Thursday, March 26, 2015

Going All Mama Bear During a TV Interview




I'm normally a pretty easy-going person.


Seriously - those of you who know me "in real life" know that it takes a lot to get me riled up…For the most part, I can roll with the punches, and although I might make a snarky comment or two (or three…or more…but, really, who's counting???!!), I can pretty much let things go.

Until today.


Yes, today, I turned all Mama Bear - on a television reporter, of all things - while doing an interview on behalf of the Red Cross.


Let me back up.

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. area, attending a conference for the Advanced Public Affairs Team for the Red Cross - my newest assignment within the organization that I've been volunteering with for almost ten years. The conference has been a wealth of information, what with workshops, panel discussions, and hands-on training, and I've been basically a huge sponge, soaking it all up and more.

Because one of my new responsibilities includes possibly doing media interviews on a national level (think CNN or The Weather Channel), I have also been going through some very expedited media training - which basically has me doing not one, but TWO, on-camera interviews on closed-circuit television here at the conference. Yesterday was my first interview, and um…well…let's just say that it was not my best moment.

The reporter I was assigned to is Anne Ball, who is a seasoned broadcast producer and journalist. Currently, she's a multimedia broadcast producer for Voice of America, but she's worked for Fox News Channel, ABC News, and ABC Radio in the past. She's tough - she's intimidating - and she was out to see if she could "trip" me up and get me flustered. Trial by fire, so to speak.

It was an interview conducted where I couldn't see Ms. Ball - she was off in a studio somewhere else, while I'm "on the scene" of a fake disaster (basically, in a totally different room than Ms. Ball) - and I'm being asked questions via a tiny earpiece in my ear. She can see me…but I can't see her.

EEP.

I have never, ever, ever, ever, EVER done an interview like this…and I'll be frank. It sucked. It was so hard for me to talk with an invisible "voice" that was asking some very tough questions, all while trying to remember to stay on message and not have a "deer in the headlights" look. The interview lasted all of three minutes, which seemed like three hours, and afterwards, I was literally shaking and sweating, limp with nerves and fear. My feedback from Ms. Ball and the Red Cross evaluator from National Headquarters was a mixed bag…although I wasn't totally awful…I wasn't totally awesome, either. They both gave me some very constructive criticism, which I took to heart and decided to make TODAY's interview a different story.

Last night, I wrote out some key messages that I hoped to convey, and I practiced…in my hotel room…in front of a mirror. Yeah, it was silly - but I wanted to work on my delivery and I wanted to do it better.


So…today's interview was scheduled for 1:38 pm in the afternoon…and I had been warned that as tough as I found yesterday's interview, today's would be even TOUGHER. Because I'm now a seasoned professional, you know, after having an additional 24 hours of training. Gah.

Before walking into the studio, I did my best Sun Salutation yoga pose, took a deep breath, and prayed that things would go better. Imagine my delight when I walked in and discovered it would be Anne Ball, AGAIN, who would be doing my interview (there were 4-5 different reporters, so I'm not sure how I lucked out with getting Ms. Ball twice).

The interview began…and what a difference from yesterday. Oh, she did her best to try to get me flustered…but her big mistake was when she began questioning the work ethic and integrity of Red Cross volunteers.

Um, hello.

That's me.

A Red Cross volunteer.

And Mama Bear came out.


Managing to stay calm and level-headed, but allowing my passion for the Red Cross, and my love of my fellow Red Cross volunteers to rise to the surface, I very sweetly and emphatically informed Ms. Ball of just how awesome volunteers are, and how crucial they are to the services we offer. I told her that the volunteers are the HEART of the organization, and they are there because they LOVE what they do.

I am woman. Hear me roar. Or in this case, I am volunteer - hear me roar.


After the interview was over, imagine my shock and surprise when Ms. Ball gave me a huge hug…and told me it had been "amazing." And then - get this - the evaluator gave me a hug.

Whoa.


And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I bumped into Ms. Ball while leaving the dining hall tonight, on my way back to my hotel room. She approached me and said, "Keep up the good work." I stopped, and we chatted briefly, while she told me that I had done a GREAT job today, and she looked forward to working with me in the future.

