Thursday, December 29, 2016

More than ever, I’m ready for the new year to start. This year hasn’t been the best. I lost both of my grandmas this year, one in October, and the second one just a week and a half ago. Christmas in our family was a little bittersweet this year, as we laid my dad’s mom to rest on December 23, then had our annual Davis Family Christmas Eve Extravaganza on Saturday.

Normally, Christmas is full of joy and celebration. And, while we still did that as much as we could, there were definitely two people missing this time around. When I was a kid, we always had Christmas Eve with my dad’s family, and then Christmas dinner with my mom’s family. I suppose I always knew at some point that would change, I just wasn’t ready for it quite yet.

My grandma Ina, my dad’s mom, left us quickly and suddenly, and for that, I am thankful. She was spunky, she was opinionated, she was true to herself and she was a lot of fun. When I would want to stay home from school as a kid, my parents always knew when I was faking it when I asked to stay at Grandma Ina’s. She’d take me to lunch and we’d goof around all day.

Together, we saw movies, went to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, we traveled and we laughed - a lot. I learned all I could about my German heritage from her, even visiting the country with her after I graduated high school. Seeing Grandma in her element was the best gift I could have received. It was the trip of my lifetime. I’ll miss her, but I’ll also hang onto the memories I have.

As the new year approaches, I’m thankful for the good times I’ve had with family members who have passed on. They have helped mold me into who I am today and I hope to make them proud.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, in many ways. Christmastime has always been my favorite time of year to cover news in this community. Each week, from Thanksgiving through New Years, there seems to be magic in the air that transcribes over to the pages in this newspaper.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take photos of our uniformed officers volunteering their time to help children from Grandview fulfill their Christmas wishes. Armed with $100 and a shopping cart, each officer was paired with a new friend and their families to take part in this memory-making tradition.

One officer, who told me it was his first experience with Christmas with Cops, said that it was one of the most humbling things he’s witnessed. This year, I personally saw socks and underwear being tossed into carts, along with a little something for one girl’s mom. I saw police officers opening their own wallets to pay for the small difference when their shopping buddies went a little over budget. I saw parents walking behind their children, with wide smiles and tears in their eyes, as they realized Christmas was indeed going to come.

I overheard one girl tell the officer she was shopping with that she “needs a phone so when Mom works late I can let her know when my homework is done, what I’ve had for dinner, and when I’m going to bed.” Phones, electronics, music and DVDs were the popular items for the teens, while one little boy ran (I don’t think I saw him slow down once) through the toy aisles, grabbing a small chair, monster trucks and robots.

Each kiddo, from the smallest little guy to the oldest teenager, beamed at the officers with grins of delight. Christmas, this year, will be celebrated with a bit more cheer in each of their homes. And when they are older, I have no doubt that these kids will pay it forward, maybe even some of them will become Christmas-shopping cops, too.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Every year around this time, we Americans are somewhat forced to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. This week, many of us sat around a table surrounded by those we love (and some we may just tolerate on holidays), and likely shared, either out loud to the group or to a close friend, all the things that make our lives great. Some of us have a little more than others to be thankful for this year. Others will just be thankful to have warm food in their bellies.

No matter what our situation is, I believe we can all find a little joy to celebrate. For me, the past year has been both full of adventure and fun as much as it has been bittersweet. Even through tough times, I have still remained focus on every glimmer of hope and love that I can grasp.

It’s a tough time to raise children. My son watches the news and reads stories about brutal killings, a national divide, crises and more. And he still has hope and dreams and aspirations, mostly to do well and be a decent human. Part of that is how he is raised, but a large portion of that outlook on life has to do with his personality and his genuine heart.

We can teach our kids to be reactive, or we can teach them to be proactive. In our house, we love and respect everyone, no matter their faith, desires or race. In our house, we practice kindness and giving. In our house, we do not tolerate anything less. And for that, I’m extremely thankful. I was raised to be a caring, loving, respectful person and I expect the same from my child.

This year, I’m thankful for parents who taught me how to be decent. I’m thankful that I’m still open-minded enough to hear all sides of a story and come to my own conclusions on what I believe to be true. I’m thankful that I have a son who can teach me new ways of thinking. I’m thankful that he can grow up in a world where kindness matters. And, I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to help influence my own little portion of this community with positive news stories and features on some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

When we stop looking for the good in life, we start focusing on the bad. Positive messages and loving words can truly have an impact. I only hope I can be a part of that ripple of compassion.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

It’s finally over. The fat lady has finished her song. The curtain has come to a close. Everyone has taken their bows and gone home. This political season has been a roller coaster, to say the very least. And, whether or not my candidate(s) are in the offices I selected for them, I’m glad it’s come to an end.

In a country that has become dependent on technology, social media, for better or for worse, played an integral part in the election process this go-round.

From my vantage point on Facebook and Twitter, I saw hatred. I saw swastikas. I saw threats. I saw bullying. I saw hurt. I saw negativity. I saw opinions. I saw this side and I saw that side, all from those whom I call my friends. I saw just the same amount of anger, bitterness and nastiness from candidates running for various offices; local or otherwise.

