Live Shot

Saturday, 30 July 2011
In celebration of my last TV news broadcast, here's a live shot spoof by Gary Vosot. I'm not going to miss trying to make one flake of snow look like a news event. I will definitely miss reporting live...

Fire

Tuesday, 26 July 2011
I was working on two different stories in the newsroom this afternoon. It was close to deadline (4pm) and the fire alarm went off. I was trying to get some facts on a story confirmed and was on the phone. The person on the line said, "What is that?" I said, "The fire alarm is going off," and kept asking questions.

Not one other person in the newsroom made a move to leave. At least 18 people were at their desks and probably eight photogs/editors were in edit bays at that point and no one even asked a question or looked up from what they were doing.

As it continued to sound, I was actually shocked to see our fearless News Director come out of his office to see if anything was going on. Still, no one moved. I ended the call and started laughing to myself. We are all bad a$$es and clearly care more about our deadlines than a fire.

Our ND walked back into our newsroom a minute later and sarcastically said, "Please, don't worry. It's a false alarm. The building is not on fire." Again, no one looked up.

I will miss TV news more than I can explain.

Readers Night Out

Monday, 25 July 2011


Join me? Friends of Literacy has a cool new event this year. It's called Readers Night Out, hosted at Union Avenue Books in downtown Knoxville. Tickets are $20 and we'll be hanging out from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 25th.

Whether you're a member of a book club, would like to join a book club or just want to talk about the great books you've read lately, this is the evening for you. (I'm not in a book club because I'm ultra picky about what I read but I love to discuss books.)

The other perk? We have a great group of authors lined up to chat with atendees. To name a few:  Fred Brown (Growing Up Southern), David Hunter (Tempest at the Sunsphere), Michael Knight (The Typist) and Pamela Schoenewaldt (When We Were Strangest).

Disclaimer:  I haven't read these books but hope to soon.  Growing Up Southern is first on my list.

Purchase your ticket here. The night also involves appetizers and wine!

Union Avenue Books is also graciously donating 20% of the proceeds from books sales that evening to Friends of Literacy. We're helping adults in Knoxville learn how to read, earn their GED and get a job. Now that's a great mission.

Don't DIY

Sunday, 24 July 2011
The carport I built by myself does not look like an architectural masterpiece. I still have to put two trim pieces on it. Otherwise, I'd be sure to post a picture here.

Actually, that's a lie. I really don't want to post a picture here because the real version doesn't look like the version in my head.

The poles are up, the support pieces are up, the braces are in place, the middle beams look good but the roof appears shoddy. I guess I really don't like the material I used. The roof is made out of 2x12 feet PVC corregated panels, installed with the proper capped roofing screws. The PVC was perfect for me because it is light enough to lift into place without a helper.

The problem? The end product looks like I jammed a few large boards into the grass and threw up a white tarp to cover them. Classy.

My privacy fence is also a disaster. I salvaged the panels that were destroyed by the tree a few weeks ago by adding 2x4x8 braces for stability. My helper, Eddie came over to assist with hanging the panels and I wasn't maticulous with the level. They are off maybe about a 1/4 of an inch but I shudder everytime I look at them because they appear crooked (to me). I also messed up the pattern and hung the panel with the even-level pickets first. The multi-level picket panels are supposed to go up first. I'm going to have to take them all down again and pay Eddie to help me hang them all again.

Why do I do this all myself? Read: student life doesn't pay.

Natural Cruelty

Saturday, 23 July 2011
Gardening is relaxing and peaceful. I live in a quiet neighborhood so when I'm outside I may hear a lawn mower but mostly it is just me, the birds and the rustle of the huge trees in the back. Last night I was outside collecting summer squash and green beans for a meal when I heard an unfamiliar sound. Lily was by my side as she usually is when I'm outside but Violet was not in my line of sight.

I heard the squeaking again and ran around to the other side of the tree where Violet was batting around a baby Robin. Grabbing Violet and speaking softly to her, I tried to get the cats away from it. Lily saw it fluttering in the grass and went after the bird. Moving quickly I picked the tiny thing up and laid it in the "Y" of a tree where the cats couldn't reach it. The poor little thing was shaking but seemed okay. I took the cats inside and went back to investigate. The bird had toppled out of the tree and was on the ground with its eyes half open.

Choking back a sob, I picked it up and felt for a heartbeat. It slowly closed its eyes while I massaged its chest and made a weak attempt at mouth-to-beak resuscitation. Nothing. The beautiful little bird died in my hands. I was struck by how quickly life can be taken away in a predator-prey environment. Violet was following her natural instincts and hunting while the little bird was probably working on its first flight and didn't get very far. Either way, I am just devastated by the loss of a Robin that could have visited each year in the spring.

