Learning from My History, Amazed by the People in My Now

A million years ago someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I finally realized I was never going to be a Solid Gold Dancer and my love of talking AND listening might actually form itself in to a career, I landed on television anchor and reporter. A few dads from my 7th grade class constructed a ‘news’ set and our class rotated teams daily delivering news, sports, weather and special reports.

I was hooked.

I was positive I was destined to hold a mic, ask the questions, really get to the heart of the story and then deliver it when the red light came on.

High school. College. Interning at the local ABC affiliate in San Diego. I stayed focused.

The weekend team at KGTV in San Diego adopted me, teaching me the art of storytelling, how to know what questions to ask, how to know when to be quiet and listen and just as importantly how crucial it is to work as part of a team: reporter-photographer.

One of the first stories I ever covered was the opening of Planet Hollywood in San Diego and my first ever interview – even as in intern – was Sheryl Crow. I was both terrified and thrilled.

KGTV Sheryl Crow Interview

That same KGTV weekend team, specifically one photojournalist, Tim, helped me to create the tape that eventually, eleven months after college graduation, landed me a job at the NBC affiliate in Yuma, Arizona….just two and a half hours southwest of San Diego. In that eleven months I had been told I talked too fast, I looked and sounded too young and my overall ‘look’ was a ‘dime a dozen’.  (that last barb came from someone I knew who had already landed a job in the industry). The News Director who hired me offered me $16,000 a year and told me there would be no negotiating because there was ‘a stack of tapes as tall as me of people who wanted the job if I wasn’t willing to take it’ for that compensation.

I took it and initially had the time of my life sometimes working twelve hours a day.

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(It is pretty fantastic when your name is spelled wrong in the promo ads that run in the local newspaper)

Yuma is on the border of Mexico and California and is the home to two military bases – the Marine Corp Air Station and the Yuma Proving Ground – an Army Base. I learned more in the two years I lived there than I ever expected. I covered county fairs and elections, illegal and often heart-breaking, deadly immigration issues, military issues, plane crashes and even a hurricane.

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I flew with the Marine Corps in to the base of the Grand Canyon on a CH-46 Sea Knight to deliver toys with Santa Claus to an Indian tribe.

I met Toby Keith at the County Fair before he was Toby Keith the country super star we know now.

I worked with the Make a Wish Foundation to raise money for a little girl dying of leukemia. The family called me the morning she died. I cried with them.

I met Senator John McCain as he came through our station to be interviewed.

I met the crew of the Enola Gay and witnessed the moment THEY saw a Harrier levitate for the first time.

KYMA Enola Gay Yuma Daily Sun

All of these moments added to the AMAZING that was being a reporter. Sharing joy, helping people, contributing to a greater happy, spreading good. But for me there was a darker side to this and it ultimately lead me to make the decision to leave the industry. I decided I didn’t have the consititution, the stomach, to knock on doors and ask people to talk about the tragedies that had permeated their lives, that had unlocked their soul- no matter that I had been trained to frame it ‘for the good for all’. Sure I could do it. Sure I HAD done it. I interviewed the mother who had held her dying newborn baby after her husband had shaken her. I talked with the families who’s loved ones had tried and failed to swim across the border. And I was confident and I had been kind and respectful, that they didn’t feel taken advantage of, or that I had overstepped during our talks. But it didn’t change how I felt.

And I went on to take another reporting job after Yuma, at the ABC affiliate in Springfield, Missouri. I met my husband there. We anchored the weekend newscasts together – I did news and he did sports. I MC’d parades when the Missouri State Lady Bears joined the NCAA Sweet 16, welcomed Brad Pitt back home for the premiere of Meet Joe Black, did live cooking shows, milked cows (unsuccessfully) on air, rode in Monster Trucks and all-together fell in love with live television. But I also did my share of those heart-breaking interviews I mentioned above when unthinkable murders happened, covered the funeral of Governor Mel Carnahan and never recovered when I was forced to tell golfer Payne Stewart’s sister (before they had been notified by the authorities) that he was flying on an unmanned plane.

How, you ask? Payne Stewart was from Springfield, Missouri. Like all newsrooms, ours monitored all the major news stations. Mid-day on October 25, 1999, CNN began to report that they had unconfirmed reports that Payne Stewart was flying on an ‘unmanned’ flight – meaning no one could contact the plane. Immediately, our Assignment Editor told me to call Bea, Payne’s mom (active in the community and founding member of the local League of Women Voters). I refused. I knew ‘unmanned’ likely meant the passengers on the plane had died and did not want to be the person to tell a mother her son might be, or was dead. I refused to make the call three times. So the Assignment Editor had a 17 year old intern call.

