Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I cried in front of my staff today

Photo: CNN

I didn't know Alison Parker or Adam Ward.
I've never worked at WDBJ. In fact, I spent the first three years of my TV news career trying to catch up with WDBJ!

The internet doesn't need to hear from me.
But I need this blank screen tonight.

I need its space.
I need its grace.

I was in Roanoke when 9/11 happened. I didn't cry until 9/14. I was 20 years old. I immediately went into "breaking news" mode. I digested facts and video as accounts of tragedy came into a newsroom of Beta tape decks and big fat desktop computers. Churn, churn, churn. I remember thinking I should be feeling something, but I don't. I just keep churning. Update the ticker. Do a cut-in when NBC gives us a local availability. Book satellite time for our crew in DC. Cue the reporters. Write the scripts, sort the scripts. Count the show out and close with a shot of the red, white and blue Roanoke star on top of Mill Mountain.

I was a baby then.
20.
I didn't even know what a terrorist was or where exactly Afghanistan was on a map.
The day before that, I had been working on an animation about shark attacks.
I didn't feel anything for three days. Until my pastor prayed during my 6:00 p.m. newscast. I cried then.

I've worked in Roanoke, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, DC... I've covered plane crashes and school shootings and child abuse cases and horrible things being done to animals. I've been around the news sun quite a few times. I've been shaken a few times but not like today.

Today, I cried in front of my staff. At the head of a conference room table.

This morning, I found out about the shooting on my way to work. I hoped it was just a dramatic Facebook video. Maybe they are okay. Maybe it was just shots fired in the area, and they ducked and they are okay. I got to work and found out WDBJ didn't go on the air for the CBS This Morning cut-in at 7:25 and I knew then - it was going to be bad.

I was sitting in my office across from one of my fresh-faced-first-job-journalists just back from the Poynter Institute. She is newly inspired and I'm unpacking all she learned. The alert crosses my phone: Alison Parker and Adam Ward are dead.

It stopped me.
I fired off a quick e-mail to my staff: We will not be using the video. I didn't even think. I just hit send. It was like a reflex.

Then I went into the conference room for the morning editorial meeting. I bet TV newsrooms across the country had awkward morning meetings like ours this morning. We debated: Do we cover this from city council or preview that? Should we follow up on this bus story? I was trying to hard to listen and weigh in on story assignments but I couldn't hear any words. My Assistant News Director sounded like the Charlie Brown teacher. Time had stopped. I couldn't hear words.

I fired off a couple of e-mails to trusted mentors about the ethics of showing the video. Was my knee-jerk reaction the right decision?

I tuned back into the meeting. It had started with "Man, this is crazy." "So sad." "Did you see his fiancee' was the morning producer and she was in the booth and saw the whole thing?" "Any updates on if they caught the guy?"

Then the time came to talk about the video. Are we going to show it? I think Brene' Brown was whispering in my ear or something. I was trying to be so strong, y'all. But I sat there at the head of the table and shed a tear. I was just honest. Vulnerable. I told my staff: I can't hear anything. I can't focus. This is so terrible. I need your help to weigh the ethics of this video.

There were conference calls and logistics planning e-mails and updates to the story through the day.

In the middle of all of this, I found out my Granny Nora had a heart attack and for about an hour, I didn't know what was going on with her and if this crazy day was going to end at the airport, catching an emergency flight to California.

My morning anchor stood in my door as I got off the phone with my mom. I was almost in ugly-cry mode at this point. He told me to breathe. He was right. Air is good. (Granny is doing okay now, by the way.)

As I have gotten older, the churning has gotten harder. I think some of it has to do with the insane amount of information that comes at us faster than we can even comprehend. I think it's also because I'm not 20 anymore. I've lived more. I've loved. I've lost. These are not just stories we are telling. They're realities. It's not just a line on a rundown. The responsibility of what we do weighs heavily on me.

And I lead with my heart. To a fault!
I suck at hiding my true feelings. I knew I needed to pull it together, so I had to get out of the newsroom for a little bit.

I came back and we went on with more meetings and coverage and planning. But my heart was heavy through the day.

