Category: Volunteer Work

Surfrider Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant Opens in Newport, Taking Steps to Saving Our Ocean

This week, I am continuing to take a break from my traumatic brain injury series to focus on the environment and what everyday citizens can do to make a difference.  Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an entertaining event put on by the Surfrider Foundation of Newport.  If you aren’t aware of Surfrider Foundation their mission is protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. If you are passionate about our oceans, please join or donate today!

The event was a poetry reading from our new Newport Surfrider Foundation Chair, Scott Rosin, “Tell ‘Em We’re Surfing.”  Before the poetry reading began our local Oregon Field Manager, Bri Goodman talked about the location of our event, Bosque Café. (Bosque is Spanish for forest and Bosque Café is nestled in a forest near Oregon Coast Community College).   I was not aware Newport, Oregon had a restaurant that met the Platinum requirements of the Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurant program and a restaurant that is almost certified as zero-waste!  To be a Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant you have to meet the requirements below and Bosque Café goes above and beyond these requirements!

  • No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
  • Proper recycling practices are followed.
  • Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request.
  • No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
  • Straws are provided only upon request.
  • No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
  • Discount is offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
  • Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis
  • All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.
  • Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented.
  • Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances, are in place.

After hearing this, I had to meet the owners and understand why take this huge risk in starting a brand-new business and in such a small community, (there are only 10,000 residents in Newport.)  When I met Ed and Hidi Cortes, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Hidi is Vietnamese and grew up in California in Orange County (just like me) and Ed is Mexican with an IT background (also like me).  I felt I had met my long-lost sister and brother.  They have lived in Newport for thirteen years and explained to me it has always been important to them to live a sustainable life, trying to buy local or grow local vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. Reducing their footprint on this earth and ensuring they had as little waste as possible.

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Cortes Family at the new Bosque Café

Let’s spend a little time understanding why zero waste is so important and how cool it is that Ed and Hidi are trying to execute this concept here in Newport.  According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, households and businesses threw away 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. A 2014 study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up being disposed of; 14.3% is recycled, and only 1.4% is donated.  Landfilled food provides ready fuel for methane gas production — the most environmentally destructive greenhouse gas linked to global warming.  In addition to food wastes, there is plastic and inedible items that don’t biodegrade and wash into our ocean and beach shores.  There has been so much discussion on what do we do about the 1.2 trillion tons of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean and most scientist say the best thing is how do we reduce our dependence on plastic and stop throwing plastics away.

This is what Ed and Hidi are trying to do!  At Bosque there will be the right size of consumable portions, so you don’t have left overs you throw away.  There will not be take away drink or food containers that will be thrown away at home.  They ask you consider bringing your own if you are in a hurry and can’t enjoy their relaxing atmosphere.  In the future they will have reusable non-plastic containers for purchase.

Hidi grew up in a family that owned multiple restaurants, eating eclectic foods and combining different ethnic foods to create a new culinary fare.  For example, blending foods and spices from Mexico and Vietnam like creating an Asian version of the tortilla.   It really resonated with me, as I do this all the time and my husband looks at me with a particular look when he sees Soy Sauce going into the Bolognese Sunday Gravy Sauce.

Hidi loves to cook, has always wanted to open her own restaurant and there are zero Vietnamese Restaurants in Newport.  The Cortes family thought this was the perfect time.  In wanting to be sustainable and fresh, Vietnamese was a perfect choice since it is known for its healthy cuisine and it works well to make vegetarian and vegan options out of traditional Vietnamese favorites.  What is really exciting is Hidi wants to push her culinary creativity so each month you will see specials in other global traditions that may have a little Vietnamese influence.  I’m dying to try her take on curry that she has transformed from all the different countries that create curries, she described to me during our interview.

menu

The yummy menu.

I asked Ed why he chose his location adjacent to Oregon Coast Community College.  A restaurant like this would get a lot more traffic and be more successful in Nye Beach or on the Bay Front.  Ed is an ultra-runner and runs in the woods near Oregon Coast Community College and when he saw the opportunity to launch a restaurant and café in his favorite running area they decided to take the plunge! Also, he wants to help support the students (OCCC students get 10% discount) and bring more options to the growing community in South Beach.  Everyone will be pleasantly surprised on the nice size portions for the price!  They are in process of getting their liquor license so currently you will need to go upstairs to the Wolf Tree Brewery Taproom for those options.

They are excited to open their café and restaurant to organizations for events, like the one we just had with Surfrider.  The space is clean, bright and inviting.  Ed has lots of ideas and plans you will see in the future to bring some exciting local art and technology to the forefront, be sure to keep coming by often!  As I discussed earlier growing their own local vegetables is important to the Cortes Family; therefore, you will see a full hydroponics system in the restaurant in the near future.   They also make their own fresh soy and almond milk.   For those of you in town October 14th at 2pm, is the official Grand Opening, make sure you come by and support an amazing family, restaurant and try the scrumptious Vietnamese food!

Being Good Stewards of Our Ocean

This week I will be taking a break from my blog series on traumatic brain injury to discuss possible climate change effects on our Oregon Coast and the entire West Coast.  I had the opportunity to join my friend, Dr. Lindsay Aylesworth, on a volunteer surveying activity with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Reserves and Oregon State University at Otter Rock Marine Reserve, Oregon.

It was the first time I woke up at 4:55AM in morning in the last four years since my brain injury.  We headed out to the Otter Rock Marine Reserve on a super low negative tide day.  It was amazing, I had never been out that far or in the marine reserve before.

First off, Doctor Sarah Gravem gave an overview of the intertidal area.  Oregon’s intertidal zone hosts 116 species of invertebrates, 71 species of algae, and 3 species of seagrass. She then explained how sea stars are the ‘great white shark’ of the intertidal zone.  They serve as the apex predator helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem.  I couldn’t believe these beautiful calm creatures were veracious eaters.

Sarah then explained the reason we were out surveying was due to a massive virus that almost made the sea stars extinct a couple years ago down the west coast and they are trying to determine how it effects the intertidal zone now.  For example, what happens to the intertidal zone if there are too many mussels because there are fewer sea stars to eat them?

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The team on Otter Rock Marine Reserve surveying intertidal zone.

