To Bonnie and Tiffany

I come from a small family. For all intents and purposes I grew up an only child, my brother coming along when I was 15. My mother is an only child. My father and his parents have died. If I’m being honest, the dogs outnumber the humans when my family gets together. As the mother of an only child our home is not typically filled with lots of children. Ours is not the house where the neighborhood comes to play. This is not to paint an unflattering picture of our home or my upbringing. Both were and are warm, filled with love, stable. This is, however, to illustrate how I have become more of a solitary person. I’m content to be alone with a book, empty rooms, my thoughts. This Christmas I stepped outside of that comfort zone to host my husband’s entire family. His parents, uncle, brother and his wife and daughter, and sister and her two daughters. People I have known for a long time now, people I dearly love and consider of course to be my family as well. And while my mother-in-law makes sheltering and feeding and gifting this many people look easy on the years we travel to her home in Spokane, I can assure you it is not. The hubby, daughter, and I began preparing for everyone’s visit months in advance. Menus were planned, beds were bought, rooms re-purposed, garland hung, gifts ordered, dogs groomed, nothing left undone. And wouldn’t you know it, LIFE, decided to intervene. I will not get into the specifics of the curve ball we were thrown, just suffice it to say it was serious enough to turn letters to Santa into pleas for a family member’s recovery and jolt this serial organizer right out of her rigid ways. It simply didn’t go as planned. I had to work through much of the visit, leaving every afternoon and returning only after everyone was in bed. Everyone but 2. My sisters-in-law. They would wait up, physically and emotionally exhausted, to fill me in on the day, share a laugh, enjoy a nightcap. They cooked and cleaned and baked and handled things and let dogs out and soothed hurt teenage feelings and changed people’s itineraries and set up appointments that became necessary and still had gifts under the tree for all of us, thoughtful, and in some cases, homemade, personal gifts. They helped me immeasurably. I’ve known one of them half my life. Met my husband’s sister in college, a next door neighbor and fellow sorority President. Months may pass between our conversations but we always pick right up and care deeply for one another and each other’s children. The other is my husband’s brother’s wife. Young, quick to laugh, generous, and patient mother to a special needs little girl. I’m not as patient as these women, I’m not as skilled in the kitchen as these women, I’m not as understanding as these women. I want them both to know how much I appreciate them, cherish them, and love them for helping me and our entire family through a difficult time. For making the best of every situation. For standing in my kitchen in the middle of the night, eating Rice Krispies treats and sipping Drambuie, making my house feel full of life and family. For catching that damn curve ball that was thrown this Christmas.

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All of our angels in their Christmas Eve pj’s – Bonnie’s daughters, Courtney and Syrah on either side of Lucy and Tiffany’s daughter Jordyn in front

Anchorwoman

While dramas or scary movies are my favorites, I do love a good comedy. Hubby and I are always up for a televised standup routine or comedy special on HBO, too. And though I’m not a fan of movies that portray or even skewer my career choice, I have seen a few, including “Anchorman.” Sure, there were bits that made me laugh. Things about the business that still ring true (see: Panda Watch). But it was waaaay too long and waaaay too silly to elevate it to any sort of comedy movie hit list for me. Now with the barrage of publicity for its sequel, I am reminded at how mediocre it really was. That in and of itself is not particularly of any concern. What is, is the use of real anchors, real journalists, real reporters, to advertise for this fictional news team. For the past few months or so, Will Ferrell has been on a national tour of TV stations, stepping in to anchor, trying to do weather, etc. Even employees of CNN and CBS have taped segments pretending Ferrell’s “Ron Burgundy” is a real anchor and sharing what they’ve learned from him. I don’t think anyone who considers themselves to be a journalist should be shucking for a movie, even if that movie does portray their job. I don’t think journalists should allow fake anchors to invade their set and mock what they do. We have a tough enough time in the media right now earning and keeping respect from viewers. Hasn’t CBS learned from it’s recent Benghazi/60 Minutes debacle that viewers are quick to denounce shoddy reporting? Hasn’t CNN associated its dwindling ratings to people’s lack of trust in the media. Isn’t the last shred of accountability erased once you start rubbing elbows with a star who’s acting as a parody for all the things wrong with broadcast journalism? Look, many people in TV news like to think they’re “movie or TV stars.” That’s why they get all giddy sitting next to Lindsay Lohan at the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner. Or why they jump at the chance to play an anchor or reporter in a movie. What they should be doing is avoiding these types of things. Our job is to relay information. To inform, educate, and yes, to some extent entertain. We are not pretending or acting. People rely on us to get it right, to take issues that affect their lives seriously. Of course we are human and like to have fun and laugh and see movies and all of that but I’m not comfortable when the two worlds collide. I’m not talking about interviewing an actor who’s doing the publicity poledance for their flick. I’m not talking about having a star in studio to discuss a project, a fundraiser, a new show or the like. I’m absolutely up for and more than capable of asking questions, sharing a laugh, probing. The key is remembering my role, and theirs. And being comfortable with both.

