Friday, June 21, 2019

The Longest Day

I was clueless.

One year ago today, June 21, the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, I had no idea what life had in store for me.

Perry and I arrived at a beach in the Wilmington, N.C. area for the first night of our anniversary vacation. We had an oceanfront condo so close to the waves you could throw a rock from the balcony and hit water. It was very hot, but we got settled, went to dinner, and watched fireworks on the shore. It was a great start to the trip.

I was blissfully unaware that my mom would pass away unexpectedly that night from cardiac arrest at the age of 69.

The next morning, June 22, my Apple Watch started ringing. Early. I looked to see Uncle Jim's name come across the screen. Half asleep, I hit whatever button would make the noise stop and rolled over. That’s weird, I thought, I don’t think Jim's ever called me before.

I got up to find my phone charging in the living room. A little more alert, and with a feeling of dread, I called Jim back. Not only did he never call me, but it was 5 a.m. in Indiana. Way too early for good news.

“Mitzi, I got some bad news," he said.

“Okay," I replied.

“Your mom passed away last night," he choked out.


“What?” I said in disbelief.

I don’t remember much more of the conversation, besides sobbing uncontrollably and telling Jim I would call him back when I got myself together. All of this made Perry yell, “What is it? What is it?” I told him, then we collapsed into a heaping mess of tears.

From that point on, it was a race to get home with a flurry of decisions to make. Should I fly and he drive up with the dogs later? Should I drive in with the dogs and he fly up later? We were four hours from our home in Charlotte, and our dogs were boarded there. The trip to Mom and Dad’s was another nine hours.

In the end, we decided to go home to Charlotte, get the dogs, repack, and hit the road north. It took most of the day and well into the evening before we rolled in the driveway around 10 p.m. Uncle Paul had stayed with Dad until I arrived. 

The next two weeks would be full of revelations as Dad and I adjusted to this strange new world without Mom. With the help of family and friends, we figured out the arrangements and honored her life.

My three best friends were instrumental in helping me through it all. Sunni read the eulogy I wrote for the service. Rachel also read at the ceremony and watched my every move, making sure I had food or drink or whatever I needed. Joni offered her home as a place to stay as well as a home base for sorting through all of the things that go along with having a funeral.

Members of my extended family pitched in where we needed them. Aunt Dot helped me find a place to have a meal after the service. Uncle Paul and Uncle Joe offered to help with insurance and financial advice going forward. They also informed me that the plots next to my sister, Staci, had been purchased, and Mom could be buried next to her.

The community flooded the funeral home with hugs as well as stories about Mom and how much she meant to them. And, of course, how much I looked like her. Even strangers who just saw her out and about at Walmart, Goodwill, and Nobles paid their respects.

The support was tremendous, and we were grateful to have it. Even though the thank you notes still sit in a box untouched somewhere in my home. For some reason, I could never bring myself to write them.

So, for me, June 21, the first day of summer, is not the longest day anymore. That was June 22, 2018. Since then, I have cried, smiled, reminisced, laughed, and thought about calling Mom a million times. But I can't.

Instead, I hold on to my memories of her and check on Dad as much as I can. Life must go on, and I'm so glad she gave me one to live.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Dear Mom

I knew this day would come. I had no idea it would be so soon.

It still does not seem real. I keep thinking you'll walk through the basement door with bags in hand and stories about who you saw in town. 

I told Perry the other day that I needed to get you down to the beach, at least one more time. You never wanted to step foot in the ocean, but you loved to watch the waves and walk along the sand, especially at night. And it had been so long since you'd seen the coast. 

We once stayed at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, and you read every pamphlet, brochure and binder you could get your hands on in the room. Then you accidentally ordered a movie from the TV remote, and I had to call the front desk to cancel it. You were so embarrassed; you shouted, "Take this thing away from me!"