Not many people realize back in 2013-2014 there was a massive virus epidemic that nearly wiped out the entire sea star population from Baja Mexico to Alaska.  This wasting disease infects the sea star and causes it to develop lesions that dissolve their tissue and spread throughout their bodies.  It often kills the invertebrates within a couple of weeks or even a matter of days. When lesions appear on the sea stars’ rays (the arms of the star fish), a resilient few sea stars may shed the limb before the disease reaches their vital organs and later regrow it, but unfortunately most ended up dying. More often, the sea stars’ extremities become gnarled and deformed as the wasting syndrome takes hold, and the organisms quickly disintegrate into a white mush.

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Example of sea stars with wasting disease.

No one really knows why the wasting disease occurs but some scientists hypothesize climate change had something to do with it.  From studies done in Oregon, it does not appear that the disease was triggered by climate change since it began when waters were colder than normal. However this is only for Oregon, as for Washington, California, Mexico and Alaska waters were warming. Other scientists still believe that climate change triggered the disease in those places. Additionally, after the outbreak climate change definitely played a role in the severity of the disease in Oregon.  As this warming in our oceans continue to occur we are seeing changes in marine life and their ecosystem.

Additionally, we have the huge blob of trash floating out in the Pacific Ocean that may be wreaking some type of havoc on our marine habitat.  Scientists are studying this to better determine what all this trash means to our marine habitat.  We as citizens need to do a better job of ensuring we keep trash, sewage, chemicals and plastic out of our oceans.

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Haley and Greg counting mussels, snails and starfish.

But I digress, now back to the surveying.  Our goal was to count all the new mussels forming, the various snails and starfish that were in the intertidal zone.  We then spent the next four hours counting, photographing and documenting what we could find in one meter and ½ meter quadrants.

For those of you living near Newport or in any Oregon Coast community you can be part of citizen science.  One of ODFW’s collaborators, MARINe, uses citizen science to report where healthy and afflicted sea stars are being found. Anyone can download their datasheets, collect data, and then submit it online . If this sounds interesting, there are a few things to note before heading out to become doctors of the intertidal zone (check out full methods here).

Species identification is necessary so be familiar with the local species of sea stars. Size needs to be recorded so bring a ruler or something of known length as a reference. Review this post to familiarize with the types of sea star wasting symptoms. If you find there are diseased individuals remember to take a picture and send it to seastarwasting@googlegroups.com.

There is some good news though.  Several baby sea stars have survived the wasting disease and are beginning to reproduce.  Our hope is the population will come back.  Oregon Public Broadcasting published a good story discussing the new baby boom.

We can all be better stewards of the intertidal zone.  First, don’t pick up any creatures-feel free to touch but don’t move or remove. Second, follow the guidelines in the image below. Third, join the Newport Surfrider Chapter that does beach clean-ups, water quality checks and projects to save our ocean.  Lastly, if you want to learn more about sea stars I have listed some great resources below that were shared with me by Taylor Ely a Sea Grant Scholar.

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How to Rest a Type A Brain

So, what became my biggest struggle and the thing holding back my recovery was rest!  I needed to give my monkey mind a part-time job!  You would think when your employer, doctors, family and friends all tell you don’t worry about anything we got it, just focus on your health and getting better, it would make it easier.  It would give you the excuse and confidence you need to finally rest, sleep in, relax and finally be okay to do ‘nothing’.  For a person who is constantly on the go this was worse than Dante’s Inferno. I was anxious, since I was four years old I had been on the go, constantly a full schedule.  Back then it was Brownies (like Boy Scouts for girls), soccer, ballet, gymnastics and school now it was job, mentoring, volunteering, boards, committees, running, exercising, yoga, friends, family the list went on and on. I couldn’t get my brain to relax when I was going to bed when I was normal, how am I going to rest my brain 24-7?  What a nightmare!

multitaskingRane

Rane multi-tasking working on two computers, three screens, writing a report, on a conference call and doing email.

For the first five days, sleeping in and having my husband wait on me hand and foot was a pleasure!  I had been here before and I knew I could not afford to do what I did last time.  I could not ignore my doctors’ orders and begin using my cellphone, emails, and texts.  I only allowed myself to text friends but I otherwise had to ignore the cellphone.  I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t have any screen time, I couldn’t go to the grocery store, I couldn’t leave the house, I was dying of boredom!

I was also so scared, it took me 6 months to recover the last time and still the doctors had no idea why I was blacking out.  I had surgery to implant a heart monitor to see if I had a heart issue and after pain and $35,000, good news I don’t have a heart condition but bad news I am so healthy doctors can’t figure out why am I blacking out so much and how to remedy the situation.

I had no idea if I could ever take a shower alone again.  Going through my mind was blacking out and drowning. The last time I went to the bathroom and blacked out and woke up on the floor my family was scared to leave me alone.  Could I ever be alone again? My poor husband was with me 24-7, watching me like a hawk and stressed out beyond belief.  I knew from last time, I had to make myself a schedule or I would go crazy.  I had to fill my day.

So, I went back to listening to audiobooks, cooking healthy meals, and going on long walks on the many Bend trails with my husband and dog Bode.  Indica Marijuana was great to help me finally calm down and actually sleep.   A nap in the afternoon helped to ward off the migraine headaches.  I passed the time listening to audiobooks (this was a great distraction- I became a huge fan of Michael Connelly and crime fiction with more than 60 books I could listen to), knitting so many hours in a day that my hands felt like they were going to fall off, then yoga and meditation before bed and of course more audiobooks.  I would have ear buds in almost all the time, it started driving my husband crazy, as I would always say I didn’t hear you as he would try to have a conversation for me.  I went from an obsessive workaholic to an obsessive book listener, listening to at least 3 books a week.  An obsessive knitter, finishing knitting project every two days. An obsessive home chef, trying new recipes for every meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) probably the best meals my husband had our entire relationship with fresh homemade foods every day.  The only way my husband got peace was taking me outdoors hiking, walking, kayaking, paddling and away from the house to get my mind to finally turn off and enjoy the fresh smell and beauty of the Oregon high desert.

