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Monday, September 12, 2011

NYC 2011

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Black Friday Survival Guide

My first year in Chicago, I happened to see an advertisement for Midnight Madness at the Chicago Premium Outlets. So, on Thursday night at midnight, the stores were opening their doors for extra special deals and steals.

This being my first Thanksgiving 2300 miles from home and without being at a Country Buffet with my hoop teammates, I thought this would be a fun adventure. I mentioned my plan to my friend, Hope, who offered to chauffeur and take part. Still being in the Utah/Idaho mindset, I envisioned a couple hundred crazy people out and about in the wee hours.

Hope and I took off at about 11 pm and headed to Aurora. About ten miles out, there was this incredible traffic back-up. The Ronald Reagan was a parking lot. We thought there must have been some kind of horrific accident. Then we came upon a flashing sign saying, “OUTLET MALL PARKING LOT FULL. FOLLOW ALTERNATE ROUTE.” This was serious. Thousands were out for midnight madness – I had found my people.

As a side-note, this would become a theme for Hope and me. We seemed to think these national events were just for us and no one else was invited. For instance, we attended the Taste of Chicago on the Fourth of July completely unprepared for the crowd of 1,000,000. I’m not exaggerating; one million was the official count. Smashed in a Metra train trying to get home, Hope grabbed me by the arm and said, “NEVER AGAIN, don’t even ask me.” But that’s another blog post, for another time.

I’ve come a long way since my first all-night shopping excursion. I’d like to share the lessons I’ve learned:

1. Leave EARLY, stay late. Hope and I tried leaving at 11 pm and spent around 3 hours and 45 minutes in traffic. Laurel and I headed out at 10:30 pm and still faced 3 hours of traffic. This year I started out at 9:45 pm and was parked by 11:45 pm. With the one lane traffic, two hours is as good as it gets.

The longer you can brave the cold and stay, the better the crowds disperse. The weak will fold pretty early and head back to their cars. I like to heckle them as they depart.

2. For whom the bell TOLLS!

There will be tolls to pay. There will not be an attendant so correct change is crucial. Hope and I overlooked the tolls in year one. We literally had to pay in pennies anywhere we could find them – under car seats, stashed in ash trays, buried in the bottom of purses. Let me just tell you, everyone LOVES the girls counting out sixty pennies to pay the toll. Cars were even honking their horns cheering us on.

Now, I’m prepared, or as Laurel says, suffering from oldest-child-syndrome. I know it takes two sixty cent tolls to get there and two more to get home. I have four ziplock bags each prepared with sixty cents. I could just get an I-Pass, but that is also another blog post for another time.

3. What NOT to wear.
It is no secret that I’m neurotic. One of my psychosomatic symptoms has to do with my girl clothes and MAC make-up. Midnight Madness is not pretty, so you shouldn’t try to be. My first couple excursions, I tried to be presentable. I wore my Calvin Klein leopard print faux fur and my Audrey Hepburn ballet flats. However, this is not the one night of the year I tell the Stacey and Clinton voices in my head to go to Hell.

Dress comfortable, layer up, and above all else, wear the most depressing, sensible shoes you own. Here is why:

A. You are most likely going to have to park in a random field and hike to the stores. It’s not uncommon to have to cross a ravine.

B. No matter what kind of Indian Summer has been occurring, this will be the night it drops to 18 degrees.

C. You will need to be warm waiting in the lines outside and want to strip layers off waiting in the cashier lines on the inside.

D. People will push and grab, they don’t care if your scarf is Donna Karan chiffon and fragile.

E. You’ll never see so much Old Navy fleece in one place. If you can’t beat them, you might as well join them.

4. DE-Hydration is key!
The only thing worse than the register lines are the lines to the bathroom – and that includes all the disgruntled men forced to attend the madness. So, think twice before that second glass of sparkling cider at Thanksgiving dinner. I allow myself one sugar-free, 8 oz. Red Bull right when I park to insure a second wind. But, trust me; no matter how cold it is, step away from the Starbucks. Plus, even if you brave the bathroom line, do you really want to see the state of a public restroom after a thousand-plus consecutive uses?

5. Good things come to those who WAIT. Okay, there are going to be lines. It’s beyond your control, like the fog at O’Hare. So, just put on your i-pod and people watch. In fact, next year I want to organize a flash mob. It’s the perfect setting for a little dance therapy to kill some time.