Taking a tip from Lyanda Lynn Haupt (author of Crow Planet), I stayed with the bird for a moment to have a closer look. It was small enough to fit in the palm of my left hand. With its stomach facing the sky, I gently touched the little chest again and felt the downy feathers. Baby Robins aren't completely orange on the breast yet. The feathers are speckled with white, dark brown and light orange. Her little legs were twig-like and it amazed me how a bird can hold up such a large body (comparatively) on such tiny "feet." The wings were most impressive. I stroked its feathers and separated the wing from the body, gently guiding it so that it was open. Near where the wing met the body, I could see puncture wounds and a bit of blood.

The bird was still warm when I laid her under the tree where her mother was chirping anguished notes. I covered her with leaves and touched her feathers once more. Sadness is knowing that a bird's song will never be heard and that you had something to do with the outcome. 

Blue

Friday, 22 July 2011
Blue is a feeling
heavy with color
silent and expanding

Blue sky
Blue moon
Blue clouds holding tears 

That Was Close

Wednesday, 20 July 2011
From Real Simple

Once when I was wedding dress shopping with my friend Casey at Vera Wang in Chicago (so just name-dropped right there) she looked at me in horror and said, "What the hell? You're skinnier than I am!" It was one of the proudest moments of my life. A bit of background...

Casey is the tiniest woman on the face of the earth. She is petite and skinny and has small bones. It isn't easy to be the best friend of a skeleton but that's just how God made her. My friend Angelica and I had a running joke in college about Casey's diet. We'd say, "How about some niiiiiiice saltine crackers and a tasty glass of water...?" The thing is, Casey did eat. She is just thin.

So, when I starved myself for my wedding and got down to a size 0 (in Ann Taylor clothes, mind you) Casey was mortified. I'm afraid she'd be just as mortified if she saw me now. I was in a swimsuit last week and looked down at myself. My gosh - what the heck happens to your body in your 30s? I've been completely wrapped up in applying for the doctoral program and getting my vintage clothing store opened and gained a bazillion pounds. I know what you're going to say. "Denae, you're not fat." Thank you for that but I'm not fishing for compliments here.

I'm just glad I noticed in time to make a change instead of changing to a new clothing size. If you've been reading my blog at all, despite the recent 5K run, you know I'm allergic to exercise. I love to garden, swim, work in the yard, build things, go for long walks but I think going to a large concrete space to run on a stationary machine and pick up ambient objects is strange. Weight gain has everything to do with diet and a little bit to do with activity level.

Summer is the perfect time to add more fruits and veggies to our diets. My neighbors must be feeding their tomato and cucumber plants liquid crack because they are producing like crazy. I owe them some major dough for keeping me fed. I've eaten tomatoes and cucumbers everyday for lunch for a week. Delicious! I'm back to coffee for breakfast (2 sugars, a lot of fat free milk) and fat free popcorn for a snack. I've already dropped a few. The only problem? (Ladies, does this happen to you??) The fat seems to melt away from the areas you'd rather keep first. Such a drag.

People are Kind

Monday, 18 July 2011
Thank you to my friends and family who have made me feel this next life endeavor is not in vain. I may be approaching a slight but welcome mid-life crisis. For those of you who may have asked, "Does this mean we have to call you Dr. D'Arcy?," the answer is:  Are you kidding me? We'll all be lucky if I make it through the first semester without crying my eyes out in the fetal position behind the Yacht Club just off of Cumberland. As you know, I rarely cry.

Moral of the story is... I am feeling the weight of change and am intimidated. What does one do when she is intimidated? Naturally, make everyone around her join in the stress through petty arguments, loud pronouncements and general negativity. Please forgive yours truly and know that I am gathering my tiny brain cells to attention for a major attempt at "smart" come fall.

Also, please ask after my goals for this week which include finishing the carport I have begun and rebuilding my privacy fence which was destroyed by the downed tree.

On the shelf: Fire Season by Philip Connors

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Fire season is the pits when you are a TV journo working near a national forest. When I worked in Oregon, it was the same thing. You could spend weeks out near the fire line updating people on how close the flames were getting to homes and watching fire crews work like the wind to contain a raging beast.

When I did my first stint at WATE seven years ago, a photog and I went up in a black hawk helicopter with the then-governor of Tennessee, Don Sundquist (I think he was in office ,..wow my memory is getting bad) to survey forest fire damage. The Army guys had taken the door off of the left side of the chopper for better viewing.  I had a coat on and gloves but man it was freezing!

