Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Video queen

The Higher Ups at the Washington Times are asking us all to produce video, video and more video so today I and another female staff writer premiered Take Two: A Woman's View on the faith/family side of the news. (She covers social issues and I of course do religion). It's on the front page of our site now - sigh - my hair was dangling in front of my face and I think I was slouching. There is lots of room to improve here.
Of course it would help if we had some training on how to do video/TV stuff but it's not in any budget I know of so here we are, talking before cameras about, well, whatever pops into our minds. I have been doing weekly videos about the religion beat that usually show up Sundays on our site - an example is here - but I must admit it's hard to talk non-stop for 3 minutes without a teleprompter and just spout off names and statistics and get them all correct. I still have to glance down at a notepad which is a no-no. There's always something that goes haywire: either my mini-microphone is creating static or I'm pursing my mouth in a weird way or - the list goes on. Often my mind just BLANKS out for a few seconds as I am trying to remember this Senate minority leader or that bishop. But I still jumped at the chance to do all these videos as the folks at the paper want them and I have lots of expertise on my beat so, well, pourquoi pas? Hopefully in a few months I'll be a lot better in front of the cameras.
As for Veeka, here's a photo of her posing in her school get-up. She loves her little back pack and her lunch box, etc. And she is only 3. At her age, I was pretty much hanging out at home all day but it's a new century and the age of the Single Mom and my little darling ends up at daycare which to be honest I think she really prefers because being with Mommy all day is a tad boring compared to all the kiddos she gets to play with at "school" as she now calls it.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am off to a friend's place in the Shenandoah Valley. So much has happened this year - mostly good - for me and I am thankful for that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Susan Shaughnessy, RIP

The photo with this entry shows four people who attended Veeka's 2nd birthday party. The young woman on the far right, wearing a blue blouse, was Susan Shaughnessy, a lovely young woman who loved helping the poor and house sitting my kitties when I traveled. During the past 3 years when I was on longer and longer trips (India, Italy, Australia), Susan was the one who took up residence in my condo and kept everything going while I was gone. Good housesitters are hard to find and in time we became friends.
She also stayed at my place when I was gone nearly 7 weeks adopting Veeka and she was the only person to meet me at the airport when I flew in, waiting patiently for nearly 2 hours while I cleared customs with all of Veeka's paperwork. The last time she housesat my place was in July when I was in the Pacific Northwest. That's when I learned of Eduardo, her new sweetheart from Spain and a man she was seriously interested in marrying. She was so excited about him. In October she flew to Madrid to meet his family. Her future seemed bright. A year or so after her mother had pulled out of colon cancer and survived, finally things were going Susan's way.
Then in mid-October she began getting headaches and finally came down what seemed like the flu. But she felt more more exhaustion than one usually does with the flu. Concerned, she visited her doctor, but he just told her she had a weird strain of the flu and to go home and rest. His advice proved fatal. She rested the next day and then on Saturday Oct. 25, she went to bed early trying to sleep off whatever was wrong. She never woke up.
The next day her housemates found her in a coma and rushed her to the hospital. Turns out she had a virus that turned into a freak case of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks healthy brain cells. Basically she was brain-dead. A lot of us began praying and fasting for her. On Saturday, I got a phone call that if I wanted to visit her, to come that very day, as the family was going to disconnect the respirator the next day. When I arrived at the ER, with her broken-hearted family sitting there and the man who was about to become her fiance also sitting there, I just wanted to break down. It was awful. Susan was hooked up to all sorts of machines but her dad said the part of her brain (the cortex?) that regulates body temp and involuntary reactions was fried. They tried shining a flashlight into her eyes and her pupils didn't even contract. Someone at the Mayo Clinic who saw her MRI (or brain scan I forget which) said it was the worst case he'd ever seen. What would have happened had that doctor, instead of basically ignoring her, had taken a blood test then rushed her to Johns Hopkins?
They unhooked her respirator on Sunday morning and her breathing slowed to about 80 percent. Her vital signs continued to do well for a day or so and then everything must have collapsed because she died about 6 pm Monday. I went to her office today at Catholic University to talk with her boss and she had such a lovely view of the basilica and the quad and the sunsets. And so now her life has set. She was only 30. I'll be doing a column for Thursday's paper on how once again evil things happen to good people. I dug around in my photos and discovered I did have one of her, albeit a group shot.
Here was a friend who was cut down with a bizarre sickness that happens to a tiny percentage of the population. Still, she was cut down in the flower of life. Man - nor woman - knows not their time.
PS - Here is the column I wrote about her for the Nov. 20 Washington Times. It got *lots* of good reaction.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Applez everywhere

This is a typical Friday night here where, to amuse Veeka before bedtime, I made some pumpkin bread. (I had made some pumpkin custard a few days before and it was such a disaster, I had to figure out something to do with all those pudding molds, so I threw two of them into some bread dough). That is baking in the oven now. She is slowly learning how to knead bread. Hopefully by the age of four she'll be making her own lunches.
Then Veeka and I made applesauce. That is, I did all the work while she munched on apples and tossed a few pieces here and there. I am including a photo of Veeka in a local apple orchard. We've been to two this fall and she loves picking apples and taking one bite and then FLINGING them into the grass. The sheer waste really gets her going.
The painters were here today to do the spare bedroom in a coral pink. I really like it (all the rooms in my place are in bright colors) but I am sure my mother will be horrified as she's into beiges. Not moi. Let's see...other news - I am doing webcasts on religion for the Times web site. Sometimes I look good and other times - ugh. They appear like 3-minute TV spots where I am jabbering about some religious topic. I spent 2 days this week covering the Catholic bishops in Baltimore. It's raining out. Things are dull but at least I have a place to go for Thanksgiving.
It is also 10:30 p.m. and Veeka will NOT go to sleep. I think she's waiting for the bread to be done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Our little Mother Teresa

When I took Veeka to an All Saints Day party, I had to figure out quick how to dress her. Idea: take an old shower curtain, sew some blue stripes on it and wrap it about her like a sari and voila, she's now Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, soon to be a saint. Our little one was SO cute all wrapped about in white and blue from head to toe and with a scarf about her head. Sitting through the church service was a tad difficult and when all the "saints" stood up in front of the church to be quizzed by the priest, Miss Veeka began to wail. She zoomed back to the pew and jumped into my lap.
The day before, she was Nemo the fish, walking gamely about the neighborhood on a clear, gorgeous evening, gathering a bag of candy. She thought that was pretty cool - just go to a house and people give you yummy things.
No big news here. I won't have any part in covering the election - thank God - other reporters get to stay up all night doing that. I am recording weekly webcasts on religion for the Washington Times, so click on their site, then look for "videos" and you'll see a "Duin on religion" headline. And moi underneath. I am still learning how to work the camera equipment.