Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Newspapers -- maybe we've got it all wrong

More than anything in the world, I miss working in a newsroom. I miss being a reporter and following a tip that leads me to a great story. I miss the challenge of putting all that information into a concise story that might make a difference. A story that might light a fire -- story that will make people care.

I always like to tell the story of being in fourth grade and talking my teacher into letting us write a school newspaper. The Duncan Times was born and I became a journalist. In the past few years, months, weeks and days, I've seen too many of my fellow journalists -- good writers and great writers -- lose their jobs. Newspapers are dying, we are told.

We can't let that happen. Try to find something on the WWW that you saw last week. Try. It's not easy and it's not always there. Try sharing your online "news source" across the dining room table on a Sunday morning as you sip coffee with your significant other. Yeah, right.

More importantly, think about our history. My guess is when you think of historic events, you remember photos or headlines you read. You can still find those. They are still there. Inscribed. Newspapers record our history, much like, or maybe better than the books we use in classrooms.

I'm scared for the future of the industry, but then a bright light in New Jersey, gives us hope. I'm sure there are others like this paper. Here's the column from the International Herald Tribune:

U.S. newspaper shuns Web, and thrives
By David Carr

Monday, December 22, 2008
With 2008 drawing to a brutal close on the media beat — bankruptcies, daily newspapers that are no longer daily, magazines that are downsizing into brochures — a little ray of light appeared in my e-mail inbox. It was from a newspaper owner, of all people.

Into the teeth of a historic recession, the newspaper had just published the biggest issue in its history. The product is double-digit profitable, and it has been growing at a clip of about 10 percent a year since it was founded in 1999, right about the time the Web was beginning to put its hands around print's neck.

Finally, I thought, a story about a print organization that has found a way to tame the Web and come up with a digital business approach that could serve as a model. Except that TriCityNews of Monmouth County, New Jersey, is prospering precisely because it aggressively ignores the Web. Its Web site has a little boilerplate about the product and lists ad rates, but nothing more. (The address is, for all the good it will do you.)

"Why would I put anything on the Web?" asked Dan Jacobson, the publisher and owner of the newspaper. "I don't understand how putting content on the Web would do anything but help destroy our paper. Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads?"

Other publications much larger than TriCityNews have been wondering about pumping resources into a medium that does not seem to show a promise of returns any time soon.

Writing in The New York Observer, John Koblin pointed out that when Forbes, Portfolio and Fortune went through recent retrenchments, the Web staffs were hit the hardest. That may be just an old print reflex, but there is a rational argument to be made that the part of the apparatus that has a working business model, declining or not, should receive the resources.

At a time when Web entrepreneurs like Nick Denton of Gawker Media are predicting a 40 percent decline in Web display advertising, it's probably not a great time to be indexing into the Web either.

And there are signs that the free ride for consumers may be coming to an end. I started getting notices to renew my subscription to The Wall Street Journal and its Web site and waited, as I have in the past, for the deeply discounted offer. It never came. And according to company statements in October, paid subscriptions for The Journal's Web site were up more than 7 percent from a year ago.

A few caveats before we turn back the clock on publishing history. TriCityNews employs 3.5 people (the half-time employee handles circulation), has a print run of 10,000, and has a top line that can be written in six figures. Still, by setting rates low almost 10 years ago and never raising them or offering a Web option, Jacobson has built a reliable cadre of advertisers who call for ads, sign up for full pages, and pay in advance. There are no people working for sales commissions.

Editorially, the newspaper is boosterish — "we want people to think of Asbury Park as the center of the universe," he said — with notes of skepticism typical of alternative weeklies. There are six columnists in addition to the full-time staff, and they write with a mix of attitude and reporting that Jacobson describes as a "plog," a blog on paper.

The low cost of entry on the advertising side means that almost anyone — a bar, a retailer, a gym — can afford a full-page ad, and the preponderance of them leads to an elegant-looking product.

"I don't allow our name to be used on any kind of content on the Web — not bulletin boards or listings or anything," Jacobson said. "I don't want anybody to connect The TriCityNews and the Internet. I don't want anything that detracts from the paper and the presence of those big, beautiful full-page ads."

Unlike other alt weeklies that borrowed heavily and consolidated newspapers in the hopes of creating a rolled-up Web product, Jacobson prefers to publish in a medium that pays for itself.

Creative Loafing, a chain of weeklies based in Tampa, Florida, bought up The Washington City Paper and The Chicago Reader and moved aggressively to invest editorial resources online. The chain filed for bankruptcy in September.

And Jacobson is more than happy to be known as the Fred Flintstone of the publishing world. "There may come a time when the Web is all there is, and we will try to adapt," he said, "and if we don't, well, hey, we had a great run. But right now, the Web makes no business sense for us."

Many people would tell, and in fact have told, Jacobson that he was bound to go the way of the eight-track tape, but from what he has seen, there are a lot of routes to obsolescence.

He said that as a consumer, he's not a print snob; in fact, he no longer buys the physical version of newspapers he once did. "I just get on the Web site, I look at what I need to and I never look at the ads," he said.

There is no doubt that readers benefit in all sorts of ways from digitized journalism and searchable listings online, but that ease of use has not been accruing to the benefit of the publications that provide that information, or very often, their advertisers.

When it comes to brand advertising, print has a strong track record. Advertisers like the analog presentation in TriCityNews for the same reason they come back in droves to Vogue.

Jacobson, 47, is a former lawyer and politician — he was a New Jersey assemblyman in the '90s — who started The TriCityNews in January 1999 with $15,000 he had won in a personal injury lawsuit. The company is called Limited Risk Inc.

