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Tami's take on a variety of issues.

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Serious Questions Raised in Taser/Gun Mixup Fatal Shooting

Posted on April 15, 2015 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Tulsa (KFAQ) – The attorney who represents the family of the suspect killed in a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force undercover operation gone horribly wrong raised some serious questions after Sheriff Stanley Glanz's exclusive, in-depth interview with KFAQ’s Pat Campbell.

 

Listen to Dan Smolen's full interview here.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpcKhYnAuUU" target="_blank">WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. Watch the full video of the chase and takedown of Eric Harris.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpcKhYnAuUU" target="_blank">WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. Watch the full video of the undercover operation to purchase a handgun from Eric Harris.

 

Tulsa attorney Dan Smolen, whose website says his firm specializes in “civil tort litigation, civil rights and employment law,” spoke with Campbell in response to Glanz’s exclusive, in-depth interview with Campbell on Tuesday.

 

During the interview, Smolen told Campbell, “I’ve got lots of concerns, not only by what [Glanz] had said yesterday [on KFAQ’s Pat Campbell Show], but things that have just come out in general.”

 

Smolen called into question the fact that reserve deputy Bob Bates, who has been confirmed by Glanz to be a generous benefactor to the sheriff’s office, was part of what Smolen called the “elite” Violent Crimes Task Force. He said many of the expensive vehicles and tactical items Bates paid for went directly to the team on which he served. Smolen also said he doubted other reserve deputies were allowed to serve on such sensitive operations.

 

KFAQ has requested a list of names of reserve deputies who have participated in undercover sting operations of this magnitude and their functions. Glanz said Bates was provided “third-tier” support.

 

“Mr. Bates absolutely had no business being there,” said Smolen, who equated the 73-year-old reserve deputy, who CLEET confirmed with KFAQ is a certified peace officer in the state of Oklahoma, to a bystander in a surgical suite who is allowed to jump in and perform surgery.

 

“Well and if the neurosurgeon, you know, he got a phone call, you could go ahead and use the scalpel while he was gone,” Smolen quipped.

 

KFAQ co-host Eddie Huff pointed out that Bates had hours of training documented by the Council on Law Enforcement Education, which provides training oversight for most law enforcement officers in the state of Oklahoma.

 

“When they’re up there saying he got 320 hours or a thousand hours of field training and that he’s an advanced special reserve deputy. That’s not a CLEET issue, that’s a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office issue. And I haven’t seen a single record that this man had any field training. Period.”

 

TCSO general counsel Meredith Baker said the department did send Bates’ training records to Smolen’s office on April 10. The records, obtained by KFAQ, state that he has received credit for hundreds of hours of training since he joined the TCSO reserve program in 2008.

 

“And in fact I have reason to believe that the field training records that did exist no longer exist. But the ones that did exist at one time are falsified,” Smolen said.

 

KFAQ spoke with Steve Emmons, the director of CLEET, about how the agency tracks training for officers to determine whether they are still qualified to serve.

 

“Individual agencies qualify their own people,” Emmons said. “And then they report to CLEET that they have qualified them, and then all our records would show is whether a person had or had not qualified [according to the local agency]. We get the sign-in sheet and then we just enter it in to the system.”

 

The recording of officer training is basically on an honor system. There is no way for the agency to determine whether the person who signed the sign-in sheet actually attended the training. When KFAQ inquired whether we could have access to the sign-in sheets where Bates (or any other officer) attended training, Emmons said Oklahoma Open Records rules prohibit the release of information regarding training for individuals without a subpoena.

 

Another issue many critics have had about the video released by TCSO of the takedown of Eric Harris is the way in which deputies appeared to grind Harris’ head into the ground when Smolen said Harris was compliant. Glanz told Campbell on Tuesday, part of law enforcement officers' training in containing a fleeing, struggling suspect is to control the head.

 

"If you can pin their head, then you control their body. One of my deputies is a CLEET instructor…When you're in a struggle with someone that's a danger to the community then you try and control him the best that you can, and that's simply a tactical move that controls that person when they're down,” said Glanz.

 

Smolen said he’d like to see anywhere where that defensive tactic is taught.

 

“I would ask you to find someone in law enforcement, particularly with CLEET, have them come in and tell you about their training practices with respect to slamming their knee into someone’s head on the ground like that.”

