This Post Brought to You By the Letter G

After a really long week spent in an urgent care, two ER’s, and finally a hospital with my oldest daughter, I couldn’t be happier to write a goofy post about reading a bedtime story with Carrie. I’ve missed this ritual for days, both literally and figuratively and it was great to get back to our normal routine.

Tonight, we read “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats. It’s an oldy but goody, one we’ve read many times.

SnowyDayKeats

 

Up until now, I’ve dutifully read the book with Carrie, pointing out the snowy footsteps and ultimately the snowball that melted in the little boy’s pocket.

Tonight though was different. Instead of focusing on the story, Carrie decided to focus on the letter “g”. Every time she saw the letter, she would point to the letter on the page and squeal in her high pitch voice, “g!”. As cheesy as this may sound, her gleeful yell was exactly what I needed after a very long week. The first time I heard her squeal the letter I laughed. Then every time she spotted the letter g, I laughed louder. I’m sure she kept squealing to keep hearing my laughter, but I don’t care. It was a great sound that truly was music to my ears.

I admit at times reading bedtime stories can be a chore. By the time we get to this point, my patience with the kids is usually razor thin. I tend to race through the book in order to check off my last parental duty for the evening and get back to my glass of adult beverage. Not tonight though. Not by a long shot. Tonight, I savored it, just like I usually savor my glass of wine once the kids are down for the night.

I hope to remember this the next time I think maybe we can skip the bedtime story.

 

Lessons Learned from Tragedies

Working as a TV News producer, I talk to lots of people who have gone through horrible tragedies. These people graciously allow me and a photojournalist to come into their homes and talk about what usually is by far the worst day of their lives.  In the last few weeks, I have talked to family members who have lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, as well as survivors and first responders of the San Bruno explosion. When anniversaries come up, part of my job is to tell their stories so we not only honor the victims and survivors, but also learn from these truly awful tragedies.

Talking to these people, I learn from them more than they’ll ever know. They teach me about the power of inner strength, love, and kindness, which helped them heal at least a little bit. They are on my mind when I interview government leaders and regulators about the mistakes and missed opportunities that led to their lives being forever changed.

These people have important stories, stories I hope you’ll take the time to watch and learn from as well. Below are links to a couple of stories I produced on San Bruno.

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Why_This_Family_Did_Not_Return_to_San_Bruno_Bay_Area-129343648.html

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/on-air/as-seen-on/San_Bruno_First_Responders_Had_No_Water_to_Fight_This_Bay_Area-129468128.html

As I’ve been working this week, the girls would hear me talk about San Bruno and 9/11, but for them, these two anniversaries meant Mom was working a lot more than she usually does. So when I came home from work last night, I had them watch a few of the San Bruno stories with me and Van. If they learned just a fraction of what I’ve learned from these amazing people, I’ve done my job as a parent and a journalist.

A Teenager’s Tale of Drug & Alcohol Addiction

Back in my high school days, I wasn’t a big drinker. I was pretty straight laced and rarely, if ever tossed back alcoholic beverages. The most rebelious I ever got was to steal a couple of Bartles and James wine coolers from my parent’s basement bar. (Yep, I’m coming up on a 20 year high school reunion.) Even then, I hid them for days in a shoe box in my closet before my best friend and I had the nerve to twist the caps and take a swig.

My high school experience couldn’t be more different from that of Luke Gsell. He’s an amazing high school junior I interviewed for a story I produced on binge drinking. Luke started drinking at 10 and was in rehab at 14.

His story will resonate with kids and adults and is a message worth watching. (I don’t mind a little shameless self promotion when it’s an important message)

After meeting Luke and talking to alcohol educators, I know I’ve got my work cut out for me in the next couple of years. I also know that I’ll remember Luke’s story, which will no doubt help me guide them in the right direction.

It’s the End of the World….. Or the School Year

While plenty of other people are blathering on and on about the rapture, which a crazy 89-year old Oakland pastor is predicting is going to happen this Saturday, I’m worried about the end of something else: the school year. This is something I know without fail is coming, and it’s coming soon, but technically after the end of the world.