I turned to hear my name and see the intern crying and motioning for me saying, ‘they don’t know!’ over and over again.

I grabbed the phone, only to hear Payne’s sister say, ‘I don’t understand….he said something about Payne and CNN and a plane?” I identified myself and said, “I am so very sorry to be the one to tell you this, but CNN is reporting – that they have unconfirmed reports Payne’s flight is flying unmanned over the middle of the United State.” She replied, “That’s impossible…Payne is on his way to Spain right now….. right, Mom?” And I heard Bea say ‘no….”

The next sound she made is one you hear in the movies…..the sound the heart makes when they find out someone they love has died. She mumbled, “I’m sorry, I have to go….”

I whispered, “I’m so very sorry”, hung up and cried at my desk.

And I knew. That was my moment. This wasn’t the path for me. I could do happy. In fact, I LOVED happy. I loved live. But this was something else altogether.

The hard news gods knew it too. I was one of five people let go later that year within two a two week period: the two main anchors, the main sports guy, the weekend anchor (me), and the weekend sports guy (my soon-to-be husband).

And now this is my path. And there is storytelling. And interviewing. And live TV. And even Red Carpets which I REALLY love. And just video in general. And it is good. And I want to do more of it.

My life lessons through all of this?

It is ok to suddenly take a left on your life path when you thought you had it all figured out. I learned that I love television, especially live television. And I am finally, after all these years, comfortable saying I’m good at it – having learned to slow down when I speak and realized that my ‘dime a dozen look’ is all I’ve got. Storytelling fills my soul, most specifically when the stories are uplifting, have a lesson, or can make the world a better place.  I learn something every time I speak to someone new and that is a good thing.

Each step you take prepares you for the path you are on. If I hadn’t become a reporter and then an anchor, I wouldn’t have developed the early on-camera, video, editing, producing and media training skills that have helped me to evolve in my current career and are STILL helping me to continue to figure out ‘who I want to be when I grow up’. I love that I have the opportunity to continue to take left and right turns as I go. I can feel a few turns coming in the future.

Every person I meet is a lesson and some are extraordinary. Some remind me to trust my gut – the first time, while others deepen my faith in the pure goodness of the human soul. I have often been told that one of my flaws is that my expectations of people are simply too high – that I always assume people will treat me as I would treat them and I end up disappointed. But then two people come along and surprise and amaze me so deeply that I have both cried and laughed myself silly in just the past few weeks. And, yes, it does all circle back to my life as a television reporter.

Just more than a year ago, Bridgette Duplantis and Cecelia Mecca were kind enough to invite me to be the keynote speaker at iRetreat just outside of Atlanta. While I was there, I met this kind and brilliant guy by the name of Dan Morris. While we chatted, we talked about my prior life as a reporter and Dan asked what my ‘favorite’ story had been. I told him interviewing the crew from the Enola Gay. I went on to explain, this group of gentlemen was everything you might imagine, proud, but kind….matter-of-fact men who never for one second questioned their actions in World War II despite the number of times reporters 1/4 their age had asked silly questions. But to stand behind them as they witnessed the technology of the harrier was magnificent. I told Dan the day I interviewed them,  I took a picture with them. It was taken by the Marine Corps Photographer and sent to my TV station. The station refused to give it to me when it arrived (via mail) and again when my contract was up. It is, admittedly, disappointing, that I don’t have that memento from that time.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: Dan and his beautiful business partner, Rachel Martin (who I have not met in person, but who inspires me daily and who I’ve enjoyed communicating with online) are traveling around the country helping bloggers grow their businesses as professionals with Blogging Concentrated. They were in Phoenix and on their own decided to drive the two and a half hours south to Yuma, to my old station, KYMA. Why, you ask?

KYMA Dan Rachel

All for my Enola Gay picture.

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They introduced themselves. They told the story. They asked for the picture. This was the message the two of them sent me on Facebook as a surprise earlier this month. Yes, I cried.

Dan/Rachel/KYMA Facebook

Dan messaged today to tell me he was told the picture is gone. But in so many ways it doesn’t matter. I don’t have the picture. I DO have the memory of that experience, but even better, I have people….AMAZING people who did something like this just because…people like this who remind me there is so much good, people who remind me why I love storytelling, why I love taking a left turn, changing my path, evolving and keeping my head up.

Cheers to all of this….and to the beauty of an online space that makes it all possible.

And most of all…..thank you to Dan and Rachel for the happy tears, the smiles and reminding me that my left turns have been good ones (so far) and giving me the faith to keep making them.

What I Learned From Olympian, Jake Kaminiski

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I first met Jake Kaminiski a few months ago at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.  At the time, he was not assured of a trip to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.  As an Archer, he had yet to qualify for his spot.  Jake first picked up a bow and arrow when he was six years old and began competing when he was nine.