No matter what happened last Tuesday night, we all woke up Wednesday morning still on the same team: the team that bleeds red, white and blue; the team that believes in prosperity and freedom. That’s the team I want to be on. With every election, I’ll support those who will soon take the seat to become powerful leaders in our society, because, frankly, in my career and in my personal beliefs and values, I have no choice but to respect the offices and the people that inhabit them.

I have so much to be thankful for: I have clothes to put on my body, food to put in my belly, words to put on paper and a little boy who calls me Mom. I am able to put differences aside and hope, pray and wish for the betterment of our community, of our country. I believe that this country is the greatest country on earth, no matter who is in charge.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I can remember getting my first library card. Like many little girls, I had purses I’d carry around with nothing of importance in them: maybe some lip balm, some ponytail holders or fruit roll-ups. My first library card was also my first step into being big. With it, besides being able to finally have something other than toys in my wallet, came great responsibility, as my parents taught me.

Whatever I checked out from the library had to be returned on time. If it wasn’t, I was responsible for paying the late fee. I remember paying a lot of late fees, scrounging through couch cushions and the corner of my closet for loose change to pay off my fines. I just never could get the hang of reading all the books (way too many than one kid can possibly get through) in a timely fashion.

So, from an early age, I guess you could say I have invested in our public library system. As a kid, I remember when the Grandview library moved from the west side of the highway to the brand new building on Booth Lane, where it still sits today.

As an adult, I’m still a library believer and lover, though I don’t step foot inside nearly as often as I used to. Being a newspaper girl who believes in print, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I read most of my novels on my Kindle. Several years ago, I discovered that I could request and download books straight onto my device through the public library at no charge. I was hooked.

As a mom, I knew the importance and rite of passage signing my son up for his first library card was. Along with a two-of-hearts from a deck of cards and zero-balance gift cards, the library card is
tucked away in Michael’s little wallet.

The library is not the same as it used to be. Along with a hardback and paperback, they now have to buy the eBook, and the audiobook, and the eAudiobook, and the large print format, and so on and so on. As technology changes, the cost to our public libraries continues to grow. I am in full support of Proposition L, if for no other reason that to see offered to my child the same (albeit upgraded and updated) library experiences I had growing up. I’ll be voting yes on November 9, in support of Mid-Continent Public Library’s plans for better facilities, services and materials at a cost of less than the price of one new book.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Last week, in the quiet stillness of her home, I held my grandma’s hand as she took her last breath. My grandma was my favorite person. She was there when I was born, undoubtedly one of the first to hold me and tell me she loved me. From the very beginning, we shared a special bond that only grandmothers and granddaughters share, especially those who have the same name.

My grandma Mary Ann was the one who taught me how to swim in the freezing cold water of the lake place in early summer…because grandma and I would never say the water was too cold. We’d sip on sun tea and watch the sunset with lightning bugs dancing around us and the sound of cicadas keeping me up way past my bedtime.

Grandma was my favorite shopping buddy. We would shop-’til-we dropped, and Grandma would spoil me with “regular-priced” goodies that kept me looking pretty cool. And Grandma always looked pretty cool herself. She had the best wardrobe and always looked so put together, no matter where she was going. With those big, brown eyes, gorgeous white hair and sweet demeanor, she turned heads wherever she went.

We attended numerous ballets, and saw many productions together. For a few years when I was little, we had a tradition of seeing The Nutcracker at Christmastime. We were frequent visitors of the Nelson-Atkins and expert ice cream connoisseurs, spending way too much time picking out our favorite flavor at Baskin Robins when we’d both always settle on the same thing we’d always get. We went to high tea dressed in our fanciest clothes, and we picked blueberries until we were purple from head to toe. She was kind, loving and would do anything for me.

Grandma was at every dance performance, every game, every school musical, every birthday celebration and every important day of my life. She was my biggest cheerleader and supporter. If I didn’t think I could do something or wouldn’t be very good at this or that, she had a way of convincing me otherwise.

She knew no stranger. She loved to talk, and anyone who was in her presence for any given amount of time would quickly become a friend. I definitely got the gift of gab from my grandma, and even when she couldn’t have a conversation with me any longer because of Alzheimer’s, I knew she loved listening to me talk to her when she’d smile in response or tell me I was pretty.

As I got older, my grandma was the one to send me postcards and care packages while I was away at school. When I became an adult, the birthday cards came in the mail and eventually, they would come a few days late until they stopped coming altogether. It is heartbreaking to watch someone you love so much, someone you have so many memories with, struggle to even remember your name – our name.

She loved with her whole heart and thought the world of her family. She was there when my baby boy was born, and she was so proud and happy to be a great-grandma. That little boy could do no wrong in her eyes…she even willingly held his hand as he gave her a tour of the backyard dog poop at my parent’s house when he was about two. It didn’t matter that they were looking at poop; what mattered to her was that little Michael was so excited to tell her all about it.

When I was a little girl, I remember my mom telling me that there was no one in this world who loved me like my grandma loved me. I never forgot that. She was there for my beginning and I was there for her end. We have a bond that surely will carry on, as I know she is still my cheerleader, still my supporter and still my best friend. I will cherish the memories I have of her, and I will do my best to live up to our name.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

“Government can be a force for good, just like the press. That was true 150 years ago when this organization began and it is especially true today, in this age where many have lost faith in their government and the process and also lost faith in the press. It hasn’t been that long ago that a Missourian from St. Joseph, journalist Walter Cronkite, was the most trusted man in America. That’s a goal that everybody in the press should constantly work to be in your communities for all of us. Trusting,” Governor Jay Nixon said as he addressed a room full of journalists at the 150th Annual Missouri Press Convention last Friday.