Whoa again.

AND SHE WASN'T DONE YET.

Because she THEN said she had my email address, and she would love to keep in touch with me in the future.


Someone pinch me, please.


Seriously, I have a lot to learn while doing media interviews…but again, I'm a sponge, and I love, love, love the fact that I'm learning new skills and branching into a new life chapter. I am like an eager Karate Kid, seeking my Mr. Miyagi who can teach me to "wax on, wax off" in media training.

In the meantime, as I continue on my journey, I hope all reporters take note, though: Don't EVER question the integrity of a Red Cross volunteer.

ROAR.


Peace.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

D.C. Again??!! Wasn't I Just There??!!





Important Announcement:

We interrupt the trip report from last week's spring break trip to Washington, D.C. -

--because I'm about ready to head back out of town…

.

.

.

…to Washington, D.C.


It's like deja-vu all over again. WASN'T I JUST THERE????????!!!!!

Here, I haven't been to D.C. in almost 8 years, and I'm now heading back for the SECOND time in less than two weeks.

What's with THAT??!!


Well, the Spring Break trip had been planned for months…to chaperone Daughter's band/orchestra/choir classes…but this new trip, on which I embark tomorrow, was somewhat of a surprise.

I blame the Red Cross.

In January, I was notified by the Red Cross that I had been selected for the Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT), which is kinda' a big deal (or at least that's what I keep telling my family, hoping to impress them…not working, though). APAT gets together every year in D.C. for a conference - so that's where I'm heading tomorrow. Awesomesauce.


And then to add more fun, less than 12 hours after I get back from D.C., I'll be heading down to Jamaica for the annual mission trip, where I'll be assisting in the dental clinic (again).

I spent today packing not one, but TWO suitcases - one designated for cold and chilly D.C. and the other designated for sunny Jamaica. The D.C. bag has professional business clothes and a coat, while the Jamaica bag has medical scrubs. And shorts. And a swimsuit. And sunscreen.

I hope I don't get the two suitcases mixed up. Eep.


The bad news is that I won't be blogging for awhile, as I travel around the western hemisphere. The good news is that I'll have lots to blog about when I get back, whenever that may be.

Bear with me!!


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Saturday, March 21, 2015

DC Adventure: Rosemary's Thyme Bistro



If I'd only known that the meal I was about to have would be, without doubt, the best and most delicious dinner I would partake in for the next five days…I would have savored every bite, and then carefully wrapped up any and all leftovers to take home with me, to be indulged in later…


…but alas.

I didn't know.


We're on Day #1 of our High School Musical bus trip to Washington, D.C…and after touring Ford's Theater, as well as the National World War II Memorial, we're all starving. Oh - and the high school kids are starving, too.


Rosemary's Thyme Bistro…a Mediterranean kitchen...

Fortunately, our tour organizers had made pre-reservations at a delightful little corner restaurant called Rosemary's Thyme Bistro…so the proprietors and staff didn't die of shock when three bus loads of hungry, starving high schoolers descended upon them like a pack of locusts. Seriously, we SWARMED the place, filling in every available nook, corner, cranny and table…and the staff hopped to attention, quickly getting salads placed in front of us, water glasses filled, and soda pop set in front of the kids.


Before the invasion of the hungry high-school barbarians...



Lucy, Daughter and myself...


I heard later that there had been an "adults" table - somewhere, some place - inside the restaurant, but I was so tired and so hungry at this point that I just blindly followed the teenagers to the next available empty table and sat down with them - which turned out to be quite fun, actually, as I got to know some of the kids better. And some of these kids were a hoot. Maybe I was a bit slap-happy at this point, due to lack of sleep - but I was laughing and giggling to the point of tears, and feeling more like a kid myself rather than a middle-aged chaperone.





Seriously - sitting with these kids reminded me that we are all pretty much the same inside, regardless of the difference in our ages…and the kids may not want to believe it, but we were pretty much exactly like them at that age.


Mr. "Cinderella" should be doing comedy on the stage…and little did I know how much I'd get to know the girl in the corner, Sadie...