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Greg, Bode and I on the Deschutes River August 2015

My migraines were worse than the first time, seemed like all day every day, I was so dizzy and nauseous and I couldn’t remember anything.  I just forced myself to push through (later I would find out that is the worst thing you can do and would delay the brain healing and made myself worse) the migraines, I wasn’t going to lay in bed in the dark anymore.  I was just in a constant haze and in miserable pain and probably not a joy to be around.  It drove me nuts how much I searched for the words that were on the tip of my tongue and would come out totally wrong, like botching an idiom.  I had no focus and would be doing one thing and a minute later start something else and totally forget about what I was doing before.  If I tried to multitask, I would get a worse migraine.  This lasted for months before I was ready to see and talk to friends again.  I love being around people and I didn’t want to see anyone but my husband and dog.

All the while, I would be contacting Microsoft every two weeks saying I can’t come back to work, but I was still answering any emergency email or giving directions on the phone on important issues or projects.  I skimmed emails to see only if there were important ones to answer, when my boss came back and said you are on short term disability and on medical leave you cannot be online.  You must stop or I will lock you out of the system.   He had to threaten me with this several times before I finally took it seriously.

Finally, my neurologist said you are out for a minimum of 9 months, no more calling work, no more answering emails on the side, no more volunteering, your declining and not getting better, you are done!  Your husband is to hide your computer and you must relax your brain.  We have one last area we haven’t tried, so I would like you to go to OHSU and test you for seizures.  I believe you don’t have them but let’s make sure.  Since we have tested you for everything and they all come back negative.

So another doctor to visit and I went to OHSU, I had a sleep deprived EEG to replicate stress.  I blacked out during the test.  So, the doctor informed me I didn’t have seizures but to put it in laymen terms, I had Vasovagal syncope and stress was the trigger.  When I get stressed my body’s Vagus nerve freaks out and not enough blood and oxygen goes to my brain.  I had low blood pressure and my blood pressure was so low I was in hypotension.  So when the Vagus nerve wouldn’t work my blood pressure wasn’t high enough to pump the blood and oxygen to my brain, so I would blackout and hit my head on the ground since I got no indication it was happening or was on its way.  There is nothing you can do but bring down your stress, there are no magic bullets to take for this.  Great, my doc is telling a Type A, who thrives on stress, that I can no longer have stress in my life!  WTF! How the hell was I going to do this?  My husband was on a mission, remove all stress from my life.

All I could do now was light exercise (nothing that bounces my concussed brain too much), enjoy the outdoors, listen to audiobooks, meditate, do yoga, knit, paint, cook and nap.  Who would ever think you could fill a day with just those activities?  Thank goodness for all the outreach and activities I did in Bend, it resulted in a lot of friends who I could go on walks with and have a decaf coffee and kombucha with since I was no longer allowed to have caffeine or alcohol.

Also, thank goodness, Greg oversaw a home renovation that included an outdoor sauna, jacuzzi, purchased a massage chair and elliptical training machine per my doctor’s suggestion.  Those all kept my mind off of work, feeling good, healthy and relaxed!  So my schedule was wake up 6am, listen to audiobook till 7am, cook breakfast, go for a 3-10 mile hike with the dog, sit in the sauna then shower, make lunch around 11:30am and eat, sit in the massage chair, meditate and then take a 2 hour nap, around 3:30pm paint, listen to audiobook, then cook dinner, listen to the TV and knit, yoga, shower and fall asleep to an audiobook around 7:45pm and start all over the next day.  Later I would find out this was too much (really this was the most relaxing schedule I have ever had in my life I don’t think I did this little when I was four years old) and I wasn’t giving my mind any time to rest, so I would have to take a 15-minute break between each activity and just close my eyes and do nothing.  (Oh my GOD, was that impossibly hard).

This schedule would continue for almost two years until I could begin adding back more computer time, reading and exercise back into my life.  Things were going well and I started to volunteer.  I volunteered at a soup kitchen, Bend Democrats to try and get Hillary Clinton elected, mentoring young women again via Skype and I organized a fundraiser for the Bethlehem Inn Homeless Shelter in town. I had reached almost 6 months with no blackouts and my migraines were slowing to just a few every couple of weeks.

Then my appeal for long term disability got denied, I would have to file a lawsuit to get my benefits (a few more blogs before for more details), Microsoft laid me off unofficially as I was on medical leave so I could not be laid off officially, but as soon as my medical leave ended I would be laid off.  (No stress what so ever in my life…)  Then two days before the big fundraiser I blacked out as I was walking down my stairs.  My husband Greg witnessed this and it freaked him out.

In his words, “It was very disturbing.  Rane was coming down the stairs and then all of the sudden she melted and fell to the ground.  I dashed toward her but was unable to break her fall as she came down on the stairs.  Luckily, I guess, she landed hard on her butt instead of her head this time just a slight hit on the back of the head but she also lost consciousness.  She was having a Vasovagal syncope, I was gently shaking Rane trying to revive her all the while she was unresponsive and her eyes were rolling back in her head.  It was a scary experience, where you feel totally helpless watching the one you love and not being able to help them or knowing what to do. He also told me he was tired of experiencing this stress and that it was causing him to be depressed and affected his health as well.”

Oh, no, everything has to start all over again.  As my husband carried me to bed, I began to cry would this ever end!  This time my doctor had a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ with me and everything had to stop.  No more thinking about jobs and my next steps on my journey of life, no more volunteering.  She asked me did I want to become a vegetable because if I had another serious concussion I could go into a coma or have permanent brain damage.  She reminded me in the last three years I had 13 concussions and my brain may not be able to handle many more.

I had to take my new lifestyle seriously not only for my sake but my husband, I did not want to have him have to take care of me for the rest of my life?  This finally got me to wake up and focus on thinking about this as an overdue sabbatical.  I had been working since I was 10 years old never taking more than 3 weeks off in any given time.  I had been an insomniac, workaholic, and stress junkie for over 30 years.  It was time for a long vacation.

It was time to enjoy life, the great outdoors, painting, reading, knitting and learning the guitar.  Things I had always wanted to do but never had the time.  Spend time with family and friends that I never had time to truly be engaged with since I was always on the road.  No more thinking about work, I always joked I was going to retire at 40 maybe I would really do it.  I realized then how lucky and blessed I was.  I had an amazing husband, great friends, I was super healthy other than a messed-up brain, low blood pressure and blacking out.

