Parenthood has two big transitions as I see it " when our children arrive and when they leave. When they are born they are defenseless, totally dependent on you. I remember being eager to introduce them to the world, and wanting to protect them at the same time. I loved seeing the world through their eyes " sometimes distorted as it may have seemed to me. And as a parent you invest nearly two decades of your time, money and love in this little person. You hope they get the rules, learn the ropes and develop personalities with a desire to learn as much as they can from exposure to every new thing that crosses their path. You teach and in turn you learn. And then the time comes when they must go and learn on their own.
This year is different. For the first time in fifteen years there won't be a report card to sign or open house to attend. No more dirty dishes left in the sink or shoes left in the middle of the floor. My youngest child has gone off to pursue a higher education from scholars and teachers more qualified in different fields than I can ever be. He will be seeking advice of strangers and learning what they have to offer. He will depend on others.
So many times I would watch him this summer with heavy chested sadness, longing to hold on to things as they used to be. Like when he climbed to the top of the jungle gym at McDonalds only to tell me he wasn't coming down. Or enjoying a pajama day watching movies and eating donut holes. Now he is transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. I have to believe I have taught him well. He is smart enough, savvy enough, flexible enough and daring enough to make it on his own. This is just the next step to getting to that next place in his life.
My role, too, is changing. No longer will I be the truant officer or CEO of his life. I will become more of a mentor available for consultation and support as he makes he his own decisions in the world. And while it may be a little quieter at home I, too, am adjusting to the transition all the while remembering the apprehension of my child's first steps and fearing he'd get hurt but he did just fine.
Our children will hopefully cross many important thresholds in their young adulthood. These will be first jobs and real loves. There will be engagements and marriages. They will face heart wrenching disappointments and possibly the eventual joys of parenting.
This is what's called the circle of life.
Walking with Ice Cream…
"Using electronics before bed may hamper your sleep."
"Your smartphone may be powering down your relationship."
"For your kids sake put down your smart phone."
"Distracted driving is becoming a dangerous epidemic."
These days, it seems we are bombarded with messages. It was easier to ignore when media was static and lived in your television or in your newspaper. You couldn't exactly carry your television set around with you. It had its place and that place was in your living room.
Now we carry media and its messages with us everywhere we go and it can intrude on our lives and it seems almost impossible for us to turn it off or unplug from it. Not physically. That's the push of a button. Psychologically. We are its prisoners and we love being abused.
But, and I am aware that I'm speaking media blasphemy here, it could be a good principle for everyone to adopt at least every once in a while. Turn the thing off. Leave it in the car or on the table by the bed. Try having lunch with a friend or dinner with family without the intrusion. In other words, go back if only for an hour or so, if that's all you can handle to the way it was pre-1986. We didn't have cell phones then, so why can we not live without them now?
What I'm saying here is this: I think your life will be dramatically better if every now and then you'll walk with ice cream.
Okay, I know that is totally out of left field. Shes gone around the bend now. Walk? With ice cream? In hot, humid, Southeast Texas?
Recently, Bob and I went on vacation. Before leaving, our friends jokingly told Bob they hoped he would be able to pry my phone away from me. My phone is like an extra appendage. It is my way of staying connected. Always on cell.
Little did I realize just how consumed I had become. I was not stopping to smell the roses, not seeing what was going on around me. So, unbeknownst to me, my cell phone just happened not to work while on vacation in another country. Sure, it was an adjustment. No, I couldn't just stop work all together (even though we were on vacation). When we retired to the room for the day, I got on my computer to stay in touch with what was going on back home but only for a few minutes. And I noticed something. While we were out exploring new places, there were people holding hands and talking to each other instead of to someone on the other end of their cell phones. They were laughing. They were walking with ice cream. Soon, everywhere we went we, too, talked, laughed and walked along the streets while eating ice cream. It became a symbol of our freedom from the regular, daily grind, workaday world we left behind.
While walking with ice cream may be a little difficult in Southeast Texas, we decided even going through a drive-thru, without cell phones, just enjoying a peach shake in the car together can still have the same effect. Skeptical? Give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.
Proposed Cut Causes Decrescendo
Imagine if there were no color in the world and everything was just black and white. What if schools were only about kids learning reading, writing and arithmetic? Or the world was full of silence and less joy all of the time? Sounds pretty boring, right? However, that is exactly what Beaumont superintendent, Dr. Timothy Chargois, said in a recent email he sent out in which he proposes slashing the fine arts program in our schools.
I know, I know the basic skills are what we all need to get by in life. I get that and don't disagree, but that's not all we need. Arts are a part of our human experience. Why did the earliest form of humans draw on cave walls? To express what they were feeling. Why did those same early humans find ways to create a primitive form of music using the sticks and stones around them? Because it describes people, places and things words could not. Think about it drawing and music predate any alphabet or spoken language.
Other than the purpose of self expression, what good are the arts for our students? Consider this: In an analysis done by the Americans for the Arts in March 2013, more than 900 thousand businesses in the United States were found to be involved in the creation or distribution of the arts and employ 3.35 million people. This is 4.4 percent of all businesses and 2.2 percent of all employees.
Americans for the Arts has published several research studies that support this claim that students who are involved in some sort of fine arts program overall do better in school. Its research shows arts education helps close the achievement gap, improves academic skills essential for reading and language development and that the arts also help motivate students to learn.
I could go on and on quoting research that proves the point that students who are involved in the arts do better in school do better in life. The arts don't just help students academically and developmentally, but the pressure of focusing on core subjects can leave students mentally drained. The arts can help students have a constructive outlet to rest their minds.
