Archive for June, 2011

The Million Dollar Question

“Whatever you are by nature, keep to it. Never desert your line of talent. Be what nature intended you for, and you will most definitely succeed.” –

So, the big question: What are you by nature?

What am I by nature? What IS my line of talent?

That question coupled with this thought:

“The pain isn’t being unable to finish. The pain is figuring out which project is worthy of being finished.” – Jonathan Fields

has been the bane of my existence.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m back to square one – AGAIN.

But truth be told, I made the move to Arizona without actually researching the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism’s New Media program. I moved down as quickly as I did so that I could give myself the ASU opportunity, should I choose it. My job in Eau Claire was pathetic and I knew if I didn’t move in May, I wouldn’t be able to afford to move later. So now I’m down in Arizona working at a job I like that pays the bills, and have no idea which direction I want to move in career-wise.

Once again the Miami Ad School looks mighty tempting, and of course interior design came up as well. I’ve even checked out doing a community college programming degree so I could build and manipulate websites. I’ve thought about doing something in nutrition, fitness, and health – again. Where do I fit in? And WHY is this so hard for me?

Am I putting too much value on my career? Is that wrong? So many people just go into work for a paycheck. Are they happy? How can they be happy? I know that route’s not for me, but right now part of me wishes that it was.

What I want is to be a creative part of something bigger than myself. To be part of something that helps other people. And I immediately think of TOMS and One Day’s Wages. So, how do I add value, contribute, be remarkable? How do I live my dream career? What IS my dream career? Again, what IS my line of talent?

“Whatever you are by nature, keep to it. Never desert your line of talent. Be what nature intended you for, and you will most definitely succeed.” –

By nature I am nice person. I am a person who likes to work with highly-competent people. I am a person who does best when her job gives back to the community and helps people improve their quality of life. I am a person who appreciates being recognized and rewarded for working diligently. Now, how do I translate that into a career that I love?

Oy. The million dollar question.



Hello, Sara? It’s your body. We need to talk. It’s time you started taking care of me. Thanks.

At 7:21 p.m. on Friday, June 17, 2011, I made my first call ever to 911. Just two hours earlier I had picked Brian up from work and we made plans for dinner. He dropped me off at the house so I could lay down for a bit while he went to pick up groceries for my visit home. I’d been in Arizona the last six weeks and had flown up to spend the six days surrounding his thirtieth birthday with him and our friends and family.

6:50 p.m. on Friday. I wake up – in pain. SO. MUCH. PAIN. And I’m sweating. Sweating like crazy. I strip off my clothes and lie down in bed. Still pain. I’m tossing and turning. Sweat soaks my hair, the bedding. I head to our bathroom and try to make myself throw up. Nothing. I alternate between standing over and hugging the toilet. Nothing but spit and tears. Is this valley fever? I’m scared, pissed and alone.

Shaking and blubbering, I grabbed my baby blue cherry and vines headband, pull my hair out of my face, and made my way to my office/dressing room. I pulled on my friend’s UMD sweat pants that I’ve kept forever and a hot pink tank top. Sweat immediately soaks them both. I head back to our bedroom. The pain backed-down for a few minutes, but came back with a vengeance. And I couldn’t get a grip on it. I was nauseous but couldn’t puke, hurt but could not make myself comfortable. It was terrifying. Again, I soaked the bed in sweat, constantly rolled from one side to the other, and the pain got worse.

But I had experienced a similar type of pain – in much, MUCH smaller doses – before. Three years ago, I had created and participated in a Biggest Loser-type weight loss competition. A few months after the competition, I had my first diet cola in more than 20 weeks. My body didn’t know how to react. I started shaking, sweating, and doing a lot of the things I was doing at 6:50 p.m. on Friday. Brian actually drove me to the emergency room that day. We made it as far as the hospital’s parking lot and by then I’d “recovered”. We didn’t go in.

At the start of the weight-loss competition, I had a test done by Dr. Judy of Active Health Chiropractic in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, that was able to measure the amount of water inside and outside of my cells. What they like to see is a ratio of 2:1. Mine was closer to 1:2, which meant that I had nearly twice the amount of water outside my cells than inside my cells. I was toxic and needed hydration. And that was three years ago.

