Thursday, November 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

This week is National Newspaper Week, and while that is something we generally celebrate around here at the Advocate office, this week we’re on an extra high. Last weekend, during the Missouri Press Association’s annual convention, our paper was recognized with some awards from the Better Newspaper Contest.

Sports editor Brent Kalwei received third place notoriety in the best sports feature story category for his July 8, 2016, piece on Hickman Mills High School great Mike Harper. Harper’s career took him on to play professional football in the ‘80s. Attributing his success in life, football and beyond to his faith, Harper now lives in California with his wife and children.

This column, All That Fits, and I placed second in the Best Columnist – Serious category. In a category that includes longtime editors and publishers from across the state, I’m honored to even place here. This column is a place where I have been able to let you, the reader, inside. It’s often lighthearted, but at times, I take people, politicians and our community to task. I’m proud to be the community’s watchdog and take pride in holding those who make decisions that may affect our lives accountable.

Finally, I received a first place award for Best Story About Education. Coming from a family of educators, it only seems fitting that this is where I would excel. My piece on Hannah Davis and her Read to Achieve recognition was more than a story on a local teacher. Davis exemplifies what it means to go above and beyond, and I hope I captured her unyielding spirit and desire to see her students succeed in the January 21, 2016 story.

It’s not always easy to have your work judged every single week by the public, but the payoff can sometimes be extremely gratifying. We take our jobs seriously and are passionate about writing tomorrow’s history. We believe in the power of community journalism and we continue to do everything in our power to earn and keep the trust of the public. The communities we have the privilege of covering continue to be inspiring and we are always grateful to tell your stories.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

If ever I felt as though what I have to say is like a broken record in my column, writing about violence definitely fits that bill. Each week for the past several months, it seems there has been a story in this community in this paper that makes my heart break a little more and my stomach clench while writing. And, not every story of violence has made it into print here, but there’s been even more each time we turn on the evening news.

A 22-year-old, a kid in my mind, was charged with carelessly pulling out a gun and killing an off-duty Lee’s Summit police officer in the middle of a crowded Westport hangout. A sixth suspect, 19-year-old Ketrail Collins (another kid) was charged in the beating of a Domino’s Pizza delivery man.

In Grandview, just on Monday of this week, two separate violent acts occurred. Outside an apartment in the 11900 block of Newton Ave., a disturbance resulted in a 33-year-old man being punched and taken to the ground by a 31-year-old man, and then he was stabbed by a 25-year-old woman. There was also a shooting in the 6100 block of 126 Street, where a 19-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman were injured and taken to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Grandview detectives are in the process of investigating both crimes.

I could go on. There are plenty more, but I only have so much space to fill. A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a reader who, it seemed, almost demanded a plan of action from me. “You report on the violence, but you don’t offer a solution. I’d like to see something done about this,” she said.

I’m not sure I’m the right person to come up with a solution. Sure, I have some ideas of things that could help, like better mentors for our young people, parents who step up and teach their children right from wrong, harsher punishments for violent crimes, mental health awareness and programs to help those suffering from mental disorders, funding for rehabilitation efforts, and so on, but I’m only one person. I can’t be the one responsible for an answer to the violence problem, and, as a member of the media, I’m certainly not at fault for reporting the news, as some would like to believe.

It’s going to take more than me. It’s going to have to be a community effort. Neighbors helping neighbors. Until we can work together, I’m afraid it will get worse before it gets any better.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I think that when all of us die, we’d like to be remembered for the good things we accomplished in life. We want people to fondly recall memories that include us. We want our loved ones to think of us, but we also want them to carry on with their lives without forgetting us. When our names are spoken, I think we’d all like for a smile to cross someone’s face, even if only briefly.

Each year, on September 11, I take a few moments to listen to the names. 2,977 names. Each one someone’s son or daughter, sister or brother, mother or father, or husband or wife. Each name with a story, a lifetime of accomplishments, heartaches, struggles, laughs and successes to tell. Every year, when I listen to the names, I can’t help but wonder who the person was behind the name. What did they look like? What made them unique? What difference did they make in the world? Who was their family and where did they come from? Their stories, I am sure, live on through their loved ones.