The work of journalists is more important now than ever, as is the opinion of journalists, along with the ability to recognize and celebrate the positive and the good news happening in our communities each and every day. As we celebrate National Newspaper Week this week, I’m reminded of my duty and my privilege to cover this community.

Through good times and bad, through ribbon cuttings and destructive fires, through it all, the community newspaper is there. For me, this industry is more than just a job. It’s my calling. I’m passionate about telling stories. This community is where I grew up, and it’s where my son now calls home. In my 33 years of life, I’ve seen tremendous change that is now amounting to progress, and I’m continuously excited for the future of this part of the world.

We wouldn’t be able to do this without you. Each week, we pour our hearts out on these pages. We tell the stories of your neighbors, your leaders, your friends and your colleagues. We believe in our duty to be fair and just, and we believe in the truth. We truly have our readers’ best interests at heart.
So, each week, as I attempt to scrub the ink from my knuckles and step out into this community, I am reminded of good ole’ Mr. Cronkite. Am I the most trusted person in Grandview and South Kansas City? If not, that is my goal. If nothing else is accomplished, I can at least attempt to be just that: trusting.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Last week, we had two stories regarding resignations from individuals in public offices. One school board member supposedly moved out of district, and one alderman resigned for apparent health reasons. I’m beginning to see a trend where our local politics are concerned.

Medical issues and other emergency situations aside, if you can’t serve the term, don’t run for the office. If you are interested in dipping your toes into the political arena, I urge you to educate yourself on what it is you’re getting into, what is expected of you, the commitments and the processes. Maybe attend some meetings to get a feel for what actually goes on. I can’t even begin to estimate how many school board meetings, public hearings, city aldermen meetings or otherwise I’ve covered where I am the sole community member in attendance.

Time and again I have seen people run for different offices whom I’ve never seen at a meeting, who don’t have any experience in government or education, and who are simply in over their heads from the get go.

Those who are committed elected officials end up feeling the burden of those vacancies. Running for office, in whatever capacity, is not a status symbol, a social experiment or a popularity contest and should not be taken lightly. A public office is a job, with deadlines, homework, expectations and commitment. It requires leadership, organization, time-management and people skills. Most importantly, it requires someone who will take the job seriously.

Our local governments deserve better. Our elected officials deserve better colleagues. Our community deserves better. Being elected to public office isn’t akin to winning a game. Elected terms are marathons, not foot races. If you cannot stand that simple test, don’t put your name on the ballot.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Journalism has always been part of my life. When I was little, my mom was the yearbook advisor for Grandview High School. I remember being barely six years old and poring over photos of teenagers I didn’t know, picking up on everything that was discussed by my mom and her students. As years went by, and I went through different grades in school, the yearbook was always my favorite part of the end of the year.

I used to study it. Page after page, name after name, class after class, I’d memorize it. For me, I felt like I was a part of something that would sit on someone’s shelf for years to come, and they’d open it every once in a while to reminisce. The first chance I had, I joined that same yearbook staff that my mom had managed years before.

Mr. Brown took over where learning from my mom had left off. I learned new editing software, layout design, practiced my photography skills and wrote story after story for the four years of my high school career. I loved everything about the journalism classes I took. I loved the people, I loved my teacher and I loved my product.

My junior year, I became editor of the yearbook. It seemed to me to be my destiny. I took other classes, too, to work on my skills before college. Ms. Wall taught desktop publishing and public relations. I joined Quill and Scroll, took pictures at Homecoming and got the yearbook out on time for the first time in years. I was proud.

Today, I’m still just as proud. Each week, I pour my heart and soul into this paper. I’m privileged to be out in the community on a daily basis, meeting some amazing people and telling their stories. I have (knock on wood) never missed a deadline and I still believe that a newspaper and journalism are vital to this and any community. Through no other medium can you get the stories of your neighbors, the latest on city government, school district information, features on businesses you frequent and obituaries on those community members who have passed on.

I believe wholeheartedly in the profession of journalism. I live it and I breathe it everyday, in everything that I do; I always have. The Missouri Press Association also believes in this work, and they believe in me, too. I was recently selected to be on the ballot for the association’s Board of Directors to serve as its treasurer. I am very humbled and greatly honored to be considered to serve with a group of distinguished journalists from across the state, journalists who no doubt are more qualified and more experienced than I am.

Either way, I will continue to pursue my dream of telling stories, your stories, each week. I will work passionately and diligently to get the message out that Grandview and South Kansas City are home to some of the most welcoming, loving and neighborly people around. Thank you for letting me serve you.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Restaurants. Retail. Nightlife. Entertainment. Arts. Offices. Housing. Those of us who have lived in the area for a while all have our vision for the future of Grandview’s downtown corridor. And, much of that vision is the same from one person to the next. Whether we are looking for more dining options, a place or two to buy some unique gifts, or a one-stop-shop where we can live, work and play, I think we can all agree that our downtown is currently lacking.

