My European adventure on WOW

wowlogMy family and I recently returned from a trip to Europe. It was amazing in so many ways that it is hard to tell you about everything. But I do want to share some observations about taking WOW Airlines. WOW Airlines just started flying out of the Cincinnati airport last month, so I was nervous about taking it.

We took WOW Airlines because it saved us $2,000 for four tickets over Delta. I was a little weary about using this airlines because of some of the chatter on the Internet, but everything turned out just fine. I did research and convinced myself the worst that could happen is that we would be stuck in Iceland — and that would give us the opportunity to see another country for a day.

But I still had some other fears:

  • I was nervous about the lack of documentation — no e-ticket, just a receipt. I felt better once I had checked in each time, but I wish WOW did a better job with their customer service. When you reserve, you get an email that asks you to pay. I had to call Iceland to pay because the website wouldn’t take my credit card. That also meant that I had a confirmation number with only letters and the American website wanted numbers… Do download the WOW app as you can see your trip details on it with the confirmation letters.
  • I was nervous about the lack of seat space and leg room on the airplane. This was true, but we knew ahead of time, so we dealt with it. My 6 foot — 3 inch son was not comfortable, but he was a trouper.
  • I was nervous about the lack of services onboard and that my family would be thirsty/hungry. This was OK because we bought bottles of water and a snacks to eat on board. And the first flight was overnight, so we weren’t really hungry till we got to Paris.
  • I was nervous about making the connection in Reykjavik because we had less than an hour to transfer to our next flight. Both ways. We ran the first time to make sure we could catch our flight to Paris because within that hour, you also had to go through a passport check. We shouldn’t have worried, because WOW will hold airplanes to make sure all passengers make their connection. We took it easier on the way back and easily made the second flight.
  • I was nervous about our baggage being lost. You will see many posts online about people losing luggage and then having a hard time getting reimbursed by WOW. This also didn’t happen to us thankfully.

So would I fly WOW again? I would do it again in a heartbeat. The flight was broken up because of the stop in Iceland, so it meant we flew almost six hours and then three more to get to Paris. I got up a lot to stretch during the flight. I slept some, but mostly just read.

It was worth the cost savings so we could do more sightseeing once in Europe. We saw so much in our 16-day trip and made memories for a lifetime. My suggestion before planning your European adventure with WOW Airlines, is do your own research so you know what you’re in for. And maybe upgrade to an XL seat or exit row.

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Recycling at Christmas: Use shoe boxes instead of shirt boxes

For years, I would recycle at those shirt boxes that everyone wraps clothes and other items in at Christmas. Often in our messy basement, they would get smashed, lose their shape and even get torn. So I started using more sturdy boxes — shoe boxes.

I love to use shoe boxes to put items in to wrap for numerous reasons. I’ll list a few here:

  • More sturdy (I can’t say it enough).
  • Way to recycle those shoe boxes instead of trashing/recycling them.
  • You never know what’s in the present, because most packages under the tree look the same.
  • It fits all kind of presents — clothes, toys, electronics, books, etc.
  • The same as shirt boxes, it’s easy to use with a roll of wrapping paper.
  • The thrifty Dutch woman in me loves the price for shoe boxes — they come free with shoes!

Those folks who fill shoe boxes for children around the world for Christmas already found out a long time ago they make great containers. And of course, you can do lots of crafts and make storage bins out of shoe boxes too. Just check this Pinterest page.

So save your shoe boxes — you know you have them — grab them out of the bottom of your closet and start wrapping for the holidays. Merry Christmas to all!

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Journalists and political opinions

Someone I really respect posted this question in a journalism educator’s group on Facebook: “When, how, if it is acceptable for college journalism educators to express their political opinions?”

I responded right away: “I do not express my opinions. I’m still old-school and consider myself a journalist.” 

Some people agreed and other didn’t. One wrote: “Can you envision a time when it would be wrong to stay silent? When your role as a U.S. citizen would supersede your role as a journalism educator?”

I will consider myself a journalist until the day I die. Not just a journalism educator. Others who teach journalism don’t feel that way. If they don’t practice journalism, they feel they can go to protests, write about how they feel about Trump on Facebook and Tweet their little hearts out to express opinions about this or that.

