Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

 I don't usually use this space to talk about myself, and I haven't used it much at all lately (too much work), but I can't let today pass without commenting on the aay that changed all our lives. Ten years ago today, on September 11, 2001, I was sitting in the Southwest Airlines terminal at Corpus Christi International Airport waiting to board a flight back to Dallas. The Today Show was on - and being a Matt Lauer/Katie Couric junkie - I had my eyes glued to the television. What news was breaking today? What did I need to know about before I went in to work later that day at the Dallas Morning News?

Like many, I couldn't believe my eyes when a plane flew into the World Trade Center right behind Matt's head. I figured someone was filming a movie. It seemed strange that the anchors would have the Twin Towers as a backdrop if someone was filming, but my little experience in TV taught me that anything can happen.When it was announced that terrorists had just flown an American Airlines jet into the Tower and that it was no joke, my heart started racing. I had spent the weekend visiting my mom and stepdad in Corpus Christi and now I just wanted to be home. I needed to be home - and at work, where reporters and editors were starting to scramble. I was a clerk for the Religaion section at the time, but this was all-hands-on-deck, no questions asked. I called my dad in Dallas and told him to turn on the TV. Having spent part of my childhood in New Jersey, I knew that he had friends in NYC and would be worried. A few worked at the Trade Center. He was supposed to pick me up at the airport later that morning. I then called my mom, who had dropped me off at the airport before heading to elementary school where she taught strings. I told her that the flight was delayed, but that she should turn on her classroom TV because someone had flown an AA plane into the Twin Towers. Mark was next on my list. We had been dating less than a month, but there was a definite attachment and he knew I was flying home today. I called my boss last and reported that I wasn't sure when I would make it in, but that I was trying to get home.

For the next hour, Southwest Airlines went back and forth, saying "we're going, then we're staying, we're going in 30 minutes, then we're staying." When the FAA grounded all airplanes, one of my mom's colleagues drove out to the airport and picked me up. We spent much of the morning glued to the television set in her classroom. I don't remember if the school cancelled Specials (strings, band, art, dance) that day, but I don't remember any kids coming into her room. The teachers were all in shock, but they tried to keep appearances up for the kids' sake. It was apparently decided that this was something their parents would need to handle later that day. Eventually, when it was clear that I wouldn't be (and didn't want to) getting on an airplane that day, my mom drove me back out to the airport and with a promise that I'd be reimbursed by the paper, I used my charge card to rent one of the last cars available. A few guys were looking to split a car, but they were headed another direction. I think the car rental agency overcharged me - $500 to rent a car to drive from Corpus to Dallas!! - but I had been told by my boss to "get home now" so I was not in a position to haggle. I don't remember much of he 7-8  hour drive to Dallas, only that NPR ran a continuous stream of news about the attacks. Not much was known at the time, so they repeated the same details over and over and over. Occasionally, they'd learn something new and would report it, but otherwise, it was information about the events that I had unknowingly witnessed on live television. I mostly took the back roads home to avoid traffic, but even those were eerily empty. Everyone was at home or work, glued to their TVs and radios. I thought about heading to I-35, but that would have delayed my return even longer.

I made it home sometime between 8 and 9 p.m. that night and then ran through the calls again: work (don't come in tonight; get some rest and we'll see you tomorrow.), mom, dad, my brother, grandma, Mark. I probably called more people, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted and can't remember much more than that. The next few weeks passed by in a blur, with seemingly endless coverage of the attacks from all possible angles.

Ten years later, I look at my husband, our two healthy girls, and my step-daughter who's about to be married, and say thank you, thank you, thank you, to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us that day and every day since then. 

I still wear a sterling silver bracelet bearing the name of a New York City Firefighter who lost his life at the World Trade Center. I purchased the Mercy Band after writing an article for the Religion section on the woman/charity who designed and sold them. I wear it to remind myself and others of what happened that day, but mostly I wear it as a memorial to Michael Cawley. I never met him, but am beyond grateful for his service that day and every day leading up to 9/11/01. When my girls are a bit older, I plan to pull out the brief bio about him and explain why mommy wears the band so often. He is a true hero.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grad School: Final Project

Since August 2006, I've been working toward a Master of Arts degree in Emerging Media and Communications (EMAC) at the University of Texas at Dallas. My coursework is completed, but in order to graduate, I must complete one more assignment: a capstone project.

I'm interested in Girl Scout retention so I'm going to produce a series of videos (6-8) featuring real women talking about their experiences as older Girl Scouts. Ideally, I'll feature four HS students or recent HS graduates who completed their Gold Award and 4 adults. Adults don’t have to have completed their Gold Award, but it would be GREAT if they had. The videos will all be about 2 minutes long, so I'm not looking for a major time commitment from anyone.

What sort of commitment would this require?
HS students/recent graduates
  • 1-2 short Q&A style interviews
  • Me shooting video of you working on your Gold Award project and interacting with other Scouts
  • Subject-shot footage (still shots) of you participating in Girl Scout activities
  • 1-2 short Q&A style interviews
  • Me shooting video of you interacting with older Girl Scouts (B-roll)
  • Subject-shot footage (still shots) of you as a Girl Scout 
What do you get out of all this?
  • After editing, I will offer all footage to you for your usage. 
  • If you're interested, I will teach you how to shoot and edit video.
  • I’m also willing to come talk to your troops and about emerging media/ public relations/journalism and/or edit college applications, etc.
Let me know if you are interested, and feel free to share this link with anyone you think might be interested in helping!