Recently, on a Friday night at 9 p.m., I walked to my car with my son after eating a quick dinner at the newer taqueria on our Main Street. 9:00 on a Friday and there was not a soul in sight. I snapped a quick picture, and posted it to Grandview Main Street’s Facebook page with a simple question: who would like to see more nightlife in our downtown?

Every response was positive. The simple fact that our downtown essentially shuts down at 5 p.m. every day isn’t what our community wants. We want parades and festivals. We want places to shop and have a cold drink. We want to be able to park a car on one end and spend hours walking up and down a bustling district.

As president of Grandview Main Street, that is exactly what I’m working on, along with a board who also has that vision. With all of the great things happening in Grandview, let’s work together to make the heart of our city - our downtown - great again, too. Downtowns are the lifeblood, the core, the heartbeat of cities across the globe. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if ours had a pulse again?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

With Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn and countless others, social media has become a norm in our society. Businesses use various platforms to drive sales, news outlets push their stories to the top of your feeds and it can be a way to keep up with friends whom you haven’t seen in years or decades.

Whether or not you like using social media, I think we can all admit that it is a technology that likely won’t be going away for quite some time. We want to be able to quickly and easily keep in touch with those we love. I use social media for various things. On my personal page, I post a lot about my son and my relationship, along with promotion of local businesses.

A few weeks ago, an older gentleman stopped by the office to run an anniversary announcement in the paper (it was published last week). He explained to me that on their 40th anniversary, he got in big trouble because he didn’t make a big deal about it, so this year, for their 50th, he’s planning to celebrate and show her how much he loves her, including putting a little announcement in my paper, to make up for it. His eyes lit up when he told me about their wedding and how happy she makes him still to this day.

Unfortunately, his wife passed away four years ago, but this quiet, gentle, sweet man is still doing whatever he can to put a smile on his late wife’s face. I posted this story on my own Facebook account, and within hours, it caught the attention of nearly 200 of my friends, two of whom decided to purchase flowers for him when he came to pick up copies of the newspaper last week.

Mr. Martin came, and I handed him his bouquet, with the note that read “In Memory of Darlene.” I was touched almost as much as he was. A simple Facebook post can make someone’s day. That’s the power of social media

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It’s that time again: back to school. Next week, my own kiddo will be heading into his last year of elementary school in Grandview. Fifth grade for him means being a leader in the school. For us, we’re looking forward to student council elections (Win With Wilson - I already have his posters designed in my head), a final year of recess and, in Michael’s mind, a year to still goof off without the responsibilities that come with middle school.

This year, though, school shopping has been a bit different than I’m used to. Suddenly, my son is more interested in the type of shoes he has rather than who his teacher is going to be. Whether they are LeBrons, Jordans or plain Nikes, I’m already cringing at what I’ll have to dole out for his sneakers. But, that’s what boys are into.

We spent too long in the school supply section of Target last weekend as Michael had to make sure he had only “cool” notebooks. And black pens? I never realized there were so many choices, as I’m pretty sure I just had plain Bic stick pens when I was a kid.

Without even thinking, I threw several boxes of crayons in my shopping cart. Checking the list to mark them off, I sadly realized that fifth graders don’t need crayons anymore. No more coloring? I guess my son truly is growing up. We have matured from a superhero lunchbox to hair gel and cologne.

I’m looking forward to this last year of elementary school. I’m nervous about what the future for my son holds, but I’m excited at the same time. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and some great people in his corner rooting for him every step of the way.

Fifth grade gives me at least one more year with my baby boy. One more year of surprise school visits from Mom that are still considered cool. One more year of getting hugs from my son as he leaves the car when I drop him off. One more year before girls, friends and sports become more important than I am. I’ll take what I can get.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

This past weekend, I witnessed community in its essence. People who live in Grandview, from every corner of its boundaries and from every walk of life, came together to thank our law enforcement community and our first-responders for the job they do. It is most times a thankless job, and the event, sparked after a Facebook post, had intentions to change that. Good intentions that, going forward, can only mean better things and a united front for this community we call home.

The volunteers cleaned up, the trash was removed, the air let out of the bouncy castle, and everyone went home. We went home with a little more bounce in our steps, a little more love in our hearts and a little more appreciation for our GVPD.

Then, on Sunday, we heard some devastating news: three officers were killed in Baton Rouge, La. As if that wasn’t disheartening enough, we learned that it possibly was one of our own who committed these heinous crimes. Someone who sat in our classrooms, ate lunch in our cafeterias, visited our library, played in our parks and lived so very close to our homes.

Gavin Long could have been anyone. I’ve learned over the last few days that he was a bright student with a warm smile, who liked to joke around in class and made decent grades. He wasn’t very involved in extracurricular activities, but he graduated a few years after I did and went on to serve our country in the Marines. Gavin Long was just like a lot of kids I knew in high school, kids I sat next to and laughed with, kids I compared notes with, and kids who I’d see at Skateland on Friday night.

Somewhere along the way, Gavin changed. A switch was flipped and he no longer had the support of a community, the love from friends and teachers and neighbors. This seemingly ordinary kid from Grandview committed the most extraordinarily horrific crimes, in a community much like ours. A community struggling to create a bond of trust and hope, a diverse community with an abundance of hardworking, normal folks from all over the world.

