Holy Tornado

I like to portray myself as a very strong, brave and stubborn individual, but when it comes to spring in Texas I am the biggest baby in the world. The weather in North Texas is insane, and that’s putting it mildly (unlike its summers). In the winter temperatures drop cool enough to produce snow. In the summer it bakes you like a chocolate chip cookie. Who even knows when fall begins.

The harsh changes in temperatures makes it the perfect breeding grounds for tornadoes. The sky turns into a swampy black color and the clouds droop lower to the ground. The whole experience with a tornado is intense. Last April I went through my first tornado drill, this past Sunday I got to practice again, alone.

I used to sit outside and watch the storms roll in when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. I would hang out in the garage with my pops and count the number of lightening strikes. It rained everyday in the spring and summer at almost the exact time in the afternoon. I loved it. The thunder and heavy rain could put me to sleep like a baby being rocked.

In Texas I stay huddled under the covers if there is even a slight risk of a storm headed my way. I don’t play with tornadoes. My buddy and meteorologist, Rick Mitchell from NBC5-DFW had told me all week to stay weather aware and I did. My husband was up in Washington State for the weekend and I knew if anything happened I wanted to know about it first. I checked Twitter and kept the news on all day every day.

On Mother’s Day I spent an hour crammed underneath a mattress in my closet with my two pups. The sirens went off as I was digging through old photos. I was sitting on my bedroom floor trying to find the best oldie of my mom to post on Instagram for the holiday. I needed a break from studying and obsessing over the weather.

It’s pretty funny (now) that I spent days paying attention to the weather and nothing severe happened. I took a 15 minutes break to catch my breath and BAM holy tornado. I swear nothing is eerier than sitting around waiting for something to happen while the sirens are going off. It’s the fight or flight response except it gets sawed in half. You have to fight, you can’t run, you just wait.

It took a few seconds for the siren to register as the tornado alarm. I remember thinking, no that has to be an ambulance or firetruck off in the distance. Your brain really does try to protect you from emotional trauma.

A year ago I spent some more quality time with my closet, but last year it had my husband in it with me. I wasn’t upset or afraid. He checked the weather apps while I browsed through Twitter, both trying to get more information on where the tornado/funnel cloud/storm was headed. I wasn’t bawling my eyes out. I was just there and kind of numb.

This year I was alone. After I realized my brain wasn’t playing tricks on me I dashed towards my closet. I had made it a bunker the night before in preparation for Saturday night’s weather that would continue into Sunday.

One dog followed me straight into the closet. She was watching me like we were playing a new game. The other dog went under the bed and I couldn’t convince her to come out by cooing her name or bribing her with treats. I had to get underneath the bed and drag her to the closet. It’s a pretty crappy feeling when you have to drag anything anywhere.

I wrangled all of us into our makeshift bunker within a matter of two minutes. The heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Have you ever felt so terrified that you thought you were going to puke? I thought haven been through one tornado last year I’d feel some kind of confidence. NOPE. After 15 minutes passed trying to convince my dogs we were going to be okay, I sent out text messages.

“Sirens going off”

My husband had no signal and my mother was at work, but hallelujah my in-laws called me immediately. My mother-in-law asked about school and finals to help distract me from my current situation. My father-in-law searched online for updates on the storm. They couldn’t be in the closet next to me but having them through the phone was more than enough. I wasn’t alone.

It’s funny, I want to be strong, tough and handle things on my own 24/7. My first thoughts after I was situated was MOMMY! Ironic this happened on Mother’s Day, no? I don’t care how old you are, you are never to old to still want your mom and if you’re lucky enough, after you get married you get another one. Thank God for Moms. Happy belated Mother’s Day!

The Denton Tornado

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Media Tour

This past Friday I was able to attend the annual Alliance for Women in Media Dallas/Fort Worth media tour. There were four tour options you could chose from and personally, I think I picked the best one offered.

Our first stop was iHeartMedia. We got a tour of the facilities, got presentations about the promotional, sales and integrated media departments and got to see The Jaggar Morning Show being tapped.

