Thursday, December 29, 2005

And finally...

Ok, I saved the beautiful ones for last.

I took a walk down a dirt path through the woods to see how far back the fire went. The path was grass, pine needles and leaves over sandy dirt, bordered on either side by what looked like black carpet. The fire had gone through both sides, but hadn't destroyed everything. The brush was still thick and pretty green. Blackened ground came right to the edge of the untouched path. Farther down I could see a strip about two feet wide where the fire had crossed over, but as far as I could see it was the only spot where the path was burned.

I followed the trail down until the burned ground met in a perfect triangle where another trail came in. It was the end of the line. The aftermath of nature's precision was impressive; quiet and peaceful and clean.

I had to share some more

I finally figured out how to add pictures, so I'm adding some more of my favorites from the fire.

Smoke gets in your eyes...

Here are some of the pictures I took on my fire adventure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

We didn't have marshmallows, but there were weenies to spare

My first car chase/manhunt last night, a forest fire today. It doesn’t get much better than this. Although I did break my own cardinal rule of covering forest fires – I wore flip-flops. But it was only because I was in a huge hurry to get out the door and my feet were still sore from marathon last minute Christmas shopping.

At approximately 3:00 this afternoon, I was mudding across a pipeline in a fire truck (not a big one.) I got to drive my truck down a ridiculously narrow dirt path, send firefighters scattering by pointing my camera at them, and shoot the breeze with some of my favorite people.

After squishing through mud in my unfortunate choice of footwear, I went exploring down a trail through the woods and got some amazing photos. Then there was more mudding, followed by very cool pictures of flames along the burn line laid out by the Forest service guys.

It did not suck. I still smell like a campfire.

I’m going to take an insanely hot bubble bath now.

Note: No one was hurt and no property was lost during the making of this memory.

Top 10 things I learned from my first car chase/manhunt:

  1. Law enforcement officials can be a little jittery after chasing a car at speeds of up to 110 mph on Hwy. 59.

  2. Always follow your instincts when deciding whether to take a shot (as in ‘photo’) at the guy they already arrested, or waiting ‘til they find his fugitive buddy.

  3. Go ahead and take the picture of the guys with the dogs – you may not get a better photo op.

  4. Keep a safe distance away from the guys with the dogs.

  5. According to law enforcement officials, if you are not going to leave the area like they want you to, keep the car doors locked, the engine running, and one foot on the gas pedal when there is a fugitive buddy in the area who is possibly armed.

  6. Stick to the areas with the most law enforcement officials.

  7. Don’t listen to Channel 13 cameramen.  You probably won’t get shot (as in ‘gunshot’) when there is a fugitive buddy in the area who is possibly be armed.

  8. Ok, listen to Channel 13 cameramen when they’re hanging around with the cops waiting to hear what happened.

  9. Once you have left a hot scene with lots of action because of listening to Channel 13 cameramen, you can never go back.  The moment is gone.

  10. Fugitive buddies don’t always get caught.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Did I say that out loud?

I told a teacher I’m quite fond of today that he would never see most of the seeds he’s planting come to fruition.  He was getting discouraged by students’ lack of initiative and their desire to take the easy way out.  

Sometimes we’re so busy looking at the obvious that we miss the subtle.  The so-called “smart” kids and the loud mouthed griper/slackers get all of the attention, while the ones who are quietly slogging away in the background, maybe making mediocre grades but still getting by, will end up being the ones who really make it.

Middle ground is seriously underrated.  Most overachievers end up burning out; most trouble makers end up going to jail.  It’s the average middle of the road kids, the ones who keep plugging away until they finish, who will end up ruling the world.  

Look at Bill Gates.  There is a middle aged, overweight housewife out there somewhere who was once a hot cheerleader in high school, realizing now how stupid she was for giving him the cold shoulder.

As for my frustrated teacher?  He probably didn’t want to hear that the results of his hard work and high standards would end up affecting lives in ways he may never get to see.  But I hope he doesn’t compromise.

We all have the desire to take the easy way out.  But it’s the ones who kick us in the butt, don’t give us a break, and never let us get away with anything who force us into living up to our potential.  

I hate when that happens…

Monday, December 19, 2005

Don't shoot the messenger (but if you do, call me)

When you watch the news on TV or read a newspaper, you should realize the information you’re getting is a complete crap shoot. There’s a nerdy chick or guy sitting behind a desk somewhere deciding which stories are getting covered and which ones are not; and behind them sits an editor with complete veto power.