That said, when the original “Anchorman” came out, a viewer superimposed the faces of the news team here at CBS at the time onto the bodies of the cast. It does make me smile, especially since all but one of these good people and even better journalists, have moved away.

anchorpeople

L to R – Gil Tyree, Me, Tony Harris, Adam Murphy, Gene Norman

Believing

One of the trickiest parts of being a parent that no one tells you about is the perpetuation of the magical fantasy land where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, et al, exist. The juggling act you perform so your beautiful, innocent offspring BELIEVE. You find yourself digging around your purse at 1:00 in the morning for a measly quarter to leave under a pillow. You have heated discussions with your spouse about what the hell an Elf on the Shelf would and wouldn’t do. You hide Easter eggs so well, you still wonder where they are. No, it doesn’t last all that long. In fact, it seems our children seem to go from believers to non faster than ever. Typically it is an older sibling, cousin, or friend who spills the beans. “You know Santa isn’t real. It’s your parents.” I remember vividly my little girl asking me if this horrifying statement she heard at school was true. I didn’t want to lie but I also wanted her to enjoy at least a year or two more of wide-eyed innocence. I told her that I like to believe that Santa is real so she should to. That’s true. I like to imagine, no mattter how impossible, that one man and nine reindeer can visit every single house in the world in one night. That this man with the gut of steel and agility of an olympic gymnast can eat millions of cookies and shimmy down millions of fireplaces and know exactly what I want, every year! It’s fun to imagine it, if not a little sadistic. But really I wanted to believe and her to as well because it is so hard to crush your child’s dream. To watch as she realizes that it’s not magic but the mall. That mom and dad stay up late Christmas Eve, likely after a drink or three, putting together toys and bickering. It was in an everyday moment that my baby learned the truth, she opened the bottom drawer of an old dresser in the basement we were moving as we prepared for a remodel, to come face to face with her two elves from the North Pole she adopted. Kind of like Elf on the Shelf but not quite as mischievous. There were Landon and Liam, dusty and staring glassy eyed from the basement of her own home, not with Santa as they should’ve been during the summer. My heart broke for in that moment she opened the back door and raced out to her swings, the full realization hitting her. Truth be told she was certainly old enough by then to know better but the fact that she “played along” writing letters to her elves and cuddling with them at night, was reason enough to keep up the charade. I couldn’t apologize enough, explain enough, make up enough silly excuses. The damage was done. I dried her tears and told her how the elves could now stay with her year round in her room and not just at Christmas and that I enjoyed pretending they lived with Santa as much as she did. Years have passed now and yes, those elves are still around, crammed into a plastic, blue bin filled with other stuffed animals too precious to part with just yet. She hasn’t mentioned them this Christmas. There have been finals and family coming into town and exchanging gifts with friends to fill the holiday hours. I loved that she believed in Santa for as long as she did and I love that she keeps the elves close by, even if they aren’t top of mind.

Christmas isn’t Christmas without that little bit of magic, is it? To believe, even when you know better.

Staying away

A year ago the news came in twitter bursts. School shooting. Connecticut. 2 dead. 12 dead. 26 dead. This can’t be, I remember thinking. They must have the number wrong. Our coverage was extensive of course. We talked to CBS reporters on scene that night. They told the story of a clearly troubled man who killed his mother at the home they shared, and then with several of her guns, drove to the elementary school he went to as a boy, shot out the locked front door and starting killing. Teachers locked classroom doors, hid their students in bathrooms, physically covered some of their little bodies with theirs for protection. Six teachers were murdered that day. 20 students. All of the children either 6 or 7 years old. 6 or 7. Babies, really. At school for the first time in their lives. Eagerly awaiting Christmas just a couple of weeks away. Their young brains knowing nothing of the sort of violence that would take their lives. The children who experienced the terror of that day and survived would give heartbreaking interviews, many controversial for how they were obtained, saying there was a “monster” at school and our teacher told us to hide. That Christmas must have been a blur of cameras and coverage and nightmares. They would never return to their classrooms at Sandy Hook. The school and its contents razed. If only memories could be so easily demolished. As we approach another holiday and the anniversary of that massacre nears, the people of Newtown, Connecticut are asking, pleading with the media to stay away. Don’t park your news trucks on our streets. Don’t knock on our doors. Don’t attend our vigils. Just please for the sake of the 20 thousand or so people who call this small Northeastern town home, for the family members of the teachers who died protecting their kids, for the mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, siblings of the children murdered crouched together in their classrooms, but mostly for the children who walked away that horrible day, leave us alone. Let the children go to school Friday, have holiday parties with classmates, look forward to a weekend of last minute shopping with mom and dad, and feel the wonderful anticipation, not of a tragedy that will forever define their community, but of Christmas morning. Not every anniversary needs to be acknowledged. The wishes of the survivors most certainly do.