It’s also just best to accept the fact that you aren’t getting into the COACH store. It’s like Studio 54 – just accept your fate and move on to an inferior brand. The line is always multiple miles long just to get in to the shoebox sized store.

However, most of the time, the wait is worth it. I got AMAZING deals at Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, The Cosmetic Company, and Ralph Lauren. I’d go into detail but I don’t want to spoil Christmas.

As another side-note – To all my Lady T-Birds out there, remember the free Vera Bradley bags we got at the basketball tourney in Fort Wayne? I wish I would have kept mine to sell to the people waiting in the insane line to get into her store.

6. Texting at 2 am is not LOL.
Shopping is a drug. And when you are scoring these kinds of deals, you want to tell your homies all about it. It’s got a drunk dialing effect. Just remember that most of your entourage is in a food coma and does not care about the designer military sweater coach you scored for $40. It is fabulous though.

7. Take a power nap and PUSH through.
I made it home from the madness at 3:30 am and was in bed by four. But I forced myself out of bed at 7:30 am and went back into the mob to check out some of the more mainstream deals. It is best to take a short nap and push through with the rest of your day. This keeps your sleep pattern somewhat intact. If you sleep all day, you’ll waste the long weekend trying to get your sleep pattern regulated. No one wants to feel jetlagged on Monday from a short trip to Aurora.

8. Last but not LEAST.
And finally, it is no surprise that I’ll leave you with my five favorite words:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cross Notre Dame Stadium Off the Bucket List

So, with my hectic schedule, I only have time to blog about really life-changing events – like Jake choosing Vienna or my giraffe obsession. Well, this installment features a monumental event. I was recently able to attend a Notre Dame football game and even better, the opponent was the Utah Utes.

It all began with my friend and college roommate, Tracey, who is to Ute football what Gino is to the Boston Celtics. She is the ultimate fan, and along with her husband, they were making the pilgrimage to South Bend following the Utes. Fortunately, this journey took them through Chicago and allowed us to have a night out on the town the Friday before kick-off.

We were heading downtown for dinner and I picked them up around 6. Now the time is important to note because those Chicagoland natives will realize we were heading directly into rush hour traffic. Apparently, I-15 from SLC to West Jordan doesn’t back up like the Eisenhower. I kept reassuring Tracy and Scott that traffic would be opening up just around the bend. For you locals, we were at the Manheim exchange and I thought it would get a little better once we got passed the SuperTarget. Unfortunately, we didn’t pick up to 35 mph until Rush Hospital.

At dinner (Pizano’s), Scott asked me why I wasn’t going to the game with them. I explained that I had looked into buying a ticket on stubhub but they were super expensive. So, Scott went to work texting the football coaches to see if he could track down a ticket. One of the coaches got back to him and said he wouldn’t know until the morning. We had a great night reliving the glory days of Stadium Way #47 over deep dish pizza and capped the night off with cake shakes from Portillo’s.

More on this later, but Scott is basically a Genie – he makes all your wishes come true. Case in point, my phone rings at 9 am on Saturday morning and Tracey tells me to get my red on and start driving to South Bend. So, I got dressed, looked in the mirror and realized that while my Donna Karan sweater with the fur collar was fabulous, I would be a mere mortal at this event and actually sitting outside instead of in a press box. I changed into a hoodie and hit the road.

Once I got to South Bend, there were sooooo many people trying to make their way to the game. I just pulled into the first parking lot I came to, paid my $20 and called Tracey. They were in line at will call and it turns out everyone in the party needed to be present to pick up the tickets. I took off as fast as I could and headed towards campus. Tracey was checking my progress and let me know they were at the front of the line letting other people go ahead.

At this point, I put my cell phone in my back pocket and took off running towards the band music. I ran through tailgate parties and right into a concert on the quad that the marching band was playing. At this point, I asked some guy wearing a gold wig and green face paint to point me towards the stadium. . . . I figured he would know. I resumed my sprint knocking several small children over in my wake. When I finally made it to will-call, there was Tracy in all her fabulousness. Decked out in Utah bling and a red cowboy hat complete with red fringe. Scott was busy selling his University of Utah hat to a fan for $30. See, you need a hat, for $30 all your dreams come true. Genie.

Then we entered the cathedral that is Notre Dame Stadium. It really is quite humbling to be in such a historic venue. The only thing literally putting a damper on the game was the rain. But Tracey provided me with this outerwear known as a rain poncho. It’s basically a garbage sack with sleeves and a hood. This was my first experience wearing biodegradable polythene film, but it was crucial. So, crucial in fact that Scott provided the Ute fans behind us a couple ponchos to help them stay dry. Genie.

