Thursday, December 31, 2015

I’ve always liked New Year’s. I like the idea of celebrating the past and looking forward to the future with people I care about. I like receiving a fresh start, new calendars and new beginnings. Because no matter what the previous year put in my path, the new year, for me, symbolizes hope for good things to come.

This past year has given me many things to reflect on. My divorce was final at the beginning of the year, and along with that came changes, both good and not so good. I have learned to make the most of the time I have with my son, and I stepped back into the world of dating and learned how to fall in love again.

Along with the rest of Kansas City, I watched our boys in blue put us through a whirlwind of a baseball season, topped off with a World Series win. I’ve gained friends, and lost a few. I rode roller-coasters with Michael and ate funnel cakes whenever possible. I listened to lots of live music and studied artwork from both local artists and internationally-known ones.

I have laughed hysterically and I have shed some tears. I’ve lost several pounds and gained a few of them back. I have whipped and nae-naed, uptown funked and seen things go down (for real). I sang the blues in Memphis and talked with the puma at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.

2015 has been a good year. It’s been a year of self-discovery and healing. It’s been a year of more ups than downs. I look forward to a positive 2016. I’m not one to make resolutions (I have before, and they usually last until the third week in January), but there are some things I hope to accomplish next year.

On the top of my list is to continue to build a positive and impactful relationship with my son. I’d like to travel a bit more and see new places. I’d like to lose the few pounds I gained back and maybe participate in a 5K or two. I want to finish the novel I’ve been working on for too many years. Most of all, I want to smile more and share those smiles with others.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I don’t consider myself to be overly environmentally-conscious. Sure, I throw my empty soda can in a recycle bin when available. I take old newspapers to the recycling dumpsters at my son’s school. But don’t ask me about the effects global warming or vehicle emissions or water purification. I think, like most people, I am aware of the dangers of those things, but they’re not things that affect my day-to-day living.

A few years back, we reported on the long-running litigation between Ideker Inc. and the Concerned Citizens for AIR Inc (CCAIR) regarding an asphalt plant near Missouri Highway 150 and Interstate 49. In the suit filed in 2013, CCAIR and Grandview sought to keep Ideker from obtaining a permit to run the plant in Kansas City, due to concerns about air pollution. They wanted a Jackson County court to decide whether the Missouri Department of Natural Resources had improperly approved an air-emissions permit for Ideker's facility.

The group expressed concerns about air quality in general while Grandview, more specifically, had issues about potential impact from chemical and dust emissions reaching nearby elementary schools in the area. The lawsuit showed promise when a Jackson County judge approved a temporary restraining order against a temporary permit to Ideker from the DNR, a decision that the Missouri Supreme Court later upheld.

But Ideker received a permanent permit early in 2014 and moved to get the lawsuit against it and the DNR dismissed so that it could continue operating. Ideker and the DNR argued that Grandview hadn't taken the necessary steps to block the permit through the DNR before heading off to court. While a Jackson County judge didn't find that argument persuasive, a panel of appellate judges did.
However, in July of this year, the case reached a conclusion with the court dismissing the case, granting Ideker the ability to keep its permit and stick to business as usual.

And business as usual is exactly how Ideker responded. The other morning, on my way into the office, I snapped a photo of the asphalt plant from my vantage point down 150 Highway. In the photo, with a crisp, clear blue sky, you can see a cloud of billowy, black smoke rising from the facility, headed straight into the wind toward Butcher-Greene Elementary School.

With it being a nice December day, I imagined the hundreds of children in the area that will head outside for recess. Though they may not be able to smell anything odd in the air (they may even be used to any odors by now), I couldn’t help but wonder about the long-term effects of breathing in the emissions from creating the asphalt.

If the wind shifts the other direction, those emissions head straight for Belvidere Elementary School andnd straight into the lungs of my ten-year-old son. When driving behind a vehicle that is expelling junk into the air, I have the option to roll up my windows, close my vents and speed around them. The kids playing outside at recess or enjoying their own backyards should be able to have some options, too, when it comes to the air they breathe.

I’m hopeful that this isn’t the end of the fight. I’m hopeful that CCAIR will continue to press on. I’m hopeful that MDNR will take our children into consideration. And, I’m hopeful that the safety and well-being of the community surrounding the development along the 150 corridor will outshine the dollar signs that seem to be glaring in the eyes of local political and developmental spearheads. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I do remember seeing gifts addressed to me under our Christmas tree that read, “To: Mary, From: Santa” in handwriting that was distinctively my dad’s. I grew up with an older brother that surely had something to do with my skepticism where St. Nick is concerned.

My son, Michael, was pretty young when he found out. The conversation went something like this:

“Mom, you know how you told me that magic isn’t real?”

“Yes. Magic is not real, it’s pretend.”

“Well, you also told me that Santa delivers all those presents to all the kids by using magic.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“So, if magic isn’t real, and Santa uses magic, does that mean that Santa isn’t real, too?”

“Let’s just keep this secret between us.”

He was around four at the time, and he felt pretty important being “in” on the biggest secret of his life. Since then, he’s had fun talking about Santa with younger children. Sometimes, though I know he doesn’t believe, I still feel as though he gets caught up in the magic of the season.

I had the privilege last week of photographing the man himself at the Christmas in the Sky event at Longview Lake. There, much like in the movie Polar Express, Santa gave the first gift of Christmas, a shiny bell, to a little girl from the Dream Factory. Watching the delight on Hannah’s face, and on the faces of the hundreds of children there to see Santa, I couldn’t help but feel the true spirit of Christmas.