It’s a very subjective job. How do you pick the newsworthy stuff? Liberals choose bleeding heart, “down with The Man”, anti-establishment crap. Conservatives go with the right is right, everyone else is wrong stories. Savvy news managers go for blood and gore – the shock factor.

People say they get tired of the “bad news” media; they don’t want all the murder and mayhem. But papers with these stories sell more than anything else. TV ratings don’t lie. It’s just glorified gossip, and there is no such thing as “good news” gossip.

Bad news is more fun.

We want the dirt. We want to know who did what to whom and how they got caught. We want to gasp at the tragedy, the depth of depravity, and the scandals. Because then what we do, what we go through every day, is not so bad. We can breathe a sigh of relief because we didn’t get caught; the tragedy didn’t happen to us, our families and our secrets are safe.

Have a nice day.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A mature declaration

I am declaring myself the undefeated champion of Blog Wars.  

My illustrious competitors have continually failed to meet my production standards.  I have posted nearly daily since we began this odyssey – they have not.  Therefore, I win.  


Friday, December 16, 2005

I always knew a cop would break my heart

My computer is sick and has to go in the shop, so I’ll be down for a day or two.

Tom Yates – you’ll probably never read this – but you need to apologize to me, Detective. You broke my heart today, you frickin’ BBQ cookin’, wise crackin’, 70’s music listenin’, big boob lovin’, no sex havin’, partial Hispanic male. I thought we were friends.

Don’t mess with a woman on the edge, trying to hit deadline. She may one day learn how to cross her t’s.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My tree would never let me get away with it...

I spoke with a man today who decided with his wife last year to step away from the commercialization of Christmas. They have six children, the youngest one being five years old.

He said they felt that they were perpetuating a legacy of skewed values in their kids by participating in the Santa/give-a-gift-to-get-a-gift scenario, when Christmas is really supposed to be about the birth of Jesus. It’s supposed to be about receiving the unbelievably priceless gift of salvation, reconciliation with God made available through His Son.

I thought about this. I’ve been disgusted with the endless ads and commercials and pressure to “give the perfect gift.” This year I’ve purposely separated myself from the hype. Still, I’m not going to cut off Christmas entirely.

Gift giving should be a sincere gesture, a token of love and friendship and thoughtfulness, not something done out of obligation or expectation of a return on the investment. Kids can learn this; they can benefit from experiencing the joy of making or picking out something for someone they love, wrapping it and giving it away. As long as their parents remember it, too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Today I interviewed the pastor of a church whose sanctuary had been burglarized.  The church’s fellowship hall was flooded when the thieves yanked the ice machine out of the wall, leaving a gushing water line behind.  All of the electronic equipment and computers were taken; even food out of the refrigerator was gone.  The pastor’s gift from the congregation – a collectors’ edition Harley Davidson watch – was stolen.  The entire place had been violated.

How do you break into and steal from a church?  How do you sleep at night after that?  Why am I surprised?

I met the pastor’s wife and daughter and grandson; I met a few members of the congregation.  They were saddened, but not defeated.  They were still smiling.  They had work ahead of them, but they weren’t grumbling about it.  The pastor told me he just hopes whoever did it, won’t do it again.  He’d pastured a church before that had been broken into 3 times, until they had an alarm system installed.

It’s a beautiful little church at the end of a winding country road.  Trees line the road most of the way down, and in the light of day it seems like the last place in the world that would need an alarm system.  Seems like, anyway.  

I’m such a tourist.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Zen and the art of candy appreciation

Why is it so hard to enjoy the simple things?

There are moments we’re given in this life that are little treasures doled out like lemon drops on a summer day. They are small, sweet and tart at the same time, and if you had a bunch all at once they wouldn’t taste nearly as good.

Why don’t we just hold out our tongues, taste the candy and smile?

Immutable facts

It’s finally cold outside; I hate sales; I love my new reporting job, even though, technically, I’m supposed to be doing sales; Christmas is sneaking up on me; hiding bills in a drawer does not make them go away; and I really hate sales.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

When good Christmas trees go bad

I should have known my Christmas tree was possessed from the beginning.

We moved into our house in April of 2003. When the Christmas season rolled around, I turned the place upside down looking for our artificial tree (I have kids with allergies to trees). It was nowhere to be found. I blamed my husband, of course. Everyone knows when something that major is lost in a move, it’s the man’s fault. Anyway, it was nearly the middle of December so we were going to have to buy a new one.

