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Thinking Out Loud

“Why does God make it cold?”

My boys and I have had a lot of talks about God lately. My eldest, Easton, started Religious Formation this fall, (formerly known as CCD for my 30-something Catholic friends..), and so God comes up a lot, either by me referencing Him or by them asking. We’ve discussed how God makes it rain to give the plants and animals a drink. The other night, Easton told his brother it was dark because God painted the sky black. When the temps dipped 40+ degrees in 4 days, it was only natural Evan would question why God would make it feel so chilly outside.

“So we appreciate when it’s beautiful outside,” I replied. “If it was nice and warm and sunny everyday, we would get used to it after awhile and it wouldn’t feel as nice.”

My husband and I had just had a similar conversation not a week beforehand.. spending a few days on the glorious beaches of Destin, Florida. Everyday, we saw the ‘chair protector’ move into position right in front of our condo. From 9-5, he sat in the sun and made sure people didn’t use the fancy chairs unless they paid to rent them. Brian commented, “after awhile, you wouldn’t even appreciate the beach. You’d be so used to it, just sitting there all day every day.”

But how could you not appreciate this?

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The constant, soothing roar of the waves coming in. The intoxicating aura of peace and happiness. Watching toddlers confusedly wobble on the sand, already trying to tackle walking without this new, strange squishiness under their toes. Seeing older couples, hand in hand, walking slowly past.. and wondering how many years they had been walking together just like that. No hurry. No to-do lists. Brian and I walked around in a daze for the weekend, grinning nonstop and almost drunk on life itself. Even Sunday night, when a thunderstorm blew through, it was beautiful and exciting. I was legitimately depressed when it was time to leave, almost tearful.

I knew why, too. Because all too easily, all too often, I let all of the other noise drown the good out. I am addicted to my phone. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising when my boys argue. I have probably 3 notepads with duplicating lists of things I need to do, would like to do, hope to do, should do. I think about bills, about projects, about people, about what people think.

Why.

Teri Donoho

Last month, Westside Community Schools lost a teacher who devoted herself to education and to the teenagers she worked with. Teri Donoho’s husband, Jay, told me about how hard the love of his life fought to beat cancer.. and they thought she had. The night before she was supposed to leave the hospital, Jay went home for the evening to take care of their dogs. She called him to say good night, I love you.. and she died a few hours later.

Kaelia, Kamie Stephen

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Over the weekend, we got news that one of the young women who competed for Miss Nebraska last year, Kaelia Nelson, died. I remember thinking two things when I met Kaelia: “dang! She’s TINY!” (Kaelia, a stunning woman, was MAYBE 5 feet tall), then later ‘wow.. this girl is the real deal.’ Poised, so striking, an amazing dancer, and CONFIDENT. Kaelia had several tattoos, and proudly showed them during Miss Nebraska week.. they were a part of her, and not something to hide. We need MORE strong, vibrant, positive leaders in our world today.. and losing ONE is a terrible tragedy. My heart is broken, especially when I think of Kaelia’s parents. They have been in my prayers for days.

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This weekend, we should be celebrating Cody’s birthday. We always did – his birthday and my husband Brian’s were within a few days of each other. A big party at Jack’s, a dinner with friends at Kobe, and moments we’ll never forget at the bar later on. One year, another wife and I were badmouthing one of the guys’ girlfriends. Cody, after a few moments of listening, looked at us and said ‘ya’ll are being bitches.’ …. Yup, he was right. I don’t know anything about that couple or their relationship.. I was being a bitch. And what I love about that memory is that it was classic Cody. He was CODY ‘WARDO’ WARDEN’.. and didn’t give a damn if you liked him or not. He was a big, loud, hugging, teddy bear of a man.. and if you were his friend, you never had to question if you had someone on your side.. because he was TRUE, honest and real. Cody beat all the odds, defeating brain cancer when first diagnosed several years ago. Exactly one year ago this month, the tumors came back. We celebrated Cody’s birthday at Jack’s again, knowing he had a tough road ahead. We lost him this summer.

Why? Why does this happen? What is the meaning of all of this? Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.

Because if we lived everyday at the ocean, we would take it for granted. Because God makes it cold, so the sun and warmth feel even better on those perfect days. That’s the easy answer.. easy for all of us feeling grief and sadness indirectly. But for Jay Donoho, for Shardel Nelson, for Darbi Warden… it’s not enough. It doesn’t explain WHY them. Why did Teri and Cody get cancer – twice? Why won’t Kaelia be here to get married and have babies, to live a long, happy life? I don’t have the reasons. I don’t have any poetic, rationalizing theory WHY. For Jay, for Shardel, for Darbi… I am so, so sorry. I literally cannot imagine being in your place because it emotionally breaks me down to even think about it. I don’t know how I would continue through each day, each SECOND, if I lost my family. I pray that peace and strength surround you and help you every second of this terrible journey. Your loved ones MATTERED, they HAD PURPOSE. They were so very loved, and they each made this world a better place. Teri, Kaelia, Cody… their legacies will continue through their time here, and through their loved ones still here.

I tell myself that I will go home, and hug my amazing husband a few seconds longer. I will say a prayer of thanks I have a loyal, selfless, devoted partner in my life, a guy who still dips me back to kiss me on the beach, 12 years after our first date.

I tell myself I will watch my boys.. REALLY watch them and try to lock every moment into my memory, instead of looking at my phone. Their smiles. Their laughs. The things Evan says, and how they still want to snuggle and play. When they fight, I will close my eyes and thank God I have healthy, happy, smart boys who can talk, move, think for themselves, and yes, even argue with each other like brothers.

Still, I forget… I listen to all of the noise, I focus on the crap that’s not important, I let the less than perfect overshadow all of the good. How do I not appreciate what I have EVERY, SINGLE DAY??? How do I forget that my ocean IS my home.. and the second I walk into that door, nothing else should matter??? Please, God, let me remember this EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. that I have here.

Today, it’s dark and gloomy outside. It’s so very cold. The ocean seems far away right now. But I know I will see it again soon. I pray everyone else does, too.

***

For Teri Donoho

Please consider a donation to Crossroads Clinic or to the American Cancer Society

For Kaelia Nelson

Please consider a donation to a mental health awareness organization, to the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program in Kaelia’s memory, or to the Peru State Dance team, of which she was a proud member.

For our dear friend, Cody Warden

Please consider a donation to Leap-For-A-Cure, the local organization fighting every day to help defeat brain cancer, of which Cody and Darbi were proud advocates.

