Archive | October, 2009

Clean Sweep

30 Oct

You’ve probably already noticed the shift in tone in the promos for your local news. Scary music. A Very. Serious. Announcer. Discussing all manner of horror.

The hidden murderer in your medicine cabinet. The secret “sexting” going on on your childrens’ mobile phones. The politicians with shady secrets. The politician who is sexting with teens while swilling the hidden danger in your medicine cabinet.

All the big guns of terror coming out in force. Because it’s Halloween? No, November sweeps is underway.

In case you didn’t know, 4 months out of the year, TV news departments lose their minds because of these little things called Nielsen Ratings.

I could explain in great detail about how ratings translate into advertising dollars, and how July is really a fake ratings book no one cares about because people go on vacation and viewing habits are skewed. And we could talk about how demographics vs. total household numbers figure in. I can do a Powerpoint to explain a share vs. a rating point.

No, really, I could. Because I spent a long time in TV news, and in fact, planned sweeps pieces for a living.

But an anecdote might explain better what is happening in TV newsrooms right now.

When my daughter Madeline was born (in September, a non-ratings month), she had a nightmarish heart defect and had to be flown to San Francisco where she spent 6 weeks in the hospital getting the first two of four heart surgeries. And that is mostly a story for another day, but gives you some context.

And after two surgeries and six weeks of only holding her with a ventilator attached under careful supervision, it was finally time to bring her home.  But things were still precarious. So first, they wanted us to spend 24 hours with her and no monitors, giving her medications on our own, recording feedings, and all sorts of things.

But even with nurses checking up on us, it was magical. Going home was within reach. And late that night, I was holding her, no tubes or IVs attached, and rocking her to sleep. My husband had stepped out of the room to get a snack or something, and in that moment was just so awesome that even at 11:40 at night, I needed to TELL someone.

And there was no Twitter then. Plus, it was really late. So, I called the newsroom, where I knew my 11 0’clock news team would just be finishing the newscast. And suprisingly, my news director was there. A grandfather himself, sure to be excited.

I told him my daughter was sleeping in my arms for the first time, and we’d get to come home the next day, and I couldn’t keep the excitement to myself. And he said “Congratulations! That is the best news I’ve ever heard.”

Then he paused a split second and added, “So that means you will be back for November sweeps.”

See? A little crazy. So just buckle up, DVR some episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” to watch if things get too scary. It’ll all be over in 4 weeks.

Until February gets here.

(FYI: If you read that and thought “What? He said ‘Congratulations’ first”? It’s fine. You are either in TV news. Or you’re Dick Cheney, check your pay stub. Dick, yours is made out to Voldemort.)

P.S. If you are in San Antonio, or even if you’re not, I’ve also designed a “San Antonio Sweeps Loteria” game you can play while you watch TV this month as part of my blog for You can customize it to your own city. Click here to read “Run! It’s the Chupacabra.” Come on, laugh to keep from crying.

Halloween Awesomeness

28 Oct

Sure, we could carve pumpkins with scary faces.

If we were NORMAL.

Alas, we are not.

So, I present to you: The Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima Pumpkin

Can I tell you how long my husband spent looking through the bucket of soliders for the the right 4 guys?












And, a tribute to Swine Flu.

Swine Flu Pumpkin

And I had the flu while making it. Oh, the irony.









This is what happens when smart-alec journalists marry each other.  Now you know.


Brown-Eyed Boy

23 Oct

Strange, the things we remember.

I can’t remember his name, 12 years later. But I can picture the huge brown eyes, the red hair that fell across into them, still waiting for its first haircut. He was about a year old, round-faced and robust looking if you could ignore the IV tubes and the oxygen cannula. His mother — young, unmarried, overwhelmed. I can’t picture her any more either. Forgive me. We had our own details to remember.

His glassed-in room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was across the nurses’ station from our daughter’s. Heart patient, of course; that’s what the wing was for. A miserable fraternity we’d never asked to join. But we were going through initiation nonetheless. Psychological warfare in the waiting room, hazing by sleep deprivation and terror.

His mother and I would talk during the shift changes at 7 and 7, when doctors made rounds and we had to leave lest we overhear another child’s health details. As if we didn’t know them already. Bonds forge fast in a PICU waiting room.

So we learned them all, the defects that brought our children there. Tetralogy of Fallot, Ventricular Septal Defect, Transposition of the Great Arteries, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

On the scale of “serious heart defects,” a ridiculous hierarchy, he had one of the easy ones: Ventricular Septal Defect, or a hole in the heart. One surgery, fix the hole, recover, go home. That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

I envied her, to be honest. Our daughter’s defect came with a lot of question marks. Secret meetings we couldn’t attend where doctors talked about treatment options and quality of life versus risk and gave her genetic tests to be sure she was worth the trouble. Of course, they didn’t say it like that. 