To my fellow journalists: Breathe. Cry if you must. But we have realities to tell. Do right by Alison and Adam. We have to go on.

I bet this is how teachers felt the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. Numb. Empty.
But we have to go on. We have realities to tell.

Do right by all of the victims' stories we tell. It's easy to feel this one, I'll admit. I've been the young producer who was dating a photog in Roanoke. There are 24-year-old fresh-faced up-and-coming reporters who work for me. I'll see them in the morning meeting tomorrow. Sitting right back in that seat where I cried today.

It's not always easy to feel the hurt and the loss when we don't identify with it. The crime victim. The plane crash victim. The people who are not shot on live TV. We need to serve all of them, too.

Breathe.
Forgive me for my tears. They don't mean I am weak. I promise. I am stronger than I look!
So are all of you.
We have realities to tell.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Timehop: Then, now, and trying to let go of the "what's next?" life

I am a writer who requires a lot of space. I haven't had a lot of that lately. But I have had a lot of adventure!

Do you have the Timehop app on your phone?

Life is a giant Timehop, you know.
In the wise words of Truvy, "Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin' across your face."

This morning, I had an hour of quiet on the patio. Well, after Brokaw begged me to bring his blanket out there so he could join me. God forbid he lay on the actual ground, you know, like a dog.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude. For where I am. Right here on this back porch.

I never thought I'd be here.
In Myrtle Beach. Random.

I didn't think I wanted to be a News Director.

Timehop.

As I scan the app on my phone, I see a girl at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. A girl sitting for new head shots because she's all about blogging and writing. An eager crossfitter. An exhausted caregiver. A girl who learns how to bake. How to plant a little garden.

I hop from one thing to the next. It's all documented with those little graphics that say "1 year ago... 4 years ago..."

---
I am a naturally driven person. I came out that way. I never struggled with making and reaching goals. My struggle is that I'm addicted to it. I always have to be moving towards whatever the next thing is.

When I was a young producer, it was all about getting to a higher profile newscast. Then a bigger market. My big dream? DC. The White House. I did it. Then it was getting the big interviews on the campaign trail.

When it came to love, I slowly fell in love with a boy over the internet who I always knew deep-down, he'd be the one for me.

It wasn't until I got married that I faced things that I couldn't just hop over.

My husband's disability was a huge one. It rocked my world. Fundamentally changed me on the inside and the outside. I'm used to it now. I've made peace with "three."

A couple of years ago, I thought I'd turn the amp down on my career, move home, make a baby. It didn't work out like that. I was sad for a while.

But, now I look around here where I am, and I'm not sad I don't have a baby. I came through that and ended up in this place. This random place. Myrtle Beach.

It turns out, I love being a news director.

Time marches on.
I'm a grown-up now. Maybe some time soon I'll learn to stop thinking so much about where I've been and where I'm going and enjoy the right now.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Our New Life


The past few months have been as life-changing as any in our marriage.

Looking over our blog posts from northern Virginia, when we were newlyweds in way over our heads just wondering if we could make it through the daily routines, today seems like we've come full-circle but so much stronger.


Dana took a new job in Myrtle Beach in January. We anticipated moving in March because February is a big month for TV ratings. But the company insisted she take her new position BEFORE the February books. So we faced an enormous challenge:
  • breaking our lease
  • moving to a NEW STATE!
  • finding a new apartment
  • packing and moving
  • establishing all of our systems in our new home
We have never prayed for strangers as much as the family who would assume our lease. There was NO WAY we could pay two leases for a year. We loved our place in Virginia Beach and its location. Even our little community. We were finally on a day schedule and getting settled into life. Had even signed a two-year lease.

Before leaving for Myrtle Beach, Dana crammed in a weekend-long effort to pack everything we wouldn't need for the next month. She labeled each box and sorted things for the upcoming move.

Michael was set to hold down the fort while she found our new apartment.

Somewhere between finding accessible and affordable apartments and reviewing the moving package and costs we realized we could OWN a house for less than rent.

The home buying process was drawn out. We felt like every turn became an obstacle. We faced familiar challenges --nobody builds truly accessible stand-alone houses-- and new --nobody really wants to lend you money without a thorough and invasive background check. Dana collected a novel-sized binder of paperwork for the big purchase.

