Thursday, December 27, 2012

If I die

Painting of the old hospital
Merry Christmas, y'all!  Not exactly the opening line you would expect with the title of this post, eh? But don't bail on me. Have some patience.

During the three work days following Christmas this year, I am working remotely virtually way-off-campus.

Generally, I spend this time in Albert Lea because my bestest friend is in town from Atlanta. But I'm a bit low on PTO, so I figured I would work during the day and hang with her and her family in the evening.  And to save the planet (and my budget), I asked permission to work from Albert Lea.

As fate would have it, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea has the Mayo employee wifi, so instead of the endless frustration of trying to work on a VPN connection, I am taking advantage of the hospitality of the MCHS Public Affair staff and working from their offices.

The offices are located in the old Naeve Hospital building, a historically significant site as it is my birthplace. I was a patient here once when I was about 3 or 4, but other than that, I really don't have any memories of this place. The new hospital was built when I was a teen and even that hospital has changed substantially.

I remember hearing that most people die within 100 miles of where they were born. Maybe that's no longer true, but I've been thinking about it as I'm working here today. If I were to die here at the office (which would be a bummer), I would be dying, most likely, within 100 FEET of where I was born.

I know, I know, I'm a geek for thinking of stuff like that, but I gotta be me.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Crushed Fantasy

I have been using anti-aging creams since I was in college. They didn't work. I still aged. Albeit with softer skin, but I still turned 50 ... um ... 52.

Getting older is the best thing because if you're not getting older you're either dead or a vampire, which I guess, technically, is dead, too, but they have better housing options.

If you look closely at my hair, you'll find a few gray ones popping out occasionally. Depends on how long it has been since my last trip to the hair color aisle at Target. I've had brief thoughts of just letting the gray come out and not fussing about it, just to see how gray I would get. Did I mention they were brief?

I'll admit that I smile whenever a high school classmate tells me how I look the same as I did when we were in high school (sans the Farrah hair). When a classmate doesn't recognize me, I usually write it off to their poor memory.

This week, I've had to give up my non-aging fantasy as the one, hard truth of aging was staring me in the face. Specifically, they were "on" my face.

I had to get my first pair of glasses with bifocals. In the spirit of full disclosure, I could have had bifocals for the last ten years, but I found ways to cheat. Regrettably, my ability to cheat finally came to an end as I determined wearing two pairs of glasses at the same time is just plain weird.

The new glasses have the progressive lenses, which isn't just one distance or the other. Different parts of the lens give you long, mid and close-up vision. It just take awhile to figure out where that part of the lens exists.

Until then, I will resemble a bobblehead as I continually adjust the position of my head to find that visionary sweetspot.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The consequences of failing to act

Last week, I learned about the premature passing of a high school friend. He died of a massive heart attack at age 53. And he may not have to died, if someone had taken action.

He was walking into his place of employment at the beginning of a work day with his cohorts. He passed out, but quickly came to, asking, "What happened?" And then he was gone. No pulse.

Those around him, surely in shock, called 911 and went to find someone who knew CPR. The people around him didn't know CPR.

They estimated it was four to six minutes before CPR was started. Four to six minutes of no blood or oxygen going to his brain.

In full disclosure, I've never been trained in CPR. But I have watched lots and lots of TV shows where it is being performed. If someone collapsed in front of me and had no pulse, I would have faked it and started compressions. At least until someone qualified came along.

We don't know if he would have survived if someone had tried CPR immediately. But I would guess, the odds would have been considerably better.

I wonder if his co-workers realize the consequences of their failure to act. I hope his employer is planning to have all their employees trained on CPR. For his sister and his brother and his mom, I really hope they do.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Everything I know about music I learned from figure skating

"Oh, that's right. You're not really into music."

Pardon me??

Me? Former music major. Been singing and playing instruments for most of my life. I'm not really into music?

When a co-worker said that to me, I was a bit dumbfounded. I took a breath and realized that "Yes, I'm a music person, but I guess I'm just not into the same type of music you are."

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that music has always been a huge part of my life. I just don't have a wide range of music genres on my playlist. I like classic rock, but I couldn't tell you which band goes with which song. I'm not really into country music (except for a brief phase in the mid 1980s) and, since owning an iPod, I don't listen to Top 40 radio anymore.

Now, if you want to talk about classical music, broadway musicals or movie soundtracks, I'm ready for ya. And there's a simple reason for that. It's called figure skating. For many years, music with lyrics weren't allowed in skating competitions, so that basically limited your choices to classical music or movie soundtracks.

My main point of reference for a piece of music isn't which opera its from or what movement it is. My reference point is "who skated to it?" Bolero? Torvill and Dean 1984 Olympics. Moonlight Sonata? Gordeeva and Grinkov -1994 Olympics. Afternoon of a  faun? Janet Lynn 1973. Bizet's Carmen? 1988 Olympics - choice of Katrina Witt or Debbi Thomas.

