Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas: California Edition

Exactly a year ago, the flu had overtaken our house. We were so very sick. I was sicker than I had ever been in my entire life. All four of us were passed out on our queen bed for days at a time. I cried for my mommy. Looking back, maybe I should have been in the hospital. But we lacked the energy and mental capability to actually get to the hospital.

This year, we are baking, listening to Christmas music (but only when Easy Ed is at work, he is such a grinch), delivering gifts and cookies, looking at giant gingerbread houses, cleaning, and finishing homework and work projects in anticipation of our holiday trip to LA.

I am pretty excited to get away. The tickets back West were insanely expensive, so Easy Ed and I are not exchanging presents and we are only buying a couple of small airplane gifts for the kids. But I did purchase this to read in anticipation of the long flight. I am also bringing along hiking shoes, running shoes, and flip flops. Can't wait to get out into the warm air (I would say "fresh" but we will be in LA, after all). We are surprising Noe with a day at Disneyland for his birthday. He will be so happy!

Ready for another California Adventure!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Revenge of the (journalism) nerd

A few months back on this blog, I wrote about what it was like to work at The Washington Post the night Osama bin Laden was killed. I wrote how exciting it was just to be in the vicinity of such a historic moment and the thrill of being in a newsroom on a big news night.

Six months later, it happened again. Only this time, I played a larger leadership role.

It was the night of November 9, 2011. Most sports fans will remember it as the night Penn State fired longtime coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the horrific child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants. But I'll also remember it for what I called at the time one of the all-time curveballs in terms of breaking news: the kidnapping of Washington Nationals baseball player Wilson Ramos. And oh yeah, NBA officials and players were having intense labor negotiations, so a settlement of the league's lockout could have happened at any point.

Wednesdays are usually the end of my work week (I'm generally off on Thursdays and Fridays) and this particular night, I was slated to work as the night sports editor (our regular night sports editor, my direct boss, had taken a vacation day). By the time I arrived at work, Paterno had announced he would resign at the end of the season, adding rather arrogantly that the school's trustees shouldn't waste time on his fate. On its own, that was going to make for a busy night, with two columnists writing on Paterno and one reporter at Penn State writing the news story.

On his way out about 7:30 p.m., the Head Sports Editor stopped by my desk to go over the rest of the night in case things escalated with Paterno (the Penn State trustees had announced by then that they would have an emergency meeting) or the NBA lockout. Offhandedly, almost dismissively, he mentioned rumors of a kidnapping involving a Nationals player.

I'm listening and nodding as he went through the list. Paterno, right... NBA lockout, OK... wait, what??

After he left, I started looking around the Internet and sure enough, news was starting to trickle out about a baseball player getting kidnapped in Venezuela. A lot of the details online were in Spanish, and it was all frightening. Ramos, a promising player for the Nationals, was taken away from his family home at gunpoint and put in a vehicle and driven away.

For once, my language skills came in handy, and I was translating as much stuff as I could for our Nationals beat reporter as we tried to make sense of the story. By 8:30, we knew we had a story and we posted something short online. Our next deadline for the newspaper was 11:30.

Then the night news editor, who is in charge of what goes on the front page of the whole newspaper (A1), approached me about this story and was very enthusiastic about it. He wanted it for the front page. Considering we already had one front-page sports story (Paterno), I was surprised they wanted a second one. The sports section is somewhat derisively nicknamed "the toy department" and for sports to tread on the sacred ground of the front page of a newspaper rankles some journalists.

But this was quickly becoming far from a typical night at work.

I passed along the word to our Nationals reporter to piece a story together as quickly as he could. Meantime, our South American correspondent sprung into action and was trying to find out as much as he could about this kidnapping.

By this point, it was after 9 p.m. and rumors were starting to swirl that there would be a press conference at Penn State at 10 p.m. and that Paterno was likely going to be fired. Which for us, meant wholesale rewriting of the stories we already had published, including the one on the front page.

Remember, we had an 11:30 deadline to meet.

