Friday, December 7, 2007

Week of difficulties

Snow fell quickly minutes before the Christmas parade began Saturday afternoon. Penny Wirtz, left, watched the sky warily as yak names Zak and Megan Shea waited for the parade to begin. Their float was a live Nativity scene for the White Stone Community Church in the town of Summit.

This week has been a very difficult one for me from a reporting standpoint. I had to do three stories that turned out to be the most difficult in my journalism career thus far.

first story
On Saturday, Dec. 1, I covered the Oconomowoc Christmas parade. The snow began to fall that morning and it was bad. The wind was blowing it sideways and it was coming down very quickly. As I looked out my window and saw few cars on the road, I thought the parade would be cancelled for sure. As I drove into town, there were people lining up to be in the parade, as well as, people standing along the parade route. I found a parking spot, got out of my car and began to interview people.

The reason this story was so difficult to do was for purely technical reasons. My paper kept getting wet and my pen kept freezing. I had to try so hard in order to write anything and what was written was barely legible.

Another aspect that made the story difficult to do was the snow and sleet that landed on my camera and in my camera bag. Trying to keep myself, my paper and my camera dry were very difficult tasks.

Although, I froze and was wet by the end of the parade, I had a lot of fun. It will definitely be a story that I will never forget.

second story
There were two other stories this past week that proved especially difficult for me, but for different reasons that those for the parade

On Sunday, Dec. 2, three high school senior boys were killed in a car accident on their way back from Wisconsin Dells. Although we learned about the accident on Sunday night, the staff at the Freeman wasn't able to much of anything until Monday.

As soon as I got in on Monday, I was told that I would have to go to the high school in Mukwonago where the boys attended and try to talk to family and friends. I bypassed the school, instead going to the h families' homes.

At the first home, I was allowed to come in. As I looked around, I saw little kids laughing and running around not understanding what was going on. The kitchen island was covered with bowls of food. In the living room, stood many family and friends crying and hugging. The story became very real for me. Not surprisingly, the family was unable and unwilling to talk to me, so I left my business card.

The second address I had turned out to be incorrect and the third family I reached by phone, but was also too upset to talk. The father, in fact, could barely eek out any words as he was so choked up when he answered the phone.

I returned to the office with no information, but managed to piece together a story through interviews with coaches and talking to three friends who knew all three deceased boys well.
There were more complications than that during the day, but in the end all that mattered was that I was able to get a really good story put together that covered nearly all the important points.

I was so relieved to be done with that story at the end of the day. It was emotionally and physically exhausting.

third story

I was concerned when I learned that I would have to attend one of the boy's funerals.

First, I had to borrow some clothes from a co-worker because I was wearing hot pink.

I arrived later at the church than I had wanted to because of getting lost in rural Mukwonago. As I entered the church, all I heard were sobs. Both high school boys, girls and adults were hugging, their faces red and tear-stained. The sobbing made me even more aware of the sobs that broke through it.

I was one of the last people to get into the long line into the sanctuary. I had to walk past four tables loaded with untouched sweets and past five boards with photos of the deceased boy. The photos showed him at all ages and doing the things we all love to do like dressing up for Halloween, spending time at Grandpa's and sitting on Santa's lap. I started to feel really emotional standing there absorbing the sadness around me.

I had to stand for the service, but once it began and I discreetly took notes, I felt better. I had something else to focus on. A teacher and an uncle spoke about Derek and his wonderful personality.

I know that after someone dies, the people who knew him always says what a wonderful person he was. These were truly wonderful young men who loved their family and friends and who gave so much to their school. I didn't expect to be so deeply moved by what I heard or what I saw this week.

This week definitely made me tougher and stronger as a journalist, yet, I still felt pain and sorrow. I hope that my stories were able to help readers feel connected and to remember how important our lives are.