 

KFAQ spoke with Emmons about whether the organization’s defensive tactics include methods that control the head with the knee, as Sheriff Glanz stated in his interview with KFAQ on Tuesday. Emmons said CLEET teaches a method called the Three Point in subduing a suspect.

 

“Three-point is when they control the upper body of someone, if they’re above the person, they put a foot up against a shoulder, and they lean their knee on their shoulder at a 45-degree angle toward the opposite side buttocks. So they never teach anything with the head or the neck as a control point. It’s all done with the shoulder and the upper back.”

 

A comparison of images of instructors teaching the three point tactic sent by CLEET to KFAQ llustrates the difference between the takedown of Eric Harris and what is taught at CLEET.

 

KFAQ has asked TCSO whether deputies received additional, more advanced defensive tactics training than the basic training described by CLEET. We also requested the names of additional trainers. We are awaiting a response.

 

Smolen expressed concern over the fact that there are no records that indicate Bates was qualified with his personal revolver, which TCSO identified as a .38 but Smolen refers to as a .357 snub-nose.

 

“What I see in the video is Mr. Bates walk over, with a taser on his chest. Why he’s there, I don’t know. He doesn’t have any field training. He’s not certified with a .357 and I doubt any officer of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has ever been certified with a .357 snub-nosed revolver in the line of duty.”

 

The records obtained by KFAQ from TCSO show that the department turned over to CLEET training sign-in sheets that qualify Bates annually on a Glock and not on a Smith and Wesson .38 – the weapon TCSO said was used in the shooting of Eric Harris. Department officials said Bates was carrying his own handgun because he was not expected to be as close to the takedown as he was.

 

Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 44-year-old Eric Harris on April 2 during an undercover operation with the Sheriff's Violent Crimes Task Force.

 

Deputies said Harris had sold methamphetamine to undercover deputies and surveillance showed the convicted felon apparently attempting to sell them what he described as a “Luger” handgun. When Harris saw the arrest team move in on the vehicle where he was allegedly making the sale, he ran and deputies pursued. Video from a deputy's body camera shows at least three deputies subduing Harris. In the background, a voice can be heard yelling, “Taser, taser.” Seconds later, Bates shot Harris as deputies struggled to subdue him, immediately saying, "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."

I'm great in a crisis! (But I'm not that great a leader.)

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

By Tami Marler, MBA

Some managers pride themselves on managing crises. Fixing problems and saving their organization from the brink of death is a badge of honor.

While crisis management is one important characteristic of an effective leader, chief executives have to ask, why are we always managing crises, and do I need a crisis manager or a more effective manager?

Often, the fact that your organization finds itself in crisis at all can be investigated back to a lack of planning and (brace yourselves) poor management. Sure, it’s important for your leaders to be lithe, spontaneous and flexible, but fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants management will, more often than not, lead to crisis after crisis.

According to Tim Connor, CSP, an internationally-renowned crisis management, sales and leadership speaker and author, there are specific characteristics, attitudes, behaviors and philosophies inherent in companies that operate with crisis mis-management as a standard.

Following is Connor’s list:

  1. A heavy top-down corporate culture when it comes to information flow.
  2. Organizations where everyone consistently has too much on their plate.
  3. Senior management or ownership that has their ego too vested in outcomes.
  4. Poor communication throughout the organization.
  5. High turnover at the mid and lower levels in the organization.
  6. Poor employee morale.
  7. Organizations that have excessive politics throughout.
  8. Organizations that are more concerned with who rather than what.
  9. Organizations that reward incompetence rather than performance.
  10. A lack of confidence, skill or experience on the part of managers and executives.
  11. Censorship.
  12. Unclear and/or poorly communicated goals, objectives and corporate direction.
  13. Arrogance.
  14. Employees and/or managers that are insecure or lack a positive self-image.
  15. Procrastination.
  16. A lack of accountability or organization discipline.

Connor summarizes the above characteristics into five major contributors: Ego, ignorance, arrogance, politics and communication style. Businesses that operate with these five attributes as driving forces find themselves with poor employee morale, no trust among managers and line staff, high turnover, low accountability, customer base erosion and clueless management.

