a few things2A friend shared this video of David Brooks (nytimes columnist) speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival. There’s some really interesting theories discussed in here, but it really focuses on how we have  transformed from the JFK-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-country type of society into one where we are predominantly focused on ourselves (facebook anyone?). You can watch the full video here.

aspenideas

Mary Tyler Moore1

Pioneers of Television: I don’t know if there’s ever a point in my life when I will be required to know which decade Betty White got her first acting job (1940s) or how many children Phyllis Diller had (6), but I really enjoyed this PBS show’s episode on female entertainers. I caught the end, where Tina Fey was describing how the Mary Tyler Moore show impacted her life. It reminded me a little of how I felt when reading about the struggles of early female journalists and how quickly we forget that we are almost always standing on someone’s shoulders.

Travel sites: My husband has never traveled internationally and we’ve been thinking a lot lately about where we would go first. I suggested Guatemala, where I lived for six months in 2007, or anywhere in Central America. You can see alot without spending a huge amount, depending where you go. I’d also love to see London, being  a total anglophile. His dream is to go to New Zealand, though he announced this right after we watched Peter Jackson’s latest movie, The Hobbit, so I’m not sure if this desire can be trusted. But it sure sounds as if the country is expecting us.

pinterestchecking out places to go on Pinterest

cnnphoto
This photo project featured on CNN.com shows how people sleep, over time. I am definitely a thrasher-use-the-entire-bed type of sleeper. To be fair, our dog, a 70-pound yellow lab, claimed our bed long ago and I’m really just trying to get comfortable. In this photo gallery, a German-born photographer who is really interested in sleep and what happens to the body and mind during this time, captured images of just that. It’s an ambitious idea and I love the title of his project: “The sleep of the Beloved.”

Advertisements
Standard

timessqareMy life has changed dramatically over the past year, and so it’s taken me some time to put together some resolutions for 2013. You know, the list of all the things you’re doing wrong and how  you plan to fix everything, a practice stolen from the ancient Babylonians, who marked the beginning of a new year by paying off debts and returning borrowed goods. I like the idea of some dude returning a shovel he borrowed from his neighbor hundreds of years ago and that simple act becoming a tradition that is now commemorated with pyrotechnics and a boost in gym memberships.

So, in the name of borrowed shovels everywhere, here are a few of my resolutions:

Allow myself more hours in the day: I am a notorious bad riser in the morning, but lately I’ve been seeing articles EVERYWHERE about people who get up at ungodly hours and apparently conquer the world. This guy in particularly goes on at length about how much better off you by working it while everyone else is asleep.

Write more, write often: A former colleague, Monica Guzman, recently wrote a great post on her website about the need to write more. I thought it was a great subject, because at the top of the list of writer eccentricities out there, I find the pressure to produce more is constant, whether it’s coming from your job or from within.dyer book

Be positive: I started the year looking for a new job and I wrote a little here about how discouraging the process can seem at times. For anyone in a similar situation, whether a job search is the source of your anxiety or not, I highly recommend the book, Your Erroneous Zones, by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It was written in the 1970s but details principles that apply today, or in any day for that matter, about how to eradicate negative, unhelpful thinking. No matter the stressful situation, I keep going back to this.

Be brave: Sometimes the hardest thing is putting yourself out there, creating or writing and then putting it out their for everyone to judge. I have been working on building a thicker skin for 8 years, every since I made a huge error in a story for my college newspaper about dorm safety. I had interviewed this kid and when I asked him if there were fire escape plans posted in his hallway, he shrugged and said “I’ve never seen any.” Well, according to the angry letter his resident adviser wrote into our paper the next day, there are fire plans posted EVERYWHERE. I was too young to wade through the embarrassment and find the lesson there, but I do remember what one of my instructors told me after he saw me moping around the Journalism building: thick skin, Bonner, thick skin.

Standard

I have been applying for journalism jobs since moving to Des Moines a few months ago for my husband’s new gig. I’m increasingly eager to get back to work, but I’m also reminded of a conversation I had with my former boss in which we talked about what we would do if we won the lottery, which was around $300 million at the time. In a response inspired by Seinfeld, I answered, “nothing.” I would not set my alarm. I would read all day. I would write angry letters-to-the-editor into my local newspaper. My boss, unimpressed with my answer, countered: “But you would be so bored.”

Turns out, he was right.