My youngest son graduated Summa Cum Laude at West Brook this past weekend. In addition, Dylan was extremely involved at West Brook and I can honestly say a big part of that was due to his involvement in the West Brook Sound Power band. As he entered a 5A high school, as a parent my advice was to get involved; find your own niche. Dylan did; it was band. High school is typically divided into subgroups like jocks and cheerleaders otherwise known as the popular crowd, the wannabes, nerds and others which include band geeks, thespians, etc. Once Dylan got over the stigma of being called a band geek by some of his classmates, he got to the point where it was more about him and standing up for what he believed. The band teachers at West Brook, Mr. Turner and Mr. Copeland, teach the students much more than just playing a piece of music. They teach them responsibility, respect and leadership.
I once heard a person say they believe that after our basic needs are met: food, shelter, safety, procreation everything else in life is art. That's a pretty broad definition, but in a lot of ways it makes sense.
Do we really want to cut something this important out of our kids lives without community input and approval? It is our schools and our tax dollars. If its something you believe in, maybe its time you speak up and take a stand.
When you work in news you naturally see and hear about all kinds of human tragedy, but probably the one that baffles me the most is when those in public office misuse the power granted to them by the people to take advantage of the very trusting souls that elected them. Most of the horrible things we tell you about day in and day out are preventable. Most accidents could be avoided if people would use their heads and make smart choices, but what can we do about those that purposely abuse their position for personal gain? Like I said, I find myself constantly baffled by that.
Think about it. It is now common in our society to hear about elected officials that embezzle public funds and "redirect" monies that were intended for the common good to line their own pockets and then look into the television cameras and lie about what they did. To me, that takes a special kind of person to be able to blatantly stand before their constituents and deny wrongdoing when they know very well they did wrong. We're not talking here about a four year old that says "no, Mommy, I did not take the cookie" while crumbs are still visible around his mouth. We're talking about a purposeful, calculated scam for the purpose of personal gain at the expense of the taxpayers. We're talking about the kind of person that, for some reason, thinks they have a right to steal and lie and get away with it. And when, on the rare occasion arises that they do get caught carrying out their crimes, they are usually the recipients of more special treatment by being sentenced to a short stay in Club Fed while some poor sap that sold a couple of ounces of pot rots in a state prison somewhere. Don't get me wrong. I'm not defending the drug dealer and I'm usually happy with the sentence he gets. I'm just lobbying for equal treatment for those that violate the public trust after we give them some cushy job With a ridiculous salary and benefits they carry to their graves. It's just not right.
News is supposed to be about the different, the unusual, the...new. I sometimes fear we are almost to the point where one day you'll tune in to hear me say "Leading tonight's news: an elected official who did NOT take money under the table, demand kickbacks from vendors or embezzle bond money." That could happen but I won't hold my breath on that happening any time too soon.
Never Stop Learning....
"What's your 20? This is the Little Red Caboose coming up on mile marker 221."
"Milwaukee Mike coming up on mile marker 230, Little Red Caboose...no black and whites on the road," a trucker responded on his CB radio.
I heard citizens band radio chatter like that most every weekend as my dad drove our red van to an art show somewhere across Texas and the southwest. Both of my parents were artists that showed their wares at art shows. While those weekend trips may have served as our family's primary source of income at the time, we also made every trip a family vacation, of sorts.
But those family vacations weren't all about fun; they were also about education. You see, if my brother or I ever had a question, my parents were firm believers in the show and tell method of learning. One day I distinctly remember getting into the discussion of how clothes were made and the type of material that feels better on your skin. My mom pointed out the window to the fields of cotton we were passing at the time. Next thing I know we were pulled over on the side of the road and all four of us had piled out of the car to learn how cotton grows, how it is harvested and the machines that are used. I still remember that lesson as though it happened yesterday.
Another time, during my brothers fire truck infatuation period, we were on our way home from an art show and just as we were about to pass a fire station my dad decided to pull in. He got out and talked to the firemen and, next thing you know, we were all four standing in the fire station. We tried on equipment, sat in the fire truck, watched the firemen slide down the pole and my brother even got to blow the siren (lucky dog)!
Another thing I vividly remember about those trips is that we never passed by a car that was broken down on the side of the road without stopping to see if we could help. Now, we kids were never let out of the car during those rescue efforts but there was something about that outstretched hand to help other people that made me very proud of my family.
Fast forward several decades. Its role reversal time when Bob and I decide to take my parents on vacation. It was our turn to teach them about someplace we had been and they had not: New York City! NYC is most often described as a melting pot and that it is. From the Statue of Liberty to Yankee Stadium, from the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden to Hells Kitchen and Times Square, we walked, we talked, we laughed, we ate, we took pictures and we taught my mom and dad about a place they had heard so much about but had never seen first hand. We ate pizza at the oldest pizzeria in America and we walked across The Brooklyn Bridge at night just to see the incredible view of Manhattan. We hung out in Central Park and paid our respects to John Lennon at the site of the slain Beatles memorial.
One thing amazed me, though, as we toured the town. I realized my parents are still the same people they were when we were kids. I don't know what I expected or if I expected anything at all but, for some reason, the realization that they haven't changed was very interesting to me. Even though they were now on the receiving end of the educational tour, both my mom and dad still had that same curiosity about people and their lives.
It started before we ever left the ground when my dad started quizzing our flight attendant about where he is from and what his life is like. Other travelers on our Southwest Airlines flight from Houston to Laguardia were soon part of the conversation and it occurred to me that people don't talk to one another like they used to unless my dad is around, and then they have no choice!
During the course of our five days in NYC, my mom and dad talked to strangers waiting on the subway platform, the hotel housekeepers, New York police officers, every restaurant server and sometimes just random passers-by on the street. And, even with what has to be the largest homeless population in America, they were still concerned for those that are down on their luck and chatted with them, too. I was both delighted and amused to see them in action once again, just like when I was a kid. And I realized something in the process. That whole time they were teaching my brother and me about life, they were learning about life for themselves. And they still are. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
All is right with the world.
Missing a Friend...