"Today is always here. Tomorrow, never."
--Toni Morrison (Beloved)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Fire

I headed out at a little after 8 p.m. tonight to a house fire in the Town of Waukesha. As soon as the dispatch center started to send out fire engines, I knew it was serious. Back-up was being called and I could hear sirens screaming on the police scanner. At that point, I wrote down the address and headed out with my camera, a pad of paper, a pen and my gloves.

On my way to the fire, I realized I was going the wrong way when a fire truck sped the opposite way. I quickly made a U-turn and followed as fast as I could. We were joined by even more emergency vehicles.

When I did get to the scene of the fire, the neighboring streets were lined with emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. It looked the brightest and most amazing Christmas display.

I walked a couple of blocks to wear the house was with the fire. Before I could see flames, I could see smoke billowing into the air. There really weren't many flames visible, but it was clear that a fire burned deeply within.

Needing to take pictures in the dark, I felt relief when I found a tree to prop myself up against to stable myself. After getting a few decent shots, I walked around and began to talk to the neighbors that were huddled on their lawns watching the fire. Quite a few people walked to the scene. Many young children played on lawns while their parents stood wrapped in blankets.

I was directed to the family of the home on fire. They were an Asian family and many didn't speak any English. I did talk to one woman whose husband's aunt owned the building. She said that no one had been hurt and that she thought no one was home during the fire. Apparently, many people lived in the building.

I felt a bit rude taking pictures of the family as they gathered in the street in front of the home. Some of the members began arguing in a different language. I can only imagine what they might have been saying.

I think that the fire had to been fueled partly by the strong winds that blew. It was so cold out there, too. I felt like I had frostbite on my fingertips as I struggled to take pictures and to write what people told me in the dark.

I am thankful that no one was injured, but how awful for a family to lose their home on such a cold night so shortly before the holidays.

For more on this story, see The Freeman's Thursday paper at

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My Thanksgiving

I am always saying that the happiest times of my life have been the unexpected moments that light up your day and your spirit. I had a really nice afternoon on Thanksgiving with my parents, my grandma, Aunt Linda and Aunt Ellen. We had a delicious meal that filled us all up and made our stomachs and minds very happy. After lunch, we watched the Packer game and talked.

It was all so nice, but unfortunately I had to leave for work. I was not looking forward to going to work as I just wanted to stay home and relax. However, as the second shift worker, I had to go.

My assignment, which I had suggested, was a fun one, though. I was to go to Fire Station No. 1 in Waukesha and spend time with the firefighters as they made a Thanksgiving dinner even as they were on duty.

As I walked into the station, my nose filled with the scent of turkey. The seven firemen and one firewoman were busy in the state-of-the-art kitchen getting a traditional dinner prepared. Everyone was in high spirits as they joked around and laughed. I took pictures and did interviews as all the preparations were being done. I didn't intend to eat since I was working and still rather full from lunch, but the fire fighters kept insisting. I gave in and ate some very delicious food. They even gave me some pie to go.

It's hard to explain why the assignment was so enjoyable for me. I think it was because how caring and polite these fire fighters were and how they welcomed me into their Thanksgiving dinner so readily. They had already gone out on nine calls in nine hours, but their spirits were so high. They described themselves as family and they really treated each other like relatives. For an hour I felt like a close family friend.

This is why I love journalism when I can do stories like this and really get a good glimps into the lives of other people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving around a ping-pong table

This was always one of my favorite holiday shows with the colorful Thanksgiving food and the antics of Snoopy and Woodstock. There is always something so pure and earnest about Charlie Brown and his friends. Enjoy and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Simple moments = happy times

It is amazing how the simple things in life can mean so much to a person and bring them the purest of joys. This past week has been really stressful and busy, but during the times of great stress I have also discovered great moments of joy. There are the on-going joys like the support and love of my family and friends. Then there are the little joys that occur unexpectantly and last only briefly, but bring you the purest of joys that help to carry you through the day.