 

Signing Off

First, to all reading this, I SIMPLY CANNOT thank you enough for the outpouring of support, kind words, encouragement, and simply, the act of reading these posts and reaching out.  As a writer, that means SO VERY MUCH to me, to know people are reading and watching.  THANK YOU.  I don’t know what I did to deserve so much love and kindness, but it has truly filled my heart and soul.  THANK YOU.

Second, my sincere apologies to anyone and everyone NOT included in the first post.  I’ve reread With More Complete Coverage probably 50 times and EVERY TIME I think ‘Holy crap!! How did I forget ____?!?”  And I feel TERRIBLE about that!!! We have so many influential people among us here and we have formed AMAZING friendships over the years. To be honest, at the time I wrote the post I was selfishly wading in a baby pool of my own memories and thoughts, and wish I had taken a few steps back to focus on OTHERS more than myself.  GUYS, I even forgot to WRITE ABOUT MY HUSBAND, BRIAN (who is the most amazing supporter, my best friend and my ROCK for the last 11+ years.)   I don’t want to be one of those people that’s all ‘focus on me.. FOREVER!!!’ BUT I do desperately want to recognize the people who have been so special to me throughout my years here.  I’M STILL ADDING NAMES AS I WRITE THIS!  And still, I know someone will be accidentally left off–PLEASE KNOW, to ALL of my coworkers past and present, the impact you’ve had on me as a person and journalist.  THANK YOU.

CARRIE ECKERT-PATTERSON.. my producer and partner in crime in the newsroom, at the poker table, and on the softball field.

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TODD ANDREWS.. my first co-anchor, a destined partnership since Trina Creighton paired us up at UNL for a mock broadcast.

STEVE GOETZ.. the undisputed CHAMP of ‘Name That Tune’, ‘Slug Bug’.. who I could always rely on for baseball talk and to give 100% to our stories together.

BOB GILLUM.. the KINDEST MAN EVER.  EVER!!

CATHY BEELER… KIND, caring, GIVING.  A legend in our business, a leader in our newsroom.

RYAN LUBY.. watch for him now, because he’ll be a network reporter someday soon.  To me, he’ll also always be the guy who drove to King Kong to get me french fries at 9pm when I was 8 months pregnant.

ADRIAN WHITSETT.. my good friend since JUNIOR HIGH.  The big brother that I never had.  I am so damn proud of this guy, and so HONORED to be his friend.

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MATT SCHICK and OWEN LEI.. yes, they go together.. because the three of us were a TERRIBLE TRIO for a stretch of time in the mid-2000’s.  From ‘frog wars’, to My Buddy ring tones, to getting yelled at at Omaha Press Club show practice (‘Carol KLOOOOOOOOSSSS!’), they are TRULY awesome, amazing men and friends.

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JOHN CAMPBELL.. my fellow Monarch and friend.  Amazing father and husband, HILARIOUS, and I am SO HONORED to have shared our time at KETV together.

CHUCK McWILLIAMS.. our American hero, whose selflessness showed at KETV long before he sacrificed his safety and time with his family to keep us ALL protected here at home.

BEN GRAY.. strong, confident, patient.  The guy who pulled me aside when I was taking criticism with my head hung low and told me, ‘You stand up for yourself!’  I will NEVER forget that moment.

JIM REDING.. a man DESTINED to be a journalist.  A friend to everyone, and one of our leaders as our Managing Editor here at KETV.

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MELISSA FRY.. my news SISTER.  One of the most beautiful people inside and out I have ever known.

PETE SOBY.. an unparalleled talent, and constant teacher to everyone around him.  I dare say HALF of the photographers in Omaha television were guided or influenced by Pete.

ROSE ANN SHANNON.. my mentor, boss and friend.  She went to bat for me when I was a green, wannabe, college student.  I owe my career to her.

SUZANNE DEYO.. my desk buddy for so many years in the Newsplex, and who I confided in that I ‘had a crush on a KPTM photographer.’  She called my now-husband, helping lead to our first date.

MATT BROWN.. ONE OF THE MOST TALENTED GUYS I HAVE EVER MET.  Director, graphics genius, team player, FRIEND.

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TOM ROCK.. DOCTOR TOM.  The Godfather of KETV.  Along with Rob, there are few I respect more in our business, and as a human being.

RUTH BEHRENS.. QUEEN RUTH.  So dang smart, caring, and makes THE BEST. CHILI. EVER.

JOSH GEAR.. So, SO talented, eager and willing to learn, and literally GOOD AT EVERYTHING in TV news.

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ALEX HOFFMAN.. my Miss America soul sister, a woman you literally just STARE at because she’s so striking and perfect.. then want to just HANG OUT WITH forever because she’s just so cool and AWESOME.

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JULIE CORNELL.. in a world where transitions can be awkward and difficult, she welcomed me with open arms, guided me, and has ALWAYS been there with advice, an ear to listen, and INSPIRATION in everything she says and does in her own life and career.

TYLER WHITE.. JEREMY MASKEL.. STEVE HENNEBERRY.. JIM HEALEY.. KYLE GRAVLIN.. CAMILA ORTI.. this list could honestly continue FOREVER, and I will still have forgotten someone.  MY BRAIN IS AN EMOTIONAL TORNADO RIGHT NOW.  THESE are the people who have not only been my coworkers, but my friends and confidantes for the last 15 years.. and Sunday night, I will say goodbye to them here at KETV.

There’ve been countless others, too–the people we meet everyday who have allowed us to share their stories.  Bottom line, I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the last two weeks, about the stories and people both here at KETV and out in the field.  My friend, teacher and Assistant News Director Vonn Jones asked me to choose three of my most memorable stories to look back on these last few newscasts.  I did it.. with GREAT difficulty.. so here’s a little addendum to that final assignment.

Baby Lawrence

Paralyzed Bride, Gina Springhower

Casey Charf

Derek Ruth

Operation: Open Hearts

Evan Sharp & Rhonda Sharp

Westroads

Clayton Hildreth

Drew Fiala

Jake Childs

Lane Thomas, Brayden Skillings, and the fight against SIDS

Ashley Bunn

Kyle Ienn

Amber Harris

Kayla Wilkins

Kasey Remmereid & Cassi Collier

Kerrie Orozco

Josue Ramirez-Marinero & Ismenia Marinero

My intention was to write something about each of these stories… what I still see and hear when I close my eyes.  But right now, it would be like trying to focus on one piece swirling in that tornado.. I feel like all of these stories and people have passed by in a FLASH.  I could write a novel.. and I INTEND TO.  As I’ve mentioned.. someday I want to write a book.  I want to devote the time and detail to each of these stories, and their ‘back stories’, that they deserve.  Someday.