After noshing on our salads, our entrees began arriving. We'd pre-ordered these before arriving, having been given a choice of chicken, beef, lamb or salmon. Looking around the table, it was interesting to spot the kids' choices, and how well their 'choices' matched their personalities. The kids who like to play things safe were happy with chicken…while the more adventurous and bolder kids had gone with lamb.


I'd chosen the salmon…and I had chosen well.



Nothing fancy. But totally delicious.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

It. Was. Perfect.


The restaurant was on top of things - they knew they had three gluten-free diners in the group, and somehow knew that I was one of them. A waitress discreetly asked me, before bringing the dessert, if I would be okay with flan - since I would be unable to have cheesecake, as the rest of the group was having.

Yes, please.



Squee.


That sauce has some sort of coffee-flavor to it - and it was to die for. If I hadn't thought that licking my plate would set a bad example for the kids - I would have totally done it. It was that good.


All too soon, it was time to load up on the buses, and head to our hotel. Where a bed…and a shower (gasp!) would be waiting for me.

We stayed at the Sheraton in Pentagon City…and I have to say, I was impressed by the hotel. It was spacious, clean, and beautifully decorated.




Not my picture…but pretty much what my room looked like...


I had a great view of the Pentagon outside my window, along with the United States Air Force Memorial, which we would visit later in the week:




I could also see just a tip of Arlington National Cemetery, if I looked over to the left outside my window:




After getting settled in my room, I headed down to the nightly chaperone meeting, where we'd go over the next day's itinerary, and any concerns or matters that needed discussion regarding the kids. Each evening, after this meeting, the various chaperones would scatter to the far corners of the hotel, each of us checking two rooms of four kids each, making sure THEY knew the itinerary the next day, and answering any questions or concerns they had.

After first checking on Daughter's room, along with her three friends, I made my way up a floor to the "older" girls' room - a group of four juniors. I knew two of them, Emily and Megan, from my neighborhood…but the other two, Mikayla and Caitlin, I would be meeting for the first time.

Or so I thought.

After letting me in their room (which already looked like a tornado had struck - seriously??!! I guess teenage girls are all the same!!), Caitlin immediately said, "I know you from somewhere. How do I know you??"

I looked at her, but without any recognition…It's funny how your mind tries to place someone…almost going through a card-sort in your brain…Church? No. Work? Obviously not. Neighborhood? Not that I know of.

I shrugged, and told her, "I have no idea…maybe I just have one of those faces…"


But.

But.

But.


The more I thought about it, as I was in my own room that night, tossing and turning and attempting to get to sleep in a strange bed, the more I realized I knew Caitlin, as well…but from where?? Gah. I knew I wasn't going to get to sleep until I had figured this mystery out, so I put my brain to work, flashing back over my memories the last few years in order to place her.

And then it hit me.

Eight years ago, I worked at a local elementary school…beginning the year as a paraprofessional, assigned to a 3rd-grade boy with high-functioning autism. The little boy was 'mainstreamed' in some of his classes, and it was there that I got close to a lot of the 3rd-graders - especially the little girls, who seemed to gravitate to me during recess and other breaks.

And Caitlin had been one of those 3rd-grade girls.

She was now an 11th-grader.

It had been EIGHT years, and Caitlin had remembered me.

Holy Memory, Batman.

I was impressed. I couldn't wait to tell her in the morning - but in the meantime, it was finally, FINALLY, time to go to sleep.


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Friday, March 20, 2015

DC Adventure: WWII Memorial





After leaving Ford's Theater, The Bus took us to the National Mall area, also known as the Nation's Front Yard. We would visit the National Mall dozens of times over the next week, but this evening, we were heading to one thing: the National World War II Monument.

We had picked up a tour guide along the way, Ed, who would stay on our bus for the entire week. Ed was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, and as we drove through the streets of D.C., he would point out points of interest and dissolve into a story behind them. I *hope* the kids were listening and picking up some information, but you just never know with kids. Although Ed was knowledgeable, he wasn't exactly funny - and you can definitely "lose" your listeners.