So, what do you do if your organization is caught up in a whirlwind of crisis management? Following is a list of recommendations that will help you minimize the chaos and ensure your leaders are spending their time on things that keep your company in forward motion:

  1. Develop a strategic plan with clearly-defined vision, mission and core goals. Have every employee participate in the planning process and make sure every employee—from the top down—understands his/her role in ensuring the strategic plan is followed.
  2. Examine incentive-based pay with individual and group milestones tied to the strategic plan and the company’s measures of success.
  3. Make the incentive program and an abbreviated version of the strategic plan available to all employees. Include it in new employee orientations, employee evaluations and all messages to staff.
  4. Develop a meaningful communication program that keeps information coming and going. When employees make suggestions for improvement, use them whenever possible. When you ask employees for input, show them you are listening by employing some of their ideas. Look for opportunities to say yes, rather than roadblocks to say no.
  5. Ensure your managers are educated and experienced in the positions they hold so their subordinates can respect their directives.
  6. Provide your managers with the support they need from qualified, well-trained, experienced support personnel—not just people who have been with your organization for a long time.
  7. Only reward and promote people whose performance results (according to your strategic plan) warrant co-worker respect. In addition to determining whether the employee has exceeded what he/she was hired to do, consider conducting peer evaluations prior to rewarding or promoting anyone to a leadership position.
  8. Have a concise employee evaluation program with a schedule of evaluation periods. Ensure employees know your expectations (and how expectations are measured) by providing them with their evaluation forms during new employee orientation, and make the information available at all times. Give employees cheat sheets to succeed!
  9. Manage by walking around. Visit with employees often and respond to their comments—not with platitudes, but with action.
  10. Throw ego out the window and focus with laser precision on your corporate mission. If you are not on the path to achieving your mission because of ego or pride, get yourself back on the right course.

 Avoiding unnecessary crises requires planning, accountability and effective leadership. It takes courage to take a searching and fearless inventory of your personnel and processes to determine whether you have the right people in the right places doing the right things. But taking such courageous steps might save you some britches, because you'll find yourself flying by the seat of them far less often.

Too young to be old

Posted on March 10, 2013 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I'm young enough that I can still count the wrinkles and gray hairs but old enough that my era as a full-time mom has come to an end. The nest is empty. I can sit around and cry, or I can decide where to go from here.

I've been fortunate to accomplish most things I've set out to accomplish in my life. I've been leader of my high school flag team, a college cheerleader, a professional cheerleader, a college graduate, a masters graduate, Miss Oklahoma, talent winner and Top 10 finalist at Miss America, a professional singer, a professional emcee, a television news reporter, a television news anchor, a business executive...my life has been full.

But if I'm honest, all I really ever wanted and needed to be was a mom. I wanted to have babies and love them and cherish them and be a positive force in their lives and the world they would impact. I got to do that for too short a time. Because of divorce and vastly contraditory parenting styles, I wound up having an empty nest a lot sooner than I had planned.

Today it's too late to go back to the things I gave up to be a mom, and it's too soon to retire to a nursing home rocking chair with my knitting needles and basket of yarn. My husband says I'm too hot to be an old lady.

So I look at people who have reinvented themselves and flown out of the empty nest. My big sister is my greatest example. Jan Marler Morrill used to be the shrinking violet sister who carried my evening gowns when I was performing in pageants. After her Big Star sister brought down the house, Jan would dutifully go to the dressing room to clean up my mess and pack my gowns, hair spray and makeup. She spent her life in the background, taking care of everyone else. It must have been hard when that role came to an end.

Jan could be in a rocking chair somewhere (her nest has been empty for many years), but she never sits still long enough to rock. She's a newly-published author who gives lectures and who every once in a while paints a painting or runs in a marathon or goes on an international vacation or whatever she feels like doing.

I'm sure Jan at some point reached a crossroads where she wondered if her best years were behind her. When you've effectively reached the end of the only life you've ever imagined, it's time to start imaging a new life. That's where I am today.

I've been everything I've ever wanted to be. Now I just need to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Because I'm too young to be old.

Think I'm turning Japanese

Posted on March 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Once when I was competing in a pageant on my journey to the title of Miss Oklahoma, an interview judge asked me what I thought at the time was an odd and inappropriate question: "How do you feel about being half Japanese?" I'm pretty sure I looked at her as though she had just vomited on my $1,500 suit.


"Well, because I have always been half Japanese, I really have nothing else to which I can compare being half Japanese," I said out loud, while silently I said, "How does it feel to be an idiot?" (That was the way I thought back then.)


Through the years since my pageant days, and especially after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that virtually destroyed the birthplaces of my grandparents, I understand the profundity of the judge's question from so many years ago.