"Right after we started, the dot-com bust happened and we have been running scared ever since. We live off the land and run it very lean," he said. "There is no debt, our office in downtown Asbury Park is very small, and we have never raised our rates, so people tend to stick with us regardless of what is happening in the economic cycle."

The three full-time employees met for their annual Christmas dinner the other night.

"All of us," Jacobson said, "are pretty happy with our lifestyles — I was able to quit practicing law quite a few years ago — and are thankful that we seem to have secure jobs and what seems to be a good future in a pretty tough industry."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's just beer...but

Drink something other than Anheuser Busch products. Seriously.

When I first heard about the Anheuser Busch InBev merger, I was skeptical. A foreign company owning an “American” company usually means loss of American jobs.

But they assured the Missouri lawmakers and the public and the stockholders that this was not going to happen. No sir, we’re keeping the jobs in America.

Yeah, well, it didn’t say that in the contract obviously. And the bottom line is the almighty end all.

So now, the new Belgian owners of Anheuser Busch are shrinking the headcount in the U.S. by 3,000.

The company plans to lay off 1,400 mostly at the St. Louis headquarters by New Year’s.

InBev is also trying to shuck the trademark “Busch Gardens” theme parks in Florida and Williamsburg.

What is not surprising is the recent ads for a Busch lager, which hails the “American” beer.

Maybe, it’s still made by Americans. But my guess, not for long. I, for one, am going to be very careful and NOT buy or drink any Anheuser Busch “InBev” products. Yep, even the Stella beer that I used to like before InBev bought Busch.

That’s the least I can do for the 1,400 folks who won’t have a job next year. Thanks Belgium. Thanks Missouri lawmakers. Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Unsolicited hotel reviews

Home sweet home – the past year that moniker has been applied to countless hotels that just feel good after a long day at work. Each location I’ve traveled to this year has been an experience and adventure. Sometimes, the hotels themselves are adventures – some good, some bad.

I can’t even count the number of hotels I’ve stayed in throughout my life, but some clearly stand out. I was thinking about that today after I checked out of the Marriott in downtown Orlando and headed home to St. Petersburg.

Some of my favorite places to lodge have been military-run hotels or resorts such as the Hale Koa or Bellows Air Force Station in Hawaii. Hard to beat a lux hotel on Waikiki Beach or a private cabin right on the beach on the windward side of the island. That these are military facilities has helped us afford to stay at places where we might not normally have been able to visit. From temporary lodging facilities to trailers (aka cabins) at the Lake of the Ozarks, military-run hotels have one thing in common – they are clean and efficiently run. No bad experiences – well, except the time at Reese Air Force Base when we stayed in TLF before we left for Japan. The staff had placed hot pink mice poison that looked a whole lot like candy under an end table in the living room area. That proved too tempting for our then two-year-old who ended up having to have her stomach pumped. Thank goodness she liked to share, which alerted her older brother and sister to the fact that little sis was eating something she found under the table. Whew.

This year, we’ve stayed at too many hotels to count. The worst were hands-down in other parts of the country from the flea-infested room at a very nice Holiday Inn in South Carolina to a bed-bug hotel in Illinois.

Hampton Inns while clean etc. have the hardest beds ever. I won’t stay there unless it’s a last resort or the whole crew is staying there.

The Holiday Inn in SC not withstanding, we usually stay at HI because for the most part they are clean, have comfortable beds and you can’t beat the pillow menu. The point rewards are great too. Marriott Hotels also top the list of great places to stay. But by far, our favorite chain hotel is the Embassy Suites. The 10 days we stayed in Boca Raton earlier this year were made bearable by the great hotel and staff. We were running around from event to event, and it was always great to come back to a great space with a small living area so you didn’t feel like you were at a hotel. The breakfast buffet and “manager’s reception” are super. We stayed at the Embassy in DC too and it was equally as great.

By far our favorite hotel – not for the amenities – but for the history and surroundings was the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC. If you are a presidential history buff, stay there.

The Hotel Cass (Holiday Inn Express) in Chicago was also another historic hotel. Free breakfast and you can’t beat the location from great shopping and restaurants and night life. It’s about three blocks to the House of Blues, practically next door to the famous Pizzeria Due (Unos Chicago Pizza), and Starbucks is right across the street. If you don’t mind walking about four blocks, you are right in the middle of the city’s downtown shopping mecca and only about 10 blocks to the beach. Great hotel – the view stinks and the rooms are small, but the boutique hotel is nicely decorated and you won’t be spending a lot of time in the hotel anyway. Beds are great.

So there you have it, my unsolicited hotel reviews. Next time, we’ll talk Priceline…

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"South" of the Red River

Native Floridians are a rare breed in Florida. It seems everyone hails from Jersey, New York, Ohio and somewhere else “up north.”

Occasionally I run into another displaced Texan and we commiserate on all the Texas things we miss. Then we acquiesce: We’re glad we live in Florida.

The truth is I have a habit of falling in love with where I live. When I lived in Missouri, I embraced the history of the state. Working at the state Capitol and covering historic elections, the death of Gov. Mel Carnahan and being one of only a handful of people in the Governor’s office when Roger Wilson was sworn in tied me indelibly to the state. I loved its hills and rivers and spirit.