A few highlights from the game: There was an F-14 flyover after the national anthem. The Notre Dame marching band is spectacular as they should be with 165 years of practice. They are known as college’s first marching band. I loved seeing the Utes take the field and watching all the former SUU coaches and players, who now work for Utah, in action.

Our seats were in the corner endzone facing Touchdown Jesus. As Utah would drive towards us, Tracey would yell, “You can do it Utes, Jesus is behind you.” It was hilarious. Also, Tracey is like the Wikipedia of Utah football. She would point out different players to me and give me their stats, injury status, and eHarmony report. I know exactly which football players are taken and who is on the market as well as how many yards rushing they average.

I didn’t have time for breakfast before hitting the road for the game. So, by the third quarter, I was getting hungry. No worries though, next thing I know, Scott has the fans behind us heading down to the concession stand for a couple game day brats. Genie. It was a rough game for the Utes, after taking a 3-0 lead, several false start penalties kind of knocked the wind out of them. Speaking of wind, the rain and wind kept up the majority of the game until about four minutes left in the fourth when we caught a glimpse of the sun.

Unfortunately, the day ended in a Ute loss as the Irish took home a 28-3 victory. We made our way down a maze of ramps and prepared for the long, cold walk back to our cars. And after a day sitting in that rain that chills your soul, the hike to the cars was going to be a frigid one. But next thing I know, Scott is handing me a mug of hot chocolate. Genie. Tickets, food, and drink. My three wishes were complete and it was time to say goodbye. And this is where my adventure begins.

So, when I entered the stadium it was daylight and when I left it was dark. Due to the mad dash to the stadium, I was pretty unaware of my surroundings. Basically, I was completely disoriented at this point. But I decided to just follow the crowds because the chances were that someone had parked in the same place I did. Well we eventually came upon a parking lot, however, it was not my parking lot. Fortunately, I had glanced at the ticket they gave me for my dash when I parked, so I knew I was parked in White Field. I hunted down a security guard in the current parking lot and asked for directions. He got out of his golf cart, put both hands on my shoulders and said, “Oh, honey.”

Turns out, I had walked about two miles in the wrong direction. He said, “Go back down to the intersection and that should be Holy Cross. Take Holy Cross until you come to Juniper Street and take a right. Keep going through campus until you come to St. Mary’s path. Follow St. Mary’s till you come to a fork and take the path that leads you through the trees. Stay on that path until you get to the street and then head towards the credit union. White field is behind the credit union.” Wowza. Then he patted me on the back and said, “Good luck,” as if I was Frodo embarking on a quest to find a lost ring.

At this point the crowds were thinning out. And let me just tell you that with all that Gothic architecture, Notre Dame is pretty freaky in the dark. It has a very priests-come-out-at-night feel. St. Mary’s path through the trees could be a future location for a Criminal Minds episode. I did make it to the road and luckily there was a policeman there directing traffic who got me to the right place. I’ve never been so happy so see Marcus Murano in my life! The best thing about my great Notre Dame Adventure was that by the time I got to my car, traffic had dispersed considerably.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. It meant so much to me to get to catch up with Tracey. She is amazing and thanks to facebook we are reconnected. It was so thoughtful of Tracey and Scott to help get me the ticket. It was fantastic of Jeff Rudy, former SUU T-Bird football star, to add me to the coaches’ pass list. But that’s how it is with Thunderbirds – we stick together.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


When I was growing up, we took the exact same summer vacation every year --- and my family JOKES about our OCD tendencies. We would load up the Mercury Marquis, stock the cooler with Diet Coke, and drive from Twin Falls (Shangri-La of the West) to Salt Lake City. Then Larsenpalooza would begin.

DAY 1 – Pool time at Little America and shopping at Crossroads Plaza. Endless hours at the Disney store and Mrs. Field’s cookies.

DAY 2 – Hogle zoo and one of those animal carvings a machine makes out of a hunk of wax, which typically never made it back to Idaho due to the melting factor.

DAY 3 – The Pièce de résistance and grand finale. . . . . . LAGOON! I still hold the Larsen record for eight consecutive Colossus rides without puking.

Anyway, it was during these Hogle Zoo visits that I became quite enamored with giraffes. They were tall and awkward just like me! (And that's not my chubby little brother in the picture, it is in fact me. Apparently, my mom lost the fight over the wearing of a shirt but fortunately she had gone with the androgynus haircut. And people wonder why I won't leave the house without eyeliner and lipgloss.) Giraffes also have these amazing eyelashes, like nothing MAC zoomlash can replicate.

