When will Christmas get here?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Getting Seasonal.”

Christmas is one of those holidays that has a day on the calendar, and in the retail world it is months long, but it doesn’t really arrive until your heart is ready for it.  I’m feeling weary of it this year, despite the fact my kids will be home.  Perhaps this is the same for most families with teens.  I’d love to share quiet moments together, bake together, go to church, talk, listen to Christmas carols and relax.  That seems to be far from what the kids want though.  They have friends and dances and boyfriends and iThis and iThat to watch, phones that interrupt, and they can’t seem to sit still.  Does it have to seem like a punishment to spend time together at the holidays?  Do they even know how?

This sounds like a gripe session.  I suppose it is in a sense.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had a normal Christmas-divorce does that to families.  Visitations make the holiday seem more like a burden than a joy in many ways, but we do our best to make it enjoyable.  Living far from our extended family also leaves me feeling melancholy about the holidays.

Someday, I’m going to settle down and really observe Advent, complete a Bible study, make all my gifts by hand for only a select few, and I’m going to watch all those Christmas movies, listen to carols while I bake, and if my kids or friends or husband decide to join in, that will be fine.  But no football, no Kardashians, and no cell phones will be allowed.

Finding news

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In Due Time.”

Every day, there is another new deadline.  Writing for a community newspaper in a rural area often means seeking out the news, because unlike a large metropolitan area, there isn’t always something right in front of your face happening.  Sometime today, I need to find a story, and it feels like I’m spinning my wheels.  It’s cold and snow is on the ground, melting away.  People in the community are busy with holiday preparations, including all of our news makers,  which means they are clearing off their desks, and setting aside important business until after the new year.  Am I excited about today’s deadline?  No.  I don’t dread it either.  Instead, I feel like I better get away from my desk or I will die of boredom and miss the deadline and need to make excuses, and that’s not going to help anyone.  There is a sense of duty.  Duty to the profession, to the community, to my boss and to myself.  That’s how it is sometimes.  I used to think every day would be wonderful as a reporter, but like most professions, when you get into it, you realize that even though you love it, there are those times when you really would rather just go home, curl up on the sofa and watch old movies and take a nap with the dog.  Deadlines, in effect, keep you from doing that.  You know you have to get something on the page before you leave, so you go find something.  And that’s how it works.



What a sweet letter to coffee. To my own coffee, I would add that someday, I too hope to wean myself from the liberal doses of cosmetics I apply to you, and come to appreciate your true inner beauty too.

Originally posted on Venturing East:


Dear Coffee,

Make yourself comfortable at the dining room table. Take a seat. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble, so relax your steaming breath. I have so much to tell you.

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Kansas waves goodbye to teacher tenure

Kansas waves goodbye to teacher tenure

Yesterday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law HB 2506, a bill that meets the mandates set down by the Kansas Supreme Court in March with their ruling on the Ganon v. State of Kansas decision.  However, it wasn’t a clean and clear cut bill.   The bill also took due process away from K-12 public school teachers in a tricky way–they were simply removed from the definition of teacher.  They were the victims of strikeout.  Literally crossed out of the previous definition.

On the day he signed the bill, the press release from the Governor’s office led with this statement: “Governor Sam Brownback today will sign HB 2506 to fund education, fully address the equity issues identified in the Gannon court decision, return local control to communities and school districts, provide bonuses to our best teachers and invest in higher education.”

It’s important to remember that “best teachers” no longer include the vast majority of educators in this state, by definition. 

Sadly, as I recall from my not so long ago days as a non-traditional student at a Kansas community college, there are many educators out there that choose to teach in higher education because they are not held to the same rigorous standards and are not put under the same scrutiny as those people who choose to educate our children.  That ‘s not to say I didn’t have a few great professors–I certainly did.   But to disenfranchise the people who teach my children from the profession they’ve chosen, some of whom who have devoted several years to because they couldn’t imagine doing anything else, is literally a crying shame.  It’s so wrong.  And it has nothing to do with education finance.  Nothing at all.


Seven beers

Next day, I have a busy day planned.  I’m planning to spend the night in Manhattan, Kansas.  There’s a water conference being held there, and then I’m attending the Kansas Press Association Conference banquet that night.  Bruce, my husband, will meet me there and stay with me.  As I pack my overnight bag, I decide to bring one of the beers with me to share with him.  I grab a towel to wrap it in, and I pack my clothes around it.  It will be safe.  I don’t even think about how to keep it cold.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted.  So much driving.  So much thinking.  The first press Media briefing I’ve ever attended, and there were some great newsmen there, people I read frequently from bigger papers than mine–Kansas City Star, Lawrence Journal World, Wichita Eagle, Salina Journal and the Associated Press.  Being in the same room with them, observing what they do, the questions they ask, and how they work was a great experience.  I can’t help feeling both in awe and a bit like a fraud–I mean, they have so much more experience than I do.  But they were in my shoes a long time ago, and I push forward, even ask a decent question or two of my own.

