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Midwestern kindness

Tracey, Mary & Cindy

hi mary! it was real nice to see u at the reunion the other night. u were always a nice person to me in high school and still are a nice person now! take care and i hope to see u before the next 10 years pass!

I traveled home, to the Midwest, twice in August. The first time was primarily to visit my parents. Last Christmas, we talked about going on a trip together and couldn’t quite make that work (cruise to Alaska, Montreal). And then we both thought at the same time: Why not come home? I hadn’t been home in several years, since my parents now visit every Christmas.

I was looking forward to the trip. I still have close friends who live in Northwest Indiana (AKA The Region). Band of Horses was playing a show in Chicago and I managed to snag tickets before the show sold out.

My parents always spoil me when I’m home. My dad gives me money when I go out with my friends, and when I leave. My mom offers to do my laundry, which I never really need to have done during these short trips home. They let me sleep in and I take walks around the neighborhood with my mom.

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38 to 40 (+1).

Image

I didn’t finish out strong (as planned), but I started anew on day 41 and am doing well as I move beyond the original 40-day commitment.

I went to yoga on day 41, and Steve talked about positive v. negative vibrations. Yes, it sounds a little woo woo, but it also makes a lot of sense.  I’ve found that I can make a difference even in my dreams. It’s easy to dwell on the past, and I’m not saying that I don’t think about things that have happened, but it’s just as easy to decide to dwell on something positive, or shift your mind in that way. Having thoughts about the ex? Well, let’s shift to another topic that is just as easily navigated via dreams. It works. It’s helpful to me even if today, I’m not feeling so much like moving on and away from times that I thought were really happy.

In the 41 + days of late, I hit yoga, did a stair climb and then went back to yoga today. Today, Liz talked about the glass being half empty, or half full and focusing on the half-full and trying to fill it up even more with thoughts of family, friends and other positivity. Sounds kind of like the positive v. negative vibrations, eh?

I’m not sure yet what I’ll aim for tomorrow. The plan had been to do yoga, but it might be nice to do cardio instead. Or I could hit the pool for some laps. My legs are still sore from the stair climb, so a bike ride could be good if the weather cooperates. Daylight savings time means more hours of light in the evening here in the Pacific Northwest and that felt helpful already today.

My thoughts this weekend were with Zoom, a woman I met and worked with in Seattle while spearheading a great event called Chicks Play Hard. Zoom worked at Miller Community Center, and she was so supportive of our event. I worked with her for several years, until she left Miller and moved on to Montlake Community Center.

She told me how she’d take regular trips to Canada with senior citizens to get prescription drugs that they could afford. She was a truly giving and kind soul, from all that I saw. Then, something changed. She is now accused of shooting a Parks & Rec supervisor. When I saw her name pop up via Twitter on Friday, I had an omg kind of moment. Her nephew was quoted in the news, and said that something had changed last July when her home was broken into and her dog was killed. I’m so sorry that she didn’t get the help that she needed, and my thoughts go out to the victim, his family, and to Zoom and her family. Yes, I’m switching gears here from the 40 days but my gosh, what happened on Friday is a reminder of how quickly life can change. Here’s to positivity and working through painful things in life in the best way that we all can.

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Days 5 & 6 of 40: Walk on, grin and barre it

Andie Hecker on JuicyCouture.com

First, it was skin care. And now, my social life is cramping my exercise routine. But, wait, perhaps instead… my social life is helping me reframe my exercise routine. I also now realize that on many days, I can easily meet the 30 minutes goal.

Yesterday, I had plans to meet friends after work to watch the IU-Purdue game. Eric, a friend I’ve known since high school, was in town for training with his job (Microsoft).  Celeste, a friend I hadn’t seen for awhile and who is also from Indiana, was meeting us along with Eric’s friends from work.  I had brought clothes to work to change into and climb up some hills as a break during the day, but that didn’t happen.

Luckily, the walk from the bus to the bar (Buckley’s in Belltown) was a good 15 or 20 minutes, at a brisk pace (X two, since I caught the bus home at the end of the night, too).

Today, I had a non-rehearsal rehearsal dinner to attend shortly after work. I took yoga clothes to work but the class in my building is no longer happening. Drat. But I also had a dentist’s appointment downtown in the morning. Walk there and back: Approximately 30 minutes. And instead of yoga at home before dinner, I tried a 15-minute DIY barre workout from Daily Candy and Andie Hecker, celebrity trainer to Miranda Kerr, Ginnifer Goodwin and Natalie Portman. Hecker’s Ballet Bodies site is inspiring photog-wise and perfect for me, the one who is craving dancer’s legs.