Then I moved to Oklahoma. Now embracing Oklahoma was a stretch for a die-hard Texan; but I did embrace it. Mostly, I fell in love with the people of Oklahoma. Tough. Pioneers. Survivors. I still extol the virtues of Oklahoma City whenever anyone dares to dis the state. I left with a heavy heart and even cried when I heard the song Jimmy Webb and Vince Gill wrote for the centennial. Happy Birthday again Oklahoma! (Nov. 16)

Now, I’m in Florida. I have traveled to every nook and cranny from the Florida Keys to Pensacola, from Brooksville to Miami and every town in between. There’s something inherently fun about driving across “Alligator Alley” and catching a glimpse of a gator.

There’s something indescribably wonderful about living where people go on vacation. Sure, we gripe about the tourists, but there’s a pride in knowing that people want to come vacation at your home. I even feel bad if it’s raining when I see families coming out of the hotel. I almost as if we must apologize for the less than perfect weather.

I’m still discovering this great place. I love it for all its quirkiness. I love it for all the independent and “one of a kind” folks who live here.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Rays. We root for the Florida teams (unless they are playing the Big XII teams, of course).

I’ll always be a Texan. I’ll always love going down to Marfa and watching mysterious ghost lights bounce of the Davis Mountains. I’ll love the sounds and the crowds at a Friday night high school football game in any small town; the flat landscape of the South Plains that lets you believe that on a clear day you can see forever; and I’ll always love the excitement of attending the Sand Hills Rodeo in Odessa, Texas and knowing it’s the first rodeo of the season.

But for now, I’m comfortable being a “Floridian.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jingle bells in my head

On the way to school this morning, my granddaughters and I sang Christmas carols. Yes. It's way too early and every year the "Christmas season" gets longer and longer -- almost like the presidential campaigns we just survived.

Nonetheless it was fun, but then we switched to Bob Marley songs and that was way more relaxing. Christmas carols at this point remind me that it's almost the end of the year, that I haven't accomplished everything on my "to do" list -- write a novel, lose weight etc. -- and that I've not even started shopping yet!

I think I'll take it one step at a time. I'm going grocery shopping today -- well, maybe tomorrow.

Happy holiday season ya'll! Have you bought your Christmas cards yet?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The politics of hate

Good morning, it's Monday before the election. You take your cup of coffee, grab the paper, turn on the morning television news shows or the radio and it begins. Ugly, hateful television ads bashing a candidate's integrity and life. It's enough to make me want to vomit.

The opposing candidate's cheerful voice says, "I'm so and so and I approve this message."

The anger in the ad takes my breath away so early in the morning. Did you really? Did you really listen to this ad and then approve it?

Then, you sir, have lost my respect.

At one time before the current debacle we call the President, I might have voted for you. I admired your courage, your tenacity in being able to survive so long in enemy hands and stand up for what you believed was right.

But in the past eight years, no truly, in the past year, I've seen you melt like putty in the hands of an unscupulous campaign machine that will do and say anything to win.

I see you blink at the camera. You seem confused, lost. And, I realize that you have lost control.

If you win tomorrow, I hope you find the courage that you had so many years ago to take back your integrity.

If you lose, I hope that you are able still to find the courage to continue on the right path. I hope you have not completely sold your soul.

If you cannot do this, this country will be the worst for it. So my prayers are with you because at one time, you were an honorable person. I'm not sure who you are right now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back in the saddle

Blogging has been on my mind a great deal lately. Mainly, it's the little ideas that pop into my head, "Hey, I'd have something to say about that." But yet every day, I find less and less time to actually blog. I'll blame it on my job. I'll blame it on Facebook, Twitter or the multitude of "social networking" venues out there. I spend too much time there, partly because of work and partly because I've found many of my friends and old friends use those tools.

Still, I've clung to the blog, though I haven't actually blogged in a while. But, I've missed it. So whether anyone reads this or not, I'm going to continue my blogging. Call it my very public personal diary. It was after all through blogging that I found my friend the Diva Even before I met her face to face, she made me laugh, she made me cry. Her blog is always a good read.

I might not blog as frequently in the coming weeks, but my goal is to post at least once a week. Good columnists do that, don't they. That's the other thing. I'm going to adopt a column style of writing. One topic and stick to it sort of thing. For that particular column anyway. That was always my intent when I first began this blog a few years back.

In the meantime, for those who care, I'll give you an update of my life since early September.

We moved. Not from Florida, but away from our beloved Sunset Beach. My daughter, her husband and our grandson are now living with us for the next year. It's our way of helping out until they both finish their studies in 2009. So we found a larger house. It's still on the water, though on the other side of the peninsula that is St. Petersburg. So now, we can catch a sunrise.

My job with Divided We Fail is winding down since the election is approaching. It's bittersweet. We feel like we're going to finally see some of the fruits of our labor as whomever is elected works on policy, but it also means I'll be unemployed come Jan. 1. In these economic times, that's terrifying. Yes, I knew the job would end, but I expected it was going to end last year and maybe I should have found other employment at that time. But I've loved the job, loved the challenge, so I guess I wouldn't change that for anything.

That's about it in a nutshell. I'm still traveling around the state of Florida, though, we've ventured out some in the past few months to South Carolina, Virginia, DC and other parts. Some columns might focus a bit more on travel -- a good respite from the storm of politics that usually surrounds my life. Hopefully, some of you will tune back in to read.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

East Coast Tour

Wow, it's been a busy month. After Fay, we fled up the coast to South Carolina with the Champmobile for the beginning of the East Coast Tour. South Carolina was rainy and not a lot of fun -- no fault of their own, just the effects from FAY.

Now, we're in DC and looking warily behind us at Hanna, Ike and Josephine. I'll head home on Sunday, hopefully just before we get hit by Ike. Hopefully, I'll head home Sunday. Hubby heads up to NY with the Champmobile.