But it's not just the elite skaters' music. There are also several pieces that I know because they are used over and over and over again. (Really, I wish some coaches would reach out beyond their stash of albums and look for new pieces) Overused pieces include: Forest Gump soundtrack, Adaigo of Spartacus and Phrygia, Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez (otherwise known as that "spanish piece"), and the Pirates of the Caribean soundtrack.

I discovered "everything I know about music I learned from figure skating" while at a dinner party at a friend's house. The hostess loved opera and she had Puccini's Turandot playing and the aria "Nessun dorma" started playing. My ears perked up immediately.

One of the other guests asked about the song and what it was about. Leslie, the hostess started to tell the story, but I was already in my own zone. The song was building up to a crescendo and I blurted out, "This is my favorite part!" Leslie looked at me, a bit amazed that I knew the song so well, but before she could say anything, I added, "This is where Boitano goes into the most amazing death drop. The height was unbelievable."

The rest of the guests and Leslie were silent and just sort of stared at me. "What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Oh, um... I guess I know this song because Brian Boitano skated to it for a couple of seasons."

I think that was my last dinner party at Leslie's. I'm sure it's not that I wasn't invited again, I just wasn't able to attend because I was most likely traveling for a skating competition.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A favorite story

One of the true perks of my job is being able to tell great stories about patients who find their answers at Mayo Clinic. This past spring, I joined the writing team for a fun Mayo publication called, "In The Loop." It's only internal (which is too bad because the stories are uplifting, funny, inspirational and down right cool), so the circulation is pretty limited. The unique part of "In The Loop," is that we're just sharing stories that have published elsewhere (with full credit and links to the original story). 

Last month, I got a great assignment to share the story of an Iowa couple, their son Aidan and his twin sister, the little warrior, Princess Ava. Ava was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and her story (as well as that of the family) is remarkable. I'm including my story on the original story below (Thanks, too, to chief ITL editor, Hoyt, for all of his tweaks to my copy).

The article really touched the hearts of our employees and became one of the most widely read and commented stories on the "In The Loop" blog. I'm gosh darn proud of that fact, but I have to fess up that part of the reason people were drawn into the story was because this photo (below) was on our intranet home page. Who would NOT be taken in by these two sweet faces? 

Photo courtesy of Christina DeShaw

Thanks to Ava and Aidan's parents, Brad and Christina, for allowing us to share their story. And thanks to Ava and Aidan for being so gosh darn cute. 

Princess Ava of Des Moines
Earlier this month, Brad Weitl and Christina DeShaw of Clive, Iowa, brought their twins, Ava and Aidan, home for the first time. It's a traditional rite of parenthood. But for this family, it was a long time coming.

As a story by Iowa Public Radio tells us, the couple learned last January, at 18 weeks of pregnancy, that one of their twins had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that causes the left side of the heart to be severely underdeveloped. That was Ava's heart. Aidan's was just fine.

After the diagnosis, DeShaw spent time learning about the condition. "In doing the research," she says, "I knew we had to find her the best possible care." She and Weitl contacted Ben Eidem, M.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatric cardiologist, who helped explain the complexity of surgeries that lay ahead of them. He also explained that in some cases of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, doctors can intervene before birth, but that it's not an option with twins. After "several consultations at a number of facilities," DeShaw and Weitl decided to have their twins delivered by C-section at Mayo Clinic.

A small army of staff ("probably 30 to 40 people") was ready to go on delivery day, including a surgical team led by pediatric cardiovascular surgeon Harold Burkhart, M.D. According to DeShaw's's blog, Ava Grace, Life with an Extraordinary Heart, the surgeons "began the full Norwood surgery on her within two hours of her birth, because her tissue was too thick for a cath procedure." It's a rare surgery, and one that "most children would not survive," says Dr. Burkhart. "So it worked out well," he (under)stated.

Christina DeShaw and Brad Weitl with Aidan and Ava. (Photos courtesy of Christina DeShaw.)
Although Ava's surgery was successful, the days to come would still include an array of monitors and medications. During her four months in the Neonatal ICU, brother Aidan was a regular visitor. And it was clear he had a special relationship with his sister. Weitl told Iowa Public Radio that Aidan would "go in there, and he'd skootch over and get his head against hers, or put his hand on her hand, or on her face. It was really unbelievable."

DeShaw expressed her gratitude for Ava's caregivers on her blog, writing, "We absolutely love the medical teams caring for our little girl. Not only are they extremely skilled in what they do, but they are also very compassionate, which has given us great comfort." That admiration was apparently mutual. We're told that during Ava's stay, one of her nurses nicknamed her "Princess Ava of Des Moines."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bullying by any other name

During the past two weeks, my colleagues and I have been sharing content about childhood bullying, in advance of the new school year. Our external team created two videos on bullying, a radio show conversation about bullying and providing experts. On the internal side, we shared information from interviews we did with several of our experts who talked about what bullying is and how to help our kids.

I wrote the story and it was a struggle to get the story pared down to under 500 words. My first draft was 2700 words! There was just so much content and so many dimensions to the story. Frankly, I wasn't sure I was qualified to make the judgement of what was valuable and what wasn't.