The banquet was good.  I talked to a guy there who is younger than me, and bought his own paper and is acquiring a few others.  He’s a bit loud, but he’s fun to talk to.  And, I got received some insight into what it’s like to work on the other side of the desk.

Bruce joined me after the banquet at the hotel lobby bar, but we didn’t stick around long.  I really needed some sleep.  We got back to the room, and I forgot about the beer, and I had a wonderful, blissful night of sleep.  And in the morning, as I woke, I thought I need to get up, get the laptop out, and write.  Dress, kiss and goodbye, see you at home Bruce, and I make my way to the other hotel where the conference is, and check in, a little early, and sit on a lobby chair and write Eight Beers, which you’ve probably read.

While I’m there, I see my old editor with the new crop of young reporters.  She’s actually there at an event–something she never did while I was at the Telescope.  I say hi to a few old faces, and during the break between speakers and the award luncheon, I decide to leave.  She never came because her son was in high school and she didn’t have time to take away from raising him and attending his stuff, and I realize–I don’t either.  And we’re not getting any awards either.

It’s prom day.  i’ve spent three weeks making a dress for my daughter.  and I need to get home and be there for all of it.  Leaving before lunch, I make it to help with last minute dress adjustments, photos, and the walk-in.  While we’re there, we talk to some friends who invite us over to have a few beers.

I didn’t bring any of Mark’s beer.  I couldn’t drink it in that setting.  For me, his beer isn’t for drinking socially.  So, it’s back in the fridge, waiting for me.  I’m going to go drink it now, on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Tomorrow, I’m making THE POST.  I’ll tell you about it more later.  It came to me in the morning.  It will (hopefully) be good.

Eight beers

Next day. I head to work, resolved that I’m going to put the discovery of the movie flier behind me. And I make it through a pretty large portion of the day immersed in discovery, research, emails and setting interviews. I’ve been covering Education for five years now. Wow. That’s something. I’ve finally reached the ranks of those with “five years experience.”
Even still, there is a lot to learn and understand. Things are always changing, but there are those essentials that haven’t changed. Schools are still trying to provide the best education they can for the least amount of money, and no one can agree what that best education should be.
Around three o’clock, I started getting that feeling that a nice nap would be in order. But I live in Kansas. When the rest of the country determines that a mid-afternoon nap is a way of efficiently getting the highest quality production out of labor possible, then Kansas may adopt the practice. In the mean time, I’ll rely on coffee. I grabbed a cup of coffee, and decided to check the social media register to see what’s happening in my area and around the world–see if there is anything that requires greater scrutiny. Often, you hear what’s happening in the local school system first that way. But at the top of my facebook page, there is a post from my mother. She has posted on another facebook page, a group page created for a family from St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The family is entering the tragic tunnel we entered seven months ago. A father and his son, a senior in high school, went missing over a week ago in the Echo Lake area near Idaho Springs, Colorado, and the Search and Rescue team has called off the search. There is a critical time, when a rescue becomes a recovery, where a family begins to have to face the reality that the vibrant, wonderful people they love are now gone, victims of some unknown circumstances, and they have to begin the agonizing wait for their loved ones to be “happened upon.”
It’s truly awful. There are those that pray you’ll find closure. And there are times when you think you’ve received some semblance of closure, because you’ve never really experienced this sort of thing, and you don’t really know what closure is for you. What will be the closure. Do you need a body to finally have it? And what if that body is never found? The thoughts that pass through your mind for the days, weeks, and God forbid, months after range from the truly morbid to the hopeful and sometimes even religiously mystical. It’s just what happens.
I clicked on the link to the story–Denver news station–tragic story. And I read the numerous comments left on my mother’s post, and I scroll back through the multitude of prayers and wishes and support to the family, and I can barely keep the tears from rolling down my face as I do. I’m at my desk, at work, and I should be working on something else. And then, my daughter walks in. She’s there to talk to my boss about watching his dogs this weekend. She sees my face. She’s now more interested in what I’m looking at on my computer screen, but I swallow hard, and tell her it’s nothing, and I put on my “everything is normal, there’s nothing wrong,” mask, and I rush her into his office, and I push aside the feelings again. And I keep them away for the rest of the afternoon. I’m able to once again focus, for a short time, telling myself that there are other people out there experiencing probably even more pain than I am, that things could be much worse, and that I have to pull myself out of the past and live in the moment.
That night, after I’m done running around, tying up the loose ends on my daughter’s prom preparations, I sit down to the computer again. It’s national siblings day, the posts on Facebook claim. There are photos of siblings together, posted by many of my friends. I don’t recall if I have a good photo of me with both of my brothers, but then I remember the best memory of all, and it’s recent. They were both with me, walking me down the aisle at my wedding two years ago. I post that photo.
I grab another of my brother’s beers. Number eight. And I sit down on my sofa, and I lose myself in an episode of Criminal Minds, closing my eyes when I sip the beer, marveling in how it is alive, and how it is the last living thing left of my brother, and soon they’ll be gone, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Nothing, not brothers, not beer, lives forever. And we need to savor it.