I want to tell stories.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, consciously or not.  Sunday at 10 on KETV, I will close this chapter for now, fully intending to revisit it when my hubs and I are retired in San Diego.  He’ll golf, I’ll write.  For now, I am SO VERY EXCITED to begin this new adventure at Westside, and with that, I invite you to sign up here for email alerts about blog posts, or follow me on social media.. the stories will continue, just in a different way!!  There is SO MUCH GOOD in these students, in our teachers… WE NEED MORE GOOD STORIES!!!  THAT is where my focus will shift.. to the Westside Warriors family, and to my own at home.  I also plan to continue writing here on Anchor’s Away; pursuing my Throwback Thursday series this Husker Football season, and featuring the 2017 Class of Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants, as well as other things that pique my interest in our amazing community!

I don’t want to rehash too much from my first post (TOO LATE!!)  but hey, I’m fulfilling our More Complete Coverage mantra one more time 🙂 My apologies for this one last walk (a long, LONG walk) down memory lane.  It’s been one hell of a trip.

THANK YOU

THANK YOU

THANK YOU

THANK YOU.

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See you Sunday at 10.

The Year of the Phoenix

“Phoenixes burst into flame and are reborn from the ashes.”

Every lyric of her song shone through her face.  She didn’t spin, raise a leg or lift an arm without passion behind her movement.  Finally, as the audience cheered and applauded, she jogged off stage and collapsed into the arms of a woman behind the curtain, allowing emotion to overcome her.

Miss Nebraska 2016 was simply the Year of the Phoenix.

***

Guys, I don’t have words to tell you HOW MUCH I LOVE MISS NEBRASKA WEEK.  These women are simply INCREDIBLE; they are physical specimens after months of devotion to health and unwavering dedication to fitness.  They glow with energy and charisma, arguably some of the most charming, personable, enjoyable people you could hope to meet.  They are intelligent; they are well spoken; they are confident; they are TALENTED.  They are the best of the best, and not just the contestants, but the board members and volunteers who work tirelessly year round to make Miss Nebraska week happen.

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This year, my role shifted from the giddy spectator in the audience, to the selfie-loving goofball turned co-host on stage.

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I was so very honored to emcee this year’s preliminary and final nights of competition, alongside respected News Director and community leader, Scott Carlson.  THIS GUY IS AMAZING! A consummate gentleman with the classic announcer voice who made the entire week just FUN!  We didn’t get the front seat view hundreds of others did this month in North Platte, Nebraska.. we got a behind the scenes look every day at rehearsal, and every night when everything was on the line.  For this year’s ‘recap’ addition of my There She Is series.. I’m filling you in.

***

June 6, 2016

‘Wow. I am so unbelievably blessed with the most incredible people in my life. I could not ask for a better host family. I feel so at home here. We stayed up for like an hour just talking about everything and my platform. I am really taking it all in. And I love this! I am enjoying every minute of it which is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Even just reflecting on my year and all of the incredible people that played such an important role in helping me develop into the person I am. I am so so so lucky by being blessed with the Halls and Denise and this organization. Honestly no matter what happens. God is good all the time. All the time God is good.’

She hit ‘send’ on her phone, connecting with her mom at the beginning of what would be an unforgettable week.  She’d been part of Miss Nebraska week twice before, finishing in the Top 5 and then as 1st Runner Up.  She’d spent years telling students and groups about how she’d been bullied as a teenager, tormented into self-doubt and silence.  She wanted this.. to BE Miss Nebraska.. but she already had perspective.

5 days later..

“Your new Miss Nebraska is contestant #12, Miss Omaha Aleah Peters!”

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Photo courtesy Brooke Butterfield Photography

Who is Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters? I hope you’ll CLICK HERE and check out my interview with Aleah months before she traveled to North Platte.  You could also CLICK HERE to read about how she came OH so close two years ago, finishing 1st runner up.  Still, as I’ve written before, I believe you can tell so much about a person’s true character by what they say and do when they’re OUT of the spotlight…

Aleah sent that text message to her mom, Kay, two full days before she even began preliminary competition.  Folks, this year’s competition was CRAZY TOUGH.  Not just the Top 5, but any of the Top 10 could’ve become Miss Nebraska.  THEY WERE/ARE SENSATIONAL.  Yet this panel of incredible judges (including a motivational speaker, a woman traveling the country handing out checks to cancer survivors, a Top 5 finalist at Miss America, and one of Omaha’s most well known businesswomen and entrepreneurs), chose ALEAH to represent our state and everything we stand for.  Yes, they saw THIS..

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph

..a 3-time world champion baton twirler dazzling the crowd with her craft.  YES, they saw a CHISELED athlete who has muscles I don’t even know how to tone.  And YES, they saw a bright, articulate young woman with an action plan and mission to make a difference… but perhaps they also saw what Aleah’s mom was proudest of in her daughter through that text message.  Gratitude.  Maturity.  Perspective.

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And THAT is what she will now bring to countless children across our state and beyond, leading by example as Miss Nebraska 2016.

***

She smiled on stage, trying to hide the nervous electricity pulsing through her veins.  It was the first night of preliminary competition, the first opportunity after MONTHS, no YEARS of preparation, to take that step closer to becoming Miss Nebraska 2016. And then she heard it, “Miss Queen City Lianna Prill!”

Another night, another final stretch to wait for that envelope to be passed up to the stage.  She had performed her talent first that night; she set the bar for how the judges would compare and score all of the other talents that followed.  Then, she heard her name AGAIN, “Miss Queen City, Lianna Prill!”

Photos courtesy Brooke Butterfield Photography

Lianna was a double-prelim winner, claiming awards in both Evening Gown and Talent (a tie on Night 2 along with Aleah.)  The look on her face, BOTH nights, was PRICELESS, disbelief and sheer joy.  Lianna went on to finish 2nd Runner-Up at this year’s pageant, a huge jump from her finish two years ago, outside the Top 8.  I’d argue few deserved a boost like this more than this incredible young woman, knowing what she’d battled through over the last year.

As Lianna told me in her interview earlier this year, she has Celiac Disease; though she has completely changed her lifestyle to stay as happy and healthy as she can be, she IS still dealing with a chronic disorder.  Regardless, Lianna took on a full-time internship with us here at KETV, while working as an editor with the Daily Nebraskan, WHILE attending classes full time at UNL, WHILE taking part in events from Hastings to Omaha as Miss Queen City.  Already put to the test physically, Lianna was then dealt an unimaginable emotional blow; personal events in her family ultimately lead to her parents’ divorce.

Lianna needed this week. Her family needed this.  I simply BEAMED on stage watching Lianna accept her awards, and by late Thursday night I was nothing short of giddy for her when I bumped into Lianna after visitation.