Jaggar Mornings  Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
Jaggar Mornings
Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

The next stop was Asher Media, a small advertising agency that sells commercial space to radio, television and Internet companies for its clients. It’s run by a small group of women who love to crunch numbers.

Fun Fact: Asher Media conducts a survey on which Fall TV shows will make the cut. They get paid to binge watch Netflix so they can go back to their clients and provide them with what TV show their ad should follow. YOU GET PAID TO BINGE WATCH NETFLIX!

Next, we got a tour of the Galleria Mall in Dallas, the one with an ice skating rink located in the center. I had never been inside of it before and could only think how much of a madhouse this place must be during the holidays. HOLY NO PARKING!

After some lunch we were able to go see the practice facilities of the Dallas Stars, the professional hockey team in Dallas. We met with Communications Director Tom Holly and he gave us some insight on what it means to work for a sport organization.

Dallas Stars Locker Room Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
Dallas Stars Locker Room
Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

Long story short, you have to have a passion to keep with the long hours for very little pay. You need to be willing to take a position anywhere in the organization (he started in merchandizing) so you can work your way up the ladder.

The last stop on the tour was Fox Sports where we got to meet Dana from The Network. I have to admit it was pretty neat to see the sets in real life. You watch it on television and when you can see it in person, you feel like you’re inside TV, pretty cool.

Fox Sports Sets Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
Fox Sports Sets
Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
Fox Sports Photo Cred: Shannon Randol
Fox Sports
Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

The story was the same there but with a twist, especially if you were a female trying to make it as a sports analyst. “You have to be better than the guy sitting next to you,” our host explained. “It’s not fair but that’s the way it is.”

Over all it was awesome to rub elbows with that many professionals in the business. I was able to hand out resumes and speak to individuals one on one. It was a great experience.

I was definitely partial to iHeartMedia, it would be awesome to be able to say I work for them and iHeart it. I strongly encourage expecting seniors and students alike to start knocking elbows early.

The two lessons I came away with was to never say no and be open to all opportunities.

Coming Home

Vacation is officially over, I was back on the road again and how depressing it was. I didn’t want to leave, man oh man I didn’t want to leave, but as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, one way or another.

Hotel Livin'
Hotel Livin’
Hanging out in our big bed not wanting to leave
Hanging out in our big bed not wanting to leave
She's a person, I swear
She’s a person, I swear

So we packed up our belongings, sadly crammed them into the car, fed the puppies and let them wander around one last time in the patch of grass behind the hotel. We got our complementary breakfast one last time, omelets from the omelet man, and headed off to tackle the 11 hour drive we had ahead of us.

I took a few last gasps of Colorado mountain air and snapped a few desperate photos of the mountains, merely to symbolize our last morning with the mountains on our side.

A very sad morning indeed, not just because the trip was over, but because I would no longer be able to wake up next to my husband and share a cup coffee with breakfast including him. Since the day we met our schedules have been opposite, so the few times in our relationship where we can start and finish the day together are important.

I’m not sure why I thought this drive was only 9 hours, maybe because that’s how long it took to get to Florida from Virginia, but this trip was definitely almost 11 hours, my poor puppies and numb rump.

The first 5 hours of the trip were easy, we passed the time with two favorite car games, one being The Animal game – my personal favorite and the other, The Alphabet game – Matt’s personal favorite.

The Animal Game is easy, and can be played in line at theme parks or 11 hour car drives. You start with ‘A’ and name as many animals starting with the letter ‘A’ and you continue throughout the alphabet all the way to ‘Z.’ When somebody is out of animals (usually if only two people are playing) the other person has to name one more animal with that letter to win the letter, the loser has to start off the next letter. If you have more people in the group, the harder it is and instead of having to win the round the loser is out, until a winner is left.

The Alphabet Game is eerily best played with two people. One person starts at the beginning of the Alphabet and the other at the end. Using each letter to find a word, outside of the car beginning with their letter, whoever gets to the other end first wins, and as beginners luck has it, I won.

