Thursday, November 14, 2013


More than a decade ago, a photojournalist and I were heading back from a story and she said, “I want to do your job.” 

I was a little taken aback, because she’s a wonderful person and was a great photographer (is now on to new challenges and triumphs).  And frankly, my job is not easy (I know, it's not brain surgery, but it's a lot of hard work).  My advice, which I rarely refer to as advice – just my personal conclusions on many screwed-up personal experiences - was this:  BECOME THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE.

When I realized I wanted to become a broadcast journalist, I also realized I needed to make changes.  I needed to toughen up.  I really don’t like confrontations.  I would prefer to sit down with people/companies and ask them questions politely.  It’s only when they refuse to answer questions, which they have every right to (except people collecting tax dollars), do I feel a confrontation is necessary.

I also realized, in broadcasting, looks matter.  I realized I had to lose some weight.  I’m not perfect, by any means and I hope this standard is changing, but that’s reality.  At the very least, you have to blow dry your hair, put on foundation, mascara and a suit jacket, even if you’re wearing yoga pants on the bottom half.

And it became abundantly clear that I needed to kiss some ass.  I don’t like doing that.  However, as the saying goes, you attract more bees with honey.  That's how you get some of your best stories.  And honestly, a lot of those bees become good friends and confidants. 

I’m now at another turning point in my life.  I realize once again, I need to BECOME THE PERSON I WANT TO BE.  This is going to take a lot of hard work.  I need to make real changes.  As I told that photojournalist more than a decade ago, it’s not easy.  But when you become that person, everything – or at least most things – become right in your world.

Go Get ‘Em!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


When I started training for my first marathon, I received a great piece of advice.  “None of us is going to win this thing.  We’re not going to be on the podium or get a big check, so just have fun.”

For 99.999999% of us, this is true.

So, when I convinced my friend, and Workout Partner or WOP, that we should do the CyMan Triathlon today, my lure was, “Let’s just have fun!”

Well… we all know how that goes.  Frankly, when I woke up this morning, I did NOT want to do a triathlon –not even a sprint.  However, I’ve never ditched an event and I wasn’t ready to start now (maybe when I’m 75 and my sciatica is acting up), but not now. 

You can tell by these “before” pictures that I’m less than enthused. 

But there is something about just getting in the thick of things (the mosh pit of a triathlon swim) and doing it, that gets your blood flowing.

As I exited the swim, I knew I was in good shape.  The adrenaline kicked in and I as I picked up my cadence on the bike, I began to think, ‘Maybe I will be in that .000001% that wins.’

It wasn’t the case.  But I did have fun – thanks to the friends who accompanied me along the way.

So, I’m glad I got out of bed.  I’m glad I “competed.”  I’m glad I showed up – which is half the battle in life.


And yes, I had fun!  However, the next time I wake up and think, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ I may consider rolling over, rubbing my ass – I mean sciatica – and asking my friends to meet me for brunch and cocktails – no wetsuit required!

SIDENOTE:  I’ll soon be posting my training schedule for a half Ironman.  It’s going to happen in the next year, so buckle up.  I also plan to start talking about my planned trip to Africa in March.  Stay tuned!!!

Peace… And Go Get ‘Em!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"We All Go Through Something In Life"

I can’t get the 911 call from a school secretary, who was confronted by a gunman, out of my head.  I’ve listened to it several times.

Many people are analyzing her ability to act as a negotiator, which I admire and know nothing about, but what I’m intrigued with is her ability to connect to something in all of us.

My most admired quote:  “It’s gonna be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you though and I’m proud of you, that’s a good thing that you’ve just given up and don’t worry about it.  We all go through something in life.”

She’s right.  The bottom line is, we all “Go through something in life.”  Some go through worse things than others.  But at the time, no matter what it is, we all feel like we are in the depths of hell. 

I can't imagine the hell Michael Hill was experiencing.  And this may not be popular, but kudos to Hill for recognizing his illness – at least during the split second when he could have shot up a school, versus putting  the gun down.

I don’t know what it’s like to hear voices in my head (other than the one telling me to work harder or putting me a guilt trip).  I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness (although my motto is, those who DON’T think they’re messed up in some way, are the MOST messed up).  And I’m certainly no expert on this issue.  But I am human.

Our means of treating people with mental health disorders is severely lacking, if not non-existent.  Nearly three-quarters of the people in our country’s prisons suffer from a diagnosed mental illness.

The United States incarcerates more juvenile offenders than any other developed country in the world.

