Thursday, February 1, 2018

January has been a rough one for me. Each week, I read police reports and officer accounts of some horrifying things that have happened in our community. The latest, last week, was about a little boy who was riding in the car with his dad and was shot and killed by a stray bullet. That little boy was 9-year-old Dominic Young, Jr., a third grader at Ingels Elementary School in the Hickman Mills School District.

At nine, Dominic would have still been playing with his new Christmas toys; he would have been picking out Valentines to give to his classmates in a few weeks. He would have been concerned about which kickball team he’d be on during recess or whether or not he got the answers right on the multiplication quiz the other day. At nine, we think our parents are superheroes, but we also become a little suspicious that maybe they’re just people, too.

Nine-year-olds should be able to ride in the car with their dads without getting killed. No third-grade kid should have to go to school on a Monday to find out the news that a friend has died due to an act of violence.

It’s stories like Dominic’s that keep me awake at night. They’re worse than nightmares, because they’re true. Every horrid detail, every bone-chilling testimony, every innocent face crosses my mind, and I can’t help but wish I could do more.

I love my job. I’m passionate about writing the stories of this community, and it is a job that I don’t take lightly. I thoroughly enjoy writing about the good news, and the amazing people I come across; but I wouldn’t be doing my job well if I didn’t talk about the things our community struggles with.

I believe there is a greater good to what I do each week. I believe that community journalism is a powerful tool that keeps our elected officials in check, puts our neighbors in a positive light, focuses on the things and people that truly matter. If I didn’t believe those things, then I’d be in the wrong field.

As I lay my head down each night, I remain hopeful that things will be better, that the next paper I put out will be full of uplifting stories. I have faith in our community, I have faith in our leaders, and I have faith in the press. As a journalist, it is my job to become somewhat of an expert on the topics I write about, and as a reader, you become one, too. A bit of a know it all, if you will.

Whether the news is good or bad, whether it makes me angry or glad, I will keep on writing it as long as you keep on reading it. Become an expert with me on our community. Make a change, starting at home. Know it. All. Read the newspaper.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

There are many talents I wish I had. I would love to be artistic, to be able to paint or draw what I see and have it actually turn out like what I’m envisioning in my mind. I have always wanted to be a little more athletic, showing up others on the basketball court or running past all my peers. Most of all, I have always wanted to sing, and sing well. I can’t really do any of those things, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

On any given day, I can be caught singing along to the radio in my car, or humming a tune that got stuck in my head. But, I admit, I’m just not very good. Some people have the singing talent, others don’t. And I’m definitely part of the club that doesn’t.

However, just because I don’t possess it, doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate real talent when I hear it. On Monday night, I had the opportunity to hear some gorgeous singing talent at Quality Hill Playhouse in Kansas City. If you’ve never been to the Playhouse, their performances are musical reviews, typically focusing on a genre or era of music. Producing Artistic Director J. Kent Barnhart sits at the piano and introduces each set with background on the composers, writers and performers of the original scores. It is always both informative and entertaining.

This season, Quality Hill Playhouse’s theme has been Singing the American Songbook, and on Monday, I saw their performance entitled “That Old Black Magic,” which focused on American composer Harold Arlen’s impact on music from the late 1920s on. The Playhouse’s intimate setting provides for a show that puts you right back in time to when Judy Garland sang Arlen’s Over the Rainbow.

One set even included a series of songs that Arlen collaborated on with Truman Capote, who happens to be my favorite author of all time. Arlen was known for a bluesy inspiration in his composing, and a lot of the songs in the show were about love, or, more so, love lost.

The performance features, along with Barnhart, the Kansas City voices of Lauren Braton, LeShea Wright, and Grandview High School alum Christina Burton, along with Ken Remmert on drums, Kevin Payton on bass and Matt Baldwin on clarinet/saxophone. That Old Black Magic runs through February 18. Visit for ticket information. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

For some, the new year signifies a new beginning. With the page turned on 2017, the new chapter of 2018 begins. A new year means resolutions, usually to make our lives a little better in one way or another. Of course, there are those resolutions that don’t stick, like the same diet and exercise one so many of us commit to at the beginning of the year, and then forget about by the end of January.

I came across this quote from Judy Garland over the holiday weekend that made me think. In it, she suggests that with a new year ahead of us, we could all stand to be a little gentler with one another, a little more loving, and have a little more empathy. The goal is, by the end of the year, maybe we’d like each other a little more.

I’m not the type of person to make resolutions. If I have in the past, I’ve never talked about them out loud, because then, of course, I’d have to be held accountable to stop drinking soda, or starting a workout routine, or finally finishing that novel I’ve been working on for years.