I have had several such joys over the past week and a couple of them had one thing in common: they were because of South Koreans.

I had my second tutoring session on Wednesday with my South Korean pupil. I am going to help her with her English writing and all around English skills. I am volunteering with the Literacy Council of Waukesha County and they matched me with Sujeong. She is new to the USA, but is married to an American man that she met in Seoul. Spending time with her brings so much happiness to my life. Her caring nature, eagerness and generosity in turn make me feel wonderful. On Wednesday, she made me chamchi kimbap and it was so delicious. Her friend, Yoon, also came for lunch. It was such an enjoyable lunch for me to be able to talk about Seoul with these two very kind people. Just thinking about it now makes me feel so happy.

The other little joy that occurred this week because of a South Korean friend just happened a few minutes ago. A former student of mine, Gyoung Dong just wrote me an e-mail telling me of his recent recognition for his poetry. He also sent me photos of his family. It is a great honor to be told of his literary success. He also shared some very kind words with me.

These simple human elements of our lives are really the best. They have extra meaning for me when I feel overwhelmed by stress. I do find the most joy in my life from human relationships and my relationship with nature.

The past two years has taught me something so important. And that is how wonderful Korean people are. I think that they have to be the most caring and generous of any nationality I have ever met. Their culture and approach to life is very different from Americans' in many ways, but there are many similarities too. The aspect that I like the most is how they welcome people into their lives so openly and will give of themselves so readily.

I feel so blessed tonight because of all my friends, who are from so many backgrounds and live in so many places, and for the unconditional love and support from them and my wonderful family.

Thank you all who have been there for me recently during my week of stress.

"Patience and perserverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
--John Quincy Adams

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Glorious Birds

It's that time of year again when I keep the feeder full and watch the beautiful birds come to feast. I have a mixture of corn, sunflower seeds and millet out for them along with a suet and it's really bringing the birds in lately. Yesterday, I had chicadees, juncos, cardinals, blue jays, a nuthatch, a downy and a hairy woodpecker. Not to mention chipmunks and squirrels.

There are few things in this world that bring me as much pleasure as my bird feeder does. There is something about the cheerfulness that birds seem to approach life that lifts my spirit. Both wild and domestic birds seem to be such optimistic, content animals that I can't help but feel the affect of their attitude on my own attitude.

I am hoping to take more pictures of the birds from the screen porch. I took these of the chicadees as I stood a few feet away with my 70-300 mm lens on my camera. The lighting was decent and the chicadees were calm enough to let me get quite close. When they would hear my shutter close, they would fly back to the bush, but would quickly return. The second photo below was a fluke, but I really like how it turned out. I only wish the whole bird would have been captured.

"One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats."
--Iris Murdoch

Monday, November 5, 2007

A weekend of fundraisers and silent auctions

There was definitely a common theme to my birthday weekend: fundraising. Most people would probably think it's strange that I would decide to spend my birthday going to fundraisers instead of spending the day seeking funds for myself. But, I've always done my own thing.

Actually, it is a tradition for my mother, my grandmother and I to go to the annual holiday church bazaars in Oconomowoc. About 10 different churches and organizations participate in this event. I have always loved going to them and seeing the crafts, eating the cookies and having a special lunch with Mom and Grandma. Unfortunately, this year was a bit disappointing because a couple of the churches did not have their bazaars. This didn't come as too big of a surprise because it is often the older women in the congregation who make and sell the items. I have been speculating the past couple of years that our tradition would be coming to an end soon. Even so, we still had a really good time on Saturday and I got to eat fudge, cake and pie. Yum.

Saturday night was another fundraiser that I also attended by choice. Kait and I went to the Avalon Therapeutic Equestrian Center (Avalon TEC) for its annual barn dance. I had written a story about the center for the Oconomowoc Enterprise and the owner said I could come for free because it was my birthday. The event included over 100 silent auctions, food, Irish music and alcoholic beverages. It was a good time, but much mellower than I had hoped it would be. No one danced and the music was the pub floor pounding variety. And, as I feared, Kait and I were some of the youngest people there. But, we still had a good time and the money went to a really good cause that I was proud to support.

