Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Burger Joint of the Week; Big Orange.

I usually wait a while before visiting a brand new restaurant to pass judgment. Well, as much as I pass judgment. I mean, I like to say I’m a food writer, not a food critic. And I believe that’s for the most part true… but… er, I think I’m getting off the subject here.

I didn’t feel I had to wait all that long before visiting Big Orange, though. I mean, after all, Scott McGehee and John Beachboard have their ducks in a row with Za Za. They know how to run a restaurant.

That being said… okay, I’ll just say it. Wow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Traveling with a Toddler: Houston to The Woodlands.

It took a whole lot to get Hunter up the next morning. I think she was getting a little weary on our trip, too. She hid in the bedcovers while we got about and got ready.

Breakfast again at the Embassy Suites. I have to admit, I am really impressed with their made-to-order breakfasts. Hunter ate four pancakes and was just overjoyed at having them available. I had another veggie omelet and oatmeal while Paul… well, Paul ate just about everything.

I like the set-up -- a station where you can choose sweet rolls, Danish, toast, bagels and oatmeal; a hot line with eggs, hash browns, bacon and sausage links; a made-to-order station for omelets, fried eggs and pancakes; a fruit station with cantaloupe and honeydew melon pieces and whole Red Delicious apples and oranges; a drink station with hot and iced tea, coffee, four different juices and white or chocolate milk. It’s gotta be one of the better included hotel breakfast I have enjoyed.

We got back to the room and completed our packing, intending to head out as soon as possible. But we had a problem. A problem named Punchy. Hunter had grown attached to this fake plant and had taken it with her everywhere in the suite. I called downstairs and spoke with the front desk and housekeeping, but the general idea was the plant could not be purchased.

So we had a little ceremony. Hunter got to play with Punchy for a few more minutes, take some photos with the plant, hug it and say goodbye. We made a big deal about how Punchy needed to stay there, that the hotel suite was his home and he needed to stick around so he could make other people happy.

After our little ceremony Hunter said she’d be just fine, but as we finished bringing all of our stuff to the living room section of the suite for pick-up on the cart we noticed she was still talking to Punchy, sitting on the table in the bedroom. When we said it was time to go she gave the plant a hug and came out to us.

After the scramble to get the cart to the car, the accidental dropping of both her potty and my computer (the latter causing me a big scare, the former having happened at EVERY SINGLE STOP along our journey), we headed to Main Street and then down into the Museum District. We were bound for the Museum of Natural History, which Paul and I had visited in 2000 and which we were looking forward to because there was a butterfly exhibit there.

We drove around more than 45 minutes looking for it. I mean, the signs would point in a direction and then they would disappear. I suspect the museum is undergoing a facelift or something; we never did locate it.

But we did pass the Children’s Museum of Houston a couple of times, and decided since we had a Houston CityPass that we’d go there instead. We parked on the bottom of the two-story deck and went on in.

Thing is, it’s very easy for a first time parent to lose sight of the real goal on a trip like this. Because when you have a child, it’s no longer all about you. It’s all about your child, and sometimes you do things that might not be high entertainment for yourself because it delights your child. This is one of the lessons that was borne home to me this week, and I am glad to have learned it -- because just watching Hunter at the Children’s Museum confirmed it for me.

In the Mexican Village area, there was this van, an old VW type fan that’s open for kids to climb into. Hunter crawled in, got in the front seat and hollered for us to come join her. We sat in the back while she “drove” around the village and pointed things out to us.

And then there was the villa. Hunter had a great time playing “guess that food” before one of the little mops caught her eye. She went right over to the bucket, picked it up and started to “mop” the floor. It was just bizarre -- not because she did it, but that I noticed every single child that entered the area while we were there did the exact same thing. Makes me wonder if it’s part of our hard-wiring.

There was a neater section of the museum, though -- which I thought was just genius. That was Kidopolis. Each child is given a card when they come into the museum. Turns out this is a version of a kid’s ATM card. You enter and check your ATM card and set your pin number. Each account has $20 in it to start.

Each station is different. There’s a government building, where you can spend your time doing forensics in the crime lab, or work as a police officer or city planner. There’s a stock market where you trade stocks. There’s a restaurant where you can “cook” and serve food. There’s even a TV station where you can be a producer or an anchor or a camera person.

After “working” at each station, you can clock out and receive pay for your work. The kids take that check to the bank, where other kids are working on exchanging the checks for cards that resemble cash. Those go to the ATM, where they go on the cards.