A few days later, I ran into Santa, the same Santa I saw and photographed last week. He’s the real deal: an authentic white beard, rosy cheeks and a soft belly. I introduced myself to him and with a twinkle in his eye and a deep-belly laugh, he said, “Well, Mary, it’s really nice to see you again, though I noticed you don’t write anymore. Have a Merry Christmas.”

Like a little kid, my immediate thought was, “he knows!” He knows I haven’t written to him since I was a girl, and he misses my letters! My face turned red and I struggled to speak, apologizing for not writing. I suppose even if I don’t completely believe, the spirit of Christmas can still be just as magical as when I was small.

So, I’ll be writing that letter this year. I won’t be asking for Barbies or a new dress or a bigger, better bicycle. This year, I’ll ask Santa to keep the spirit alive in all of us, no matter how old we get or when we first stopped believing. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I’ve always been close with my grandparents. Growing up, we spent a lot of time with all of them as a family, going to dinners and birthday celebrations and holiday festivities. I have fond memories of the bonds I have shared with each of them.

I’m named after both of my grandmothers. My mom’s mom is Mary Ann, and my dad’s mom is Ina, which inspired my name of Mary Kristina. There’s something special about being named after someone you love and admire. As a kid, I didn’t understand how important those names would be to me as I grew older.

My grandma Mary Ann was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. Before a doctor made official what we already knew, I watched my sweet grandmother become frustrated with herself for forgetting little things. For a few years, my birthday cards came a day or two late, something she was always on top of.

What I’d do to get a birthday card from her now. We’re lucky in that she has stayed at home. She has a husband whom she married when my son was just a baby, and he has been saint-like in sticking by her side throughout her struggles. The family has hired caregivers to assist in Grandma’s daily needs and they have been instrumental in keeping her comfortable in her own home.

Grandma Mary Ann and I used to do all kinds of things together. During the holidays, she’d take me to see The Nutcracker ballet. We were frequent visitors of the Nelson-Atkins and expert ice cream connoisseurs. We went to high tea dressed in our fanciest clothes, and we picked blueberries until we were purple from head to toe. My grandma was full of life and always dressed to the nines. She was kind, loving and would do anything for me.

I miss her so much. Anymore, when I pay her a visit, I might get a brief smile or a nod from her, but she’s not there. The person she was is gone. It is heartbreaking to watch someone you love so much, someone you have so many memories with, struggle to even remember your name – a name that you share.

I have no choice but to hold onto those memories and share what I can with my son about this extraordinary woman. I’m beyond grateful that she has been a part of my life for as long as she has. Grandma Mary Ann was always the first to mention what she was thankful for each Thanksgiving and though over the years I remember rolling my eyes as she listed off the obvious, this year I’ll be silently thanking her for always loving me even if she can’t remember my name. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My first year of college, on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning, I recall pressing snooze a few times before I absolutely had to get up and get ready for my 10 a.m. class. I will never forget that morning. Shortly after the second snooze, my roommate, Melissa, came back from the shower and woke me up, telling me we needed to turn on the television. On September 11, 2001, my perception of the world was forever changed.

Bad things have happened since the beginning of man, but for the first time in my life, I saw true terrorism unfold before me live on television. Since that horrific day in 2001, we have seen threats with anthrax, shoe bombs, the Beltway snipers, bombings, gunmen, school massacres and suicide missions. A quick internet search brings back dozens of potential terrorist threats or real acts of terrorism on our country or our allies.

With these events so prevalent in our media, it is something that is always in the back of my mind. When I go to concerts, sporting events, the movie theater or even the Royals Victory parade with 800,000 in attendance, I can’t help but wonder if my safety is in question. Will this be the time and place that something awful develops, and will I be labeled a victim or a hero?

Last Friday, I watched as the news unfolded from Paris. I became more and more stoic as the death toll numbers continued to rise. I fought back tears as I learned that innocent people were being slaughtered, one by one, by evil. I saw the looks on the people’s faces as they were escorted to safety, some covered in other people’s blood, while others lay lifeless in the street.

It was a horrible scene, yet it was one that I have become all too familiar with. Of course, working in the news industry, I try and numb myself when it comes to feeling the weight of bad news. But it still affects me. Every day, it affects me. It impacts where I go, whom I take with me and how I observe the people around me.

How can we protect ourselves from the horror that wicked brings when the evildoers are so willing to sacrifice themselves in the name of terror? How do we go about our lives fearlessly? I’m not sure I have the answers. I can only do what I know how to do, which is to try and be kind to everyone I meet and spread love instead of hate. Though the list of terrorism-related events is ever-growing, I still hold tight to the belief that majority of people are good, compassionate and caring. I hope I’m right about that. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Everything I know about the 1985 World Series I’ve learned as an adult. I’ve heard all about the upset on the other side of our state from family and friends who live in St. Louis. I don’t remember any of it, as my two-year-old self was most likely busy playing dolls or other toddler things than worrying about what was going on with the Kansas City Royals.

Thirty years later, with a little boy at home who aspires to pitch in the major leagues one day, the memories of the last several weeks will last a lifetime. The Kansas City Royals pulled it off for the second time in my life.

I’m proud of the team. Like most of Kansas City, I feel as though I’ve gotten to know them over the last few years. And, they seem like a pretty decent group of guys. They’re likable. They’re passionate about baseball. And they were really excited to win.