Flash forward to Wednesday night. I had just wrapped up my last shift at Red Robin before my trip home, and I was hungry! So before I left, I ordered and quickly ate the Burnin’ Love Burger with fries and ranch and a Diet Coke. (I know, Diet Coke with a crazy, high-calorie meal – 1400 calories and 78 grams of fat – not including the ranch sauce. I’m THAT person.) Usually I opt for the petite version, but I was incredibly hungry, so I went big. (FYI – at the time, I had no idea the meal had that many calories or that much fat in it!) The drive from Gilbert back to Tempe was miserable! I was a wreck. I thought I had food poisoning. Headache, sweating like crazy, white-knuckle driving, nausea, mis-re-ble! I walked through the front door, told my roommate I felt like ass, changed clothes and proceeded to dry-heave for a good three-minutes. I didn’t puke, but I did feel a bit better. I opted out of a birthday party and dinner that night to lay on my bed in the dark in some on-again, off-again pain. And after reassuring my roommate that I wasn’t dying, I slept-off my self-diagnosed food poisoning.

7:16 p.m. on Friday, I call Brian. The phone goes to voicemail. I hang up. “Help need to go to er” was the message I texted to him at 7:18 p.m. Two minutes of excruciating pain later, I called him. Voice mail. I don’t remember if I left a message or not. I think I did judging by the 27 seconds the phone call took. Panic, sweat, nausea, pain, pain, PAIN. 7:21 p.m. I call 911.

And it went a lot like it does on TV. Surreal. She asked a ton of questions to keep the line open and me talking. We were on the phone for seven minutes. It felt like forever. All I wanted was for the ambulance to be there so I could stop answering questions about our dogs, how I was doing, where I was in the house, if the door was open, etc., etc. A few minutes into our call, I vomited. And the first thing I thought was great, I called an ambulance and now I’m going to feel better because I was finally able to puke. But the pain persisted throughout the call, and she let me know that the ambulance had arrived. I stepped over my puke on our bedroom floor, walked frantically through living room and the dogs, and met the medics as they were walking up our driveway.

The guys confirmed that I was the one who had called for help and I stepped into the bus with their assistance. The ambulance ride was filled with more questions. Are you allergic to any medications? What have you had to eat today? You just flew in from Arizona? What’s valley fever? Then Brian’s call came through. The medic handed me my phone and I was finally able to talk with him. He had called six times and couldn’t get through. I told him the ambulance had picked me up and that they were taking me to Luther. He said he’d meet me there, we said our “I love yous” and hung up. Back to the medic’s questions. How long have you been feeling like this? Should we notify anyone for you? What’s the pain feel like? Where’s the pain? Which hospital do you want to go to?

The ride seemed to take forever. When we arrived at Luther, I was wheeled from the ambulance bed and into an emergency room. It was the same ER my sister had been at a year or so before. Emergency room number four. Familiar. More questions. Stripped down, hospital-gowned, puke bags utilized – twice, blood drawn, pain-scale questions, morphine injected, fluids started. Husband allowed in. Insurance cards handed over. Hospital bracelet clasped.

Nurses hovered for awhile, adding hot blankets to my bed as I continued to shake in a cold sweat, but within a few minutes Brian and I had the room to ourselves. “Love you, babe,” were the first words out of his mouth. Followed by, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Neither of us could. I’d just arrived from Arizona less than 24 hours earlier, and here we were in the emergency room and I was sicker than I’d ever been in my life on what was suppose to be a fun-filled birthday celebration week for Brian.

Blood results, a urine test, and an x-ray later, the ER doctor came in and informed me that I’d be spending the night in the hospital. I had a severe case of pancreatitis – and more tests were needed to see what was going on. I was asked how much I drank. Apparently there are two main causes of pancreatitis – gall stones and alcoholism. Nice. And while I do drink from time to time, it’s definitely not a habit, addiction or day-to-day activity. He ordered an ultrasound and CT scan. Between the initial results and the ultrasound, I insisted that Brian head out to drop-off the groceries he’d picked up an hour or so before and check on the dogs. He got back while I was getting my ultrasound done. And between all the tests, I could not get enough of those warmed blankets. It was ridiculous how cold I was. Before and after every single test, I was requesting new blankets.