The flight pattern over the disaster included a few dips so we were almost on our side looking over the charred land through the open door. The photographer with me was so scared that he'd drop his camera out of the helicopter that he strapped himself and his gear in. He could barely move. We didn't capture the greatest video that day but the assignment left such an impression on me. Fire in a forest is a powerful, destructive, deadly force best noted from an aerial position.

One of the warriors against such disasters is author Philip Connors. He is a fire watcher in New Mexico. During the summer months he packs up his gear, leaves his wife and sets out with his dog to a remote camp with a cabin, cistern for water and a massive fire tower where he watches for smoke from nine to six everyday. His book is called Fire Season (2011) and gives an account of his job role which is certainly countercultural but essential for the life of our ecosystem.



Connors admits that people think he is strange. He gets completely jazzed about his sojourn into the forest, hiking seven miles from where he parks his truck which is driven many more miles on dirt roads to reach civilization. He knows the lay of the land like the back of his hand after many years of fire watching. I love the accounts of him sometimes literally running into nature during hikes with his dogs.

The most interesting aspect of the book to me is Connors' dissection of solitude. As a Cancerian (star sign) I can be typical when it comes to time in my shell. I adore hours of laying in bed alone reading, not checking email or answering the phone... but it must take a special person to live in silence except for a few radio transmissions daily for months.

Could you be a fire watcher? I imagine could make it for one season but there would be serious withdrawal from social media. I understand there's no Wifi at 10,000 feet above sea level in a fire tower...

Black Violet Vintage

Saturday, 16 July 2011
Is it vintage? If so, I love it when it comes to fashion. There are several reasons why: the lines are clean, vintage fashion means reusing and recycling items and the best part comes with the unique style one can have when she avoids department stores with mass produced items.


I also really get into combing thrift and antique stores for special items. It feels like a treasure hunt of sorts and when you find something in excellent condition the moment is exhilarating. That is why I opened my own vintage shop on Etsy in 2009. I closed it when I moved to Knoxville because I didn't want to move the merchandise. 


Now, with my life changing drastically career-wise, I'll have more time to go for my entrepreneurial fix. I have re-opened Black Violet Vintage (named after Violet the cat of course) and would love to share the link with you.


I have had a couple of sales already and plan to offer friends and family discounts for anyone that isn't a stranger. 20% off so do let me know if something sparks your fancy. "Our buyers" source new items twice a month and take requests for specific orders.

A Fresh Horse

Friday, 15 July 2011
"Keep a fresh horse in the barn well-fed and ready to go because the horse you are riding on now may come up lame." -Donald Thornton from Yvonne S. Thornton, MD's Something to Prove, A Daughter's Journey to Fulfill a Father's Legacy


I took horsemanship classes throughout college and would have double-majored in the subject if the program was available. During that time, I rode for at least two hours twice a week and spent time grooming and cleaning tack. Suffice it to say, I know a little bit about horses.

A good horse is healthy, has a sense of curiosity, is powerful and unafraid but understands direction. A rider can have a hell of a ride on a good horse, especially if the pair has been working together for some time. However, after many years of enjoyable riding a horse may become injured or just gets old.

As a rider, you get attached to a horse (my favorite horse at school was named Ty, with a golden brown coat and a shiny black mane) and it can be difficult to move on. Even if a new horse will take you to new heights, literally, there is a learning curve that can be painful and even emotionally draining.

I am getting ready to take on a new horse.

My life as a full-time, on-air television journalist is changing to that of a Communication and Information Science PhD student and undergraduate teacher. I've been in TV news for 11 years and it is time to begin a new adventure. I was awarded a full-time stipend by the University of Tennessee as well as a competitive fellowship. My benefits include tuition waiver, salary and healthcare. This is an excellent opportunity but a difficult decision because I love my job and my WATE 6 News family.  However, the industry is changing, the pay isn't great and the long hours coupled with working weekends and holidays become tedious. It is time for a fresh horse.

What happens after I finish my two-year program? I hope to begin a full-time research position in a private university or perhaps teach full-time with a goal of tenure. This will most importantly open my life up to a schedule that will allow time to pursue my greatest love, writing.

Please join the journey. I will admit my utter fear in the face of something shiny and new. My job as a journalist has a foundation of experience and talent. As a student who doesn't know a thing about statistics, academic research and teaching others, I will be back to creating building blocks.  Eventually those blocks should create corner stones on which my new career can rest. In the meantime, there will be some stumbles.