No matter where a giraffe is --- the jungle, the zoo, head in the trees – it’s impossible not to notice. I relate and maybe that’s why I have become so enchanted by them. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I’m a train wreck when it comes to the freak of nature tall thing. I know, it is supposed to be a gift, but sometimes I just wish it came with a gift receipt.

Enter my love of the giraffe, because in all their quirkiness, there is something undeniably majestic about them. They move with a grace that seems to say, “If you are going to stare, I’m going to give you something to look at.”

So, I focus on the “something.” It used to be basketball. If people were going to watch my team play, it was an opportunity to put on a show. Sometimes it’s my message. If people are going to listen to me speak, it’s an opportunity to say something meaningful. Sometimes it’s my actions. If people are going to watch my every move, it’s an opportunity to be a little kinder than necessary. And sometimes it’s just my fashion. If people are going to stare, it’s an opportunity to be a little more fabulous than my onlookers. And for that, I’d like to thank Michael Kors for the wardrobe, Kenneth Cole for the accessories, Marc Jacobs for the handbag, MAC for the make-up, and my sister for the mantra, “fun, fabulous, and flat broke!”

Speaking of my AMAZING sister, Evie Elaine Larsen, she recently taught me a fantastic new lesson about giraffes. I recently hit a bit of a rough patch, nothing like The Great Depression, but I was down-and-out about things. The classic cliché’ of when it rains it pours. I’d had to make some decisions about some things in my life. It made me question my purpose and dredge up my now-famous insecurities. In true sibling form, Evie took the brunt of the ugly cry sessions, although they didn’t quite reach Billy Elliott proportions.

To make the sniffling stop, she sent me this great giraffe-themed care package that included a card that taught me this: Giraffes, with their long necks and staggering heights, are very disproportionate creatures. In fact, when they put their heads down, they physically cannot move forward. So, for that reason, they do not like to bend down. About the only time giraffes will put their heads down is to drink water. And they learn to consume large amounts of water very quickly, because with their heads down and no mobility, they become very vulnerable to predators. They have to keep their heads up to move forward.

Isn’t it amazing the metaphors we can find in life? You can’t advance, progress, or pursue your dreams if your head is down. You have to keep your head defiantly up to move forward. We are all going to have challenges and bad days and even tragedy. It’s unavoidable, like the giraffe has to eventually drink water. But if you keep your head down and wallow, you make yourself vulnerable to lose the fight. And life wouldn’t be a fight if it wasn’t worth winning. You gotta keep your head up to move forward.

I love the quote, "Whate lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." We have to find the power to pull our heads up and move forward to achieve anything in this world.

Thank you so much Evie for reminding me it’s time to put my head up so I can move forward. I’ve had enough of a water break and I’m ready to stand freakishly tall again with my head in the clouds. Aren’t giraffes the absolute best????

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FOR THE LAST TIME: My Player-of-the-Year Debacle

Those close to me understand that there are certain things I will not be denied. I graduated college in 1998 and for 12 years I have told this story, pouted, and maybe even cried a little. Well, this year my office decided to put an end to my annoying rant. They gave me an amazing birthday gift as long as I promise to retire this damn story! So here it is for the LAST time, the story of how I was stripped of The Mid-Continent Player-of-the-Year Award. **Warning: Since this is the final relaying of the story, I tell it in excruciating detail. **

Now, this will sound completely cocky, but it’s necessary to set the stage. I headed into the 1997-98 CITGO Mid-Continent Basketball Tournament already breaking 2 national records, 8 school records, and 62 single performance records (that would go up to 64 after the tourney). This was back in the day when the conference still did an awards banquet. We were in Moline, IL playing at The Mark. The banquet was held at this fantastic hotel called Jumer’s Castle. It was an actual castle, it was awesome.

I even remember what I wore to the event – it was very Bollywood. It was a long, muted citrus orange pencil skirt with a brightly colored Chevron patterned tunic. And I accessorized with a Liz Picasso necklace I bought in San Francisco with garage sale money. (I had a garage sale to fund my summer vacation to S.F)

Anyway, it was your standard awards banquet, until it came time to award the Player-of-the-Year. The banquet emcee announced that it was time to award the highest honor in Mid-Continent basketball (his words not mine). “And the 1997-98 Mid-Continent Player-of-the-Year is. . . . . a senior from Southern Utah, Myndee Larsen!” My team went wild and I’m pretty sure Chelsey Wornell yelled something inappropriate which is fantastic. I had the proper shocked but grateful facial expression as I proceeded to the podium to shake Commissioner Steinbrecher’s hand and accept my award.