On Sunday I had to attend the Waukesha Education Foundation's third annual Celebration of Excellence fundraiser for the Waukesha Freeman. The event was huge with over 900 people present, over 150 silent auction items, lots of food and interactive displays. It was great to see so many people come out to support education and to see so many student volunteers helping to serve food and sell raffle tickets among other duties.

There seems to be so many opportunities lately to attend fundraisers and to help causes. There are a couple of problems that arise for me with that, including the fact that I most often can't afford to go to these dinners and which ones do I support if I could. Every day lately I get about three to four charity mailings asking for money for their causes. I mostly support three: St. Joseph's Indian School, The Nature Conservancy and UNICEF. I have received a mailing about Women for Women that I might consider investing in later.

Yellow leaves at Nature Hill on Sunday.

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."
--A.J. Muste

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Armed Robberies, sex offenders and budgets: work at the Freeman

The last couple of weeks have had a recurring theme for me at work. I have been covering mostly hard news and late-breaking news. The story that was the most fun for me was covering the armed robbery at Wendy's. Most people are surprised when I tell that that covering an armed robbery is fun, but it was for me.

I got there shortly after the call went out over the police scanner that a couple of employees at Wendy's was robbed by gunpoint by a man who was wearing a mask and who fled on foot into a subdivision. I pulled up to Wendy's (a location I eat at often) and parked my car. I grabbed my camera bag with my new flash and walked over to the congregating police officers. There must have been about eight squad cars there.

The police were very helpful and polite. They told me what they knew and then I just waited around as they prepared a search team with a dog. Meanwhile an officer started to rope off the entrance to the restaurant parking lot. But, then she kept going until my car was behind the yellow caution tape.

My editor didn't believe me at first when I told him my car was cordoned off. I couldn't believe it either. I had parked next to the suspected get-a-way vehicle. What luck!

Well, the police were really easy going about it and lifted the tape so I could drive under it. They were also nice enough to let me stand close enough to them that I could eavesdrop on most of what they were saying.

What surprised me while I stood there was how many cars attempted to get into the Wendy's parking lot. One car started to drive through the yellow tape and tore it down. About a half dozen other cars drove in through the exit in order to swing around into the drive-thru window, which was closed.

I learned a lot that night.
1) Being small, young and female helped me out because the police and most others don't see me as intimidating or a threat.

2) People will go through a lot of trouble to try and get a Jr. bacon cheeseburger and some chicken nuggets.

I also got sent out after we heard a call in the office about an armed robber who held up a Carroll College student not too far from campus.

I also wrote about sex offender registry ordinances (the big topic of discussion at city and village meetings in the area) and budgets for these same places. I don't think I have ever disliked writing about anything as much as I disliked writing about budgets. It involves a lot of number crunching and tedious reading.

My favorite story of the week was about Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. I learned a lot about this holiday that is celebrated today and tomorrow primarily by Mexicans. I love stories that make me learn while I write about them and that also allow me to talk to real people.

"What you deny to others will be denied to you, for the plain reason that you are always legislating for yourself, all your words and actions define the world you want to live in."
--Thaddeus Golas
from The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gravestone photos

Headstones in City of Pewaukee cemetery

These photos are for the Lake Country Edition of the Waukesha Freeman for our special on cemeteries in the area. Call me morbid, but I have always enjoyed going to cemeteries and looking at the old, crumbling gravestones and the names and dates written on them. You can really lose track in cemeteries, as I did yesterday, when the sky is overcast and there is a drizzle in the air.
"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."
--Mark Twain

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pearls Before Swine

Pearls Before Swine is one of my favorite comic strips. It is consistently humorous and I love the cast of animal characters that bring the strip to life. My favorite is the ever optimistic and naive Pig who loves everyone, even those who are mean to him, and always sees the best in all situations.