More about our travels in DC soon. I'm working on starting a new site about my adventures as a newbie in Florida. Should be interesting -- at least I hope so!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our BFF Fay

I've been in Florida for one year and two solid months, and finally I get the welcome mat rolled out. Yes, we were a bit excited about our first "hurricane." Keep in mind, our family is a veteran of South Pacific Typhoons, so this one should be a breeze right?

First, you have to decide whether or not to GO. We live in evacuation Zone A, so that means we leave period. The Gov. called a state of emergency. Then, the County folks issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Gulf Beaches. So we complied. I found a couple of rooms at a local hotel in a non-evac area. We opted to stay close versus making the mad dash across the state, though we did toy with the idea of Jupiter or Orlando because projections -- all of the projections showed those areas being missed by the winds and rain.

We enjoyed the family hurricane party at the hotel. We way overpacked and loaded our cars with enough water and food and batteries to feed a small army.

But the hurricane did not come. We haven't gotten a drop of rain.

Jupiter? Orlando? They got slammed. And, now it's likely that they will get slammed again if our BFF Fay decides to actually turn into a hurricane in the Atlantic and do an encore visit to Florida. Where she will go is anyone's guess. Weathermen in Oklahoma might have those tornadoes figured out, but hurricanes are a totally different thing. Where's Gary England when you need him?

So for right now, we're all fine. Ray and I are supposed to drive up to South Carolina with the CM, but we aren't sure that's going to happen because our BFF is supposed to follow.

You know the hardest thing about evacuating? Deciding what to leave. Looking around your house and thinking, "I might not ever see this again." Yeah, I'm rethinking this whole living on the beach thing. I like the sound of a non-evacuation zone.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


My grandson's been an avid fan of McGruff, the crimefighting dog, since he was little. I used to have a hand puppet and M would want us to wear that thing for hours. We finally took to hiding McGruff so we would be wearing the dang thing on our hands, and talking like McGruff to boot, for hours!

But guess who we happened to run into during our trip to DC earlier this summer. You guessed it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

10 school resolutions for the slacker mom

Thought I'd share this amusing blog column by Kelly Smith and Sharon Kennedy Wynne, St. Petersburg Times staff writers

About this time every year, we fall into some kind of glue-stick trance while fawning over and stroking all those organizing gizmos in the back-to-school aisles. And that same old feeling comes over us: This school year will be different. This year we'll be on top of the chaos. We'll make perfect school lunches. We'll have oh-wow ideas for every school project. Every other mom will think we're so cool.

Oh, cut the crap.

We are so over it. Truth is, between crazy work and crazy home, we usually end up overwhelmed, tired and barely holding it together. And feeling enormously guilty about it. So this year, we're not going to try to be one of those smiling ubermoms. And we're not going to feel guilty about it.

Here are 10 back-to-school resolutions for the slacker mom. Repeat after us:

• I will not do it for you, so do it yourself. Don't like PB&J in your Hannah Montana lunch bag? Then pack something else. And this extends to basic household stuff. Soggy towel and scuzzy undies left on the floor? Fine. Hungry and Mom's stuck at work? Mac and cheese, hubby dear.

• I will not sell wrapping paper or candy. Nope, nothing. We'll write a modest check instead. Heck, we'll have all our friends and family write checks, too. Just, please, no more cookie dough in the freezer.

• I will volunteer for ONE event. Maybe a field trip. No Fall Festival booth, and nothing that involves a cash register. Yeah, yeah, we hear all the ubermoms crying, "No fair, that's why we get stuck doing everything!" So true.

• I will not nag, bicker or bribe. Homework not done? See how that goes over at school. Breakfast untouched? Gee, hope you packed your lunch.

• I will not argue over clothes. Wear whatever you want, kid. Pick it out the night before, change your mind 20 times in the morning, whatever. But don't expect to get it ironed at the last minute. That's why God made Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray.

• I will not stick an erasable calendar on the fridge. Because after we fill it in once with important dates for September, we'll never look at it again. Until December. Ditto on the color-coded file folders.

• I will make no excuses when my kid's project looks like Tinkertoys. At least compared to SuperKid's to-scale replica of the White House with remote-controlled motorcade and swinging doors. At least my kid did it herself. Sure, we'll offer ideas and support (awesome toilet paper roll thingamajig, honey!), but we refuse to do it for her.

• I will not run a shuttle all over the county every afternoon. Pick ONE after-school sport or activity: piano lessons, soccer fields or karate class.

• I will not be a hairstylist. If you choose a 'do that requires gel or braiding, you better be willing to learn how to do it yourself. We'll only get yelled at when it's "not done right" anyway.

• I will not stress about my child's reading level or giftedness. It's the teacher's job to teach and my job to create a supportive atmosphere. So there will be no flash cards unless the teacher requests it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


When I first met R, I was happy being single. I avoided anything near committment because of a failed marriage that had ended horribly. So I dated.

But on the night we met, I was just hanging out with friends. We had gone to the Carol of Lights on the Texas Tech campus and decided to hit a bar -- one of those trendy upscale yuppie bars of the 80s. I ran into a friend who knew someone I was with, and that person happened to be with R. As the evening progressed, R and I started a conversation. It was a mutually, unspoken switching of dates as the evening wore on. R gave me a ride home, and asked for my number. Could he call? Sure. What time? Time? I'd never exactly had a guy ask me what time he could call. How about 2 p.m.? Sure, he said.

The next day friends and I hung around my apartment because I had told them about the guy I'd met the night before who had asked what time he could call. He called. 2 p.m. on the dot.