It can happen anywhere. Anyone can change over time. We are not immune, just as Baton Rouge was not, and Dallas, and many other communities that have looked down the barrel of hate. Humanity has faced evil time and time again, and we will continue to do so. None of this is new, and we can continue to learn and grow. There is still beauty in this world, and I believe that there is more good than bad, more positive than negative, more light than darkness. It’s up to us to open our hearts, minds and eyes in order to see it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Large developments in South Kansas City and Grandview seem to have spurred some smaller development in our community, just as we were promised. With Cerner, Oxford on the Blue, Honeywell and more, we have seen the redevelopment of Truman Corners and now Red Bridge Shopping Center, along with some big announcements like Gateway Village. With all of these comes new retail, new restaurants and new places for us to do business.

Just over a year ago, Local Roots Market in downtown Grandview on Main Street opened their doors, offering a unique farm-to-grocer experience for shoppers to indulge in. The anticipation of Local Roots was astounding, as the owners spent quite some time getting their store ready and ordering merchandise to stock their shelves.

Recently, Local Roots held their one year anniversary celebration. And, more recently, they announced they’ll be closing their doors for good come the end of July. With the announcement on Facebook this week, I saw many people upset and disappointed, and I don’t blame them.
Here we sit, on the brink of great development happening in our part of the city, for once, and yet, we can’t support our local mom and pop businesses like Local Roots. I, too, was disappointed to hear the news that they were closing.

But, hopefully, this will be motivation to beef up our support of our locally-owned businesses, especially those that continue to invest in this great community. We can only thrive with your support, and you can help me out by reading the Jackson County Advocate and shopping in downtown Grandview Main Street’s business district. While all the new retail coming to our community is fantastic, we can’t forget about the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the businesses at the heart of our town.

We can’t patronize them only when Small Business Saturday comes around. When I need a watch battery, I go to Crews Jewelry. When I want a smoothie, I go to Songbird Cafe. My favorite tenderloin is at Paul’s and I got my Kentucky Derby hat at The Hat Store in Martin City.

I understand that sometimes we have to visit the WalMarts and Targets of the world for the things we need, but at what cost? The cost might be of another local family who invested so much of their lives into this community closing their business doors. Shop local. Eat local. Drink local. And, most importantly, read the local paper.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

“I’m fed up with visiting crime scenes where the victim is an innocent child. I’m fed up with schools and universities being ground zero for mass killings. And I’m fed up with trying to convince misguided legislators, at various levels of government, that sensible gun regulations can be enacted without offending the second amendment. Despite the challenges, however, we must continue to argue for ways to eliminate the widespread availability of illegal guns on our city streets.”

Kansas City Mayor Sly James is fed up. As he should be. I’m fed up, too. Every day for the last several years, I have read report after report, or seen broadcast after broadcast, depicting violence taking place in our communities, in our homes, in our schools and in our places of business.

While our politicians and our leaders continue to debate whether this is a gun problem or a people problem (it’s clearly both), we will continue to see these horrific acts of violence in our newspapers, we will watch scenes of destruction unfold during the 6 o’clock news, and we will read about the latest murders on our social media feeds.

The debate and discussion will not solve the problem. Will taking guns out of the hands of those who seek to cause harm be the solution? Not completely, but I think it’s the most logical place to start. There isn’t one solution that will serve as the end-all-be-all answer to this question.

Instead of talking about it, instead of arguing over which side is right and who the NRA is financially supporting in order to prevent legislation, I’d like to see our leaders take action against the real issue: people, innocent children and parents and friends, are continuing to lose their lives while those who might be able to come up with some preventative measures twirl their thumbs with their noses held high.

In the meantime, another mother is making funeral arrangements for her four-year-old in Kansas City. A young man awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to his involvement in the murder of a 14-year-old girl just minutes from where I sit now. And this mother of a 10-year-old boy is fed up. I’m sick and tired of writing about this issue. And I urge our leaders to take action now, before it’s too late.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Every year on Father’s Day, I’m reminded of all of the great men who’ve been a part of my life and made a positive impact on the person I am today. Of course, my own father has had the most influence. But, I grew up with an older brother, as well, who certainly made his mark. My brother is not one to give me a big hug when he sees me or any other form of sibling love. But, I always know he has my back no matter what.

I grew up with multiple grandfathers. My mother’s parents divorced before I was born, and both remarried. So, I had three grandfathers: Rodney (my dad’s dad), Richard (my mom’s dad) and Fred (my mom’s step-dad). Though my grandpa Richard is the only one in the bunch still living, I think I had a special bond with each of them.

My grandpa Fred was an amazing guy. He had stories of his world travels and had a deep, good-for-radio voice that was as soothing as it was intimidating. Grandpa Fred once served as King Faisal of Saudi Arabia’s personal assistant when he flew on aircraft.

My grandpa Rodney was a gentle, kind-hearted man who did his best to take care of his family and would drop everything to ensure needs were met. I still remember him wheeling a bicycle through the front door of our house for a birthday I was having. I grinned from ear-to-ear and hugged him hard.

My grandpa Richard, while he lives the farthest, was always a lot of fun to be around. Whether he was telling corny jokes or letting me drive the cart while he played golf (and taking the blame when I ran over a tree), I knew I was in for a good time full of laughter and love.

