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.