And then there are place to spend that Kidopolis money. Like the restaurant, where you can obtain a “hot meal.” You can spend it picking up groceries in the HEB grocery store -- or puchase photos (which are actually black and white prints you can take with you).

It’s a neat experience, where kids can play at real life. I thought it was phenomenal. The kids apparently loved it, too -- this was the most crowded part of the Children’s Museum, and everyone seemed engaged in the process.

Hunter also went over to the art studio in Kidopolis for a few minutes. While she didn’t create a masterpiece of her own, she added to one in the making left up on an easel. This wasn’t discouraged.

After this, we went upstairs to the Tot Spot, an area specifically meant for kids 35 months and under. At 32 months, Hunter is almost aged out of this sort of playground, and she was by far the tallest child in the area. She and Paul took off their shoes and went to play in their socks in the area specifically designed for toddler play. They must have spent 45 minutes in there, and when the time was up she did not want to go. She’d had fun climbing over the varied terrain, playing with everything there was to play with on the level and having a good time.

While she and Paul were in the Tot Spot area, I went back down to the Fiddle Sticks Toy Shop, the gift shop of the Children’s Museum of Houston. I was surprised how affordable a lot of the items were. I looked through all sorts of stuff, like stuffed puppets, tubes of medieval knights, classic games like Tiddlywinks, dozens of plastic bugs and such. And I found something very specific we’d been missing.

After we put her shoes on, I pulled the gift out of the bag and handed it to her. At first she seemed confused. Then she concentrated, smiled and looked up at me with this overjoyed expression. “Momma, you found it!”

I wish I’d had my camera out. In the Children’s Museum’s gift shop, I had found the river otter we’d searched for so hard. It was $7. It was so worth it. She named it River Song (after one of her favorite Doctor Who characters) and wouldn’t part with it for the rest of the day.

We left out shortly afterwards, ready to head to The Woodlands for the final part of our vacation. After paying to get out of the Children’s Museum parking deck, we found our way to the interstate and headed up I-45 to our destination.

Of course, I took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of the planned community, just at a time when I really needed a restroom. I spotted a Culver’s and ran inside. I came out with a family sized box of fried cheese curds -- something I absolutely can’t resist. I had no idea there were Culver’s in Texas -- I thought the furthest location south was in Branson. A lucky turn, for sure.

We arrived a short time later at The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center on the southwest side of town. It was out in the woods (fitting). As we came up the drive we noticed the golf course, horseshoe pits and buildings dotted out on the edge of the golf course here and there. We pulled in, I ran in and got our informational packet and we drove over to our accommodations at Fairway Pines.

It’s an unusual set-up. I’m used to being able to park relatively close to the place where I’m staying. There’s a valet set up at the front entrance of the Fairway Pines between the buildings. We unloaded what we were taking into the resort (leaving behind dirty laundry packed into bags for taking home) onto a cart and I rolled it into the building with Hunter tagging alongside. We had a long way to go, too… about five sections down to our room on the inside of the wing, with the elevator to the second level about halfway down that length. Paul went and parked the van.

Our room was smaller than what we’d had at our other two stops, but was perfectly acceptable. In fact, this was more what we’d expected the entire trip, a room with two double beds, a bathroom and what you normally get in a hotel. By the time Paul got back I’d taken my pictures and started packing away our stuff so the cart could be returned.

He took the cart back and Hunter and I explored the room a little. There was a balcony out the sliding glass door, and over a stone half-wall we could see water through the trees. It seemed nice and secluded… though we could hear a band playing and children in the pool in the distance.

Paul had just come back and we had started to debate who was going to rest and who’d be taking Hunter to the pool first when there was a knock at the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, so I didn’t really know how to respond. There were two nicely dressed men at the door. They swept into the room and set up a presentation on the desk -- a wine cooler packed with ice and a magnum of fresh, cold whole milk -- and a plate of nine hot chocolate chunk cookies.

Hunter, who had been clamoring to go out to the pool, stopped. We poured her a glass of milk and handed her a cookie, and she was sated and happy. The graciously provided snack bought us about an hour of downtime before our next round of activity. The cookies were full of chocolate chips and chunks with dark, semisweet and white chocolate, pecans and black walnut chunks. And they were divine. I want the recipe.

After we’d had our shoes off for a while and had freshened up, we went out to the pool area, where dozens of people were enjoying the Forest Oasis Waterscape, a series of pools and water features that extended the length of the interior between the two wings of the Forest Pines complex.