As we were filing out of the banquet room, I was stopped by a certain Mid-Con staffer who was 6’6” and some might say dashing. He asked if he could have the award back to get the name engraved on it. There is a high percentage chance I would have given this guy my shirt if he had asked for it, so handing over the plaque was easy. Later it would all become clear why they sent the hot guy in and it would be the last time I saw that award.

My team went on to beat UMKC in the quarters and lose to Youngstown state in the semis – and that was a wrap on my college basketball career. We traveled back to C-town and went on with our lives and Pizza Factory lunch specials.

I know this will be hard to believe, but I actually forgot about the award. Coach Hillock was the one who remembered, and as May approached, called the conference office to inquire about its whereabouts. This is where the scandal begins. It was explained to Coach Hillock that there was a technicality. Essentially, the Mid-Con has two separate votes for Player-of-the-Year. There was a media vote and a head coaches’ vote. It seems 99.9% of the time these groups picked the same person as player of the year. Therefore, the conference traditionally issued a single award.

In a unique (0.01%) turn of events, the media chose me as Player-of-the-Year but the head coaches chose Sandy Shores from Oldtown State. (I’m changing names to protect myself when I start ripping on them) It turns out the conference office made an interpretation that the coaches’ vote should carry more weight than the media, so they re-awarded the Player-of-the-Year to Sandy Shores.

I’ve spent entirely too much time researching Sandy’s stats and I can’t find much. I could just walk over to the communications wing of our office and ask for her stats. But they would know why I wanted them and we have a strict mock people to their face policy in our office. So, it has been a lot of futile internet research. Basically, in Sandy’s senior year she scored 373 point for a 13.8 average, I scored 618 for a 22.0 average. There are no rebounding stats on Sandy because she didn’t rebound. Then I took us head-to-head in the tournament, and keep in mind she played one more game than me and had that much more opportunity to put up numbers. In three games, Sandy averaged 4 point and 4 rebounds. In two games, I averaged 30 points and 11.5 rebounds. I always knew those media people were smart, that’s why journalism was one of my three majors.

I digress, back to Coach Hillock on the phone with the Mid-Con. Jumpin’ Joe gets the news and then he does his thing. He ranted and raved and gasped for breath all in my honor. The conference office finally conceded and said they would have an award sent my way. Well, 12 years later and I’m still checking the mailbox.

Something else came out of this fiasco, the league changed the rule. There is no longer a separate media vote and head coaches’ vote. It's one vote with the coaches’ vote weighted more heavily than the media vote. It was actually called The Myndee Larsen Rule for the first couple years after its inception.

My biggest disappointment was that at this young point in my life, I was unaccustomed to not being liked. Trust me, I’m used to it now! But back then, I couldn’t figure out why all these coaches didn’t like me. I mean I averaged 22 and 10 against Youngstown, broke the consecutive field goal record against UMKC, set SUU’s new block record against ORU, pulled myself out of the game against Chicago State after I scored 40 and the CSU girls offered to help me get 60 with 17 minutes left, and I cut myself off after 33 points against WIU so that I would end my career on the Centrum floor scoring Larry Bird’s number. What’s not to love? See, I’m not bitter about this situation at ALL. I also am really not this egotistical and I realize this paragraph is unnecessary and uncalled for, but I’ll leave it in anyway. ;)

Coach Hillock believed coaches voted for Sandy Shores because it was our first year in the league and coaches wanted to reward a veteran player who had paid her Mid-Con dues. You can see how I understood and was able to let this all go.

So basically, the whole thing left me the media darling with no hardware to prove it. And I’ve been spinning my yarn ever since. Fortunately, in 2007, the league added three new schools. Fresh meat, and I was able to take them through the horror of my situation all over again. In 2011, the University of South Dakota comes on board. But unfortunately, The Summit League staffers have ensured the Yotes won’t have to hear it.

On February 10, 2010, in a small but tasteful luncheon (Vanessa made Emeril’s Jambalaya pasta and Carmel Apple Pecan Pie, Tom & Brenda supplied the cupcakes), The Summit League officially presented me with my Player-of-the-Year plaque with the caveat that I shut the hell up! Consider it done folks, right after this blog entry!