Everywhere you turn the streets are lit with festive lights and music fills the air. There is no question that the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year, from shopping for the perfect gift to attending celebrations with family and friends. But for me, this time last year the holidays were forever changed.
A good friend and colleague got behind the wheel after having drinks, failed to negotiate a curve and rolled his car. He did not survive the crash. A year later, I'm still dealing with a wide range of emotions. The first, of course, is deep sorrow for what happened to my friend. A selfish side of that sorrow is that I still miss him terribly! But I'm also dealing with bewilderment, anger and even guilt.
I'm bewildered because in this day and age I think I know more people who chose to drink and drive than don't. I've pounded it into my kids heads under that NO circumstances should you get into a car with someone who has even had just one drink...that one drink could be the difference between life and death. Think it can't happen to you? So did my friend. Talk to anyone that has had someone taken from them too soon from this senseless act.
Angered because it didn't have to happen. He could still be here with his family and friends. How many times, as a news organization, do we tell the stories of senseless loss? He knew better. He had so much to live for. Why didn't he think of anyone other than himself at that moment?
Guilt because maybe I could have done something more...
This year more than 1,200 people will lose their lives as a result of an alcohol related traffic death. That sobering statistic hit me last year when I lost someone close and was taken all too soon. The intake of alcohol escalates during the holiday season - mingling at parties, stress on the wallet, relatives driving you crazy or sometimes just being alone. Just remember the statistics - it can happen to anyone at anytime.
You know what bothers me the most is that many of you reading this right now are guilty of the same thing. You've survived it so far. You think it can't happen to you. " I only had a couple of drinks." "I know my limits." "I can handle my booze."
Please stop lying to yourself. Think of my friend. He lied to himself one too many times.
I miss you Bill...it didn't have to be this way, you know.
Music, the universal language
Some say math is the language of the universe, but on earth it is music. More than 30,000 years ago percussion instruments, bone flutes, etc. were used to express qualities of human experience. Music, like food, is central to virtually every culture on earth. In fact, music might even be considered a type of food for the brain.
When I first moved away from home, one of my favorite things to do on the weekends was to get in my car and drive in the hill country with the windows down and the radio blaring. To this day, many songs I've heard during special times in my life have particular memories associated with them that I relive every time I hear them. For example, when I hear Simon & Garfunkel's, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," I can still hear my dad singing to me as a little girl. That song still calms my nerves to this day.
Music can also bring back the simple emotion of the hurt and pain of heart break. In the same instance, it can remind you of fun family trips. When Bob and I first met, we took the kids on a trip. The kids started singing along with the radio and Keith Urban's, "Someday Baby." The funny thing was neither Charlie nor Dylan had gone through puberty so their voices were still quite high. Now when we hear that song on the radio we all just start laughing!
Recent studies have shown music is a powerful tool easing our anxiety, lowering stress and even boosting our heart health. It can evoke a myriad of emotions. No doubt we've all turned to music at certain points in our lives to help us through a rough patch, supply motivation, disappear in thought or improve a mood.
Music touches us emotionally, where words alone cannot. Do you have a tune that evokes a certain emotion in you? I'd love to hear about it.
A Different Breed
Hundreds of Beaumont ISD teachers gathered for convocation at the Civic Center before the 2013-2014 school year begins. One of the students that spoke was my youngest, Dylan. He is the student body president for West Brook High School. Before the event began, he was asked to trim his speech. Unfortunately, that meant "cutting" recognition of some of the teachers who have made a difference in his life. As a tribute to those, and all teachers I wanted everyone to see how educators can make a difference in just one person's life. --Kelli Phillips
A Different Breed
By Dylan Adkins
Teachers - a different breed of people. People who must be attentive, quick on their feet, ready for anything and everything, and often very, very patient. Think about it, teachers are the root to all jobs, all forms of wisdom, and must support all varieties of opinions. Teachers have to like people - all people - or at least pretend they do.
To me - teachers are weird. Well, ya'll, they are. Wonderful but weird!
It takes someone special to be a teacher, and someone more than special to actually teach. For over a decade, I only saw them as people filling my brain with knowledge, feeding my soul, and hounding me with a superfluous amount of mathematical equations, history drivel and all those science experiments and investigations. And, they were just doing their jobs.
But, there are certain incentives to become a teacher - June, July and August.
Only recently did I open my eyes and understand what an educator really is. Teachers - you are more than just an educator. You are a counselor, a mentor, an idol, and most of all a friend.
I've been exposed to over fifty BISD educators. Each of those persons has defined some portion of me, whether big or small, it makes no difference. You all have aided me to become who I am today. Without your intentional teachining skills, I probably would have never challenged myself. Obstacles in my life sometimes caused me to throw up a wall, but you teachers put forth the more than required, unselfish efforts to get me over that wall.
I remember the first day of elementary school. I had my hot wheels back pack and my light-up Sketchers! In my mind, I planned to run into that classroom saying "Hey, teacher, I'm ready to learn! Teach me! Teach me!" Well, that's what I wanted to happen.
Unfortunately, that first day of school probably still haunts my mom - and, her eardrums never have been the same. I gripped mom's leg all the way from the car to the classroom filled with other crying boys and girls. As mom and I entered the classroom, a small figure, another mom it seemed, knelt down to my height and stretched her hand out to me. Was she going to pry me off my mom's leg? Her hand touched my shoulder and I just about lost it. Probably not one teacher in the entire Regina-Howell school did not recognize the piercing sound that came out of my small body and resonated the entire campus. After screeching out my battle cry, I remember noticing the enemy, instead of running away she inched closer and closer. Then she reached in her back pocket, brought out a tissue to dab those tears pouring down my face, and held up a blueberry Dum-Dum. My absolute favorite!
She'd been sent from Heaven to rescue me! Snap your fingers and just like that, Mrs.Brocato and I became best friends. As simple as a measly sucker changed my world, and as silly as it may sound, the relentless effort she put forth, drew me toward learning later that day, and the many to come. Mrs. Brocato never gave up.