That means our family calendar is filling up with end of year events like tonight’s Open House at Olivia’s school, a garden party tomorrow at the preschool, a violin recital, and the list goes on and on and on. I’m exhausted just writing about it. Now while the proud mom in me loves to see everything the kids have accomplished over the school year, the over-scheduled mom in me really would just like to consolidate it all in one day, instead of over weeks. That would make our lives a heckuva (yes I just wrote heckuva) lot easier. But no, instead I’ve got to endure it for weeks.

Just like the end of the year, it’s a bittersweet time, and it forces me to look back at all of the girls’ changes. I know they’re growing like weeds because their pants are looking more like capris, and their long-sleeve shirts look more like 3/4 length.

I may get plenty of eye rolls and attitude from Olivia, but I’m seeing how she’s excelling in math, learning to love a good book, and finding her own sense of style by turning a scarf into a one-of-a-kind head band.

With Erin, her memory is constantly amazing me, as well as her sheer determination to master her speech problems. She makes a conscious effort to slowly and clearly form the “l” sound, and I’m noticing a major improvement. She also has an uncanny comedic timing, and can make me bust a gut laughing at her quirky sense of humor.

And with Carrie, she is my little nut who loves doing monkey hugs, running on her tip toes, and is constantly sticking her tongue out. She knows exactly what she wants, when she wants it, and will stop at nothing to get it, especially if it’s something currently in the hands of one of her sisters. She’s also found a love for Barbie dolls and Groovy Girls, and can even get Van to play dolls with her, by flashing her one-sided dimpled smile at him.

So while other people spend the next few days worrying about the end of the world, I’m sure I’m going to be stressed out about the end of school year activities. Through it all though, I’m going to try and focus on their accomplishments, not the annoyance of the countless commitments. Wish me luck.

Who’s Osama Bin Laden?

It’s hard for me to remember a time before 9/11, but I do remember it. My kids however, will never experience a pre-9/11 world. That hit me tonight as we got the first reports that the U.S. conducted a top-secret operation and killed Osama Bin Laden. The older two girls knew something big had happened, but didn’t really understand it.

As we waited for President Obama to address the nation, I asked the girls if they knew who Osama Bin Laden was. They both shook their heads no. I then tried as best as I could to explain in terms appropriate for an 8-year-old and 5-year old who he was and why U.S. Special Forces killed him. They got the point of planes crashing into buildings and that a man named Osama Bin Laden was a bad person. As I continued on with my explanation, Olivia started to get a confused look on her face, and Erin turned her attention to a barbie on the floor. I asked them if what I was telling them made any sense, and Olivia said a little bit, but she thought her teacher Maestro Jose might do a better job. Good to know her teacher is getting through to her.

Since the President’s address was delayed, we tried to get the girls to go to bed, but Olivia said she wanted to hear what President Barack Obama was going to say. Van and I relented, and allowed them to stay up past their bedtime to watch the historic speech.

While Van and I were riveted to the speech, Olivia and Erin ignored it.  Even though they don’t understand it now, I know they will in the future. I think of them as I continue to watch the young crowds outside the White House, Ground Zero, and Times Square. Many of those people were the same age as Olivia is now during 9/11. The scenes are patriotic, and I can only pray they remain peaceful. The September 11th attacks brought Americans together, and a night like tonight shows people continue to come together and honor the 3,316 people killed on that awful and unforgettable day.

While Olivia and Erin didn’t know who Osama Bin Laden was until a few hours ago, they do now. It’s an important lesson, one to build on in the months and years to come.

A Giant Day

Working in television news, I get a lot of perks. Just this week, I got to tour a San Francisco home on the market for the low, low price of $45 million dollars. You can click on the link to see what you get for that price. Notice you won’t see an updated kitchen and bathrooms for that price.

I also got to see this guy up close and personal.

Giants Relief Pitcher Brian Wilson

Yep, that’s Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson and I was within spitting distance of him. He’s one big dude, and I’d fear the beard even if he was pitching to me. Now I’ll admit, I’m not a huge baseball fan. I like to jump on the bandwagon, and I took the leap just in time last year as the scrappy San Francisco Giants clawed their way to becoming the World Series Champions. That makes this year’s home opener a big deal, and NBC Bay Area devoted plenty of resources to covering the event. I was one of those resources.

One of my assignments was to go with photographer extraordinaire, Jeremy Carroll, and cover the raising of the World Champions flag.

Raising the Flag

That’s Jeremy in the lower left hand corner. This was just one of many of our jobs for the day.