Tuesday's comic strip really made an impression on me. Maybe because it's about hamsters. Or maybe it's because of the language Orville uses. Whatever the reason, I cut it out and put it on my computer monitor at work today.

Blogger is not allowing me to upload Tuesday's comic strip, so here is the link for you to check out. I hope that you get a kick out of it too.


"In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day."
--F.Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, October 15, 2007

Early experiences at the Freeman

It's 12:45 am and I can't sleep. Not really surprising when you consider how my evening went. I was assigned to go to the City of Pewaukee's common council meeting tonight. There were a few items of note on the agenda and the council chambers were packed. But the audience and four TV news crews weren't there to find out the new trick or treating hours; they were there to find out if Tonya, of Hartland, would get her escort license. Pewaukee has an ordinance requiring people to have an escort license in order to offer such services in the city. This was the first time anyone had applied for such a license since it was created in 2006.

The room was packed and there were four TV crews flanking the seating. I knew that I would end up in some one's shot. The whole evening turned out to be pretty undramatic when the city attorney said that a license could not be issued if a criminal charge was pending, and there is one in the case of Miss Tonya. She was caught by an undercover police officer who allegedly gave her money in exchange for sexual favors. She was also fined for practicing escort services in a Pewaukee hotel.

With almost no discussion, the council voted unanimously to deny the license to Tonya. She looked so upset as she left the city hall with about 6 reporters and 4 cameras following her out the door. She said to call her lawyer and that she felt like she was treated unfairly. Who could blame the woman? Afterall, she had to pay a $250 application fee for a license she didn't have a chance at. I can't really blame the council members for wanting to keep prostitution out of Pewaukee.

When I got back to the office at 9:45, I had two stories and a brief to write by 11. I went a little later than that, but managed to get it all done. I am still a little wound up from the adrenaline rush of the escort story and then facing such a tight deadline with a lot to do.

So far, I really like the Freeman. I knew that I would be really busy as the night/general assignments reporter, but I hadn't imagined that it would be this busy.

I started the job a little more than three weeks ago, but missed last week because I was diagnosed with mono. It was difficult not to come in for five days, but it has been a bit hard going back too. I am still sicker than I'd like to admit, which I realized this afternoon. So, it was nice to have the earlier part of my day a bit slower than normal, but my evening more than made up for that.

Actually, my favorite part of the job is the adrenaline rushes and keeping so busy. I am almost always happier at work when I am busy versus when things are slow. And, it looks like I won't be having too many slow days at the Freeman.

I also really like my co-workers. They are a great group of people to work with. I have four bosses, but they are all easy-going and very helpful. I feel like I have really lucked out three times now with my co-workers. The first was my fellow teachers at BCM in Seoul, then the great staff at the Enterprise and now the Freeman.

I wonder what the future at the Freeman will bring?

"If you don't know what to do, call the media and at least give the appearance of doing something."
-Dave Peterson

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Silhouettes of grape vines against the sky
"Til I loved, I never lived."
-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Remnants of past use

"First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Photos from my day

"Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music-the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself."
--Henry Miller

Friday, October 5, 2007


These grapes are still clinging to the vines in my backyard. So far, my dad has made a couple dozen jars of jelly with them and the wasps and cedar waxwings are enjoying eating them. They were so pretty today with the morning sunshine on them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hershey the Duck and me

I just had to share this photo of Hershey and me. I went to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) field day for fourth graders in Oconomowoc to take photos for the paper. One of the demonstrators must have caught me checking out the birds from a distance because he called me over and asked if I wanted to hold a duck. Hershey was so sweet, gentle and calm. It was therapeutic to hold him. I don't think that I have felt that good as when I was holding him in weeks. I really wanted to kidnap him and keep him as my own.