I watched you wander about Graceland and take in all things Elvis, one of your favorite singers. I found your admission ticket from that day in your purse, along with your laminated 1971 concert ticket stub. I'm so glad I was able to get you to Memphis.

I remember things growing up that you probably didn't realize. Like how you warmed my clothes up over the screen in front of the fireplace before school. Or when I was sick, you would tell me, "I wish it was me and not you." 

I loved taking you to concerts and musicals. Watching you watch whatever was happening onstage was the best thing in the world. We sang every song of "Mamma Mia" together and sat in wonder at "Hair" -- wondering if they would go through with the nude scene and how we would react.

And where would we be without our shared passion for music? I grew up listening to the best stuff because of you: Blondie, ABBA, Elvis, The Beatles, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Roy Orbison. I remember the day you came out of the house into the front yard, so excited, saying, "I found out who sings, 'I Won't Back Down', it's Tom Petty!" Hopefully, you've gotten his autograph by now.

You loved me and Perry so much. You were always giving us gifts year-round, odd and ends that you'd pick up here and there. You gave us things we didn't even realize we wanted or needed. And cards came in the mail throughout the year for Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas and birthdays. Just to name a few.

You told people you didn't have grandkids; instead you had granddogs. You got such a kick out of Gizmo, Jack and Smoky, and insisted I didn't feed them enough. They were spoiled with treats and toys. Your face lit up when you saw them.

You painstakingly took care of Dad for nearly 45 years. It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it. There were good times, and there were bad times. But there was love. I know this to be true. I saw it.

I wonder what it was like the moment you were reunited with Staci. I can't imagine how happy that must have made you after all of this time. I had 39 years with you; it is her turn now.

It's time for me to say goodbye and try to move on. The pain is deep, and I don't think I've even begun to explore the depths of it yet. But it was no surprise to me the many, many, many people who have said such nice things to say about you over the last few days.

You were the cool mom, the funny mom, the kind mom, the smart mom, the Jeep-driving mom, the CD playing mom, the dependable mom, the comforting were my mom. I love you.

"I've seen fire and I've seen rain, I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end, I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I'd see you again."

"Would you know my name, If I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same, If I saw you in heaven? I must be strong and carry on, 'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven."

"Oh, mirror in the sky, What is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?"

"Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go, You have made my life complete and I love you so. Love me tender, love me sweet, all my dreams fulfilled, For my darling, I love you and I always will."

"And when the night is cloudy, There is still a light that shines on me, Shine until tomorrow, Let it be, I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be."

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Land of the Living

On January 10, 2011, I started a journey on the road less traveled: night shift. Or at least some version of it. As executive producer of the morning newscast, my schedule was somewhere in the vicinity of 3:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. but could change to a much earlier start time if I had to fill in as producer. Which happened during sick days, vacations, etc. At any rate, it was quite the adjustment.

(My move from evening producer to executive producer of the AM show at WFIE)

Fast forward to October 4, 2015, when I started another soon-to-be night shift producer role in a different state, 500+ miles away from home. I had a similar wake up call, anywhere between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., sometimes with last minute notice. Plus, it was an overall difficult transition after working at my previous TV station for 11 years.

(The big move from WFIE in Evansville, IN to WCNC in Charlotte, NC)

The week of January 8, 2018, that will all change. After seven years of an erratic, exhausting and abnormal schedule, I am joining the land of the living. No more trying to adjust to normalcy on the weekends. No more having to take naps on vacation, because I just can't keep up. No more waking up between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on the days I'm off work, because my brain thinks it's "go time".

(Exciting day at WCNC, Dale Jr. was a guest on the morning show)

My new gig as digital content producer is at the same station, and it's not 9 to 5, but it's a step in the right direction. It's a familiar role, yet different in so many ways it's already rejuvenated my overall career mindset. I'm beyond excited on all counts. Oh, and I get my full Sunday back.