We posted the story on our intranet news center on Friday, August 24, and it got lots of traffic (over 10K views) and lots of comments, some positive and some a little sad as they talked about what their children have gone through.
But then the comments turned to adults bullying each other and bullying in the workplace. One person commented that she was disappointed in how HR handled her complaint about being bullied. Others joined in about their experiences being bullied in the workplace.

As the conversations talked about the increase in bullying, both for children and adults, and how those in authority weren't doing enough, it really got me thinking. Is there really an increase in bullying? Or does any behavior that tilts even slightly negative get labeled as bullying? Bullying lacks a true definition and many people define it as "whatever happens to them."

This is just my opinion (and I know that I'm opening up a can of worms), but I think part of the reason why it's difficult to get "those in authority" to act, is that so many people have made "mean people" and "jerks" into bullies and, with so many people crying "Wolf!", who do they believe?  

There is legitimate bullying happening, but more often than not, I think people over-react, and instead of looking within themselves and questioning their response to a situation, they find it easier to label the other person as a bully.

There are the "snowplow parents" who insist on clearing the way for their children, so much so that these kids don't learn the skills they will need in the real world. They're not learning problem solving skills because they never have to resolve a problem. Mom and/or Dad take care of it for them, sometimes without even involving the kid.

I was teased as a child for being overweight, for having braces, for staying back a grade. Teasing is not bullying. I let it get to me because I had self-esteem issues. It changed for when I got a thicker skin and learned to believe in myself, when I realized that the people who teased or mocked me didn't know me. These people didn't matter. 

I remember my dad telling me that the people who tease you are looking for your reaction - figuring out what button to push. And the moment you give them the victim reaction, it only encourages them. 

Perhaps we just need to be nicer to each other. Perhaps we should realize that some of the people who get labeled as bullies are insecure people who lack decent communication skills. And while we may not be able to change their behavior, we can change our response and see them as sad, small people and find a way to deal with their actions by finding our inner strength.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Perfect (Outlook) Storm

It takes a certain amount of talent and plain old good luck to create the perfect storm of a work day. And I'm pleased as punch to shed my false demeanor of modesty and come right out and tell you that I've done it. Yep, me! It wasn't easy and, if I'm completely honest, it really took a village.

My calendar for Thursday is so solidly booked wall-to-wall that my annual August 1st nervous breakdown may have to be moved up to an earlier date.

I know, I know, you want to know how I did it.

First you have to talk one of your co-workers into going on a business trip on your behalf. Make sure that said co-worker is gone on a day that has a deadline for a publication that only a handful of people can assist with.

Add in another member of your team taking a well deserved vacation, so you don't have her as your back-up and overall cheerleader.

Mix in helping out another co-worker with a project that keeps you away from your desk all morning and then have your always reliable freelancer wanting to spend time with his new baby (rightly so!).

But wait! There's more!

Add in managing an email from leadership, shooting a rescheduled video interview, and sending the aforementioned publication out on specific computer (that is so old that it might be steam-powered) because it is the only computer that hasn't been upgraded to the new Windows which is not compatible with our email needs.

Throw on top of the fire saying yes to working on a new project that you're really excited about working on, but has caused an influx of emails so overwhelming, your soul is crushed.

And then there's the fact that if I live through Thursday, I still have to pack for an early Friday morning flight for a weekend training festival where I'll be presenting four times in two days (three slightly different presentations) and finding out yesterday that I need to pack something slightly formal to wear for the Friday night party.

Yep, creating a perfect storm like this takes talent and ingenuity that few people possess.

I'll try to post at least one more time before they increase my medications.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Just like starting over

It's time to start over. And it's not New Year's or the first day of school or even the first day of the month. That's the beauty of starting over, you can really start from anywhere, at any time.

I really appreciated the support and the messages that I received from several people regarding last week's post. I always worry when I use my blog as therapy, but it is so much cheaper than paying a professional. (Not that there's anything wrong with that)

Last week was my week to begin again, again. I joined Weight Watchers last Tuesday and discovered that their new Points Plus program is very do-able. I love the fact that most fruits and vegetables are zero points. It's a great way to encourage people to eat more of the food that is good for them.

I also had my first meeting with my Wellness Coach at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC). It is a 12-week program that focuses on behavior modification and setting goals. I have a great coach in Jason and I think we'll have a successful partnership.

The Wellness Coaching program is free to DAHLC members who are willing to make the 12-week commitment and are ready to focus on taking care of themselves. The first session was 90 minutes and the remaining 11 are about an hour each. But there is homework (as there needs to be).

We talked about what I saw as my barriers to better health, and I think most people would be surprised to hear about one of them. My first barrier, as I see it, is my cluttered house. I'm sure my family members and close friends could give testimonials to my less than ideal housekeeping skills. Certain family members might even suggest that I'm pushing it to suggest that I have ANY housekeeping skills.

Nevertheless, goal #1 is to set up a weekly schedule of chores (Yep, I said chores - like for a 10-year-old). Three days a week, I will spend 45-60 minutes cleaning and picking up in a specific area (Living Room/Kitchen, Bedroom/Bathroom, Office/SewingRoom/Closet). I determined that the best time for me to do this work is in the morning before work instead of just watching the news. I spent 45 minutes this morning cleaning the living room and kitchen. It's not perfect, but it's a start.

