Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Going to Dee-Lite

Since I'm headed to both the big D and little D this weekend, people in my office have taken a keen interest in my hometown.

Someone asked me if Delight is like the one hit wonder, Dee-Lite. Watch the video and see what you think.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My turn at 25 Random Things

This is something that's going around on Facebook. I got tagged several times, so I decided to do it... and I spent so much time on it, I wanted to post it here too.

Here are 25 stream of consciousness things about me:

1. I think it's one of the worst things in the world to wake up to a cold house.

2. I showed up 45 minutes late for work Monday (long story) and no one noticed.

3. I have taught college for 10 semesters. 7 in person and 3 online. That makes me feel old. I love hearing back from my students who have gone on to do some great things.

4. I never thought I would get married, but I'm glad I did.

5. My grandmother's house is one of my favorite places, and my grandparents are two of my favorite people.

6. I have a race horse named after me, Shannon's Honcho. It's at Oaklawn this spring. Ironically, it ran in its first race at Louisiana Downs on my last day on air at KTAL. It came in last. hmmm.....

7. I listen to NPR and watch PBS. I love to learn--I am listening to an Audiobook on Victorian England right now. I think that makes me a nerd.

8. I am glad I am from small town America. I think it makes me more interesting.

9. I never wanted to learn to sew, but I am glad I did. It's come in very handy as I've grown older in outfitting my house on a budget.

10. I was a sorority house mom. And yes, I participated in a ice cream, chocolate, whip cream and beer fight with new pledges. I have pictures. Being in a sorority was a great experience.

11. I get stressed out going home for visits. There's always such an ambitious schedule planned and so much stress involved.

12. I love to make and create things. I like art and seeing things in a different way. I get this from my mom.

13. I like to work with my hands, be it gardening or refinishing furniture. I like the ache after a good, hard day's work. I get this from my dad.

14. I love my husband and I think he's very talented.

15. I will always wonder how my sports career could have wound up if I hadn't torn out both ACLs. Why did I go to that OBU basketball camp? Why did I steal that ball? Why did I land funky after a jump shot? What would have happened if I hadn't? I think about this at least once a week at the gym, and everytime I see a basketball court.

16. My internship in DC really changed my life. I went to museums, rode the Metro, and learned about other cultures. I even got to ride in the presidential motorcade.

17. I don't get why people vacation in the same place every year. been there, done that, why go back?

18. The older I get, the more I move away from the fire and brimstone religion of my youth and toward something that emphasizes love, peace, and understanding.

19. I really, really want to go on a whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.

20. I don't know if I'll ever think or feel old enough to have kids.

21. I consider covering Katrina in New Orleans one of my best memories of my career so far. I will always remember seeing an alligator swim through a flooded Winn Dixie parking lot. Do I have pictures of this? Of course not, the batteries on our camera were dead.

22. To drift off to sleep, I often design clothes and otufits in my head. Some are historic, period clothing, some aren't.

23. I get sick and tired of always being the responsible one in my family.

24. I say really, really mean things when I get mad. Sadly, most of the time it's directed to people I love.

25. I am an overachiever. I can't help it. I like to compete and I'm good at some stuff.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bad news for Arkansas

There are two local headlines coming out of Arkansas today that are downright depressing. They make me sad for my home state, and very perplexed on how leaders could possibly change these statistics. I believe both problems are rooted in the home, where it is impossible to legislate change.

The first, Arkansas now ranks number 49 in the percentage of the population with college degrees. Nationally, the percentage is around 27%. And, the Department of Education says an estimated half of all Arkansas college students need remedial courses when they get to college. Nationally, 28 % of freshman need remedial courses. There's not alot legislators can do to change this, particularly when you are fighting against bad parenting or no parenting at home.

I am a firm believer in college doesn't necessarily make you "educated." Some of the smartest people I've met never went to school past high school and some of the biggest morons I've encountered have graduate degrees. It's not the diploma that makes you educated, it's your attitude and your willingness to keep learning. But, the next factoid proves that Arkansas isn't nurturing an education despite the lack of a diploma.

Arkansans are smoking themselves to death. Arkansas ranks among the top ten states for smoking death rates. One article says, "It turns out the states where people traditionally smoke the most have the highest rates of death from smoking." You think? Other states listed are Nevada, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Indiana. The best states for no smoking is Utah and Hawaii.

I distinctly remember a person in my hometown with a bumper sticker that read, "I smoke and I vote." Now I've never heard a politican actually stump on issues pertaining to smoking and I certainly can't imagine voting for someone solely on that platform, but it's curious to think that someone would. I've seen people die a slow horrid death because of this habit, and I can't imagine anyone picking it up knowing the eventual, painful demise that will catch up with you at some point. It still baffles me, but I know many people who have pride in their habit and in the chances they will beat the odds. For the record, I hope they do.
But the ignorant attitude is present in both of the above, and it's downright sad.