(Puppy Bowl 2017, one of my favorite times on the WCNC morning show)

So here's to starting fresh in 2018, and a promise to myself to NEVER EVER go back to the dark side. Yes, free time during the day has its perks, but there's also so much sacrifice that goes along with it. And I have found it's very hard to crawl out of that black hole once you're in it, or I wouldn't have done it for as long as I did.

Thankfully, I got the chance to make a change, and I've seen the light.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

An Off Week

I've been off this week. Not from work. From all of my other obligations. CMS is on spring break. The sorting group at Loaves and Fishes didn't meet today. And I haven't really made going to the shelter much of a habit lately, although I did commit to going in early on Easter Sunday since the staff is off. Other than that, no appointments, no meetings, no nothing.

I'm also on a different schedule than normal, which has been hard, so it's been nice to sleep when I want. But if I'm not careful, I'll snooze the day away. The first week on this schedule was hell. I could not get on a consistent sleep schedule, and I was burning the candle at both ends. I'm managing it better now, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

So what have I done with myself all week? I slept. I walked the dogs. I read. I rode my bike. I did some yoga. I had lunch and took a stroll with Pmo. I watched T.D. Jakes and Steve Harvey. I listened to podcasts. I might have even watched some Downton Abbey for the millionth time, I can't remember.

Point is, it's nice to slow down once in awhile and let your options flow. I'm lucky to get one day a week where I haven't committed myself to something, let alone five or six. It's not to say I don't enjoy my commitments. It's just good to breathe. And snore. With no alarm.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lunch Encounter

The beauty of a city like Charlotte is that it has so much to offer. Shopping, restaurants, bars, breweries... you name it, the Queen City has it. New houses go up every day, the job market is promising. Plus there's plenty of green space: parks, trails, walkways, greenways. You don't really have an excuse to be a couch potato around here. Especially with events that mix the beer with the brawn.

Yet, the small town girl in me recognizes a good thing when she sees it, even if it's not an urban advantage. Case in point, I tried a new place for lunch today after reading with my CMS student. I crossed the lake over into SC with the intention of getting a smoothie. I ended up instead with a sandwich, chips and a drink... as well as a pickle and a little dab of coleslaw... which I learned come complimentary with the sammie.

When I walked in, I was instantly greeted by a woman behind the counter with a sweet smile and chomping at the bit to tell me the different breads for my sandwich and an array of drink options. Then I sat at a high top table awaiting my food. The place was not fancy, in fact, the floor looked like it could use some work. But that didn't stop a steady stream of folks from filing in, taking the time to exchange pleasantries before grabbing a bite to eat.

This simple, everyday experience made me stop and think: I wonder if there are people in CLT who've never ventured out into these smaller communities. Especially those who are from big cities. Oh sure, they go to secluded mountain towns and trendy downtown areas on the outskirts. No, what I'm talking about are these plain old places where people have lived and worked their entire lives. There are no attractions, no hot spots, no claims to fame. Just pure hospitality.

There's something to be said for the way a lunch lady's smile brightens the day. The way religious music playing off an iPod fills the room with a sense of calm. The way a dab of coleslaw tastes so damn good you wish you could've ordered a tub.

Then, you see a woman, walking away with the smoothie you should have ordered, whipped cream and all. And it's official: you're definitely coming back. For the treat, and all the feels.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


This has been one warm weekend. In fact, our air conditioner is on right now, in February! That being said, it's been a great two days to get the dogs out.

On Saturday, we went to the Riverwalk in Rock Hill along the Catawba. Problem is, everyone else did, too. So with the extra people, and Smoky's unpolished public manners, it wasn't that fun. Plus, it's a bit of a drive.

Today, we went with the sure thing: Copperhead Island. It's five minutes away with a paved loop and plenty of lake views. There we are, on the first leg of the trail, about to come off the fishing deck, when I notice Smoky has picked up something. I see fishing line coming out of his mouth and bend down to get it before he swallows, silly dog. But, oh no, it's not just fishing line. There's a hook at the end of that fishing line. And that hook is stuck through Smoky's tongue.