newtown2

Giving thanks

Today I give thanks for a healthy child, a loving husband, a supportive family.

Today I am thankful for a job, a roof over my head, food to eat.

Today I extend a thank you to friends, colleagues, acquaintances for their kindness.

Today I stop worrying about breakouts and house remodels and hosting Christmas and give thanks for a life free of disease, a warm home on a cold night, and the gift of close relationships.

Today I give thanks to my parents and their parents for laying the groundwork for my life.

Today I am thankful for a country in which I can get an education, vote, say what I want, aspire.

Today I extend a thank you to those whose work makes my life easier, less stressful, possible.

Today I stop worrying about what I don’t have and give eternal thanks for all I do.

It is an embarrassment of riches. And I don’t say thank you for it enough.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful.

The “selfie”

Go ahead and let the irony wash over you but I don’t understand this culture of oversharing we currently live in. Yep, I’m talking about this in my online personal blog, a link to which I will later tweet and yet that will fall on the minimal amount of sharing side these days. Honestly, this blog, which I’m still not convinced is read by anyone other than my dear mother and mother-in-law, is a place for me to stretch my writing legs. Since I no longer have time to report and write long form stories, this is my outlet. I enjoy the writing process and sharing my thoughts, concerns, joys with you, in words. I tweet because I have to for work. I’m not on facebook like much of humanity and figured I’d better get on some sort of social media to appease my bosses. Of the thousand or so followers, I don’t know how many are actually viewers or just those who follow back anyone. My point, while I at times enjoy sharing, the trend of oversharing makes me uneasy. The photos of food, of self, of how much you ran or ate or what you cooked or the one millionth photo of your face (because really, how many different ways can you take a selfie?) that litter our digital world. Today, Oxford University declared “selfie” as THE word of 2013. Good call you crazy Brits. Nothing defines our current culture of constant sharing more than an awkwardly positioned, often too close, photo of yourself. My lovely daughter, who by the way is one of the more photogenic creatures I’ve ever seen, has hundreds of them. As do her friends. There are people on Twitter whose entire timeline consists of shots of their face, in the car, at home, at the gym, at dinner.. you get the “picture.” You used to drag the old camera out just for vacations, big life events, the ocassional family shot, turn your film in to be developed (true story, kids), and sit in the car and look at the pictures immediately upon picking them up. Our phones and computers have eliminated the wait, the cost of development, and the barriers with whom we share these pictures. Now eveything gets documented. All. The. Time. I will spare you my lame psychoanalysis of the phenomenon. It’s well covered territory anyway. We have become a LOOK AT ME! society with fame just around the corner for anyone who can make the next viral video. If we don’t put ourselves out there, do we even exist? Whoa now. Sorry. I suspect this isn’t going to dissipate but rather accelerate as our devices get faster and the pictures get clearer and the world gets smaller. On the other hand, is it really even worth worrying about at all? I believe a smaller world is a better world. I believe sharing and communicating and seeing all types of people in any and all situations can bring us closer as a human race. You can always just use the phone for calls (GASP!) or unplug for a while or stop contributing to the selfie wasteland yourself if it all seems to be too much. Or maybe, and this is what I plan to do, turn the phone the other way and start looking outside yourself more often.