In the meantime, I am planning an ambitious trip home next week to see family and friends. I am excited to go to my under-educated, smoking state...hoping I will come in contact with neither, but realistically admitting I will find both.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

At Knit's End

This weekend I did something truly Minnesotan. I attended a Fiber retreat with women who take pride and pleasure in not only knitting their own garments, but in first carding, then spinning, then plying, then knitting or crocheting their own garments. It truly is amazing to see what they create and the intricacy of it.

Since I am fairly new to this subculture, I found several bits very interesting. I wish I could remember more.

Top Ten Things you'll only hear at a Fiber Retreat:

10. How old are you? Are you young enough to be our "Token Young Person?" (I wasn't)

9. What do you take for your "Emergency Knitting"?

8. It's no wonder you are fiber looney.

7. I'm spinning locks. (of mohair, actually)

6. I have a nephew up in Finland, Minnesota...

5. Do I need a bigger orafice? (this is something on a spinning wheel. I was the only one who did a double take)

4. It's good to be able to just be able to pick up fiber and take it with you. (use of a drop spindle)

3. There's nothing worse than not knowing where you are on a knitty-knotty.

2. Have you read, "I'm a yarn whore"? (this is a book, I think)

1. I had to rip out 10 rows after last week's Drunken Knitting night. (Now, this sounds really interesting...)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Deep Freeze

It has been warmer this week in Fairbanks than it has been in Minnesota. It has been warmer at the North Pole than it has been in Minnesota.

It's been colder than *&^% here, and the biggest place you can feel that freeze is during rush hour. Black Ice will freeze up the flow of traffic to a mere crawl. When I drive by this sign and see more than 30 minutes to Hwy 7.... I know I'm going to be in my car for 2 hours before getting home.

In my quest to let people know about life in Minnesota... here's a scenario that has played out several times this year:

Snowfall starts in the morning or mid-day. Whether big, fluffy flakes or small horizontal flakes, the snow is no problem at first. But, broadcasts start going out warning people of the possibility of a tough commute home. Trucks start plowing and putting down salt. Cars inch home. The ice that builds up on cars, melts, and falls back on the cold roads where it forms black ice. Then, you have a problem. It keeps tow trucks pretty busy for much of the day--interestingly enough, one tow truck operator says the vast majority of cars they pull out of ditches are 4-wheel drives.

When at home, one must shovel the driveway to compensate for the trucks forming a snow drift there and in order to get the garage doors open.

Overnight, temperatures plummet to -20, not counting the wind chill factor. Sometime in here, trucks shift to using sand because the salt brine no longer works. I get up an extra hour early to shovel out my car and get it started to run for a good 20 minutes. Auto thefts in the worst city in our area have skyrocketed. It's a pretty easy crime to commit when it's cold. People leave their cars going while they are in the grocery store!

On the commute, I stay off the major roads because by 6 am broadcasters are already announcing gridlock. People do seem somewhat smart about this, because everyone slows down to 15-20 mph and leaves a big amount of room to brake and slide at intersections. It turns a 32-mile drive into a long 2+ hour ordeal. Still, there's no way to prevent spin-outs sometimes. Dave and I have each only had one, and both times we didn't hit anything or anyone and we didn't require a tow truck. Lucky.

The roads are still clear now, but the ice keeps building up behind people's car tires and that causes more black ice spots... so there are always cars in ditches.

We're hoping for a warm-up, but not above freezing--because then this stuff will melt and there will be a bigger mess when it refreezes. It's no wonder most people take vacations during this time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Drink up

When the weather is bitter cold, what's a guy to do?

This past Saturday Dave and I decided to go on a Minnesota road trip, so we drove southwest to the town of New Ulm, a historically German settlement on the Minnesota River. We came in search of beer and the Schell's brewery, which is the second oldest brewery in the US.
( For those readers from PA, Yuengling is older.) The brewery is located on the side of a hill and the setting looks very European. I'm sure in the summer it's beautiful.
The Germans who settled here brewed good beer, and they still produce favorites today. Dave's favorite up here is Grainbelt, which Schell's acquired a few years ago. During prohibition, the brewery made near-beer and root beer. One of my favorite bits came from the gift shop, "When you are surrounded by 14,000 thirsty Germans, you better make a darn good beer." (August Schell)
The 3-dollar tour shows you a few highlights in the brewery and then takes you to the tap room to taste. Since the majority of tourists on our tour were college boys, the tap room was definitely the much anticipated stop.
The brewery hosts Octoberfest and then of course the upcoming Bock Fest, which Dave's friends (and maybe Dave) plan on attending.

I was surprised to see peacocks here and surviving the bitter cold. If you visit a plantation in the South, you'll no doubt see a few peacocks meandering through the grounds. I've always wanted a few. I like them. This gave me hope that peacocks can survive up here outside. Who knows, I may convince Dave that I can be the crazy lady in town who has peacocks in the yard. I would "proudly" wear that title.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Living Vicariously

I meant to blog about these last year, but didn't get to... so here's a toast to two of my friends who are living out their dreams.