"The heart that loves is always young."

--Greek Proverb

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chinese Monks

These are three photos I took last month when I went to Chicago's Chinatown. It was the annual Buddhist fire ceremony. It was a very moving ceremony that was full of color, chants and ornate decorations.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Early signs of autumn

Here are some pictures that I took tonight, September 21. The first two were taken across the street near Crystal Lake and the last one was taken in my backyard of a bird of prey.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Waterfowl photos

A great blue heron stands in a pond at the future home of Arrowood subdivision off of Highway BB in Oconomowoc.



A few dozen ducks cross Lapham St. to get to a birdfeeder in someone's yard. The ducks cross a pond in Longmeadow subdivision to get to an older house.

Photos copyrighted by Enterprise Photos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Community shows pride, patriotism

Photos copywrited by the Waukesha Freeman

Andy Maye reaches for the Marine Corps flag his grandmother, Carol Behrendt, of Waukesha (not pictured), holds Sunday during a tribute concert by the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band. His sister, Emily Maye, stands next to him. Both of Andy Maye's parents are Marines. The concert was held in North Prairie as part of the Harvest Fesitval.

Jeanette Horn, left, and Joelle Horn, both of Waukesha, dance and cheer

as the U.S. Marine Corps Center Band marches past them during Sunday's parade in North Prairie. Joelle Horn, a relative of band member Emma Whitmore, said she is very proud of her.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Excerpts from "Love Warps the Mind a Little"

Love Warps the Mind a Little is one of those novels that completely takes you in and holds you prisoner as its stories unfolds. It's one of those books that you're anxious to finish just so you can start to read it again.

From the chapter: A Many-Layered, Infolded Mystery

Love at first sight is irresistible and inexplicable. I want to say it's transmundane, but transmandane seems haughty, and love at first sight is not that. It arrives without warning and is earned without effort, leaving us startled and grateful. It is neither reasonable nor calculated. It is like ecstasy, like rapture, like standing outside yourself. It is apprehension not thought, gesture not word. Love at first sight elevates romance above the level of accident-the accident of geography or economics or occupation. It is, we may decide, destiny. Love at first sight is sudden, ineffable, profoundly emotional, and absolutely transfiguring. It's what we live for. It's the obliterating focus on the beloved and the eloquent shortness of breath. It is a stroke of lightning, as the French say, a blast of passion.

Love is anticipation and memory, uncertainty and longing. It's unreasonable, of course. Nothing begins with so much excitement and hope and pleasure as love, except maybe writing a story. And nothing fails as often, except writing stories. And like a story, love must be troubled to be interesting. We crave love, can't live without its intimacy, though it pains us. Judi told me that every person in therapy has a love disorder: never felt love, can't find love, trapped by love, unraveled by love, thinks love is lust or love is loss, fears love, loves too much, uses love for profit, jealous in love, lost in love, love affairs, unrequited love, love sick, doesn't love Mom, won't love Dad, can't love the kids, can't love the self, hopeless love, self-absorbed love, love as a crutch, love as a truncheon, love in ruins, crazy love, love that eats the heart, careless love, drowning in love, love that dares not speak its name, blind love, consuming love, obsessive love, conditional love, dangerous love, first love, last love, fickle love, love and marriage, love lost, secret love, love on the run, love that hates, dutiful love, borrowed love, thief of love, love in embers, love in vain, love in shackles, love maligned, love that warps the mind a little.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Emoticons: adding to or detracting from English language?

There are been a few of areas of modern English language that I have been hesitant or even completely resistant to using myself. They are:

1) what I like to call ghetto slang; i.e. crunk up, grills, bling, etc.

