Thursday, May 14, 2015


It's not possible. My eldest will be a teen next year.

This year, she is officially a "tween." Sometimes a child, sometimes a grown up.

A year ago she decorated her room with pictures of dogs taken from a book about heroic dogs. This year, she tore most of them down because they were too "little girlish."

She used to putter about in her room with her door open, music wafting throughout the upstairs. Now when she is in her room her door is closed, her music muffled. Other family members are asked to not only knock but to wait for permission to enter, in case she's in some state of partial dress.

At the beginning of this school year she went to the before-school care program with her little sister. Now she gets herself on the bus by herself every morning after everyone else has left the house. She wakes herself up, eats breakfast, gets herself ready, packs her lunch and walks to the bus stop on time. And when she arrives home from the bus in the evening, she runs upstairs to her room, grabs her white blankie, kisses it and snuggles with it to read a book.

I used to never hear about her classmates of the other gender. Now I hear about her classmates' crushes. There is speculation that so-and-so likes so-and-so, except she and her friends know that so-and-so likes that other person, but no one will approach the person they actually like, so instead they all gossip and wonder what's going to happen.

Funny. Intelligent. Generous. Kind. Happy.

Our tween.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Hasn't Changed

This week's cover of Time Magazine struck me.

I don't believe that the civil rights leaders of the 1960's would have imagined seeing scenes like this 50 years after their own struggle lead to what they believed to be true change.

I do not pretend to understand what it means to be oppressed in our society. I can tell you what it means to be misunderstood.

I went to college at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minnesota. At the time the nickname for this city of 50,000 was "White Cloud." I can't speak to the racial make up of the city itself, but I can tell you that the campus was around 85% Caucasian, 10% international students and 5% African American. Racial tensions were high -- I am not sure why it was more of a powderhorn than anywhere else, but it was. Maybe it was the lack of diversity, but at the time the racial make up didn't look much different than most other cities of comparable size in Minnesota, and other cities didn't seem to have the problems St. Cloud had.

There was the case of the white student beaten by two black students to within an inch of his life. Another incident outside a bar resulted in the opposite result. And then there was the case of the black male student charged with raping a white female student.

That one shook up campus for some time, because sadly there was the typical argument as to whether it was rape or consensual sex. I honestly do not remember the outcome of the trial, but I remember the media coverage and the unsettled feeling on campus while it was going on.

During this time, I lived in an apartment house several blocks off campus. While campus itself was well-lit, city streets the lights were few and far between and the alleys seemed ominous. At least that's how it felt to walk those streets by myself, a white woman, coming home from the campus library at midnight. (And yes, I really did -- I worked the late shift, closed it down at midnight and walked home after.)

One evening, I was walking home from the library and following the advice of all those tips and tricks that had been published in the school paper about safety.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Walk confidently, looking in front of and around you, not at the ground. 
  • Walk closer to the street side of the sidewalk, so someone can't grab you from the alley.
  • If someone grabs you, yell something specific for others to do, like "Call 911!" instead of just "Help!" 
My spine stiffened when I saw a figure approaching me. The person was backlit by the street light behind him so I couldn't see his face, but I could clearly tell it was a man -- tall, broad-shouldered. The hairs on the back of my neck pricked up and my shoulders tensed. Would he grab me? Would he try to drag me down an alley? The honest, terrible truth of it is that I thought, "What if he's black?" because I thought that would increase my chances of being attacked.

We walked closer to each other, and I could see the tension in his shoulders as well. Was he about to make his move? Was I about to have my life go in a direction I never intended?

We finally got close enough to see each other. He was a black man, a student I assume, with a backpack stuffed with his studies, papers spilling out of hastily closed zippers, a book under his arm.

We looked each other in the eye, quickly nodded, looked down and kept walking our separate ways.

I realized as I passed him...he was just as scared of I as I was of him.

After all, it was only he and I on this street. I could scream, trip myself to provide bruises for the police and claim that he did it. The state of race relations on campus at that time meant that I would be believed and he would not.

Perhaps he had the same thought that I had when we passed, "Is she about to make her move? Is my life about to go in a direction I never intended?"

For a moment, I understood. We are all human beings. We all have fears. We are all individuals -- our race is not responsible for an individual's actions.

Friday, May 08, 2015

New Workplace

From a #MSPSMB presentation during my time of underemployment.
I started a new job recently.  I'm trying not to make a habit of it, so I'd better stay at this one a while.

I accepted a position as the new Director of Annual Giving at Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. And when I say "new" I mean that they've never had a director of annual giving before. They recently restructured their organization and decided that they needed this expertise full time. It was a perfect match with my skills, plus I LOVE being a part of creating something new; I get to play to my strengths since the role is not rigidly defined.

The building I work in is a part of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital/Allina campus. There are a total of 6 or 7 buildings in this complex, and I was really nervous about finding my way around. But I've found a lot of great things about being on a big campus.