That fateful day back in 2001, I was in my freshman year of college in Maryville. I remember hearing a lot of commotion outside of my dorm room, and then my roommate, Melissa, turned on the television shortly before the second plane hit. It was as if I was watching a movie. It didn’t seem real.
Unfortunately, reality quickly set in, and I watched with the rest of the world in horror as the buildings collapsed. I began to see people jumping, people bleeding, people dying. And I was horrified.

I wanted to talk to my family, to know that I wasn’t alone in seeing what was unfolding before me. I tried calling my mom, who was in her classroom teaching back in Grandview. She wasn’t available. I tried calling my dad, who was already a few hours into his workday in Topeka. I left him a message. I then called my grandma Mary Ann, whom I knew would be home.

Grandma’s calm voice and optimistic spirit were exactly what I needed to hear. Far from home, she made me feel warm and sheltered. She assured me that, despite what was happening in the country around us, we were okay. Our family was going to be okay. My brother, who was in the Marines, would also be okay.

After 9/11, our country saw tremendous pride and brotherhood. It was humbling to see all of us come together. On September 11, 2001, it didn’t matter if you were black, white, purple or green, we all hurt together. And afterward, we forged on as one. United, in our differences and in our love for our country, we stood together.

My family was fortunate. I didn’t know anyone personally who lost their life on September 11, although the stories of those who did are not any less meaningful to me. 2,977 lives ended that day, but their stories are still being told. I eventually got ahold of my parents on September 11, after classes were canceled and I could do nothing besides watch the news. I will never forget where I was, how I felt and the way it changed me.

I think we all were impacted by September 11, whether directly or indirectly. We will always remember. We will never forget.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I’m not an educator, and never really had the desire to be one. But, sitting through Grandview’s district orientation last Monday sure made me realize that public schools are in my blood. There is something so motivating and encouraging about the start of a new school year. When you’re in school, it’s like a fresh slate, a new beginning, an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

I loved that when I was in school. Along with new pencils and crisp notebooks, the new year provided a chance to make new friends and discover passions I may not have even known I had or things I didn’t even know I was good at.

This year, my (not-so-little) boy begins middle school. Honestly, for me, middle school was my absolute least favorite time in school. Through hormones, social anxieties, more rigorous school work, braces, temptations and just general middle school awkwardness, I’m still surprised I made it out alive. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t just me: every kid struggles through those early teen years.

So, with the experiences I’ve had in the back of my mind, I’m naturally worried as my son enters the unknown. I’ve done my best to prepare him. I’ve answered all of his questions as honestly and openly as I can. He’s got cool shoes and new clothes to sport. We got his hair cut and all of the supplies are ready to go. I’ve done everything I can, but once he steps on that school bus, it’s out of my control.

Kids can be so cruel to one another. In the age of social media and information at their fingertips, our teenagers are living in a world that sure didn’t exist when I was their age. Every day I read stories of cyber bullying and other horrible things that can ultimately lead to every parent’s worst nightmare. The world can be a scary, scary place, and our kids are experiencing that at a much earlier age than I think we were prepared for.

So, as Michael walks through the front doors of his new middle school, I can only hope and pray that the things I have taught him, the morals I have demonstrated, have impacted the head he has on his shoulders. I’m hopeful that he holds that head high and that he stands up for what is right. I’m optimistic that with his compassionate personality he will make lots of friends, but I’m also aware of the reality that not everyone will like him, despite how amazing I think he is.