We finally hit Texas a bit after our games ended, and I was surprised to find myself excited to see this flat dry and dead hunk of lump state. A little more than 5 hours to go until home, hallelujah.

Hello, Texas ...
Hello, Texas …
They're so cute sometimes :] but obviously, over the trip
They’re so cute sometimes :] but obviously, over the trip

As we got closer, about 10 minutes from the house, we encountered the insufferable road blockage due to construction,. This lead us on a detour in the opposite direction we were trying to head towards and cut us through the little town of Krum, adding an extra 15 minutes to our arrival, woof.

Coming home is always a nice breathe of fresh air, especially when the house is already clean. Home safe and sound and already planning our next adventure. Until next time, stay weird Texas.

Why Not Me?

About two weeks ago I got word I could be graduating early, YAY! The only stipulation was I needed to find another internship for the summer months. If I was unable to obtain one by registration in April, then I would have to ask the Dean for a special permission project – kind of like a graduate class, where you pick what you want to research and set up deadlines with a professor.

In a matter of five minutes, my entire world as I knew it, changed. I went from nonchalantly making my way through college, to having a fire light beneath me putting my butt in high gear, kind of like a dog chasing its tail. “OH MY GOD, I AM GOING TO FINALLY GRADUATE!” I screamed it to myself, to my husband and to my friends and family.

After the excitement settled, a wave of anxiety washed over me. “Wait, now I have to find a real job? How in the flip am I going to do that?” Almost immediately I thought I could puke on the spot. It was a feeling I wanted for so long, but I had’t thought far enough head, the moments after the light in the tunnel, I just saw the light and was happy with getting closer to that. So now what?!

The day after I realized I could graduate early, I signed up for PRSSA – Public Relations Student Society of America and started to attend the meetings that invites professionals to guest speaker. Real people in the real world. Rubbing elbows and putting myself out there, was something I hadn’t wanted to do in the year and half I was enrolled at the University of North Texas, because ever since I moved here I buried myself into a cocoon and it was nice and cozy in there.

In the meetings I would walk up to the professionals, shake their hand and introduce myself, a scary irrational fear I had, what if they laugh or blow me off? I went on agency tours with PRSSA to organizations and did the same thing. In those moments I was brave, even if I didn’t think I could be. Stepping out made me realize something.

I could do this, why not me?

A chant I have been telling myself the past month. A similar mantra the 12-man chanted in the stands while watching their beloved Seattle Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl, twice. Why not me.

I have an interview this Friday with an organization I hope to be a part of, The American Red Cross of the North Texas Region. I would be tasked with writing blogs and other content for them, as well as engaging with the social media giant it houses. I couldn’t be any more excited for this opportunity.

I also signed up for a student media tour in Frisco, near the end of the month. An all day event lasting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I can’t wait to put on my Sunday best and hand out my resumes. I will be meeting with professionals from i Heart Radio, The Dallas Stars ( hockey team), the Rough Riders ( minor league baseball team) and many more. An opportunity I can’t pass up on because of my own personal fears, it’s illogical.

That little voice of doubt and fear I have carried with me for most of my life is finally being quieted. I can do this, I want a job and I will get one. I won’t settle for anything less. Why not me?

I have always been a driven, motivated and hardworking being, in everything I have tried to accomplish. I just lost sight of who I actually was, I needed a reminder.

There are so many things I want to do in this life and I finally have grown the right mindset to achieve them. I will not allow myself to hold back, it is no longer an option, I will be graduating in May and I will get a job doing what I enjoy, I won’t settle for anything less, and neither should you.

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My Morning Wearing Red

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Photo Cred: Google

This morning a few PRSSA members and me visited the offices of The American Red Cross North Texas Region in Dallas. Our host Regional Marketing Manager, Amy Yen and Communications Associate, Lisa Morgan, showed us around the impressive and irreplaceable organization. We were also rewarded with a shortened version of the regional communications programs.

Its mission is to, “Empower online social communities to execute our mission.” A lot of its disaster response is done through social media, and on any given day the organization is mentioned around 4,000 times each day, according to Yen.