I'm calm at first, but as I examine further, it's not just one hook, it's got three prongs with a piece of something stuck on one of them. The reason, I'm guessing, he grabbed it in the first place. Smoky is now trying to get out the hook himself, gagging and licking and wondering why this great treat is hurting him. Then as I try to remove it, he squirms and jumps around even more, becoming most uncooperative. 

Pmo has gone ahead down the trail with the other two dogs so he doesn't have a clue what's going on behind him. Mind you, at this point, I'm still thinking I can handle the situation, so I didn't yell for him. Luckily, a couple we passed earlier on the path has made it to where I am, and they stop to help. 

The man holds Smoky's mouth open to let me get a better look at how to remove the hook. But in all the commotion, I can't tell which way to pull it, and I'm afraid I'm making it worse. I'm still holding myself together, so close to the brink of panic, when the man says, "He can't breathe." 

Now, in hindsight, I don't think this was true. However, it puts the fear of God in me and I start sobbing. Yet, I continue working on the hook. Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, I get it out. Smoky returns to normal, even wagging his tail. Knowing him, he probably would have picked it up again if I had let him. And I just keep on crying. 

By this time, Pmo has come back to see what's holding me up. We both thank the man, me through the tears that just won't stop even though it's all over now, and start down the trail once more. I can't wipe my tears because my hands smell so bad I can't bring myself to put them on my face. My nose is also running, and I'm generally out of breath and just a wreck. By the time we reach the other side of the island, though, I calm down a bit and manage to use the underside of my t-shirt to wipe the mascara off my cheeks. We finish the walk, and we go home.

So that's why I started drinking beer at 2:00 this afternoon. Our youngest scared me to death, and even though I was probably doing my best to help him, it sure as hell felt like I wasn't. But Smoky seems just fine, besides the fact he now has a pierced tongue. The smell on my hands, despite washing them several times, still lingers.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Turn for the Worse

I was called into work last night on three hours sleep. The late emergency notice set me back an hour and a half from when I should have started producing an hour newscast. And it was not only the day after the Super Bowl, it was also just a few days into the ratings period. But I managed.

I was wearing a hoodie and a headband at the office because I showered quickly and got the hell out the door. Toward the end of my shift, I dropped said headband on the floor, then proceeded to accidentally step on it. So I threw it away.

I was coming down the stairs this morning after I got home and changed clothes, and my fuzzy socks hit just right on the edge of a step. I came down the rest of the way on my bum. And my hands, my arms, my elbows, my love handles... you get the picture, bruises to come, I'm sure. I sat on the landing, stunned by the pain and how quickly it all, literally, went down, then realized nothing was broken. And I got up.

That's a fine set of how-do-you-dos for a Monday if I ever heard of one.

The point is, I couldn't control any of those things. Well, the fuzzy socks may now be banned from the stairwell. And I could be more careful with my hair accessories. But in each case, the only thing I could do was react and move on. Or dwell in my bad luck that seemed to be piling upon me.

I read somewhere once that it's okay to feel the emotion in the moment when things like this happen, whatever it is: anger, frustration, sadness, etc. Recognize it, deal, then let it go. It's dwelling on the bad stuff that gets you down. And keeps you down. Plus, it's such a waste of energy. You could be doing many more worthwhile things, like sleeping. Which I'm about to do.

That's right. Just as I was writing this, my boss called to tell me I have to go in early again tonight. I have his ringtone set as a nuclear alarm, so I'm already setting myself up for an exasperated sigh and lamenting. But I had my moment of angst, thought about it a bit and now I'm heading to bed.

Why? Because there's nothing I can do about this turn of events. And I know now I can handle it as well as the next curve ball life throws at me. I couldn't have said that six months to a year ago. Here's to hoping you can also find some solace in a series of unfortunate events. It could always be worse.