I watched all the games. I cheered and I jeered. I celebrated Tuesday with thousands of my closest friends. I’ll be excited next spring when our favorite boys in blue return to the K.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Every day, first responders go to work knowing there’s a possibility they might not return home at the end of their shifts. Every day, the families of these first responders hold their breaths until they hear a garage door open or a key turning a lock, signifying their loved ones are safe at home. Every day, the rest of the population go about their lives like normal, at times taking for granted the serious jobs that our firefighters, law enforcement officers and paramedics have.

Last week, with the fire in Grandview, the risk these men and women take came brutally close to home, as one of our own was injured in a ceiling collapse. Just a week after we were rallying for his full recovery and keeping a close eye on those who lost everything in the deadly blaze, another tragic fire happened in another community close to home.

Kansas City lost two veteran firefighters when a wall of a burning structure collapsed Monday night. Fire Chief Paul Berardi identified the two as 43-year-old Larry J. Leggio, a 17-year department veteran, and 39-year-old John V. Mesh, a 13-year department veteran.

Leggio and Mesh were among a large group of firefighters who responded to a burning three-story building of businesses and apartments at Independence and Prospect avenues in the Northeast area.
As a whole, Kansas City was celebrating Monday after a Royals win, and Kansas City mourned Monday night with the incredible loss. This community supports one another in ways that make me incredibly proud to be a part of it. We revel in the highs and grieve our lows as one. There is not just a brotherhood when it comes to first responders; there is also a brotherhood in Kansas City.

This community has the backs of the Kansas City Fire Department. We support the everyday efforts of those who put their lives in danger, and our condolences go out to the families of those who sacrificed their own lives in order to save others. Firefighters Leggio and Mesh, we thank you, we appreciate you and we honor you.

A fund to support the families of fallen firefighters has been made available through IAFF Local 42. Tax-deductible donations will be given to the families of firefighters Leggio and Mesh. Donations can be made by check, payable to IAFF Local 42 and should be sent to 6320 Manchester Ave., Suite 42A, Kansas City, MO 64133.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Over the course of the years that I’ve been in the newspaper business, I have become more and more of a believer in the power of the community paper. No other news source is covering Grandview and South Kansas City like we do. I believe that wholeheartedly. We have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to bring our readers the good news and the bad news as it unfolds.

I’m not the source of the news. I don’t make it up, and I don’t print only what I want. If there’s bad news, I write about it. I have had my integrity questioned, my faith and morals challenged and my heart broken by readers’ reactions to stories I have penned. Stories that if they had gone unwritten, a certain disservice to the community would have fallen on my shoulders.

Most times, however, the things and people we write about are positive. I have met so many people in this community who have changed me for the better, who have helped develop me into the person and writer that I am today. To all those people, I am eternally grateful.

As I was preparing to write my column on National Newspaper Week early Monday morning, I tried to think of how I could tie in the fact that National Fire Prevention Week happens to fall at the same time. Right around the time this crossed my mind, I heard sirens. Not just the normal police car or ambulance siren, either. This was something major and I immediately knew I had a job to do.

I rushed out of my office door and saw smoke to the west. Something was surely burning. I quickly grabbed my camera and headed behind the emergency vehicles to what would become a horrific scene. Between the mayday calls, an injured fireman and the body of a victim, it can be hard to keep one’s emotions in check. I got some amazing photos despite the lump in my throat and the pure adrenaline that is felt when covering things like this.

That afternoon and evening, I pored through the 400+ photos I took throughout the ordeal. Some showed complete heroism, while others showed complete devastation. This, I thought, is why community journalism is still relevant. Sure, there were television news stations there covering the event. But, I was there first. I followed our guys; guys I know by name, down to the flames. I said a prayer as a captain from our department was taken away by ambulance. And tears fell as I learned of the resident who didn’t make it out.

Monday night, I went home to my quiet apartment in Grandview. With a roof over my head and a blanket to cover up in, I tried to sleep. Each time I closed my eyes, sights and sounds of the day kept me awake. As a journalist, it’s important to stay focused on the job at hand, despite personal ties or feelings. That’s probably, for me, the most difficult part of the job when covering breaking news in my hometown.

I don’t think I have to explain why I feel this newspaper is important to this community. The names in the bylines celebrate with you our accomplishments just as we mourn with you our losses. We don’t just breeze through when something big happens. We live here and we are invested in the people here. We love this community, and more importantly, we love what we do.

I also don’t think an explanation is necessary on why fire prevention can help save lives. The key message of this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, October 4 through 10, is to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement. Smoke alarms save lives.

I’m lucky to be a part of a community of people and businesses that understand the importance of this newspaper. I take this job seriously and sincerely love what I do. Thank you for your continued readership and support. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

First impressions are important. The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” serves, for me, as a reminder to go beyond my first impression of people I come across. But, I’m human and I make judgments, sometimes too quickly.

On Monday morning, I was in a hurry to get to the office, but had to make a quick detour to the store first. I breezed through, picking up the few items I needed, only to be greeted at the front of the store by a long line and one open register. I huffed and puffed until a man two ahead of me was directed by an associate to another checkout station. Begrudgingly, I asked the girl in front of me if she’d like to go over to the newly-opened line. She declined after seeing I only had a few items in my hands.

I rushed over to the other lane and stood behind the man who was purchasing a single item. I thought, “Finally, this will go quickly, and I can be on my way.” Not so fast, Mary. The man’s card was declined. I was annoyed...his purchase was for less than one dollar!

At this point, I began to observe what was happening in front of me. The older man was buying a store-brand two liter of soda. His clothes appeared as though he’d been outside for days, if not longer, and he was badly needing a shower and a shave. He politely and patiently asked the associate to swipe the card again, only this time for eighty-five cents instead of the full ninety-seven he owed. This time, the purchase cleared his pre-paid debit card, though he still owed twelve cents.