Towards the back we saw a line of people waiting patiently as four of the resort’s staff members worked in tandem. We joined the line.

They handed Paul and I both these long two-pronged forks with big marshmallows on the end. We followed other guests over to a big firepit, where we helped Hunter toast the mallows over the fire. Then we walked back over, and the staffers took the marshmallows and sandwiched them between graham crackers and pieces of chocolate bars to make S’mores. There was no limit to how many you could make and consumed.

We found a big swing that was the size of a twin sized bed and sat on it together and watched folks go for more S’mores. Hunter wasn’t so interested in the confection; she’s a marshmallow purist, and I think she was a little confused why we’d singe a marshmallow and then add things to it!

From there we went back to our room, grabbed a few things and headed out to the downtown area of the community. The Woodlands, in case you didn’t know, is a planned community created in the seventies. It’s very neat. If you want to live in the suburbs, there are houses in different neighborhoods where you can do that. Then there are apartments and town homes built to very specific designs closer in to the center of town. There are retirement villages, small complexes and such, all tucked back in the trees away from the road.

There’s also a massive Woodlands Mall and a big shopping area that strings along side the Woodlands Waterway, which offers a water taxi. There’s a shuttle that goes all around Town Center, with its collection of shops and restaurants and movie theaters.

We were on a mission. I’d been told I needed to try out Coal Burger, a coal-fired burgeria (burgeria?) right off the Waterway that had been noted for its green mission. I dropped off Hunter and Paul by the restaurant and went to park in a nearby deck.

When I came back Hunter was standing at the edge of one of the fabulous fountains along the way, gasping every time the lights under the water changed or the fountain spewed high. It took some effort to extract her from the area, with a promise to go look later.

Inside we ordered at the counter and had a seat. I went to get us a beverage -- and discovered that instead of the regular Coke or Pepsi products, Coal Burger serves Boylan sodas -- sodas that are sugar based and have no high fructose corn syrup. Winner! They also have China Myst iced tea.

We had a seat at a table next to one of the big windows. Hunter immediately got into playing with the grass plant on the table… that is, until the Black & White gelato milkshake ($5) we’d ordered came out. We each tried it -- first Paul, then I, and then Hunter -- who pretty much claimed it as her own. To me and Paul it was a bit weird -- a little icy-grainy with a very unusual flavor. I figured a lot of it had to do with the use of gelato, which is made from milk instead of cream. Part of it, too, was the chocolate, definitely a special blend of cocoa powder and what have you. Wasn’t my thing or Paul’s thing, but Hunter was all about it, even more than the nine ounce milk she already had on the table.

Her kid’s meal looked great, too -- great skin-on potato fries and a small patty burger on a small bun. It was served up in a recycled paperboard container tray, which really is a good idea for kids, to be honest. She had a good time dipping her fries in ketchup, which was dispensed into paper cups rather than through packets.

And then there was the ½ pound Classic Coal Burger ($5.99) Paul and I had decided to split between us. We’d gone for Cheddar cheese (an additional buck) and sweet potato fries on the side (another $3, but there were a bunch of them). It was one big burger, two nicely charred patties one on top of each other with these great specialty pickles and chopped iceberg lettuce. There was no tomato or onion slice on the thing, which is how it comes. We got the CB sauce on the side, a mayo-chipotle based sauce that I dabbed onto the bun’s edge for a taste. Neither of us cared for the sauce.

But the burger? What a fantastic burger. I mean, it needed to be good -- with the big brag that the burger was made from All-Natural Niman Ranch Beef with big bold letters. And it was. Not much on the spicing, but it didn’t need it. The coal-firing had given it such a nice caramelized crust with searing that kept in the juices. We hadn’t asked for it to be prepared in any particular fashion, but it had come with the top patty cooked a medium to medium well and the bottom patty a solid medium rare. That was a little odd, but we liked it.

The burger’s almost wood-smoky notes were fantastic, and on the house bun it was just divine. The pickles really stood out to me too, dill-ish pickles but thick with a fresh crunch.

I tried one of Hunter’s regular French fries and was pleased with the firm crunch and soft center. It had been dusted with just a little salt but had a little different flavor to it, sort of nutty but in a distant way. Might be because they’re fried in rice bran oil. Our sweet potato fries were on the savory side, dusted liberally with salt and ketchup-friendly. That was also welcome; I don’t know how often I’ve had sweet potato fries that are overly sweet or served up with honey or the like -- not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. These were sturdy and strong crisp sweet potato fries, half the thickness of a #2 pencil with just enough give to not be tough.