During Super Storm Sandy, there were an estimated 2.5 million conversations occurring on social media between users, The Red Cross tagged 4,500 tweets to follow up on. Workers and volunteers tracked tweets by keywords, such as: lightening, tornado, ice, and storm. How were they able to do this?

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Photo Cred: Shannon Randol

The DigiDot is a humungous operating system sponsored by Dell and ran on Radian6. “A Hootsuite on steroids,” explained Yen.

The monstrous network is located on the second floor. Upon entering the room, you immediately notice the large projectors hung front and center. To the left there are four plasma screens, each monitor various media aspects around the country. There are only two DigiDots currently operating, one being in Dallas, the other in Washington D.C.

There are two reasons why The American Red Cross North Texas Region acquired the DigiDot, the first being DFW had a huge presence on social media, the second being North Texas is the most disaster prone area in the country, you name it we got it, now even earthquakes!

Though all the technology and high tech equipment is impressive, it’s the people behind the computer screens who are the real life changers. A majority of the workers at The Red Cross are volunteers, 97 percent, actually.

Volunteers are the bread and butter of this organization and The Red Cross is ever so thankful for those people. There are 75 volunteer positions offered and they are always searching to hire a few rad interns throughout the year. If you are interested in becoming a part of this nonprofit organization, check out their website here. You’ll be grateful you did. I could only hope I score its summer internship.

As we toured the rest of the building, we were able to see their emergency storage areas. The first being a medium sized room with black containers, each labeled with its materials. Items like snacks, flip-flops, t-shirts, stuffed animals for children, and their new pet comfort bags – thanks to their new partnership with Don’t Forget to Feed Me.

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Photo Cred: Awo

Up to six or seven times a day, police and firehouses call The Red Cross to notify them about families or people, who are in need of aid, circumstances ranging from house fires or flooding.

The next storage area was in a large warehouse. Where supplies were stored on pallets and carried in bulk sizes.

To conclude my experience, I leave you with a fun fact: President Obama sent his first official tweet from The Red Cross Twitter handle page, as he too was once a volunteer with The Red Cross. What a catch phrase, right?

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I’ve got the ‘Ities & the Itch

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The art of writing is a sacred being, its appeal is charming and the idea easy, the latter is never true. Writing isn’t easy and it never will be. If you write long enough you acquire a passion for words and new ways to express them, but it’s never an easy journey, though nothing worth while hardly ever is.

Any soul who enjoys the magic of writing remembers when they first got the itch to put pen to paper and create something creative. Any “great” remembers the craving to prefect a skill became apparent. A jolt of weightless energy that hits you hard, causing the lightbulb to brighten above your head. That’s what I want to do!

Personally, I was little, maybe six or seven, too little to actually be thinking about future plans, but I knew I enjoyed reading what I wrote and creating short stories were my fav.

I acquired an eccentric style of writing while in grammar school, and my mom thought it was adorable. I had a funny tendency to only write on the left-hand edges of my paper, the rest of the paper seemed tainted. I remember thinking, look how many pages I can write! Well, when you only use half the page …

My signature trademark was soon corrected by the first or second grade, whenever the teachers start to send you home with real homework. I’m sure it’s Pre-K now, the books are heavier and the snow they have to walk to school in is deeper.

Anyways, my itch started with writing fan fiction, I didn’t know that’s what it was called, but regardless, anybody remember the T.V. series Arthur? Yes, yes I did. I wrote my own stories for Arthur and his family and friends to wander through. I wrote some stories that were funny, others were sad. Mostly, I liked to write ones that had a good moral buried in it. Typical Shannon, I was seven going on 30. 

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My mom used to keep them in her dresser, the bottom right hand drawer. By the time I was in my teens the drawer resembled how stuffed and worn it was, papers were being pushed from the sides, the handle was hanging on by one screw and the drawer had long been knocked off its frame. It was the perfect setting for where my mom crammed us kids’ works of art.

The prized possessions were all slightly brown and had obviously seen better days. Every once in a while I wonder if my mom still has them shoved in that drawer, but the memory vanishes by the time one of us calls each other.