So there you have it. I’m still on target for the 40 days. I’m a little worried about tomorrow, since I am leaving work early for a wedding and am not sure I’ll have time for a workout during the day. Plus, I have to haul the party dress to work. Do I want to also bring workout clothes, or can the workout be the dance party after dinner? We are also walking to the courthouse for the wedding – could that perhaps be a 30-minute walk, total? See – social life dilemmas hit me once again. I have a feeling I’ll be ready for the weekend, and some actual gym time. Short-term goal: Finally hit the pool.

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Day 3 of 40: Santosha

90 minutes of yoga at Samadhi with Steve. Backbends on blocks, tilted against the wall. First with the hands (easy enough) and second with the blocks. I felt too shaky and then Steve decided it was better to have the blocks on the floor. We were the guinea pigs and it was an experiment.

Strength moves and core work. Triangle, without putting weight into the hand reaching for the knee, calf or the ground. I felt slightly stronger than even just a few days ago, though I couldn’t do the move with two blocks where I hold my entire body weight up.  Only one foot felt like moving.  Another goal to aim for, in addition to the dancer’s legs.

108 chants of Santosha near the end of class. Contentment, or satisfaction. I felt distracted at certain times, thinking about work or “sorry, I can’t make it” or reluctant ends to a friendship when I should have been breathing into it.  I know it’s part of the process.

Day 4:  Plan of the moment is swimming, which gets back to yesterday’s theme. And also moves from class tonight. Face down on the mat, left arm forward, right leg back and up, look over your left shoulder. Keep swimming.

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Day 2 of 40: Keep swimming

swimming laps in a pool

Keep swimming is the advice B. provided the other day. Starting anew in 2013, and approaching the end of January. The loss of a friendship that had run its course and moving on from others in my past, too (not so much my choice on the latter). It is time to shake up my own world a bit.

I’ve been too sporadic with my workouts and not consistent with eating mostly healthy, so I’m embarking on my own 40 days regimen that has become popular in the yoga realm. Day 1, yesterday, yoga for 90 minutes. Class with Steve at Samadhi. Working up a sweat during the flow because of that sporadic thing I mention above.

Day 2, today. Original plan: Swimming at the gym I recently joined ($29/ month – a bargain for access to a pool!). But I didn’t have a great night’s sleep last night and knew I’d need to get a photo taken with it being my first time to the gym. So I opted instead for a stair climb in the ‘hood. Walking there and three sets of stairs:  40 minutes. Another 15 to 20 minutes walking home from there.  “Somebody more like you” playing on the iPod.

I read frequently about the difference that 30 minutes a day can make, and I haven’t put it into action. I suppose I’m reading about it a bit more because of the New Year. I’m using the 40 days as a kick start to a better balance in my life, and look forward to keeping track of the days and work outs, and making myself accountable via this blog. I suppose this is my super low-tech version of a Nike FuelBand, which local blogger Monica Guzman has covered in her tech & life column that runs in The Seattle Times.

My other goal in the months to come, and fodder for a future blog: Dancer’s legs or the equivalent for me. Inspired after seeing the mind-blowing Compagnie Marie Chouinard last night at Meany Hall.

Day 3 tomorrow:  return to Samadhi.

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Having it all: What does that mean?

I’ve never taken a pregnancy test, and won’t have kids at my age unless it’s through adoption or a future boyfriend’s slash partner’s slash husband’s existing kids.  I felt distant from the whole “women having it all” debate from a few months ago because, let’s face it, I am an outlier in many ways:  I’ve never been married, don’t have children and will never “have it all” in the eyes of some people.  Sometimes those eyes are even my own.

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To be busy or not to be. It is a question.

You’ve probably read “The ‘Busy’ Trap” from the New York Times.  Or you’ve seen friends post about it on Facebook.  I’m glad friends posted and steered me to it.  The author, Tim Kreider, made the argument that the new default response to “How are you doing?” is:  busy, crazy busy … a boast disguised as a complaint.  And the standard response to that, Kreider says, is a congratulatory statement.  Awesome!

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The ties that bind, and do other things

I didn’t tell my parents about the break-up with J.  I was just getting ready to tell them that I was dating someone, that it was serious, that we’d been together five months, that we’d dated last year and got back together, and it all turned on a dime last month.  I then started thinking about friends I hadn’t told and I started to wonder why I had kept somewhat silent with certain people, and had not told my parents when it was really a happy situation and I was in love.

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5 things I learned at AHCJ12

Inspired by Bill Heisel, here goes:

1.  Sometimes, you can go home again.  It’s been several years since I attended AHCJ, due to budget cutbacks when I was at the Univ. of Washington.  With my new job at Seattle Children’s, we each have a small budget to travel, “learn and grow.”

I’m grateful that I had the chance to attend, and reminisced with health journalist Joanne Silberner (former health policy correspondent based at NPR’s flagship in DC) about going to the second AHCJ conference ever, also in Atlanta but held on the grounds of the Emory Conference Center Hotel. A man who I randomly met and chatted with on the plane on the way to Atlanta was floored to hear that she was on our plane; I introduced the two of them after we landed. He said that she was missed and that “we” needed her back on the air.