1. There are lots of food choices. There's the hospital cafeteria, the skyway café or Midtown Global Market, which is an entire building of every kind of ethnic food you could possibly want to try.

2. There's a beautiful inner court with gardens, water fountains and plenty of seating. Need a break from your desk? Take a walk and breathe in the fresh air.

3. Parking is a breeze (now). I confess, the first day I ended up climbing and descending four flights of stairs to make it from the parking ramp to my desk, but now that I've figured it out, I'm actually closer to my office from the parking ramp than I was when I worked at Gillette. Plus no outside time walking on an icy sidewalk down a steep hill. Bonus.

4. The campus is right off the Midtown Greenway bike trail. There's a cycle shop that's right on the greenway that will let you store your bike and use their showers for a measly $15/month. Once you're in the bike shop you're on campus, so I can reach my building through the tunnels or skyways. Now I just have to figure out how to do the whole kid drop-off thing in the morning so I can bike there in the summer.

5. The office is 15 minutes from my house. I take three turns to get to work (four if you include getting out of my driveway). I don't take a single highway. I am thrilled with my commute!

There are also some perks to the job that I'm liking.

1. My boss is really cool and smart. Plus his name is John, and considering that I've reported to a John for the majority of my professional working career, I knew this position was a possibility from the first interview.

2. Everyone is so gosh darn nice! There was a beautiful blooming plant on my desk my first day of work. Everyone I met had a big smile on their face and said, "We're so glad you're here!" Every team member is competent at his/her job and wants to work collaboratively with others to accomplish the goals set forth (at least that's my take so far). Trust me, that's a hard one to find.

3. My expertise is valued. I've been digging into data the last couple of weeks (pivot table porn!) and looking at what's gone on before to determine how to structure the program moving forward. Each suggestion I've made has been met as if it's the most brilliant thing anyone has ever said. Okay, so that's not totally true, but it feels good to be appreciated.

4. They have a healthy food policy. No dishes of chocolates at anyone's desks. No break room filled with treats. This may sound like a bummer, but this is actually an amazing thing for me! My downfall has always been snacking at work. When I first started at Gillette I lost nearly 10 pounds in 3 months. That's what happened when I arrived at a new place and didn't know who had the secret stashes of chocolate, didn't know the people well enough to ask for some or, as I was doing at Paradysz, just helping myself to it. I have absolutely NO control when it comes to sweets. The fact that sweets are not approved is THRILLING to me and my health!

5. They encourage physical activity. Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation is all about preventing heart disease through healthy lifestyles choices. We are participating in the Hennepin County "Step It Up" competition in May, where groups track their activities and see who is the most active/takes the most steps. The fact that this organization is located in a large campus with stairs everywhere already incentivizes walking and movement. I love the fact that they encourage their employees to "walk the walk" when it comes to the mission.

6. Jeans days on Fridays. Having come off a work-from-home gig, where yoga pants were the norm every day, I appreciate the break I get to take from professional wear once a week.

7. My desk is close to the break room and bathroom. It's the small things, but do you know how many times a day I get up to refill my water? And of course, that means extra trips to the bathroom. Luckily both are close but not so close as to be bothersome. At first I was worried about noisy conversations from the break room disturbing me, but then I remembered that usually any noisy conversations have me in it, so I don't have to worry. I'm actually the perfect person to have close to the break room, if you really think about it.

It's been a pretty great two and a half weeks.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

There's This Thing Called Ignite

Most people I know have watched at least a few Ted Talks, wherever they would have been recorded. They are usually 18 to 25 minutes in length, and can cover any number of topics. The ones I've seen are really powerful and often moving.

There's also a format called Ignite which is much shorter, but less forgiving. Ignite talks are only 5 minutes long; each speaker provides 20 slides which automatically advance every 15 seconds, whether or not the speaker is ready for the next graphic. So while shorter, they require more planning, less extemporaneous speaking, and really, really good graphics.

The event takes place in a theatre in Minneapolis to a live audience of 600 people and is live streamed to hundreds online. Tickets go fast -- the first wave of tickets sold out in less than a minute. Audience members are encouraged to tweet throughout -- the Twitter handle of every speaker is given at the beginning of their talk, and social media is a big component of the event.

I've gone to a few IgniteMpls talks and have enjoyed the variety of topics and the bravery of those who have given them. I've also seen how forgiving the audience is. A few haven't gone off as planned, and the audience has been nothing but encouraging and supportive, which is pretty impressive considering how nasty people can get on Twitter.

After attending my first, I thought I could see myself up there. But what topic? Well, if the theme of the event is "pick your passion," then I know exactly what I'd talk about: inline skating.

It's my passion, it's something most people don't even know exists, and there are tons of different ways to go with it as a subject.

I had submitted that topic for IgniteMpls last fall and it wasn't accepted. However, I re-submitted it for the spring event and it was accepted.