Our realtor found a couple to lease the place in Virginia Beach. And they didn't want to move in until the end of March. Perfect!

Week after week somebody pushed back us actually buying our house. Had Dana not persisted (with the creative intervention of our amazing realtor) we might have lost our house and ended up in an apartment last minute. Quite literally, it really was THE LAST MINUTE.


Four weeks grew into SEVEN long weeks apart. An ocean-front rental was just empty without Dana's whole family together. And Michael and Brokaw spent many restless nights in a half-empty bed. This reunion in our new home was long overdue!

Today Dana spends long days running the news department at her new station. This is a new, exciting, and consuming role. Michael is holding down the fort at home with the pets. We're still working trough the system to arrange for home health care and other basics. Dana is THE home health care again. We are familiar with that challenge. So, we are still in this transition.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Didn't See This Coming

It is good to be thankful.

Yesterday, as I was about to leave work, I opened a window on my computer and googled "Thanksgiving Desserts." I started scrolling through recipes, thinking about what ingredients I had on hand, then a thought crossed my mind: "What am I doing?"

And just like that, I shut the computer down, drove to Kroger, bought a cake and came home.

Contentment.

A quick scroll through my TimeHop App takes me back to Thanksgivings past, when I made Pumpkin Trifle, and Strawberry Scones, and Homemade Bread. And the year Michael was sick and we stayed home and I made turkey and all the trimmings on a whim, that day.
Those were great days.
But that's not where I am anymore. I love where I am now. I never would have thought my evenings would look the way they do.

I come home from work, and dinner is either made, or almost made. By a guy who can't fully use his hands. He has limited use of his arms, and no use of his fingers. I never in a million years would have thought those wrists would peel carrots, chop potatoes, sauté asparagus, make Rosemary Chicken, Pot Roast, the list goes on.
But he does it, y'all. It's crazy. He does it and I come home and sometimes chop the meat and always we eat together and gush over how good it is.

It is good to be thankful. It is good to not have to do it all.

When Michael and I got married there were some things I knew I'd have to do. I embraced the cooking. I love cooking, actually! But it does take time at home. And because I work so much, I have far less time at home. So now we are one of those couples where he cooks and she cleans up.
And now I'm a girl who brings a store-bought cake to Thanksgiving and is totally fine with it. Because my identity is not found in the kitchen. Not that I'm saying yours is if you've cut out leaf-shaped pie crust. Go on with your bad self, girlfriend! That's awesome.

Life is season after season after season. I'm content right here in the middle of this one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Confession: No Longer Who I Was

I am a girl who appreciates order and color coordination. I am on time, I wake up before my alarm, I read three newspapers every morning and I'm generally annoyingly prepared for anything.

I am a girl who knows what she wants. Once I figure that thing out, I go after it with my whole heart and I almost always get it.

I'm not that familiar with failure. Or heartbreak.

I think that's why you saw me pouring my heart out over coffee and tears here in this blog space a few years ago. Because I met my match. The thing I couldn't outwit, couldn't out perform, couldn't get in front of, couldn't change: my husband's disability.

I have heard from so many of you who tell me my words could be your words. That I gave you a voice. That I inspired you to love your husband and admit that it's hard at the same time. Girls, that gave me so much strength to walk this walk on the days I didn't want to wake up. Thank you.

Thank you for being the community that didn't even exist when I first needed it. Thank you for the flowers and cards and text messages and blogs of your own and pictures of ways to make the little things in life accessible.

We are the quad wife sisters and no one can ever take that away from us. But I have to be honest with you. I've changed.

I am no longer the girl who cries all the time. I'm no longer the girl whose heart is broken when the church people fall all over themselves to help him while the door slams in my face. I am no longer the girl whose hair is falling out and skin is broken out and can't take all of the pressure of doing it all around the house.

A lot has changed. It changed a little bit at a time. I think that's called healing.

What I'm not saying is it's all better. I still have days I cry on the floor. I still have outbursts of anger and fights with God that include lots of "Why?" questions. I still miss the memories I'll never have. I have moments where I see my life as if I'm looking at it from the outside and I can't help but feel a little bit sorry for us. But mostly, I'm just generally happy with what we have.