Years later, on a cold December day, I had just gotten to Biology class where Mrs. Boyd never failed to entertain. She told elaborate stories and created images of adventures. Mrs. Boyd believed in visual aids and always brought her flat out creepy pets - I liked biology. Then one day we were discussing cell respiration when an office aide brought a hall pass to Mrs. Boyd - it had my name on it. I obliviously went to the attendance office where my mom greeted me with teary, red eyes. I didn't have to ask what it was, I went back to class to retrieve my stuff. The kids joked around with me - they thought everything was normal - but it wasn't. I lied and told them I was going to visit family, but I knew Mrs. Boyd didn't believe me. As I trembled down the hallways, Mrs. Boyd met me outside, ready and willing to help. She called me back to her and gave me a hug I'll never forget. I told her why I was leaving, and she spoke words to me that changed my outlook of teachers forever. " You've got me, whatever you need, just ask. You will get through this, you can do it." Those words have never left my heart and have never been shared until now. All of my teachers helped me through that tough time. And, my granddad would be very happy to know I was well taken care of the day he rested his eyes forever. So to that, "thank you, Mrs. Tracy Boyd" and to others who may not of even known how they helped. Mrs. Boyd never gave up.
And then, there's the younger brother syndrome. I hated being the younger brother. Everything my older brother did, so did I. Until the sixth grade. That's when I signed up for band. For once I excelled in something my brother couldnt, and man oh man did I show him! None of this would be possible, however, if it wasnt for Mrs. Davis, Mr. McCarty, and Mr. Potter. Every single year I threatened to get out of band, and every year, those three teachers somehow swayed me into the right direction and I couldnt be more thankful. Yet, going into my freshman year of band, I didnt even sign up to take it. Somehow, with the encouragement of my past and future band directors, I stuck with it and it surely changed my whole high school career for the better. Mr. Turner and Mr. Copeland inducted me into their family and I feel just like a son to them. They have helped me with everything high school has brought and have encouraged me to strive and work hard to reach and achieve my goals. Because of their persistence and teaching, I have held a leadership position three of my four years in band. My band directors never give up.
In actuality, I never understood why these stories stood out so much into my mind until now. The theme within them is all the same. You teachers just dont give up. You never go away, take a break, or throw up the white flag. Bjorn Borg once said My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories. Us children are your matches, we are the so-called irretrievable defeats. It is all of you, whatever kind of teacher in whatever field of study at whatever school you teach at; it all boils down to you. Dont give up on your matches, because no matter how tough they may be, I promise you that in the end, the reward for brightening a young mind; its worth it.
Hello old friend...
When trying to break into the television business, most on air personalities are
encouraged to try their hand first at a smaller market to learn the ropes. Then,
after getting a little knowledge and experience under your belt you begin to
test the waters and throw out a line to bigger markets and start climbing the
ladder, so to speak...just like in the corporate world.
But some people, no matter what their intentions when they first start, find
life in the smaller market to be a wonderful experience, so they stay on and
become embedded in the community and raise their families in the very place they
thought they would soon be leaving. There may be more choices in bigger cities,
but for some of us that still can't match living in a place where you actually
know your neighbors. For me, living in Southeast Texas for the past 25 years has
been one of those "no brainer" decisions.
Then there are those who do leave for greener pastures...or what they think will
be greener pastures...and find themselves longing for the simpler life in that
small market where they started. Such is the case with our newest former
employee at KFDM, Greg Kerr.
If you have been here for a while you may remember Greg from the nineties when
he was the Sports Director at KFDM. He left SETX to go work in other cities such
as Greensboro, North Carolina, Dallas and, most recently, Austin. While I'm sure
when he left Greg was probably thinking of making a BIG name for himself like so
many other former KFDM veterans, like Leeza Gibbons, I suspect there was always
a longing for "the good ole days" in the back of his mind. Ours can be a dog eat
dog business and the dogs get bigger and bigger as the market size does the
same. Longing for the simpler days of that first job isn't uncommon.
Greg is a seasoned veteran of not only sports reporting but also news and a
consummate professional who understands the importance of keeping you, the
viewer, informed about what's going on in your world. Over the past several
months I have had the opportunity to visit with several people that were seeking
employment at KFDM. While some of them could have been solid choices for the
job, somehow they didnt seem to be quite "right." Sitting down with Greg after
his long absence from Southeast Texas, was like putting on that old favorite
sweater on an autumn morning. It just felt good. He will be a great addition to
our news gathering operation and you will be seeing a lot of him very soon.
Welcome home Greg!
When I was a little girl I always wanted things to be in their place. Part of my obsession with living in an orderly world no doubt came from my little brother's desire to keep his room like a bear cave with furniture.
As I have gotten older I have discovered that having lots of "things" means nothing more than dusting more things or moving more "things" from place to place. I would much rather have memories or pictures than to accumulate "things." I buy things as I need them. I use them. When I am finished with them I discard them or pass them on to someone else. It can be frustrating since others I live with are not wired the same.
For example, my youngest, Dylan, has this obsession with shoes. Every square inch of the bottom of his closet is covered in shoes. It would be one thing if all the shoes actually fit, then I could compare him to Imelda Marcos. However, the shoes in his closet range in size AND some are broken shoes, some have holes. Is it really necessary to keep all those shoes? Would it be so wrong to discard the ones that no longer fit?
Then there is my oldest, Charlie. He has several storage bins FULL of classroom work and school notes. He claims he is going to "refer back to them." Last time I checked, the only person that has "referred back" is his little brother when trying to see if he could get a glimpse at what was coming up in a class he was about to take!