With all these men in my life, it’s only natural that my son also has a group of extraordinary men to look up to. From both sides of his family, Michael has smart, handsome and charming men whom he can lean on as he grows up. When he becomes a father himself, I hope that he remembers the love and respect each of these men instilled in him since day one.

Happy Father’s Day to each father or father figure in our community. May you all be blessed on this day and every day as you raise future teachers, doctors, scientists, engineers and even journalists.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

As a kid growing up in Grandview in the 80s and 90s, I spent my summer breaks outside. From riding my bicycle across our neighborhood north of High Grove, to spending long days in the sun at the old Meadowmere Pool, I lived to feel the heat on my skin and the grass in my toes.

My family and I used to bike from our house to the Longview Lake trails. I’d eat cherry tomatoes off the vines in my backyard until my stomach couldn’t take anymore, and I’d suck the sweet honeysuckle from the weeds that grew alongside the dandelions. Weekends were often spent at my grandparents’ lake place up north, where I was always ready to swim, even if the water was still frigid.

My friends and I would gather at Mapleview Park, where we’d lay our bikes down and spin for hours on the merry-go-round. Summer was about sunshine, laughter, friends and innocence. It was skinned knees, sun-bleached hair and being able to stay out well after dinner.

Despite growing up and the growing list of responsibilities that goes along with that, I still think it is important to enjoy summertime just as much as I did back then. This summer, Michael and I plan to be regulars at Oceans of Fun. We plan to start the Geocaching search, starting in our neighborhood and working our way across the metro. We plan to eat more hot dogs than we can count and see which of us can spit watermelon seeds the farthest.

Summer is for adventure with those we love, and I certainly plan to make the most of mine this year.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

John Mesh became a Kansas City household name last year, as he and Larry Leggio paid the ultimate sacrifice during a fire. Alvin Brooks has dedicated his life to fighting crime and standing up for neighborhoods in the entire Kansas City metro. Sgt. Corey Carlisle has saved many lives on the streets in Kansas City, and does so without second thought. Carol McClure’s passion for a thriving community is seen in her diligent work through the Southern Communities Coalition.

These and a dozen more community activists were honored at this week’s South Kansas City Alliance Awards Breakfast. Brooks had the audience laughing as he accepted his award in typical Brooks fashion. The entire gymnasium was brought to their feet in tearful recognition as Mesh’s wife, Felicia, accepted the Outstanding Public Safety Service Award on her late husband’s behalf.

Countless volunteer hours, tremendous community spirit and overwhelming generosity is what makes South Kansas City thrive, and the individuals recognized and nominated this week are more than deserving. They are the heartbeat and the backbone of a community that refuses to back down.

South Kansas City is on the brink of greatness. With all of the development opportunities before us, and all of the passionate, dedicated people working behind the scenes, I’m inspired each and every day to go to work telling the good news of what is happening in our neck of the woods.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I’ve typically always been somewhat of a rule follower. Not because I agree with all the rules, but mostly because I’m scared of punishment. When I was little, I lied about writing my name in life-sized letters using permanent marker on the side of our house. Blaming it on my brother didn’t work, because, as it turns out, he didn’t make his R’s backward.

As an adult, I “try” driving the speed limit (within reason), I return the shopping cart to the corral and I, albeit begrudgingly, pay my taxes. Rules are rules, and whether or not we decide they should be broken, most of the time, they were established for a good reason. Most of the time.

This week, I received a notice on my door from the apartment complex I live in. It read: It has been brought to Management’s attention that we have children playing with sidewalk chalk throughout the complex. We don’t mind children playing with sidewalk chalk, but it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure the chalk is cleaned up afterwards. If it isn’t cleaned up, it can be considered property damage to the complex.

Are they serious? This can’t be real, right? Clearly, whomever complained and whomever deemed it necessary to send a notice throughout the complex has never used sidewalk chalk. Property damage? Give me a break. It washes away with the next rain, leaving no trace of stick figures or hopscotch behind.

This is one rule that I just can’t get behind. If my son wants to draw with chalk, I’ll let him. If the apartment complex decides to fine me for property damage, I’ll fight it. My kid will not be stuck indoors all day with technology in his face. We will continue to go on adventures with his scooter, outside, chasing geese and looking for baby bunnies in the grass.
Rules are rules, but I’m certain this is one rule that is meant to be broken.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I’ve never had much of a green thumb. In fact, whatever color would be opposite, that’s what I would consider my thumb to be. Neon pink, maybe? Though, over the years, I have tried to plant flowers and vegetables, the items I plant never turn into much other than dried-up or overgrown messes.

What’s funny is I grew up with a Master Gardner for a grandfather. Grandpa Fred’s specialty was composting, and I remember taking banana peels, leftovers and whatever else we could find that were labeled as scraps and throw it all in the compost. But, more than compost, he had the most beautiful gardens in his backyard in South Kansas City.

My grandma also loved her flowers, and nurtured a flower bed on the side of their house. Inside the flower bed was one of my favorites: a Japanese Maple. The tree, also one of Grandma’s prized possessions, had small, bright red leaves and was not very big, just as tall as their house. In the spring and later in the fall, I was always curious to see what shade of red the leaves had turned.