Goal #2 is getting to the DAHLC twice a week to work-out between 30-45 minutes. Yesterday (Sunday), I made it to the DAHLC and spent 20 minutes on the ARC (a type of elliptical) and 15 minutes on an Expresso Bike. The Expresso Bike is a fun interactive stationary bike because you're biking your way through a video game, per se. The video screen in front of you shows "your path" (like biking in the mountains) and the bike adjusts for elevation and speed. I also liked it because you have to steer the bike or you might go off a cliff. I may try the recumbent one in the future because I do not have the tush for biking. My tailbone is very sensitive, just like the rest of me.

So, guess what? You're going to be hearing a lot about my journey over the next 12 weeks and possibly beyond.  Besides the Wellness Coaching, I've also signed up for a four-week class (that starts August 9) called, "Discover the DAHLC." Each week, we'll learn about the different fitness classes being offered at DAHLC. One negative, it starts at 5:45 AM.  Oh well, it's just one day a week for four weeks. I can do that. I'll complain about it and work it for all the sympathy I can get, but I'll do it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hope I haven't worn out the shocks

Ever overhear a conversation between two friends talking about weight and feeling fat and wondering what to do? When it happens, is it tough not to want to go over to them and shake them to their senses? Tell them that they are intelligent women who know all the answers to losing weight and being healthy? Tell them that they just have to get off the couch and go work out? Doesn't it just drive you crazy to hear those conversations??

Doesn't make it worse when you realize that the voice of the person complaining is your own?

I've fallen into a self-loathing, body-hating phase as I've gained so much weight that I've started beating myself up emotionally. I'm not sure why I think that kicking myself in the butt is, in any way, motivating, but I'm still doing it. I need Cher to slap me across the face and tell me to "Snap out of it!" (but then all my gay friends would be jealous that I met Cher and they might slap me...)

The worst times for me are the mornings when I'm trying to figure out what to wear to work. How many different ways can I wear an outfit since my choices are limited by what size I am wearing that day?

So, I'm doing what I've done in the past, I'm jumping on the fitness bandwagon - a bandwagon that I have jumped on and off so much, I'm sure the shocks are worn out. And I haven't crossed Weight Watchers off my list of potential answers. They have all those fab eTools that fulfill my geeky side.

I participated in a 5K yesterday called The Color Run. It's a fun time and "run" is a misnomer. It was more of a brisk walk where you start off wearing white and end up with color all over you and sometimes in places you didn't think it could get. I did it with family - three of my nieces along with my sister and my cousin. Sadly, my training for the 5K consisted on a couple of times on the treadmill - certainly nothing close to the prep I did for my real 5K two years ago.

With my new found commitment, this Thursday I start a 12-week commitment to work with a wellness coach at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC). A wellness coach isn't a personal trainer who works out your body, but might be considered a personal trainer for your brain. We will focus on one area of wellness for that 12 weeks - stress or time management, weight management, nutrition, exercise, etc.

Perhaps the wellness coach can help me answer these questions: Since I know what it takes to lose weight, why do I always forget how to do it? Where is that sensible person when I'm driving to the Dairy Queen?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beware the dementors!

Dementor (noun) a dark ghost-like creature, considered one of the foulest to inhabit the world. Dementors will feed off human happiness, and cause depression and despair to anyone near them. If a Dementor gets too close to a human, they will suck out one's soul. (definition courtesy of the book, " Stuff I Just Make Up When I'm Too Lazy to Google It.")

Yesterday, while in Myrtle Beach, I had an encounter with three Dementors. 

Although Dementors are fictional characters from Harry Potter books, I believe they exist in real life and have taken a corporal form and are roaming the earth as horribly negative people who can't find anything good in life or in other people. 

I've known of these three Dementors for awhile and I have felt lucky that they have chosen to disregard me as someone not worthy of their time or consideration. I'm lucky that I don't live in the same section of the country as them as thus don't have to run into them very often. 

They were chatting with a friend of mine yesterday (she is more worthy than I) and I stopped by to say hi to her. In just the brief two or three minutes that I was standing there, I felt all the happiness just drain from my body and was worried that I would never be happy again. Luckily, I got away in time to avoid their soul-sucking. 

To regain my happiness, I spent a few hours with friends at the bar. It's amazing how a simple glass of wine can bring you back from the brink. 

So, to all my friends who I have left behind, who have to be around these Dementors, take my advice and avoid them. and spend lots of time in the bar. 

I don't think I needed to give them that last piece of advice.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Have you said yes?

Did you catch the ABC Nightline feature last night about organ donation? I know I'm geeky, but it was so cool to watch it all happening and realize that I work for that organization! How lucky am I???

Are you a designated organ donor? Does your drivers license indicate your choice? And does your family know? This year's Mayo Clinic Annual Report features a story on organ donation. The family of the young man who died was told by the doctors that their generosity and strength would change the lives of five families that night.

