Monday, December 24, 2007

Tomorrow, tomorrow

Though I have no construction paper chain, my own barometer is telling me it's Christmas tomorrow!

How do I know (besides the obvious date on the calendar, of course)?

Because it's in the air. Everywhere.

At work today, people seemed more relaxed; they seemed to actually listen to people when they weren't talking about work. I noticed editors lingering to chat longer, even some giving holiday cards, some smiling. People are generally nice at work, but today just felt an extra bit so. Nobody seemed rush.

There was no traffic either, no waiting for a treadmill at the gym. No hassle at all. Everything was easy.

That must mean it's Christmas.

We have our shopping done, too. All we do now is wait. Aside from frosting cookies tonight and putting away clean laundry, we just savor the time.

We wait for Santa to squeeze down the chimney, sleep to sweep us away and morning to wake us with the promise of presents and time together.

I can't wait.

Check out Dane's blog for how he and Rye spent the morning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Under the tree

I found a present for me under our tree tonight.

I know exactly what it is.

And I CAN'T WAIT to open it.

It's strange sort of. I mean, I knew I was getting these totally cool Nike running shoes I designed myself for Christmas. But I wasn't completely sure who I was getting them from. Tonight, while attempting to put the cheap train set around the tree (I quickly discovered Mommy was a bit too ambitious in thinking the little bit of track we have would stretch all the way around the evergreen sprouted in our living room), I noticed the box.

It's wrapped and beautiful.

The tag says to me, from Phidippides.

Very clever.

And now that I know they are RIGHT there, I have this sense of I'm-9-again-tearing-off-the-construction-paper-rings-on-the-countdown-chain-in-my-bedroom-I-can't-wait-to-open-my-presents excitement.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This was in our mailbox tonight.

Dane pulled it out -- two sheets of folded-up white notebook paper. No envelope. On the outside was written: "Yes, this letter is for you."

It's mysterious and odd and troubling. The letter writer left no name or contact information. She asks us to help her by helping others.

OK, sure. But I'd also help her if she wanted. Instead, she's left us with this burden, a secret of hers that I'm not sure what to do with. It's a bit like the Post Secret blog my sister clued me in to. People send their deepest secrets away to a stranger. He posts them online.

It must be cathartic.

I've been wondering -- did she drive by, window rolled down, eyes scanning houses for the perfect mailbox? Did she write other letters? Did she like our Christmas lights? Why us?

If this helped her, if it really truly did, then I'm more than happy to have gotten the letter, read it, thought about it.

But if it didn't, if it's a joke, then I'm not impressed.

It's strange either way. But I think it's real.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Omaha

We're launching a package called "My Omaha" tomorrow in the paper.

It was Dane's idea -- ask regular people what Omaha means to them, how they would define the city. The premise was that while Omaha is now lumped with Columbine, Virginia Tech and other places where random, senseless shooting sprees have claimed lives, the shooting at Westroads a week and a half ago does not define us. So let's see how the people who live here define it.

Great idea. I was interested in helping and so volunteered to either help coordinate the effort or do interviews. I ended up going to an outdoor shopping center to interview strangers. I never really love the cold "Hi, my name is Veronica, I write for the World-Herald, can I ask you a few questions?" approach, but the interviews went OK. We'd been told to make the tales as personal as possible, so I prodded people to dig deeper and offer anecdotes.

I thought I did pretty well.

At least one of my editors thought differently. She wanted an even deeper level of reflection, something even she acknowledged was difficult to get in a man on the street interview. So I ended up calling a few of the folks back.

I wasn't especially happy about this. But the product did end up better as a result.

I read through some of the stories other reporters got on Friday. Many Omahans said they love the city because of how friendly and willing to help people are.

We saw it firsthand tonight.

For my mom's birthday, we ate at Old Chicago. Afterward, as we were leaving, my mom's car got stuck in the snow. Her rear-wheel drive couldn't get her up a small incline in the parking lot. Dane tried to push, then I joined in the effort. We weren't doing much good. But not a minute had passed when three guys got out of their car and came over to help. Five seconds later, another guy came. I gladly got out of their way. Within a minute, my mom and sister were unstuck.

