Up in flames

Black plumes of smoke littered the sky and my nostrils filled with the smell of burning. It was not hard to find the fire, but it was a little tougher to get close enough to snap some good photos.

Approximately 10 minutes earlier a colleague contacted me and asked if I was near enough to check out a fire. I was, so off I went to snap some photos of my first fire.

4-5 Ixonia fire 2The reporter in me was driven to find a way to get closer to get those stellar photos and I did. It wasn’t until I had a few good photos and was feeling confident about having something good for the front of the following day’s paper that it dawned on me that I was drawing excitement from someone else’s misfortune.

A garage/shed had burned to the ground taking the lives of five dairy calves inside. The owners also lost a lot of equipment including two four wheelers, a snow blower and a lawnmower. As I gathered this information for what was shaping up to be a “good” story of public interest, shame and reality set in.

I felt shame that my success stemmed from the death of five baby animals and $70,000 of damage to the garage owners. While I felt relief that the home had been spared, acquiring minimal damage to some siding I also felt disappointed in myself for being proud of the photos I had taken.

The fire started less than 20 minutes before I arrived and the entire structure had burned to the ground in that sliver of time. Watching the firefighters sift through the rubble is when the reality settled in. This family lost not only possessions, but animals. In less than 20 minutes.

Fire knows no discrimination. It knows no boundaries. It just burns. DSC_0689

That was the first time I really started to second-guess my profession. It also got me thinking about the important things and what I would hate to lose. At first I thought of my new shoes and my softest sweater, but then I thought of the people that matter most in my life and the memories I have made over the years. Of course, there are a few possessions I would hate to lose, but at the same time I’m happy to know they aren’t what matters most.

As a twenty-something trying to figure out where my next step is, if my lease will mess me up and all the other stress-inducing obstacles that accompany early adulthood it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate.

No, I’m not saying the the things that stress me out are unimportant. I’m just saying others things are more important. Like all the times my mom mailed me letters just because she loves me or the time my roommate knew I was feeling down and staged a civil war between Brisk bottles on the floor of our dorm room just to make me laugh. Or that time a friend woke up extra early on the morning of my birthday to bring me hot chocolate before my 8 a.m. class and those times my sister drove out of her way to pick me up for a get together in the opposite direction because I didn’t have a car. People can be pretty great sometimes. Cherish those memories. Remember what matters.

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No Place Like Home for the Holidays

So as you embark on this new park of your life,it may lead you to areas far from your family and friends. With this, sometimes you can’t always make it home for special occasions; sometimes you live too far, don’t have enough money, or your job just won’t allow it. This can be really hard. And that’s okay.

Let’s be real.  It sucks.  The food isn’t as good, your studio apartment doesn’t smell like cookies, you don’t have all the channels to watch Elf for the THOUSANDTH time… it’s just lonely.  The absolute loneliest.  No matter how many Christmas you hang up and how many bottles of RumChata you chug… it’s just not the same.

It doesn’t have to be the most iconic winter holidays. Nothing hurts more than knowing the fact that your entire extended family of over 50 is tanning on the boat and you are racing wiener dogs.

In the times that you can feel the most down though, the most alone…just remember that we all are going through this or have at one time. Because even if you are lucky enough to make it home for the holiday season, there are still the ones that you love the most that can’t make it home.

With that just know that one day this will be in the past. It may not help hearing that right now; but trust me, it will come. Until then: wine. And lots of it.

I’m kidding.  Get out there and experience all the great things your area has to offer. Ski hills, botanical gardens, and ice rinks: every place has it. Get out there and chase away your holiday blues; because face it…those people that you aren’t able to be with, they are still going to love you, and miss you just as much as you miss them.  Also, it’s two days and then everyone returns back to the office hungover and wayyyyyy fatter…

Also remember: wine.

Happy Holiday Folks!

It’s all about perspective

Just over a week into my first big girl job I found myself chasing a street sweeper in low heels and a dress. I was on the brink of sweating from the extra excursion caused by the nice clothes in combination with the hot July sun. My illusions about the glamour of the job shattered with each loud clap of my heels against the pavement.

I took a reporting job just over a week before this race took place. Freed from the restraints of simple press releases this was my first real story and it was not going according to plan. It sounded simple. My editor wanted me to write a piece on what street sweepers actually do since there are a lot of misconceptions about the topic. I set up a meeting with the Street Superintendent as soon and I could and planned to have the story done the day after my interview.

I walked into the Street Department office with our photographer, pen and recorder in hand, ready for my first interview as a real journalist. That’s when the wild goose chase started. The Superintendent radioed the man in the street sweeper and gave us the names of a few streets the sweeper was near and off we went. Since I was new to the area I had to program the streets into my slow-thinking Garmin GPS and it took us awhile to track down our target.

When we finally located him we parked our cars, I grabbed my notebook and we started after him. Judging by the speed he was traveling when we drove passed, I was shocked by how much ground we had to make up just from parking our cars. After wildly waving our arms to no avail, the chase began.

Woman With High Heels On The Running Track - Concept

We caught him three streets later and the photographer hopped up inside for pictures. I walked awkwardly behind the machine not really sure if they would come back for me or if I should follow. The photographer finished and left and I finally conducted the interview, pretending I wasn’t frazzled and mildly sweaty. Relieved when the interview concluded, I turned to go back to my car only to be informed this man was not the normal street sweeper.

A week later the story finally ran. I tracked down the home phone number of the regular sweeper and asked him a few questions before sending the story through. Seeing my name in the paper was far less exciting than I had imagined after the debacle was over.

Looking back I can laugh at the incident and I think it was a good learning experience for me as new reporter. But if you would have asked me about it the day after the chase I probably would not have even cracked a smile. It’s all about perspective.