I spent the next few weeks working on the outline, writing, re-writing, getting graphics help, revising graphics, and practicing practicing practicing.

The night of the big event arrived. I had invited my friends to attend, and they turned out in full force -- 10 in all. I was so grateful and appreciative of their support. Wayne and I had special VIP seating for speakers, while everyone else found seats elsewhere.

It was such a trip to see my photo on the speaker placard in the lobby. Sure, I've spoken at industry conferences before, but never to a crowd this big, or had my talk recorded, produced and put on YouTube for all to see and judge for years to come.

It was supposed to be funny, would they find it funny? My friends promised to laugh if no one else did, so there was that.

I was third from last in the line up, which meant that while I enjoyed the talks before mine, I was also nervously awaiting my turn. I most feared that the talk before mine would be incredibly emotional and that I would need time to compose myself before taking the stage. Luckily the one before mine was funny and sweet, so I took to the stage with confidence.

People laughed when they were supposed to laugh, which was a great sign. I had great feedback via Twitter, which was also cool.

When I was done I sat down in my seat and got a text from our babysitter who had let the girls stay up and watch it online. "Way to go!" it said, "They loved it!" Whew, I'm glad I edited the "f" word out of my talk.

Friends make trying new things less scary.
The next day I got an email from the organizer thanking me for speaking, that my talk was fun and engaging and I would be welcome to submit a talk again anytime. Maybe he wrote that to everyone, but I'll take the invitation as a compliment. topic?

Friday, May 01, 2015

A 5k In Every State!

Wayne and I flew to Nashville Tennessee for two very special reasons: Jim and Amy Patterson.

Okay, so there was that thing about Wayne running a marathon in every state, and he hadn't hit Tennessee yet, but it was a convenient reason to visit with some dear friends of ours.

The Patterson's used to live down the street from us in Minneapolis. After three glorious years of Minnesota living, they decided to move back to Buffalo, NY. Something about extended family and roots, whatever. They've been back in Buffalo for 7 years now.

Amy shared with me how different the community was for healthy living. Here in the Twin Cities we take things like sidewalks and bike trails for granted; back in Buffalo there weren't any. They don't know many people who walk or bike frequently, and the main entertainment is watching sports, eating wings and drinking beer.

During the past 7 years Amy had been gaining weight, and she finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Or, as she put it:

My motto going into this was "I'm done."
I was done being overweight, actually obese. 
Done with the lack of energy
Done being lazy. 
Done eating unhealthy. 
Done feeling like sh*t. 
Done with taking medicine,
Just done.

In September of last year she joined the Transformation Center by Body and Fitness, began making healthier food choices and working out five times a week. She went through a six-week course and dropped 23 pounds. She loved the results so much she signed up for another six-week course and in total dropped 43 pounds.

Before and after - go Amy!

Before this program, she'd tried to do the couch-to-5k program a few times, and every time lost the motivation halfway through and didn't end up doing a 5k. This time, she was committed and signed up for a 5k when her husband signed up for a half marathon in Nashville.

And I decided I wanted to be there as her supporter and witness.

So Wayne signed up for the full marathon, I signed up for the 5k, we booked our flights, Patterson's booked hotels and away we went.

That was one of the best weekend getaways we've ever had. We had a great time exploring the city of Nashville with our good friends, reconnecting and telling stories that made us all roar with laughter.

And then, of course, the run.

We stopped to take a photo at the start line, and I was just so proud of Amy for being there. So many people don't even try, and here she was, after all her hard work, at the start line of her first 5k.

She was nervous that she wouldn't make her goal, which was to not have to walk any part of the run. And except for a couple of moments when we were forced to due to a wall of walkers in front of us (seriously people, what do you think this is, the Mall of America?) she made her goal. We both finished with a time of 39:59. The Patterson's friend Sean, who had originally signed up for the half marathon but hurt his back and couldn't run that distance, joined us as well and the three of us stayed together the entire race.

It was an absolute blast.

We waited for Jim to finish the half, and then for Wayne to finish the full, which he did with a time of 3:29:40, just under his goal of 3:30.  That was marathon #14 and state #11 for him, overachiever that he is. We went back to the hotel, cleaned up, napped, and went out for a celebratory dinner.

We were all back in our rooms, asleep by 10. Exciting travelers, us runners.

We spent the next day in downtown Nashville, enjoying the live music in every venue (starting at 10 a.m. even on a Sunday!) and touring the Ryman Theatre, the original theatre that hosted the Grand Old Opry before they outgrew it in 1974. There's some good ole history for you, with amazing acoustics and beautiful woodwork. It even made a non-country music fan appreciate the history of the place.

Amy's already asking when our next one will be. We'd like to make this an annual event. Who knows? Maybe eventually she and I will finish a 5k in every state. She's got two down and I've got four. Just a few more to go!