Archive for August, 2009

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Back to School!

August 28, 2009

This time of year always brings a smile to my face because when I was little, I used to LOVE to go back to school.  A few days before school would start, my mom would go up to the school office and get my supply list (yes, I grew up in the dark ages before the internet).  We’d go to the Piggly Wiggly and load up on supplies:  pencils (remember in 1st and 2nd grade they made you use those extra-fat pencils?), paste (I could hardly wait to be in 3rd grade where they used actual Elmer’s Glue instead of paste!), and my “Big Chief” tablet of paper (anyone else remember the “Big Chief” tablets with extra-thick lines for learning to write your letters?).  I loved those tablets…they had a very distinct smell…and for years I’d associate that paper-smell with school. I’d march into class wearing my “first day of school” outfit (my mom always made sure I had a special outfit for the first day) and carrying my bag of supplies.  I LOVED school.  Loved my teachers, loved the classwork, heck I even loved eating lunch in the school cafeteria, where I paid a whopping 35 cents for a hot, homemade meal and a cold carton of milk.   And maybe because I had such wonderful experiences in those early elementary years, my good attitude about school and learning continued all through high school, where I graduated in the top 10% of my class, and all through college, where I graduated magna cum laude. 

It’s been 22 years since I graduated with honors from James Madison University.  I still go back to visit every few years, and every time I do I think about what an unforgettable, life-changing experience college was for me.    The classes I took, and the life-lessons I learned have served me well as I’ve pursued my career and personal goals.   Over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to school to get my Master’s Degree.  It’s certainly not a requirement for someone in television news.   But I’ve looked into the different programs offered by local colleges and universities and I’ve always wondered “Could I do it?”

I’m going to find out!  This year I’ve enrolled at Lourdes College to get my Master’s of Organizational Leadership.  It’s a relatively new program described to me by someone as “an MBA without the numbers.”   We look at how people make organizations work in the corporate and social sectors, and how to be effective leaders in those situations.    It will take a little more than 2 years, and it’s pretty intense:  for my first class, I have to have two textbooks read, and be prepared to dissect a chapter and lead the class in discussion.  But there’s something incredibly exciting about continuing my education and when I went to my student orientation last week, I couldn’t stop smiling.  While I do occasionally bat my head against the wall and say to myself “what are you THINKING?  When are you going to have time for schoolwork?” I also find myself completely looking forward to learning the material. 

As a 40-something wife and mother, it’s also a bit exciting to have a college ID in my purse.  Now, if I could just find myself a “Big Chief” tablet…

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Texting: C U L8ER!

August 9, 2009

I admit, I have been known to divide my focus when I drive.   Mostly, I just “zone out” thinking of what I have to do the next day or singing to the radio at the top of my lungs.  Texting?  Not so much.  I’m not a huge texter anyway.  Now a new study shows those devices can be considered lethal weapons in the car: drivers are 23 TIMES more likely to have an accident when texting.  That has prompted federal lawmakers to talk about passing a nationwide ban on texting while driving.  I think it’s a great idea.  Many states have already passed such laws.  But I wonder if the law is sweeping enough?  I started thinking about all the other things that people do in the car that also cause accidents.  To take a line from Bill Maher, here are my suggested “NEW RULES” for driving:

1. No texting.   For the reasons mentioned above, no texting while driving, and cell phones should only be used in the “hands-free” mode.

2.  No I-Pods, unless you have a dock in the car.  There’s no way you can hear emergency vehicles with earphones in your ears, and it’s too tempting for people to become lost in the music.  I actually saw a young man driving while listening to an I-pod closing his eyes and shaking his head to the music.  WHAT?!?  You’re driving, son.  Focus up.

3.  No eating or drinking in the car.  We’ve all done this, and we’ve all had accidents with the food that have caused us to take our eyes off the road, and swerve into another lane while screaming “Out, damn spot!”  A girl I knew in high school became so unfocused on the road while trying to clean up a coke spill in her parents’ new car that she drove the car into a ditch and made an even bigger mess of the car.  Luckily she didn’t hurt herself or anyone else. 

4.  No makeup application or shaving.   This was a daily scene during the morning rush hour when I lived in Washington DC.  Ladies using the mirror on the back of the sun visor or the rear-view mirror to put on lipstick…and even mascara while driving to work!  Same thing with the men and their electric shavers.  I used to get WAY over in the other lane when I saw someone doing that.  

5.  No reading.  Not even directions.  Buy a voice-prompt GPS and keep your eyes on the road.

6.  No watching television.  It’s tempting when the rest of the family’s watching those handy built-in DVD screens in the car.  Those are for PASSENGERS ONLY!  Stop watching the movie and pretend you’re Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider:” keep your eyes on the road!

7.  No changing clothes.  You might think this a ridiculous rule: who changes clothes while driving?  I saw it with my own eyes recently: a young man who apparently just finished a soccer match changing his jersey into a regular shirt.  Pulled it right over his head while he was driving down Monroe Street.  If I had known him I would have called his mother.

There are other distractions too:  screaming kids in the backseat, the radio, lack of sleep, flashing billboards.  I realize we can’t make laws for everything, but maybe we can tackle one distraction at a time.   Texting: C U L8er!

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The Real Clunker

August 3, 2009

The “Cash for Clunkers”  program has brought thousands of car buyers back to showrooms across America:  give us your tired, your poor, your “clunkers” and we’ll give you up to $4,500 for a brand new, more fuel-efficient car.   The program was funded for 1 billion dollars or approximately 250,000 cars–and was slated to run until November 1st, or until it ran out of money.  Well, after one week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is warning the program may already be out of money.  Dealers are worried: they get reimbursed from the government after the sale, so they’re wondering if those checks will indeed be in the mail.    Some lawmakers are proposing up to 2 billion dollars more for the program, but others say, “not so fast!” so there’s no guarantee there will be any additional money.  It’s a classic case of “if you snooze, you lose” I suppose.   Anyone who didn’t take advantage of the program in the first week may not get the opportunity now.  

The same thing happened when the government started handing out gift cards for digital converter boxes for the DTV transition.  People got their $40 cards, but many couldn’t find the boxes readily available, and the cards expired before they could use them.  Those people were not allowed to reapply for cards because the rules stated each household could only get one set. The government then ran out of money and suspended the program for awhile, then after realizing their botched system meant many Americans wouldn’t be able to watch TV, they moved the DTV deadline back 6 months, at tremendous cost to TV stations all across the country. 

These two examples have me very concerned about the rush to come up with a health care plan for America.  I’m not disagreeing that there is a need for a plan.  But why are politicians in such a hurry to get SOMETHING, ANYTHING passed that due diligence is lost?  This is too important to fly by the seat of our pants with.  We need to know that the plan in place will work, that the benefits will outweigh the cost, because let’s face it, American taxpayers just can’t afford to keep throwing money at programs that can’t be sustained. 

Lawmakers, please take the time you need to figure out what will work, and how much we can afford to pay for it because if we keep running out of cash, all we’re left with is clunkers.