2) abbreviations used for instant messaging and texting; i.e. BRB, LOL, TTYL

3) emoticons; i.e. :) :( :P ,etc

I am starting to see the value in the second two of these modern movements within the English language. I started to use number two as I began to message my friend Val last year. We would talk for an hour or so on Yahoo! messenger. In order to better multi-task and even to conform to the new use of English, I became more flexible with my use of abbreviations. That’s not to say I now use poor grammar. Most of the time, I will still attempt to write out words and to use complete sentences. There has to be some rules and structure even in the world of smiley faces and avatars.

It has only been this summer that I have finally succumbed to the world of the emoticon. Why so much hesitation? To me, it always seemed so cutesy and high school girl-ish, so I resisted. My opinion of emoticons began to change as I saw more adults starting to use the symbols to express how they felt. My boyfriend told me that he uses them instead of exclamation marks to express himself more clearly and because exclamation marks are used even when people’s voices wouldn’t rise in pitch and volume. I’ll admit I tend to use exclamation marks too liberally.

Despite all the modernization of the English language, I still like to follow many of the traditional uses and rules. i understand that languages must adapt and change. Languages always change with time, thus, we are not still saying ’thy’ and ’thou.’ I have begun to view emoticons and IM abbrevs. as ways to show creativity and as another way for people to express themselves. In a world where we move so quickly, it’s good that we still find time to get creative and to make our feelings known. That said, you won’t hear me say “Hey, man, you got some coin on those fries?”
Source: The New York Times
A great article in the New York Times about emoticons and their use in modern English
Quote: I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it...We do not write to be understood; we write in order to understand.
--C. Day Lewis, The Poetic Image

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Waiting Game

It's Monday and I am feeling the pressure of my weekly deadline, which is at 5 p.m. Tuesday. I have six stories and two photo package assignments i am working on this week. The problem is I only have one of them completed and two near completion. i have placed so many calls and am waiting for return calls. Interviews have been scheduled for tomorrow. Now I am just playing the waiting game for my final needed bits of information to slowly make their way to my notepad. It's going to be a frantic race to the finish line after that.

This is the part of my job that really frustrates me: the days where I have so much on my plate so I can't take anything else on, yet I feel like i am accomplishing nothing. This morning was mostly productive, but this afternoon is dragging by.

I worry that I am heading towards burnout at work. I feel so much pressure at work as I am still the only reporter and pretty much the only producer of news copy. With this week's stories getting written at such a slow pace, I feel extra burdened. I worry about there not being enough copy to fill the newspaper pages. I just can't do much else that I'm not already doing to speed up the process.

A little guiltily, I am here writing in copyworks to later post on my blog. One more hour...then I can go unwind in Waukesha by taking pictures of birds, insects and flowers at the Retzer Nature Center. The time can't go fast enough. My fear is always, though, that the Freeman will call me and I will have to ignore my stories in order to cover breaking news. I love covering breaking news. The adrenaline rush is fabulous. The only problem is then I am not working on my required news stories.

I am just counting down the days until my three-day weekend at the end of the month!

“If something anticipated arrives too late it finds us numb, wrung out from waiting, and we feel nothing at all. The best things arrive on time.”
--Dorothy Gilman, A New Kind of Country, 1978

Friday, August 10, 2007

Abstract Views of Playgrounds

These are pictures that I took around Oconomowoc on the night of the 9th. I had so much fun climbing all over playground equipment in parks and at schools to get these pictures. Some of them could probably stand a little photoshop work, but when it comes to photography, I like to shoot to keep. I am not one for using technology to do much more than crop and lighten. These pictures are all as I took them. It's quite amazing how many shapes and textures can be found on a playground.
"The events of childhood do not pass, but repeat themselves like seasons of the year."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Just part of the job?

I have heard that in order to survive in the world that is journalism, you have to separate yourself from what you are doing. And, especially if that story involves death. On Friday, I was sent to a car accident scene about 10 miles south of Oconomowoc on a dangerous stretch of road. In fact, I had been there the previous Friday for a head-on collision between two semis.