All thanks really to the strangers who stopped what they were doing, interrupted their immediate plans to lend a hand.

It was something to see.

My 2-year-old watched from our car. Dane and I got back in, and I asked Rye if he'd seen what happened. "Yeah," he said. "Grandma and Ashley were stuck. Those guys helped her."

Yes, I said. That was nice.

"Yeah," Rye said. "Daddy and Mommy helped, too. Now, she's not stuck anymore."

It was a small thing those guys did, but it left a big impression.

Our Omaha.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunday afternoon

We threw out even the notion of a nap today in favor of fun.

Childhood fun for sure. Parenthood fun was questionable, but there is always the promise of vicarious enjoyment at least.

Turns out going to the Omaha Children's Museum on a chilly, snowy Sunday is a great idea, mainly because it was nearly empty.

We got there shortly after it opened and I was surprised when not one other coat covered a hook in the hang-up-your-coat area. Usually, I stuff ours into a corner on the floor because it's so packed.

Apparently, cold weather scares folks off.

Fine with us.

We spent three hours at this place filled with life-sized plastic cows, pigs, sheep and stalks of corn.

We ran around stuffing balls into tubes and jumping up and down before they fell on our heads from the giant receptacle in the middle.

We danced in a weird heat-imaging darkroom-type place to strange reggae music.

We spent at least an hour in the toddler-baby room where you have to (read: GET to) take your shoes off, and we threw pillows at each other, stretched out on gymnastics-type mats and then, finally, played with babies. We dressed them, fed them, swaddled them in blankets, and I got to hold them for a really long time. Oh, and Rye also burned one on the stove. He thought this was funny.

Dane and I do not think this is funny.

But I was still happy to play with dolls. Ah, the daughter I always wanted!

Seriously, though, we did our fair share of boy tiger-roaring, fire-truck driving and running frantically around. I'm not worried.

I had dressed Rye in two layers of pants to ward off the chill. But it was warm in the Children's Museum, all the more so because we had three hours straight.

Just the two of us.

Playing dolls and firefighters and farmers.


You can't beat a Sunday afternoon like that.

Friday, December 7, 2007

'It happened here' and all those other euphemisms we've been using

This week's tragedy at Westroads has left us all changed.

Work hasn't been the same, mostly because the entire newsroom is focused on following the story, but also because it happened here.

We all know people who very easily could have been at that mall at 1:45 on Wednesday afternoon. We could have been there. Our children could have been there, our mothers, our friends, our friends' wives. The voices on the chilling 911 tapes we heard today could be people we know. They live here, where we live.

That's not supposed to happen. Aren't we invincible?

It's scary.

My role at work so far has been to play public relations guru (I'm a quick learner, and I suppose my pool experience didn't hurt: "I'm sorry, ma'm, but you just can't smoke while swimming with your toddler."). It was fun and overwhelming and a bit adrenaline-pumping at first. I talked to journalists in Ireland, Wales, London, New Zealand, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Canada. I did many interviews Wednesday night when our crew was too busy figuring out exactly what had happened, who had killed these innocent people and who these innocent people were.

Yesterday and today, I hooked folks like MSNBC up with reporters in our newsroom who still didn't want to but had time to talk.

It's been a lot of work, and I'm more than ready to give the PR job up. I'm realizing tonight, though, as I sit at home, my son sleeping safely upstairs, that the work, the fast-paced pressure of it all, has kept it surreal for me, almost as if it didn't happen. Because of the work I haven't had time to process it at all. Now, I'm finally starting to.

Police released surveillance tapes of the kid walking into the mall and his suicide notes and audio of some of the 911 calls. In one, all you can hear is the 911 operator asking "what's your emergency? Hello? Hello?" and gun shots. Rifle shots piercing dead air.

One can guess the caller had been shot.

I don't know what we take from this. It really could happen anywhere. And all you can do really is hope it doesn't.

My instinct is to stay away from Westroads, though I am curious about what the scene will be like, feel like tomorrow morning when it reopens. More than that, my instinct is to think twice about ever leaving the house.

But you can't do that. I know.

Life goes on, and we should just be thankful we have the chance each day to go out and live it.