I might respond to someone’s opinionated posts with a question of my own or play devil’s advocate as journalists have been known to do, but I rarely express outright opinions about the news or politics. It’s in my DNA.

Am I taking the coward’s way out? Is there a time my role as a citizen supersedes my roles as a journalism educator? I don’t think that time is here now. But I’m be proud to be part of the profession that keeps people honest, brings light to all issues and plays a major part in our democracy today.

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Plagiarism is real

The press and people created a lot of hoopla over Melania Trump’s “reuse” of Michelle Obama’s speech eight years ago.

And rightly they should.

It was pretty obvious the speech was copied, whether it was accidental or not doesn’t matter. I guess we’re now in a period where only intent matters. “I didn’t mean to do it,” sounds like something a 10-year-old says. It’s not an excuse for adults and certainly not for speech writers.

I see plagiarism in my class almost every semester. Some of it is by accident, but I don’t find that’s an excuse. In the beginning of my writing courses, I outline this problem of attribution in a class and in a written memo to the class and I have them read Jimmy’s World to show what making up information can do to your journalism career. And yet, students each semester still make up information and steal stuff off the internet without attribution.

It’s ingrained in our society that everything on the Internet is for the taking. It’s free and clear and there for us to use, whether it is for a project in class or for watching or listening to.  I guess that idea has caught up to professionals in political campaigns too.

But it’s not free. People worked hard to write those words you use, to get that information you need, to take the picture you like, to make the music you want to listen to or to act in the shows you are watching. They should get credit for that work.

Plagiarism is wrong, regardless of who does it. It should be nipped in the bud immediately. If anything Melania Trump gave me a lesson to help explain plagiarism to my students next semester.


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Big, bad news media

With this Presidential election, the mistrust of the news media has reached an all-time high. This saddens me, because most people’s idea of what is news is so wrong these days.

Gone are the days of the 6:30 nightly news and the morning and afternoon newspapers. They’ve been replaced by social media, where a majority of people get their news, according to the Pew Research Center.

To be a good consumer of the news, you have to check to make sure your news source has done its job. Is the information on social media from legitimate news sites that do reporting, use sources and check their facts? Or is it from a site that promotes a certain point of view? Or even worse, did that news site steal someone else’s stories?

So when people say they hate the news media and are talking about getting rid of the first amendment rights for media, which media are they opposed to? Do they really want to get rid of the Fourth Estate as journalism was branded many years ago? The idea is that the media is the fourth part of our government, independent to keep an eye on the other three parts. Journalism is more important now than ever to keep track of what the government is doing. A good story will always be a good story, especially when it is about how the government spends its money.

Part of this is the media’s fault. Some of the networks (both cable and traditional) have blurred the lines between news and commentary on TV shows. Even the commentators on TV and radio don’t distinguish when referring to traditional media stories, by not specifying whether the story ran on the editorial pages or the front pages. There is a difference.

When you say journalism on TV and radio is biased, are you referring to  Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow ? They are not journalists. They are commentators.

Real journalists check their facts, cover all sides of the story, provide sources for the information they gather and will chomp at the bit at a good story, regardless which side of the political aisle might be impacted by it.

Some journalists are lazy and only cover the easy stories. But the ones I know are working hard to provide you with objective news. Maybe the public should look a little harder for those stories and news sources  — instead of just finding news on social media — before calling all of the media bad names.

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Busy, busy life and I wouldn’t have it any other way…

I just realized I haven’t posted since last year. That’s a long time. I’ve been busy…

That’s such a lame excuse that we all use, because somehow we still have time to play video games, watch those few shows on TV that we’ve followed for years and read books. We always have to have time to read books.

But in my case, I have a pretty full load. With one son a senior in high school, we are running to all of his lasts ..  band competitions, concerts, bowling matches. And after that, it will be tennis and before you know it, it will be time for banquets and graduation and all that fun stuff.

And in Alex’s case, the question of college is still up in the air. We still have more colleges to visit and we hope we get to take him to some more scholarship interviews.