This past Friday it was a really bad accident between two cars. One car was going southbound when the driver pulled into the northbound lane to enter a driveway and hit the northbound car head on. When I arrived at the scene, I knew it wasn't good from the info coming across the police scanner in the office. After talking with gawkers and getting the police officers' attention, I walked around and took pictures. I then waited for some one from the Sheriff's department to come over and fill me in. What no one told me, but what I suspected, was that some one may have died.

After getting a bunch of photos, including one of a bloody airbag, I left the scene. On my way back, I phoned in my info to the Freeman so they could update the website. The editor told me that one of the drivers probably died. That later proved to be true.

After I hung up, I began to think about how I was at an accident scene where a driver had just died and how I never thought about the weight of the situation. I just did my job. In the past, when I would hear sirens screaming up north highway 67 past my house, I would say a prayer asking God to be with the rescue workers, the injured people and their families. And now, here I was at a scene where not 15 minutes before someone died and I didn't give it a second thought. I know that you have to be tough-skinned to make it in this business, but how tough skinned? I don't want to become an emotionless individual who ignores the human aspect of a story. The idea of it scares me. I have always prided myself on being a feeling, thinking, compassionate and helpful person. I don't want to stop being that just because I am a journalist. In fact, it was my desire to help those less fortunate that even led me into journalism.
So, on my way home, I said a prayer as I drove. I prayed for the emergency workers, for the drivers of the cars and for their families. I asked God to give everyone strength and courage. I aim to say a prayer for similar situations in the future. For me, that's the compassionate and right thing to do.
"Anyone who dares to waste one hour of life has not yet discovered the value of life."
--Charles Darwin

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Summer ideals

German exchange students, Franziska Lorenz, 16, and Tabea Stroehle, 16, help to paint a French garden scene mural on a wall in Oconomowoc. About 10 high school students and three adults helped with the project, which will give senior residents of the Berkshire apartments a better view.
Tabea Stroehle paints green underneath a bright blue sky.

Rocks were great amusement for Stephanie Shaw, 5, of Oconomowoc. She played on Lac La Belle with her baby sitter and siblings.
**The first and third photographs appeared in the Oconomowoc Enterprise. The middle, however, did not.
"I came to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of he superfluous and see things as they really are, grand and beautiful."
--Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer views of Devil's Lake State Park

I regret that her front paws got cut out of the shot. She moved too quickly for me to get another shot.

Just a few images from Devil's Lake on Saturday. I mostly took it easy and took a nap on a blanket while Mom and Dad took the dogs for a walk. It felt so good to just rest. The park was pretty crowded and I heard many languages being spoken. My favorite time to visit the park is on weekdays when it is its most peaceful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The County Fair: a Feast for the Senses

The Waukesha County fair is like all other county fairs in that it satisfies and irritates the senses. Pleasureable sensory triggers include the smell of corn on the cob with lots of melted butter, the taste of sticky-sweet cotton, the sight of kids carrying large stuffed animals won for too much money, the feel of a horse's velvety nose and the sound of friends laughing and screaming on amusement rides. Then there are the less attractive triggers such as the smell of cigarette smoke, the stepping in cow manure, the smell of the cow manure, the sound of a sappy country band...but really a fair is more pleasure than pain. It was certainly that way for me this year. I love fair food and often indulge in a few items. You gotta love a cream puff on a hot and humid day in Wisconsin.

This year, I got to ride many amusement rides and laugh until it hurt. I haven't been on that many amusement rides since I don't know when. My favorite ride as a kid and it still is my favorite is the Tilt-a-Whirl. It's such a simple ride, but the simple pleasure of twirling is unbeatable. I just sit back and let the ride thrill me.
I hope that if you missed the county fair, you'll be able to go to the Wisconsin State Fair, which although bigger, is still great and has retained a lot of fair charm. But the county fair remains the one to have your senses tickled.

Calvin and Liam ride a rollercoaster
Kaitlin pets a deer
"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones." --Jean Webster