When anosmia becomes more than just a nuisance

My effort to cook dinner this week became a scary, potentially hazardous event, reminding me that something that has been a big bother could also be deadly. I’ve been dealing with the lack of a sense of smell — anosmia — for about six years now. Because the two are so interconnected, typically with the loss of smell comes a loss of taste.

What's left of the oven mitt.

What’s left of the oven mitt.

Yes, not being able to taste makes for a lot of dissatisfaction in life, especially living in Nashville, with all of its Southern food and home to many premiere chefs. It’s sad when a burger from Top Chef Winner Richard Blais’ Flip Burger is no more satisfying than a thickburger from Hardee’s. Textures become really important — mushy meals don’t cut it for me, I need crunch.

Since I can’t taste most things, I’m using my recent move to Nashville as an opportunity to break some bad habits, to save money and eat more healthfully by cooking more meals. The house I’m renting has little kitchen counter space so the flat surface stove (my first) often doubles as a counter.

On Tuesday I was cooking chicken with rice and beans. With the chicken cooking I threw on some water to boil then turned around to the sink to wash some dishes. A few minutes later I turned to check to see if the water was boiling. I have no idea if it was because all I could see was a huge cloud of smoke — I had turned on the wrong burner and an oven mitt was about to burst into flames.

Fortunately one side of the mitt was made of some sort of fire retardant or heat resistant material. Any other type of material would have caught fire much sooner. Instead this one smoldered longer.

Well, those are the facts, here’s the emotion — I was scared to death. I hadn’t smelled any of the smoke that was billowing from the mitt, and that’s pretty scary. The smoke detector didn’t go off. That’s really scary. What if I hadn’t turned around when I did? What if there’s ever a fire somewhere else in the house and I can’t smell or see it? That’s the scariest. So this weekend I’ll be buying a few more detectors and placing them within a couple of feet of the stove. That’s a $20 investment in the lives of me, Frankie, Alvie.

So this is why they build museums

I’m not one for museums. That’s odd for an artist, don’t you think? I don’t know what it is but I just don’t gravitate toward them. You have to drag me almost kicking and screaming to go to one.

This week a new friend I met at a training session wanted to go to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and she asked me to join her. I didn’t have an excuse not to go other than just not wanting to. And when I thought to myself, “I don’t want to” it sounded pretty lame. So I went.

This post is about a painting and an experience that should forever remind me Continue reading

18 people die in one week of Tennessee’s record setting winter

I have joked about the weather weenies here in Nashville, but I overlooked just how dangerous these conditions can be — and have been — when they occur as rarely as they do in Nashville.

Good samaritans Kristi Clark and her son, Carter Oakley, 10, were killed Monday night as she tried to help passengers of an SUV involved in a crash on I-65 in Franklin. (Photo: Courtesy Chelsea Mattocks)

Good samaritans Kristi Clark and her son, Carter Oakley, 10, were killed Monday night as she tried to help passengers of an SUV involved in a crash on I-65 in Franklin. (Photo: Courtesy Chelsea Mattocks)

According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency 18 people have lost their lives in the past five days. As of this writing the entire state is in a Level III state of emergency, with severe cold, snow, freezing rain and rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

I’m a native Iowan who has dealt with snow and sub-zero temperatures my entire life. So to hear that 18 people have died this week is a bit hard to understand. So I went in search of Continue reading

Music City knows how to party — until the snow starts to fall

NAS-Tuesday-weather

Icicles hang from a railing over a highway overpass in the metro Nashville area on Tuesday. (Photo by Jae Lee/The Tennessean)

Nashville is in the middle of an historic winter storm. Now, having said that you might think it’s something of Boston proportions.

You’d be wrong. Continue reading

Saturday morning Nashville

020715 Nasville morning loThis morning I went to a volunteer event in North Nashville. I wanted to go to it for a number of reasons:

  • I wanted to learn about the group sponsoring the event, Dogs Deserve Better, a national organization with a chapter in Nashville. I left Columbia vowing to get more life in my life, and this might be an organization I give some time to. They work to free dogs from a life being chained up in yards. Today’s event was a fence build, the group builds a fenced-in area in a residents yard so that their dog can roam freely, unchained, in a safe area.
  • I hired a freelancer to cover the event, a guy I’d hired before but had not yet met in person. This was a good time to meet him. And lastly,
  • I had not yet been to this area of the city and I couldn’t recall any stories we’d done out of that neighborhood.

I accomplished all of these goals with this picture as the cherry on top. As I turned the last corner on the way to the homes for the build I saw this. The light was wonderful in the way it silhouetted the kids who were playing both football and basketball in the street. The light also played off the power lines and reflected off the cars, which lined both sides of the streets. It struck me as a classic urban scene. Just a few hours later that beautiful light was gone. And so were the kids.

Why I share cute photos on Twitter

One of the more adorable photos found on Cute Emergency.

One of the more adorable photos found on Cute Emergency, and it doesn’t even have a real animal in it.