“Lianna, you are a DOUBLE PRELIM WINNER!  You won TWO prelim awards!” I told her.

“I can’t believe it,” she told me, unable to hide her smile.  “I’m just so, so grateful.”

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Focused.  Kind.  Humble.  THAT is the caliber of person this program recognizes and lifts up, helping inspire others facing challenges of their own.

***

June 10, 2016

‘I am heartbroken. Such a senseless waste of a beautiful life that contributed so much to the 4H community. She would have been the 6th Boulder County Fair Queen to receive the crown and join the sisterhood after me. I will always remember her as a great teammate, competitor, role model, horsewoman, and a kind soul. We will miss you Ashley.’

She had already been through a grueling week of rehearsals, appearances, and competition.  Saturday’s final run-through was supposed to be low-stress, and quick.  The night before she had received crushing news.. a close friend was dead.  Murdered, allegedly at the hand of someone she cared for.  She went to rehearsal Saturday stoic, telling her fellow contestants what happened.. women she knew in much the same way as the girl who was now gone.

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Miss Western Nebraska Marie Allison lived in and competed in pageants in Colorado for several years before moving to Nebraska.  Through those experiences, she met Ashley Doolittle.  Police say June 9, Ashley’s ex-boyfriend shot and killed her, upset she had broken off their year-long relationship.

Less than 24 hours after hearing the news of her friend’s terrible death, Marie competed on the Miss Nebraska stage for one final time, and won the Non-Finalist Interview Award.  Somehow, she pushed through whatever pain and despair she was feeling, and stood tall not only for herself and the loved ones supporting her, but for the Little Sisters who idolized her.  They knew nothing of the horrors of what happens in our world.. they only saw beauty, love and kindness.

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Self-confidence.  Leadership. Resolve.  THAT is what these young women showed more than 30 little girls this year, many of whom will grow up wanting to be just like their Big Sisters.

***

Now, the dancer.  The girl who conveyed every word and every beat of her music on the Miss Nebraska stage.  I stood behind the curtain, thinking ‘wow.. she is so passionate about this!’ and suddenly, I noticed that volunteer Jordan Engel was waiting alongside me.

“We’re trying to make sure someone is back here every night for Alex,” said Jordan.  After talking to Miss Fur Trade Days Alex O’Connor this spring, I knew she cared deeply for her platform, Congenital Heart Defect Awareness, and that she had dedicated her performance to kids everywhere facing what she had as a child.  I thought that was fueling her.

“Her uncle died last week,” said Jordan.  “His funeral was Friday.”

Alex had said goodbye to her uncle, who died suddenly and unexpectedly, just one week before arriving in North Platte to compete for Miss Nebraska.  What should have been a joyous and prideful time for her family to celebrate this amazing woman, was diluted and tempered by raw emotion and grief.  Alex used whatever she was feeling on the inside to light up on that stage and make everyone watching feel something incredibly powerful.. for herself, for her family, and for her uncle.

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Photo courtesy Brooke Butterfield Photography

‘Billy O helping me with my queen wave. ❤️ you always knew the right things to do in order to make me smile. I cherished every moment I got to be with you. You will truly be missed. Rest in peace ❤️ my uncle.’

Compassion.  Strength.  Love.  THAT is what makes this entire week more than just a competition, it’s a showcase of the best attributes women everywhere; no, PEOPLE everywhere, should aim to achieve.

I’ve been a contestant in the Miss Nebraska Pageant.  It is exhilarating.  It is an honor.  It is SO MUCH FUN.  But it is also EXHAUSTING.  It is emotionally draining.  It is a competition that pushes you to become your best, but requires ALL you have to give.  To hear each of these stories throughout this week, knowing what these women were enduring as they took part in this marathon week..

I’m speechless.

Except I still have my Brandi Petersen Unofficial Fan Club Awards to hand out.  Oh yeah, I didn’t forget!! I know how much my readers look forward to these!

<crickets>

WHATEVER.

The Walking The Red Carpet Like a BOSS Awards

Ohhhhhhhhh, evening gowns, how I love thee.  Before I go any further, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Joe Bohac and the Black Swan Dress Boutique for loaning me three GORGEOUS gowns to host the pageant!  I felt like a PRINCESS (albeit a princess who tested how far jersey can STRETCH before bursting..)

Another HUGE thank you to the backstage GENIUSES, Becky Serrano who styled my hair each night, and Sue Miller and her Mary Kay team for transforming me from Troll to Ta-da!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU everyone!

OK.. now the AWARDS..

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Miss Douglas County Savannah Rave (who was also 1st Runner Up!) had one of my FAVORITE gowns of the week.  I GASPED when I saw this gown… absolutely STUNNING on stage, and plus.. WHITE. JERSEY.  I mean, who can wear white jersey and make it look THIS dang amazing?  Her name is Savannah.  She’s AWESOME.  (Gown by Tarik Ediz from the Black Swan Dress Boutique.)

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Miss Scotts Bluff County Allison Baird (a Top 5 finalist!)  was STUNNING.  I’ve said before how much I love COLOR.. yet two of my favorite gowns were Savannah’s white and Allie’s black.  THIS GOWN WAS SOOOOOO PERFECT.  It was elegant, mature (in a good way!), and SUCH a show stopper!  (Gown by Ritzee from the Black Swan Dress Boutique.)

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Miss Kearney Stacy Pospisil (a Top 10 finalist) won a Preliminary Evening Gown Award for this dress.. and OH, HOW I LOVED IT!  Again, I LOVE color, and not everyone can work a hot pink, ruffly princess dress.  STACY DID.  It was GLORIOUS.  (Gown by Jovani from the Winning Crown Boutique.)

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Another of my favorite gowns was on a teen contestant.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Carsyn Long!  THIS. WAS. PERFECTION.  (Carsyn is pictured above on the left next to the equally fabulous Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen Emma Wilkinson!) You guys, I still can’t get ENOUGH of this BEAUTIFUL gown.. it’s like it was MADE for Carsyn and for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen competition.  Elegant, fun, regal, stunning. This might have been my FAVORITE gown of the week.  (Gown by Jovani from the Winning Crown Boutique.)

Finally, not competing but HOLY. COW.  THIS GOWN, worn by Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell during Wednesday Night’s Awards Presentation.

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No words.  Ok, two words:  HOLY CRAP.  (Gown by Mac Duggal from the Black Swan Dress Boutique–FABULOUS owner Joe Bohac is next to Alyssa in the picture!)

***

The Our State’s More Talented Than Your State Awards

Two talent winners Night One.  Two talent winners Night Two.  Two Overall Talent winners.  An INCREDIBLE Non-Finalist Talent Winner.  An outgoing teen who is also a 6-time world champion, and a show-stopping teen crowned in her place.

Our state > your state.

MIC DROP.

This year’s field of talent was OUT OF THIS WORLD for both the Miss and the Teen contestants.  I have a strong feeling you’re going to see/hear from these incredible women long after their pageant days are done–they have PHENOMENAL gifts and those of us in attendance at this year’s pageant were blessed to witness firsthand!  It’s so hard to narrow this down.. but here were my favorites!

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Photo courtesy Brooke Butterfield Photography

Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen Emma Wilkinson.  Sometime, I’d like to talk to Emma’s mom about WHAT POINT she knew Emma had this GIFT–no, not a talent, a GIFT to sing.  Yes, you can improve.. yes, you can fine tune, but what this girl has is a God-given GIFT.  From the MOMENT her music began and she raised that microphone, I was BLOWN AWAY by her performance.  So was the crowd and the judges; Emma was this year’s 1st Runner Up.  Assuming Disney or Pixar doesn’t hear this girl and snatch her up for their next blockbuster, I am SO EAGER to see her compete on the Miss Nebraska stage someday!!

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph

Miss Nebraska State Fair Payton Merritt.  I’ve been pretty clear in my past posts that I ADORE this girl.  She’s brilliant, she’s kind, she’s stunning.. and MY LAWD can this girl sing.  Her voice is SO UNIQUE.  She can do things while she’s singing that are SO DIFFICULT: growls, vibrato, power, range.   She simply TRANSFORMS on stage from a petite blonde to a POWERHOUSE vocalist. This year, she shared her own rendition of the classic House Of The Rising Sun, and I texted a friend that this girl could WIN a prelim talent award at Miss America with it,  IT WAS THAT GOOD.  Payton walked away Wednesday night with a Miss Nebraska Prelim Talent Award (tying with Miss Twin Rivers Jenni Wahonick!) and was named a Top 10 finalist.

Right photo courtesy of Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph

Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Hannah Miller… now THE NEW Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen!  What a JOYOUS performance from our state’s new teen titleholder.  For Miss America groupies like me, this performance reminded me SO MUCH of Miss America 2013 Mallory Hytes Hagan.  Hannah’s tap dance was sassy, energetic and fun, it was a SHOW STOPPER!  For the last two years, Nebraska’s teen titleholders have finished in the Top 10 on the national stage in July, and I can’t WAIT to see Hannah continue that trend this summer!

Ok.. I just can’t narrow down the rest.  Miss Alliance Kate Duncan‘s vocal performance was simply BEAUTIFUL, and earned her the Non-Finalist Talent Award.  Miss Chadron Tyler Rambali’s performance of Let It Go with her Idina-Menzel-like-pipes shot her into the Top 10 in this, her FIRST try at the Miss Nebraska crown.  Miss Kearney Stacy Pospisil’s dance was absolutely BREATHTAKING, also helping her make the Top 10 this year.  This year’s competition was simply a talent SHOWCASE that I wish our entire state could have seen and been proud of.

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The Put-Down-That-Runza, Petersen! Awards

Since I’ve been home from Miss Nebraska Week, and I’m talking to people about how it went, these women and their bodies are usually the FIRST thing I brag on.  Yes, I’m aware of how creepy that sounds.

I think ‘Swimsuit Competition’ and the stigmas associated with that phrase will in someway ALWAYS be stereotypes and negative connotations our program is faced with.  Here’s the deal; this is NOT a skinny competition.  This is NOT a contest to see who can survive the longest on chicken broth.  This is NOT public shaming of young women, in fact, it’s just the opposite. What I see more and more each year I return to North Platte are fit, strong, healthy women, PROUD of the work they have put in and ready to show that off.  I know better than anyone (thank you, Spanx), you can hide things under clothes.  The thing with a swimsuit–there’s NO hiding.  So these women have learned how to be the best physical version of themselves to prepare for that moment, and in doing so, establish healthy lifestyles that last long beyond Miss Nebraska week.  To ALL of this year’s contestants, I BOW DOWN TO YOU.

Aleah, Savannah and Stacy’s photos courtesy Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph.  Allison’s photo courtesy Black Swan Dress Boutique/Joe Bohac

Miss Scotts Bluff County Allison Baird was my Lifestyle and Fitness winner.  MUSCLE ON MUSCLE WITH MUSCLE.  ABS FOR DAYS.  It was like a magazine cover!  And Allie’s PROUD of that photo!! She told me ‘I worked hard to feel confident up there!’

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Neither I, nor any of the audience gets to see the Interview portion of competition, but we all did get to see the On Stage Questions these women were presented with.  Folks, I’ve interviewed a lot of people over my 15 years of journalism.  I’ve heard politicians dance around questions they don’t want to (or can’t) answer.  I’ve heard leaders stumble and stammer when thousands (or more) were listening in.  These women, all 17-24 years old.. fielded some DIFFICULT questions on issues ranging from the transgender rights debate, to the presidential race, to prison control in Nebraska.  They were articulate, confident, INTELLIGENT.  THIS is the part of the competition I wish I could LIVE STREAM to haters everywhere, because IT. WAS. AWESOME.

***

I woke up groggy and immediately aware my feet HURT after a week straight of standing in heels for hours at a time.  I grabbed my phone, hoping to feed my social media addiction by seeing how far word had spread that Aleah Peters was the new Miss Nebraska 2016.  Instead, I saw pain, anger, grief.  49 people had been shot and killed inside a nightclub in the deadliest shooting in recent American history.  I drove home from North Platte, listening to news coverage on satellite radio the entire trip, my heart heavy for my friends in Orlando covering the horror, and for the country we increasingly seem to be turning into.

I don’t want to believe that.  I want to focus on the good.  I need to believe that like the Phoenix, we can be reborn from the ashes and soar to something higher.

These women give me hope.  That hard work still exists.. and pays off.  That good things happen to good people.  That when you recognize the good, it spawns MORE positivity, a cycle that leads to endless energy, smiles, and inspiration.

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LOVE BEATS HATE.  Love for each other, love for what we do, and love for LIFE.

 Congratulations and THANK YOU to the Miss Nebraska Class of 2016 for allowing me to share these stories of challenges and successes.  I cannot WAIT to see how high and far each of you soar.

***

My thoughts and prayers are with Ashley Doolittle, her family and friends.  May she rest in peace.

Work That Matters

As a journalist, you hope your work matters.  You want to make a difference in the world.  Often, the stories I write and share have the incredible KETV platform; they are seen by tens of thousands of people (sometimes more!) and I rely on several team members like photographers and producers to put them together.

This blog is a little different.. while it started as a connection to KETV viewers while I was on maternity leave, it’s evolved into more of an independent outlet for me.  Here, I can share stories that don’t always make the news, or the ‘behind the scenes’ parts of stories that didn’t make it to air.  This is just ME; my crazy brain and the words it kicks out.  Still, as much as my on-air stories, I want my posts to matter.  I hope they mean something to the people I write about.

Last year, after I’d written about each of the Miss Nebraska contestants leading up to the 2014 pageant, I wasn’t sure of the impact or the reach.  These young women were so busy and had spoken to any number of people about their journeys, why was I any different?

But one night, after preliminary competition, I felt truly special.  One of the titleholders, surrounded by her friends and family  members, spotted me, broke into a HUGE dazzling smile, and held out her arms to hug me as if we’d been friends for years.  She made ME feel appreciated, like I mattered.

She’ll be back at Miss Nebraska this year.

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MISS WESTERN NEBRASKA 2015 CHRISSY TOWNSEND

“I’m there for the job,” Chrissy told me recently.  “I’m there to be the role model that I always looked up to as a little girl.  I’m there to create and keep friendships and professional relationships for all of my later life adventures.  I’m there to create my own legacy whether I win or not.”

Chrissy has already made her mark on the Miss Nebraska program, holding ‘Miss’ titles for four years, and competing in pageants since the age of 12 (including for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.)

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“I’m not the same person I was then, nor am I the same person that I was two days ago, but that’s because I’ve grown and matured through pageantry,” said Chrissy.  “I want nothing more than to carry on the job of Miss Nebraska with the utmost class and honor.”

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Chrissy is already demonstrating that across the state, specifically for her platform, Make-A-Wish.

“I have been a part of Make-A-Wish for five years now, starting as a volunteer with my college sorority, Chi Omega,” said Chrissy.  “It become more personal when my best friend’s younger brother became a Wish child.  I am now a hotel room decorator for Wish children and their families (this is their first impression of how much fun Make-A-Wish wants them to have) and I am also an airport greeter (which gives you a really personal connection.)  It’s amazing to be able to sit down with [them] and just talk to them about what they are looking forward to most.  For children and their families to be able to escape from everything for even just a few days, it’s really extraordinary.”

Service is the most important part of being Miss America titleholders in my opinion, being leaders and role models.  However, Chrissy is arguably one of the most exciting representatives of another point in the crown: style.

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Chrissy is my ‘Academy Award’ nominee on this red carpet. I am always eager to see what she will wear!  YES, there is SO MUCH more to Miss Nebraska than strutting around in beautiful gowns.  NO, the winner shouldn’t be based on who can buy a pretty dress.  (A–Evening Wear only comprises 20% of a contestant’s score, and B–many of these ladies network to gather support from sponsors and/or donors to help pay for their wardrobes)  But the Miss America pageant, as well as Miss Nebraska, is also a SHOW–a presentation of the most incredible young women in our state–and it’s FUN to see these amazing women in these gorgeous gowns!!  Chrissy has also modeled in the past, and watching her on a stage is like seeing a pro walking the runway in New York.  At Miss Nebraska 2014, she was simply breathtaking (click here to read my ‘Best Dressed’ list from the 2014 pageant!)

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And then there’s this… talent.  Chrissy TRULY has a gift.  Click here: Chrissy told me last year as Miss Lake McConaughy about her love of dance, something she’s taken part in ‘since she was in the womb’, according to her mom.  Most recently, Chrissy competed on the nationally ranked dance team for three years at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

“I’m always a very giggly, happy person and my talent is lyrical dance,” said Chrissy.  “It’s a very heartfelt, emotional style of dance because it’s based through the words in the song that you are performing to.  You melt and breathe through every move.  I want the judges and the audience to feel what I feel when I perform.  [My talent song] is the song I eventually want to dance to with my dad at my wedding.”

All of these components and the women who showcase them are why Chrissy says you should care about Miss Nebraska.  15  23  25

Chrissy & Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould volunteering at an Omaha IHOP for National Pancake Day to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals ** Miss Panhandle 2014 Mindy Schreiber, Chrissy and Miss Crane Festival 2014 Lianna Prill after the 2014 Miss Nebraska pageant ** Chrissy and many of the other 2015 Miss Nebraska contestants volunteering at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital Rainbow House on Miss America Serves Day

“The women of the Miss America Organization are the most talented, giving, intellectual and beautiful women in the world,” said Chrissy.  “These women are going to be your future doctors, lawyers, state officials, news anchors, trainers; the list could go on.  They’re dedicated to making a difference in the world and in the lives of others.  They educate about current issues and they advocate for all of the causes that mean something to them.  It’s being a role model when society doesn’t leave you with much else to look up to.  A real woman with a real cause and a real message can change anything within this organization and that’s powerful enough to keep this organization relevant.”

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As Chrissy prepares for her final adventure at Miss Nebraska, she’s also reflecting back on her memories as a titleholder.. the garage sale she held in her driveway to raise money for pediatric hospital patients.. hugging her parents after a pageant was over.. dancing with the ‘little sisters’ who look up to her and want to be just like her.

“I won’t say that I’ve always been proud of all of my ‘losing’ moments but that’s because I let them be just that, ‘a losing moment’,” said Chrissy.  “I’ve learned that coming away from an experience having learned something about myself or having made a difference in someone’s life is more important than a crown and sash.”

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Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”    Most of the girls who take part in the Miss Nebraska system spend their year or years devoting their time and energy to making people feel special.  That impact is far reaching–the causes they promote get more attention.  The organizations they raise money for get a financial boost to then support others.  The little girls in that photo with Chrissy will likely remember that neon dance party for years, maybe even be inspired to compete in Miss Nebraska someday and inspire MORE girls.  For one night last June, I had a few moments where I, too, got to sense how wonderful these young women make others feel.

Today at KETV, we are covering an Amber Alert, issued for a little boy the day after his 11-month old brother was found naked but alive in a dumpster, their mother found dead in an Omaha neighborhood.  Again, we hope the stories we write and share today make a difference; that they lead police to a suspect and find this little boy unharmed.  Too often, these are the stories we tell in news, not by choice, but because they exist.  Bad things happen in our world.

  Chrissy, and the girls who participate in these programs, inspire us to focus on the joy and light in the world rather than the bad.  They are reminders of LOVE, not hate.  Sometimes, when we desperately need to see there are GOOD people out there, people like Chrissy remind us.. sometimes, with just a smile and a hug.

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THAT work matters, and Chrissy Townsend isn’t finished yet.

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Follow Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend

on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

To contact Chrissy for appearances and events, click here to visit the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant Facebook page.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes at 307-340-0601 or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Shaniah Freeseman

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County 2015 Brittany Eckerberg

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

2014: Year In Review

I mean, really, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t hand out imaginary awards that are voted on by only YOU?

I’m a big believer in recognizing the POSITIVE things going on in our world.  In news, we certainly see the bad.  A lot of it.  Day in and day out.  But I think KETV does a great job of also highlighting the GOOD.  The students who vote for a special needs friend for Homecoming King.  The community rallying around a family in their darkest hour.  A business finding incredible success through simple hard work and dedication to their craft.

As we close out on 2014, here are my Year In Review Local News awards.

(Thank you for continuing to read though you are probably doing so while laughing.. not with me, just AT me..)

2014 KETV REPORTER OF THE YEAR

KRISTYNA

KRISTYNA ENGDAHL 

This lady is just FANTASTIC.  I don’t have enough adjectives for her.  Beautiful.  HILARIOUS.  Sharp.  Well spoken.  Fearless.  Respected.  Kristyna’s stories are well written and solid; if she tells you something, you know it to be true and researched.  Kristyna’s live presence is just AWESOME.  She’s articulate, she gets to the point at a scene, she shares what viewers want and need to know.  When Kristyna’s in our newsroom, our coverage is GREAT.  We have so many incredible journalists on our team here at KETV, but for me, Kristyna is our 2014 reporter of the year.  Now, as a person.. SHE. IS. AWESOME.  My day is truly brighter when I come in to work and see that beautiful smile, then hear her joking at her desk.  (Then I usually snort coffee up my nose laughing, because she is HANDS DOWN the funniest person in our newsroom!)  Like I said, I don’t have enough adjectives for Kristyna.  I do have a message to her: THANK YOU for being you!

Kristyna’s work in 2014:

First interview with Nebraska Governor-Elect Pete Ricketts

$100 Reward offered for return of Baby Jesus

Survivor recalls Sunday morning crash

Follow Kristyna on Facebook and on Twitter!

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2014 KETV PHOTOJOURNALIST OF THE YEAR

DAVE

DAVE HYNEK (photo courtesy Jodi Hoatson, CHI Health)

Again, we have so many, SO MANY, incredibly talented photojournalists here at KETV.  Still, for me, Dave Hynek is THE BEST OF THE BEST.  Not just at KETV, but arguably, one of the best in the country.  Dave FEELS what he shoots–he captures moments with his eyes, his ears, and all of his senses.  I’ve been honored to share some INCREDIBLE stories this year and in 3/4 of those stories or more, Dave was the man behind the camera and in the edit bay, trying to piece together a vision I had written down on paper.  A brave, young woman speaking for the first time about the night her ex-boyfriend shot her in the face; Dave put the story together.  Our chronicle about Baby Lawrence, multiple stories spanning several months; Dave put the stories together.  Cassidy Collier, a teenager facing lifelong challenges after a terrible car crash; Dave put her story together.  The paralyzed bride who walked down the aisle, the Plattsmouth teenager who died from a mysterious illness, our one-on-one interview with former Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini–DAVE HYNEK was the man behind the scenes in each and everyone of these stories.  When we aren’t fighting over Dave in news, he’s also part of our sports team, often traveling with Andy to Nebraska football road games to shoot on the sidelines; AND he has his own production business, shooting weddings and special events.  Dave helped me put together my audition tape for the College World Series this year (singing, not playing baseball), asking nothing in return.  Dave may be one hell of a photographer, but he’s an even better FRIEND. Dave listens, works hard, he is KIND.  Hands down, he is THE BEST. (And a SUPERSTAR shortstop on the Team Paparazzi softball team!)

Dave’s work in 2014:

Cassi’s message

Saving Baby Lawrence

New mother battling terminal cancer

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2014 PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, ANDREW BEIN

No picture of Andrew, our Executive Producer in charge of our 10pm newscasts.. and that’s the way he likes it.  Andrew is always behind the scenes, plugging away at his computer or up in our master control booth, and the DUDE IS A MACHINE.  Andrew could hands down be working in any big market or network outlet in the country; his writing in concise, accurate, and entertaining.  The numbers show it–with Andrew in control, KETV has not only the #1 10pm newscast in Omaha.. but one of the most popular newscasts in the country.  Rob and I TRUST him.  We know his scripts don’t have typos that could trip us up.  We know he’ll guide us through breaking news, weather coverage and an ever-changing environment where situations turn in a heartbeat.  Producers don’t often get the credit they deserve in our business–they don’t get their faces and names on our stories and coverage when things go great.  Andrew deserves it–he’s one of the best, and we are VERY lucky to have him on the KETV team!

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2014 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

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ALEXANDRA STONE

By ‘Rookie’, I mean new to us here at KETV, but certainly not new to this thing we call journalism.  This young woman is POISED, professional and quickly building a reputation in Omaha and beyond as a trusted journalist you can turn to for the story.  I recently put together a story with an interview Alexandra had conducted; she spoke with the mother of a young man who had been shot and killed.  These interviews are SO incredibly difficult.  What can you ask? What can you say? Alexandra was compassionate, caring, she asked the questions that we and our viewers wanted to know, but with tact and professionalism.  It was a lesson in how to conduct yourself in such a tough situation, to remember you are a fellow human being.  It was also Alexandra who, after 13 years in TV news, led me to CRY on air for the first time I can remember after seeing one of her stories.  Alexandra and photojournalist Matthew Lathan showed a young man with cerebral palsy, surprised on the field when his coach put him into the game for the first time all season.  It was just BEAUTIFUL story telling, and perhaps, a small glimpse of what incredible things this girl is capable of.

Alexandra’s work in 2014:

Bellevue football player receives sidelines surprise

Omaha native makes dream job reality

Women’s center helps immigrants escape domestic violence

Follow Alexandra on Facebook and on Twitter

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I wish I had an ‘in’ with a trophy maker so I could hand out a few more awards.  To photojournalist Tyler White for editing not one, not two, but nearly ALL of my Throwback Thursday Huskers stories (some of which required deep digging into the KETV archives, converting countless forms of video, and piecing it all together with my less-than-stellar knowledge of football).  To KETV’s official EVERYTHING Josh Gear, who produces, shoots, edits.. OK, the guy just does anything and EVERYTHING asked of him, literally, working every shift we have at KETV, with no complaint.  To legendary directors Tom Rock and Ruth Behrens, who are not only PHENOMENAL at what they do, but are always putting on a pot of coffee or bringing in made-from-scratch chili, because they are just KIND, WONDERFUL people.  We’ve just got a really, REALLY great team here at KETV.

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2014 STORY OF THE YEAR

For this one, I am completely, entirely, TOTALLY biased.  Because this one is very personal for me.  The story I will remember most from 2014..

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THE PARALYZED BRIDE WHO WALKED DOWN THE AISLE

Gina Giaffoliogne-Springhower stunned her wedding guests and 1.65 MILLION viewers by doing what so many brides take for granted, walking down the aisle on her father’s arm.  The KETV team (myself, photojournalists Dave Hynek, Ashley Nodgaard and Tyler White, and Assistant News Director Vonn Jones), along with the Giaffoliogne family and CHI Health’s Jodi Hoatson, spent weeks planning and working to share Gina’s story.  Gina spent YEARS preparing for this one moment, an instant that brought me to tears and inspired millions of people around the globe.  Gina’s story was shared by E! Online, People Magazine, Dr. Oz, CNN, ABC World News and World News Now, Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Courier Daily, and the NY Daily News, among others.  Gina–THANK YOU for sharing your story.  Your message, smile and spirit have no doubt changed lives, showing anyone facing a challenge that ANYTHING is possible.  You have given people hope.  To have any role in sharing your story is a blessing I can never say thank you enough for.  The world is at your fingertips, Gina–you are simple incredible.

My blog post previewing Gina’s piece: A Cinderella Story

KETV, Paralyzed bride walks down the aisle

KETV, Millions share paralyzed bride’s story

KETV, Paralyzed bride invited to Dr. Oz

Gina hopes to continue to speak across the Midwest and the country sharing her story and her inspiring message.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION!

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I have many goals for 2015.  I want to finish (and in some cases, START!) my boys’ Shutterfly books for each year of their lives.  I want to pick up again on one of my favorite hobbies, scrapbooking.  I want to FINALLY get back to XXX and lose all of my baby weight.  I want to be a GREAT wife, mother and friend.

Here at KETV, I just want to tell good stories.  Stories that inspire.  Stories that matter.  Stories that make us think.

It’s been a great ride, 2014.  Happy New Year.

So You Think You Can (Watch) Dance

Hello–long time no see!  I know, I know.. I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties, AGAIN.  And this post has nothing to do with motherhood, KETV, or journalism.. it’s about my not-so-secret addiction.

I adore the TV show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.. I know it’s on another network. Yeah, yeah, yeah, anyone who knows me will tell you I have issues WALKING most of the time, let alone attempting to dance.  But I HEART this show.  Every Friday night, after I put my baby to bed, I settle down in the living room with the dog and we watch SYTYCD (and the best part about THIS plan.. I can watch both that weeks performances AND the elimination in one sitting!  I love DVR!!!)

Last week, this season wrapped up with an INCREDIBLE finale show.. and as they do every year, the judges picked their favorite routines of the season.  Shockingly, SYTYCD never contacted me about my picks.. so HERE are my Top 10!  If you’re as addicted to this show as I am–give me your list, too!! If you’re not a fan of the show.. you might be after you check out these clips–these dancers are phenomenal!!!

#10

TIE between Caitlynn & Mitchell’s contemporary to Celine Dion, and Sonya Tayeh’s Geisha dance for the Top 10 Girls

Caitlynn & Mitchell, I LOVE this song and the gave me chills… the Geisha dance, just weird and awesome and cool

#9

The Statue Routine with Melanie & Marko

Forgot how much I liked this.. especially when the music kicks up towards the end

#8

Caitylnn & all star Ivan hip hop

I heart Ivan 🙂  SYTYCD’s Justin Timberlake

#7

Melanie & Marko hip hop, the Kiss routine

aw 🙂 I just love them

#6

Week One, featuring Season 8’s Hip Hop dancers

LOVE this dance.. I remember seeing this week 1 thinking ‘I’m so glad my show is back!!’

#5

Melanie & all star Neal, Total Eclipse of the Heart

When Melanie throws herself about 10 feet towards Neal, I literally gasped in my living room. AMAZING.

#4

Melanie’s standing ovation solo

Another ‘moment’ for me.. when she finished, I said OUT LOUD to myself, ‘Holy. Cow.’

#3

Tadd & all star Lauren, Another One Bites The Dust

Tee hee–LOVE this dance.  Tadd is AWESOME!

#2

Ricky & all star Anya, River Deep Mountain High jive

Why didn’t this routine get more love?!? I LOVE LOVE LOVED IT!! It just makes me smile–LOVE Anya so much!

AND MY #1 ROUTINE OF THE SEASON IS….

Sasha & all star Twitch, the Soggy Cornflakes routine

JUST FREAKING AWESOME.  I actually saved this episode on my DVR so I could watch this routine more than once.  Other than the Allison & Ivan contemporary of seasons past, this is my all-time FAVORITE!!!

Yeah, I need help.  Anyone know of a SYTYCD support group?  🙂

God Bless The USA

First off, welcome home to the 105 soldiers from Iowa’s 1st Battalion of the 168th Infantry after a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.   We are so thankful for your service to our country!

CLICK HERE to watch Natalie Glucklich’s INCREDIBLE story on KETV of the welcome home celebration for the 168th!

This week’s return was bittersweet for this unit, as they lost one of their own while serving overseas.  Sergeant Brent Maher was killed by a roadside bomb in April.  Sergeant Maher had ties to Honey Creek and Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Hundreds lined streets for his funeral services, and his name is now etched in stone at the Council Bluffs War Memorial, so no one forgets the sacrifice he made for our freedom.

We’ve lost so many local troops, soldiers, marines, etc.  These men and women go to battle so we won’t have to here.    They leave their families, miss milestones in their children’s lives, all so we can go about our day to day lives safe and free.  I cannot IMAGINE being apart from my husband or son for so long, and I can’t imagine what the family members of our troops go through.  So I ABSOLUTELY LOVE seeing the homecomings, reunions, and celebrations when our troops come home.

Aaron Williams, surprising his daughter in Council Bluffs

 Thanks to Chris Hicks for posting this pic to U-Local!

One of my favorite new shows is Surprise Homecoming on TLC.  It features troops coming home and surprising their children, fiances, sisters, you name it.  I. LOVE. IT.  It shows the core of all of us–pure emotion, love, joy–at the end of the day, money doesn’t matter, status doesn’t matter, all of the things we stress and worry about don’t matter.

All you need is love.  

(Thank you John Lennon and Paul McCartney)l

To all of our troops, now home or still fighting for our country,

THANK YOU.