Middle school is tough. As a mom, I’m struggling with the realization that Michael will be experiencing new things, some of them unpleasant. This is the part where I take a backseat and let him deal with the punches and setbacks that will inevitably come his way. And when he’s ready for advice from his old mom, I’ll be there every single time with my hand on his shoulder guiding him in the right direction.  Through every bump in the road and every wrong turn, I’ll be there.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

As journalists, it is our job to stick to the facts, remain unbiased and professional, and keep our emotions in check. For the most part, I’ve become a pro at this. I’ve covered tragedy. I’ve met people with extraordinary gifts and talents. I’ve written about death and healing. With this job comes the great responsibility of telling the stories of the people in this community. Every once in a while, some of those stories hit close to home.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my contact at Belton Regional Medical Center inviting me to their next Great Save event. I’ve written about some great saves in the past, and they always make great stories, so immediately I was intrigued. Then, the story pitch listed the name of the patient, and I was speechless.

Kayli Welvaert, whose story is on the front page this week, was a name I knew, as I’ve known her mom, Noelle, for around 20 years. Kayli’s story was a story I knew. I remember seeing her mom’s pleas for prayers, for a miracle, on social media last December. I had seen pictures of Kayli while she was in intensive care, and I saw posts of Kayli as she recovered from her heart attack and coma. Kayli was alive, and she was okay. Mostly, I remember how familiar this all seemed to me at the time.

In 2011, my best friend Danielle suffered a major heart attack. After no oxygen made its way to her brain for roughly 45 minutes, despite revival of her heart, she was no longer with us. Several days later, her family made the tough decision to let her go.

Like Kayli, Danielle was a mom, a sister, a daughter and a friend. Both in their 20s, Kayli and Danielle had shown signs of heart issues in the past, but nothing that would amount to life or death situations at such young ages. Back in 2011, I hoped and prayed for a miracle, for a blessing, for Danielle to pull through. Last December, as memories of Danielle flooded my mind while watching Kayli’s story unfold, I knew that, more than ever, her family needed prayers and support.

Kayli got that miracle that day. As I watched her earlier this week hold her daughter and kiss her cheek, I was thankful for the miracles her medical team provided for her. This mom, this daughter, this friend to many now has a second chance at life. Kayli is a living, breathing, walking miracle, and I am grateful to be able to share her story, no matter how emotional I may have gotten while writing it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How can you possibly do someone like Aggie Turnbaugh justice in just a few lines on some newsprint? Someone who, undoubtedly, still had ink running through her veins, someone whom I could call with a question like, “Hey, maybe twenty, or thirty, years ago, this thing happened, does that ring a bell?” And Aggie, of course, would not only remember the event, she’d remember what issue it was in and on what page. For many years, Aggie Turnbaugh lived and breathed this community, this newspaper. She was truly the backbone, the historian, the mouthpiece, for Grandview and South Kansas City.

Aggie was passionate about journalism and about telling the stories of those she came to know and love. She was quick to offer suggestions or point out things I could improve upon, but she always did so out of love and respect for this profession and this newspaper.

Not many people in Grandview didn’t know who Aggie was. I asked a few of those to offer up some “talkin’” points about Aggie:

The day I was hired at the Jackson County Advocate, Aggie Turnbaugh was sitting at her famous desk just inside the front door of the office at 5th & Main, her trusty typewriter and canine companion at her side. No job had been posted for the newspaper, and I wasn’t sure why exactly I had felt compelled to walk in with my resume. Later, Aggie told me she felt Jim had sent me. The passing of her husband in 2003 had been incredibly hard on the family, as well as the entire community since the Turnbaugh family had run our hometown newspaper for 50+ years. Now, Aggie’s passing is hard as well – who didn’t know Aggie? Through her weekly column, through the decades, the entire community got to know this strong woman with her soft spot for animals. My heart goes out to Annette, who was always there by her mom’s side, and who continues as an Alderman in her family’s wonderful tradition of making a huge impact on the City of Grandview. - Andrea Wood, Jackson County Advocate former editor & owner

Stratford Estates Homes Association and the Southern Communities Coalition have truly lost a “dear friend”.  Going back to the late 70’s until Aggie sold the business I always looked forward to our Tuesday morning chats concerning both Grandview & So. K.C..
Aggie was a lady with a “wealth of knowledge” regarding the history of this area, as well as politics and other issues and the number of people she knew was over whelming,no  one was a stranger.
She was a “grand lady” and the community is missing her already. - Carol McClure, Stratford Estates

Aggie surely impacted many in the community. If you have thoughts you’d like to share, please email them to, or stop by the Advocate office where we’re “just talkin’” about the legacy of Aggie.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I’ve never been much of a fan of storms. When I was a little girl, a family friend of ours lost his life after being struck by lightning while fishing with another friend, who was seriously injured. I remember attending Kyle’s funeral and seeing his family and friends, and my own family, suffer a
loss that would have an impact on me for the rest of my life.