At any rate, when we were both back in emergency room number four, the ER doctor came in and updated us on my condition. I had gall stones, and would need my gall bladder removed; however, my pancreatitis was too inflamed to handle surgery now. In fact, I may need to have the surgery done at Mayo. There’s a 1 in 100 chance that I might die. It’s serious. But it’s a good thing we caught it now. More tests in the morning. We’ll keep you on fluids. No eating until you have surgery – we don’t want to further aggravate the pancreas.

Stunned and in disbelief, Brian and I did our best to comprehend what the doctor was saying. One in 100. Mayo. It’s serious. I still don’t think we fully grasped it. Not then, and not now. We just hoped I wouldn’t have to have the surgery at Mayo.

Just before 1 a.m. my bed, IV and I were wheeled to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for the night. Brian carried my clothes, wallet and iPhone. We met RN Melissa who took care of me for the night. She was cool. About our age (29), she sat down casually and ran through her list of questions. She was real. I liked it. Brian headed out shortly afterwards.

Then I made a quick call to Red Robin to let them know what was going on. With a two-hour time difference and Red Robin rocking extended summer hours, I knew I’d catch someone. Fortunately RD, the scheduling manager, was closing. Just the guy I needed. After updating him on the night’s craziness, he took me off the schedule for the upcoming week. That’s the great thing about serving, there’s enough of us who do exactly the same thing that we can cover shifts at the drop of a hat, and enough shifts to go around to keep the servers happy. We’re replaceable and necessary all at the same time. With that taken care of and pumped full of pain meds, I passed out for the night.

At 6 a.m. on Saturday my blood was drawn. My morning RN Nicole was just as cool as Melissa. I got up a few times to use the bathroom and learned that I was to pee in a bucket so they could measure how that was going. Poor nurses. I shuffled to and fro with the help of a nurse and my IV rig. Once the blood work came back, I was given the green light to have surgery in Eau Claire!!!! A HUGE relief! My numbers were still high, but trending in the right direction.

Function Normal Friday Night Saturday Morning
Liver AST 0-40 856 541
Liver ALT 7-56 820 683
Liver LDH 288-610 1,788 no result
Liver Billi Total 0.0-1.3 3.3 1.1
Pancreas Amylase 30-100 2,805 1,170
Pancreas Lipase 40-240 Greater than 20,000 8,795


Whoo hoo! Now that I had solid information, I called my parents to let them know what was going on. Nicole administered more pain medication and by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday I was heading over to the new Medical Surgery wing of the hospital.

The new wing is gorgeous. And I had a huge room – I’ll call it a suite – to myself. Private full bathroom, ridiculously huge window with a lake-view, and a remote that controlled everything – the TV, movies, internet, temperature, lighting, shades, bed, nurse…everything. The room included an extra-long convertible couch and a few chairs along with a wardrobe and curtained-off area for the medical sink and cabinets.

I couldn’t believe that this is where I’d be staying. I couldn’t believe how fortunate that this happened while I was home. If it had to happen, I’ll take major surgery at home instead of on the road any day of the week. It’ll definitely be a birthday that Brian and I never forget.

And my surgery went well. Officially I had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Say that five times fast. But the scariest two days were over. The doctors knew what the problem was, and they knew how to fix it. I just had to give my body time to prepare itself for surgery. And so I did.

Old World Wisconsin

I’m notorious for getting lost. Notorious. Which is why I’m the driver and Brian’s the navigator. That’s just how it’s always been! But to give you a little frame of reference for my complete and utter lack of direction…While I was interviewing in the Twin Cities and Madison during 2004-2005, Brian would know to keep by his phone until I reached my destination. On more than one occasion I’d frantically called him, completely lost, name off the streets I was passing and some how he’d figure out where I was and get me to where I needed to be! It worked, but I’m not gonna lie – I love the GPS on my phone today! It was essential for this Wisconsin-to-Arizona trip, despite my initial little detour.