To summarize, I just had to spend 12 years working my way up the athletic administration ladder until I could quit my job in C-town and infiltrate the home office in Elmhurst – then voila! I’m Player-of-the-Year Suckas!

All kidding aside, I think it’s pretty evident I work with some amazing people. It really did mean a lot to me that they honored my hoop career for my birthday, even if I did have to beat them into submission. Thanks you guys, you rock! Now if I can just get Commissioner Steinbrecher to don the Mid-Con lapel pen one more time, I can get the scrapbook photo.

It took a little over a decade but I persevered and got my plaque. And if Southern Utah thinks I’ve forgotten about my stolen jersey or that I’m gonna be okay with some vinyl banner bolted to the wall, they’ve got another thing coming. Looks like I’ve got my new crusade!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On The Wings of Love - Where's the Air Sickness Bag?

Nothing like a Bachelor finale to bring the blog out of retirements after a year hiatus!

There's so much, I don't even know where to start. The most dram tic question in Bachelor history has been, "Why Vienna?" Besides the producers telling Jake to pick her, I have a theory:

Jake says his nickname in high school was "Mr. Dateless." Shocking, I know, since we learned early on that he throws a football more like Kim Kardashian and less like Reggie Bush. This being the case, he missed out on a valuable rite of passage in the male development process:


It sounds like poor Jake couldn't even get the Goth Girl to meet him behind the bleachers, blurring the line in adulthood of lust vs. love. Just like every girl who is devastated by her first bad boy, Jake is destined to be heartbroken when Vienna does the skank of shame shuffle onto her next free ticket. One sparkle of a rhinestone from a Jon Gosselin Ed Hardy T-shirt catches Vienna's eye and there's a synthetic hair love story waiting to happen. Besides, I'm pretty sure Vienna is contracted to stay with Jake through Jason and Molly's wedding a la Bob and Estella.

Let me just bullet point a few of my other pertinent thoughts:

1. I don't doubt that Tenly has been dropped out of a Disney movie, dreams in cartoons, and even craps rainbows. But exactly what slutty princess did she borrow her "After the Final Rose" dress from? Tenly, that was a shirt, you forgot your pants sweetie. Somewhere Mickey Mouse is blushing.

2. Ali's dress, however, was flawless. The one shoulder, butterfly sleeve was elegant and understated. Speaking of Ali, you know that she was pegged pretty early by the producers as a viable Bachelorette candidate. Once you learn of Ali's profession, the whole exit scenario seems pretty ridiculous. The Red Cross wasn't calling her in for Haiti relief, Wall Street didn't need her help with the Dow, and Toyota didn't ask her to testify before Congress. She is a Facebook Account Executive. All I can say is somebody's mafia war must have gone loco!

3. I loved when Jake proposed with the ring box, that you couldn't even see the ring because the camera was zoomed in on the Neil Lane logo. We get it Mr. Lane, you are a sponsor. We needed the glare of the diamond to blind us from Vienna's roots.

4. Really? Did ABC just bring out Jeffrey Osborne for a live performance of "On the Wings of Love?" Where did they even find him? I suggested to my friend Vanessa that he should fire his agent. She said, "The way i see it, he's the only winner of the night as thousands of 20-somethings are googling his name right now." Good point, and he may score some royalties from the I-tunes downloads. Vanessa also suggested that the next bachelor should be a sea captain so ABC can bring in Christopher Cross to sing "Sailing" at the finale. (No, "Sailing" is NOT an N*SYNC song, they just covered it.) Vanessa is funny, she should have her own HBO comedy special.

5. We've seen Jake dance A LOT this season. I'd just like to say to 70-year old astronaut Buzz Aldrin, you got nothing to worry about on Dancing With The Stars!

Finally, I will be involved in the semi-finals of The Summit League Basketball tournament during Jason and Molly's Wedding Extravaganza. So, please text me if it becomes the most dramatic wedding in Bachelor history. I don't really know what they can do to top Trista and Ryan filling an hourglass with their own personal sands of their times. Barf. I really do need that air sickness bag.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Myndee Kay "Mammogram" Larsen

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t have this amazing survivor story. I have friends who are the medical miracles and their fight should be celebrated. I had a scare, a blip on the radar, a wake-up call if you will. It’s been said that we are never sent challenges that we can’t handle, and for me, I was given all I can handle!