I interviewed a patient who had a double lung transplant about a year ago. She was joyful and healthy and thankful to the doctors and the nurses and her family for getting her through it. She told me that as she waited at the hospital for the lungs to arrive, she sent a text message to her family and friends and asked them to pray for the family of the young woman who had died, the family who had made a decision to give a priceless gift.

I signed up years ago to be an organ donor and my family is aware of my wishes. I also volunteered for  the Bone Marrow Registry. And with bone marrow, you can donate while you're still alive. (Bonus!) I signed up in 1990 and was a partial match for one patient (didn't pass the third level of matching), but am still waiting for the call. The bone marrow registry appealed to me as a childless person. It would be the closest I would get to giving birth by giving life.

Think about it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's going to be strange

For the first time in about 15 years, I am not going to be attending the annual U.S. Figure Skating Governing Council. Think of it like a Shriner's Convention without the funny hats. And more short people. And mostly female.

My home club - the Burnsville-Minnesota Valley Figure Skating Club - has sent me to the meeting every year since 1996. And they would have sent me this time, too. Only I told them not to. 

Because of my move to Rochester, I'm changing clubs in July. I felt it would be disingenuous to have them send me when I'll only be a member for a few more months.

For the last five years, I've created a blog for Governing Council - here's the one from last year. And I was blunt and expressed my opinions. Not everyone agreed with me and certainly there are those that wish I wouldn't do it all, but I gotta be me. 

But technically, those who wish I wouldn't do the blog will get their way this year. 

I'm actually here in Myrtle Beach right now - which is where Governing Council is going to be in two days, but I'll be leaving for home as people are arriving. I'm only here for the club education seminar tomorrow where I'll be teaching social media to the skating clubs. 

The photo is the view from my hotel room. I've already taken a walk on the beach and I could feel my blood pressure dropping with each step. 

All the voting and politics will be happening on Friday and Saturday. If only I could get someone to stream it live as there are some big items to be decided this year. And I'm gonna miss hearing from the regulars who insist on speaking on every item. I'm really gonna miss the collective rolling of the eyes when the same speaker gets up for the 25th time.  

If you thought figure skating was only about jumps and spins, this is the meeting that highlights the jumps and spins that happen off-ice.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The latest coolest thing I've learned at Mayo Clinic

It's been a one heck of week at work. One co-workers is on his way to a Mt Everest base camp. Mayo Clinic is doing research on climbers that will eventually help cardiac failure patients and Joel is in charge of sharing with the rest of the world all of the happenings.

The rest of us were able to hang out with the Dalai Lama (yep, that Dalai Lama). Maybe hanging with the Dalai Lama is an overstatement, but he spoke to many of our employees at a special event.

On Wednesday, I attended a research gathering by the new Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.  I heard about all the different work they are doing involving the humane genome, but one in particular caught my attention. It's call the BEAUTY project and it could make a huge difference in how breast cancer is treated in the future. It will allow physicians to tailor their chemotherapy treatment based on the genomes from the patient and from the tumor. 

Now, I gotta say they were stretching it just a bit (okay, really quite a bit) to get this acronym. BEAUTY stands for the Breast Cancer Genome Guided Therapy Study, but I'll let that pass for now.

We're all different inside and various medications and treatments may cause a bad reaction in one person and then nothing at all in another. But the true coolness of individualized medicine is it would look at who I am and my body chemistry or genetics and provide what would work for me. 

For the BEAUTY project, when a woman is diagnosed with a high-risk cancer, she would be asked if she would like to participate in the study. Before she starts chemotherapy, Mayo Clinic would take some of her healthy cells as well as tumor cells and then sequence the respective genomes. After the patient has gone through chemotherapy, and during surgery to remove the remaining tumor mass, the tumor cells will be sequenced again to evaluate how they've mutated and adapted to chemotherapy.

From the information gathered, researchers hope to be able to predict how one treatment would work better for an breast cancer over a different. In the future, before a patient would begin chemotherapy, the physician would be able to look at the patient's and the tumor's genome and determine what protocol will work best for that patient.

The BEAUTY project won't change how today's patient is treated, but it could change breast cancer treatment in a few years. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Training for the Crane

I'm pretty sure I'm borderline certifiable. And I'm pretty sure most of my co-workers are thinking I've crossed that border.

One of my more recent work assignments is the communications plan around the many construction projects happening at Saint Marys Hospital.  At one of the first meetings, the conversation turned to construction cranes since Benike Construction would be erecting two cranes to help with the projects.

Somehow, I'm sure without fully engaging my brain in the conversation, I perked-up and volunteered to do a video on the cranes, including going up in one.

I don't have a fear of heights, so I didn't think it would be that big of deal. Everyone at the meeting kept asking, "are you sure?" (Actually, they are still asking the question)

At a later meeting, while we were outside by the cranes, I realized that there isn't an elevator that will take me up to the top of the crane. In order to get to the top, I will need to CLIMB the crane.  I'm not sure of the exact height, but it clears the 10th floor of Mary Brigh by about 10/15 feet. Let's just say, it's about 12 stories tall.

