many books on the topic) that a person with ADD may be considered abrupt or short because our brains have already finished your sentence for you. We don't think that we cut you off, because in our brains, you were already done. We may even think that we paused for a moment before we spoke.  

One of our other "brain traits" is the ability to lose track of what we were saying in the middle of sentence. But we ADD people are tricky because we won't let on that we've lost our train of thought, we'll just keep talking until we re-link with the thought and get back on track. We are the kings & queens of the run-on sentence. 

Unless, of course, in the middle of that run-on sentence, you distract us with a shiny object or small, furry rodents. 

So, I apologize to those whose sentences I cut-off or interrupt. You may take it as being rude. I like to think of it as being simpatico with my co-workers. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Saying goodbye to someone I never met

For the last twelve or so years, my phone number was 612-730-XXXX.

And for the last twelve or so years, someone named Megan had the 651 version of my number (she was Saint Paul to my Minneapolis). When I got a phone call from one of Megan's friends, I would simply tell them that Megan's number started with 651, not 612.

Even when they didn't say anything, I knew when it was one of her friends. I'd answer my phone, "This is Elizabeth" and instead of having someone on the other end start the conversation, I would hear an "um" or "ah" and that would be my clue. I would ask, "are you calling for Megan?" and they would pipe up and say "yes, is she there?"  They would always sounded a bit surprised when I explained the phone number issue.  I think when I asked if they were calling for Megan, they jumped to the conclusion that since I knew Megan, I must just be someone at her house who picked up the phone. Those were the ones who would sound confused as I explained the mix-up.

Megan got some of my calls, too. Once, I had set up my work phone to forward to my cell phone, only I didn't use the area code, just the 7 numbers. Poor Megan ended up getting lots of my calls for a couple of days. And these were people who thought they were calling my office, nothing close to the 730 number.

My favorite time was when I answered my phone and after I said hello, the voice on the other end got quiet, so I assumed it was someone calling for Megan, so I asked, "Are you trying to reach Megan?" The voice on the phone slowly replied, "No, I am Megan..." She was in Minneapolis and was calling home to check her voice mail. She forgot to dial the area code. We had a good laugh and a short chat.

So I'd like to take a moment and say goodbye to Megan. May my 612 number be re-assigned to someone just as nice as me.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

I really, REALLY had to have an iPhone. All the other kids had 'em and they were, I was sure, all the really cool kids or the smartest kids or in someway superior to me. 

Once I had an iPhone, it would be the great equalizer and I would be just as cool, smart and maybe even, equal to their superiority.

So, in November of 2009, when my Sprint never-ending two year contract was done, I marched right into the AT&T store to purchase my iPhone 3GS. Only they didn't have in stock. And each time I checked back, they still didn't have any in stock. 
Two weeks into this exercise in futility, they came clean; said they rarely get any in and told me if I went to an Apple store, I would most likely be able to buy a phone that day. My quest for the iconic iPhone was complete and there was peace and joy in the kingdom. 

So why did I deactivate my iPhone yesterday and cancel my AT&T contract? Mostly because I was spending far too much money a month for the bells and whistles of an iPhone. 

I've been thinking about this for awhile. A couple of months ago, a co-worker of mine talked about how little she was using her iPhone for phone calls (me, too) and that she was planning on dumping her iPhone and getting a pay-as-you-go phone and an iTouch. 

That conversation really planted the seed. 

Two weeks ago I attended a conference at the Sprint World Headquarters. While there, I started hearing about what I could save with a much simpler phone. And since I've been looking at ways to save money, I just decided it was time to do it. 

Oh, there's one more thing I should admit. I was actually paying for two phones on my AT&T plan. I was a single woman on a family plan. 

The iPhone was my Twin Cities 612 number while the second phone was my Southern Minnesota 507 number. I've had the 612 number for over 12 years, so most people would think that I would keep that number. 

They would be wrong. 

Monday, I marched into the Sprint Store and got a new Android phone for my 507 number. Yesterday, I stopped by the AT&T store and cancelled my contract. I'll give credit to Kyle at the AT&T store, he was very accommodating to someone who walks in and announces she's there to cancel her contract. He didn't try to talk me out of it or offer me some deal. He respected my decision and in less that 5 minutes my iPhone 3GS was magically transformed into my iTouch 3GS. (an iPhone in a permanent state of airplane mode) 

I'm slowly getting my new phone figured out, but if you call me in the next couple of days and I don't answer quickly, it's because I'm trying to figure out how to answer the darn thing.