On our second official date, we were in the car heading to a restaurant for dinner. He started talking, telling me that he had been single for a long time, and never thought he would meet the girl he knew he would want to spend the rest of his life with. Wow. I thought. He's giving me the old kiss off, BEFORE dinner. Uh, not exactly. R was talking about me. I freaked. I want to go home, I said. He took me home, but kept calling every day.

I'd tell my friends to answer the phone. I'd been introduced to R by his first name. So I instructed my friends to tell him I was not there. He called and said, this is R. My friend gave me the phone. He was charming. We went out again. And again, and again. We got married four months after we met. That was more than 23 years ago.

The only time we've been apart was when he was in the Air Force. The last year of active duty, he was gone almost a whole year, stateside, to Germany, to Saudi Arabia. When he came back, he left the military and we went to Mizzou. We took classes together, we worked together, we hung out. We still do that. We both work at the same place, we go on all trips together.

Except this week he took a solo trip for the campaign. He's in Iowa. He left Monday. We'll meet up again Tuesday in Chicago. I'm counting the days, hours and minutes.

His absence has left a vacuum in my daily life. He called me this morning as soon as he woke up. He still sounded groggy from sleep. Hey, he said. I just wanted to hear your voice. It made me happy and sad at the same time.

I miss my buddy, my love, my best friend. Can't wait til Tuesday.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Back at ya

The blog posts are coming slower. I've been wrapped up in projects like work and my dedication to having two writing projects done by the end of the year. I don't know that I've been missed. No one has sent out a Missing Person Report, so I'm beginning to wonder why keep the blog.

Not that letting go won't be hard, but a few friends have done that and I'm thinking it might be time.

That said, I'll share this:

As I'm driving home on Fridays it gets more and more irritating to dodge the tourists who slow down and then speed up only to slow down again. Yes, they are lost. They always are. Today, one particularly annoying driving kept stopping to read his map. I noticed the Virginia license plate and it made me laugh.

You see, when I lived in Virginia I learned that a particular hand gesture and not the Cardinal is the Virginia state bird. Virginians would yell out there windows with an obscenity followed by "tourist" then show you the state emblem.

As I swerved to dodge him yet again, I was tempted to welcome him the way any former Virginian would have, but I maintained control in consideration of the 7-year-old in my backseat.

Instead, I waved and smiled. "Back at ya, bud!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Aargh, yet again

One year. We've been in Florida for a whole year now. So this year, we gathered our most piratey outfits and hit the streets during Pirate Days in Madeira Beach. Aargh, matey.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Have a magical day

Just wrapped up another weekend of work in Orlando. This time we were at the Walt Disney World resorts for two conferences. The kids tagged along (aka grown children with their children) and we got adjoining rooms. They went to Disney World while we went to work. Bah! One weekend soo, I'm going to rebel and take off completely and go to the House of Mouse myself.

The kiddos though had a wonderful time. M -- here to visit for a few weeks sans parents -- is super proud that he road the "coasters" and can't stop talking about space mountain. He did, however, mention that there's two things he doesn't like about Florida -- sunburns and that castle. He's a boy, what can I say.

The girls were in heaven with Cinderella and the gang. They got photos. And, K-bear met her heros Buzz Lightyear and Woody.

To quote K-bear: "Dreams do come true." Yes, she's four, and she really said that.

Here are some photos:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Picher revisited

Wow. I'm stunned. We've called folks we know who live in and around Picher. When I wrote the last post, I felt anger that this small town had to endure so much. I liked the story, and it was more a story than a news article, written by the AP reporter.

Now, I feel sadness. The article now almost seems like a prelude to the obituary of this small town. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the residents and families affected by the tornado.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Picher, Oklahoma

the first time I saw Picher, OK was more than 23 years ago. I was shocked at the piles of mining debris -- called chat, I later learned. My husband -- then my boyfriend, who had grown up near Picher, just shrugged it off. I demanded to know why the mine hadn't been forced to clean it up. I still wonder why we, the taxpayers of this country, have to continue to clean up for an industry that lined its pockets with money on the blood, sweat and health of every day working men and families.

I ran across this article today -- great story -- but it brought to the surface that rage and shock I felt in December 1984 when we drove through Picher.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

This weekend, work took us to the big city of Mascotte, Florida. We had quite a debate going on about what to call that little town -- Mas - cot- te -- Mas - coat -- but were told it was Mas - cot, you know like the New Orleans Hornets' flaming mascot, Hugo.

The event was a Cinco de Mayo festival that had the traditional Cinco de Mayo stuff. Awesome Mexican food -- an amazing feat in Florida! And the traditional mariachi band. But when the Mariachi band starting playing Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville," I took out the camera and recorded for prosperity. Only in Florida.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Time out

Some weeks fly by, others drag on. Last week was a particularly slow week, got Sunday off and then started another slow week, packed with so much work it's hard to find time to get up out of my chair and go to the bathrooms sometimes. Working this weekend too, but somehow I'm looking forward to getting back on the road. Of course, I have to be careful what I wish for...I'm on the road next weekend too, and the next, and the next. Whoa.

Anyway, that all leads to this: I'm taking today off. Completely off. Yes, I'm up at the wee hours because I'm a morning person and that's what I like to do. The sun will begin to shine in a few minutes and I plan to go for an early morning beach walk. Then home for a leisurely breakfast and coffee I can linger over. The blackberry is off. I'm not going anywhere.