So, why write about a wake-up call? There are a couple reasons. First, when I was preparing for surgery, I met with a counselor which is apparently routine, just to help get you in the right mental state. She found me to be rather closed off and private (Shocker, hope she didn’t take out a lot of student loans to figure that one out). She is the one who suggested that I tell people about the surgery before I had it and also eventually write about it. It should be therapeutic.

Secondly, and this might sound cheesy, but I’ve always had a feeling that my life is not entirely mine. From a very young age, I’ve felt an obligation to people. It’s been a blessing and a curse. But I pay it forward; participate in random acts of kindness, and try being present for anyone who is struggling. Honestly, it’s not always a choice, often I’m compelled to do these things. This paragraph sounds so self-serving, and it is. Many times I benefit more than my recipient does. Through this experience, I learned that the norm of reciprocity is not dead. These people that I have been compelled to take care of, really took care of me.

Shortly after moving to Chicago, I was mentally in a great place, loving my job, loving the city. But physically I could tell something was wrong. No worries reader, I won’t be throwing out embarrassing medical details or over sharing.

Unfortunately, I was forced to miss our staff outing to the Cubs game in order to see a specific doctor who came highly recommended. At my appointment, he immediately set me up for a mammogram and some other tests the next week.

I did call my family at this point. I could tell I really freaked them out. I think Evie will agree with me when I say I’m the voice of reason in our family. I organize the events; make the plans, force action, resolve conflict. So, when I could tell the level of panic was high, I downplayed it all. No big deal, a couple tests, it will be fine.

I really did feel that way until the night before I was scheduled to go to the hospital for the initial round of tests. My mind started playing this horrible game of “what ifs” on me and I could feel the impending meltdown. So, I started dialing my inner circle which consists of about four people who, when I’m desperate, I will share with. Not one of them answered. I took this as a sign that I was supposed to handle it myself but then my phone rang. Shannon was the first to call me back. She was brilliant and truly talked me off the ledge. It wasn’t 2 minutes into my conversation with Shannon that Laurel started beeping in. When I was finally able to speak with Laurel, she went into full crisis mode. The next day I got a phone call from a nurse in the Chicago area who Laurel had somehow tracked down through friends. This nurse was wonderful, she talked me through everything that was going to happen at the hospital, told me what questions to ask, and gave me her number to call back if I needed anything else. Once again, Laurel and Shannon pulled through.

The most excruciating thing about the hospital is that the technicians who run your tests are not allowed to tell you anything because they are not doctors. So, even though they see the results and know exactly what they are looking at, they can’t tell you what they see. You end up playing this game where you try to gauge the reaction. What does that smile mean? Did she just furrow her brow? I did a series of tests that culminated in the mammogram. I was told, after the mammogram, they would do an ultra sound but only if necessary. Well, I got sent to the ultra sound which choked me up. I figured it must be bad if they are doing the additional test. As soon as it was over and I reached my car, I started blaring Matt Nathanson’s “The Weight of It All” and crying my eyes out! I left the hospital knowing nothing.

Let me just digress for a minute and give you a heads up about mammograms. They do not hurt. They are a little bit awkward and the technician does some manipulating that bonds the two of you together for life, but they do not hurt. So if you are supposed to be getting a mammogram and haven’t: Cowgirl up and go get ‘ir done! Call now. I’ve had four and they are no big deal.
I got the call two weeks later that the doctors didn’t see anything on my mammogram. But because of my symptoms it was obvious that something was wrong. I was told to give it three months and see if my body would correct itself. It didn’t. Mammogram #2, three more months of waiting, Mammogram #3, now I’m beginning to realize that medicine is NOT an exact science.
Finally, my doctor felt it was time for me to see a surgeon. Of course the surgeon ordered mammogram #4, and by this time I know exactly how to turn my shoulders and could pretty much give myself a mammogram if I had to. And it was also back to the ultra-sound room. Fortunately, this surgeon figured out the problem, actually where the problem was hiding and encouraged me to have it surgically removed.

This was right before Christmas. So, I asked if it could wait long enough to talk to my family over the holidays. He said yes. Well, I didn’t want to ruin the holidays so I pretty much kept it to myself. As my parents were rolling me out curbside at the SLC airport, I said, “Oh, by the way I have to have some surgery to remove a lump that hopefully isn’t breast cancer. Thanks for the ride!”