If a rider isn't accustomed to a horse, there can be some dangerous moments. I've never fallen off of a horse but I've been bucked, and had to jump off once. Some horses spook around water, some horses spook if birds take flight. There are many nuances to pick up on about an animal before things are smooth in the saddle. The horse is also learning a rider's posture, voice, weight, patience and determination. However, after enough time together, the two are in sync and the journey is exhilarating. That's the goal as I retire from one side of the media industry and enter another.

I begin school in August, will keep my position at WATE through the end of July and will be freelancing so you'll still see me on the tube.

Snubbing "Online" Books

Sunday, 10 July 2011
I feel I'm up to speed when it comes to using and investing in new technology. I have an iPhone 4. I know how to use my iPod and always tote my Toshiba laptop around but I'm not the type of person who has to have every new invention. I believe in advancement using the tools we have on the technology front. That said, I am not a fan of the online "reader" such as a Kindle or Nook.

From Amazon.com


Pros:
You have lots of books to choose from, at the touch of a button.
If you finish a book, you always have another one to start reading.
Carrying a Kindle around is much easier, because it weighs less.
There's no peer pressure to still read traditional books.
You don't have to carry bookmarks and you rarely lose your place.
No worrying about where to put books that seem to quickly pile up.
No trips to the library or forgetting to turn books back in that are overdue.
Online readers are the way of the future - everyone's using them!



From Ornelink.org

Cons:
No trips to the library - I love the library. It is quiet, dusty and innocent. Peace can be found among the rows and rows of books that are just waiting to teach us something.
Online reading devices can be expensive.
If you lose a Kindle, you're in for a lot more of a financial setback than if you lose a book.
There's no weight to a book bag containing a Kindle. When I get 8 or 9 books at the library, I feel like I'm carrying out buried treasure, a prize for my commitment to learning.
There's no paper. I just love paper and I love the different choices of fonts. There's an experience and ambiance that comes from noticing the faint scent of paper while reading.
Online readers offer no comfort. Since my husband lives in London, I usually pile my books on our queen-size bed. The cats lay on them and when I turn over in the night the corners and spines of the books touch me and I feel less alone.
Kindles are not conversation starters. Even though I almost always hate the opening line, 'What are you reading?," I don't mind to chat about a good book with someone who is genuinely interested. Perhaps in the future someone will ask "What are you staring at on your handheld computer device?"
I don't think you can read a Kindle in the pool. Maybe they are waterproof but I'm never afraid to take a book close to the ocean, lake or pool while on vacation.
I can't re-gift books from a Kindle. One of my favorite things about my personal library is pulling a book off the shelves that I adore and passing it on to someone else to read.
Also, why buy a Kindle when I have an iPhone 4? There's an app for that.

Okay, I'm ready to be convinced. Do you love your online reader? What am I missing by sticking to the real deal? While admittedly stubborn, I'm certainly open to reason and love a good debate. Books or Kindle? You tell me.

It Sprays!

Friday, 8 July 2011
My brother is very talented when it comes to do-it-yourself projects just like my father. They know how to do intermediate plumbing projects so for my birthday, Dannen purchased a gorgeous new faucet for me and installed it. Here's the before picture:


The faucet that I had was fine but the sprayer didn't work and it was pretty bottom-of-the-line. Always hoping to add value to my home for future resale, I loved his idea of upgrading the faucet.


Dannen bought a Peerless faucet that has a head that sprays and will change from a "rain" water stream to a "directional" stream with the touch of a button. First we shut off the water and then unhooked the old faucet.


Dannen knew exactly what he was doing and I watched acting as the assistant. While I'm not sure that I could install a faucet myself, I could come pretty close after his tutorial.


The after picture shows the finished product! I spend most of my time in the kitchen cleaning, looking out the window at the bird feeder and garden, and messing with the cats. This is such a nice gift. Thanks, Dannen!

It's My Party and I'll Laugh if I Want to...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011
I seem to have no shame. Again for my 32nd birthday, I threw a party for myself. My birthday happened to fall on a Friday and I knew I would be off work that evening so the ideas started to flow. My backyard is huge and a bit of a source of pride because I cleared the back lot myself. That gave me almost double the space that I had before.


The plan was to bring in a 1/2 keg of Sierra Nevada Summerfest beer, some appetizers and a bonfire later in the evening. It all worked out perfectly! People started showing up around 7ish as scheduled and I slowly became overwhelmed with my special guests (some people I haven't seen in YEARS).

Everyone that showed up was either a friend from Twitter, our wedding, Channel 8 (years ago), Channel 6 (currently), Carson-Newman College or Friends of Literacy. The mix of people was amazing and I wish I could make it known how much I appreciate every person that showed up!