Now, it's not about the height, but about the climb up. I'm not in shape to do this. To climb up, you're inside the crane structure and you climb a ladder then it comes to a landing and then you climb another ladder and so on.  In other words, it's both upper and lower body strength. And you have to climb down, too.

I wouldn't be alone. The safety director from Benike would be climbing right behind me. I jokingly said, "to catch me when I fall?"

"No, to talk you down when you freeze half-way up."

"Okay. That makes sense, I guess." 

Last week, the Rochester Fire Department did a training exercise on one of the cranes and I went to watch them. They climbed the tower in teams of two and it took them about 15 minutes to get to the top. I would guess that same climb will take me about 30 minutes, or 45 minutes if I add in time for the panic attacks.

Right now, I'm planning on sometime in June to do the climb. I may back out and I know that no one would think less of me if I do. But it's sort of a challenge, too. And I like challenges.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today's helpful hint

Never one to keep valuable information to myself, I've decided to start sharing small, and perhaps ironic, helpful hints. Just short little bursts of information.

#1 - If you live by yourself and are recovering from a cold, don't select the McDonald's drive-thru as the first place you use your voice that day.

I am currently experiencing my THIRD cold this year. Usually, I get one cold and that's it. This third one has been brutal including a fever of 102 degrees, a cough that sounds like Como Zoo's Sparky the Seal, and, on top of it all, I lost my voice.

Honestly, I haven't completely lost my voice, but I've been told that I sound like either Jessica Rabbit, Kathleen Turner or Harvey Fierstein. 

Somehow, this past Saturday, I didn't even talk to myself at home to realize that I didn't have a voice. (Yes, single people talk to themselves much more than we admit) Nothing like leaning out your car window, opening your mouth to talk and only having a squeak of a sound come out. Half the time at drive-thru's, you have to shout anyway. Shouting when you have little to no voice is stupid and pretty pathetic. 

And their malt machine was broken. So, it was just a failure all around.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why the church is breaking my heart

On a recent episode of Mike and Molly (a CBS comedy), a Catholic priest tells the couple that they can't get married in the church because Molly isn't a practicing Catholic. She responds, "I'm a practicing Catholic, I've just missed a lot of practices."

I've been tempted to use that as my excuse for my poor Mass attendance since moving to Rochester. The truth is that for the last 18 months, I've been pretty fed up with the politics of the Catholic Church.

First, it was the Archbishop in the Twin Cities who spent donor dollars to mail anti-gay propaganda to all registered Catholics. After which, I made sure I was no longer registered anywhere. Then the Bishop of the Winona diocese started the same anti-gay campaign in my new diocese.  I will never, ever, believe that Christ would approve of treating people like this. And for the church to lead the charge is heart-breaking.

My first exposure to a gay couple was actually in my home parish growing up. These two wonderful, selfless women, who have volunteered unmeasurable hours to help the parish, are now being told that their church doesn't believe they should have the same rights as others. Not that either of them would speak out against the church. So I guess it's up to me.

I think about them every time the church's opposition is brought up. They're older now and for one, her health is poor. Just as with a heterosexual couple, the healthier person is caring for the other. But what rights will she have if the other is hospitalized? Have they had to set up lots of legal contracts to make sure that nothing stands in their way? As if their love was a business arrangement?

Recently, I read about a Catholic priest and two Catholic laypeople speaking at a mandatory student assembly where they compared homesexuality to bestiality. The same trio, according to one student, also said that children adopted by single parents were "sociologically unstable."  I was very proud to learn that many of the student wouldn't stand for such junk and argued back. Unfortunately, the damage was done and many students left school very upset.

I'm not sure if I'll officially join another Catholic parish. That's sad for me because I've always thought of my Catholic faith as part of my heritage - not just Catholic, but Irish Catholic.  One saving part for me is that I've always considered my "faith" and "the church" as two separate and unrelated things.

P.S. If you know of any of the Catholic Churches in Rochester that are rejecting the Bishop's stand, let me know by sending me an email at MEHarty at

No flowers, please.

I think sending flowers for a funeral is a dumb idea. If you didn't send flowers when they were alive, why are you doing it now?  I can hear the skeptics saying, "But the flowers are for the living."

Really? You are sending something that will wither and die in a few days to someone who has just lost someone. Is that supposed to cheer them up?

I believe in our shallow parts, we think the number of bouquets of flowers that show up at the funeral home represents how important or beloved or connected our loved one was. Maybe we need that physical reminder because our grieving minds cannot hear the word of sympathy and love that are being spoken.

I'm not saying don't send something, but think about sending a plant instead. When my dad passed away 18 years ago (yesterday), several friends sent plants instead of flowers. Each of us kids took one or two home. When you walk through the front door of my sister Sue's house, you'll see a very healthy, 18-year-old spider plant hanging in the entry way. My plant was a peace plant that lasted about five years. (People with ADD are generally not good with plants or candles - tend to forget about them)

It's also important to remember that a $100 funeral bouquet in the big city (Minneapolis/St. Paul) turns into a very large funeral bouquet when ordered from a small town florist (Albert Lea). When my dad passed away in 1994, I was working for Fairview Health System in the Cities and my brother Dennis was working for SciMed (Now Boston Scientific). Both of our employers sent flowers for Dad's funeral in Albert Lea. You couldn't miss them at Bonnerup's (the funeral home), they were huge.