It was hard for me to get the surgery scheduled. First, because I didn’t want to do it, I’d never had surgery and the anesthesia freaks me out. Secondly, because all I do for work is travel, with one trip after another, I wasn’t slowing down. Finally, my surgeon said we need to get this done. I ended up missing the NCAA Championships Cabinet and The Summit League Swimming & Diving Championships to have my surgery. Fortunately, the people I work with were kind enough to cover for me. It helped that the NCAA Championships Cabinet was in San Antonio and my boss is obsessed with Texas.

This is the point where my true friends came out of the woodwork. My family was going through a very difficult time and was unable to come out to Chicago for the surgery. I told them this was fine but actually I was petrified. I had friends like Gretchen and Hope let me know all I had to do was say the word and they would make a trip. Dina offered to pay for a plane ticket for my mom. Tony gave me one of the most comforting phone calls I think I’ve ever had.

And then there was Brenda. I was thinking about it and I realized that I never even had to ask her to take me in for my surgery. Once I told her my family wasn’t coming out, she simply said, “Just let me know what time I’m picking you up.” And I know this was a hardship for her because she has two kids at home and a husband who has to catch a train into the city each morning. I know she had to do a lot of juggling to pick me up at 5:00 a.m. and stay with me throughout the procedure. I am forever indebted and eternally grateful for her.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I was scared. From the time I found out I had to have surgery up until the day of surgery, I basically cried myself to sleep each night with worry. To try to find some peace, I ended up calling on some people from my church. I was a complete stranger to these two individuals but they came and prayed with me and after the surgery took turns bringing me meals. People’s capacity to give is astounding and reassuring.

The surgery was a blur. They gave me some valium or something to calm my nerves so I was a little loopy when my doctor came to meet with me pre-op. He had a Sharpie so he could initial where he was going to operate. I remember telling him, “You’re not exactly the person I thought I’d ask to sign my chest.” He got a kick out of that.

I woke up from the anesthesia alright which was a huge concern of mine. Brenda checked me out and took me home to start recovering. The day I got home from surgery a care package arrived from Laurel and Shannon which included a blue blanket which I pretty much stayed wrapped up in throughout the recuperation. The recovery went pretty smooth and again I was truly overcome with the amount of phone calls and cards and people just generally checking in. I had no idea the support system that I have.

I went back to work a little too soon and had one minor black out incident where I smacked my head. It was kind of like the time in high school I decided to hustle and save the basketball from going out of bounds. But instead of leaping and throwing the ball over my shoulder and back into play, I rammed it into my forehead and back out of bounds. These headaches were comparable.

Three weeks after my surgery I had an appointment to go back to my surgeon and find out the lab results. I was very lucky and relieved to find out everything turned out okay. I tested out clear at my six month check-up, I head in for my nine month check up in November, and my one year check up in February. If all of these go well, I can start seeing a doctor less often.

This is something that I’ll have to monitor for the rest of my life. One of my friends was commiserating with me and asking if it was depressing to think that for the rest of my life I’ll have to have these check-ups. I said, “Not really. Basically, I’ll never have a slump because I’m guaranteed to get felt up every six months. And I’ve had countless rich doctors ask me to take my shirt off. And that ain’t so bad!”

This experience is trivial, I definitely get that. But it shook me to my core. My bucket list is in full effect, I am checking things off right and left, not leaving anything to chance. In fact, last year, when this whole thing started several of you may have received the “In case I die, I love you” e-mails from me. Even in a crisis my flair for the dramatic is ever present.

I’ve taken control of my health and try to eat right and exercise like crazy. I’ve taken control of my friendships and try to spend the time on the people who are my true friends and not worry so much about the others. I’ve always had control of my fashion so no adjustments there. More than anything it has restored my faith in people. That’s why I want to start a “Thinking of You” Campaign and do some emotional fundraising. It’s important to me for reasons I can’t fully explain.

To be a participant in a “Thinking of You” campaign is ego boosting and self-esteem raising. So, I really hope you will participate with me. If I don’t have your address, e-mail it to me and I’ll make sure you are included. If I do have your address, just leave a comment that you want to be a participant and I’ll make sure you are! You can participate in this campaign by spending as little as 15 minutes and 45 cents. I hope I have piqued your interest (I'm being purposefully vague) and you will help me out. If not, I think less of you already ;).

40,000 women die of breast cancer every year. It would be amazing if we could touch 40,000 people in our campaign but that may be wishful thinking. I’m going to give it my all and if I’ve ever done a favor for you, I’m cashing it in, help me out.

Thanks for reading my rambling! Talk to you all soon.