Cheers to Julie--

I went to school with Julie at HSU. We actually did a semester together on the debate team and served on Panhellenic Council together (I think...Julie, is this right or did I dream this up?). Now, she's living out a dream working in fashion in New York City. She's quite the artist and showed off her talent on the Martha Stewart Show --actually teaching Martha how to make a type of necklace. It's really saying something to teach Martha. Julie is a huge fan of all things Martha, and she said the experience was great. Here's to another small town Arkansas girl :)
Kudos to Carrie--
She landed a job this year working in a producing and assignments capacity at ESPN. I went to school with Carrie at Syracuse. She produced in Michigan for a few years longer than she wanted, but she finally got the job she wanted. I'm so happy for her. Carrie is a big Red Sox fan, and she sent me a picture with then-catcher Doug Mirabelli. She says she has this picture framed on her desk at ESPN. The other picture is of Carrie and her mom on a visit. Here's to another Newhouse grad :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Have you seen this person?

Here's a grainy picture of me at the state capitol Tuesday for the beginning day of the 2009 Legislative session. This time around the big story is the budget and how the state of Minnesota will be able to make up for a 5-billion dollar deficit, the largest in state history. This is a story we've been following and we're certain to do several more.
But that's not the reason why I blog. My photographer and I stood outside the House chambers looking for elected officials from the Northwest Metro. When you move to a new area, sometimes it's literally like study hall trying to memorize the elected officials and then be able to place name to face. Politicians generally have egos and they don't like to be mistaken for anybody else.

When I was still a rookie reporter in Syracuse, my partner and I went to the Syracuse airport to do a story on the new low cost airline, JetBlue. This was pre-9-11, so we had good access to the plane and the ramp where people came off the plane. While there, one man got off the plane and came and stood right by us, just chatting about why we were there. He kept hanging out and wouldn't leave. It was almost like he was waiting for something. We shook our heads as he left. Crazy old man.

That man was Senator Chuck Schumer, something we found out after we got back to our "newsroom." We were properly shamed. We were clueless. I was from Arkansas; the other guy was from California. We could have interviewed a senator for our story, but we didn't even recognize him. Our professor made quite the example out of us saying, "Chuck Schumer loves cameras. They say the toughest place to be in DC is between Schumer and a camera!" I'm sure she still tells the story as an example to her students.
When I got a job in Shreveport, I made lists to memorize before I even started the job. Here, I did almost the same thing so I wouldn't make the same mistake. It's easy to report in a community where you know everyone. It's much tougher to start from scratch every few years. I didn't make the same mistake today, but I was rather surprised to be one of the older reporters in the gallery... times are changing... could this be next?

Nah, that's just Minnesota's next U.S. Senator, a face everyone will recognize.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Motorcycle Grandmama

To borrow and adapt a phrase from a popular book, I hit the grandparent lottery. Each one of my grandparents was extraordinary in their own way, and all had certain habits and qualities that I'd like to emulate. One day when I'm older, I hope I have enough gumption to ride on the back of a motorcycle down the main street of town with enough grace and dignity to still be carrying my purse.

My grandmother Joy Rhea is the last person I'd expect to see on the back of a motorcycle, and certainly the last place I'd think she'd ride is down the main street of Delight. But she did. When I heard this, I had to have a picture.

The town of Delight throws one parade a year, and for a small town it does a pretty good job. Besides the high school floats, there are a few local groups that ride or walk the mile route. This year, my Uncle Oscar rode his motorcycle down the street and as he neared Grandmother, he waved for her to get on back.

I think it surprised everyone when she did. When my Aunt Kay said she'd hold her purse, she said, no I can carry it. And she did. I've heard details of the ride several times, and from what I hear, she was the talk of the parade. She's even been given a few 8 x 10s to commemorate her ride.

This is the lady who is known in the area for being gracious, dependable, and congenial. She's a true Southern lady who is all grace and charm on the outside, but also hard working, driven, and a mite stubborn on the inside. When she was approached to be a leader in the Red Hatters, she would have none of it. Maybe they were too rowdy. When I took her to Washington DC, she struck up a conversation with the airport security screener. When we spotted a 5-foot long black snake curled up in her yucca plants, she grabbed a hoe and killed it on the spot. Dave still tells that story. She was a grandmother we love to visit, but she wouldn't hesitate a minute to discipline us if we were being brats. She still would.

She grew up a child of the Depression, and as a result, she can make anything under the sun with cloth, food, or crafts. She can copy designer pictures with amazing accuracy and creativity.... but only when she wants to. When I took her an idea I had for my bridesmaid's gifts for my wedding, she responded by giving me one of her sewing machines. In other words, great idea you can do yourself. Learning from Grandmother was always a good combination of helping, teaching, and releasing. And she'll help those who help themselves.

I called her when I heard about this:

"Grandmother, what's this I hear about you riding a motorcycle down the Main Street of Delight?"
"Well, I did"

"I heard you even held your purse the whole time."
"Well, I did."

"Did you plan you were going to ride?"
"No, he slowed down and I just jumped on."

I hope I'm the same way one day.