Now that I've convinced you that shouldn't send flowers when I die (I won't send flowers to your funeral if you won't send them to mine...), I just want to leave you with one more instruction. (at least for now, I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, so the list might expand) Please, please, please do not use my 1979 high school graduation picture for the obit. I don't want people to think I died with Farrah hair.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Free time, finally

I've noticed a trend in my blog posts when there has been HUGE gap in time since my last post. I'll apologize or make up excuses or blame my ADD.  It seems my ego has this idea that there are people out there just waiting for my next blog post. I really have to get over myself.

I love writing this blog, regardless of evidence that seems to contradict that statement. I love writing. I love telling stories. I love thinking that I live a fascinating life when the reality screams the contrary.

I hate having limited time to write. And that's what the last two months have been - limited. I over-committed myself to judging skating competitions without any thought to the calendar.  When I finally took the time to consult the calendar, I had already said yes to eight competitions in 9 weeks.

Starting with the first full weekend in January, I had competitions in Mankato (Minn.), Detroit, Chicago, Hershey, Penn., Rochester (Minn.), Detroit (again!), Cleveland and finally Worcester (Mass.) Unfortunately, for my friends and family, I was really whiney about it. And I got even whiner when I was traveling on crutches!

Although my plans started out with all these competitions, I ended up having to drop out of two of them for work commitments. I had to make the difficult decision of either making a second trip to Detroit in February or spend 8 days in Jacksonville, Florida. It was SUCH a tough decision, but being the trooper I am, I took one for the team.

The trip to Jacksonville had two assignments. The first was to cover the "26.2 with Donna: the marathon to finish breast cancer" for Mayo Clinic. The race started and ended at the Mayo campus. Unfortunately, Jacksonville had a cold snap about that time and the temperature at 4:30 am (when we had to be there for work) was a less-than-balmy 29 degrees with a wind chill factor of 19. I froze my patootie off. I hadn't packed for cold weather - no hat, no mittens and my "winter" coat was not a winter coat- it was a fall-type jacket that did not keep the cold out. 

Nevertheless, the race was fun, the runners enthusiastic and it raised money for a great cause.

The second assignment was to shoot video for the 2011 Mayo Clinic Annual Report.  It was awe-inspiring being able to interview Mayo Clinic patients and hear their stories. One was 40-something woman from Orlando who had a double lung transplant last spring. Her spirit was absolutely contagious as she referred to her new lungs as "her girls." (Her donor was a healthy young woman who had died from a gunshot to the head).

I talked to a young woman who had both of her hips replaced before she was 30. She talked about being in such pain prior to surgery that she would rather drag herself up stairs than walk them. The joy in her voice as she talked about the doctor who provided her with the answers she needed was obvious. She felt so much appreciation that she came to work for Mayo Clinic.

It made me appreciate my job, too.

I've been busy these last couple of months, but I've missed you all (my ego has returned - didn't leave for very long, did it?). I'm looking forward to getting back to telling stories and, hopefully, keeping you amused. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It Lives!!

Photo by ME - yes, really ME!
At approximately 5 AM on New Year's Day 2012, my three year-old Gateway home computer stopped working. I kept pushing the start button, but nothing would happen. I unplugged it. I plugged it into a different outlet. I let it sit for a day ... for a week. Still nothing.

My inner geek was determined to figure out what was wrong and if I could fix it. I opened the computer up and took a look around. Got out my compressed air in case it was just a severe case of dust bunny fever. 

Then my outer realist remembered that I really don't know that much about hardware. Software, yes, I'm a wiz-kid. But figuring out which wire inside the box did what was beyond my pay grade.

I spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out which local computer place has the best reputation and the most reasonable rates. Then I sprained my ankle and became incapable of carrying any computer into a store and I certainly couldn't afford a house call. Tonight I decided that I was going to drag the computer out into the living room and eventually find a way to get it down to my car. 

When I got it into the kitchen, I thought I would plug it in and try one more time. Still nothing. 

About one minute later, I heard this beep-beep noise. As it had been so long since I last heard the beep-beep, I didn't recognize it. I turned around and saw lights flashing and I could hear motors whirling. It was alive! But it wasn't connected to a monitor or keyboard, so I had no idea what it was doing. 

I decided to take a risk, unplug the computer and roll it back into the office and hook it up again. 

I pressed the start button and nothing. 

I pressed the button again and held it down for a couple of seconds. (Because I wanted to make sure it knew I was serious.) Nothing. 

Then I figured I would do what I did in the kitchen and just give it a minute to consider its options. And it made the right decision. 
I got the beep-beep and my computer came back to life. It was a bit messed up at first and I had to cautiously restart it a couple of times, but I updated my anti-virus software and I think this baby is going to make it.