My mother is Japanese - born in Sacramento, California to Yoiko of Fukushima, Japan and Fukumatsu of Sendai, Japan. She was the youngest of nine children and the family's great hope for being an Americanized Japanese. She is the only member of her family to speak with no trace of an accent because of all of the voice and diction lessons she took as a child.


Day after day was a dichotomy of training in traditional Japanese ceremonial fare: tea ceremonies; Odori and Hanayagi dancing; Koto (stringed instrument) lessons; while at the same time she took American vocal performance lessons from some of the top voice coaches in California. Her mother, the grandmother I never met, expected young Miyoko to excel in every lesson. "Good enough" was not in the Sasaki family's vocabulary.


What does it mean to be half Japanese? I realize now that it means my siblings and I are expected to strive for excellence; to cling to our Japanese culture while excelling at skills that make us uniquely American.


In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the world has seen a Japanese society reeling with grace from what should be considered the worst disaster in that proud nation's history. But it's not. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were arguably just as devastating and the Japanese recovered from those manmade tragedies with the same grace and honor. In those tragedies, they also actively practiced forgiveness.


My mother recently took my sisters and me to Hiroshima. We toured the bombing museum and "ground zero" with eerie, conflicting feelings of pride, awe and shame. At first I was afraid of how a group of Americans would be treated while touring around this hallowed ground, once decimated by U.S. bombers. But we only experienced kindness, sincerity and gracious hospitality from the people of Japan.

 

My oldest sister recently taught me about the Japanese philosophy of Gaman, or patience, endurance, perseverance. I never even thought about it, but my mother--in her Americanized way--drilled the concept into our psyches throughout our lives. I looked upon terms such as, "fight fire with water," "be kind to people on your way up the ladder because you never know who you will meet on your way back down," "let it roll off your back" as signs of weakness - not strength. But she was trying to teach me gaman - to endure hardships with grace. God bless her, for mixed with my Japanese blood is the blood of American revolutionaries, Irish rebels and Scottish warriors. While I will always peservere, I'm not always one to persevere with grace. Her little Japanese heart must break every time I take on a new battle.

So what does it mean to be half Japanese? I realize now that it means I am privileged to carry the wisdom and goodness of generations of a proud culture that actively practices gaman. I watch with great sadness and pride as the Japanese people -- my people -- gracefully recover from this most horrific of disasters. I've also learned I don't always know everything and I probably owe a certain pageant judge a long overdue apology.

Bullying: One victim, many players

Posted on March 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Most of us have seen the compelling video of the obnoxious dancing bully taking pot shots at the overweight victim who finally has his fill and body slams the little punk. Here's a personal admission: I was proud of 16-year-old Casey Heynes, who said he had been bullied all of his life, for standing up to not only the bully in his face, but all of the bullies surrounding and watching the fight. He may have been suspended for defending himself, but he would have been king of the house when he got home if he were my child.

I have taught my own children, "You better not ever start a fight, but you are absolutely allowed to finish one."

In a world where news anchors give enticing warnings about the graphic nature of upcoming video, then proceed to run the video repeatedly for as long as possible, we've likely seen every possible follow-up to the story. Most interesting to me is the bullying "expert" who gives advice to bullying victims who aren't watching.

"You should walk away [while you're being punched in the face] and go tell a trusted adult," said the "expert" to her nonexistent audience.

Many parents will tell you, telling a trusted adult only works when the adult can actually be trusted to appropriately handle bullying. If the adult ignores the bullying victim or - worse yet - brings the victim and bully into an office for a "peer mediation," bullying activity will likely escalate and cause the bully to seek reinforcements from the anti-snitch crowd.

What I have not seen in the aftermath of the infamous bullying video is an analysis of all the other ways this bullying incident might have been stopped and all of the other students who should have been harshly disciplined for taking part. It's easy to focus on the two boys at the center of the video where all the action is happening, but bullying does not occur in a vacuum. Successful bullying require an audience, and the innocent bystanders are necessary players in the bullying melee.

Starting with the two girls who stood there laughing when the boy with the camera and Little Dancing Bully Dude first approached Casey: What could they have done, besides giggle and move to a spot where they would have a better vantage point? Bystanders who do nothing are, in my opinion, just as culpable as the bully. Children who know they are expected to be ethical and moral leaders would intervene before the violence escalates. They learn to be moral and ethical leaders in the home--from parents who will not accept behaviors that demean others.