It took years of denying any worth to my writing before I told myself to shut the -efff up. I started my higher education with the thought I’d never leave education, I’d just become a teacher. I did my classroom visits and almost ran out the door, though working with kids was rewarding.

I think that when something sinks its teeth into you, it’s hard to deny the sting it leaves. Writing got its dirty paws around me long ago, and the sooner I realized it, the quicker I believed I did have a purpose. College really does seem to suck the life out of you sometimes. 

When did your passions sink their teeth into you? Was it a furry, ( what was Arthur? An Aardvark?) cartoon friend that sparked your enthusiasm!?

-Ramble Out

The V.A. Hospital is a Joke

Dear Mr. President & South Dallas V.A. Hospital Director,

The Veterans Affairs Hospital in South Dallas is the most atrocious building, company and hospital I’ve ever had to set foot in. The receptionists you employ to handle the front face of your organization are horrible, rude and miserable human beings. I hope that with this letter, it challenges you to take a closer look into how the people who selflessly fought for this country, are being treated with such a lack of respect, a dog wouldn’t bother its time.

On February 6, my husband and I spent almost six-god-forsaken-hours at your E.R. not counting the two hours it took to drive both ways. He didn’t even get to see a doctor. A total of 10 hours wasted at the hands of your entire staff. Tell me, how would that make you feel? Do you remember what it feels like to be treated like a peon?

The whole fiasco started a week ago, when my husband injured something near his groin area. After two days without a change in the swelling or pain, that Wednesday morning he called his primary doctors office in Denton, another V.A. clinic, to schedule an appointment. That receptionist took down his information and promised a phone call by the end of the day.

No such call came, instead an explanation that appointments could be made after business hours, implying my husband needed to practice patience. So he did, for three more days until on Friday when he left work early to sit in their offices until they had to see him. It’s hard to promise a phone call to someone when they are standing in front of you.

His primary doctor explained that he wasn’t sure what was causing the inflammation but that if it were him, he’d make a trip down to the V.A. hospital in South Dallas. A urology appointment could take at least a month, and with it being so close to the family jewels, it was in his best interests to make sure nothing major was wrong.

So here we are, still waiting, staring at this faux wood walls waiting to hear his name called. So that he can vanish behind the mysterious doors that are so damn hard to get through. Where nobody knows how to get in, but plenty have made it through, just not my husband.

A women at the from desk, rudely waves off my husband at the four hour mark, when he questioned if his name had already been called. “You’re still waiting for a bed.” She couldn’t even remove her eyes from the computer screen to give him the shitty news. Where did these people, if they can even be called that, get their people skills? Didn’t they receive any customer service training?

These same employees were chumming it up with their fellow coworkers while texting and browsing around on their phones. A constant show of how much they didn’t care about the people waiting beyond their plastic patrician. What a bunch of disgusting individuals.

But it’s true, isn’t it? They don’t care, because this hospital gives “free” health care to its guests and if you don’t want to receive the free part, you are more than welcome to visit a regular E.R. I heard that solution come from a few of your employees mouths, as a problem solver for other wannabe patients. Is this how you want to be represented?

Two more hours have passed, and this time it’s my turn to do the questioning, women to women. “Hey, I was just wondering if there is any way you could tell me how much longer it’s going to be, we’ve been here almost six hours.”

Without as so much of  glance my way she told me, “he’s still waiting on a bed.” She never even asked about my last name.

“We’ve been here longer than all the people in this waiting room, you can’t give me any information on how much longer it’s going to be, or where he is on the list?”

“No, we have a priority list and that is how we see our patients.”

I had tears in my eyes because of how frustrating it was, words couldn’t describe the feeling, only the sounds of steam coming from my ears and my teeth grinding gave truth to my emotions, furious.

“Well when will my husband be a priority? How much time do we have to pay before he is allowed a doctor?”

I have few suggestions for how to better operate this lack of professional taste and common courtesy company, and it’s to employ people who have a heart. Administer attitude and personality tests, those in the green are only allowed to deal with the public, the rest of your barbarians can work with behind closed doors.