I think people enjoyed the set up and I even put little containers of bug spray out. I tried to keep quiet but of course I had to brag slightly about the shed I built (shown behind my Twitter friend, George). My privacy fence was sort of crushed when the tree went down. We are all so happy that it didn't land on our houses!


Maureen and Sam (they were at our wedding and a large part of our encouragement to take the plunge) were there. They have a gorgeous little boy now who is so handsome and just adorable! I am so blessed that I get to be a part of their lives as they begin a family.


My plan was to get photos will all of my guests but after people started arriving, I began to entertain instead of take pictures. I did get one photo with Chris who is a new board member for Friends of Literacy. Yay for a great charity organization!

We had an amazing evening with many kind words from guests about hospitality and ambiance. I set up my new deck furniture in the yard along with the keg, a table for food and my Bose radio with iPod. My brother Dannen and friend Melissa helped me greet everyone and make sure people were happy with food and drink. I owe the success of the party to them.

Next time I'll certainly have more non-alcoholic beverages for the kids and games for them to play with. I have to start getting into the children mind set!


The evening was amazing. I was so happy to be surrounded by friends and pseudo-family. WATE 6 News reporter Mona's husband is a professional photographer and snapped this picture at the end of the night. It was probably around 11 and lots of people were still there!

We enjoyed ourselves, although when I returned the 1/2 keg, the owner of Bearden Beer Market said, "Denae, I'm disappointed. You barely made a dent in it!" I laughed and muttered, "We must be getting old..."

Five Star in Columbus

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

I have not dined at many five star restaurants but I got lucky this birthday when my mom and dad made reservations at The Refectory in Columbus. The building was originally constructed in 1853 as a church complete with hitching posts for people's horses. Men sat in the pews on one side of the church, women were in the other. The space now serves as one of the premier restaurants in Columbus with renowned chefs and a garden on site for fresh herbs.


After we were seated, the host sent over glasses of Cava for my birthday celebration. We were excited to sip bubbly while looking over the inventive menu.


Mom, dad and I decided to go with the Patio & Bistro 3 course meal since we were there on a Wednesday night and that would allow us to pick from a list of choices prepared by the chef. I ordered the chilled melon with port wine and fresh berries as a starter.


For my second course, I ordered the slow roasted duck leg with wild herb jus. I am quite a fan of duck since it is a dark meat poultry. The temperature was perfect and the meat was tender with a delicious flavor.


Mom and I chose a bottle of wine for the table and went with a winery from Oregon that was recommended by our server. Patricia Green Cellars has a lovely 2009 Pinot Noir. It is from the Willamette Valley where I lived for two years in Lane County.


Mom and I agreed that we would order different desserts so we could try each others. I ordered the Chocolate Bread Pudding with ice cream which was served with a birthday candle. When I made a wish and blew it out dad said, "He'll be here soon." Awww. How did he know what I wished for? ;)


Thank you to mom, dad and Dannen for such a wonderful evening celebrating my birthday. I have become a "foodie" in my old age (haha) and this was quite an experience.

Squeezing the Clamp

Sunday, 3 July 2011
I am opening my vintage online store again on Etsy.com. (Of course I'll post a link next week.) My mom helped me find a dress form for the photographs of the apparel and I needed clamps to help shape the clothes on the model for photographs. Such as this:



At ACE Hardware I approached a sales associate and said, "Would you please tell me where the clamps are?" He gave me the sideways glance and said, "What kind of clamps?" I said, "Clamps that you can use to clip things." He wasn't going to buy that. "You mean like a hose clamp?" "Um no. You know, you squeeze it and use it as a clip." He led me to an aisle and showed me the kitchen clips used for bags of potato chips. I calmly took one down and went to the cashier thinking that was my only option.

Another sales associate approached me while I was in line and said, "Did you find what you need?" Brightening a bit, I said, "No. I need actual clamps. Such as those that you'd use to clamp a tarp to a board." He said, "Ahh, industrial clamps?" Almost jumping up and down I replied, "Yes, thank you! Medium-size would be perfect." The man brings back two clamps that are perfect and I smile and take one from him and reach for the other one. He said, "Miss. You might want to try to squeeze that before you buy them. They are industrial strength."

Blink, blink.

I easily squeeze the clamp and it opens. I look him in the eye. He laughs and hands me the other one saying, "Well, I was sure you could work it." I just said, "Thank you, sir" and turned around.

What the heck? I kind of feel like I need to wear a sign that says, "I built my own shed, hung my own privacy fence and own a power drill that can take out your knee" when I shop at some hardware stores. Thankfully, the folks at Home Depot never belittle me. I'll be shopping for clamps there soon. ;)