Moving2783hard at work…

While I’m not exactly doing “nothing,” it does feel a bit like nothing compared to my previous job, which included stressful nine-hour shifts monitoring and reporting breaking news. Now, my days are mostly spent looking for jobs, updating my photo blog, going to the gym and looking after our dog, Buddy. Thanks to Netflix, I’ve also finished every episode of the sitcom “Frasier,” and while I’m loving Kelsey Grammer’s warmth and comedic timing, I just can’t bring myself to have “Cheers” in my recently watched queue. One of my closest friends has started to jokingly refer to me as a “lady of leisure.”

It’s a predicament that has turned a mundane question “What do you do?” into a panic-inducing ultimatum. The asker may simply be curious, “How do you spend your time?” while all I hear is “What do you have to show for yourself as a contributing member of our society?”

This questwork3ion has paralyzed me in a way I didn’t expect, mostly because I’ve never really been in this situation. I’ve had a job since I was 13 (awkward teenage photo to the left.)

There was a brief hiatus a few years ago when, at the age of 25, I spent half a year traveling through Central America, but I was also enrolled in an intense language course and was working as a bartender the entire time I was there.

I got my first job the summer before I started high school. That was when my mother drove me to the nearest town and enrolled me in a government employment program for teenagers (and yes, I realized this may sound like something out of the Dust Bowl-era but this was northern Idaho in the 1990s). I spent that summer working as, what amounted to, an underage janitor at a public school in Weippe, a prairie town best known as the site where Lewis and Clark encountered the Nez Perce. Instead of cleaning I was instructed to just add more paint to the smudge-covered walls. I wiped down windows. I waxed and buffed gym floors. It is the only time in my life I can remember actually listening to country music because, with the crummy reception, the only alternative was Rush Limbaugh and being a product of the seen-and-not-heard style of parenting, Rush’s bellowing voice and frequent yelling put me on edge.work4

I think the work program was just my mother’s way of preparing me for the horrors that awaited me in high school, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t cool enough to be offered any drugs or invitations to the, what I assume were “raging,” parties held in the nearby forests.

(sadly, things did not get better, as shown in this photo of me,in striped socks, performing in our high school’s production of “candyland.”)

Whatever my mother’s intent, I loved it. I loved being busy. I loved ticking off the hours until I could stop breathing in the horrible cleaning fumes and go home. I loved earning my own money.

After two summers in the government work program, I explored the hospitality industry, which means I spent two summers trudging from my sister’s home in Post Falls, Idaho to a nearby Sleep Inn, where I was the youngest person on the  housekeeping staff by about 20 years. The head housekeeper was a woman named Sarah who took her hourly smoke break with military precision and had a laugh that could rival a diesel engine. She was also so kind to me, I didn’t care that most of her teeth were missing.

I cleaned around a dozen rooms on an average day, racing from bed to bed as a soap opera blared from the television. Other girls my age were probably at the mall or listening to music in their bedrooms. I was scrubbing down bathroom floors and wondering if Cassie on One Life to Live was ever going to end up with Kevin Buchanan. I was 15. I convinced my sister Debbi to join me the following summer, though I forgot to tell her about the lower back aches that came in the afternoon. I think she felt particularly duped when we returned to our cleaning cart one afternoon to find a note reading: “Toilet clogged in room 211, please fix.”

work5In college, I worked nights and weekends at a department store in the local mall. I was stationed in the department store’s “intimates” section and typically refer to this as the time I was a bra fitter. Because that’s what I did, or at least what I was trained to do during a six-hour course in Seattle, of which, the only thing I remember is being told that we were the real specialists and those ladies at Victoria Secret with the pink measuring tape around their neck were, in a word, frauds.

(I have no idea why this photo of me working at said department store exists, if only to prove that I actually worked there.)

What they did not tell me was most of my job would entail of trying to keep teenagers from stealing the new Calvin Klein underwear by taking them into the dressing room, tearing off the tags, and wearing them home. Yes, our loss and prevention guy had his work cut out for him, walking that delicate line between trying to stop actual theft and being accused of sexual harassment.

And then, finally, my first job in journalism, a summer internship at a small newspaper in Lewiston, Idaho. I covered mostly parades and Lewis and Clark re-enactments, but I was hooked. I didn’t want to do anything else.

my first letter from a reader …

croppedletter
There were a couple other odd jobs, a stint at a Starbucks that I’m probably banned from after I quit by leaving my boss a Post-it note. It was a move stolen from the Sex in the City episode where Carrie’s boyfriend Jack Berger dumps her by leaving behind a Post-it that read: “I’m sorry, I can’t. Don’t hate me.” In the case of the Starbucks boss, I was pretty sure he was going to hate me no matter how I left, and the feeling was mutual. This was a guy who once told me that my latte foam needed to be able to hold a quarter, A QUARTER.