The majority of the time, I helped field produce our Giants Opening Day coverage on our 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, as well as our hour-long Opening Day special. It helps that I’m not a huge Giants fan because I had no idea of the score until about the 7th inning.

It takes a lot of work to pull off the coverage NBC Bay Area provided, and I was just a very small part of it. We had a lot of people working 12+ hours. In that time my co-workers put up a make-shift set outside AT&T Park,  set up lighting, pulled lots of cable so NBC Bay Area viewers could see and hear everything, shot a lot of video, edited that video, reported on the day’s event, and then broke everything down at 8 p.m. in very chilly conditions. The core group of guys who work on projects like this are like a well oiled machine. They’ve done this countless times, and they make it look easy. It’s far from easy though, and often it isn’t fun, especially when you’re forced to use a porta potty that is on the verge of overflowing.

In the end, it turned out to be a great, but long day. The Giants won over the Cardinals, (Sorry babe, your home team isn’t off to a very good start) and I got to be a part of  another great team.

A Risk I’m Not Willing to Take, but Glad Others Are

Back in Journalism School at the University of Missouri, I dreamed of covering  the biggest national and international stories. It may have been because the Gulf War happened as I was ready to embark on my senior year of high school. That war transformed the way journalists, broadcast journalists especially, cover war. It was something I wanted to be a part of, and one of the main reasons I went to journalism school.

I never ended up traveling the world following breaking news stories. Instead, I ended up in local news, usually staying close to home, trying to bring a local perspective to something that is often happening thousands of miles away.  This decision definitely made it easier on my family and personal life. This point was reinforced to me today as I listened to an NPR interview with New York Times photojournalist, Lynsey Addario.

Lynsey Addario of the New York Times

She’s one of four Times journalists who was taken captive for several days in Libya last month. It was a riveting interview, listening as she described her terrifying ordeal.  Addario was beaten, groped, and told on many occasions that she was going to die, once while a Libyan soldier was creepily stroking her cheek. That sounds about as bad as things can get, but Addario said the worst  part was the pain it caused her husband, parents, and sisters back in the States. While she was held in captivity, her family and husband had no idea if she was dead or alive. Now that she’s back home, Addario says one thing is certain. She will cover another war. She says, “It’s what I do.”

I give this woman a lot of credit, although it’s not something I could or would do, especially now that I have three young kids. Addario has risked her life for more than a decade to show the people and places directly impacted from war and other atrocities. However, since she’s been back, she’s been criticized for even stepping foot in a war zone because she’s a woman. Excuse me?!!! She has as much of a right as any male photojournalist to document a war. It’s not pretty. It’s dangerous, even deadly, but these stories need to be told, and she’s doing an amazing job. Everybody makes choices in life, and this is her choice, her passion, and I applaud her for taking on and succeeding at a job very few women even dream of attempting.

The release of Addario and her colleagues came about a week before their employer, The New York Times launched a controversial paywall. From now on, readers will be able to access 20 articles a month for free. After that, they’ll have to pay a subscription to access the newspaper’s website and smartphone and tablet apps. The Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.,  explained how and why the paper is making this move in a letter to readers. He wrote it’s a big step that, “we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform.” Not surprisingly, this decision has outraged many, many people. On one hand I can understand the anger. It’s a hard sell after getting something for free for so long.  However, after listening and reading more about the risks journalists like Addario take, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. I think it’s still a little pricey at $35 a month for unlimited access, but The Times needs to continue employing brave journalists who will cover the difficult stories. Since I’m not willing to go on the front lines, I’m appreciative that other people do it, and they need to be compensated for their sacrifices. This new paywall will help The Times continue to do just that.

When Good Things Happen to Good People

Imagine working for years on a project, investing your own money, sacrificing precious time with your family, all with no guarantee that this project will get the recognition it deserves. That’s pretty much the story of my good friends and former co-workers, Dana Nachman and Don Hardy. They left local TV news in order to follow their dreams of making documentaries. It’s a decision that meant giving up a steady job and an even steadier paycheck, for the unforgiving world of documentary filmmaking.

Dana and Don worked incredibly hard to make their second documentary, “Love, Hate, Love.”