There are a lot of people who hate the proliferation of cute animal photos that litter the Internet. For the most part I do, too. Then I discovered Cute Emergency on Twitter.

hood lifeThe first time a Cute Emergency tweet popped up on my screen I’m sure it made me smile. I know this because almost all of them make me smile. But at that time I wasn’t going to give it — I just smiled and went on with my day. Then on a particularly tough day one of those tweets popped up, mostly likely a puppy. I smiled as usual but instead of moving on I thought that others might need the same kind of lift I had just gotten. So I retweeted and didn’t regret it.

Most of my friends and colleagues have stressful jobs and work long hours. In journalism we deal in a fair share of news that makes us feel bad. So when a picture like this comes across my Twitter feed, I feel good, if just for a moment, and I need that moment of release. I need that reminder that indeed most of what happens in our lives is pleasant and wonderful.

a study in whiteI try to be frugal about what I retweet because I don’t want to clutter your Twitter or Facebook stream, causing you to unfollow or unfriend me. This is a situation where less is definitely more.

If you like a ton of cute animal photos in your day, follow Cute Emergency. If you want just a sprinkling of those cute photos, follow me.

The standards for showing grief vary, depend on many factors

There’s no easing into my job here at The Tennessean. After a relatively slow day of training on Monday, the past three days have been hectic, filled with news and lots of meetings.

It’s only been four days and we’ve already had a stimulating ethics conversation about a photograph of a grieving widow.

Thankfully these conversations don’t come along often and I’m grateful that my years at the Missouri School of Journalism gave me chances to practice these Continue reading

Packing up, letting go

Moving sucks. That’s a no-brainer.

Moving 11 years of stuff — some of which I never even unpacked — sucks even more.

I think I've always been the only African American photographer on a photo staff. As such, I took pride in covering that community, to give them a much needed voice.

I think I’ve always been the only African American photographer on a photo staff. As such, I took pride in covering that community, to give them a much needed voice.

Some of the stuff was pretty easy to let go of, like a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn since I moved to Columbia. Other stuff is much tougher. A good friend here told me to purge my old things from my life.

“Remember with affection the part of you that used and even loved those things and those times in your life, and release her, too. I’ll be the first to agree it’s not easy. But you are on to new things, and you need to cut out the dead wood to make room in your life for fresh growth.”

But there’s something I have that I’m not sure I can part with, but not sure if I should keep, and I need your suggestions:

What do you do with more than 14 years of newspaper clips? (I’ve been in journalism since I was 19, so this includes my college years with the Drake Times-Delphic and about 10 years at Continue reading

I’m leaving teaching and heading back into the newsroom, back to Gannett

This is what I wore for my interview. I always wear earrings for important things.

This is what I wore for my interview. I always wear earrings for important things.

I imagine that headline may have shocked you a little bit.

Shocked that I would leave the teaching job I have loved.
Shocked that I would go back into a newsroom.
Shocked that I would go to a Gannett newsroom.

I get it. Here’s the short answer: I have a great job, unfortunately it’s in Columbia, Missouri. I’m not quitting the Missouri School of Journalism — I’m quitting Columbia. It’s been 11 years here and I have learned and grown a lot. But mostly at the professional level. My personal life has not progressed and it’s time for a little more balance in my life, balance I haven’t been able to find in Columbia. I wasn’t looking to move on at this time, but an interesting job came along in a much bigger city: Continue reading

Third year for China, Beijing and tennis, still a great trip

Mizzou students at the Great Wall near Beijing. From left are Jake Lutes, Jason Steimer, Jason Bredehoeft, Andrew Kauffman, Paxton DiBlasi and Daniel Shapiro.

Mizzou students at the Great Wall near Beijing. From left are Jake Lutes, Jason Steimer, Jason Bredehoeft, Andrew Kauffman, Paxton DiBlasi and Daniel Shapiro.

 

People leave offerings of food at Buddha idols at the Wall.

People leave offerings of food at Buddha idols at the Wall.

It took me a while, but I’ve finally put together a selection of photos from China. Getting back home is an exhausting 24 hours of travel, getting in late on a Monday night. I was able to take Tuesday off but right back into the thick of it on Wednesday. Getting back is the hardest part of the trip.

In my photography I tried not to duplicate what I’ve shot before but I was sick several days this year and didn’t get to do as much. (I went to the Great Wall again but was too weak to climb very far.)

For those who don’t know, the University of Missouri (where I teach) has a journalism class that covers the China Open tennis tournament, held in the Olympic tennis park in Beijing. The students write stories which are used on the English-language side of the China Open website. We also have several days available for touring, shopping, getting lost, etc. This is like the third time I’ve gone.

The tournament wasn’t as good this year for me because Serena Williams dropped out with an injury and Venus Williams dropped out due to illness. Djokovic won again, which was nice to see. He’s a really nice guy and is much loved in China.

I hope you find something here that causes you to smile or to wonder or the react. I try to create moments to share with others, not just memories that have no meaning beyond me. You can see other images from China in my posts from 2012 and 2011. Use keyword “china” to search for them.