Work has been busy. I’m working on developing a new class that focuses on helping students with the job or internship search. I’m prepping for a workshop I’ll present at a national conference in New York in March. I also still teach water aerobics at the YMCA.

I also carve out some time each week for mom. I generally visit her twice a week and take care of her groceries and bills.

So blogging and writing are falling to the wayside. But it’s important to reflect on all you have once in a while. I have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, I’m busy. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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Keeping my eye on the prize

On Dec. 16, I underwent a left knee replacement. People tried to prepare me for it, but even with everyone’s best intentions — I could never have imagined what the last five weeks have been like. It’s been good and bad, ugly and beautiful, painful and uplifting.

I’ve known this surgery was coming for a year or more now and I scheduled it very carefully between the fall semester and spring semester so I wouldn’t miss work. I knew it would affect my holiday season, but I figured the payoff would be worth it.  I bought all Christmas presents before, I got a stack of books to read and projects to work on, and I cleaned up my house from clutter so I wouldn’t fall over it. I got all the aids to help me bathe, go to the bathroom and get around.

But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride I was going on.

Some notes about my recovery:

* The hospital stay was even worse than I feared. I had to wait six hours for a room after surgery and got stuck in the cardiac cath lab recovery room where they had no bathrooms and I had to pee in a bed pan — humiliating.  The nurse never realized my ice machine didn’t work and I had no ice on my knee the first four hours after surgery. After I got into a room that night, it got a little better. I couldn’t wait to go home after two days.

* Home felt great after that. The boys and Tom fussed over me and took great care of me. But to be honest, the next few days are a blur. Just going through the motions in a fog left over from anesthesia. The only thing I remember is desperately trying to find a way to get comfortable. The recliner I had hoped to use broke a leg one of the first time I sat in it,  Another chair was too low, so Tom bought risers to make it sit higher. After a day or so, one of the plastic risers broke, sending me to the floor. Thankfully, I didn’t hurt my knee again, but it was a challenge to get me up from that floor. I finally convinced Tom to buy me a new recliner, which has been my safe haven since.

*Therapy has been as expected — tough and painful at times — but rewarding as I regained more strength and movement. I really pushed myself and it has paid off so far.

* I didn’t get to read that stack of books. I have read two books in the last six weeks. I have been working one for two weeks now. Normally, I can read a book a day with ease. But I just can’t concentrate — anesthesia fog and pain pills? A project I promised a colleague I would read was a struggle and finally I had to give up. Then once Jan. 2 hit, I dove into my online photography class that I would teach from home in three weeks, which took up all my non-nap time.

* Christmas was kind of a blur too. The highlights were the visit from my mom (who Tom and Brett picked up and brought to our house) and the dinner at Mary’s house. My mother missed me desperately and really was so worried about me until she saw me.  She called me almost every day and got upset when she couldn’t find my number. Even now I’ve gone to see her a few times, she clings to me and almost doesn’t want to let me go.

* I discovered the world out there sucks for disabled people. I used a walker the first four weeks and you won’t believe how hard it is to open doors and get in some places. Those great grocery riding carts for the disabled and elderly are terrible for people who had knee replacements because you can’t stretch out your leg on them.  And there are not enough handicapped parking spaces at most restaurants.

*But most of all, I’ll remember all the blessings. Friends who came to see me, one even came to cut my hair at my house! Cards and phone calls were nice the first few weeks as well. My friend Dan was my cheerleader as he had the same surgery three weeks before me. He called to check on me and encourage me to do the PT. Others who had the surgery in the past also wrote notes of encouragement and that meant a lot.

*I’ve been keeping my eye on the prize. That’s been my phrase in the past when things were tough. My prize this year is a Caribbean cruise the family is planning to go on in June. My goal is to walk pain-free on the beaches of St. Maarten, to walk steps up to the pool on the top deck of the ship and to enjoy time with family without getting left behind.

This surgery has taught me a lot. I can do whatever I set my mind to, I have lots of friends that care about me and I’m lucky to have such a great husband and two sons. And it reminded me and will continue to remind me to keep my eye on the prize.

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