And then the best one. My husband, Bob, has a fetish with empty boxes. Recently I was asked to help clean his closet and a storage unit. Wanna take a wild guess at what I found? The top shelves of his closet were covered (all the way to the top) with shoe boxes. Yes, EMPTY shoe boxes. When I asked him why he was keeping them he told me he was saving them for perhaps a school project. Really?? When was the last time kids these days had to do a shoe box project? So when I pressed him on the matter he told me, "well, we're gonna need them for something."
The closet should have been a hint as to what I was getting myself into when it came to the storage unit. Not only were there MORE empty shoe boxes, but there were empty boxes of ALL sizes. Very little was actually found in the storage unit that actually needed to be "stored." The rest was just empty boxes! I then had to explain that all these EMPTY boxes had been costing him money every month...why???? "Well, we're gonna need them for something."
We got rid of the boxes, but I'm left wondering what else we're all holding on to? Whether it's broken shoes, old papers, empty boxes or just useless thoughts and habits from the past, I think a good house cleaning every now and then can set us free.
Life is Precious
When I was a little girl I can remember taking road trips with my parents. Back then, there wasn't a law a law mandating that everyone "buckle up" when riding in a car. While it has become second nature to climb in a car and reach for the seatbelt one February afternoon has made me appreciate those that fought for and passed those seatbelt laws all those years ago.
As most people know, my husband, Bob Phillips, travels thousands of miles every year for his television show TCR. In February, he was in Bastrop County headed to a story when he approached a construction zone. Two of the guys that travel with him were in another car in front of him and they went through the blind intersection. As Bob inched into the same intersection, his car was t-boned by a truck going 70+ mph. Bob's guys saw the whole thing in their rear view mirror. They ran back to Bob's car. They told me afterwards the impact was so severe they couldn't imagine how anyone could survive.
Both Bob and the driver of the other car were able to walk away from the accident that day thanks in part to safer laws and safer cars. However, the repercussions of the accident still linger. A few days after the accident, Bob noticed some numbness in a couple of his fingers on his left hand. Not long after, he began complaining of heaviness in his forearm which eventually spread to his shoulder. Soon the numbness and pain spread all the way down his left leg making it difficult for him to walk. At times it looked as though he was dragging his left leg. After a lot of convincing on my part, Bob finally agreed to go to the doctor who immediately sent him to a neurosurgeon who explained the immediate need for surgery. Diagnosis? Bob had herniated discs pressing on his spinal cord and if he didn't have surgery he could end up paralyzed...or worse.
On May 7th, otherwise known as the longest day of my life, Bob went into surgery. It took four plus hours but he made it and it all went well! The doctor told me how lucky Bob was and what a mangled mess his neck was! He fused C3 all the way to T1 (for those of you who know nothing about necks that's like his whole neck)! Bob has 12 titanium screws and a couple of rods now in his neck and is still wearing a cervical collar. If you see him around town he will be more than happy to tell you ALL about it!
The recovery process itself has been slow at best. The good news is Bob's walking almost immediately returned to normal. His leg function and strength in his legs are like they were before the accident. But not long after getting home from the hospital Bob lost most of the use of his left arm. The doctors have referred to it as a type of palsy that is pretty typical after neck surgery. They do expect him to regain full function with physical therapy.
The past weeks have been difficult..a roller coaster of emotions (for both of us). As I watch Bob, I know in time, he will be stronger. But it also reminds me of those days of when I was younger and thinking I was invincible...something I see in so many young kids today.
Bob and I have both emerged from this experience with a new conviction about how precious life is and we both want to spread that to everyone else. He has been told by more than one medical professional how lucky he is to even be here and he says he won't waste that gift.
We both hope you won't either.
Finding Work That Gives You Joy
As I walked up to my gate at Houston Hobby Airport Saturday, I noticed a crowd of people clapping and laughing. There were also lots of flashes from what appeared to be coming from multiple cameras. Thoughts immediately ran through my head " perhaps there was going to be someone of notoriety on board the short flight from Houston to Dallas. A singer or actor? To further my suspicions, as the passengers were waiting to board the plane a steady stream of people were allowed to board before anyone else and again more flashes accompanied. It wasn't until all the passengers had taken their seats that the planes captain started talking on the microphone at the front of the cabin (the one the flight attendants usually use) that we were finally let in on the secret.
I want to thank all the folks in Group A for letting my family pre-board before they did, the captain said. Usually employees and their families are the last to board a plane but this is a special day for me.
You could have heard a pin drop on the plane, a place that's usually plenty noisy in the getting settled moments before take off. We were about to find out what was going on.
You see, today is my last day as a professional pilot for Southwest Airlines, he said as his voice cracked. After 31 years, you and I are about to take my last flight, and my wife and kids and grandkids are all here to make that trip into retirement with me.
The captain then went on to make a few jokes but the love he had for his job was apparent. I had a lump in my throat and those sitting next to me seemed to be speechless. There was applause by the passengers and even a few tears, then we took off and the captains kids and grandkids passed out the peanuts. It was a great moment, or I guess I should say a great hour.
And it started me thinking about what he had said.Thirty-one years on the same job. How often do you hear that these days? It used to be, or so Ive heard, that a person would get a job and stick with it most of his life. He might start out as an apprentice and learn from the master, or get a job as a gopher and work his way up, but time was that most people stuck with a job and even a company most of their lives. That doesn't seem to happen that much anymore. Younger people, especially, seem to have a case of wanderlust when it comes to working. If they stay in the same field,chances are they will hop around between companies in that field. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just saying its the way it is.
Then, as soon as I had settled into that's the way it is,I realized I know quite a few people that have stuck with the same job most of their lives. Maybe I'm way off base with my original assumptions on this subject. The very newscast I anchor everyday here at KFDM comes to you from The Beaulieu Broadcast Center, named for the man that hired me at Channel 6, a man whose name became a household word in Southeast Texas, Larry Beaulieu. Larry spent 37 years working right here in this building.