We had considered sticking around for a while in the Town Center area, but a small bathroom emergency sent us back to the resort, where Hunter got a bath and we all kicked back for the evening. The constant travel was really starting to take its toll on us, and Hunter asked to go to bed before 10 p.m. We had one more day before we needed to head home and get back to our ordinary world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Coming home.

B.J. Sams and I at Empty Bowls 2008
I don’t talk much about my television days… at least, not here. Maybe at one point that was by design; I started this blog just weeks before I left the station and I was making a new start in my world. But maybe it’s time I did.

The station was Today’s THV. I spent eight years there, all of it on the morning show, producing Today’s THV This Morning. There are a lot of morning shows out there coast to coast, but this one was special. Different.

I started at Today’s THV in July 1999, just months before I married and after 10 months of drifting in Little Rock trying to figure out what I was going to do. I’d been in Jonesboro before that, a three year stint at KAIT-TV, where I got my feet wet in television and learned a lot about the world -- some good things, some very bad things.

When I came to Today’s THV I’d spent 10 months in different jobs. I’d been an executive assistant, a banking clerk, a radio traffic reporter, a receptionist, about 20 other things -- all while being a professional temp. I was waiting for my big break, and I thought it would come with KKYK-TV -- which my fiance worked for at the time.

I’d “settled” for working at Ron Sherman Teleproductions as a producer and production gal for about two months when I got the call to come back to Today’s THV for a follow-up interview. My first interview in September 1998, three days after I’d left KAIT, got blown when I was asked what a five o’clock news program should be. “Evrerything to all people,” I had said, and apparently I was wrong. The answer the management had been looking for was “caters to women,” and I failed.

But Lane Michaelson kept me in mind when a position came open on the morning show. It was supposed to be a temporary position -- three months as the third producer on the show while it went through an expansion. It had been 6-8 a.m. for a few years, but with CBS creating The Early Show for the Fall 1999 lineup the management had decided to start Today’s THV This Morning at 5 a.m., and they needed three producers instead of two.

It was a crapshoot, really -- leaving a job that was a certain steady paycheck for one that might evaporate a few months later. But I’d made myself a promise. See, at KAIT I had spent a year and a half producing the morning show. I enjoyed it -- the overnight hours, the quiet, the freedom to put together a show within a very loose frame. After the Westside School Shootings and the Manila Tornado I was given an involuntary boot up to the 10 p.m. producer spot -- which, frankly, bored me. I made myself a promise that if I ever ended up in television again and ever got the chance at a morning show, I would never leave it.

I guess it’s fortunate, then, that there was a stirring of the pot at the station. One producer left, another moved up, another… it came down to the morning show, and our lead producer Amy went to the 6 p.m. show, leaving me to step up. It wasn’t long before my co-producer and reporter Christa Olsen moved up, too.

Robyn met Bobby Vinton on our 2005 Branson trip.
The producers changed, but everything else stayed the same. It was unusual for any market, frankly -- for any group of people to keep working together on a morning show like we did. It started with the anchors, of cours. B.J. Sams was a veteran of Little Rock television dating back about as far as I could remember. Robyn Richardson (the former Robyn Lowry) had recently married and had started the show about the time I was finishing up my radio days. Tom Brannon had been there for a short while and was still getting used to (at the time) being the third wheel on the show. They didn’t know it then, but they’d be doing this for all the eight years I was there, together… in fact, until about three weeks after I left.

There was the director, Jerry Don Burch, who had been at Today’s THV for close to 40 years at that point. He used to come in every morning at 3 a.m. with his lunchbox, then come start up the printers. There was Hal Mitcham the audio guy, Brian Frazier the graphics guy, Robert Settles and Jimmy Staton (who started the same week I did) and Badi Galinkin and Sidney Woodbury on the floor, with Gary Burgess as the floor director. Mark Denny was in master control.

One of my favorite photos of Rich Gunter.
Then there were the editors… there was a string of editors, actually, but there was always Bill Ritter. And then Richard Gunter would come in each morning and shoot what needed to be shot. Sometimes one of the other photographers would come in for the morning show. Sometimes we’d have several people. One morning that first summer there were 21 people between the studio and the newsroom, all putting that show together.

We never got back to that number again after the first summer. But on the other hand, there weren’t a whole lot of new faces here and there, either. In the director’s box, Hal stepped up when Jerry Don retired, and Rob Hatfield came in to be the assistant director. Tim Sullivan became our man in the audio booth… they all developed nicknames, too. Tim was “Eric Clapton.” Hal was “Antonio Banderas.” You get the idea.