I remember running around the Emory grounds at that meeting with Daniel Yee, former (I think) AP reporter.  That was back when I was a bona fide journalist.  This time around, I’m in public relations.  I’m a flack, as Scott Hensley said at one of the sessions. (He didn’t mean this in a derogatory way.)

The setting this year  was not so woodsy and definitely “city-esque,” with a Hard Rock Cafe right up the street and places blaring loud music.  I know – I’m a former music critic but even I don’t like loud music, especially when it sounds like karaoke.

Some 600 people attended, which may or may not be a record. It was impressive.  I enjoyed meeting new journos, touching base with journalists I’ve only emailed with of late and seeing former D.C. colleagues like Shelly Gehshan (Pew Children’s Dental Campaign), Bill Erwin (Alliance for Health Reform) and Peter Ashkenaz (HHS).  I learned that Peter is no longer with CMS.  Silly me.  We keep in touch via email and Facebook, and mostly talk about music.  I now know that he’s in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the meaning behind the windshield photos he posts on FB.  I know that Dan DeNoon of WebMD fame has a cabin in the mountains, with a family of foxes living underneath said cabin.  Andrew Holtz and his wife are moving to a houseboat – not in Seattle, mind you but in Portland, rather.

2.  Social media should be fun.  I went to two helpful social media sessions.  One from Matt Thompson at NPR, which was kicked off with Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to talk about.”  People are talking, talking about people.  Social media is a conversation.  The new goal is to Master the Conversation.   He’s so convincing, he even got Tom Paulson to drink the kool-aid, so there’s got to be something to what he’s saying.  Matt used Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic as someone who’s mastered the conversation, on race and culture.  He responds to comments on his blog posts, and treats conversations as valuable as his work.

Transform your rolodex into a network, says Thompson. Take the best of it to feed further reporting.  One example – NYT op-ed questioning shaken baby syndrome, doc who reads Commonhealth (site in Massachusetts started by two journalists) says this op-ed is irresponsible, critiques the op-ed.  Story continued on Commonhealth and went back to NYT, made its way into NYT magazine cover story.  Shows the potential benefit.

Re: being fun – this conversation mostly occurred in another social media session with Maryn McKenna, Scott Hensley and Serena Marshall, who said make sure you’re having fun with social media.  If you’re not having fun, take a break and come back to it.  McKenna said it’s okay to be promotional with social media, but if that’s the only thing that you do, people notice really fast and it gets boring. Marshall said for every 5 to 8 professional posts, share something personal.

3. I should take my flipcam with me everywhereMark Johnson, senior lecturer at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the U. of Georgia, led a helpful session on video, the right way.  He looked rather bookish but kicked off the session by encouraging attendees to vote for his brother’s band, who was in a contest in New York (but we couldn’t actually vote because the contest was closed; they sounded somewhat like the Cranberries).  Johnson said that the audience is not yet ready for video.  But we need to be prepared now.  Five years from now, if you don’t have video, you’ll be crushed by the competition.

Think about video as one component, not the entire story.  The click away rate on videos is stunning.  You have six to 10 seconds to hook someone with video.  85% of viewers are gone in 10 seconds if you don’t have the hook.  Page views are a dying metric.  As technology gets more sophisticated, time on the page is more and more valuable.  Johnson said he doesn’t want music in news stories because it influences the story and can be deceptive.

4.  The ways of communicating with journalists has expanded.  I use Profnet and HARO (Help a reporter out) at work, and recently signed back on to Twitter.  When I was at the UW, I launched the Twitter and several Facebook accounts.  I went through withdrawal when I left UW and started my new job and recently found my way back to Twitter, when I started looking for contact info for journalists and found their social media handles. Maryn McKenna said that social media has pretty much replaced Profnet and HARO for her.  PIOs will see my post, she said.

5.  Coincidences happen. (sung to “Accidents will happen,” by Elvis Costello)  I had lunch rather randomly one day in the hotel restaurant.  I say “random” because I can often be indecisive and what I ended up doing that day could have gone either or any way.   Conference burn-out always sets in for me, and I need some alone time.  I almost bought a salad, again, at the deli and took it to my room to eat.  But I decided instead, quite decisively, to sit down in the restaurant and have something hot, maybe even something with fries.  (Color me bold and outrageous.)  I was way over-teched out at the conference, and immediately looked at my phone – Twitter, Facebook, what’s on my email.