Then there's Greg Bostwick, our Chief Meteorologist, and hes been telling you if its going to rain or not for going on 34 years. And just the other day, our Chief Engineer, Richard Kihn, retired from KFDM after working here for 43 years. Clearly, these folks are not into job hopping! As I look around, there are several other faces that I see every day here at the television station that have been here longer than my ten years with Channel6.
There is something about being able to count on the same people in the same jobs day in and day out. Fact is, most of us don't particularly like change. We generally want whatever has been to always be, and it is sometimes upsetting to us when they're not.
As I thought about that Southwest Airlines pilot on his last day and about what he later said to his passengers about his being the best job anyone could ever have, I found myself hoping that my own kids can find something in life that makes them that happy. And whether they stick with one thing or one company or move around from job to job, my biggest hope is that they find something that excites them and gives them joy because life is just too short to hate going to work.
Overly Connected or Disconnected?
Answer honestly...when was the last time you shared a meal,whether it be with friends or family, and one or more of you DID NOT have your head down looking at your cell phone? I'm betting you can't think of the last time! There was a time when conversation between people was valuable and cherished, but my observations are that those days are gone. We have really changed the art of communication, haven't we?
Today, tech gadgets control our lives, and the younger the person, the greater the control. I can remember as a child my family would get in the car and take road trips. My mother was an artist, so typically our weekends consisted of traveling to art shows all over the state. My mom, dad, brother and I would pile into our blue Chevy Impala and hit the road. We would drive for hours on end. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of those car trips! You see, the four of us would actually talk. We talked about what was going on in our lives, my brother and I learned about our parents and we learned to listen to one another. We learned about the things we would see on those trips. There was no DVD player, but we didn't need it. These days, kids can't even make the trip from home to school or to the grocery store without watching a movie while Mom and/or Dad listen to music in the front. What kind of message are we sending to our kids?
As our kids grow up and become teens, long gone are the days of talking face to face to one another. They live in a world of text alerts and vibrating cell phones. The home, that was once a place of refuge where families talked and built strong bonds, now seems to be a place where everyone is too busy to talk or listen. In addition, teens and even adults spend endless hours talking to strangers on the computer instead of building real relationships. People have figured out that in cyberspace, we are all on a level playing ground of sorts. And with sites such as Facebook, people have grown accustomed to focusing almost exclusively on themselves. They post what makes them feel good, rarely thinking of the feelings of anyone else. Have we really become a world of not caring for our fellow man?
The message, I think, is simple. There are really few things that are so important we need to know immediately. Make time for those you care aboutyour family and your friends. Put down your phone and turn off your computer for a while and really get to know the person not just what someone may post or text. Listen to them while they talk and see the expressions on their face when you tell them how much you love them.
If we all started doing this maybe it would catch onwhat do you think?
When kids are little, we moms try to teach them everything we can about the world. We can tell them this and tell them that but, until they actually experience some things for themselves, they often are not true believers.
That pot is hot! Don't touch it doesn't work nearly as well as the child actually touching the hot pot. Still, I think our goal is to try to prepare them for the world without our kids having to go through everything we had to go through. Sometimes that works, sometimes it does not. In the end, nothing substitutes for actual experience.
So, with teaching our children being the ultimate goal,about 16 teachers and parents set out on a trip to our nations capitol for the presidential inauguration along with 20 Southeast Texas students from several different schools. Most of us didn't get close enough to witness the inauguration itself, but that was never the goal. It was more about our kids learning how our democracy works. We did get to see three presidential motorcades.A taxi driver that has lived in D.C. his whole life told me he had never seen one...until the day we were in the back seat of his cab.
We took in a lot during our four and a half days in the capitol. The Washington Memorial, The Vietnam Wall, The Capitol and White House and more monuments than you can imagine. We toured the Air and Space Museum and The Natural History Museum and a great new experience dedicated to the history of American journalism called "Newseum". We heard stories from tour guides about why this is this way and that is that way.
I think one thing that stood out in most of our students minds was when four of them were selected to be part of a wreath laying ceremony at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Keep in mind that these kids were born mostly mid-90s. They missed the first Gulf War entirely, don't really remember 9/11 and have never known war the way their parents and grandparents have known it. Even so, one would have to be totally out of touch to escape the site of thousands of tombstones lined up in perfect rows at Arlington Cemetery,and it doesn't take much to connect the dots on why these people are buried in this special place. So, the wreath laying ceremony was something that I believe touched most of the kids on our trip. It is something most of them won't forget.
Another great learning experience for the students was our visit to Mt. Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington, and his wife, Martha. It was interesting to me to hear the kids compare the world then to the world they live in today. When you consider the fact that, for most kids today, hardship is defined by not having a cell phone, hearing the story of colonial soldiers fighting the British troops in a winter storm with no shoes and very little food can seem almost unreal. Again, its one of those things you can read in a book but it doesn't really hit home until you walk where Washington walked and hear the stories from the Mt. Vernon docents about life in the new America in the late 1770s.
Ive heard my whole life that you cant really know where you're going unless you have a good grasp of where you came from. I hope this trip gave these kids a better view of the road they are traveling.
We’re All Family
Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsly, Hugh and June on Leave it to Beaver, were not married in real life " but they were on television. Neither were the people that played the husbands and wives on The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show or Mad About You. Each of these TV couples was cast in their roles because of the obvious rapport they had with one another.
While television anchors are not cast and news anchors do not play the role of fictitious characters, it is true that anchor teams that lack a collective charisma are often doomed and don't last long together.
Bill Leger and I, judging from what our viewers have repeatedly told us for many years, came across on the evening news as old friends.That's because we were. And, like most old friends, we had our ups and downs " moments of celebration when one of us experienced something wonderful in life or when our news team had a particularly satisfying day at work " and moments when one of us had to scrape the other off the floor because things just weren't going right that day. We often disagreed, on-air and off, but always respected the others opinion. And we could each count on the other to set us straight when one of us was way off track.