So, as we pulled up and parked by the WWII Memorial, Ed regaled us with all of the history and architecture behind this massive monument. I couldn't remember half of it, but I just decided to walk around on my own to see what I could find….

When first walking up to the Memorial, you come across this "Announcement" Stone:

"Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the eighteenth century father and the other the nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: a nation conceived in liberty and justice."

Wow. Some powerful stuff there.

There were lots of other inscriptions to be found, including these noteworthy ones:






Dedicated in 2004, the monument contains 56 granite columns that symbolize unity among the states, territories and the District of Columbia. There are also two 43-foot tall structures that highlight America's victory on the Atlantic and Pacific fronts during the war:






We had a mere 30 minutes at the most to explore this massive memorial, but I managed to find some other little treasures:


A seal on the floor of the memorial using the World War II Victory Medal design




A series of 24 bas reliefs depict the all-out mobilization of America’s agricultural, industrial, and military and human resources during the Second World War.



The Freedom Wall is on the west side of the memorial, with a view of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial behind it. The wall has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. In front of the wall lies the message "Here we mark the price of freedom".


Up close…so powerful...


There's normally fountains and a pool of water at the site, but because we were there before spring (and warmer weather), the fountains had not been turned on. Later in the week, we did a drive-by of the memorial, as we'd heard a rumor that they water was running - and this was true. And it was stunning. But no pictures, as the bus was moving too fast to snap one. Drat.

So…I swiped a photo off of Wikipedia, showing how it would have looked if the water had been on:



Stunning.

And one more, just for good measure:




Unfortunately, due to our limited time to visit this, as well as the cooler temperatures, I don't think the kids really appreciated this - or got the impact. This memorial would be one I would definitely visit again in the future, allowing more time to really take it all in, and viewing the different bas reliefs and inscriptions.


This whirlwind visit would be just a foreshadowing of the week that was to come…we pretty much did this everywhere we went: swooped in, swooped out, with extremely limited time to fully take in whatever it was we were visiting. Just a taste…a nibble…but never a complete "meal" of a particular site...

And speaking of meals…it was time for dinner…and we were ready to head off to what would be, looking back, the best meal I had all week…stay tuned!!!

Peace.

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DC Adventure: Day #1




One thing is certain…


…my life is never, ever dull.


I just spent the last week chaperoning Daughter and her fellow high school music students on a whirlwind visit to Washington, D.C. - where we soaked in the sights, made beautiful music, and ate lots of crappy food.

Notice how I did not put "sleep" in the above sentence...because, Dear Readers, there was none of that. Nope. Nada. And I learned a valuable lesson: that I am much, much too old to go a week without sleep, because now, I am cranky. And tired. And feeling very, very old.


Let me back up and start at the beginning of this adventure…which would be last Thursday, March 12th, when we gathered up our 100+ students, instruments and parents and boarded three charter buses, embarking on a 20+ hour drive to Washington, D.C.


The Bus. Our home away from home for the next week. Joy.



Trust me. After a week, with 36 kids and a half-dozen parents & teachers onboard, our bus did NOT look this pristine….


Our adventure began at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, and we would only make one stop that evening - for dinner, at some food court somewhere in either St. Louis or Illinois - since I wasn't driving, I wasn't paying attention - where we began our crappy-food marathon. Finding gluten-free options at a shopping mall food court is like finding the winning lottery ticket - it's pretty much impossible, and with limited time to hunt down something both safe AND palatable, I ended up noshing on a Philly Cheesesteak - minus the bun, of course.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

It was awful.


Fortunately, I had packed a Lifesaver Bag of gluten-free snacks, which supplemented the meager dinner…and before long, we were back on the road, throwing in some DVD's for the kids to enjoy, while the adults settled in and attempted to make our "nest" comfortable. We would be spending the night on this bus, with no more stops scheduled until a breakfast stop Friday morning somewhere in Ohio, so we fiddled and finagled with our pillows and blankets, tasked with the impossible of trying to find a position that our bodies would find restful enough to sleep.

Around 11:00 pm, the DVD player was turned off, as well as the interior lights, and one by one, kids began nodding off into slumber…and the buzz of laughter and chit-chat dwindled down to silence…other than the rumble of the bus's tires as they traversed the highway.