The gentle-spoken, Santa Claus of a man proceeded to count twelve pennies from a small coin purse in his pocket. It was then that I realized that this man was struggling to pay for something that cost less than one dollar, and my impatience and annoyance started to melt away. He completed his purchase and walked out of the store, leaving me with a heavy heart.

After paying for my items, I left the store and saw the man walking slowly on the sidewalk. I reached in my wallet and grabbed $20. Walking briskly to catch up to him, I got his attention and handed him the twenty. He held it in his hand, looked me in the eye, and began to cry. He hugged me, thanked me profusely, and we both went on our way.

Sometimes, we are busy and get caught up in where we have to be next. But, at times, it pays to stop and observe what is going on around you. I don’t know what the person in front of me at Walgreens on the Monday morning of my thirty-second birthday is going through. But, if in a single moment, I can make someone’s day, that’s a feeling worth more than a $20 birthday gift to myself could have bought me.
As the air becomes a little cooler and the leaves on the trees are beginning to change into colors of autumn, one thing is on the mind of most in Kansas City: baseball is in the air. For the second year in a row, we are celebrating our Kansas City Royals in October.

I’ve never been much of a professional sports fan. Sure, I’ll watch a Chiefs game on TV, or head out to a Royals game if I’m invited. But these past few years have made me a believer. Despite my son’s room being decorated in St. Louis Cardinals gear (he liked the bird when he was little and never changed his mind), we have been cheering for the Royals whenever they’re playing.

I’ve also been rooting for my own MVP. Michael has been playing fall baseball in Raymore (it’s not offered in Grandview after spring) and he’s been pitching phenomenally. So well, in fact, that after Monday night’s game, the umpire handed him the game ball. When asked how often that happens in little league, Michael responded, “Pretty much never!”

His day was made, and I beamed with pride. The kid loves the game. Earlier this season, he suffered a sprain in his hand after playing catcher (lesson learned - keep him on the mound) and thought the world was coming to an end when he was told he couldn’t play for at least two weeks.

So, as Kansas City watches our hometown boys head further into postseason, I’ll be watching my favorite pitcher finish out his fall season on the mound. With dirt on his knees and Gatorade on his upper lip, there’s no one I’d rather watch throw a ball.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

If you’re a resident of Grandview, chances are you’ve learned some history while living in the area about Harry S Truman. We have shopping centers, festivals and more dedicated to preserving Truman’s legacy in our town. Most notably, however, is the Truman Farm Home, located just off of Blue Ridge Road, tucked between the old Steak-n-Shake building and The Farm Shopping Center.

Despite the recent lift of sequestration cuts at parks such as the farm home, the National Parks Service still hasn’t reopened the home for visitors due to budget restraints. However, the grounds remain free and open to curious passersby. The Parks Service has offered a cell phone-guided tour, free of charge, to those wishing to still visit the home.

Last Friday, while the weather was a perfect 70 degrees, I wandered over to the Truman Farm Home to take the thirty-minute tour, guided by my phone. The tour starts in the parking area and directs you through the yard, around the east side of the home, and back to the parking area. Throughout the tour, historical facts are given about each piece of the property in front of you.

While I still would love to go inside, as I remember doing as a little girl and pretending, however briefly, that I lived during the time Harry was growing up in that house, it was nice to visit again and roam the yard of the home with the help from the recorded tour.

Even if you’ve visited the home before, I’d encourage you to do so again. With fall approaching, the weather will be pleasant enough. If you’d prefer to go with a group, the Grandview Historical Society will meet there on Monday, October 5 at 5:30 p.m. to take the tour and enjoy a sack supper picnic.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Do you believe in ghosts? Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve believed in ghosts, or spirits. We had one we named Carol who would visit us from time to time while I was growing up in our house in Grandview. There were a few unexplained things that happened over the years that we would eventually “blame” on Carol. Since then, every unexplained phenomenon throughout my life I’ve attributed to Carol.

Over the holiday weekend, my boyfriend and I visited the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City for a two-hour ghost tour. Chilling, humbling and fascinating, walking the prison grounds feels a bit like you are walking in a graveyard. In a way, that’s true. The site, dubbed the “bloodiest 47 acres in America,” opened its doors in 1836, housing 5,200 inmates at its peak, making it at one time the largest prison in the United States. On Wednesday, September 15, 2004, the 1,355 inmates were moved from the Missouri State Penitentiary to the new Jefferson City Correctional Center east of town. The Missouri State Penitentiary served Missouri as the oldest prison west of the Mississippi River for over 168 years.

During our tour, we received brief histories of each cell block visited, as well as a rundown on any paranormal activity experienced or captured there. In the dungeon, which was used to torture prisoners and a sort of dark confinement, we witnessed first-hand the cave darkness that would turn some inmates insane. In a cell, on a bench, in complete darkness, I felt what I can only describe as a cold breeze on my face and neck, though beside me was a cement and limestone wall.

Later, I learned that the particular cell I felt the air in is referred to as the “touchy-feely” room, for others have experienced grabbing, touching and feeling, especially among females.
s the tour began to wind down, our final destination was the gas chamber. A small, stone building just on the outskirts of the prison was the final place where thirty-nine men and one woman took their last breaths before being poisoned, while family and friends of victims watched through small windows. The sense of sadness, death and solitude was incredibly overwhelming on the entire property, but especially in the gas chamber.