It's healing. I'm sure of it. I want this for all of you, too. I believe it will come. I think you have to feel it for it to heal, though. So please, poke around here in the archives and cry with me. I'll cry with you. This experience has fundamentally changed who I am. And I'm glad. I'm a better person for it. I never would have made it here without all of you.

But I felt like it was time I came clean. My life is full and disability and caregiving is a part of it but it's no longer the main character. I don't know what that means for this blog. It may be a little more random in the days to come. Less focused? I'm not sure. My boss tells me I suck at poker face. Guess what? I suck at poker face writing, too.

So, I'll write from where I am and you can read from where you are and hopefully, we'll connect some where in the middle and encourage each other to bravely do the hard things and to love like this.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Pleasure Vs. My Pity

Have you ever noticed at Chick-Fil-A, when you thank them for your food, they say, “My pleasure.” Note: They’ve started doing this at McDonalds, too. I obviously eat more fast food than I should. Anyway, I’m not writing about fast food, I’m writing about giving.

I give a lot in my life. I guess a lot of giving just comes with the territory when you are a caregiver. I don’t only give a lot at home, though. I give a lot at work, too. I am a leader. I believe leaders should be servants. Servants give.

I often find myself at the end of my rope. I am just empty. I hate it. I want to be able to give more, because I can see more is needed. Honestly, that’s the number one reason I’ve strayed away from writing on this blog – because I just don’t have anything to give. To write. To say. I feel guilty about this.

I think it’s easiest to give when it is my pleasure. I wish it was always a pleasure, but it’s not. Especially before I have any coffee.

We work an overnight schedule. Translation: We don’t sleep. Every Friday, we are exhausted and aim to sleep for about 12 hours. When I really sleep on Fridays, I dream. I almost always dream that I am constantly woken up and asked for things. It’s usually Michael who asks me for things in my dreams. Last night, I had this dream back-to-back about 6 times, then I woke up to him actually asking for something, and I got it for him but I was not nice about it. Failure.

This morning, Michael woke up with a scratchy throat. We decided to stay home from church. I was sweet to him, right off the bat. I got him some medicine, stroked his hair. I was all impressed with myself. I got the thermometer to take his temperature, did that, then he made one unsolicited comment – something about wiping the thermometer off with an alcohol swab and BOOM, I got mad.

No longer my pleasure. My service was tainted. I was annoyed, feeling like a victim, like a slave, like I’m just here to do the work. I actually felt the change happen in my heart. And I hate it! I want it to be my pleasure.

I constantly have to fight for my pleasure. I have to confess, pray, listen to music, have alone time, write, talk to other wives who get it, and eventually I can get back to the place where I can take care of him with a sweet spirit. I hate that I have to fight for this. I wish it was easier.

Earlier this week, Michael’s home health aide called out sick. (We’re thinking that’s where he got the throat thing.) I had already woken up an hour early so I could be out of our bedroom and out of the way, so I was mad I was going to have to step up and get him up and dressed myself, and I had to do it without an hour of sleep I would have had, had I known when we went to bed that she wouldn’t be coming in that night. I started getting him ready and then we were thrown a curveball. I’m not going into detail, but it was not fun.

I have a mode I go into when this happens and I went into the mode. I am a household appliance. I’m a tornado of plastic gloves, washcloths, anti-bacterial spray and laundry detergent. I clean up the mess and theoretically, it’s gone. But the fact that it happened hurts. And the hurt lingers. And I fight with God: Why? How? So many questions. Don’t you see? Don’t you care?

I broke down in tears and laid down with Michael. Snuggled beside him on his right shoulder. He accepts me when I am a mess like this. When I can’t do it. When it’s not my pleasure. When I pity him. When I pity us. When I can’t climb and claw and fight my way to just face the day.

Once I got him up, I made coffee and warmed up dinner and I went upstairs to get ready for work. And the waves kept crashing. I couldn’t rally. I ended up taking a sick day. I fell asleep on the couch. I made it through the night, after all.