And the punk with the camera who plays lookout and says, "Keep recording. Look, who's that in the background?" Did he get suspended? Did his mother blister his behind when he got home? Or did he brag about it and show off the tape to all of his friends with absolutely no punishment meted out on the homefront? If kids like that had vigilant parents who stepped in when they heard their children laughing at the expense of others, Little Dancing Bully Dude wouldn't have the audience he needs to pick on kids like Casey.

What about the second bully--the bystander who approached Casey after he body slammed Little Dancing Bully Dude? First he stood by and watched his little buddy bully Casey, then he tried to step in to carry the bullying mantle. I hope his parents had a stern talk with him when they saw the video just about everyone in the world has now seen.

The only child who acted with any integrity and courage was the girl who stopped the would-be bully from going after Casey. She should be held up as an example in the campaign to fight bullying. Every parent should show their children her brave, righteous actions.

Walking up on the scuffle between Casey and Little Dancing Bully Dude, she said, "Come on, guys, you need to...," in an attempt to diffuse the situation. When the second bully started to follow Casey, she stepped between them, held up her hands and said, "I think you need to back off and leave him."

IT ONLY TOOK ONE GIRL whose gut told her what she was seeing was wrong. Were it not for her courage and integrity, I believe the bullying mantle would have been passed to the second boy. Hers is the behavior that needs to be trumpeted; not that of the bully or the victim, but of the bystanders who have the power to stop bullying now.

Parents, be the "trusted adult" in your children's lives. Teach them to stop the bully now; for if they don't, they may one day find themselves as the lone victim in a coliseum of inert innocent bystanders.

What do fish think?

Posted on March 20, 2011 at 6:13 PM Comments comments (0)

Fishing is by far one of my favorite pastimes. Nothing soothes the soul like casting a line and watching the gently rippling water as you slowly reel it back to shore. I am by no means an expert fisherperson. My husband jokes that I catch more elusive stick fish and tree bass than actual fish, but I enjoy the process, nonetheless.

Several times a fishing session I cast my line into the trees surrounding my parents' pond. I can't even imagine the thousands of dollars of lures I've left to adorn the many branches. It's like Christmas all year 'round.

One time I cast my line over a branch and the bright green rubber grub dipped into the water below. Rather than wrestle yet another line from the tree, I waited to see if a fish would take a nibble. Sure enough, a rather large crappie grabbed the hook with such force, it yanked the branch down to the water. I pulled and reeled, pulled and reeled like a real fisherperson. When the fish finally tired of the struggle, he was dangling 15 feet above the water. What on earth must he have been thinking, I wondered.

Crappie: I can see everything from here! My little fishy friends will never believe...hey LOOK! It's my friend Mr. Turtle. Hey, Mr. Turtle, I'm way up here IN THIS TR...What's that? A sparkly worm, hanging on another branch? It's getting kind of hard to brea...Oh my gosh! ANOTHER sparkly worm on THAT branch! Hey, this worm in my mouth doesn't taste as good as I thought it would ta...I wonder why that human is standing there with that stick in her hand...I'd like to get down now.

Fish are notoriously Attention Defecit Disorder. Why else would they endlessly chase shiny rubber worms around a pond and up into trees? That may be why fish and I get along just fine.

Raising the perfect child

Posted on March 19, 2011 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Raising the perfect child

(July 19, 2008)

I have two teenagers and a prepubescent boy (who would die a million deaths if he knew I just called him that on the worldwide web). Throughout their lives I have tried to teach them right from wrong. I have introduced them to that still, small voice of their conscience for those inevitable times they are faced with a decision between what's right, and what feels right. I have taught them to recognize and accept the natural consequences of those times they make the wrong choice.

Take the time my oldest son was just beginning to wear big-boy pants. It was a hot summer day and he was learning to swim with arm floaties. We cautioned him regularly about not getting into the water without his water wings. He knew the rules.

He also knew Batman had superhuman powers.

We had all just gotten out of the swimming pool, pulled off the water wings and dried off for the day. I left my teenage niece and nephew with my little ones while I ran upstairs to get some drinks.

I wasn't gone three minutes when I heard my nephew shouting for me from the pool area. Just as I got to the stairs of the deck, I saw my niece pulling my son from the bottom of the deep end to the edge of the pool. I bolted down the stairs as she shoved my tiny boy into the hands of my nephew, who was standing on the deck.