That reminds me: This weekend we went to watch the Rays play the White Sox. Rays were wiped out 6-0. At the bottom of the ninth, the Rays were at bat. Two outs. Two strikes on the batter. Grown-ups decided it was time to go, so we started gathering up our stuff. Five-year-old C-bear was watching the game intently (we were close to the field). She says, "No! We've almost got this! Sit down, we're not going anywhere!" Ah, the optimism of youth. We stayed til the end of the game.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just another day in paradise

I've lived on Treasure Island for nine months and counting. And, it still takes my breath away when I step on the white sand beach and look in either direction. It's like living in a postcard. The reality of living here is often more complex than a postcard can capture.

Our neighbors here on our neck of the beach all have their little quirks. One of them, an elderly lady with weathered skin usally clad in a swimsuit, cover up and flip flops, greets you with "Just another day in paradise." She rarely says it with a smile. Just a matter-of-fact.

Not everyone on the beach is retired. Most of us hold jobs, if not 9-to-5, still jobs that take us away from the beach. Daily chores and other things get in the way. We don't get to watch as many sunsets as we would like.

The neighborhood is diverse -- not ethnically perhaps, but none the less definitely diverse. Retirees, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, a writer, an artist, a nurse, a sports agent -- we all live in close proximity touching on the fringes of each other's lives.

One neighbor, one not liked by anyone on the block for many good reasons, was found dead in the house he lived in two doors down a few weeks ago. It's sad, he's not missed. The older woman who had invited him to live with her, only to find herself shipped off to a nursing home while he stayed in her house has returned home. Just another day in paradise.

One retiree walks his two dogs every day. He limps as he walks. We were chatting with him one especially beautiful sunny day when all the neighbors were out and about. He mentioned his late wife. It was the anniversary of their marriage. They had one son. He died many years ago, said the neighbor, the loneliness and sadness of his losses spilling over into his eyes. Just another day in paradise.

Spring break has been hard. The crowds move from the local beach bar into our driveways and we're constantly yelling at drunk tourists to move their cars. Just another day in paradise.

I'm looking forward to May and June. When the sweltering days and the hot Gulf water temperatures began to creep up, forcing the tourists from up north -- and Tampa -- to find refuge elsewhere.

All this complexity can wear on you. Then I walk on the beach, look around and soak it all in. Just another day in paradise.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In the fast lane

This past weekend, the Gran Prix series was held in St. Petersburg. I gave hubby tickets for the whole weekend as an anniversary present. He loved it. I went with him for a while on Friday afternoon. It was fun, you get pretty close to the drivers and cars in the Paddock area where you are actually allowed to walk.

I don't know a lot about racing. But I've sort of been a fan of Danica Patrick for a while, well, because she's a woman and she drives fast -- faster than most guys. But Helio C. is always a fave too.

So, we went over to Danica's car. It was crowded with lots of moms and dads and their little girls who clutched Danica posters or a camera. Danica comes out of her trailer, glances at the crowd -- no smile -- and jumps in her car for adjustments. She gets back out, ignores the calls for autographs or photos and gets back in her trailer. She does stand at the front of the trailer long enough to pull her racing suit off the top part of her body earning her cat calls from the men -- the ones without the kids. She smiles and walks out of sight. She materializes again, only to briskly walk past the crowd to a waiting vehicle to take her to the track.

OK, this is my first time at this race. So I'm not surprised. She's busy. She's working.Those are the excuses I give her, because I've admired her for so long. Never mind that she left several little girls in disppointed tears.

Then we head over to Helio's area, figuring he's probably already gone too. So, I'm surprised when he's standing by his car, posing for photos. Smiling, he walks over to fans and shakes everyone's hand, signs autographs, poses for more photos, hops on the scooter he rides to the track and poses for another photo. Wow.

I have a new favorite driver. Helio was that way all through the weekend. I cheered for him to win -- he came in second. Danica finished 10th. Good for her. I'm always thrilled to see a woman breaking into a male-dominated field. Still...I think that she could give five minutes of her time to make some kids very happy. But I guess we all have our "working style."

Saturday, April 05, 2008

23 years and counting...

April 2, 1985. The wedding was set for June. Planning was going nowhere. We were getting opposition from friends and family. Stress was building. We KNEW this was right, why couldn't anyone else get over the fact that we had become engaged only after two months of dating? This was month four. We had just moved in together and the parents were freaking out. Never mind that we were both in our late 20s and hadn't lived at home for years.

So we decided to get married. We called two friends to join us as witnesses and we drove from Lubbock to the big city of Tahoka, Texas. We had called ahead and the justice of the peace was expecting us at the courthouse. We did everything in one day, license, etc. The JP talked to us about his latest fishing trip in East Texas. We both got more nervous. This was the second time for both of us. The first time hadn't been great for him. For me, the first marriage was disastrous. This was a huge step. The right step, but huge.

The ceremony started. I seemed calmed, but kept moving the heel of my shoe around in a nervous motion. It broke off. We laughed. We made our promises, to love, cherish in good times and bad. We celebrated our first anniversary with the wedding we didn't have the year before.

We're still laughing. Still cherishing. Things have changed. We've raised the children that Ray adopted as his own. We now share grandchildren and memories, good times and bad.

My hubby, who has almost no romantic bone in his body made me cry recently when he bought a framed painting, underneath the sentiment: "Come grow old with me. The best is yet to be."

I believe it is. After a week of pain and doctor's visits from my accident. He's been right there, helping me get dressed, holding my hand when he knew I hurt. And on our anniversary planning a three-hour dinner cruise complete with wine and roses.

Marrying him was the very best thing I ever have done.