And here I am. Still lost. An hour behind “schedule”. Taking my sweet, sweet time as I make my way to Minnesota on a “short cut” a friend had recommended. Usually, I take the interstate from Wisconsin to Minnesota, but this seemed like a more direct route. Regardless of the detour, it was absolutely the more worth-while route to take!


This leg of the journey brought me into the heart of Wisconsin farm country. And that was a hard drive for me to go through. While the hills and fields were absolutely gorgeous, the farms, buildings and homes were run-down and in some cases abandoned. Like so:

Photo credit: The above farm photo is from the National Scenic Byways Program.

And seeing farms and farming communities in that type of despair was really hard. My parents continue to work the farm I grew up on, we have a 135-year old farm in the extended family, I was twice a dairy princess and I showed a hog at the Minnesota State Fair more than once. Yes, farming is part of how I was raised. And to see farm after farm abandoned or left in disrepair was unsettling. I know how hard farm families work to make ends meet. I know what the land, the buildings, the history means to farm families. And to see that disappearing, abandoned even, is absolutely heartbreaking.

I just feel that there has to be something more that could be done with the materials. Maybe if we had more places like Dell’s Architectural Antiques or more uses for reclaimed lumber. I don’t know. There’s a lot of history just sitting out there in the fields of Wisconsin weathering the test of time.


How about you? What has your family done for work? Is there a line of work that carries through from generation to generation? Have you ever seen a main industry abandoned in the community and/or within your family? If so, what changed? What does your family do now?

Life is not hard.

It’s really not. You just need to decide to show up and be awesome – despite what the negative forces in your  life may want you to believe. The biggest trick here is that you have to show up and be awesome daily! After all, according to Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

South Beach Miami - September 25, 2009

And don’t we all know negative people? Those who make life more difficult than need be? In fact, each and every one of us is guilty of being negative from time to time. But the frustrating part – the really just heart-wrenching part – is seeing someone we care about live life under the thumb of constant negativity.

Don’t be that person. Do not let negative energy, negative thoughts, or negative people into your life!

You’re far too important! Your limited time on this earth is much, much, MUCH too important! Live life inspired! Live life joyfully! Live life as an adventurous hero! As the best version of yourself! The happy version of you. That amazing version that those who love you most thrive to see shine. You know that version’s in you. It might be buried, but it’s there. And we’re busting her out. NOW.

First: Be strong enough to forgive yourself. You are human, remember? It’s alright. We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself. And move on.

Second: Respect yourself and expect respect from others. You are worth respecting. Never forget that! Move on and away from people who do not respect you. They are not worth your time – they never were.

Third: Honor your emotions. You feel a certain way for a reason. Don’t hide it. SHARE your emotions with those who can help better the situation. Remember, no one can read minds, so be honest! Your voice matters and needs to be heard.


“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay


And finally, I simply must share with you this image I found on It’s been my desktop background for months and has been a source of inspiration for me personally as I’ve begun taking ownership of my life. So absolutely fitting! Enjoy my friends!!!


Flip it! Flip it good!

How does one keep herself entertained while driving some 2,000 miles from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Tempe, Arizona? Why with an hour-by-hour update into her shiny new Flip camera of course! And I have to tell you that this project was more of an on-the-fly idea than anything else. Yes, a week or two before my trip, I did head to Best Buy to visit with Jim (the super-awesome sales consultant in the camera/video department) to buy my first video camera, ever. But it wasn’t until I was two minutes outside of Eau Claire and hit my first (and only!) detour that I thought an hour-by-hour update would be the most amazing idea. And it truly was! I had so many ideas, connections and insights running through my mind during this four-day drive! And I captured them! On 89 videos. Yup, I had an 80-plus-hour drive. Jealous?

Having trouble watching the clip? Check it out on YouTube!

You’ll have to forgive the awful camera work. Did I mention this was my first video camera? And that I was driving?

But here’s what’s important:

Amazing the difference an hour makes! (Can you believe that was just the first one?) Needless to say, it was an intense four-day trip from one side of the country to the other!