I think I was around a first-grader at the time, but I remember clearly how angry I was that this had happened to someone who, probably fairly recently, I saw in my own home. This was the first experience I had with death I can remember, and it was because of the uncontrollable.

In the years that have passed, there’s not a storm that goes by that Kyle doesn’t come to my mind. With every roll of thunder and every lightning strike, I cringe. My heart races when I hear warning sirens, and I get goosebumps when I can feel a shift in the atmosphere. I remember Chuck, who was with Kyle at Lake Jacomo, describing getting struck by lightning like getting hit with a baseball bat across the back: words I have never forgotten and I hear echo in my ears when I see light shows overhead.

Living in this part of the country, we are certainly no strangers to the fury of the skies above us. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the devastating tornado that took many lives in our community, we all tend to be a little apprehensive when it comes to storms.

As we clean up tree limbs and get our power restored from Monday night’s weather, we are reminded of the pathway we call home. Mother Nature lets us know that, sometimes, we are not in control and our world; our lives, can be impacted and change in an instant.

When the clouds above me swirl, the sky brightens with electricity and the thunder claps around me, I am brought right back to that little girl who remembers being told someone she looked up to had died at the hands of the weather. It is powerful, it is mighty, it is uncontrollable and unpredictable. I am constantly in awe of it, but I will continue to keep my comfortable distance.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Forty years ago this coming Sunday, two young adults (one from St. Louis and one Air Force kid) got married amid a snowstorm in South Kansas City. The two met while working at Stix Baer and Fuller at Ward Parkway Mall, and though he asked her several times to go out with him before she finally caved, they were married a short time later.

My parents have been married forty years. Sure, they’ve had good times and bad, heartaches and happiness, successes and failures. But, the whole time, they’ve had each other. In this day and age, it seems that is a rarity.

According to various internet sources I checked, around 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. The American divorce rate is nearly twice what it was in 1960, though it has declined somewhat since hitting an all-time high in 1980, which suggests there is hope for stability after all.

Despite challenges and setbacks, my parents have continued to rely on their marriage, on each other, to get them through. They have set a standard for partnership, love, communication and trust, and they have set the bar high.

I’m proud of them. Forty years is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. I know it isn’t always easy, but I know the good times are worth it all. Happy Anniversary to my parents, Mike and Becky. I love you both and I’ll be ready to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary and then some. Thank you for finding each other all those years ago, and thank you for demonstrating what it means to commit your life to another person. Enjoy your day and your deserve it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Between political divisiveness, concerns regarding public and private safety and other issues affecting the community as a whole, it seems people are finally finding a voice. For years, I’ve attended public meeting after public meeting where I am the sole community member in the room. At times, I wear many hats in these meetings: reporter, mother, resident, concerned citizen, etc.

Whatever my purpose for being there, and whatever the discussion is about, I’ve seen it all.
I’ve seen groups of activists come and go. I’ve seen neighbors angry at neighbors. I’ve seen parents fed up with their kids. I’ve seen people complain, I’ve seen them give thanks and I’ve seen them pour their hearts out for their cause. They come, they say their piece, and they go. Sometimes, action is taken, whether by the city or our school districts. That all depends, in essence, on the way the information, concern or complaint is presented.

There’s a certain amount of decorum expected when a community member voices an opinion during the public comments portion of meetings before a governing body. In order to not fall on deaf ears, the presenter must have their thoughts concise, be educated in what they are talking about and be engaged in what goes on behind the scenes.