After a few minutes, a man at the next table said, “Mary Guiden.”  It was Harry Joiner, a friend and former grad school buddy that I hadn’t seen in 15 years or so. Un-f-ing real, omfgg type of surprise.  Seriously.  One is a million is how he described it later.  He was meeting with a client who just happened to be at the same hotel, at a different conference.  He saw my name tag, but I’m pretty sure if a few more minutes went by, I would have recognized his voice because it is so distinct.  Harry and I were pretty close in grad school at the Univ. of S. Carolina, even though I was only there for a little bit more than a semester.  He was coming off a punk rock band phase, and he was from Georgia.  He was humorous, sarcastic, goofy, fun and kind.  We were in different language tracks (me – French, Harry – Portuguese), but still bonded.  In one class, I remember Harry sitting behind me and every morning, he’d take a sip of his coffee.  “Aaaah,” he would say after swallowing that sip, and it always made me smile.  It’s reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode, too.

Anywho – it amazes me that I had this million to one meet-up in Atlanta.  I think the Universe, or God, or whoever you believe in was perhaps keeping an eye out for me.  My boyfriend broke up with me shortly before that conference and ever since then, little signs of positivity have been coming my way to remind me that I’m on the right track, that life is good, that it can in an instant bring a surprise like Harry Joiner right to me, to make me smile, to remind me that I’m pretty great, too.  (Thanks for that, Harry).  As he put it:  You look awesome; he (ex-boyfriend) does not sound awesome.  End of story.

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Follow-through

I finally called Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to discuss the less-than-great visit I had in March.  Yes, it took me nearly six months and I have no real explanation as to why it took me so long.  Friends encouraged me to do so when I relayed my story over these months, and I thank them all – including Twitter friend Mary Beth at Overlake – for the encouragement.  She also shared her cancer story via a more public blog earlier this year.

wristband for doctor's visit
Remnant from March 2011 visit

SCCA does not currently have an online form for sharing a concern or complaint.  On the day I decided to call last month, the patient relations rep was out of the office.  The back-up person offered to transfer me to someone in compliance (a person I know through work), but I said I would call back the next day.

The next day, I spoke with the rep.  She was kind and a good listener.  I felt like she said, “I’m sorry” too many times, but perhaps that is part of the training.  I stopped her after a few of those and said “thanks,” but really, there is no need to continuing to say “I’m sorry.”  She took careful notes and I told her that I didn’t have a problem with my identity being shared.  I also told her that what happened disturbed me because of my work in media relations.  I talk with patients on a regular basis and help share those stories with the media … and I believe in our system and our physicians and healthcare team, but my faith had been shattered a bit by this experience.

The rep told me that at the very least, I would receive a letter and that I might receive a follow up phone call.  I felt good just in sharing the long-overdue story and hoped that it would help the next patient.

This was a few weeks ago, and at the start of this week, I started to wonder when I would hear back.  I’ll probably just get a letter, I thought, given that I had waited so long to call.  Then, today, my phone rang and I saw that it was a SCCA connection.  But I’ve been working with several staffers there on different projects, and assumed it was one of them calling.

“This is Connie Lehman, is this Mary Guiden?”  The reason she was calling still didn’t register.  I know Dr. Lehman as a big-deal doctor, UW professsor of radiology often quoted in the media.  We were on an email string to plan a Twitter chat later this month.  Connie was in Uganda, someone had shared, on a trip related to the Gates Foundation and a new clinic opening.   Julie Gralow, who is also at the UW/ SCCA had been there a few weeks ago.

Dr. Lehman asked if we could chat or set up a time to talk about my recent call. My notes had come her way via one of the medical directors at UW Medical Center.  Wow, I thought.  My concerns were really taken seriously.  She recapped some of what I had shared and I provided some additional details, including that the scheduler was the person who had said one doctor would be there on the day of my biopsy, and then the doctor was not there.

Dr. Lehman explained that feedback like mine is important, and was shared with the entire team.  She said that they have weekly meetings and that this type of feedback is discussed there, too.  She said, “I’m sorry” a few times, but it felt genuinely sincere and heartfelt.  I almost teared up a few times, just recalling how scary and horrible the experience was and recapping parts of it for her.  I admitted that I might have freaked myself out a bit, too, by reading my medical chart while waiting to be taken in for the biopsy.

She said that the technologist or someone on the team should have been talking with me or paying attention to me the whole time.  I told her that wasn’t the case, until they noticed that I was crying and that by then, it was too late.  She acknowledged the vulnerability that patients feel when having that particular biopsy done, and how someone should talk them through it.  Dr. Lehman said that if I ever have any questions in the future that I should contact her.  And she said that this is not the way visits typically run.

I am hopeful that what I shared will be useful for future patients.  I won’t wait as long if there is a next time in terms of a not-great experience.

Oh, and I went in just a few weeks ago, too, for a six-month follow up.   I’m all good, nothing strange to be seen on the mammogram.  So I’m good until my next visit and will hopefully then return to once-a-year or whatever the schedule may be.