Visit to the dentist = partytime??

When did going to the dentist become akin to going to a kid's birthday party? Have kids always left the dentist's office with toothbrushes, balloons and loot bags? (Did I get royally screwed by a cheap dentist as a child?)

Since the Monkey is sprouting teeth faster than her big sister is growing, we recently took both in to get their teeth checked out. It was the Squid's third appointment; the Monkey's first.

After my first experience taking the Squid to the dentist, I put the hubby in charge of dental care. I go to help corral the munchkins, but it's the hubby's show. He's known the doc forever, so I just make sure the appointment's with her and we go from there.

Part of the reason I put him in charge is because the office is set up like a McDonald's, but without the food. The fact that there's an indoor playground in the dentist's office doesn't bother me (I sometimes wish they had one at my dentist's office.), but it can be a bit much when you're stuck in a room with a dozen toddlers and school-aged kids running and screaming at the top of their lungs. Not that I blame them. Going to the dentist doesn't exactly make my top 10 list of things to do. I've never even really had a bad experience, but spending 30-60 minutes staring at the ceiling while someone brushes, flosses and polishes your not-so-perfect teeth is not my idea of a good time.

Anyway, the appointment went well. Both girls have good, healthy teeth - and lots of them. The Monkey's even starting to get a molar!! But then the madness began. You see, the girls equate going to dentist to going to a party. They have to open their mouth for a few minutes and let people examine and clean their teeth, but that's over within minutes and then it's time for loot- lots and lots of loot.

I should say that I'm not anti-lollipop. I have no problem with physicians, dentists, eye docs... giving patients treats after an appointment. If giving a kid (or an adult, for that matter) a sticker or lollipop on the way out the door will make them keep still during an exam, I'm all for it. I have really good memories of getting to select a single toy/piece of candy from the treasure chest at my pediatric dentist's office. Hell, even today, I always look for the free lollipops and snacks when I leave my dentist's office after a cleaning. So I do support bribery. It can be useful, but it does seem to have gotten out of hand.

From this one visit alone we walked out the door with no less than: 2 balloons, 5 toothbrushes, and two goody bags filled with plastic yo-yo's, stickers, fake play glasses..... there was some other stuff in the goody bags but I'm not exactly sure what it is. It's mostly those  plastic toys parents stuff in goody bags to make them look fuller.

I didn't take any of the stuff away from the girls. They love their dentist and she loves them - that's not a relationship I want to challenge. And she and Mark have known each other since she was a teenager, so that probably has something to do with the amount of toys we walked away with. But how much is too much? When does the madness stop? What happened to the day when a kid walked out with a shiny new toothbrush and maybe one small toy?

I'm not going to rant anymore because I adore the girls' dentist and have no plans to go elsewhere. I would recommend her to anyone. But has anyone else experienced this? Does anyone else think that leaving the dentist with enough loot to stage a birthday party is a bit much?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

It's going to be a very cold, white Christmas... just kidding!

Since both Mark’s and my parents are divorced and living in different parts of the country, where we spend Christmas Day varies from year to year. This year was my mom’s, so we headed to Santa Fe to spend the holiday with the Wylie-Holland-Onuf clan. We packed for extreme cold, and as luck would have it, 2010 ended up being one of the warmest Christmases we’ve celebrated in recent years. Go figure that when I don’t pack any lightweight clothes, we need lightweight clothes. I’ll learn – someday. It goes without saying that my mom (Gaga to the girls) knows how to celebrate. We had a three person birthday party our first night there (me, my stepdad and the Monkey were all born between 12/16 and 12/24) and had another party on Christmas Day.

The entire holiday was great, but a few moments stuck out:
  • The Monkey started walking. Not by herself, mind you, but she figured out how to grab hold of a push walker and dash across the house. She also figured out how to climb onto the bottom rung of a stepladder. Getting off the bottom rung is a whole other matter… here's the video.

  • The Squid found just what she asked for under the tree on Christmas morning, plus a personal note from Santa Clause and a stocking full of goodies. She oooed and awed over the wooden train set and managed to take it completely apart within a few minutes. The Monkey helped a bit, but she was too enamored with her own gift from Santa Clause – musical instruments.
  • Despite the cold temps, the Squid treated her GG (my grandma) to several tea parties on the back patio. It was absolutely adorable to see the two of them sitting on the back porch, sipping pretend tea and chatting away about nothing in particular.
  • Date afternoon: So, the one thing I requested for my birthday was a chance to go see a movie with Mark. My dream came true and we saw the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise. I don’t remember the last time we had an afternoon to ourselves, so to say it was delightful would be an understatement. Many blessings to all grandparents and great-grandparents who are willing, able and excited to give their kids some time to themselves now and again! 
There are quite a lot of us in our blended family and everyone gets a stocking - whether you're at mom and Chris' house or not! GG made all the knitted stockings and has one for the Monkey in the works as we speak!