I look back at our live together over the last five years and I remember so many days that were filled with pity in those early years. I serve more out of pleasure, these days, thank God! When this happened the other night, Michael brought up Sisyphys. I told him I used to feel like Sisyphus all the time. Now, it’s rare. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or not. On one hand, at least I’m not pushing that rock up the hill already exhausted. On the other hand, I am out of practice.

The bottom line here is it’s way easier to serve, to give, out of pleasure than it is out of pity.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Time We Don't Have

Here’s a scene from my imperfect life. Or, maybe I should say Brokaw’s life. See him there, with the toss pillow? Whenever Brokaw is excited, he goes for the closest toss pillow he can find. He carries it around the house, shakes it, tries to get me to take it away from him. This one is off of our bed. 

See Michael’s toes? His shoes? Every night, I get Michael up and dressed and ready for the day (night). I sit on the floor and put his shoes on his feet. Before I slip them on, Brokaw stands on my lap so I can scratch his back with Michael’s shoes. The Vans are his favorite. See that huge scratch on the door? If you are a landlord, and you have a tenant who is in a wheelchair, I suggest you pad your walls. Just an FYI there. 

So much about this picture and our life isn’t Pinterest-perfect. But you know what? We love our little life and each other. And that makes such a difference in facing the hard things. Oh, the hard things. They are plenty. Just last night when I was dressing Michael, he teared up, feeling the unfairness. I rolled him on his side, snuggled behind him and we just laid there snuggled and pep-talking for a good 20 minutes. It was 20 minutes we didn’t have but we had to have.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Best Jobs Don't Feel Like Work

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I remember my dad studying to be a paramedic, and I would read his textbooks for fun. So, I figured becoming a doctor would be the perfect thing for me.

Then, Algebra I happened. And I decided I wanted to be a journalist, instead.

I had guilt about this, because I’m a promise-keeper. At the age of 14, I was so afraid of letting the world down, and telling it I didn’t think I’d be able to be a doctor. Then one day, the man who would end up marrying my mom told me I should do what I want. I’m sure Dave had no idea how he was freeing me to be me when he told me that, that day.

I’ve been working in TV news for 15 years. It’s not all puppies and unicorns. I’ve worked long hours, and crazy hours, and filed stories from taxi cabs and bathrooms and I’ve bought gas and groceries with a credit card and cried in stairwells at work. But, I can say that I love what I do. I’ve never stopped loving it.

I’ve been paid to witness history. To record it. To hold the powerful accountable. To tell stories people need to hear in order to be better citizens. And now, I get to lead a team of people who do that, and watching them learn and grow is even more fulfilling than it was to do it myself.

If I could give everyone one thing, it would be Jesus. If I could give them two things it would be Jesus, then a job that doesn’t feel like work. It’s truly a gift.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Early

I like to wake up early, while Michael is still asleep, and Brokaw is still snoring with his eyes open. It’s quiet, and I can feel the peace and possibility of a new day, without immediately being thrust into it.

Sometimes it feels like the world is churning with obligations, responsibilities, and bills, doesn’t it? But a little quiet and hot coffee, alone, first thing in the morning makes it feels like the world pauses.

I beg of the world: Please stop churning for a minute so that I can sleep. So that when I wake up, the things that I haven’t done yet won’t feel even more undone, just the same level of undone I left them at when I laid my head on the pillow.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of the stuff would just stop and wait for us to be ready? But, it doesn’t. It churns. We still have to sleep.

There is a print from Red Letter Words on my desk in the newsroom. I got it at Allume, last year. It says “Hope Waits,” with the scripture reference Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Easier said than done, right?

We are in a waiting mode in our lives right now. Michael and I are waiting on something big. I can’t elaborate, but it looks like we are in for some sort of life change, we just don’t know what kind yet. No, I am not pregnant. While we wait though, other big stuff is going on. Spin, spin, spin.

We worked together to move this blog from Blogger to WordPress. Hopefully you like the new design! I’m still working on a lot of little things, so please be patient. I’m working with an awesome book coach on my book proposal. It’s a lot of work, but it’s heart work, so it’s dear. I’m enjoying it.

Pray for us in the waiting, though, will you?