Two members from a community group recently stood up in front of Grandview’s Board of Aldermen during public comments. Grandview resident Joshua Teel, vice president of the Belvidere Neighborhood Watch, spoke first. He first petitioned for all city officials to live within city limits.

“If we want Grandview to grow, we need to buy more Grandview,” he said. He also stated that he has seen concerns regarding public safety and patrol. “I’m friends with majority of the business owners in Grandview, and they are not receiving patrols from our local police department.” He added that he tries to stay active with the aldermen, the police department and his neighborhood.

“We need truancy officers in our schools, not just resource officers,” said Teel. “Wherever the resources come from, we need community involvement. My goal is to get more people to fill these chairs.”

Grandview resident Pam Miller, president of the Belvidere Neighborhood Watch, spoke next.
“I feel very bad for our cops,” Miller said. “They are understaffed. We need more. If we are going to have police officers in our high school that cannot be on our streets to protect our children, who is protecting our homes while we are at work? I feel that the Kansas City Police Department, seeing as we are housing some of their children in Martin City, should be asked to loan some of their police officers to help patrol our schools so our police officers can get back on our streets, our businesses and our residents.”

She also expressed concerns with the way juvenile cases are handled through the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office. In addition to that, she voiced her concerns regarding the sanitary sewer lines.

“How would you like the sewer to back up in your basement and your playstation gets ruined that you spent hours working on at 16?” Miller asked. She had additional complaints regarding neighborhood services, the need for more snow plow drivers, the mixture used for treating the streets, and she ended by thanking the Board for their service.

The newly-formed Belvidere Neighborhood Watch group, which can be found on Facebook, is garnering community support to fix what they perceive to be concerns in the City of Grandview. While their complaints are valid, and feedback and discussion in public meetings is more than encouraged, this is the first time I’ve seen a representative from this group speak.

When I was young, I learned that when you have a complaint, or several, in this case, it’s always best to have two positives for every negative. Only once did I hear a thank you. Our city simply can’t pull police officers from other jurisdictions. Our school district can’t simply hire truancy officers (is truancy even the issue?). My business is right next to the police station, and if I’m in need of assistance, they are here. Complaints regarding the handling of juveniles should be brought before the Prosecuting Attorney.

Of course we need more community involvement. I see the need for it all the time. I see the lack of support during the Homecoming parade, I see the empty chairs at school board meetings, I see the same names listed on our ballots every election. I’ve seen it all. Our kids deserve our support, our elected officials need to hear from us, but we have to do it tactfully, we have to educate ourselves and we have to be involved. Showing up to a meeting and rattling off everything you see being done incorrectly isn’t going to solve the problem.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Each day, I take my son to school. For just a few minutes every morning, we have time to ourselves to talk about what’s happening in his life, at school, with baseball, etc. In the years that he’s been in school, I have learned more about my son as a person in those minutes. He is open and honest and sometimes blunt about things that matter to him. I drop him off in the mornings in front of the school, tell him to have a good day, and tell him I love him.

Each day, as my son enters that building, I put my trust in his teachers and in the school district as a whole. For the better part of the day, my whole heart lies in the hands of the Grandview C-4 School District. For the most part, I don’t even think about what could happen during the course of a school day. But, I’m also not naive enough to believe that it couldn’t happen here.

Last week, I was given the opportunity to have a conversation with my son, and his response to my question took me completely by surprise. I asked him, pointedly, what he would do if he saw someone that had a gun in their backpack. He answered that if he knew the gun was unloaded,
he probably wouldn’t say anything. He wouldn’t say anything. My son, who has honest and difficult conversations with his parents, who has practiced gun safety and understands their dangers, who is a
straight-A student and has great relationships with authority, probably wouldn’t say anything. To say I was shocked is an understatement. His lack of concern and willingness to look the other way obviously prompted further discussion from this parent.