I live in a beautiful place that has 300 days of sun and every outdoor activity I could dream of to participate in (at least the one my doctors allowed me to do).  And for the first time in my life, I was getting permission to be selfish.  So many times, I was focused on everyone else but me, who could I help, who can I coach, who can I mentor, I have to do this because they need me.  But now I needed to think about me and for the first time I realized I did not have the option to focus on helping others but had to only concentrate on helping myself and maybe it was time I finally did that.  So, what occupied my time that I suggest for other Type A’s to finally do to help add a little balance in your life:

  1. Painting, start with watercolors very forgiving then move to acrylics- YouTube has all the videos you need to learn-here is one of my favorites.
  2. Download Libby from your app store and you can listen to free audiobooks from your public library: I highlight suggest the following fiction series: JA Jance Joanne Brady Series and JP Beaumont Series James Patterson Alex Cross Series, David Baldacci John Puller, Amos Decker and Will Robie Series, Michael Connelly Bosch, Mickey Haller Series,
  3. Learn to play an instrument, I focused on the acoustic guitar- great free YouTube videos to learn.
  4. Knitting is not just for grandma, it’s actually a lot of fun and gives you something to do when you are listening to TV and audiobooks.
  5. Stop and smell the roses and enjoy the outdoors. Take time to go on walks in nature, your neighborhood and around town.

Back to Changing the World or Not?

The old saying, “If I knew then what I know now”, echoes in my mind.

I would have not gone to the Hackathon in LA back in 2013 and when my doctor said I must rest. I would have had my husband hide my cellphone, laptop and taken it easy.  Instead, for the next six months, I still went online on my phone doing emails and answering what I thought were crucial emails and calling colleagues on how to execute important projects.

Of-course looking back none of it was more crucial than my health, I wasn’t saving lives, things could have waited.  Others within Microsoft would’ve taken the slack.  However, my ego was hard to reign in.  I thought what I was doing was so critical and no one else had the expertise and needed my coaching for things to be completed exactly the way I thopught they needed to be done.

Many of us think we can just ‘tough it out’ and work through cold, illness, etc.  What ‘toughing it out’ did do was postpone my recovery. Failure to heed my body’s warning signs caused dizziness, migraines, memory loss, executive function and slowed my multi-tasking abilities.  I now had to do eye therapy and my ability to focus  (switching from looking close and away) diminished to the ability of an eight-year-old and required me to relearn my focus and get glasses for the first time in my life.

So, after six months of eye therapy, no driving (Five years later, I still lack the confidence to drive and am only slowly adding in daytime driving for short distances.  But last month I did do my first long 200 mile drive from Bend to Newport, Oregon ), no television, no computer, no reading, no alcohol, no caffeine, no high intensity exercise, constant migraine headaches, dizziness, nausea, word searching, memory loss, six more black out concussions and lack of balance.  Then one day I awoke with a clearing in my head I had not felt in 6 months.  I went to the neurologist, she did some tests and said I think you are okay to go back to work but you must take it slow!  Do not jump fully in and do not take too much on you have been resting your brain for 6 months you need a slow transition back to work.

I did not realize her definition of slow was very different from mine.  Compared to the way I used to work, 12-18 hour days, I was only working 10 now.  Instead of traveling 3 weeks a month, I started with just a few days a month.  But as the months drove on, I was feeling more and more like myself again.

There was so much work to be done in diversity in computer science, combating human trafficking, committees for the White House Office of Technology Policy on computer science education for underrepresented groups and technology implications of human trafficking, hackathons, hacks for good, conferences, keynotes, panels, guest lectures, publications, projects with UN Women, NCWIT, ABI, CRA-W, ACM-W and the making of Dream Big (movie featuring young women in computer science changing the world), that I started back to my 16 hour days, and my crazy travel of three weeks a month.

Rane moderating Big Dream Panel at the Napa Valley Film Festival

Taking on diversity and Computer Science efforts at top universities around the country heading to India, Korea, UK, Brazil, Singapore, and across the United States.  In a previous blog post, you saw our film was featured at the Napa Valley Film Festival and was being shown all over the world.  I was so excited about the progress!  Also, the fact that Microsoft and Microsoft Research’s efforts were highlighted in many of the top publications (i.e. Slate, NPR, Huffington Post), I couldn’t but help agreeing to serve on nonprofit boards needing our help and expertise, at one point I was on thirteen boards.  My hubris and type A drive which had carried me so far was a hindrance to my healing.

At every free moment, I was working on some project with one of the many non-profits (as you know I am a get shit done person and not just a sit and advise type person).  In my spare time, I was at home trying to transform my local community (Bend, Oregon) by supporting more STEM efforts, starting a scholarship for under-represented groups in computer science and engineering at OSU-Cascades, helping entrepreneurs, volunteering with the tech community and local youth, mentoring and teaching a course called ‘Ethics and Computer Science’ at OSU-Cascades. I could feel the exhaustion coming on but I thought to myself “just one more conference and then I will take two weeks off and be fine.”

I am here to tell you, we are not robots and you can continue to ignore the signs your body gives off but if you don’t listen it will force you to listen.  As Type A workaholics, passionate and ready to take on the world are bodies are resilient but not that resilient!  You cannot ‘tough it out’ you must pause when your body needs a pause even if it is just a mental health day from work.

So, on May 23, 2015, while attending a conference on behalf of Microsoft I had just finished several sessions and presentations at Day one of the NCWIT Conference in Hilton Head.  I had a dinner meeting with Mayim Bialik (Big Bang Theory-that was so cool!) discussing our film and her possible support and how Microsoft could possibly support a new Girls in STEM TV series she was going to kick off.  We returned to the hotel and I saw several of the researchers I was working with on a number of projects at the bar talking asking me to come join them.

After discussing theories, projects, new opportunities and changing the world of computer science it was reaching midnight and time for me to head for bed.  I was tired and started to feel a pain in my side (later I would figure out that would be a sign that I would blackout soon) but I ignored it and kept on.  As I walked away from the bar area to the elevators, the next minute I know I awoke in someone’s arms, with so many people surrounding me, all dazed and confused as I try to get up.  There was shouting, “Rane don’t move you’re bleeding and bleeding a  lot.”