And I tried to sleep. I really did. First, I popped a Benadryl, which is normally all I need to fall into a Zombie-like slumber. But that's normally when I am sleeping in a comfortable bed, prone - not sitting up in a HUGELY uncomfortable bus seat that dug into my back like a pokey, annoying child. Gah. Ninety-minutes later, I popped a Valium - and while I eventually fell into a rather restless doze, I woke up numerous times during the night, enviously eyeing the parents around me, trying to see what position THEY had managed to discover would be comfortable and bring on sleep, and quickly copying them. It was funny to discover the next morning that apparently, every other chaperone was doing the same thing during the long night - popping up every now and then, trying to see in the dark how others were sleeping, and then attempting to emulate them.



I eventually copied these guys - putting my head on the armrest, while putting my legs up in the air on the window. As bizarre as it sounds, it worked - until my legs developed some pretty painful pins and needles from lack of circulation.

I was up bright and early the next morning, but fortunately, all the kids behind me were nowhere to be seen - which meant they were all still sacked out, sleeping:




Soon, it was time to stop in Ohio for a brief breakfast - at another food court, of course, gah - and then we were back on the road to Washington. Although we were scheduled to arrive around 10:00 a.m., it was several hours later when we finally arrived. The excitement on the bus grew exponentially as we got closer - whether it was because we were finally getting to our destination, or whether it was because we'd finally get off our bus prison - who knows…who cares, actually - because that bus was awful.


Our first stop in Washington was for lunch at Union Station, where I gathered a bunch of kids and made a bee-line for Johnny Rockets. There, they were kind enough to create a hamburger in a lettuce wrap, rather than a bun, which I greatly appreciated.


Looking down on the craziness and insanity of the Union Station Food Court…it was truly a mishmash of people, smells and noise...



Johnny Rockets…always fast, always fun...


We didn't have a lot of time to dally, as it was back on The Bus for our first "official" tour stop in D.C., Ford's Theater:


Outside of Ford's Theater…such a small and nondescript place for such a momentous moment in history...


Ford's Theater is where Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. Although it briefly shut down, it was renovated and reopened as a working theater in 1968. We were not able to go into the actual theater itself, as there was a performance rehearsal going on - so we were relegated to the museum in the basement, which had multiple items related to the assassination on display. That was all great and dandy, but I was a tad bit disappointed to not be able to visit the theater itself.


Daughter, Friend and myself at the theater…





We then walked across the street to William Petersen's house…which is where President Lincoln was carried to a back bedroom after being shot. While doctors cared for Lincoln, the Petersen family and their boarders spent the night in the basement, while soldiers stood guard at the front door and were posted on the roof to keep the growing crowds under control. President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15th, 1865 in the back bedroom of this house.


Petersen House exterior...


In case you forgot what happened here…


The bedroom where Lincoln died…although it's important to note that NONE of the furniture is original to the house...



We exited the Petersen House into a gift shop, which is part of The Center for Education and Leadership. The Center was closed, so we were unable to view the exhibits there, which features two floors of permanent exhibits addressing the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's death and the evolution of Lincoln's legacy. We DID get to look at this amazing 34-foot book tower containing nothing except books written about Lincoln:


Trying to get the entire tower into my frame...


Up close...


I'd give Ford's Theater 3 out of 5 stars…the fact that we couldn't actually get into the THEATER at Ford's THEATER was a major bummer. I mean, isn't that the whole point of going??!! The museum was okay…but being in a basement, it was small, and dark, and could easily get crowded - especially when 3 bus loads of high schoolers descend on it. Petersen's House was cool - but knowing that the furniture pieces are reproductions kinda' takes the significance out of it…so meh. And the Center was closed. So double meh.

The tower was cool, though. Towers of books are always cool - especially when they're over 34' tall.


Before too long, it was time to get back on The Bus and head to our next stop…and along the way, we passed through Chinatown:



I now know how to write "Starbucks" in Chinese…in case I ever needed to.

Stay tuned for more in the adventure...

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