Many criminals have been victimized themselves.

This is not to say that people who commit crimes should not suffer the consequences.  But let’s think about this – all of us.  You, me, the legislature… doctors, lawyers.  Surely, there’s someone out there who is smart enough find a better way.
Maybe Ms. Tuft found a better way, simply by saying, “We don’t hate you baby.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Failure: Fearing It And Embracing It

A friend suggested I write about failure.  I admit, I’m quick to write about my successes – miles run, miles ridden, miles swam.  And who doesn’t like bragging about the races completed, the medals received, etc…
I don’t like talking about my failures - who does?  And for now, I’ll confine it to my workouts (I have more failures than I can count in other aspects of my life).
I failed this morning.  I intended to swim with a group at Gray’s lake at 5:15 this morning.  My intentions were good.  I set my alarm, even got up and made coffee.  It’s a morning ritual – and for those who know me – part of my “cleansing process.”
Then, I saw rain.  The back deck was wet – I think I even felt a sprinkle on my bed-head hair as I let the dogs out.  One can only assume there's lightening on the horizon.  Bottom line:  It was my out!
Truth be told, I didn’t want to swim at 5:15… in the dark.  Frankly, I’m very uncomfortable with it.  Frankly, it scares me to death.  Someone described it to me as, “being in the womb.”  And I was out!  And I'm a pretty good swimmer, but this freaked me out.
I don’t know why I can’t swim in the dark.  I’ve conquered a lot of physical and psychological challenges in my life.  But this is an obstacle for me. 
I felt defeated for a large portion of the day.  And to beat myself up for not swimming in the dark, I beat myself up by running and lifting excessively.
I know this is all a head game. 
I’ve felt failure upon finishing a marathon, for God’s sake.



That's me finishing the San Diego Marathon in 2009.  I’m the one in the blue shorts – the one who looks like she’s walking, not running!
I finished about 35 minutes later than I thought I would.  To me, that was a fail!  But was it really?  First of all, I did it for my brother, who was battling Hodgkin's Disease.  So, there was no "fail," because five years out, he's cancer free.
My friend, Dr. Deming knows what that's all about.
I don’t have pictures of it, but my bike chain came off twice during last year’s HyVee Triathlon. 
After that, I decided I was defeated.  I took my time in transition – even went to the bathroom!  Again,  I considered it a fail.  Then, when I checked my time, I learned I'd qualified for the 5150.
That's why, when I really ponder these events, I no longer consider them failures.  Why?  At least I did it.  I accomplished my goal – and in the case of the San Diego Marathon and many other races, it was a goal bigger than a finishing a race.
I've come to realize, the only time you fail, is when you relinquish a dream or a goal.
Winston Churchill probably said it better. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Carry on, my friends.  And I’ll be swimming in the dark next week.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Life Is Not Fair, Or Easy

I wrote this two days ago:

I write this with a heavy, heavy heart.  Some friends of mine have lost their son, who has fought valiantly, for years to overcome a kidney disease he was born with.  The rain is pouring down, and I’ve heard people say, “The rain drops are tears from heaven.” 

Maybe.  If the rain drops are tears from my loved one, I would dance in them all night long.  It would be a fabulous way to feel the warmth and breathe of my loved one again.  I would open up my arms and savor every last drop.  Instead of taking shelter from the rain, I would let it envelop me, like a long, warm hug.

Unfortunately, the rain drops don’t offer the comfort we need.

Real, gut-wrenching grief is one of the most horrific aspects of life.   When my sister died, it was the first taste of true loss, complete sorrow and the realization that you have no control over life.  Since then, I’ve told myself, I would rather die than suffer through so much pain again.   I know a lot of people who would say the same. 

Unfortunately, we don’t make those decisions.  We move on, reluctantly, never forgetting those we’ve lost – in fact, trying to remember them more and more with each day that passes.

And it reminds me, we should dance with the people we love – in the rain – and tell them how much we love them, again and again and again.

The bottom line: We all have a small amount of time on this earth.  Let’s not waste it on the trivial - John certainly didn’t!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Day?

On Thursday, most of us will celebrate America's 237th birthday.  We celebrate our freedom.  We celebrate the privilege of practicing any number of religions.  We celebrate freedom of speech, the right to privacy, and my favorite, freedom of the press.

There will be cook-outs, parades and fireworks.

Unfortunately, many of the people who fought for the freedoms we enjoy are anything but free.