But, after reading Judy’s quote, I’m convinced that this is the type of resolution I can commit to. I can focus on being a kinder human. Sometimes, I get so caught up in the busy day-to-day of my life, that I forget to pause and appreciate the people around me. I know I can fail to say thank you, or offer help when I know it’s needed, or even just offer a compliment when it is deserved.

So, this year, I resolve to take the time to be nicer. To empathize and to be gentle, even when my world seems quite like the opposite of that. I commit to offering help when I can, and to making the time for what is really important in this life: the relationships I have with those I care about most.

Happy New Year to each of you. Whatever it is you have resolved to do, or be, or complete this year, know that you have my support and encouragement. And, if I can offer you a caring word or a gentle hug to help with your motivation, know that my door is always open. 2018 will be a chapter of kindness in my book, and I hope it is in yours, too.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Twelve years ago today, November 30, 2005, my life was forever changed. I went to bed the night before and could only dream of what lie ahead for me. I was full of anticipation, nerves and a hearty dinner that I thought, at the time, wasn’t sitting well with me.

Little did I know, that the next morning I would welcome the love of my life. Michael was born a bit early and I was unprepared. I wasn’t ready emotionally or physically, and, to top it off, his nursery wasn’t finished yet, either. I had read all the books, I was convinced I knew everything. But, when they placed that tiny 5-pound baby boy in my arms, all I knew was love.

I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. There were days in those first few months where I would just stare at this little being I had created and think to myself, “What am I supposed to do now?” My 22-year-old self didn’t have a clue. But, as days and months went by, I think I slowly began to figure it out.

Here is my top ten list of things I have learned from parenting a boy for the last 12 years:

10. Boys are gross. I already knew this, growing up with an older brother, but I learned early on in parenting that boys inherently think bodily functions are hilarious and getting dirty is a sport.

9. Speaking of sports, I know more than I ever cared to know about baseball, football, wrestling, hockey, swimming, kayaking, soccer, etc. Because, of course, my 12-year-old is an expert on all things athletic and has schooled me many times.

8. I must be the most patient person in the world. That kid at the top of the tree hanging by one hand? Yeah, that’s probably mine. The boy who just got hit in the chest with a baseball but continued to pitch anyway? Definitely my kid. Sometimes, my breath gets taken away, and not because what I’m seeing is beautiful; it’s more on the lines of I can’t breathe watching my son do this or that.

7. He doesn’t stop moving. From the time he was born, Michael has wiggled and wormed through life. He has so much energy, and I sometimes have trouble keeping up.

6. Everything can be a weapon. That’s not just a stick on the ground, that’s a zombie-fighting rifle. Bad guys are always lurking around the corner, and whatever tool is most handy can be used to defeat them.

5. Roughhousing is key to development. I remember, early on, Michael always wanted to “fight” his dad. I couldn’t even be in the room for this, because, inevitably, all fights ended in tears. Michael also learned pretty quickly that Mom was off-limits when it came to playing rough.

4. All things with motors are fascinating. Cars, planes, trains, motorcycles, anything with wheels can be cool. One time, we were out to eat at a restaurant, and an old woman went by with a walker, and my little boy (he was probably barely two at the time) made “vroom” sound effects for her as she passed.

3. Gossiping has to be his idea. If I start asking too many questions, my normally chatty boy shuts down on me. I can’t ask who is cute, who likes whom, or anything else regarding the social climate at school. But, I’ll eventually hear about it, I just have to go back to being the most patient person in the world.

2. Little boys love their moms. There is a bond that Michael and I share that no one else can compete with.

1. Moms love their little boys. Michael is compassionate, giving, crazy smart, funny, quick-witted, handsome and sweet (when he wants to be). His larger-than-life personality can light up a room and his soft voice is calming and full of love.

Happy 12th birthday to an amazing kid, a boy who keeps me on my toes and keeps me grounded at the same time, the one who I love more than life itself, my son, Michael.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

It’s officially fall. The trees in this part of the country are gorgeous this time of year. I’ve unboxed my sweaters and dusted off my boots to help combat the chill in the air. We’ve trick-or-treated and we are now gearing up for Thanksgiving with our families. However, I’ve noticed something missing in this community this season. Where’s the soccer complex?

First announced to the public in May of 2015, Gateway Village, originally a $300 million all-turf soccer complex located off of 150 Highway in Grandview was to be a flagship project for the State of Missouri. At least, that’s how it was touted by the project investors, local politicians and the like.