I guess the two weeks of novenas paid off. Thanks to St. Isidore of Seville, the patron saint of computer programmers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The positive side of a sprained ankle

It's important to stay positive when facing a challenge in your life. My current challenge being my lovely sprained ankle. This is just a partial list of what I have learned thus far

  • Unmatched socks are not a problem
  • Access to better parking
  • Crutches can double as a very long arm
  • Wheelchair rides at the airport
  • Pre-boarding with the first class flyers
  • Being called a "trooper"
  • Friends and co-workers with knee-scooter-envy
  • Scooter doubles as a chair, if needed
  • Being able to separate people into two groups: those who want to see your multi-colored foot and those who don't
  • Low expectations of being on time for meetings

Monday, January 23, 2012

Slip Sliding

Last Tuesday morning, I finally took my Christmas tree to the Olmsted County disposal/recycling area. There was this huge hill of Christmas trees waiting to be mulched. I took a photo of it and my plan was to write a post about it.

About 30 minutes after dropping off the tree, the entire plan went out the windows when I slipped and fell with my ankle taking the impact. I was in one of the Mayo subways, heading to my office. No one saw me fall, but two other Mayo staff members came upon me less than 10 seconds after I went down.

I knew that I had done something to my ankle, but figured I had only twisted it. The two saintly co-workers who happened upon me, asked if I could stand. I figured I should check out my ankle before trying to stand and what I saw just flabbergasted me. In less than a minute, this softball size "thing" had taken over my ankle. "No, I don't think I should stand on it."

If Mayo has one item in abundance, it is wheelchairs. Everywhere you go, everywhere. There are wheelchairs. One of the two grabbed a wheelchair and they got me to my office. <There must be something about pushing someone in a wheelchair that generates endorphins because everyone wanted to push me in the wheelchair that day.>

I couldn't get in for an X-ray until 2:30 and while that rather patubed me, I would guess that they got a better image after having me ice it for five hours.  (That's my ankle after five hours of icing) It was just a sprain, but the recommendation was to stay off my foot for about three to four weeks and that I should expect at least eight to ten week until full recovery.

"Here's your crutches and an aircast and a boatload of paperwork for the workman's comp claim. Good luck and have a nice day."

It didn't take me long to figure out I would not do well on crutches and that trying to hobble around the Mayo campus is just not practical. So I talked my way into a knee caddy, a glorified scooter with a wire basket. I know I look a bit funny, but at least I'm getting around campus. (and my scooter is nothing like my mom's walker, Cousin Allyson!)

To add to the fun, I'm traveling almost every weekend for skating. This past weekend was to snowy Chicago. The key to success was getting the wheelchair assistance right away.  I was flying Southwest Airlines that has open seating, but I qualified for pre-boarding seating. Front row to Chicago and back!

Absolutely nothing went off as planned for the trip down to Chicago. The flight was postponed, then they combined two flights to Midway together, but didn't bother to combine the luggage. I got into Midway at 11, waited one hour to learn that my luggage was still in MSP and wouldn't arrive until the next day, waited another 45 minutes to get a cab to take me to my hotel in deep, dark suburbia, and another 45 minutes to get me there.

I travel to Pennsylvania later this week and have to make a connection in Cincinnati, so I'm praying that everything goes better than this. At least the destination will make the trip worthwhile - Hershey, PA! Chocolate heals everything!

Friday, January 13, 2012


I finally have an absolutely legitimate excuse for this lapse in blogging. My home computer died. 

It had been acting funky for awhile, but shortly after New Year's, it stopped working. I kept pushing the power button, but nothing would happen. It had done this a couple of times before, but would eventually come back to life. After two days of trying different configurations, I accepted the fact it wasn't coming back. 

My first instinct was to head to Best Buy and get a new one. But the reality of my budget was saying no. And dang it all, why did I decide to stop using my credit cards as my New Year's resolution? UGH! Cuz you know that Best Buy always has some six months/no interest deal going on. 

Second instinct - take the computer in to Best Buy and drop it off with the Geek Squad. I'm pretty sure it's the starter that's shot, but I'm not as smart about the inside workings of a computer as I should be.  I took the cover off the computer and gave it a gander, but seriously, what was I expecting to see?  I've been a huge fan of the Geek Squad for years - even before they sold out to BB - but it costs about $80 just for them to tell you what's wrong with it. 

There are OTHER computer repair places in Rochester, but I have to get some recommendations from the locals before I trust someone.

So how have I managed to last this long without my home computer? Surprisingly well. I've used Carbonite back-ups for the last three or four years. Through that service, I have a complete back-up of my computer's hard drive available to me online. All my pictures, all my music, etc. Yippee!

And it's not like I don't have access to other devices. I have my work computers, my iPad, my iPhone-turned-iTouch, and my crappy Android phone that I regret buying.  Plus I have a netbook computer that I've hooked up to my big monitor, keyboard, mouse and printer so they don't get dusty.  It really looks stupid and I'm not using it, but I set it up JUST in case.

So that's my goal for next week: Take my computer somewhere for evaluation. Find out if it can be fixed or if we have to take it out back and shoot it.

If Tim Tebow can pray for a touchdown, is it wrong to start a Novena for my computer? And who exactly is the patron saint of computers?