They traveled all around the world to tell the stories of three families whose lives were torn apart by terrorism. These families turned their grief into action, and changed countless lives for the better. And now the world will have the chance to be inspired by these families because “Love Hate Love” will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next month! This is huge news! Filmmakers kill for this chance, and Dana and Don are two of the few who are getting this amazing opportunity this year. To say it’s well deserved is an understatement.  Dana and Don poured their blood, sweat, and tears into this documentary in hopes of getting it to the big screen, and now it is becoming a reality.

So now Dana and Don are getting their well deserved recognition, but this recognition doesn’t pay the bills, so they just launched their first crowd funding attempt to help cover the travel costs. I’m using this blog to help spread the word. If you can help, please do. Go to this website, http://www.indiegogo.com/LoveHateLoveTribeca to make a tax deductible donation. Even if you can’t donate, please pass this link along to your friends and family.

Tornado Sighting in Northern California

I may live in California now, but I’m a Minnesota girl at heart, so when I heard a tornado was spotted north of Sacramento today, I got excited. Really excited. It’s not every day, or even every year, that you hear of a tornado hitting Northern California. My excitement level was heightened since I was producing the 5 p.m. newscast. Weather was already the lead, but a picture of a tornado within driving distance of the Bay Area is any producer’s dream, especially this producer. So here was today’s dream come true.

This is not to sound flip about a potentially dangerous or even deadly weather event, but in this case, no one was hurt.

Tornadoes are about as common in Minnesota, as earthquakes are in California. During my elementary school years, I like millions of other kids, spent plenty of times sitting in the hallway practicing tornado drills. Writing this, I can picture with the utmost clarity sitting on the cold hallway floor, with my head between my knees, until we got the all clear signal. I also remember heading down to my basement any time we heard the severe weather siren, which would happen at least a couple of times a year.

I not only lived there, but also worked at a couple of local TV stations in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and produced my fair share of severe weather newscasts. I remember the meteorologist at KSTP, Dave Dahl, went on a storm chasing expedition, and he found himself smack dab in the middle of a tornado. He and his crew, along with a bunch of other people on the highway sought shelter under a highway overpass, while the twister passed by them. The photographer was rolling the whole time, which although was probably not the smartest move, he captured some amazing video. Luckily no one got hurt, but you could hear just how scared everyone was. Dave Dahl was miked up, and he kept screaming, “debris! debris!” Unfortunately, since it happened in 1995ish, I couldn’t find the video clip, so you’ll just have to trust me it was some of the best tornado chasing video I’ve ever seen.

The tornado in Colusa County was nowhere near as dramatic as that one, not by a long shot, but it did make me a bit nostalgic for my home state. I don’t miss the tornado drills, but I do miss some of the memories.

Japan Quake & Tsunami

I’m not working today, but wish I was.  It is days like these when the news junkie in me thrives in covering a huge event like the Japan quake and tsunami. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, this story has a huge local impact, and I have been riveted watching the coverage on the TV station where I work, NBC Bay Area. I watched the tsunami capsized boats in Santa Cruz, and watched as people evacuated the coast.  As I write this, the two morning anchors, Brent Cannon and Laura Garcia-Cannon have been on the air for nearly six hours straight, mostly ad libbing as the news happens. It is a hard job, a very hard job, and they are doing an amazing job as they relay the information to the public.  This of course is nothing in comparison to what’s happening in Japan, but when it comes to local news, people need to know what’s happening in their area, and that’s what they’re doing. It’s not always perfect, but it’s live television, and by its nature, it will never be perfect.

 

I’ve been riveted to the images I’m seeing, and stories I’m hearing for the last 12+ hours. Like so many millions of other people, I first heard about the quake from Facebook. I then turned to CNN. The video didn’t look real. It was hard for my brain to compute that the huge rush of water crashing into entire towns was not something out of a movie. In one instance, I saw people in the second story of their home, waving white sheets out the window trying to get rescued.  I also know this is just the beginning. Right now, the number of known deaths is in the hundreds, but that is only going to multiply. It is simply heartbreaking.

The quake also puts in perspective that I too live in earthquake country. I know I need to be prepared, but I’m not. We should have a plan. We don’t. In the nearly ten years that we’ve lived here, I’ve felt my fair share of quakes, but nothing significant. I know it’s only a matter of time before I’m in a serious earthquake, and this weekend I will get an earthquake kit, and make an evacuation plan for me and my family.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the devastating quake and tsunami. They need help, so I’m going to give to the Red Cross.  I encourage you to do the same. You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief.