Tuesday, January 26, 2016

4 ways I'm preparing for air travel with a toddler

Four days. I'm going on vacation in four days! You read that and thought I'm incredibly excited, right? I mean that's typically how people feel about an upcoming trip. I always did. Visions of sunshine, decadent food, too much alcohol, and making memories with those I adore. That's what vacation is all about. This one will have all that. But I have to get there first. And that, my friends, will be a challenge. Because this time I'm flying solo with a toddler. We will board a non-direct flight bound for a location four states away. I just took a deep, audible, cleansing breath. I am in preparation mode.

1) We have new gear. We now have three strollers for our one child. Our jogging stroller is obviously too big for travel and our too-cheap umbrella stroller has wheels that need to get on the same page - one goes left while the other goes right, then good-ole lefty decides to stop while righty rolls right along. This typically results in me exercising my knowledge of all swear words in rapid succession. And that's during a peaceful mall walk with all the time in the world. I can't imagine the words I'd say when I'm about to board a plane with a 15-month-old. Deep, cleansing breath. I picked a more expensive umbrella stroller during my pre-trip shopping outing. I must have looked determined or a bit unhinged because my husband did not ask the typical, "why do we need another one?" The truth is I bought another stroller because I like to control things. I can't control everything about our travel, but I will - dang nabbit - have working stroller wheels.

2) I am trained to ignore you. I know there will be people who stare at me and then stare longer and longer when my son inevitably decides to scream, cry, throw something, wiggle, kick, push. They will stare and stare some more in hopes of me catching their gaze and seeing their disappointment, displeasure, anger about me ruining their flight, bitterness about their travel not being as wonderful as they expected, heck I'm sure I'll get some glares from the woman who didn't lose the weight she had hoped before she had to squeeze into a swimsuit. I get it. There will be hot and bothered people who will unload their wrath in the form of dagger-like stares that pierce into the woman traveling with a toddler. If that is you, please realize I see you, I just have prepared and meditated for days to fully ignore you and ignore you I will. Ain't nobody got time for that. I'm already feeling stressed. I don't need your social pressures to bear down on me.

3) I have stuff. I made plans. That said, I probably didn't prepare in the way you think I should have. I might bring some toys that make noise because my son likes them. I realize you may think that's a bad idea. I might bring some treats that he decides to throw because he seems to hate them. Trust me, he loved them hours earlier. I pre-picked the back row when that was an option in order to stay out of your way. On the one leg of the trip when I'm in the middle of three seats, I'm sorry. I didn't want that either. I promise I am not doing any of these things to upset him or you. I am channeling peace keeper. If - scratch that *when* - I fail, please recognize I didn't set out to intentionally sabotage your trip.

4) I also am preparing by realizing I am not alone. In fact, there are people who have traveled with two or three children under the age of four. I thank them for paving the way for me. They give me hope. They give me perspective. Also, if you're one of these next-level parents, you are allowed to laugh at me and my current single-child status and single-child problems because you are a saint. I am in awe of you for taking on such a challenge and surviving. You are a true pioneer. Thank you!

Maybe the travel experience will be perfect. Maybe it won't. All I know is mama needs some sun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Help me understand where the line is

Where is the line?

No I'm not talking about that line a person crosses when they say something they shouldn't. I certainly know where that is. Or at least I quickly find it when I say something a bit more crass than even I expected, and I see shocked eyes and groaning mouths. That invisible line is a bit easier to detect. But this new line eludes me.

Who is Jennifer Griswold the person versus Jennifer Griswold the brand? Am I an influencer? Am I vain for even asking these third-person type questions? My husband hinted I could be going through a midlife crisis. This might be true.

Here's the crux of my problems. I have developed as a reporter while being surrounded by old school journalists. I am trying to survive and thrive among millennials (and I think I may even be a millennial, but we'll save that for a separate identity-questioning post). There is a war among these two groups (or at least there is one in my head. But my head tends to make things much more Hollywood-fight scene than they really are). I understand both sides, but I'm not sure where I fit or where future journalists should fit.

I enjoy and embrace social media. I'm a Snap Chatting, Tweeting Facebooker who Instagrams selfies. Heck, I've got this blog. But I've also signed agreements (that I take very seriously) against payola and plugola. Don't send me something expecting a plug - not allowed. But isn't that so much of what social media is? I mean I've put a # or an @ in front of a lot of companies' names. Did I cross a line? I certainly didn't intend to.

Today I shared a post from the local police department complimenting our news coverage. That seemed to be the nice thing to do and more importantly, I wanted to share it. But we had a story today about how the police department was in a bit of a disagreement with other city officials over how the issue was handled. So by sharing did I show too much allegiance toward the PD? I didn't intend to take a side at all.

I realize these examples may be tailored to my profession, but I'm sure a lot of professions have similar concerns. And I think this post may apply to others because it also brings up this question - what do viewers want out of their TV reporters/journalists/personalities?

My husband has an odd obsession with South Park. Sometimes I overhear parts of it as I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed on my phone while sitting on the couch in front of the TV. This season is about people being unable to detect what a person is versus what an ad is. I worry that social media is blurring that line for all of us. We are becoming walking advertisements. Everyone is a brand and an influencer. I think that's awesome in a lot of ways, but it's also making it very difficult to adhere to the old school, objective journalism model.

Where is the line? Not sure but maybe we're teetering on it at all times. I mean, it is called online.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

When you reach for daddy

His eyelids droop. He looks off at his toys from the comfort of mama's arms. He just can't muster the the energy to walk toward them. It would take a machine to pull his beloved pacifier out of his mouth. The warmth I feel is more than the typical body heat that rises from some mommy/son cuddle time. My sweet pea is sick.

This is his first fever. And it sucks. I'm thankful it's taken 14 months for him to get his first fever, but I'm still aching watching him ache. 

I also feel this extreme power when he seems comforted by my touch. He looks up and reaches his arms toward me. He wants his mama. 

Until daddy comes in. 

I love my career. I can't imagine not working. My schedule is also great for our son. I stay with him in the mornings and then my husband who works part time has the afternoons and evenings with him. I spend a lot of time with our son, but my husband is with him more. 

Over the last few days, more often than not, our toddler wants to cuddle with daddy. Sure there are mommy moments too and when daddy is not around, he's beyond comfortable to just have me. But when he reaches for daddy, I can't help but feel a little guilt. 

I push it down. I think, "daddy has more surface area. I would choose to cuddle with him too." "Daddy is sillier and sometime it's nice to have a big smiley face when you're not feeling well." "Daddy always gives more treats and who doesn't like sugar - sick or healthy." 

But the truth is, my son loves and wants his daddy. 

And when I toss my ego aside and start looking at life through my child's eyes, I realize how amazing that is. 

I may feel envious when my son puts his arms in daddy's direction, but I hope he never sees that tinge of jealousy. And that's on me. It is my job to turn those feelings around and realize how lucky I am. We, working moms, can balance career, family, friends, sanity. But we need help. And we need to appreciate that help.

Sometimes my son reaches for daddy. I couldn't be more thankful he has a daddy to reach for, a daddy whose arms are always open.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

One internet response to "Making a Murderer" fires me up


My 2015 holiday season will go down as the time I binge-watched Netflix's "Making a Murderer." I know I'm not alone in that, but unlike many watchers, I knew the story. I knew what would happen to Stephen Avery and Brendan Dassey in court. I worked in television news in Wisconsin during some of this time. I saw a lot of familiar faces among the media cut-away shots. Heck, by chance, I even met Teresa Halbach when we were placed at the same table at a wedding. She was the wedding photographer. All that said, I do not claim to know her, her family or all the details of the case. I also did not cover it firsthand.

I started watching the series thinking Steven Avery was a terrible killer who convinced his nephew to do horrible things. The series had me do a nearly 180 degree flip. How could my idea of what happened switch so easily? I knew the documentary was very one-sided and that had me thirsty for more information. (I hope others also feel compelled to learn more about the case and what was left out.)

I hit the internet. One thing I found over and over again disturbed me. It makes me angry. Countless tweets about Mike Halbach, the victim's brother. Negative tweets. Accusatory tweets. Hateful tweets. Again, let me identify him, he's the victim's brother. Think about that. This man had to watch as search parties tried to find his sister for days. He then learned his sister had been shot and killed, her body burned. It's certainly plausible there were other horrendous crimes done to this innocent woman. Her brother lived through that. Her brother now lives through this.

Here are some tweets.

Here's a little insight on how television news works. When a person is missing, the public can help and so can the media. There seems to be a greater community response and search turnout when people feel an emotional attachment to the victim. If you just throw a graphic on the screen with a person's height and weight, viewers are less likely to pay attention and think they can help. If you show a picture, interest increases. If you put up a picture and include interviews with loved ones about what the family is going through those news stories have a large impact. Mike Halbach became the family's spokesperson. That must have been difficult, but he did it. I think that's commendable. That role continued throughout the trials.

I realize some of you reading this are thinking I'm missing the point. That you believe Mike Halbach is a possible suspect. A couple notes on that. This article lists the alternative suspects the defense wanted to present information about according to court documents. You'll remember they weren't allowed to suggest alternative suspects. If you read it you'll see Halbach is not on the list. Maybe they only listed possible suspects that were on the property that day but regardless Halbach is not on the list. (In case you're interested and again, I think people should be, the same author wrote: 14 pieces of troubling evidence Netflix' "Making a Murderer" left out)

And let's say you still think Mike Halbach is responsible in some way. I'd argue that's somewhat hypocritical and you've missed the point of the series. There is no evidence suggesting that. Nothing but a feeling people have. Isn't it those pre-conceived notions that people are most up-in-arms about? Okay fine, you think there needs to be more investigating regarding the case. After watching the series, I totally get that.

The Halbach family was experiencing extreme grief (I can only imagine) and simultaneously thrown into the public's eye. They had investigators telling them they found the guy (then guys) responsible. That must have been comforting during a terrible time. It was not their job to find the killer. Maybe Mike Halbach is an amazing guy. Maybe he's not. I don't know him, but I am so glad my family hasn't gone through what his family did.

During a news conference then-Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said, "there's only one victim in this case." This series has made people question whether that's true. There may indeed be convicted criminals who deserve the label victim. But the best way to right that possible wrong isn't for the public to make more victims.