10 (or so) questions with...Faye Wendland
By Steve Lange
Registered nurse and health and wellness coach at Mayo Clinic and volunteer of the year for the National Alliance on Mental Health
Rochester Magazine: I’ve heard you described as “the most positive person I’ve ever met.” Is that accurate?
Faye Wendland: You know, it is. I work at that. Here’s the deal: I believe in gratitude. So I work on that. Our life has not been easy, and that’s the truth. But every day I do mentally say ‘So what am I thankful for?’
RM: Tell me about your family.
FW: My husband Curt is a banker at Citizen State in Mantorville. [Daughter] Anne is 30 and at graduate school at Yale to be a nurse practitioner. And we have Melissa, who is in Redding, California. She was in Bible school out there, and she’s got a community psychology degree.
RM: We have one mutual friend. Not in real life, but on Facebook. Who is that?
FW: Jen [Koski]. She’s crazy, and I love her.
RM: Yes. I’m going to say this so I can put it in the magazine, but she really is amazing for the magazine. So amazing. Such an amazing, amazing woman.
FW: We trained for a triathlon. She didn’t really know how to swim... but she was willing to try anything.
RM: How many triathlons have you run?
FW: Here’s the deal: I was heavy and I’ve lost about 70 pounds. It was March 1, 1979 and I said ‘I’m done with this, I want to be healthy.’
RM: Why March 1, 1979?
FW: My family had been together and they wanted to go for a little run and it just hit me: I’m fat. I’m not healthy. So a little later, I decided I was going to start running and run the same distance or more every day for a year. And I did that for 365 days. It was in Fargo, and it was cold, and I remember pulling up the tight gray sweatsuit—back then they only had gray sweatsuits—and I thought everyone would be looking at me so I ran in the dark. The first run I went one length of a block and just about died. Within about two months I was running three miles.
RM: I’ve heard you bike the number of miles of your age every year on your birthday.
FW: I do. I started doing that when I was 50. One time, through our triathlon group, I went with a woman I had never met. We usually go 60 miles because I go to Rushford for lefse.
RM: You devote unbelievable amounts of volunteer hours to mental illness.
FW: We’re at a new stage of our life, because less is ahead of us than behind. So I do have to rethink how much time I’m spending on it. But I spend probably 20 hours a week on something related to mental illness.
RM: Tell me about the first time you spoke at Calvary Evangelical about mental illness.
FW: I got to the point where I was very involved in NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness ... My dad had bipolar disorder, so I grew up with it. So my husband and I made a decision. One Sunday at a prayer class we opened up about mental illness. Silence. They prayed for us, but when we left people didn’t really talk to us. On the way home we thought ‘Well, we blew it.’ Then we got home and the phone started to ring. It started to ring and it never has stopped.
RM: Here’s a quote of yours from a previous P-B story: You said “It’s all over my house.” Were you talking about: A) crow droppings; B) kitty litter; C) cooking oil from your husband’s attempt to deep fry buffalo wings; or D) hope?
FW: Hope. Though I do have two kitties.
RM: My wife would have answered C.
RM: Tell me about Journey of Hope.
FW: That is our faith-based support group, though everyone is welcome. ... Out of Journey of Hope has come much more.
RM: What kind of stuff?
FW: More presentations to chip away at stigma. One amazing woman I know has lived with mental illness for 40 years. She was a part of the original group. When she had flare-ups of her illness she never had visitors. She had to be hospitalized. After Journey of Hope she had visitors every day. When she came home—that’s the worst time for people with mental illness to be alone—she had visitors every day. You don’t get hot dishes and all that stuff with mental illness, but all of that happened.
RM: Tell me what this group has in common: You, Beth Haaland, Jackie Mettler, Gail Vukov, Ron Albright, Tim Mettler, Kathy Nelson, Sarah Bird, Serina Moen, and Greg Clounie.
FW: That was Maid to Order. How in the heck did you find that out?
RM: Yes, the cast for Maid to Order.
FW: That was the debut of the Byron Community Theatre. It was a hoot. I love to act.
RM: Do you still act?
FW: Not lately. But I may get back into it. Curt and I feel like it’s halftime in life. So we’re going to look back at the first half and plan the second half. On vacation we both did our timeline of our life by decades and we wrote down key events and the emotion of it and we came together and shared that. With that, we said ‘What do we want to do now?’ Life has been hard but it’s been good.
RM: Here’s the mandatory math question: What’s half of 360?
FW: Just wait now. OK, I’ve got it. It’s 180.
RM: Is there anything you want people to know?
FW: I really want to talk about... the Compassion Counseling Center (compassioncounseling.org
). It was started three years ago. It’s a faith-based counseling center and it’s hosted at Calvary Evangelical Free Church. We see 50 people every Thursday night. ... It’s the highlight of my week. It’s as well-done as any clinic I’ve worked in. People come in and share the stuff that they’re stuck in or the hurt that they’ve brought in.
RM: I know you’re up on local news.
FW: I read the Post-Bulletin from front to back. I have read it since I was young. I love the Post-Bulletin.
RM: What do you like best?
FW: Sports and columns.
RM: Do you watch sports?
FW: I love sports. The Vikings are on my personal calendar. I put them in in July. That’s my love. I don’t like basketball but I love Rubio. I love football, but I could watch anything. I can’t think of a more romantic evening than watching sports.
RM: Me too!