Visit for more information.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

...and the violence continues. It seems that is how I want to end so many of my stories, Facebook and Twitter postings and conversations. Last Wednesday, I awoke to the heartbreaking news that two journalists were murdered during a live shoot in Virginia by a former coworker, who was apparently known for violent tendencies and unsteadiness.

As I watched the news that night, thinking my son wasn’t within earshot, I cried. I was overcome with so much emotion that I sat there and let the tears fall: tears for those who lost their lives; tears for their families and loved ones whom were being interviewed; tears for their coworkers who, despite everything, continued with their jobs. All of this just seemed too close to home.

During my career as a journalist, there have been a few times where I felt threatened, or uneasy. Typically, I have been unsettled over phone conversations that leave me on edge for a few days. Once that feeling subsides, I glide right back into my routine. But, last Wednesday shook that routine up and made me really question my own actions and what I’m doing to prevent something like this happening to me.

Because, it could happen to me. I’m not ignorant enough to have the “never me” mentality. I’ve known enough “crazy” people to know better than that. But, I do have a comfort zone that I’m used to being in and I could always be more aware of my surroundings.

As I was crying in front of the television, Michael walked in the room. He asked, “Mom, did you know those reporters?”

“No buddy, I didn’t know them,” I answered.

“But they’re reporters like you. I don’t understand how something like this could happen. Or why people keep killing each other. It makes no sense,” he said.

My nine-year-old can’t comprehend it, and neither can I. I’ve always been of the belief that crazy people will do crazy things, despite what we may do to try and prevent things from happening. Unfortunatley, I don’t have any answers for my son. It seems to be a question that comes up whenever our country faces tragedy at the hands of monsters: what can be done to keep guns out of the posession of criminals or the mentally unstable?

Until we can figure that out, I think we’ll continue hearing about these types of senseless murders. I’m a supporter of the freedoms of our country, but I’m not fan of those freedoms being abused.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

For three years now, I have sat at my desk (the location of which has changed in the office) at the Advocate, writing story after story of news from our community. Good news, bad news and all that fits in between, this newspaper and the people that read it have become such a big part of my life that I consider it a privilege, not work.

I spend hours working on my stories, some have even taken weeks to put together. Yet, the thing I get the most compliments on from readers is my column. I try to write it weekly, but sometimes I run out of room, thinking that the news is more important than what’s going on in my world.

I write my column to fit the space available, writing about whatever is important to me on that particular day. I never thought about naming it, because, again, I just wrote to fill a void. But, it turns out, it was filling more that an empty space on my page. I’ve been told one of my columns was read at a funeral service, and another I received numerous emails and phone calls thanking me for being the voice of reason.

So, with all that said, I’ll do my best to save a little bit of space each week for my thoughts on community issues, national debates and, of course, updates on the cutest little boy I know. It won’t be a lot, and it probably won’t change lives, it’ll just be All That Fits.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fourth Grade

I have very clear memories from fourth grade. I remember the sound of Mrs. Fryer’s voice and I remember Mr. Grube’s class pets. During language arts that year, I remember having to give an oral book report. Mine was on a book I read about horses and I remember getting creative and videotaping myself in a sort-of interview fashion.

Fourth grade was also the year of the "missing portrait," as I like to define it. For some reason, there is only one picture of my fourth grade portrait in existence. My mom insists that I gave them all away, but I sincerely don’t know what happened to them. I remember, in full detail, getting my photo taken that year. I missed the regular picture day, and had to go in on retake day. Only two people in my class missed the first go-around: Nicole Jones and me.

Nicole and I were sent down to the gym, where the photographer was set up, and we promptly detoured into the girls’ bathroom to primp our hair. We giggled and laughed until we both felt we were as beautiful as we could manage, and we headed to our photo shoot hand-in-hand. I remember I wore a fancy green dress that day that had a shimmery skirt.

Michael, my son, began fourth grade today at Belvidere. When I asked him last week if he was ready to go back to school, he responded by saying, "I don’t really want to talk about that, but I am ready to see my friends again."

He’s looking forward to getting back into the routine that school brings and, according to him, he might even consider running for student government this year. "That is if I can convince people to vote for me. Would you vote for me?" he asked.

Of course I’d vote for Michael. I’m completely biased, but I’m fairly certain he’s the best kid for the job, whatever job he goes after. That’s the difference between him and me: he’s already focused on being a leader, where I was more concerned with who I sat by and looking cute in my school photo.

Whether I gave all my fourth grade photos away that year, or whether they were truly lost, the memories I have remain. I hope my son can hold onto some memories from the upcoming year as well.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dueling developments score points with communities

Last May, developers announced plans for Gateway Village in Grandview, a $300 million all-turf soccer complex to call south Grandview home between Byars and Kelley roads. According to Shane Hackett, executive director of Heartland Soccer, the country’s largest soccer league, Heartland Soccer will be the main tenant of the complex and the development will consist of 240 acres of residential, commercial and retail.

"This is slated to be fifteen all-turf soccer fields," said Hackett. "This is the synthetic turf that you can currently see at the Overland Park Complex and Swope Soccer Village."

Within the last few weeks, a similar announcement came for our neighbors to the east. Paragon Star sports village and complex, a $200 million project, will be located at the intersection of View High Drive and I-470 in Lee’s Summit. This development will feature ten synthetically-turfed fields, including a championship field that will hold up to 5,000 spectators as well as office, hotel, housing, food and entertainment features. The initial phase of the project is estimated at $154 million, but total development costs are expected to exceed the $200 million price tag upon completion.