And though I was clearly not dressed for the occasion, he spent a few hours with me and a group of bloggers – all guests of Kellogg’s – giving us a lesson in his sport.

In that time, I learned a number of valuable lessons from this soon-to-be Olympian

There is no substitute for paying attention.  After my very first shot, Jake was able to assess what I needed to adjust simply by the direction of that initial arrow.  He made one suggestion: That I close my left eye as I shoot.  I went from missing the target entirely to hitting red and yellow.

Having a skill and being a good coach are two different things.  You may be extremely talented at a sport but unable to guide others.  Jake is both.

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Practicing your craft is key.  Jake had the Olympics in his sights and he knew that he would have to continue practicing to get there.  A lifetime of experience isn’t enough when you are faced with your dream. You must keep going.

Breathing through fear can help you to focus.  I asked Jake about the intensity and mental focus each shot requires.  He is skilled at breathing and quieting his mind – allowing him to have faith in his abilities in the moments when it is just he and the target.  A powerful metaphor for life.

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There is no point in doing something if you don’t do it with purpose.  You will even hear Jake saw this in his Kellogg’s Start Story.  He has been moving towards this moment for a lifetime.

I am grateful to Jake for the time he spent with me.  You and I both know, athletics do not come easily to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson.  I found it to be both cathartic and mind cleansing.  It is on my list of things to do again.

Thank you, Jake.  Good luck – I will be watching from here!

If you would like to follow Jake’s journey – beginning of course on Friday, July 27th at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, you can keep up with him on Twitter.

Photo Credits for 2nd and 4th pictures above: Trent Stafford

Disclosure: I am proud to say I am working with Kelloggs and was their guest for this trip.  As always, all thoughts and opinions share are mine alone.

If I could only teach my children one thing…..

Photo by Gina Kelly, Art By Gina, St. Louis

Seven years ago I was starting to waddle.  Within another month I would say goodbye to my nearly perfect posture, my long stride and worst *gasp* my desire to wear high heels.  I was growing a baby.  I would talk to her daily – sometimes as I went about my day and often as I crawled into bed, exhausted at the end of the day. This was, naturally, when my sweet girl was most active.  8pm and a tired Mommy-to-be were an invitation for the small one to graduate into a full-fledged punter.  There are field goals in her future, I’m still certain.

My chatting was often idle, but filled with dreams and doings, wishes and would-be-wisdom.  As if it was even remotely possible that I could possess any child-rearing wisdom at this point in my life.  I would rub my belly (or if I’m honest sometimes push her back after an hour of kidney-football) and consider the many things I hoped to teach….

How to instill confidence?  And Independence? A desire to stand up for people who can’t do it for themselves? A kind heart? A strong work ethic? A love of family?  A willingness to embrace her strengths and acknowledge her weaknesses? Loyalty? Honesty? A commitment to trying her best?  Have fun? Laugh every day if you can?

Then, and now, my head spins and my shoulders fall under the weight of this responsibility.  I’m no longer growing a baby.  I’m growing a child, a person…someone who will eventually be an adult. (eventually being a VERY LONG TIME FROM NOW, thank heavens….) And she may eventually carry this same responsibility.

So, I comfort myself (with wine…. I kid, I kid) by ruminating….  how did I come to have the desire to pass on these qualities?  If I’m passing them on…  I must have learned them at some point.  Right?

And that means this woman, my mother, gets the credit for living the example.

Photo by Carey Schumacher, Barefoot Memories, San Diego

If I could only teach Delaney (and of course, Cooper too) one thing, it would be this:

Live the example.  And do it with a kind heart.

I have to believe that the rest will fall into place.  If I show my children what it means to be kind, to be independent, to give?  They will understand in a way my words could never convey.

What one lesson do you hope to teach your children?

This Mother’s Day conversation is sponsored by a company I love (and use!) Tiny Prints.  I love that they have given me some beautiful things to think about as Mother’s Day approaches.  All of their Mother’s day cards (and Father’s day cards too!) are fully customizable and can be sent straight to the recipient. You can even schedule the cards to be sent ahead of time too.

Life Lessons Learned over Ice Cream

You know it is during the simplest of life’s moments that the most profound lessons are often discovered (or re-discovered).

This was just the case today while I sat watching my son eat ice cream.  This was his ‘reward’ for being brave – having just had staples removed from the back of his head. (The result of a glass table vs. Coop moment while I was in Vancouver.  If you think the phone call sharing the news might have caused a small heart attack….you are correct.)

It was as I was mesmerized by Coop’s joy and fixation that the lessons popped into my head one at a time.