First, we were told that soccer games could begin as early as the spring of 2016. We saw that timeframe quickly dissipate, and then were told to set our sights on 14 soccer fields being completed by spring of this year. Once spring hit, we were told last April that games would begin in the fall. Since then, it’s been radio silence, and the rumor mill has been churning.

On August 9, 2016, developers and city officials broke ground on the property. Big construction vehicles were on the property and, it appeared, that the development was on the move. However, shortly after that, the movement stalled on the property located between Byars and Kelley roads.

I know that discussions are surely taking place behind closed doors. I’ve heard talk of a financial shortfall on the side of the developers with which they are seeking support. I’ve seen announcements of new development partnerships, while original partners seem to have disappeared without acknowledgment. And, I see a property that doesn’t look much different from a year ago at this time, except for maybe some taller grass that needs mowed.

Where does the Gateway Village project stand? The community is excited about the prospect, and we are supportive of those willing to invest a great deal into our town. But, we are growing impatient. The public deserves to know what the holdup is, and, who knows, maybe a few of us can even offer recommendations. We’re just waiting to be asked and informed.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

I love being a tourist. Visiting new places, learning about historic events, seeing different cultures and lifestyles are how I would spend all of my free time if I were able to. This past weekend, my son, Michael, and I pretended to be tourists in our own town for a little while.

As a kid, I remember visiting the Truman Farm Home and touring the interior with my family. I envisioned what it would be like to pull up to the front porch on a horse, knock on the door, and have a smiling Harry S Truman usher me inside. Of course, in my childhood imagination, I was Bess in this scenario, and I would eventually become First Lady of the United States. That is the kind of emotion that visiting the old Farm Home invoked in me as a child.

Last Saturday, October 21, thanks to the National Park Service and the Grandview Historical Society, the Truman Farm Home was again open for tours to the public. I’m certain Michael didn’t pretend he was a young Bess visiting the future president, but maybe he was Truman himself in his imagination. Seeing the old kitchen, the lack of indoor plumbing, the wood-burning stoves, the quaint rooms and the woodwork that might still hold the fingerprints of our former president, is an experience that, as a kid, I never forgot.

Walking through the same house with my own son, I am reminded of how far this community has truly come, and I am motivated to continue to be a tourist in my own town. Grandview has a rich history, and there are signs of that history tucked here and there if you know where to look.

The Truman Farm Home interior is closed to the public except for these special events. It will likely be open in May 2018, coinciding with the Harry’s Hay Days festivities. The grounds are open year-round, and a guided cell-phone walking tour is available, with access information located on the property.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Two years ago, our community suffered a devastaing fire to one of our downtown buildings. I can still hear the mayday call echo in my head. I can still smell the smoke that lingered for days. I can still feel the mist of the water as I inched as close as I could. I can still feel the heat. I went home that night and I cried. Sometimes, this job is really, really tough. But covering these moments in my community mean more to me than anything, and it can also incredibly rewarding.

This is National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 8-14). I urge you to check your alarms to make sure they are working properly. And, God forbid, if a fire does happen, make sure you have a plan to get out safely. The theme for 2017 Fire Prevention Week is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” In a fire, seconds count. Seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy.

President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4-10, 1925, beginning a tradition of the President of the United States signing a proclamation recognizing the occasion. It is observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began October 8, 1871, and did most of its damage October 9.

If you have a fire tonight, will you get out safely? Grandview Fire Marshal Lew Austin says that you’ll have a better chance of getting out safely if you’ve planned ahead. Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with the whole family. Everyone should know two ways out of each room and know where to meet outside. Make sure everyone understands that getting out is the first priority. And remember, once you’re outside, stay out.

Your smoke alarm has the power to save your life. Or does it? If you haven’t tested your smoke alarm lately, it may not be working. And that’s a risk you can’t afford to take. Working smoke alarms give us early warning of a fire, providing extra time to escape safely. But they can’t do their job if we haven’t done ours - we must do monthly testing to make sure they’re working. Test all the smoke alarms in your home. Replace the battery at least annually and install a new smoke alarm every 10 years to ensure they are in proper working order.

To celebrate public safety in our community, Grandview Fire Department is hosting an open house on Saturday, October 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Grandview Fire Station #1, 7005 High Grove Road. There will be displays and demonstrations by the Grandview Police and Fire departments. Refreshments will be available and lots of handouts. Come out and meet your local police officers, firefighters, Sparky the Fire Dog and McGruff the Crime Dog.

In emergency situations, like a fire, seconds matter. I urge you to have a plan in place before something as devastating as the Guckert Building fire of 2015 occurs in your own home.