They wrapped explanations in gentle blankets of “we need a complete picture,” and “there could be complicating factors for long-term survival.” They whispered things like “palliative care.” Which sounds much kinder than “we could just keep her comfortable and let her die.”

And I understood those choices, I really did. But in the end, because our doctors wanted to save this blue-eyed girl, they chose the route that gave her the best chance. 

I never wondered then if the fact that my husband and I were both educated members of the media, and our daughter had double-coverage private insurance played a role. Twelve years ago, I just  thanked God for putting us in the right place, at the right time, with the right surgeon. I still do.

But this brown-eyed boy, and his young, single mother, had a different story. They had a managed care program with a reputation for stingy payout. So when the brown-eyed boy was born with a tiny hole in his heart, the insurance company said, “let’s wait it out.”

Sometimes, holes close on their own. That’s a lot cheaper. So they refused to approve surgery. And the young mother and the brown-eyed boy waited.

But the hole didn’t close. So finally, the insurance company relented, and scheduled surgery.

 You remember, right? Ventricular Septal Defect, or a hole in the heart. One surgery, fix the hole, recover, go home. That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

The problem is, the brown-eyed boy’s heart had to work much harder because of that hole. Overworked hearts get enlarged. The muscle walls get thick, more rigid. Sometimes, they’re not ready to start beating again after open-heart surgery. And so it was for the brown-eyed boy’s heart. It couldn’t find a rhythm and wouldn’t beat on its own.

Surgeons fought back with bypass machines, and medication, and everything they could. We were at one of the best hospitals in the world for babies with heart defects, and the fight was valiant. Helpless spectators, the mother and I sat in the waiting room during shift change and talked and prayed and hoped together that her brown-eyed boy would open his eyes again.

Then one day, she didn’t come to the waiting room. The delay had proved deadly. He was gone, and so was she.

I think of that brown-eyed boy a lot these days, as the health care reform debate dissolves into so much silliness and death panel discussions and screaming at town hall meetings.

But what I wonder, is what made my blue-eyed girl more valuable than that brown-eyed boy?

While she practices for Shakespeare plays, texts her friends and fights with her brother, what would he be doing? Suiting up in pads and helmet for football practice, writing a book report, refusing to pick up his room?

I can’t buy the argument that just because we were born into families that valued education, blessed with bright minds through genetics,  happened to have good insurance, our baby was worth more.

I hear the argument that quality health care is not a right, and I ask, “why can’t that change?” We used to say that about education. We used to say that about women voting. We used to say that slavery was an economic necessity that would bankrupt our country if we abolished it. We grew up. We made progress.

I’m not a politician or policy maker. But when I think of the brown-eyed boy, I wonder how many deadly delays it’s going to take.

If Lindy Chamberlain Had Twitter

19 Oct

Aussie_Lindy: OMG! A dingo ate my baby!

MumstheWord: RT @Aussie_Lindy OMG! a dingo ate my baby! <— WTF, are you serious?

Aussie_Lindy:  @MumstheWord YES! OMG.

OutbackingDad: RT @Aussie_Lindy OMG! A dingo ate my baby! <— Unbelievable. So sorry, starting a twibbon campaign for Azaria.

KoalaMum: @Aussie_Lindy are you going to post about what happened? So sorry! #DingosHateBabies

Aussie_Lindy: @KoalaMum dunno if I’m goina blog about it… may pitch it to Hollywood and go waaaay out with it. I dunno yet.

Aussie_Lindy: @Aboriginal Studios want it. Meryl Streep could play me in the movie. #Oscar

Aboriginal: You’re too indy for Meryl Streep. P.S. Have my Azaria twibbon on. {{{Hugs}}} #DingosHateBabies

Aussie_Lindy: Studios are stalling: A DINGO TOOK MY BABY!

Aboriginal: RT @Aussie_Lindy: Studios are stalling: A DINGO TOOK MY BABY! #DingosHateBabies

KoalaMum: RT @Aussie_Lindy: Studios are stalling: A DINGO TOOK MY BABY! #DingosHateBabies

OutbackingDad: RT @Aussie_Lindy: Studios are stalling, the story must be told: A DINGO TOOK MY BABY! #DingosHateBabies

WannaBe RT @OutbackingDad: RT @Aussie_Lindy: Studios are stalling, the story must be told: A DINGO TOOK MY BABY! #DingosHateBabies

MobMentaliTea @RT WannaBe RT @OutbackingDad: RT @Aussie_Lindy: , the story must be toldStudios are stalling: A DINGO TOOK MY BABY! #DingosHateBabies

ClueLass: Hey, why is #DingosHateBabies a trending topic?