Favorite selfie – On St. Thomas as hubs and pilot are loading the plane for our short flight to Virgin Gorda

plane selfie

Being photobombed during a selfie by the master herself

red selfie

Wants and needs

angel tree

My daughter and I spent our Saturday morning at Target in Midtown doing some Christmas shopping. We chose two adorable outfits with really cool boots, a beach doll house, a beach Barbie with stylin’ beach wear, and some undershirts to wear as our weather turns cold. The items are not for a family member or a friend or even someone we know. They are for our angel Khloe. The TV station I work for partners with the Salvation Army for their Angel Tree Program every year. And even though cameras captured our shopping spree it didn’t make it any less meaningful for us. I swallowed the lump in my throat as my teenager spoke eloquently to the camera about how fortunate she was to always have gifts on Christmas morning and that it was a pleasure to help give Khloe the same experience. Later that evening as I was fine tuning our tile decisions for the master bath remodel, a documentary was airing in the background about organ trafficking. It showed devastating poverty in the Philippines where people sell their kidneys for a couple thousand dollars, more than they make in a year. I felt ridiculous in that moment. And so incredibly grateful. My child faces a sea of presents and an overflowing stocking December 25th. My home is not a shack I can’t stand upright in. Our needs are met easily, our wants, too. I grew up with little money. My incredibly hard-working and kind-hearted mother would make sure during tight months at the child care center she ran that other employees would get paid first. She would skip meals so I didn’t have to. She made sure I had not only everything I needed, but all I wanted. I learned to value a dollar and hard work and appreciate the luxuries money buys but also understand how quickly it can disappear. My concern was that my daughter hadn’t learned that. That wanting was needing. I don’t know why I worried, after all, this is a child who used to give away her toys to friends or wrap up jewelry she had to share with others. The child who always wants to get birthday gifts or a little something for someone. The child who is thankful for everything, writing thank you notes diligently, enthusiastically sharing her joy when she receives a special gift. I worried for nothing. She was gracious, kind, thoughtful, and generous during our shopping trip. She referred to our angel by name and she spoke straight from her heart when she looked at me and said I want Khloe to have the kind of Christmas I do. That’s the kind of wanting I need her to have.

The List

An old friend and favorite blogger (check him out here http://www.rapideyereality.com/) posted his responses to an idea he borrowed from writer John Scalzi – Ten Things I Have Done That You (Probably) Haven’t. The list was funny and insightful and a great way to waste 10 minutes. Below is my attempt. Leave your own in the comments.

TEN THINGS I HAVE DONE THAT YOU (PROBABLY) HAVEN’T:
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10. Worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken

9. Had my dress almost torn off by a llama on live television

8. Sat in the ugly recliner used by Frasier Crane’s dad, Martin, on the show ‘Frasier’

7. Been pulled onstage by Sir Mix-A-Lot

6. Been hit on by a Senator (Strom Thurmond, if you’re wondering)

5. Clutched a box of tampons while talking with Falcons head coach Mike Smith

4. Been part of an inmate’s elaborate escape plan that included me piloting the TV station’s helicopter onto the roof of the prison