Let me throw out a few statistics.  According to Pentagon figures, 349 active duty soldiers committed suicide in 2012.  That's more than the number of men and women who died in combat in Afghanistan during the same time period (295).  Many, many more combat Veterans commit suicide every year.

Several studies indicate roughly 20-percent of the people who have served in a combat zone in the last six years suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Early studies by the Army indicated 1 in 8 soldiers who served in Afghanistan and/or Iraq suffered from PTSD, and less than half sought help for it.

Stigma is one of the reasons troops don't seek help, lack of adequate treatment is another.  Troops who loose a leg are medevac'd to the nearest hospital. They're given adequate medication.  They are comforted.  They also receive long-term care.  They're fitted with a prosthesis and physical therapists teach them how to walk again.

In contrast, PTSD usually goes unnoticed - and untreated - for months, even years.  And it can be hard to diagnose. 

This is DSM-5 criteria for a PTSD diagnosis:  "A history of exposure to a traumatic event that meets specific stipulations and symptoms from each of four symptom clusters: intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity. The sixth criterion concerns duration of symptoms; the seventh assesses functioning; and, the eighth criterion clarifies symptoms as not attributable to a substance or co-occurring medical condition."

No wonder it's so hard to diagnose.

Of course, soldiers aren't the only ones who suffer from PTSD.  This could lead to a healthy debate about mental health care coverage for everyone. But who deserves it more than those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom (remember that's why we're celebrating July 4th).

This subject gets a lot of lip service form politicians - and let's be honest, from all of us.  Rather than just talk the talk, it's time we all walked the walk - especially if we've never walked in combat boots.

Think about this as you're enjoying your cookout.  Think about the freedoms we might not have without these brave men and women while watching the fireworks.  And then go make a difference - volunteer, make a contribution or cast a meaningful vote.  Because while we enjoy freedom, far too many remain confined in a prison that is hard to escape.

Special shout-out to the Iowa National Guard's Red Bull Infantry Division,   Thanks for putting me to the test during training.  I'll never forget it.  It was a life changing experience.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Heavy Lifting

It's been an interesting week. 

After "maxing out" last week, Erin and I started strength training for the firefighter physical fitness test.  I have not lifted this much weight, with this much intensity, since high school.  It's tough.  And I like it.

Muscle failure (the term body builders and weight lifters use to describe the moment you can no longer move the weight) is something to behold.  You're muscles seize.  You're body tenses.  For a moment, you wonder if the weight will overtake you (as in crush your skull or shred a ligament).

Fortunately, there's someone there to pick up the weight when you fail (the spotter).  For me, that's Erin, literally and many times, figuratively. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we all had "life spotters" - people to pick up the weight when we can't lift it anymore?  Most of us probably do, but we just don't recognize them as much as we should.

Likewise, a lot of us don't know our own strength until challenged.

I'm sore.  I'm tired.  And I know this is just the beginning.  But this is a good reminder that, when put the test, our bodies - and moreover our minds - can do some amazing things, especially if you have a great spotter by your side.

Okay, that's enough about that.  Now, I'd like to get your feedback on a lawsuit filed today;  Nancy Sebring vs. Des Moines Public Schools.  A school board member, the district's general counsel and it's communications director are also named in the suit.

If you've lived in Iowa during the last year, you know what I'm talking about.  This dominated the news for weeks because it involved tax payer dollars, brought into question a leader's judgment, and lets be honest, it involved sex.  Sebring used her public email account to send personal, sexually explicit emails.  Admit it, a lot of people do this, but it's typically in a dimly lit space, in the confines of their home and on their own, personal computers (which may or may not be guarded with multiple passwords and locking devices).

The emails became public because reporters asked for them under Iowa's Open Records Law.  This is oversimplifying the law, but basically, if someone is paid with our tax dollars, we (meaning everyone) is granted access to their emails, phone records - anything paid via tax dollars (as always, there are exceptions... personnel records are off limits, so are investigatory documents while an investigation is underway, etc.).

Sebring is alleging invasion of privacy and emotional distress.  She also claims the defendants conspired against her by leaking emails and information to news organizations and the Omaha School District, which had hired Sebring and then basically said, no thanks.

My questions to you:  Should the public have access to personal emails sent via public accounts?  Do you think the defendants in this case acted in good faith and in the best interests of those they serve?  And finally, do you think you would view this case differently, if the Superintendent had been a man?

As always, I'm hoping for a respectful, enlightening and engaging conversation.  We can all learn from this.

Thanks for reading and have a great Friday!  The weather is supposed to be fabulous!