Suddenly, EMTs are walking briskly toward me as my eye sight slowly comes back from a fog of gray and blurs.  “Ma’am you blacked out and hit your head, you have a good side gash on your head, can you just lay back we are going to put you in a neck brace and start an IV?” said the nice EMT gentleman.  One of my research friends from Harvey Mudd University began telling the EMT what had happened and he had her and a staffer from NCWIT follow the ambulance to the Emergency Room (thanks Catherine & Colleen).

Rane in emergency room sending selfie to her husband to calm him down, trying to make it look not so bad.

I had thrown up a few times in the ambulance (sorry Mr. EMT guy- all over him) and still could not comprehend what was going on. While waiting for the doctor, my colleagues called my husband and tried not to scare him with me being in the emergency room again and blacking out after hitting my head.  Once they were done, then I was taken for MRI, CT Scan, stitches and forced to stay awake for a few hours to ensure I wasn’t going to go to sleep and never wake up again.  I finally got back to the hotel at 4AM looking like a semi-truck hit me, it took me an hour to wash all the coagulated blood out of my hair. I went to sleep and at 10am I awoke to call the airline and get a flight back to Bend, Oregon to go to my neurologist.  I flew out with frustration, here we go again.  With a horrible migraine, nausea and dizziness, I headed to the airport to what would be a multi leg eight-hour (the take offs and landings were excruciating with another concussion) flight before I finally got back to Bend and into the arms of my husband. It was also so humiliating for an extremely independent person to be whisked on and off the planes on a wheel chair as people looked at me like oh that poor young woman. Talk about a humbling experience.  I was beaten down.

This resulted in the next several years of trying to figure out why I was blacking out, thirteen more concussions resulting in me having traumatic brain injury and fighting the insurance company for my long-term disability.  Who would know the benefit you pay into hoping you will never have to use would be so difficult to obtain.  Once you need this benefit, how difficult it is to get it, even harder to keep it and then battling their doctors, lawyers, appeals and lawsuits to get the money and benefits you need, deserve and have earned. No one explains how you need to fill out all these forms and one little error can make your benefits never happen.  Having to go on unpaid medical leave due to this (I will have an entire blog dedicated to this subject later in my blog series to help those dealing with long-term and short-term disability claims, so you know what to do to get the benefits you deserve).  I would move from one doctor visit a year with my primary care for annual physical and flu shot to multiple visits a week with the following healthcare providers: Neurologist, Vasovagal Specialist, Optometrist, Vestibular Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Neurofeedback Psychologist, Psychologist, Acupuncturist and Chiropractor.

I didn’t realize how life threatening it could be for you if you tried to just push through the pain.  I plead with you if you have a concussion to please take the needed time off and screen time off! I learned the hard way and trust me you don’t want to go through this.  During this process, I had to get character letters from friends and colleagues about the Rane before and the Rane after all these concussions for the lawyers and it was painful to read the new person I had become.  As I researched what was wrong with me, I realized we still don’t know much about the brain and especially concussions. I read and listened to everything I could on TBI and concussions.   I will spare you with the peer review scholarly research publications (they are quite dry, interesting but will put you to sleep) but here are my top three books for you to read if you or a family member is dealing with this issue.  Next week, my blog will be on lessons learned on how  Type A’s can rest your brain.

  1. Super Better by Jane McGonigal
  2. Mindstorms: The Complete Guide for Families Living with Traumatic Brain Injury by John W Cassidy
  3. Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide to Living with the Challenges Associated with Post Concussion Syndrome and Brain Trauma by Barbara Albers Hill and Diane Roberts Stoler

A leaders greatest gift is vulnerability

Many times, leaders believe we have to be seen as fearless, strong, and all knowing.  We often think showing any sign of vulnerability indicates weakness.  However, author David Williams points out in his Forbes article that, “In reality, vulnerability is a strength.  Every leader has vulnerability. The greatest leaders have the self-awareness to recognize this fact. They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength.”  In his book, courage is the sixth ‘Non-Negotiable’ that he covers in his book The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning. 

I find this notion to be true and have included it as one of the themes in my keynote.  I presented this speech at the Bend Chamber 2018 Women of the Year Awards.   Sometimes we need to share stories that we don’t want to admit to help current and future leaders.  So after struggling with traumatic brain injury (TBI) the last five years, I briefly shared my story with the audience of nominees, award winners and Bendites.

 

I have spent my career as a Type A, workaholic, altruistic, high achieving leader trying to solve difficult problems for my industry, company, employees, mentees and colleagues.  I truly believed I could run my body like a machine and travel 3 weeks a month, work 10-18-hour days, survive on 2-4 hours of sleep while doing my day job and volunteering to lead committees for the White House, UN Women, and actively participate on 12 non-profit boards, volunteer for local community activities, be a good friend, and wife.  This all came crashing down in February 2013 when my body forced me to take an unplanned medical leave of absence.  I will go into that story in more detail in my next set of blogs. I want to focus here on the message that leaders need to share that we are not invincible.  We can’t keep driving at a crazy fast speed, with focused accuracy for a long stretch and not result in a disaster.     

In my keynote, I focused on two major areas, my childhood and upbringing that brought me to this intense drive, ambition and desire to make an impact no matter the cost.  Secondly, the need for leaders to say it’s okay to give us some ‘white space’ in our lives and ask for help.  I’ve now launched a new company focused on helping start-ups, small and medium size businesses, organizations and government agencies to harness inclusive innovation for their competitive advantage.  Many times, these groups are lean and may not have the resources to understand how to ensure they are diverse enough to meet the needs of their customers. Also, they must ask themselves if they are running the as efficiently as possible and utilizing all of their employees’ capabilities.   

Most diversity and inclusion consulting is priced out of reach for these organizations even though 80% of our working population in Bend works for these groups.  So creating an affordable, consumable framework has created a ton of interest for Ranemaker Institute in helping Bend aspire to be one of the most inclusive cities in America.  At the same time, I have had to learn to be honest about my current vulnerabilities so I don’t fall ill again.      