3. Been first to interview the first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson

2. Eaten dinner with Robin Leach at a T.G.I.Fridays in Nashville

1. Stayed off Facebook

Bullying

It is the issue of the moment. Yes, it’s real but in my opinion, often “misdiagnosed” (for lack of a better word). Bullying. The news recently has been filled with stories of it. A girl killed herself in Florida after two classmates tormented her at school and online. Now one of the bully’s parents are charged with a crime, too after video surfaced of her abusing her children. Shocking, I know. This is not something a child comes equipped with. Like hate, bullying is learned. If this woman’s parenting style is any indication, her daughter was simply mimicking what she’d seen her whole life. That doesn’t excuse it, mind you. Maybe just explains why some kids do and some don’t bully. We’ve all been kids, many of us have them, some of us work with them, we know kids can be mean. The honesty that’s so endearing when they’re little can become a weapon as these children sharpen their personalities. Treating people poorly can be a way to elevate oneself. I’m better than you and I will prove it by belittling you at every opportunity. I’m treated poorly myself so I will lash out and treat you the only way I know how. I’m hurting because you a)stole my boyfriend b)embarrassed me c)are different than me d)a million reasons and I will gain control over these feelings by bullying you. I’m just not a nice person. Again, not excuses, more reasons, I guess. The case in Florida is frustrating for so many reasons not the least of which is that these girls were cruel to the classmate on Facebook, Instagram, and other sites they were all on. In interviews, the parents of one of the bullies said they monitored their daughter’s social media sites. No, you didn’t. The parents of the girl who killed herself after the harrassment said they monitored their daughter’s sites. No, you didn’t. Here’s an idea. Get the hell off the internet. The minute you learn this is happening, take phones, computers, tablets, whatever, away. Restrict free time immediately. You go to school, you come home, that’s it. Contact the school, administrators, teachers, whomever you need to to find out what is happening and how to stop it. I understand parents’ complaints can fall on deaf ears. I realize we cannot control every moment of our teenagers’ lives. I know kids find ways to have contact and that getting involved can risk embarrassing your child or upsetting other parents or making the bullies lash out at your child even more. It beats the alternative of burying your child. This case is an extreme one. Certainly most instances do not end in suicide. This young woman who felt so despondent over how she was treated that she jumped to her death needed help. Yes, from her parents but perhaps professional help as well. The girls who face charges now for pushing her over the edge need help too as evidenced by a Facebook post after the suicide that read “Yeah, (blank) killed herself and IDGAF (I don’t give a #$@!).” WHY IS THIS CHILD STILL ON THE INTERNET AFTER EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED?! WHERE ARE HER PARENTS?! Appalling that she would write something so horrible. Shameful her parents haven’t done more to show her actions have consequences. On the other end of the spectrum is the ridiculous story this week of two high school football teams in Texas. A set of parents whose sons were on the losing team accused the winning coaches of bullying because the game was so one-sided. The final score was 91-0. The parents were upset the coaches didn’t pull starters sooner or encourage the boys to ease up. Are you kidding me? By all accounts the coaches did what they could, running out the clock at times, putting in second and third string players, calling for fair catches but what lesson does it teach to say ‘you know boys, let’s ease up here because the other team isn’t playing well tonight.’ Funny thing is the coaches and players from the losing team didn’t have a problem with the game. Sure, they had a problem with getting their hats handed to them, that’s never fun, but not one of them felt bullied or mistreated. All of this lead to a useless investigation that ended as you might imagine with the coaches cleared of any charges of bullying. There will be a change to that particular school district’s football game bracket to more evenly match opponents but most people interviewed admitted that needed to happen anyway. My point, and I do have one, is crying BULLYING is dangerous. It dilutes a serious problem, makes us less apt to take a case of actual bullying seriously, and frankly, diminishes what happened to the young woman from Florida. She was bullied, no doubt about it. I’m no psychiatrist but I’m guessing her developing psyche and fluctuating pubescent emotions combined to make her feel worthless and hopeless because of those girls words and actions and she, to repeat and oft-used quote ‘found a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’

I talk to my daughter often about bullying. Dad keeps an eye on social media. We’re not perfect, far from it, but I’ve learned the best way to know what’s happening in her life, in person or online, or even in her heads sometimes is to LISTEN. I shut up and listen.

On my mind – 10-16/13

Sending good vibes to Seattle where the teenage son of a dear friend has a bone marrow transplant early Thursday morning. Go Team Mitch! #TitanStrong

Another friend marked a somber anniversary yesterday. 3 years since his son took his own life. Telling this family’s story and helping spread the word about teenage suicide prevention has been a high water mark for me during all these years of television news. I think of you often Trautwein family.

I have made certain to hug our girl a little more and a little longer lately. She may not need it, but I do.

One of the women who cleans the station asked me tonight if my daughter works here. She said she saw another blonde and thought we were related. Why she didn’t ask if she was my sister has me feeling on the old side.

Seems as we get older we shouldn’t have to fight acne. Wrinkles and zits is a particularly cruel combo. A surge of hormones, extra helping of stress, and I don’t know what have conspired to mar my otherwise smooth chin. Frustrating and for someone who spends hours in high definition, terrifying.

Learning to let go of that which we cannot control is a valuable lesson. Yes, I can. No, I don’t always.

For a lesson in control we now turn to the U.S. government. Look, guys and gals, you control the world’s largest economy and so many aspects of our lives, please get your s*!@ together and end this mess.

Could actually happen tonight. It’s leading the newscast. Was a toss up though between the end to the shutdown and a family of bears in Johns Creek. The latter is much more entertaining. And the endless parade of foolish people with their phones trained at the cubs as mama watched could have ended in a bigger debacle than us defaulting on our loans.

Speaking of the gov’t I am completely hooked on the fake Presidency and love triangle in ‘Scandal.’ I binged on the entire first 2 seasons on Netflix and now can hardly get any work done on Thursday nights as new episodes air. Great TV.

Not so great TV – ‘The Purge.’ Rented it this weekend. Was just okay. Good premise, squandered. Did enjoy ‘The Frozen Ground’ about a serial killer in Alaska. Can you tell I stayed in? Trying to heal my chin. Will likely watch ‘The Conjuring’ Saturday.

I’m a bit of a scary movie fan. Although lately, unfortunately, there seems to be enough horror in real life to suffice.

I’ll take the fake fear, thank you. That I can turn off.

Your turn.