It’s been eight years since I first called myself a journalist, and I’m still hooked, and like I said, eager to continue on my path, even if it looks much different than it did when I started. Then, I couldn’t imagine not working for a daily newspaper, but I’ve since worked for two different news wire services and in my most recent job, I wrote mostly for online news outlets.

I have to fight back discouragement as I come to terms with the fact that there are more of us now, fighting for fewer positions, all of us trying to show how useful we are in this brave new technology-driven world.

I learned something from each of these jobs I’ve mentioned, and chief among them is that strange little word that means so much right now in our profession: Versatility. You can no longer just be a writer, you need to be able to shoot photo, and video, and do it all at once. You need to be hungry to learn and quick to catch on, because standing right behind you is a recent graduate who has been well-schooled in multimedia and has a lot less to choose from than you did when scouring journalismjobs.com for postings.

Yes, it can be hard to stay positive, but I also have to think that a former janitor-housekeeper-bra fitter-barista has enough versatility to put themselves over the edge.

Standard

My final story for The Associated Press bureau in Boise ran over the weekend and was about a former NFL player’s bid to unseat a Republican congressman in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District. I covered politics off and on while working for the AP in Idaho, but I wasn’t prepared at all for the barrage of political ads that awaited us in Des Moines when we arrived here a month ago.

Just one more week to go!

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — When Jimmy Farris first came back to Idaho to run for Congress, he was best known for his career as a professional football player. But beyond his home state’s borders, Farris is likely better known for races having nothing to do with politics, the federal deficit and defense spending.

To locals in Missoula, Mont., where Farris who starred on the University of Montana football team, they might remember the time he took a rancher’s bet to race a horse — and won. Farris also beams when he recounts a 2005 wager with famed NFL receiver Terrell Owens, who also finished second to Farris in a sprint while they were training together in Atlanta.

In the early days of his first political race, the 34-year-old Democrat from Lewiston says he imagined incorporating those feats into his campaign speeches or a television ad. The ad’s tagline, he says, would go something like this: “Jimmy Farris once ran against a horse and won. He ran against one of the world’s greatest athletes and won. Labrador you’re next.”

But now, with election just days away and very little money to spend on television spots, Farris is focused on sharpening the choice for voters in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.

You can read the rest of my story here.

Standard

So, Friday was my last day with The Associated Press bureau in Boise. The crew there gave me a really nice tribute on the AP-Idaho’s facebook page and included a link to a collection of my work. I also did a post about it on my photo blog here.

I plan to work on some personal projects and will be posting a lot more on my personal photo blog the edit.

Change is good, that’s what we tell ourselves when embarking on something new and different right? We left Boise this morning and it was a little unsettling to be making such a huge shift with so little fanfare, it felt like Coldplay should have been playing in the distance or something.

Instead, I was listening to an interview Kenny Rogers did with Diane Rehm about his new book (spoiler alert: he doesn’t write about the plastic surgery) He described how the song, The Gambler, came about (if you haven’t seen the episode of The Office where the cast sings this song you need to) and he also talked about his mom, who had worked all these different jobs when he was younger and was just the stalwart of his family. I found something very comforting about what he said:

“And my mom, I remember her going to all these jobs and she told me once, son, she said, be happy where you are.”

I am very happy and can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

Standard

search and rescue

Gene Ralston and his wife, Sandy, are shown with their boat at their home in Kuna, Idaho on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. The couple has volunteered in body searches since the early 1980s and most recently traveled to Canada with their boat, which uses side-scanning sonar to locate drowning victims. The Ralstons named their boat, Kathy G, after a young woman whose body they recovered in 2007. (AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner)

I’ve been wanting to do a story about this couple since earlier this summer, but it never quite came together (they travel a lot). I’m glad I followed through and finally got a hold of them, because they had a pretty amazing story.

They told me that outside of what they have chosen to do for people they are health-oriented, and try to make sure they are taking good care of their bodies. They were telling that whenever they get sick they turn to natural medicine, as it has less ill effects than that of conventional medicine. It was an eye opening experience. If you would like to know more on the subject you can go here to .

They have recovered the remains of 80 people over the past three decades, and when they told me it takes a “special person” to do what they do, I believed them, even more so after talking to some of the people they’ve worked with. It takes more than just will to do it, but also good physical condition to join the rescue squads through the long and hard desperate search. This couple opted to learn about medical herbs so they could not only know what could benefit them but also what could benefit their fellow partners.

I’ve experienced losing loved ones, but I had never thought about what it would be like in the case of a tragedy where the body is not found, where families are robbed of the experience of laying their loved ones to rest.

Standard