I can’t take on every company, organization or governmental agency I want to help.  My TBI has restricted how much time I can spend on a computer, working with large groups of people and the amount of stress I can handle.  I can’t work a normal work week and I still take a 2-3 hour nap daily.   I focus now on asking for help, only having a client a month and my workshop series.  I balance my ego’s need for making an impact and helping businesses in Central Oregon with time outdoors, relaxing, painting, reading and napping.  I think it is important for us to show we can still be successful, make significant impact in our community and have a healthy life balance.  We just need to realize that impact may not be instantaneous but takes a lot more time.  I have learned not to start the race with a sprint but keep a steady may be even slow pace for its entirety as our life is a marathon that we want to enjoy for a long time.  I don’t want to drop out before I’ve lived to a ripe old age.   So next time you feel you are exhausted and just need to finish one more thing, may be you need to take a mental health day instead, a few minutes of meditation and enjoy an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm for a good laugh.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exposing more students to Computer Science, it’s time for “An Hour to Code”

It’s time to revise the traditional “three Rs” of education in the United States. In addition to “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic,” we need to add computer science. Yeah, I know it doesn’t even contain an “r,” but computer science is just as important as those fundamental “r” skills. And that brings me to the topic of this blog: Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), an annual US event that stresses the need to teach computer science basics to every student. This year, CSEdWeek runs from December 9 to 15.

I am especially excited to work in partnership with Code.org, a new non-profit organization that initiated one of CSEdWeek’s prime events: the “Hour of Code.” The event aims to introduce 10 million students of all ages to computer science ideas and tools—and to let them try coding for one hour—while also demonstrating to parents, teachers, and policymakers how accessible coding can be. And at a deeper level, we hope it will drive demand for expanded computer science courses and activities in secondary schools.

As part of CSEdWeek, I am in central Oregon at the Culver Middle School and Culver High School on December 12th and 13th, introducing students to programming through an hour of coding by using TouchDevelop, a free Microsoft Research mobile application development tool. I’ll also host an all-school assembly later in the month on “How Computer Science Can Solve the World’s Greatest Challenges.”   In addition, I get to spend a day devoted to my greatest passion: sparking young girls’ interest in computer science. I will meet with 93 Culver Middle School girls, introducing them to computer science research and the importance of user experience design. Too many young people only hear about the difficulty of programming; I strive to show them the art, creativity, and satisfaction involved in making an application that meets the end user’s needs. They’ll learn about the storyboarding process and how to design an application, and then they’ll help create the user interface for Games Learning Society, a research project I’m working on with Constance Steinkuehler at the University of Wisconsin. I will also give them a preview of a program we will announce this week—so stay tuned to learn about great partnerships and an event that will entice even more young women to pursue computer science careers.

rane with kids at kent school

Despite the excitement of CSEdWeek, my commitment to and passion for what it represents doesn’t begin and end during this week. Early last week, I met with 75 high school students from the Auburn (WA) Mountainview High School IT Academy Program and shared Kodu, .NET Gadgeteer, WorldWide Telescope, and other Microsoft Research technologies with them. They also learned about the exciting future of computing from bright young Microsoft employees who are in an accelerated career development program.

Later in the month, I will head to Redmond (OR) Middle School to conduct a TouchDevelop programming event with all of the students and to introduce middle school girls to user experience design. And I’m not alone in this outreach effort; several of my Microsoft Research colleagues are also volunteering at elementary, middle, and high schools to excite students about computer science. Judith Bishop is in South Africa to expose students to TouchDevelop, and Arul Menezes, Krysta Svore, and Peli de Halleux are visiting Seattle-area middle and high schools to help students experience an hour of coding.

Why is coding so important? The digital age has transformed how we work and live, making computer science and the technologies it enables central to our daily lives. By 2020, an estimated 4.6 million computer-related jobs will be available for those with skills in computer science—jobs that will address such issues as climate change, healthcare provision, and economic development. Unfortunately, many educational institutions in the United States have not been able to keep pace with technological advances, leaving students without fundamental computer science skills: of the more than 42,000 high schools in the United States, fewer than 3,250 were certified to teach advanced-placement computer science courses in 2013. Only 14 states count computer science courses toward a student’s graduation requirements in math and science, and no states require a computer science course as a condition of graduation. This must change if we want students from the United States to have future career opportunities in global computer science fields.

By the way, you don’t have to work at Microsoft Research to be part of this effort: to learn about more free tools you can share with students to interest them in computing, visit Research tools.
Rane Johnson-Stempson, Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections
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Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation of Women

Although computer science is poised for exponential job growth over the next several years, there’s a glaring lack of women entering the field. Since 1984, the number of computer science degrees awarded to women has steadily declined, to the point where today only 13 percent of computer science graduates are female.

As I speak with young women around the world, I continue to find that their disinterest stems from a lack of familiarity with the exciting and impactful career possibilities in computing. The obvious remedy is to expose more young women to the professional opportunities in computer science. This has been my personal mission, and I am pleased to be surrounded by amazing young women who evangelize computer science as a field in which women can make their mark.

she++ logoOne such “evangelist” is Microsoft intern Ayna Agarwal, a student at Stanford University. In January 2012, Ayna co-founded she++, a community that seeks to inspire women’s involvement in computer science. she++ sponsored Stanford’s first conference on women in technology in April 2012, an event that attracted more than 250 attendees and hosted a lineup of inspirational women engineers, including employees of such Bay Area tech firms as Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Pinterest. After positive feedback from attendees, mentors, and the press, the she++ conference has become an annual event at Stanford, one of many initiatives that she++ sponsors in its effort to create momentum for female technologists.

I was extremely excited to join with Ayna to co-host Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation—she++ and Microsoft Research, on August 28. This event featured two panels: the first comprised of female interns who are on the forefront of the next generation of computer scientists, and the second consisting of top technical women from Microsoft who are driving innovation and change across the company.

Katie Doran (far left) hosts the panel of interns: Ayna Agarwal, Priya Ganesan, and Amy Lin (pictured left to right) Katie Doran (far left) hosts the panel of interns: Ayna Agarwal, Amy Lin and Priya Ganesan (pictured left to right)

You can now view the event on-demand. And while you’re in video-watching mode, you might want to take a look at the she++ documentary video and the Microsoft Research Bridging the Gender Gap video, both of which highlight  efforts to increase the presence of women in computing. In addition, I encourage all you girls (and boys) to try out these free tools that can teach you how to program and help you explore computer science: Kodu, Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer, Pex for Fun, and TouchDevelop.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education, Microsoft Research Connections

 

I was extraordinarily excited to join forces with Microsoft Research to bring together generations of female programmers to share their stories, and I hope that the on-demand video of “Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation” will expose even more young women to the tremendous possibilities in computer science.