Paragon Star’s anchor tenant will be the KC Select Soccer Club. Developer Phillip "Flip" Short said the 100-plus acre project is intended for visitors to have an experience unlike any other in the United States.

"We’ve indicated from the on-set of this project that we were going to make it the country’s number-one amateur field sports facility and it truly will serve as a model of excellence," said Short.

A bold statement, considering six miles to the southwest will be Grandview’s Gateway Village. However, continuing with the spirit of the game, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone. Bring on the families, the fans and visitors to both locations. Visitors to our area will help the communities as a whole.

A mere 10 minutes apart, the projects are quite similar in their plans to bring more soccer options to southern Jackson County. Just this week, WalletHub ranked Kansas City seventh on their list of the best cities for soccer fans. Surely two new massive developments catering to soccer families won’t hurt that ranking.

Both projects have the potential to bring massive amounts of people to the area: people that will shop here, eat here and stay here. The goal should be, now, to find ways to get these visitors to venture out of the complexes and into our respective downtowns to visit local merchants and boost our economies even further.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Family Reunions

As a little girl, I loved spending time with my family. Not just my immediate family, but grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and the like. I have fond memories of getting together over holidays, or swimming in the pool in my grandma and grandpa’s backyard while all the grown-ups sat around and talked.

Most memorable for me, though, were the family reunions we’d attend every few years with my dad’s extended family in Arkansas. My great-grandma was still around for a few years of my childhood and the whole family would meet at the farm house in Sardis, with my grandpa’s siblings and their families in tow. My great-grandpa, before he passed away, was known for his watermelon and sweet potatoes that he grew on that old farm south of Little Rock.

By the time I visited as a kid, the farm’s heyday had passed. I still found the whole experience fantastic. I remember being completely terrified of the cows, but still wanting to get as close to them as they’d allow. My great-uncle Kenneth and his wife Barbara (a real-life Barbie and Ken to my six-year-old self) lived in a house next door to the old farmhouse and I remember borrowing great-aunt Ruby’s swimsuit to go play in their hot tub. The suit was too long on my little body and the rear hung down to my knees, but I was happy as could be to hang out at Barbie and Ken’s house.

It’s been several years since I’ve been back to the farm; the last time was while I was in high school. I returned over the 4th of July weekend with my parents and my son to a family reunion hosted by distant cousins of my grandpa Rodney. Sadly, he passed away in 2013, but I’m certain he was with us in spirit as we visited with family he grew up with.

I spent much of my time talking with my great-uncle Ken, whose real-life Barbie died just a few months ago. He reminded me so much of my grandpa and it was hard to not get a little emotional to see how much they look alike. He couldn’t get over how “grown-up and beautiful” I am, and he held my face in his hands and kissed my cheek, much like my grandpa always did.

The farmhouse has sat empty for some time now, but the memories of family, food and bonding still remain. What once was a land full of my great-grandpa’s sweat, blood and hard work is now acres and acres of green. Walking up to the front door of the house, I still imagined my great-grandmother’s petite frame welcoming us with a warm hug and something to eat.

Unfortunately, this may have been the last time I’ll get to see the old farmhouse, as the family continues to age and grow. I’m grateful my son had a chance to see it and meet some of the people that make up his family, a family that I hold so close to my heart.

This Independence Day, I celebrated my heritage, my family and the memories I have spending time on the farm in Sardis, Arkansas.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


The last week of school was always a little bittersweet for me while I was growing up. If it were an option, I would have gone to school all year round. Though, making friendship bracelets and exchanging phone numbers at the conclusion of each grade was something I looked forward to each spring.

Along with the end of the year came yearbooks. I loved yearbooks before I even started kindergarten, as my mom was a yearbook advisor for oodles of years. I remember being a kid and poring over the many black and white pictures used in the layouts, the pica rulers used to line everything up, and the pages and pages of clipart of every category in the thick books of images.

At the first opportunity, upon entering middle school, I knew I wanted to be on the yearbook staff. By that time, the majority of layout design was done on the computer, rather than by hand. I continued to be on staff throughout the next few years, and my passion for yearbooks grew during my four years of high school.

I remember I still loved going through photos, color by then, and by graduation, I knew almost every person in the building by name, due to the amount of time spent looking at and laying out page after page of photos and names. To this day, when I see old friends on Facebook or other social media, I can still picture in my mind what their school photo looked like in 2001.

I have every yearbook, from kindergarten through my senior year of high school, on shelves at home. My son likes to pull them out each year and compare how he looks to the way I did when I was his age. Each time, I’m reminded of the memories I have from so long ago, and the friends I have since forgotten but remember when I glance at their photo.

Being the editor of a community newspaper is not much different than being the editor of a yearbook. Though my work is now published weekly, I still tell the stories of my neighbors and "classmates," and I still very much enjoy going through photos from events, though digital now. This newspaper is like the weekly yearbook to the community, and I still approach the job with as much passion and love as I had when I was just a preschooler sitting on the living room floor surrounded by photos.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

After Third Grade, You'll Know Everything

I loved school as a kid. I loved everything about it: my teachers, my friends, new dresses and school supplies. Granted, I was there for more of the social aspect than to learn, but I managed to do well enough. I was teacher’s pet and desired to make everyone proud.

Once, while I was in kindergarten, at home around the dinner table we were discussing our days. I’m unsure of what transpired, but I imagine the conversation was driven by my not having a great day at school. My brother, wiser and three grades above me, said, “Just wait, Mary. When you’re in third grade, you will know everything and your whole life will change.”