I was gripped with terror at the thought of losing one of my precious angels. I dropped to the deck beside him and held his little floatie-less body. Thankfully, he was choking and coughing, wiping the water and tears from his eyes.

"What were you doing?!" I screamed. "Mommy told you never to get in the water without your floaties!"

"But Mommy..." he said, sobbing.

I interrupted, demanding to know what compelled him to go against what he knew was the cardinal water rule. "You know you're not supposed to swim without Mommy or Daddy in the water with you!"

"But Mommy," he tried again, "I was wearing my Batman big-boy pants."

Even though his parents had taught him right from wrong, somehow Batman had convinced him we might not know everything. He caved to peer pressure from the caped crusader.

It would not be the last time.

Well-meaning parents do our best to help our children to discover the internal compass that will direct them to the right paths in life. Even the children of well-meaning parents occasionally stray from the right path. When (not if, when) it happens, we expect them to accept the natural consequences, pick themselves up and put themselves back on the right track.

But what about when they make poor choices while they're at school?

As a parent, I want to know that their teachers and principals have the same beliefs and expectations that I have. While I will protect my children to the death, I also want them to be held accountable for their actions. If they get caught doing something inappropriate at school, they first fear my wrath, then they fear the school's actions. They also know if they were truly wrong, they will endure whatever disciplinary action the school deems appropriate. I will not bail them out.

That being said, if one of my children were ever referred to an alternative school for disciplinary reasons, I hope I would teach them that their predicament is a natural consequence of their poor choice. I would talk to them every day about their experience at the school, what they learned about their choices and how they would choose differently the next time.

My children know they can tell me just about anything without fear I will overreact. They know from experience that I will listen to what they have to say if they present their case calmly, without exaggeration. If they tell me they are being treated poorly or unfairly, I ask them for the specific incidents or words that led them to that conclusion. I ask them to explain the specific circumstances that preceded the unfair or inappropriate incidents. Either I help them to understand the other party's possible point of view, or I ask them if they would like for me to intervene. Most of the time the discussion alone is enough to help them see things more clearly. Other times they decide they know how to take care of it themselves. Rarely, they will allow me to get involved.

Those who know I'm coming to them on my child's behalf better understand I'm not coming for platitudes from some lackey. I want solutions from someone who is qualified to give me solutions. I want to be able to go back to my children and assure them they will face their consequences in a fair and appropriate manner.

My children must be able to trust that I will do whatever I can to help them live up to my expectations of them; whether at home or at school. They also must be able to trust that my expectations are born of my undying faith in their goodness. They trust that while peers may come and go, their parents love and accept them forever.

Batman is perhaps the world's most magnificent superhero with the utmost standards of right and wrong, but my son doesn't trust him anymore.

Gainfully Unemployed

Posted on March 19, 2011 at 5:47 PM Comments comments (0)

Gainfully Unemployed

(February 16, 2011)

Hypothetically speaking, what if you were to find yourself wildly successful in a career, but some aspect of your job put you at odds with your conscience? What if survival in your career meant dialing back your core beliefs? In such a hypothetical scenario, one might find an opportunity to make a clean exit. And one might find him or herself gainfully unemployed.

In a completely unrelated scenario, I find myself gainfully unemployed since late December. I decided at the time I left my job to take a little time to reflect on my abilities and experience and consider only careers that allow me to use my God-given strengths to truly help others. It's a serious leap of faith in these trying economic times.

The first few days were incredibly difficult for a woman who has worked since the age of 16. I struggled with feelings of guilt for not having something to do, some deadline to meet or some stressful scenario weighing on my shoulders. I redecorated and rearranged the house. I cleaned out my car. I took my elderly mother and uncle on errands. I helped friends with marketing and public relations for their businesses. I dabbled with the 'tween novel I've been writing for five years. I slowly worked my way toward blissful unemployment.

Blissful unemployment lasted about two weeks.

I have been fortunate to never have had to search for a job. I have often joked that I have "Forrest Gumped" my way through life because doors have always just kind of opened for me.

One time after high school graduation I was touring a college campus with a friend and a nervous little old lady nearly ran us down in the quad and told me I was going to be late for tryouts.

"Tryouts?" I asked.

"Yes! Cheerleading tryouts! In the gym!" She exclaimed, leading the way to a surprise fork in my life's journey.