Last week, I spoke with administration from a school district who had just witnessed an incident that could have been tragic, and could have been prevented, if someone would have spoken up. They discussed their plans to begin conversations with students, to open up a dialog with parents, to create an environment where students do not tolerate weapons of any kind in their learning environments. I nodded along, eagerly receptive to their ideas and concerns. All the while, my own son probably wouldn’t tell anyone.

As a community, we have to figure out a way to keep guns and other weapons out of the hands of our kids. As a community, we have to be better than this. We are better than this. Our kids deserve better. And our kids need to understand the severity of the consequences, the long-term effects this could have on the lives of those involved, and the impact for change that they can have on a situation. The conversation needs to start at home. We’re talking about it in my house, and we will continue to do so until I’m comfortable with the responses I receive from my own son.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

When Michael was about four, we were driving along the access road in Grandview when he suddenly told me to stop. He wanted me to pull into the driveway of a building on the corner of 140th Street and 71. This rundown, small place with overgrown weeds, grass and trees in the yard to me looked like a place that should be bulldozed, much less somewhere I should be stopping with my little boy in tow.

But, that little boy saw something completely different. He saw a future, where one day, he told me, he’d open an Italian restaurant in that building. He talked of cleaning it all up, and having tables with umbrellas and chairs outside. As I sat in the car, with the little boy in the backseat stretching to see through the window to his dream, I remember thinking how, in that moment, I realized that anything is possible for my son.

Last week, as all of Grandview felt their homes shake and heard what sounded like bombs going off, I headed to work. When the reality of the situation was in front of me, I took out my phone (as the camera was at the office and time seemed to be of the essence that night), I started snapping photos. Through thick smoke, I tried to photograph what I was seeing happen before me, but due to the darkness, the smoke, the flames and the water and lights shining from our first responders, my photos simply didn’t amount to much.

I felt the heat, despite the freezing temperatures. I heard the sounds that were, at the time, believed to be ammunition going off inside the building. And, I saw a little boy’s dream of opening an Italian restaurant in that particular building go up in flames.

That night, I went home, wreaking of what smelled like a bonfire, and I told Michael that it was the old lawnmower building, his building, that exploded. He was sad, but only briefly and said that he’ll just have to find a different spot for his restaurant.

I realized, then, that a little fire, explosion or other things out of his control won’t stop him from opening a restaurant, becoming a baseball star or even running for President of the United States someday. The sky is the limit when you’re a kid, and that is an innocence that goes missing as we grow older.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy New Year! I, for one, am glad for a new beginning. 2016 was not my favorite. But, it had some good times, as well. I began 2016 with a blank slate, a fresh outlook and a positive mindset. And, for the most part, it was a pretty decent year.

I could choose to focus on the times that soured 2016, or I can decide to take those life lessons and use them to become a better reporter, a better mother, a better friend and a better person.

Both of my grandmas passed away in 2016, both at the age of 83. Despite the overwhelming sense of loss and sadness, I am blessed to know that I have two additional guardians keeping watch over my family and me. This year, I have learned the importance of family, of creating a legacy and the value in nurturing relationships with those who make up my DNA.

As a country, we witnessed one of the most unusual presidential election cycles that any of us can remember seeing. Divided on social media, divided around our dinner tables and divided at the polling booths, our country in 2017 will see a change of leadership, from our local offices all the way to the White House.

In 2016, my son entered into his last year of elementary school. Every year before that, I have dropped him off for his first day and gone onto work without much thought. Last August, though, was a different story. Michael got out of the car and walked inside like normal. Only this mom watched him take every step. I cried an ugly cry, complete with sobs and hiccups. There’s nothing more emotional than watching your baby grow up right before your eyes. It seems like yesterday I was taking him to his first day of kindergarten; now he has his hair spiked, his cologne on and texts from girls on his cell phone.

I spent New Year’s Eve with my family: my mom, dad, brother and son. We toasted to a better 2017. We toasted to memories of those we love. We toasted to health and we toasted to prosperity. Most of all, we toasted to family. And, this year, I’ve learned that I have the best one.