Pictured from left to right, Ayna Argarwal, Rane Johnson, and Katie Doran led the event, “Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation.” Rane joined the event virtually with the BEAM robot.  Pictured from left to right, Ayna Argarwal, Rane Johnson, and Katie Doran led the event, “Reinventing Tech for the Next Generation.” Rane joined the event virtually with the BEAM robot.

Three years ago, I entered Stanford as a dreamer, planning to change the face of global health through veterinarian medicine. However, I soon tired of the preparatory science classes and of feeling tethered to the vet hospital. I still wanted to have big impact on the world, but I wasn’t sure how.

Then I took my first computer science class and fell in love with the problem-solving mindset. Moreover, I soon realized that technology had the ability to touch the lives of millions, offering new communication and productivity tools and entertaining toys, serving as a means to unravel the biggest crimes, providing protection via mobile phones in developing countries—the possibilities are endless.

I became convinced that the full potential of tech is yet to be discovered. Yet a couple months prior to that first class, I had no idea that computer science was even a discipline, or that large companies and startups were built entirely around bringing technology to life. I had never even conceived of the possibilities.

I realized that my ignorance about computer science derived in large measure from the lack of role models sharing their stories. So I created she++ to be a community of voices of those technologists: the ones who are breaking the boundaries and incorporating their interests into the field.

she++ soon evolved into a personal mission to embolden and enrich the possibility of technology. I aim to provide an inspiration for all types of people, with every interest, encouraging them to take a peek and enroll in their first programming class. The future of the world lies in tech, and we need more people, with unique perspectives, than we’re training today to work in the industry. I hope that the joint Microsoft Research and she++ event entices girls everywhere to take their first programming class—and to realize they can have big impact in this world with technology.

—Ayna Agarwal, student at Stanford University and summer intern at Microsoft

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Fun with programming

Concussion puts making a difference on pause

Hi folks, it has been a longtime since I have posted a blog and been online due to a concussion I had on February 23, 2013. I would like to take the time to help people understand concussions better and they are not something to ignore!

As the typical Rane, who thinks she is a robot that is indestructible, I got up from the 2 foot diameter puddle of blood on my hardwood floor and begun to tell my husband everything is just fine at 2 in the morning, as he thought someone was breaking into our home and kicking down our back door from the loud boom of me hitting the floor.  He cleaned me up (thank you Greg) and as I ran to the toilet to hurl a few times, I tried to convince him I was fine and we should just go to bed.  After keeping me a wake for a long while and ensuring I was not going to go to sleep and never wake up.   (for those who do not know, if you go to sleep after a concussion you have a good chance of not waking up again, so don’t do it!) He finally let me go back to sleep and head to the emergency room in the morning.   In the morning, I was ready to ignore the hospital idea and  jump on another plane and fly off to go change the world and grow women computer scientists.  My husband forced me to slow down, head to the emergency room and ensure everything was okay before I take on my next activity.  There, I found out I needed 9 stitches and that I had a concussion and should stay home and not do anything for the next few days.   I did not realize the sensitivity of your brain and continued on as business as usual, ignoring the doctor.  DO NOT DO THIS FOLKS!!!  I ended up making myself worse and could have healed a lot faster if I would have listened to him in the first place.

 Women Hack to solve Human Trafficking issuesI raced to the airport and headed to our first ever International Women’s Hackathon being launched in 7 countries and 14 locations around the world.  (Thanks to my husband driving me, later I would find out that I would not be able to drive for five months due to my lack of balance, memory and vision.)   It was a fantastic hackathon with over 600 young women all over the world programming to make a difference in proactively helping victims of human trafficking.  I on the other hand was not doing well with blurred vision, massive migraine headache and coming close to blacking out a few times.  I continued to move forward and then head to the Michigan Women in Computing Conference where I was the keynote speaker.  When I got about half way across the United States, my brain felt like it was going to explode and about 100 knives were being stabbed in my head.  I arrived in not too good shape but was taken good care of by the Michigan State University Team (thanks Laurie Dillon).  I gave the keynote and then flew back to Bend, OR to go get a CT Scan and MRI.  I then found out I had post-concussive syndrome (PCS) and if you don’t listen to your body you can’t try to solve the world’s greatest problems in computing because you have to focus on your health.  I knew nothing about PCS.

Post-concussive syndrome (PCS) is a set of symptoms that continues for weeks, months or even a year or more post a concussion.  It is a mild form of traumatic brain injury resulting in migraine headaches, difficulty concentrating, chemical imbalances in the brain, vision challenges, emotional and behavioral issues.  There is no treatment for PCS symptoms can only be treated  by medications, physical, vision and behavioral therapy and time.  In my appointment with the doctor, I could not balance on one foot, I failed memory tests and I was in the most excruciating pain from a migraine headache.  I learned I would now need to stop working, no more television, no more smartphone, no more computer, no more reading, I couldn’t drive, no more wine, no more caffeine and that I MUST REST– no ands ifs or buts.  For the first week, I could do nothing but lay in bed and then the next five months would result in only walks with my dog, listening to books on CD and knitting.  I spent the next four months with a migraine headache 24 hours a day 7 days a week.   My vision tracking dropped to a level of an 8-year-old.   If I had listened to the doctor in the first place it could have resulted in only a few weeks of recovery instead of five months.  DO NOT IGNORE doctor’s advice when you have a concussion it is serious!