By 10 p.m., the Head Sports Editor had been in touch and was gracious enough to help me edit/update all the stories that were coming. At about 10:25, when I heard John Surma, the vice chair of the Penn State board of trustees, say "Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach, effective immediately," I was on the phone with the editors who run our Web site going over who would send out text and email alerts about Paterno's firing. And I was in touch over email with a couple other editors and our South American correspondent about the Ramos kidnapping story.

I was a little preoccupied at this moment.

The next hour was a blur, but as I've said before, I work with some of the best in the business when it comes to producing great journalism under immense deadline pressure. Our reporter at Penn State filed his report about 30 minutes after the press conference ended. Our Nationals beat reporter pieced together a good story, with a huge assist from our South American correspondent.

All while making deadline. I couldn't have been prouder of my sports department colleagues. And for the record, this and this were the fruits of our labor.

The nightcap came when the NBA officials and players stopped negotiating at 1 a.m. after more than 12 hours and came away with no deal. It was too late to get anything in the newspaper, but our reporter filed a story as quickly as she could that we would post on our Web site. Print deadlines may come and go, but the news cycle never stops online.

I finally walked out of the newsroom at about 3 a.m. -- drained, exhilarated, proud. At the very top of John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" is competitive greatness, the notion of being at your best when your best is required. That night certainly fit the bill, for me and the rest of those involved with putting it all together. Of course, in daily journalism, there is little time to savor it and soon enough, we would be back to more routine news.

But for one brief moment, it was an incredible feeling knowing what we could accomplish when the moment presented itself. I was fresh off a weekend in Indianapolis for this fellowship I'm taking part in, and leadership was a major theme that we covered.

I did not expect to be tested that soon. But I was so glad I was.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fav Blogs

I cycle through blogs a lot. Right now, these are my favorites: Coincidently (or not so much) all three bloggers are from Portland. Easy Ed calls it my Portland p*rn stash:

Get Rich Slowly: I love this blog because J.D.'s personal finance advice is practical and honest, he has a nice writing voice, and his motto is "Do what is best for you." It has really helped me find a balanced approach to saving and spending money (my tendency is to live as cheaply as possible, which can create problems).

Portlandize: Portland biking blog, 'nuff said.

Made By Joel: I'm not very crafty, but I like to admire his projects. I have done a couple with the boys, but mostly I leer at his work, think what an awesome stay-at-home dad he is, and how fun it would be to be Portland neighbors with him.

a non-Portland mention:

Design Mom: I've read this blog off and on for years. Design Mom's family is spending a year in the French countryside and I am captivated. In fact, I wish she would blog more about her adventure in France and less on the cutesy, crafty stuff or on yet another high-end children's clothing boutique. Design Mom sends her kids to French schools and they do an amazing amount of traveling for a family of eight. She glosses over the challenges (I'm sure there are many), but I'm sure this year will set the tone for the rest of her children's lives, plus give them a foreign language under their belt. I don't see this jet-setting lifestyle in our realistic future, but I wish it could be.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Well, we survived the fall holidays! Halloween went per usual, albeit with some leftover snow on the ground. I dressed up Noe as a soccer player, so he could trick-or-treat without the trauma of wearing a costume. Asher was a "road map." We found the idea online. Asher loved it and I loved the price ($5 spent) and how easy it was to put together. Plus, I used reflective tape for the "road" which means I could spot Asher instantly amongst the Halloween crowds once the sun went down. Homemade Halloween costumes are the best, even if mine never look very impressive!

And yes, miraculously, for the eighth Halloween in a row.... Easy Ed had to work and I got stuck on Halloween duty sin ayuda.

Here is Noe getting into the spirit of the holiday, happily signing "candy."

We celebrated our traditional Reston Thanksgiving, which ..... as long as I don't think about my family in Portland celebrating together....I have come to enjoy. First, we start the morning with a service project. The community center across the street from our house holds a project each year which involves sorting and loading food donations for area food pantries. It is a lot of fun to help and even the kiddos can participate. Next, we ice skate at the Reston Town Center Pavilion. Finally, we sit down and eat our meal. I made everything, minus the pies, and it was pretty darn good. I was commenting to Easy Ed that my Thanksgiving meal cooking skills star has risen dramatically since our first couple of holidays on the East Coast. He barely acknowledged my comment between bites, which I'll take as a good sign.