At my own home growing up, we had a Ponderosa Pine in front of our circle drive, and I remember gathering pinecones later in the season, adding some peanut butter and a string, and watching the birds and squirrels come enjoy their feast.

Though I don’t know the names of most of them, or even the species, I’ve always appreciated the trees in our community. Whether climbing them, seeking their shade on hot summer days, or using their leaves as part of Thanksgiving decorations, they easily become part of our lives. This Arbor Day, even if you don’t plant a new tree on your property, I encourage you to get to know the trees you have a little better. Visit to join and receive ten free trees and a plethora of information on the trees in our area.

They clean air and water, slow climate change, ease poverty and hunger, prevent species loss, and feed the human soul. All we need to do is plant and care for them. Let’s work together to make it happen in our community and around the world.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I’ll be perfectly honest: St. Patrick’s Day never really had much meaning to me. As a kid, I remember wearing green to school on March 17, only to avoid being pinched by my peers. I also remember hearing about corned beef and hash and other Irish fare, but knowing that I didn’t like it. That was the extent of my Irish upbringing.

As a mother, I have taken my little boy to the St. Patrick’s Day parades each year. We dress in our green shirts, him equipped with a bag for candy and me with my camera, and we head to the festivities. Each year, it’s the same. He asks me what it’s all about, and I really don’t have much of an answer for him, other than it has to do with the death of Saint Patrick.

Last year, I had to work on March 17. I sat in a Board of Aldermen meeting while my head was swimming with something else. You see, on March 17, 2015, I finally got up the nerve to ask a guy out. Having been divorced for a little while and fairly new to the dating scene, I figured being bold was my best bet. Lo and behold, it worked.

John and I went on our first date that same week, though we talked nonstop via text before that. Since then, we’ve spent pretty much every free moment we have together. When you meet someone, and you think they’re nice or attractive, you never think you’ll fall in love. But when you do, it is one of the best feelings to experience.

He makes me happy and feel appreciated in ways that are indescribable. The past year has been one of the best of my life, and I look forward to what the future brings. So, this St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be toasting to being bold and going after what I want, yet being surprised by what transpires. I’ll toast to new beginnings, new friends, new people to share life experiences with. And, I’ll toast to John, the man who in one year made me the happiest girl in the world.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

It’s not often that we get an extra day, unless you consider every four years often. But this week, we were awarded just that. Unfortunately for most of us, that extra day was morphed into a typical Monday at work. It sure didn’t seem like a bonus.

Though February 29, 2016, fell on a Monday, I think I will continue to celebrate the extra day well into the year. A childhood friend of mine spent her day giving birth to her second child, a baby boy, who will only be able to recognize his real first birthday in 2020. Luckily, that one falls on a Saturday.

With the extra day, I have decided to focus on ways I can give a little extra throughout the year. There are so many ways we can give our time or talents here in our own community. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.

This month, Community Assistance Council is filling their storage spaces with toiletries for their annual Tee Pee CAC drive. While I’m out shopping for toilet paper, I’ll grab two and drop the other by Grandview Assistance Program, as I’m sure the need there is just as great.

This week, I begin my volunteer Grandview Reader Leader program and will head to High Grove to read to some little ones. To sign up to be a Reader Leader, contact the district at 816-316-5000.

When Michael and I take walks or visit the parks, we’ll bring a sack along with us and pick up trash and other debris we find along our way. This can easily be done in our neighborhoods and around our businesses.

As our neighbors age, I’m sure there is always something around their house where they could use a lending hand. Or, even paying a visit to an old friend at a nursing facility would surely make someone’s day a little brighter.

I can stock shelves, I can organize clothes, I can alphabetize and I can help spread messages. This year, with my extra 24 hours, I can do all of these things, and maybe a little extra, to benefit our community.

Whatever you decide to do with your extra day, make it meaningful. Spread some cheer and kindness and make a positive impact on someone’s life. It doesn’t have to be grand, and it doesn’t have to be monetary. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do for people is to spend a little extra time with them.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Busy people get things done. Somewhere along the way, I heard this phrase and it sort of stuck with me. Possibly because it’s something I can relate to, but mostly because it is true. Busy people do get things done.

When I hear of an election coming up, and the potential candidate pool, I can’t help but put myself in their shoes. Typically, the names that come across my desk are the busiest people I know. They are involved in many things in the community, and they are names I know well. Sometimes, they’re unknown to me altogether. So, I do my due-diligence and get to know the person behind the name. I find out their story, their connection, the reason they’re seeking public office.

I’m frank with these people, as I’m sure are those who convinced them to run in the first place. Holding a seat in a public office is hard work. It is stressful and trying and so very rewarding. It is a commitment unlike any other, and one that should be taken seriously and respectfully.

Time and again, over the years, I have seen those, either elected or appointed, step down from their respective roles without fulfilling the commitment. For whatever reason, these individuals have decided they cannot continue what they promised to do.

While I understand health, family and life circumstances may have an impact on an individual, sometimes the reason behind resignations of public officials can be disappointing, to say the least. It puts additional work on the other public servants who continue to fulfill their obligations and then must take on additional responsibilities while finding a replacement.

I’ve never held a public office. I don’t pretend to understand the amount of pressure this could have on a person. But I can relate to the work/life balance, deadlines, meetings and the overall busy schedule of an active member of the community. I’m a busy person, too. I get it. But I also understand the importance of commitment and following through.