The best is yet to be...

Who knew?

It seemed like I used to have a lot more time to blog. I should have more time. But in reality, I've been trying to write and work on my book. One of them, anyway. And, I've been traveling for work. Here's an update for anybody who cares, though my guess is that the continued long absences from blogging have diminished my readers.

Mid-March: The Jazz in the Gardens in Miami was a fun event. Lesson learned: Don't volunteer to ride in the back seat of an F350 pickup for five hours. It's a bumpy ride.

Easter was wonderful, first time with the granddaughters. Spent part of the day on the beach, of course.

This past weekend -- last weekend in March -- headed to Tallahassee for long-awaited launch of the Champmobile.

Well, yours truly, managed to dislocate her shoulder while riding on the CM during a parade. Truck moved, felt myself slipping, grabbed podium, truck moved again (F350's aren't exactly smooth moving vehicles) out popped the joint. Ouch. Big ouch.

For lack of better transportation at the end of the parade, when I finally let people know it happened because being the P.R. person, I sure as heck didn't want the news to report that the parade was stopped because the CM had to have an ambulance meet it enroute. Yep, the ambulance took me to the hospital. Embarassing. Well, I would have been embarassed if I hadn't passed out from the pain when they moved me to the stretcher.

So, now I'm in a sling and trying to regain motion without pain in the shoulder. Not a spring chicken, so apparently, I'm not as resilient as Candace Parker, a basketball star playing for Tennessee that in a recent NCAA final game dislocated her shoulder, not once, but twice, in the course of the game. And, she continued to play. Yep, compared to Candace Parker, I'm a wimp.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Start spreading the news

Gina and Will are married! Had a great, wonderful, exhilirating time with friends this past weekend. It was great to be in the Big Apple (and Jersey where we spent the bulk of our time) again. My favorite pasttime there is still riding the trains and people watching. And the best part of the trip was seeing friends that we communicate with long distance and getting hugs and first-hand contact. Everyone is off and running on their lives -- we all realized that some of us had known one another for almost 20 years, the others for 15.

We talked for a while about the "cog" in the center that's kept us all in touch, and who has, in many instances, been the impetus for us to know each other. It's Gina. Much like my friend, Kevan, is the center of a whole group of people, G is that way in this group. It's usually easy to identify those people too. In OKC, I knew another person like that - S -- she keeps this huge group of people connected. Cogs keep the world turning. We need people like them in our lives. So who are the "cogs" in your wheels of life?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Goodbye to the Frozen Tundra

I'm a football fan, and through the years I've cheered for different teams. I've been a fan of the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and most recently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I've always liked the Raiders because they are the bad boys.
I don't even mention the Dallas Cowboys, because, that's more than being a fan. That's a consistent religion. That has never changed.

The past few years though, I've always cheered for the Green Bay Packers, for one single reason: Brett Favre. Now he's retiring. So, I, also, will be retiring my "fanship" for that team. It was great while it lasted. He'll be missed.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Happy Birthday thoughts

Yesterday was my birthday I was 21 years old (plus 30). Ouch, on the number. But the day was casual and great. Hubby and I spent the morning slowly getting around. Found a great seafood place for lunch and then headed over to the waterfront for the Clearwater Blues Fest. Fabulous.

Then headed over to our son's house, where we had great Italian and a pink and yellow ice cream cake. We watched the Oscars and headed home. Low-key, perfect day.

Got some presents too!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Great column

AARP pushing its 'Divided We Fail' platform
Alex Rose
Midland Reporter-Telegram

AARP is pushing hard for its "Divided We Fail" platform.

The organization is asking members of Congress, as well as all citizens, to take the pledge, which asks our candidates to give us action and accountability on health benefits and lifetime financial security.

The platform states that all Americans need affordable health care. All Americans want an emphasis placed on wellness and prevention efforts and need to have choices when it comes to long-term care. In regards to our finances, it is imperative that Social Security be strengthened, more incentives be made available so workers can save and all Americans need to have tools to manage their finances.

These are all wonderful ideas --ideas that no one will deny are necessary. The question is how and when? AARP believes that our two political parties working against each other will not get the job done. We have to find a way to work together, and we need to start this in our own communities. In order to make our communities livable, we certainly need to be working together.

When I pulled up the 221 members of Congress who had taken the congressional pledge or written a letter of approval supporting the Divided We Fail platform, I was disappointed to see only nine names from Texas and these were names outside of our district. We need to contact our representatives and ask them to support this platform. We want to make sure our candidates give us action, answers and accountability on health and lifetime financial security.

Please write to your congressional representative and ask him to support the Divided We Fail effort by signing the congressional pledge. We need to move our nation forward in a bipartisan fashion to address these urgent needs. They can sign the pledge on

It is also interesting that AARP has come up with a Divided We Fail mascot -- Champ -- part donkey, part elephant (rather clever, I must say)-- who represents the heart of this campaign. It has the philosophy that for too long donkeys and elephants have bickered and quarreled and wallowed in partisan gridlock. Meanwhile, we, the people, have suffered. Health care is a mess and long-term economic security is at risk. It is time to put an end to it. You can get Champ gear if you wish -- T-shirts, hats and cards.

You can visit the AARP Web site ( and find out more information about what the pledge is all about.

© 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

NYC, here I come

Just purchased tickets for our trip to NYC. I'm excited. We haven't been there in four years almost! It's just hubby and I, heading to my friend G's wedding. NOW that I'm very excited about. Typical G-style, she's planned everything perfectly to the last detail, thinking not only of herself but of the experience she's providing for her guests. I can't wait to meet her hubby-to-be. Much deserved happiness and we're absolutely thrilled to be included! Bonus is that it gives us an excuse to go back to NYC and it gives us a chance to see folks we haven't seen since college.