Note clock: One hour and counting until Ed has to leave for work. But we still had a nice holiday together!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thoughts on Polygamy

I've been on a polygamy kick as of late. I found this book at KramerBooks (Dupont Circle) and since I've never not loved a book in that store, I promptly picked up a copy for free at the library. And, despite the awesome title, I didn't love it. The plot was interesting enough to get me through to the end, but the characters were dry and not very compelling. I just didn't think about them when I wasn't reading the book, you know?

And thanks to Netflix streaming, I managed to watch the entire first two seasons of Sister Wives. And then promptly looked back at all the hours of my life lost and thought, "I can't believe I watched the whole stupid thing!"

And then there are always some of my favorite blogs that often have interesting commentary and perspectives on polygamy.

Strangely, even though I grew up LDS, I never thought too hard about polygamy. The church's polygamous history never particularly bothered me, as it does many. I just thought of it as a strange practice from the past that had no real relevance in my life. I completely understand (at least intellectually) why people are still upset by this early church practice and even lose their faith in the church over it, and I think their concerns are completely valid. But for whatever the reason, it's never been my issue. Maybe because my list of issues is already long, and adding one more might tip me over the edge. Just kidding....I think.

Anyways, while reading about 19th century polygamy is strange and fascinating, I think modern-day polygamy is diabolically unreal. I just can't believe that people live this way in our current day and age. But according to TLC, they do!

Here are some of my thoughts and questions as I've watched and read.....

1. Why don't we just decriminalize polygamy? Doesn't making it illegal actually perpetuate the abuse in the Warren Jeff-like sects because they live such an insular life? Won't decriminalization take the abusers out of the shadows? But then again....these groups seem to have no desire to join the rest of the world, so it would likely make no difference if their practices were legal or not. It's hard to know if polygamy can even exist without widespread sexual/physical sure does seem to breed in these communities more than others.

2. Are Utah police really hunting down polygamy families (Season 2: Sister Wives)? Or was the threat made up by TLC producers to create good television, and the Brown family never really had to leave Utah? The family was operating under the assumption that at the end of the police investigation, the father would be thrown in jail and the family would be permanently separated. Yeah, their living situation is weird. But without suspicion of any abuse, it seems so wrong (and a waste of police resources) to break up a family.

3. Why are Utah Mormons so outraged by modern-day polygamy? Not by the Warren Jeffs (completely justified) but by the super-sized house down the street? Is it a constant reminder of an ugly part of church history? Do they feel like if they don't hate it....they will always be associated with it?

4. I've concluded that for the man, polygamy really isn't about sex, or even love. It's all about power and prestige within their polygamous group. It's really not a whole lot different than people who have lots of kids or cars to increase their prestige within their social group...except a lot more complicated (and expensive). I have no idea what attracts women to polygamy. Tradition? Sisterhood? Self-hatred?

4. The women of Sister Wives do their best to show they are modern women (at least in the Utah Valley sense of the word). Honestly, you could not tell them from the middle-aged women singing hymns in Relief Society by their dress and mannerisms. But they are fooling themselves. They are hindered by the wants and needs of their other sister wives, all of the children, and their husband, who has the final say, in even the most "modern" of polygamy situations. They call it sacrifice. I call it powerlessness.

5. However, I get a slight twinge when I see the women on the show living and working together. My current life in many ways is a woman-less existence. I work in an all-male office. I am alone with my boys when I am not at work. I have little time for girlfriends but miss friendship with other women. It would be pretty awesome to work and be around other women more often. Although, I am confident I can accomplish this goal without becoming a fourth wife.

I'd better go for now. My sister-wife just told me she is waiting for the laptop. Apparently, we are low on canned beets and need to reorder. ;-)