Tom thought he’d blown his interview
with Ray Stevens about 30 seconds in.
And there were the co-producers. After Amy and Christa there was Zrinka Rukavina, who went on to become a lawyer in Chicago (and who’s doing quite well, I’m happy to say). There was Sarah Holliman and Monica Rued (who’s still a web producer at the station) and Becca Buerkle, the last one I worked with. I always forget one… there were seven in all. All of them (with the exception of Sarah, who I believe ended up doing something with the police force, I’m not certain) moved up and onward at the station.

We called the Hogs with Dave Price.
There were a few here and there who were with us for a month or a year -- Davy Craft, Win Noble, Holly Terry, Larry Kreif -- I am startled I remember any of the names after all this time. They were all people who really influenced my life.

We had a lot of good times on the show. The station had this idea of creating this Weather Garden, and we took it and ran with it, filling it up with people and things and ideas. We came up with all sorts of neat promotions and contests and what have you. Probably the most famous of these were the Weddings of a Live Time we held -- three of them, crazy contests that culminated in nuptuals at dawn. Wow, huh?

I got to meet White House pastry chef
Roland Messnier when the Clinton
Presidential Center opened in 2004.
There were also the Zoo Tuesdays, the Breakfast with Tom segments, the Summer Cereal Drive and the road trips. There were seasons, too -- August, for instance, meant competing watermelon festivals, while every May we had Toad Suck Daze, Greek Food Festival, Riverfest.

Yet some of my favorite times from the show were when the anchors just had a chance to chat and relax and share a bit of their lives with us. I quite clearly remember the day after Game & Fish Night back in the summer of 2000, and that Robyn was supposed to race in it. We showed the footage, and then she mentioned that it was her husband Keith driving the car. She handed baby booties to B.J. and Tom, her way of letting everyone know she was pregnant.

I do believe I was the first person who told Robyn she was pregnant with her third child, Parker. She had just returned from maternity leave after having her son Lowry, and she kept having this flu that would not go away. One morning it struck me that we’d been to this rodeo before, and after the show I told her “Robyn, I think you’re pregnant.” She told me it wasn’t possible… and the next day came in and almost hissed at me… “how did you know?” Well, we’d been there with Lowry and with Olivia before that… go figure.

Our viewers got to know them as BJRobyn&Tom… it’d all run together, and everyone assumed they were a happy family. But it didn’t start off that way. I recall how Tom really didn’t rub the others the right way at first, and the friction between them. Way back in the day, Robyn would sometimes show irritation working with B.J. and vice versa. It didn’t blossom overnight.

But when it did, it was great. There was a chemistry between the three of them that just made the show. Yes, producing the show sometimes felt like pushing around an elephant, but at least with the three of them it was like pushing that elephant around on a dolly, instead of plain brute force.

I used to remind Tom about his wedding anniversary. I got married exactly a week before he did -- and so I’d always make a point to tell him not to forget LeAnn on the 20th of November.

I married Paul in November 1999.
B.J. used to read me his junk email… “I can get breast enhancements with this simple exercise, huh huh huh,” he’d laugh. He’d work the crossword and the Scramble in the paper between cut-ins after the show.

Boy, I am rambling on. I’d meant to just write a few paragraphs, but I suppose my time at THV just can’t be summed up that way.

Tom with Yakov Smirnoff.
When I was there, I felt like I was ever so lucky. I was working the coolest job in the world and I couldn’t ever see leaving it. There are about 12 reasons I did… but it still wasn’t an easy decision. I was tired of working up to 60 hours a week. I wanted to start a family. I felt like I was in a rut -- a fun rut, but a rut nonetheless. Wanted to try something new. Felt I was getting old.

Rich and I on his retirement day.
The kicker for me was the lurking spector of what would have turned out to be a huge paycut had I stayed. I’d negotiated in my contract when I started that I would be paid hourly; though my contract actually expired in 2000 no one ever asked me about signing a new one. Gannett’s blanket ruling to make all producers salaried workers would have cost me an estimated $12k a year in pay. It was, in the end, the deciding factor.

My last day was September 7, 2007. Walking away from the morning show was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I left behind my security, my friends and the career I thought I would follow for the rest of my life. I had no idea when I left that Friday morning if I’d ever enter that building again. I though I had a future in public relations, but hadn’t made up my mind. I was being courted heavily by the competition, but after about a week I realized my days in television -- at least on the reverse side of the camera -- were over.