DINGO_Blog: In the interest of disclosure, We have released surveillance video of the campground and dingo cave. We wish @Aussie_Lindy the best.

Lindy_Lied: OMG, PWND!!

Lindy_Lied: @MumstheWord Looks like your friend is a liar!

Aussie_Lindy: Video does not show all angles of the tent. Also, Meryl Streep just called me. She’s in.

OutbackingDad: I have seen the surveillance video and I still believe @Aussie_Lindy. Clearly they dog-tored it. #DingosHateBabies

DINGO_Blog: To further refute Ms. Chamberlain’s claims, we have released tracking records from 9 additional dingos clearly showing no dingos near the baby.

MumstheWord: @Aussie_Lindy Uh, you’re still my friend, but WTF? #DoDingosHateBabiesOrNot?

ShrimpsonBarbie: Lindy, Ima gonna let you finish, but the Lindbergh Baby was the best kidnapping mystery of all time.

In the Details

12 Oct

Shooting stars elude me.

The grand crescendo, the mountaintop experience… I chase them and fall, tripping over cynicism and self-consciousness.

The burning bush, the ray of blinding light on the road to Damascus, the pillar of fire that devours doubt? All absent.

But like You did for Elijah, You speak to me in the still, small voice. You are a diety of details in the middle of a fog-shrouded forest.

You push through the clutter.


Create texture and intricate patterns that demand me. “Be still, look closer.” 


Tree bark

Show me beauty in sharp edges.


Rattle and Hum

9 Oct

Oh “Hi!” Yes, I do have a blog. You like how I did that? Write every day in September, and then just stop for nine days?

Here’s what happened. We went camping, and while we were gone, San Antonio had flooding, and lots of rain. And the storms blew shingles off our roof. And I mentioned lots of rain? It all came funneling in through the hole in the roof, which very squishy carpet in our daughter’s room. Also, pieces of the walls fell off. Which is not ideal.

Because our house already split in half earlier this year, I have had a lot of well-meaning friends tell me. “Wow, God is really testing you.”

I think, not so much. I think domestic disasters are just God’s special way of telling me my blog was getting boring. So I will be filling you in on all those things as soon as I am able to laugh about it. Which, according to the information on my prescription vitamin bottles, should be in a week or two.

In the meantime, my goodness, you have certainly come here looking for lots of important answers.

Today’s search inquiries that led people here:

  1. Can I say “crap” in my school paper?
  2. Michelle Duggar Hair
  3. Sniffing Preteen Socks
  4. Horse Head in Bed

Seriously, I cannot help the sock-sniffers, she-mullet searchers or those of you who have watched The Godfather too many times.

But the school paper question, I am qualified to address.

If you are in elementary school, you cannot say crap in your paper. Middle school, high school? Look, you probably can get away with it.  But your teachers won’t be impressed, nor will they be shocked. Crap is a poser swear word. It is not creative. It lacks panache. Go to and find something better.

Try balderdash, claptrap, drivel, nonsense, idiocy, or even the vintage poppycock, and make a teacher smile.

Real swear words, the ones with the punch you need, are off limits in an academic environment. Wait until you have a blog. Even then, you’ll want to use them sparingly for two reasons. First, saying them all the time becomes a schtick, and they lose impact. Second, and more importantly, your mom and dad and husband and minister and future bosses and maybe even your kids will end up reading your blog.

 And even if you’re 41 and totally confident in your belief that Jesus is worried about more important things than “bad words,” it’s just not worth the scatological excrement you’ll have to deal with.

So I hear.

My all-time favorite email exchanges about the use of “colloquial language” took place with Blogger  Roy Bragg . We were discussing what kind of things I needed to refrain from saying if I blogged for the San Antonio Express-News. Roy graciously gave me a very detailed list of what words I could and could not get away with on the paper’s website.

And then, in further clarifying discussion, because I was concerned about some recent posts on sex education videos, it included this gem: “Singing penises would be fine on”

It’s something I have kept in mind, but have not, as of yet, felt any need to reference.

I have, however, blogged there today about President Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize Award. So, if you would like to read a post with a semi-coherent point, go there.

Otherwise, I suspect you still haven’t found what you’re looking for.

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