I remember the first time I saw the new tree standing there, unique amongst its pseudo-evergreen brethren, proud and tall. Sure, there were other pre-lit trees on the Walmart garden center floor, but this one had big light balls mixed in with the little twinkle lights. This one seemed to say, “Take me home; I’m the only one that will do.” Then I’m pretty sure it winked at me.

The Walmart lady showed us where the boxed trees were. There were scads of them, but there was only one left with the big light balls. I heard the faint sound of laughter as we loaded our purchase into the car, but shook it off.

That first year wasn’t so bad. The worst part was screwing in all those light balls; and the fact that the thing came in four sections -- with each section plugging into a very specific piece of the next section. It only fell on me once.

The next year, 2004, I couldn’t find the instructions. No problem, every cord was numbered. I just had to find the corresponding plugs. Except the sections didn’t want to slide into each other the way they were supposed to. I had to maneuver each piece to fit, and then the cords didn’t reach the plugs, so I had to maneuver them again… and again.

I went out to the garage to take a cigarette break (this was a smoking time in my life, understandably – see Thanksgiving post). A few gifts were still in the car, so I decided to put them in the attic while I was out there. I had the cigarette hanging out of the corner of my mouth, a pretty large gift under one arm, and the attic door rope in my other hand. I tugged on the rope. The ladder didn’t quite make it, so I tugged again. That sucker came swinging down like a guillotine. The time/space continuum slowed to a crawl as I watched the ladder head straight for my head, smashing me. After the blinding pain subsided to an aching throb, I climbed the ladder steps with the stupid gift. And there sat my old Christmas tree, exactly where it had been placed a year and a half before.

I marched back into the house and faced the half assembled light-ball tree, which stood there and looked at me like, “What?”

It took me six hours to finish putting the thing together and it fell on me twice.

This year my plan of attack was to assemble the monster one section at a time, light balls and all. The first piece fit beautifully into the stand and the lights were no problem. The next section fit great, too; I reached in to plug the cord. When I pulled my arm out, I thought I must have rubbed against something in the tree with paint on it, because from my wrist to inner elbow were ribbons of red. It took a full minute before I realized it was blood. Very bright red blood and lots of it. I stuck a band-aid on and went back for more. The kids were screwing in the light balls. I started to help, but none of the balls I screwed in would light. My eight year-old son had to go behind me and re-do them all. Then the top section didn’t want to go in, and after it did, the tree was crooked. I grabbed it to try to shake it straight and knocked half the ornaments off. The kids rolled their eyes and put them back on. But, we now have a fully assembled, slightly crooked tree.

And I sleep with one eye open.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Of Monday mornings and Christmas trees

Mondays are not my favorite. They sneak up on me. There’s no redeeming quality to a Monday, other than it’s the first day toward the end of the week.

I’m sure there are those in the world who rejoice in Mondays; who love the bright promise of a new week and all its possibilities. These would be the people who wake up refreshed, bounce out of bed and sing songs in the morning.

These would not be me.

By the way, my Christmas tree is possessed. I’ve suspected this for quite some time, but there was bloodshed this year. And I’m pretty sure it laughed at me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Star gazing

I covered a house fire tonight.  It was inadvertently set by a three year-old little boy in a closet playing with a lighter.  He lived in the beautiful ranch style home with his grandma and grandpa and 18 month-old little brother.  No one got hurt, but they don’t have insurance.

This beautiful hunk of three year-old has wide, intelligent brown eyes, thick brown hair, and a vocabulary most adults would envy.  He was scared, but didn’t let it get to him.  The mischievous inquisitiveness that led him to play with fire was evident.  

He came to me from a neighbor’s hip, as though it was the most natural thing in the world.  I held him in my arms and tried to wrap my jacket around his bare feet as the temperature dropped with the sunset.  He told me about his socks and his many pairs of shoes.  We watched the firefighters try to save his house for a while.  He asked me questions and I answered them.  We talked about fire and firefighters and heroes.  He pointed out the wood pile between two trees in his front yard.  We looked at the stars together.

Eventually, I had to give him back.  

I wondered what his life would be like now.  If his family will forgive him, if he’ll always remember this, how it will affect him.  Before I gave him up, I asked him if he was going to be a fireman when he grew up.  He said, yes.  I thought that was cool.  Then he looked at me with those deep brown eyes and said, “No. I’m going to be a tree when I grow up.  That way I’ll be tall enough to grab a star from the sky.  I’m not scared of heights.”

I leaned into his ear and whispered, “I kind of am.”  And he hugged me goodbye.