You probably know the rest of the story… it’s documented on this blog. The places I’ve been and seen have been fabulous. I have, for the most part, created an entire career from scratch. I’ve gone through an interesting pregnancy and have started the process of raising a beautiful daughter. I’ve grown. As one of my friends recently put it to me, I’ve come into myself. I know who I am. Another friend says I’ve become my own brand. I can accept that too.

Yesterday I received a message from Tom, asking if I’d come stop by this morning. I wasn’t sure what it was all about, but I figured that hey, it was about time. I’d missed out on the morning show the day B.J. retired and I felt bad about that -- but Hunter was still very young and it was outside her comfort zone. I did come for a gathering at the station later, though.

This morning was the first time I went back to the morning show in nearly four years. To say I was apprehensive would be mild. I really didn’t know what to expect.

But when I went through the gate, there was very little different from before. Well, there was the weirdness of having my name checked off by a list. I almost found myself doing the whole “do you know who I am?” to Tyler, one of the producers of the show today. But seeing so many other faces I recognized sort of soothed that over.

Rich Gunter was there -- he had retired about a year before I left and I hadn’t seen him in so long. I missed Rich. We used to spar a bit on our thoughts on live shots and the like, but he’s a great guy and he was usually right. Married life is treating him well. He told me they’d just got their first computer… I find it amusing.

James Staats from Golden Corral was there, as was Anthony Michael from Cross Eyed Pig BBQ, who was grilling up pork ribs for the occasion. The four of us were comparing notes and sharing memories when Robyn and B.J. passed in front of where we were standing and joined Tom and Alyse and Ashley. At one point Tom pointed us out to them, and I thought Robyn was going to flitter.

The show was different from what it used to be. We never really had an audience during my times. Sure, we might have a Weather Garden full of Taekwondo kids or Foodbank volunteers, but just folks who watched the show? Not often. There were maybe 30 in-garden guests and the whole cadre of us, talking with each other and sharing our memories. I talked with Dr. Bob Hale the veterinarian, with Derrick Rose the magician and with state trooper Cpl. Alvernon Rogers. Becca came in early (she now works upstairs from the newsroom, good for her!) and Matthew Carroll, the guy that replaced me (bless his heart) poked his head out.

I went in for a bit and walked around the control room -- which has changed a lot. No more clunky tubed video monitors. Now it’s all plasma screens and computer interfaces. Robert Settles was manning the cameras. Hal and Rob were still calling the shots and punching the show, and Tim was in the booth.

At the end of the show all us old-timers got together for one last shot, just for a minute. And then it was over. Some hung around for another hour, while others had to take off immediately. That’s life for ya.

I went to the newsroom to take a look around. It looks very similar and yet some things are different. The big computer monitors have been replaced with flat screens. There’s a new editing system that allows producers to put stuff together at their desks and make it all work.

This was my desk. You know, I think the only photo I have of my desk is from when I received the Employee of the Quarter my last year at the station. It doesn’t look that much different, just a lot cleaner. B.J. sat at the one across from this one, and Robyn’s desk was to the right on that side.

The dedication of the new studio, I think in 2005.
I wish I could have taken the photo with me that had been in the employee case back then, back when my hair was chin length and strawberry blonde. There is still one photo of me there, a group photo from when we debuted the new set back in 2005.

While talking with Matthew and watching the new producers Martha and Tyler and while catching up with Becca, I missed the big group photo apparently taken outside. But I did get this one. All those years, there was never a photo of me with my three anchors. I was always behind the camera and a little camera shy. I wanted to make sure there was one. This is it.

I thought I’d cry this morning, I really thought I would. I did cry, and profusely, the morning I left. I was pretty damaged back then. I didn’t know, couldn’t know, that in many ways I was emerging from my chrysalis that last morning. Most of the time I spent at Today’s THV I was a hermit, content to let someone else step in front of the camera and grab the glory. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I did. It’s part of me. I spent longer there than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

But this morning I realized not just how much that time meant to me, but that it is a time long past. I have grown, as have my fellow former co-workers. Life has proceeded apace and we have all moved on in our own ways. In just a few weeks I’ll mark my fourth anniversary away from the station, and it’ll be a happy one. I can finally hold my head high and confirm that I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams at this next segment of my life. Today’s THV This Morning wasn’t the zenith of my life. But it was important to me.

I may go back again. I don’t know. Going back this time, though… paved the way for more moments in my life. I have moved on. I am thankful and grateful for it all.