The amount of disrespect shown in such a small space is sickening. I have dealt with the public since I was 15-years-old and I have always treated people the way that I would want to be treated. Communication is what makes all relationships work, and it’s a crying shame the people in charge of this world don’t know that.

It’s a shame our own country can’t protect the same people who fought to protect them. They fulfilled their contract, now fulfill yours. If small business owners ran their businesses the way the government runs theirs, they would be out of business and maybe that’s the solution to the problem.

Get your act together.

Regrettably,

An angry, taxpaying, higher educated, concerned and frustrated wife.

“Shinseki Obama VA hospital”Jeff Koterba May 22, 2014

**Update** A little over a week later the V.A. called my husband asking if he was okay. The hospital called his name at 5 a.m. the next morning (11 hours after we arrived) and he wasn’t there. They were calling to make sure he was still alive …

Truckin’ Up To Buffalo

Is it safe to say that we, as human beings, have an overwhelming urge to fit in or feel like we belong to something? Set aside the notion of it being corny and think about it. What defines you as a person? Is it your culture, religion and family? Are you apart of a team or nostalgic about where you were raised? What is it?

78a48737096afc9efe56b310147da5b3I was born and semi-raised in Buffalo, New York. My memories of winter being my fondest, building igloos in the feet of snow we were destined to get each year and never knowing what you were for Halloween, because it was too cold to matter, everyone was double layered by the end of October anyways. My husband actually tells people I’m Canadian and that he suspects I married him for the green card.

I always felt like I belonged in Buffalo, maybe it’s because I was still young and didn’t know what it felt like to be the new girl yet again. It was my only home and I didn’t know what it meant to be anywhere else.

When I was in the fourth grade my family moved me closer to New York City. We lived in a small town called Walden. We had a town square, that mostly consisted of a library and elementary school. There were no Walmarts, but instead local grocery stores like ShopRite and Thruway.

I had made my best friends again, learned what it meant to have best friends and got my cootie shots here. I was still an outsider though. I wasn’t born in this small town and my family wasn’t tied to the local hairdresser, mechanic or family doctor. I said pop instead of soda and talked with an accent.

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When I was in eighth grade we moved again. This time, a lot farther and a little hotter. I started high school in Jacksonville, Florida and thankfully, finished it there too.

Who even knows who they are in high school, or what it means to find yourself. We all thought we knew what was up, swore we had a clue, and couldn’t be told any different. It was never the case and high school was weird.

I moved again when I was 22, with my new husband to Virginia Beach, Virginia. The first time a huge move would be made without my family. I had a new one now that consisted of only one dog at that time and a husband. I was nervous and excited at the same time.

I met two of the greatest people in Virginia, and unfortunately, true to fashion, I had to say goodbye to them a little over a year later. The Hubs wasn’t going to re-enlist and we wanted a change. Virginia smelled of sea water and he had been stuck on a boat long enough.

Ever since that move, a little piece of me never truly recovered, my husband included. He misses the ocean and being on a coast. I miss my friends and feeling like I belonged. I had people I could confide in, ladies need ladies night with plenty of wine. I can’t always lean on the hubby, Zeus knows he needs a break.

We landed in Denton, Texas in 2013. I am currently finishing up my under-grad degree and planning my escape of this flat-tornado filled-hotter than hades- state the sooner the better.

There are days I want to run home and scream, but I don’t know where home is. I listen to people talk about childhood friends, how the neighborhood has changed since they were kids, the gossip that ensues with people who have known each other for entirely too long, and I don’t have that. Will I ever? 

I’ve had an overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t feel complete unless I moved back to Buffalo and gave it another try. Easier said than done, my husband is from Southern California, that adjust might kill him, Virginia almost did.

How do you deal with emotions that never really get resolved, even after long nights of brainstorming it? Do you push them aside and bottle them up, or rant and rave to yourself late at night, when everyone is asleep? Is it the curse of overthinking or does it mean something deeper? Tell me.

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