This quickly became a phrase that is said often in the Davis house, to this day. So much so, that my own third grader has heard it. With just over a week left of school to go, Michael almost has another year of education under his belt. He started the year off informing me that third grade is going to be a snap and when it comes time for statewide testing, “I already know it all, anyway.”

Turns out, he may have been onto something. Standardized testing has come and gone, and he said the tests were easy. His grades have been near-perfect all year, and on Friday of this week, he’ll be inducted into the National Elementary Honors Society. To say I’m a proud mom would be an understatement.

So it seems the third grade mentality of knowing everything there is to know is a common thread, at least with the boys in my family. I don’t remember anything significant about third grade, or my life changing for the better or worse that year. Michael’s had his share of changes in the last year, yet he continues to succeed and amaze me. He teaches me lessons every day, and I’m incredibly honored he calls me “Mom.”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Race and Riots

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing color differences until I was in about third grade. I grew up in a pretty diverse community – this one, as a matter of fact – and the reality that some people are different than me because of their skin color was not something that I heard in the house I lived in.

When I was two years old, I met my favorite childhood friend. Brandy lived behind us, and we played outside most every day until my family moved from that home after sixth grade. At my birthday party while we were in third grade, Brandy gave me a small token of our friendship that I still display on a shelf to this day. It was a small plaque with a picture of two kittens on it – one black kitten and one white kitten – with a quote that reads: "How nice they always seem to be, the times we share, just you and me."

Upon opening the gift, Brandy, with a huge grin on her face, told me she picked it out because the kittens on the picture looked just like us. My little third-grade mind was blown away, as this was the first time I remember realizing that I do, in fact, look different from my best friend.

My own child is now the same age as I was when I had this revelation. Just the other day, in the car on the way to school, Michael informed me that another little boy in third grade called him the "N" word. Thinking I hadn’t heard him correctly, I asked him what word he was referring to. Sure enough, the other little boy didn’t call my son nice, neat or even nerdy.

I attempted in the best way I could to explain to Michael the significance of the "N" word, and why he, along with any other person, black or white, should not say it. After the conversation, he was full of questions, the same questions I continue to ask, the questions that I’m not sure there are answers to. Such as explaining away the rioting that transpired in Ferguson, and most recently in Baltimore. Why do people feel the need to go to extreme measures to prove a point? I don’t have the answer for that. But, the way I can do my part to prevent a future of civil unrest regarding race in our community is to raise a son who more than tolerates other races. I want my son to become best friends with all kinds of kids, regardless of race. I want him to see people the way I see people – not what color they are, but what qualities they bring to my life.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I was in grade school, lunch was likely my favorite part of the day. After sitting quietly (or as quietly as I could) throughout the morning, I finally had the opportunity to talk with my friends over our midday meal. While school lunches have changed over the years due to governmental regulations and guidelines, I’m fairly certain that this tradition of relaxation and camaraderie with classmates remains the same.

At High Grove Elementary School in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when I attended, one face remained constant every day during lunch. Mrs. Thompson would be behind the counter, busily preparing trays and offering a warm smile as students passed through her line. I remember I always tried to make a point to say something to her as I walked by: "Mrs. Thompson, the cookies smell delicious today," or "When is the next pizza day, Mrs. Thompson?"

Each time I interacted with her, she would look at me and smile, wipe her hands on her apron, come around to the other side of the counter and embrace me in a big hug. I remember her smelling of peanut butter and flour, likely from all the peanut butter sandwiches that were popular and her famous chocolate chip cookies.

Mrs. Thompson recently passed away, and when I read through her obituary (above), all the warm memories of her smile and grandmotherly manner came rushing back to my mind. I’m sure my young self thought of her as just that: another grandma who enjoys spoiling her kids. She was the beginning of my favorite part of my day growing up, and I have never forgotten her kindness.

It’s hard to believe that after all these years, I have such vivid memories of someone I hardly knew, other than in her work environment. But her love and care for me and the hundreds of kids she served at High Grove with a smile made her someone important to me. We never know the impact we have on others, and sometimes just a smile and a hug are all that is needed to boost someone’s day or lifetime. Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for loving me and all your kids at High Grove. You’ll be missed.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tears, Trials, and Truth

Divorce is hard, no matter how you look at it or how it directly impacts you and those you love. Unfortunately, sometimes there are things that happen in a marriage that cause it to fall apart, despite the wishes of one or both of the parties involved. Throw in a child or two or more, and the decisions of the adults directly impact the children.

Two months ago, my divorce was final. It’s not something that I’ve talked about publicly, and those who know have either heard from word-of-mouth or I have told individually. My personal life has always been just that - personal.

As the last several weeks have passed by, I have been asked more and more about my relationship status, as it has apparently become clearer to people that something was amiss (like my wedding ring, for instance).

I still love my ex-husband, as I spent the last seventeen years with him being a major part of my life. We will forever be united in our love for our amazing son, and through all the struggles that we have dealt with over the months leading up to the divorce, Michael has remained our priority.

There have been a lot of tears, but change is always a scary thing, even if it’s change that you asked for. I didn’t come from a broken home, and I was always told that divorce was not an option. The vows you make when you get married are sacred -- 'til death do you part. Taking back those vows was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

So, I thought it was time to come clean, and let all of you know that I’m okay; I’m happy, even. Life sometimes throws you curve balls, and this one was definitely a doozy. What’s done is done, however, and sharing the truth with all of you was important to me. Thanks for all of your love and support.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Olden Days

Let’s face it: kids these days have it pretty good. They have the world at their fingertips, and information is as accessible to them as sunshine, practically. Everywhere they look, and everywhere they go, they are bombarded with applications and status updates and “selfies.”