It is my hope that those who seek an elected position do their homework. They need to find out exactly what it is they are potentially getting themselves into before making a decision. It’s not for everyone. It takes a certain amount of passion, understanding, drive and responsibility, which is probably why we see the community’s busiest folks leading the charge.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask of these individuals to finish what they started. Public office is a commitment, and I’d like to see that commitment taken seriously.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

KCPT, in partnership with English Landing Films, on Friday premiered a new documentary, Our Divided City. The documentary looks at the social conditions that foster violent crime in Kansas City’s segregated black community east of Troost and asks whether enough is being done to make its neighborhoods safe.

I settled in to watch the film on Saturday morning, as I had recorded it the night before. I didn’t expect the flood of emotions as I witnessed the crime, segregation and downright unfairness our neighbors just to the north from our coverage area are experiencing.

A spotlight is shone on a new alliance that includes law enforcement agencies, City Hall, and academics called the KC No Violence Alliance or KC NoVA. It introduces a unique style of policing that attempts to work with the community to get ahead of the homicides.

Viewers will go inside KC NoVA as it attempts to put an end to tit-for-tat killings between gang members and it steps into the lives of ordinary families besieged by the violence. There is evidence that community leaders and certain brave citizens are already fighting back, but that for some patience is wearing thin with the city’s authorities.

During the film, I watched as familiar faces were lending a hand through clean-up efforts. I watched as our fearless leader, Mayor Sly James, became irritated when asked what he plans to do about it. He stated it’s not a political issue, and if he had the answers it would have already been fixed. This, according to James, is a community issue.

A community issue it is. Nothing will be done so long as we allow the violence to continue. Violent crimes, especially those on children, continue to rise in Kansas City. It was incredibly sobering to see, as the credits rolled, the list of names of those taken by violence in Kansas City in 2015. There were too many names. Too many children. Too many of our neighbors and friends.

The documentary will air again on Sunday, February 7, at 2:00 p.m. on KCPT.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A few weeks ago, I was busy packing. I did loads and loads of laundry, I hauled suitcases down from the top shelves in my closets, and I carefully dispensed bodywash and shampoo into small, airplane-appropriate containers. I counted pairs of socks and folded many shirts. Packing for vacation is a lot of work, but exciting. Packing for a vacation that you’re not going on is just plain tedious.

For ten days, my parents took Michael on the trip of a lifetime. They flew to Miami, enjoying the sights there, before boarding a cruise ship headed into the beautiful waters of the Caribbean. For ten days, I had minimal contact with my boy, only checking in on Facebook here and there when they were able to access a Wi-Fi signal. For ten days, my heart was in the middle of the ocean.

Michael climbed a rope course to the top of the ship, he mastered the water slides and he ate all the ice cream his ten-year-old belly could hold. He danced with flamingos in Nassau and swam in Magens Bay, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Since he has now experienced all there is in the world of cruises, he now considers himself an expert. Upon returning home, he told stories of friendships made, bruises received and memories to last a lifetime. He has dubbed himself a “cruise guy,” saying that is now his preferred mode of experiencing the world.

He gets his love of travel from me. While he was out experiencing “the time of his life,” I was stuck at home, wishing I was there with him. This kid is surely lucky. He’s already experienced so much in his ten years, things I have dreamed to do my entire life. I just hope next time, instead of Grandma and Grandpa, he doesn’t mind sailing the seas with Mom.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I was never shy growing up. In fact, I can recall the term “social butterfly” being used fairly frequently. I made friends everywhere I went. If we were on a family vacation, I made friends with the other kids at the hotel pool. If we went to a carnival, I picked out new friends to ride the Ferris wheel with. I was probably over-friendly, striking up conversations with complete strangers, no matter their age. Or race.

I don’t remember any of my friends being different. They were my friends no matter what color their hair was, or if they had brown, blue or green eyes, or if they spoke a little slower or threw the ball with a different hand. The color of the skin of my friends never crossed my mind.

As we reflect this week on the teachings and tremendous work started by the late Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded of what it was like for me to grow up in a diverse community. I remember sitting at recess while Kameelah French-braided my hair because I never learned how to. I remember being treated as a member of the family by the Caldwells. And I remember donning a leotard and practicing ballet with Morgan. They were all my friends, but I never saw them as different than me.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and I recall the emotion I felt as I walked through and read about the horrific things these people, these friends, went through. It is something I will never begin to understand, but I believe I can appreciate and honor their efforts in many ways.

Most of all, I recall the chilling feeling of walking through the Lorraine where King last laughed, last had a conversation, last read a newspaper. Peering into his room, time stood still. I could imagine him sitting in the chair, a cup of coffee close by, as he read the headlines of the newspaper strewn on the corner of the bed. The coffee was left untouched.

Though his life was cut terribly short, the work he started in the ending of segregation and cultural unfairness based on the color of skin was just beginning. Now, in 2016, we are sadly still dealing with the social and economic injustices in our country.

So, I will try to do my part. I will continue to raise my son to also not see the race of the friends he chooses. I will continue to support those who fight for the freedoms that everyone in America deserves. And I will continue being the social butterfly, befriending whomever needs the companionship of a girl raised on the belief that we all bleed the color red.