In television news jargon, your co-anchor is often referred to as your TV husband or your TV wife. In that respect, Bill and I were an old married couple " even though pretty much everyone knows Bill and his real wife, Tecco, were partners in life for 33 years and my real husband, Bob, and I are often referred to in the community by singular name KelliBob.
So, whats it like losing my TV husband? Well, it hurts,but its nothing like what I know Bills family is feeling. I find myself thinking,this is a mistake, it cant be real. His quad mates, Executive Producer Scott Lawrence, Producer Marcus Powers and I, keep watching the back door at KFDM, expecting Bill to walk in and sit at his desk like he did so many times.
When I anchored the 6PM news on Christmas Eve, I wanted badly to hear Bill's stomach growl like it did almost every newscast, or for Bill to scribble notes to me while Greg was doing the weather. We even had an imaginary line on the anchor desk and, like a brother and sister in the backseat of mom and dads car, had rules about letting our scripts cross that line and get into the other persons space (I know he did this on purpose just to irritate me but I'd gladly let him do it today.) I even expected--and wanted--to feel his leg bouncing so hard it shook the anchor desk. But none of that happened.
What did happen is that, on a day when most of us had planned to be home celebrating the holidays with family, our KFDM family came together to celebrate the life of our friend and colleague, Bill Leger. We cried together. We told funny Bill stories like the time the cap on his tooth came loose and fell into the urinal in the KFDM men's room (guess who had to fish it out?). Like the times Bill would see a feral cat in the KFDM parking lot and tell everyone it was a Chupacabra. Like how analytical he was about the knot on his tie being just right. About the time that Bill, my husband, Bob,and I decided to go to the Port Arthur seawall at 1AM to watch Hurricane Ike come ashore, only to realize we were about to be swallowed by the rising gulf waters and scurried back to the newsroom like scared children ("Don't ever do that again," News Director David Lowell said.)
When Uncle Larry Beaulieu retired a little over a year ago, it was heartbreaking. Larry was like the head of our TV family, the one we counted on to always make things right. But Ive learned that I can still call,text or email Uncle Larry and that hes still there when I need him. I can still meet Larry and Nancy for lunch from time to time. We don't get to see him everyday, but we still get to see him.
This is different. I will never again see my friend, my colleague, my TV husband Bill Leger--and my heart is broken.
But, like the Cleavers, the Huxtables and all those other TV families, we at KFDM are family, too. A real family. And at times like this, families stick together.
Goodbye, my friend. We'll carry on.
Lives Forever Changed
I suspect I'll take some flack from my colleagues for this, but I find myself a little embarrassed to be a member of the media today.
In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I'm left shaking my head in response to the insensitivities I've witnessed during coverage of the event. Twenty children,all six and seven years old, and six adults were shot down by a mad man just as the school day began. The coward that did this then killed himself. He reportedly had killed his mother while she slept before attacking the school.
This was an unthinkable, horrific event...one that will change lives and affect young, innocent minds forever. Lives that had barely begun were snuffed out in a matter of minutes. Naturally, each of us wants and needs to know what happened...and why.
But is it really necessary to know every graphic detail? Did reporters really need to interview young children as they fled from the school? Did we need to ask them to re-live what they saw, or ask parents of slain children: "How does this make you feel?"
Too much, too soon? I think so.
Don't get me wrong, we have a job to do and I take that job very seriously, but I believe we can still exercise some civility in its performance.
Not long ago, a viewer tagged me in a post on Facebook regarding comments he made about about a word I used in a news story I read on air. He called it the "D word" and, at first, I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about. We exchanged private messages and I learned that he objected to me saying that the victim of an accident was decapitated. I explained that I was taught to " tell what you know" and let the viewers sort it out. He said I would think differently about it if I ever saw someone who had been decapitated. We agreed to disagree.
I've been thinking about that Facebook exchange since then and, in light of the recent events in Connecticut and the insensitivities exhibited by some members of the media I think I have a better understanding of that viewer's objections.
One comment during the Sandy Hook School shooting coverage that got my attention was made by the coroner. He and his staff conducted autopsies on the twenty children and after giving the most important details regarding how they died he said, "Some things no one needs to know."
Some things no one needs to know. Like exactly how many bullets penetrated their little bodies. Like what they looked like when they were found. Like just how gruesome this gruesome scene was. Like how badly the parents of the shooting victims are hurting. Like whether or not the victim of an accident was decapitated.
In a perfect world, the people that commit these horrible crimes would never have their names mentioned in the coverage of the event. Ina perfect world, we would never see their faces in the aftermath. They would be referred to in anonymous terms. But that's not going to happen because you, the viewer, have to be in on the deal. You have to agree that you don't want to hear their names and see their faces. Let's be honest, that's never going to happen.
What can be done is this: you can turn the junk off when it gets out of hand, when coverage becomes an insensitive intrusion into innocent people's lives. Let us know you object.
Bad May Not Be As Bad As We Think
Ask just about any journalist what she likes most about her job and you will likely hear the line every day is different somewhere in the top five reasons for being a reporter.
Its true. Everyday I wake up not knowing what the day will hold once I get to the television station. Oh, we have an idea about stories that are planned, things like trials and school board meetings and political events. What we cant predict are the spot news events, the things that just happen. No one knew there would be a shooting at the Jefferson County Courthouse or that someone would lose his life in a wreck on highway 69 or that an 18-wheeler accident would shut down Interstate 10 for hours, leaving motorists stranded in their cars until it could be cleared.
Now, it might sound like we news folks thrive on tragedy but nothing could be farther from the truth. What gets us going is getting the story out, making sure everyone that wants to know or needs to know what is going on has the details and that they are accurate. We love playing at least some part in helping to bring order to the chaos. Its our job and we take that job seriously.