So, it should come as no shock, that during a recent conversation with my own child, the topic of cell phones came up. He asked, “Mom, when you were my age, what did you do with your cell phone while you were at school?”

After laughing hysterically, I explained to him that I didn’t have a cell phone when I was nine. Instead we had a phone, with a cord, that was attached to the wall. The kid, needless to say, was completely dumbfounded.

“You mean like those phones you see on old TV shows?” he asked, to which I nodded in agreement. “Oh, right! Like in the olden days!” he added.

Now, I’m aware that I’m not getting any younger, but to think that in my child’s mind I lived in the “olden days?” Well, that just didn’t sit well with me. When does that new Apple watch come out, so I can feel young again?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Heart Month

Every February, for as long as I can remember, in every magazine and in several commercials, we are constantly reminded to be heart-conscious. Whether it’s the cereal we eat, the exercises we do (or don’t) do, or whatever is determined to be good for your heart, advocates for healthy hearts are everywhere.

A few years ago, I was young, and sincerely thought that heart issues were for older people. I thought, “I’m young, my friends are young, we’re healthy, we have nothing to worry about!” I was wrong.

In 2011, my best friend, Danielle, gave birth to her second child, a healthy and adorable boy named Charlie. Two months later, while at a benefit walk, she collapsed. Several days after, it was determined that her heart stopped beating for too long, and her husband and family made the hard decision to remove her from life support. This was truly devastating, and a complete shock.

Witnessing something like that, especially someone you are close to, really makes you open your eyes to things, making you hug those you love a little tighter, and count your blessings like never before. Danielle left a legacy in her two handsome boys, and I see her in their eyes.

She left me with memories, but also left me with the knowledge that our time spent on earth can be cut short in an instant. This February, I will focus on my own heart, and those who I hold so close to it, and I will be reminded that heart health is so much more than whether or not my heart is pumping blood through my veins. It’s about family and friends, laughing and enjoying life. Because that’s what’s truly important, and that’s the kind of exercise I can do without breaking a sweat.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Math vs. Old Math

I’ve never really cared for math. As a little girl, sitting at my desk in first grade, I remember my teacher patiently waiting while I rattled off my addition and subtraction problems not from memory, but by using my fingers. It wasn’t that I’d never get the hang of math, it was more of an issue of disinterest. Numbers didn’t do anything for me. Give me a word problem, and I’d read it aloud like no other. Ask me to solve the same word problem, and I’d give you a blank stare.

The funny thing about math is, throughout school, it gets progressively harder. Concepts build on previous concepts, and if you didn’t master those earlier concepts, you’re out of luck. That was me: out of luck. When entering third grade, I remember they started throwing multiplication and division at me. That’s where they truly lost me. I was done, I felt hopeless, I knew there was no way I’d ever "get" math.

Over the years, I had a few teachers who believed in me and gave it their best to help me understand math, but I was perfectly content with my barely-passing grades that provided me with enough math credits to squeeze on through.

Just when I thought I’d escaped all math (albeit what I can do on a calculator), I had a child who loves math. Not only does my son love it, he’s really good at it, at least by my standards. When he was in first grade, I had to look up the answers to a couple of problems on his homework and I remember thinking, "surely math wasn’t this hard when I was in first grade. This must be that ‘new math’ I hear about."

Unfortunately, as was the case when I was in school, math gets harder. The boy is now in third grade, the same grade where I decided I was done with math. Where I had given up, my son continues to succeed. He learned pretty early on to ask anyone but Mom if he has a question regarding math homework. Spelling or reading? I’m your girl. Math? Um, let me see if Google knows the answer.

Don’t even get me started on what some refer to as "common core math." That’s a whole ballgame I have zero interest participating in. I’ll just be on the sidelines, happily reading player biographies and looking for typos.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Violence Continues

There’s something contagious about being around someone who is passionate about something. Whatever it is they have on their heart, when you listen to their story and hear their thoughts, you want to be a part of it -- even if it’s something you know absolutely nothing about.

Listening to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker left me with a sense of urgency this week. Together, with the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, her goal is to stop violent offenders in their tracks, and hopefully, put them on the path to better things. While her statistics about the number of homicides in our city have begun to dwindle, the violence remains deadly.

As I am writing this column, I just received confirmation that the body that was found at The Bay waterpark, just minutes from where I sit, was that of 14-year-old Alexis Kane, a student in the Hickman Mills School District.

Our prosecutor was one-hundred percent correct when she said this is unacceptable. Our kids, our babies, are paying the most horrific price imaginable, and most likely over petty things. Whenever I hear bad news, which is daily in my profession, I can’t help but think of my little boy, and how he, along with all of his friends and playmates, deserves to live in a better world. Stop the violence.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Welcome 2015

The new year sure has come in with a bite to it, and in more ways than the crazy-cold temperatures outside. This week, I had the misfortune of writing some horribly depressing news stories. And those on top of news from around the world, and I don’t feel as optimistic about the start of the new year as I normally do.

Typically, I enjoy the start of a new year. The thought of a blank slate, so to speak, keeps me energized through our blustery least until spring hits. Then I rely on the sunshine and flowers to keep me going. I’m hoping that the sour news coming across my desk turns into stories of happiness and people in our community doing great things for each other.

If you know of any such stories, or hear of anything going on in the community that you think we should write about, we are always looking for input. Email me anytime at, stop by our office to chat, or give me a call at 816-761-6200.

This is your community newspaper, and we want to write the stories that you want to read. We look forward to doing just that in 2015. Happy New Year!