I wasn't even planning to attend college but I tried out for cheerleader, made the squad and got a tuition scholarship. BOOM...I was in college, Forrest Gump style.

Another time I decided to enter a pageant so I could earn scholarship money to attend The University of Tulsa. I wound up winning my first pageant and the ensuing four-year journey changed my life. Becoming Miss Oklahoma, winning the Miss America talent competition and making Top 10 at Miss America earned me $70,000 in scholarships, which earned me a Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration. A stint emceeing the Miss Oklahoma pageant helped me to land my first job in television, and on and on...

I am just beginning the process of thinking about searching for another job, which is not quite the same as actually searching for another job. I'm tweaking my resume, timidly sending it to employers that have posted jobs that match my skill set. One or two jobs really interest me but I know from my experience in the hiring process that most jobs are posted as a formality to meet some legal requirement or company policy. Most jobs are already filled, which is okay because I don't absolutely have to find something until April or so.

So I'm gainfully unemployed. I still have many contributions to make to the right employer and I am willing to wait for the optimal position. I am learning the art of being patient through the calm. I believe with all of my heart that God brought me here (wherever "here" may be) for a reason that will ultimately benefit others. Will I Forrest Gump my way through this one? Stay tuned...

Human Tragedy and (un-trumpeted) Triumph in Japan

Posted on March 19, 2011 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

News headlines are designed to attract an audience. "Japan Prepares for Another Chernobyl", "Can Japan Nuclear Radiation Blow Over to U.S.?", "Japan Awaits Meltdown". My sister sent me a letter today that might prompt a headline such as, "Woman Fights for Life in Tsunami Ruins," but she would probably have a different title. Following are excerpts from her blog:

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend's home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out a sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets. People keep saying, "Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another."

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.

We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Thank you again for your care and Love of me,

Anne

After working in television newsrooms for 11 years, I can't help but feel the pangs of missing participating in the big news stories. Even national and world news stories have local impact, and my job as a reporter was to "localize" stories that made world headlines. My personal goal was to "bring home" the impact of a national or world story so that Oklahomans might see how human beings are intertwined - regardless of our geographical proximity. The less auspicious corporate goal is to attract viewers (and their advertising dollars) with powerful images in order to drive up ratings and win the day. Newsrooms and promotions departments struggle with the delicate balance between imparting relevant local information and outright exploitation.

ex·ploi·ta·tion

—noun

1. use or utilization, especially for profit.

A friend of mine was recently instructed to localize a story about a killer whale trainer who was killed during a routine aquatic show at a Florida theme park. The video was spectacular but there was one problem in localizing the story: We live in Oklahoma. Not many man-eating killer whale stories here. The reporter craftily went to a local aquarium park to talk with a marine expert about killer whales--which they did not have. But that's beside the point. The station got to play the compelling video over and over again in promotions throughout the day, driving viewers to their evening newscasts.

It isn't pretty. It is what it is. I still watch the station and the reporter because, overall, they are ethical in their handling of information.

A story as powerful as the world-changing earthquake and tsunami in Japan is easily localized - even halfway around the world. Truly, such a tragedy impacts us all. But how to responsibly make it "hit home"? Promotions departments and local newsrooms around the U.S. use tactics like, "Japan Nuclear Catastrophe Could Happen Here", "Oklahoma's Recent Earthquakes: Disaster Imminent?" Be truthful. Are you attracted by such ploys for your valuable time? More responsible newsrooms tap in to the human desire to help those less fortunate with stories like, "Japan Catastrophe: How You Can Help", "Social Media Links Oklahomans to Japan Survivors" or "Local Exchange Students Await Word from Japan".

Pay attention to the way your news stations attempt to win your attention. Do they use ploys to frighten you into viewing, or do they attempt--through responsible promotions and ethical storytelling--to bring you closer to the reality of the circumstances? Believe it or not, there are probably more stories of triumph coming out of Japan than there are stories of tragedy. No earthquake or tsunami is stronger than the human spirit. Are you reading and watching the stories of inspiration and hope?

I made a decision when I left local news that I would only give my valuable time to those outlets that tell the whole story - the good, the bad, the horrific and the inspirational - not just the outlets that frighten me into watching.

May 8, 2010

Posted on May 8, 2010 at 2:22 PM Comments comments (1)

Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us. -Thomas Paine


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