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Savor.  Savor life, savor food, savor relationships.  Coop tackled his cone one. lick. at. a. time.  In between he would stop to look…making sure he wasn’t missing a drop.  If only I savored every meal, every moment like this.

Family should never be far from your mind. As the small dude savored the creamy moments, a ‘look’ developed in his eyes.  He tilted his head and said, “we have to get something to take home for my sister.”

This also leads to lesson #3 – even when I feel as though I might drown from the guilt I feel – worrying if I am equipping my children with the necessary tools to be powerful adults, I get a big, “would you relax already?” in the form of a 3 year old who I have clearly taught compassion and a sharing heart.

Stop eating when you aren’t hungry anymore.  Seriously?  This shouldn’t be a surprise….and yet…. The kid ate about 3/4 of the ice cream cone and decided he was done.  So he stopped.  Me?  I MUST.FINISH.  Changing that immediately.

Smile, at everyone. I try to do this, but there is something so innocent when done by a child – and even better?  The reactions he gets from strangers.  He smiles, they smile.  So, if I smile, do you smile?

The quality of our time together matters as much as the amount of time. It was more important to Cooper than I was THERE, right then.  That I wasn’t multi-tasking, answering a call or email, or on twitter.  That I was staring at him while he ate and laughing.  He didn’t care that we were only there for 30 minutes.  He just cared that it was ‘Mommy and Cooper’ time. I may not be able to sit and stare at my kids all day, every day, soaking up their zest for life, but I can make time to do it on a regular basis.

For me – having this time to just observe my son, well…..it was priceless.  It was just what I needed to refocus on what is most important in my world…my family and the joy they inject into my days.

Life Lessons Learned at TypeAMom

I am home.  My family may or may not have missed me while I was gone, but I did miss them.  And I already miss the wonderful people from TypeA.

I had a wonderful time at the TypeAMom Conference in Asheville, North Carolina.

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I hugged, I chatted, I met amazing new people, I joined conversations, I took hours of video (that I am still working on putting together), I learned and I found myself both re-energized about blogging and our community and reminded that it is my individual voice that tells you who I am.

Sometimes I get lost.  I get tired of writing from my heart.  It takes energy, time and a willingness to ‘put myself out there’. But it is that process that allows you and I to connect on a deeper level.

I think giveaways are fun – but they aren’t why I started this site.  I started this site because I wanted to remind you – other Mommys – that you are doing something extraordinary, every single day.  I write because I want to connect, to share.  I vlog and use video because I want to engage with you – I want us to have a conversation – I want our community to see each other.

typeafionasandymichelejenBecause I adore this community – whether you call yourself a Mommy Blogger, A Parenting Blogger,  a Digital Mom, a Lifecaster, or you simply prefer Blogger – I want to share with you a little of my experience.

I will share the practical lessons (and there are many) in a future post.

But for now, I will go with my feelings. (seriously, how girly am I??)

Life Lessons from TypeA

  • We are all part of an amazing, growing community. We must respect each other and the varied way we share our voices.
  • Be true to you.  Occasionally stand back and reassess – are you blogging and communicating in a way that fits you and your brand?
  • Remember you are your brand.  (thank you Alli Worthington) Everything you do, everything you say illustrates who you are to the outside world.
  • Take the high road.  If someone engages you online, or you see an argument break out – stay out of it unless absolutely necessary.  A public battle is unfortunate and can be damaging to everyone involved.
  • Blog Karma is a virtual way to ‘pay it forward’.  There is enough room for everyone – and good things happening for one person paves the way for it to happen again.  Share with and about your friends.  A positive recommendation can go a long way.

trishadkadiThis community of women is talented and eclectic, beautiful and timid, outspoken and charming, classy and silly, opinionated and crazy, generous and sensitive.

And I am a part of that community.  So are you.

Welcome – picture a great big hug – to the new frontier of Mommy-Parenting-Digital-Lifecasting-New-Media and Blogging.

I am glad you are here.  I am glad I am here.

Thank you to the amazing women I spent time with at this conference – some of you I already knew and I couldn’t wait to see again.  Some of you I was dying to get to meet in person and get to know.  And still some are people I wanted to spend hours with, but I sadly, there wasn’t time.

I’m grateful as well to the sponsors – you added to our experience, shared perspective and engaged us in outstanding conversation.

And finally, thank you to Kelby for hosting and MomTV for sponsoring me.

View the initial TypeA highlights, and the TypeAMomSong.

(The picture on the front page of the site was taken by the Extaordinary @secretagentmama and features @janicecroze @velveteenmind and @jylmomif. In these pictures you see @bookieboo, @jylmomif @banteringblonde @organizersandy, @scrappinmichele @keepitclassyjen @momdotrocks @kadiprescott)