I then got to spent the next four months spending time with three different doctors to try and get back to normal.  Learn to mediate, relax and calm the mind- an impossible endeavor for a Type A person.  I was surprised to learn there is still so much we don’t know about concussions and a lot of it is still a guessing game.  It also made me realize how illogical we humans are when it comes to our brain.  When we break an arm and leg we know we must rest it, not use it and give it recovery time, but with our brains we don’t ever rest it.  When you hurt your brain it needs to rest.  Resting your brain means no visual stimulation, no mental stimulation, plenty of sleep and rest, meditation is critical and necessary to heal.  Learning to slow down was very difficult but critical for me to finally heal and be able to go back to work.  Once I could read again, a few interesting books and research I read that may be interest to you, to help you through the siiutation if you get a concussion:

So now that it is all said and done and I am back to work, what I am I doing to ensure I don’t re-injure myself or what have I learned from this experience that may help other TYPE As or folks who have a concussion?

  • When your body needs to rest, if you won’t rest, it will force you to rest.
  • Life is too short to ignore your health and if you’re not healthy you can’t solve all the world’s greatest problems.
  • Your brain needs the same respect, rest and support you give any body part you sprain or break.
  • You can’t ignore the importance of work-life balance.
  • Don’t put work, volunteerism before family because in the end all you have is your family! (Thank you Greg, Pam, Gordon, Anne and Claudia for helping me through the last 5 months!)
  • Your not as important as you think you are, the world will move on, work will get accomplished and people will get things to work even when you aren’t around.  (Thank you to my amazing co-workers who stepped up and took so much of my work on!)
  • What you think must get done yesterday, can wait till tomorrow, even a few months.
  • Sometimes working slow is much better than multi-tasking and working fast!  (READ THE SLOW FIX!)
  • Lastly, I have a three-legged stool.  One represents global impact, one represents local impact and the last my family and self.  They must be in balance or I will fall off the stool.  If projects, opportunities & relationships don’t keep the three legs in balance then I must learn to say NO when one leg begins to become too long.  You can’t have a leg too long or you will fall off your chair.  It’s okay to say no, sometimes it is even expected!

I am truly happy to be back and I hope you look forward to the many blogs to come this year as I continue my passion to grow more women in computing!  At the same time I hope this blog helps you to take time to stop and smell the roses and take care of yourselves as you go on and take on so many challenges in your lives.

Learn about the Microsoft Innovation Center

 
MISSION
To help organizations in the West Region reach their full potential by having a facility and partners to help them solve their greatest challenges.
 
GOAL
Help Oregon and the West Region build economic development through building student knowledge and empower local organizations to better utilize technology more succesfully.
 
SOME ACTIVITIES
We will organize events, seminars, workshops, and presentations that build practical knowledge of how the Microsoft platform and partners solutions help the community achieve its goals and drive new innovative solutions for the global economy.
Come visit us at 1900 Sw 4th Avenue, Portland, OR SUITE 150

NW Career Fair- Helping Youth in Oregon

We can all make an impact in our community and help our youth.  Learn about efforts in Oregon to reach students and get excited about careers in technology.  Article posted in the Oregonian:
 

‘Aha’ possibilities await teens at career fair

Oregon jobs – Young people can meet employers and learn about training
Wednesday, May 09, 2007

SPENCER HEINZ

By age 10, Rane Johnson-Stempson was cooking and doing the family’s bills.

If she fell short of an A, she says, her father would knock her around. By 14, when word finally went out that she needed help, she got it.

Two decades later, she’s the one who helps.

On Thursday, thanks to efforts by her and dozens of others, more than 4,500 high school students from throughout the metro area are expected to converge on the Oregon Convention Center for a careers fair.

For employers, it’s a chance to highlight Oregon’s job choices and earning potential. For students, it’s a chance to learn what kinds of schooling and training they need to land good jobs in such fields as health care, construction, metals manufacturing, arts and technology.

"This could be your ‘aha’ moment," Johnson-Stempson said of the third annual NW Youth Careers Expo. "If you don’t take this opportunity, you could be giving up the opportunity of a lifetime."

Drew Park, president and chief executive of Columbia Wire & Iron and one of the expo’s key organizers, said the gathering could help students see how their classes apply to their lives. "You may be able to find an answer here," he said.

Thanks to various teachers, mentors and counselors, Johnson-Stempson said, she went from a tough childhood to the life she has now at 31 — traveling the country as a technical field sales engagement manager for Microsoft. The Lake Oswego resident helped organize the expo’s technology panel of executives and others, who will share the pathways of their careers.

Her own story begins in Vietnam. During the fall of Saigon and while pregnant with Rane in 1975, her Vietnamese mother escaped with her U.S. Army husband and son. They settled in central Texas. Her mother mastered some English, but not enough to read or write. Rane said her late father was a heavy drinker who never seemed satisfied with anything she did.

"I needed to have straight As," she said. "In soccer I needed to score at least one goal in every game, otherwise he’d ground me and then hit me. And the same with gymnastics. . . . Same thing with grades. Same with my room.

". . . So I learned to be perfect in everything. . . . I was in almost every club you could think of, and the president of almost everything."

The turning point came after her family moved to Vancouver. It was her freshman year, and her high school team had just placed well in an academic decathlon. The awards ceremony ran late, and her father, who’d been waiting to give her a ride home, was fuming by the time she reached the truck.

She showed him the award, she said, hoping it would please him. Instead, she said, he started yelling. It was the first time she’d ever questioned his treatment of her and she argued back. Things escalated, she said, and he pushed her out of the truck. She said she hit the shoulder, rolling into the grass.

Though she didn’t tell anyone about what happened, a friend noticed her cuts and bruises at school the next day and told the principal. Soon afterward, she was in a group home, then foster care.

At age 14, she said, a judge emancipated her, allowing her to move in with her 21-year-old brother. She says she eventually forgave her father, whom she says suffered from alcoholism and Alzheimer’s; he died nearly two years ago.

Once on her own, she relied on a network of teachers, mentors and others to help her through.

She recalls, for instance, a career fair where she met an engineer who advised and encouraged her throughout her college years. With more than $150,000 in scholarships, she graduated from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania with degrees in mechanical engineering, and economics and finance.

She hooked up with SkillsUSA, a career technical-education organization, and she learned computer-aided drafting.

Four years ago, Johnson-Stempson joined Microsoft. Now she also sits on the education foundation of the Software Association of Oregon, the force behind the expo’s first technology panel, and looks forward to the fair.

"It’s the possibility," she said "of finding the mentor who could change your life."

Spencer Heinz: 503-221-8072; spencerheinz@news.oregonian.com

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