This week, though, much less glam trip. I'm headed to Tallahassee tomorrow. I'll be there for about three days working from our state office. Should be fun to get to know Florida's capital city. I'll post some pics.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just "kid" ding

After visiting his favorite pediatrician, "Dr. Amanda," my daughter told our little grandson that he should have asked her how her baby was doing.
He asked, is she married? My daughter said yes, well then he wanted to know how babies were she told him the stork brought the baby...and he said, "Yeah right, a dork didn't bring the baby!"

My four-year-old granddaughter, K-bear, pointed to two heart-shaped stickers on either side of her shirt. "Look! I have bipples!" After the initial shock, it was hard to keep a straight face.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Primary Week highlights

It's all over but the lawsuits that are sure to come when the winners of yesterday's Florida primary challenge the delegate situation. Clinton's going to want the Democratic delegates. McCain might need that extra 54 GOP delegates that are being withheld. We'll see, the real fun might be yet to come.
One thing for sure, it's already been a fun week. Some highlights:
1. Champ, the Divided We Fail mascot, dancing at the Jan. 28 DWF rally in Broward County with Mitt Romney's grandson, Parker, aka "Mini Mitt". For a two-year-old, the kid has some fancy dance moves. Cute.
2. Standing outside of the Clinton fundraiser in Miami with our signs on Sunday night, and gaining media attention for our campaign.
3. Spending a whole week with campaign co-workers, having a blast and still liking them after the week was out.
4. My son reading a book about how America selects a president to his daughters. The next day, they accompany him to the polls as he votes. He reminds them that he is there to choose the next president. K-Bear peaks into the other room and sees a gray-haired gentleman. She gets excited, "Daddy, I saw the president!" No convincing her otherwise, and she tells the story about seeing the president for the rest of the day.

Gotta love politics.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'd make a lousy traveling salesman

Did you hear the one about the traveling salesman? Yeah, well, probably not since Jack Benny told that joke. Har Har.

I sort of feel like the punchline to that joke this week. I'm T-I-R-E-D. Having loads of fun, but weary of travel. Tomorrow, from our Boca Raton hotel, we're migrating to Miami and some of my most unfortunate colleagues get to go to that bastion of gray wonderment called The Villages in central Florida. So all things considered, I can't complain that I'm going to Miami.

I'm not excited though. Just tired, and miss my granddaughters madly. 3 days and counting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Red shirt brigade

Boca Raton -- The Divided We Fail volunteers and staff are beginning to be a mainstay in South Florida. The familiar red T-shirts with the Divided We Fail logo are popping up everywhere. Did you see them behind "Morning Joe"? Tim Russert noticed and took a pledge card. Red shirts, plus the purple "Champ" elephonkey were spotted on the Today show, at the airport with Huckabee, at the Embassy Suites with Giuliani, in Little Havana, Pensacola, Sarasota...the list goes on.

One lady shouted, "The red shirts are coming! Geez, I feel like Paul Revere."

We're worn out, feel like we're making a dent with some candidates, and more importantly getting the message out. I've given away so many of the Champ buttons I wear I don't even keep count anymore.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Missing the Grid

This is the month that we would be in the throes of rehearsal for a badly written, badly sung, funny and fun show to be involved with in Oklahoma City. Dang, I miss the Gridiron.

GOP candidates are expected to pour into the state after Saturday's South Carolina primary. Still no Democrats. They are sticking to the ban. Hard to believe they would go out of their way to disenfranchise voters -- the DNC. Almost enough to make me change parties, 'cept my family would disown me. I'm going to hate voting for the GOP candidate in the general, but I've decided. If the Dem nominee doesn't come to Florida, I'm voting for the other guy. OK, maybe I am. We'll see.

Go to -- sign the pledge.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Diva's Game

Playing a fun game from a post by Redneck Diva
Go here and the name of the first article is the name of your band

Go here and the last four words of the last quote is the name of your album (that's c.d. for you young ones)

Go here and the third picture is your album cover.

Here's what I got:
Band: Spencer Compton
Album: Love It Into Greatness

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good grief

Do you have electionitis? I think we -- hubby and I -- most certainly do. Any given time of day, pundits are blaring in our house, dissecting the races, the candidates and each other. That gets old, but nothing's more fun than watching the election returns.

During my recent trip to Orlando -- hubby was at a conference while I was working -- we met up with some of my campaign cohorts in the hotel bar to watch the New Hampshire returns. Fairly soon, we had side bets going on who was going to beat whom. Kucinich versus Thompson; Rudy versus Ron Paul; Clinton versus Obama. Fun stuff.

In the end the big winner was the one who took the ever-growing pot of Gravel guesses. A buck bought you a guess on how many votes Gravel would get by the end of the night. If he went over, you were out.

The whole evening was proably a sad commentary on what this election has become: entertainment. Britney who? Paris? Dubyah, who? We're all too busy paying attention to the latest poll, and we won't have learned. Next week we'll be watching the polls just as closely as before they proved to be just plain wrong.

But let's hope we don't all get too involved that we don't notice Bush's new strategy in Iraq, his visit to the Middle East and what Congress is passing while everyone else is too busy being entertained. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely support and love it when people pay attention to the electoral process. Just not at the exclusion of everything else.

That said, who'll lay a buck on Thompson dropping out after South Carolina. I still think Kucinich can take him...