Unfortunately, many of the details you need to know " or want to know " involve some form of misfortune. I think that just may be a good thing. You see, news is supposed to be what is new and different, the things that are not the ordinary day-to-day activity in our lives. We dont report on houses that dont catch fire or cars that successfully make it from home to the grocery store or people that get up, go to work and come home again without incident. You wont often see a news story about a pet that is loved by its family from birth and never is abused, only the contrary, the story about animals that endure cruelty. And while I often hear people ask the question why dont you report on the good stuff that happens? (and, yes, we occasionally do that), I think were all much better off as long as we keep reporting on the bad stuff. Why? Because that means that most of what happens in our day-to-day lives IS the good stuff, that the bad stuff is out of the ordinary " that were reporting on it because its new and different.
When the day comes that you see stories on KFDM like a guy drove all the way to his job today without getting hurt, I think were in a lot of trouble. For me, I like waking up not knowing about the bad things that could happen that day, then telling you about them if and when they do " so we can all go on living in our mostly good world.
Strength in numbers
I am constantly amazed by the way people in Southeast Texas pull
together during a crisis...or to support a cause. I don't know why I'm
not used to this by now. I've been here most of my adult life. But this
past weekend Bob and I were emcees at an event that, once again, left
me asking the question: why? Not why do they do it but why are people
here so giving of their time, money and energy?
A little background - I thought it was that way everywhere until I
would mention to friends from Dallas or Houston or (place name of some
big city here) what kind of turnout we had a particular event or how
much money was raised to support some cause - and they would be amazed!
"You had THAT MANY PEOPLE show up???" or "You raised HOW MUCH MONEY???"
are phrases I seem to hear a lot.
So, during the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Walkathon in
Lumberton this past weekend, I was once again surprised by the turnout,
AND the results. While chatting with a local police officer about the
event, she told me it was the biggest of its kind in the state! The
idea is simple enough: people that want to support MADD's cause (don't
we all?) agree to walk a 5K (3.1 miles) course. They have solicited
donations from folks that pay them to walk and then the walkers give
that money to MADD. One walking team raised more than $13,000! And
several raised other huge amounts! And this scenario is repeated just
about every weekend all year long for various causes all over our area.
Many of the people that take part in this event have lost loved ones to
accidents caused by someone driving drunk. You can see it in their
faces when they passionately tell you about their mother, father,
daughter, son, sister, brother, friend, you name it that was killed in
a drunk driving accident. You would probably expect the one most
directly affected by the loved one's death to participate in events
like this, but lots of the people that attended didn't even know any of
the people that have lost their lives - they were just there to support
the cause. And that's what constantly amazes me.
After the event, Bob and I were talking about it while driving to
another event in the Austin area and he, who was born and raised in a
big city, put it like this: "In Dallas (or Houston or place name of
some big city here), people can be almost anonymous if they want to.
And even if they don't want to, most people are. It's not uncommon for
people to live next to each other for years and not even know each
other's names. You go to the grocery store and you probably will not
see someone you know. Imagine that. I've never been to the grocery
store in Beaumont that I didn't see someone I know - usually lots of
And that struck me as kind of sad. Millions of people living together
in some big metropolitan area and not knowing each other. And, I
suppose, many not caring about anyone else either.
Aren't you glad you live here where we DO run into friends and
neighbors at the grocery store or the car wash or anywhere else we
choose to go? And where we really do care about what happens to our
friends and neighbors? I know I am.
My baby you'll be
When I was pregnant with my first child, my OBGYN pointed out that children don't come with a 'How To manual.' Her point, I think, was that I would have to learn as you go, that I would make mistakes along the way, that it was normal for new mothers to sometimes feel lost as they discover how to be moms.
Truth is, there ARE lots of How To books when it comes to raising kids. Even though children do not come with instructions and a parts list (some assembly required), there are lots of experts standing by to tell you what to do. What I HAVEN'T been able to find is a good book to get me through one of the hardest things I've ever done, at least where my kids are concerned.
Last week I moved my first born out of the house we both call home and off to college to start a life on his own. For an entire year we have been buying things he would need and stockpiling them in his room. But, for some reason, as organized as I am, I couldn't bring myself to start packing everything until the night before he was set to move. Thoughts kept flooding my mind, "had I taught him everything he needed to know?" So as we would pack I would launch into one life lesson story after the other. It was as if Charlie could sense what I was feeling and sometimes he would sit there and listen intently while other times he would just burst out laughing. That certainly broke the tension we were both feeling!
Once everything was packed I retreated to the kitchen to try to choke back my tears. A short while later, I walked into my bedroom only to find my first born lying across my bed with big tears filling his eyes.
"Mom, its my last night at home. Things will be different," Charlie said.
"Charlie, things may be different BUT this will ALWAYS be your home," I told him as I gave him a hug.
For more than an hour we talked about all the great friends he had made in Beaumont, but then we talked about all the new adventures and discoveries he was about to encounter, that everything he has done for the past 18 years had led him to this point in his life. I told him his moving away certainly comes with mixed emotions but regardless of where he may live he will always be my son and I will always be his mom and that will never change. The love and support is there for life.
Its been more than a week now since Charlie moved away. He's adjusting well to his new life and I am concentrating on the two years I have with my youngest, Dylan, before I have to do it all again. And I find myself flashing back to a book I used to read to Charlie when he was a little boy, 'I Love You Forever' by Robert Munsch.
A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she held him, she sang:
I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.
The boy grew. That teenager grew. He grew and he grew and he grew. He grew until he was a grown up man. He left home and got a house across town. But sometimes on dark nights the mother got into her car and drove across town. If all the lights in her sons house were out, she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor, and looked up over the side of his bed. If that great big man was really asleep she picked him up and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she rocked him she sang:
I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.
We mothers know. They may grow up and move away, but our babies will always be our babies. Forever and ever.