The Lawnmower Incident – 30 Years Later

When I smell freshly cut grass or hear a lawnmower in the distance, I’m instantly transported back in time to the most traumatic experience of my life. It’s amazing how smell and human memory are tied together.

It was Presidents Day in 1988, exactly 30 years ago to the date of this post.

Sometimes I forget the incident happened. It was so long ago.

Other times, when I sit and really think about it, I wonder how much of an impact the lawnmower incident had on my development and psyche as a child. I recall therapy sessions not much longer after I was let out of the hospital.

I’ve never really written about the lawnmower incident before and I’m not sure why I write about it now. Perhaps the anniversary of that day has me thinking much about what happened.

In short, a friend and I had the holiday day off from school and we were sent to a neighborhood babysitter. A gardener who worked at our condo complex in Harbor City, California would let the neighborhood kids joyride on his big riding lawnmower (the kind that operates like a tank with two handles for steering and acceleration).

While out playing in a grassy area, my friend Matt and I spotted the gardener and of course he let us ride and play.

My friend Matt sat in the driver seat as I sat at the front of the lawnmower over the metal plate that concealed the blade. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I remember trying to jump off and I slipped and fell under the lawnmower.

I won’t go into the gory details. I’ll just say the blades took off my right big toe.

It was painful and traumatic. I went into shock. I recovered pretty quickly.

30 years later, I’ve managed to live life just fine without a toe. I played soccer in high school, ran a half marathon a few years ago and walk and run with no problem.

I keep the shoe I was wearing at the time. A Nike high top. This may seem kind of weird for some of you reading this, but I save it as a reminder of what happened. The shoe likely prevented my injury from getting far, far worse.

The shoe I was wearing during the lawmower incident. It likely prevented my injury from getting worse.

I was lucky when I compare my incident to other lawnmower accidents across the country.

Kids have lost feet.

Sometimes these accidents can be fatal.

This USA Today article says thousands of lawnmower accidents happen to children every year. About 83,000 lawnmower accidents were documented across all ages in 2011.

That’s amazing.

I hope if someone, especially parents, come across this post, they’ll be mindful of the dangers.

Confessions of a nasal spray addict

Hello everyone, my name is Jeremy and I’m addicted to nasal spray.

Yep. It’s a real problem and I’m learning many others have suffered with their dependency on this stuff.

I don’t mean to make light of any addiction with the tone of this post, yet there is an immediate smirk I get from people when they learn I’m trying to recover from the over-the-counter nasal spray.

Perhaps it began early last year when I was dealing with severe stuffiness during allergy season. My wife thinks my problem has been around much longer. She’s probably right.

Empty vials of nasal spray can be found throughout the trail of my daily life. In my glove box. My dresser near my bed. I currently have three in my work bag, two of them empty and one is full. My desk at work has a few plastic carcasses of these things. If these vials suddenly turned into $5 bills, I’d be finding money all over the place.

I can tell you which nasal spray brands are the cheapest, where to find the great deals and what type of bottles have the best delivery. The squeeze bottles suck and don’t’ work as well. The ones that operate like a syringe get the fluid right up there. It’s sad to say, but my addiction has resulted in an absurd connoisseurship of nasal sprays.

When I use it, I receive immediate relief from intense stuffiness. It’s almost euphoric to be able to breathe from the torture of a stuffy nose.

There’s a whole psychological element too. I get anxious when I don’t have a full vial either in my pocket or within an arm’s reach. These little damn vials have become necessary companions to my wallet and keys.

I spray multiple times in the morning when I wake up. In the mid-morning. In the afternoon. The mid-afternoon. In the evening. And always around 2 a.m. or so when I wake up with severe breathing problems. It feels like some sort of gremlin stuffed wet tissue up my nostrils in the middle of the night rendering my nose feeling like a heavy block of cheese stuck between my eyes.

I knew I had a problem when I attended a concert at Red Rocks during the summer last year. I didn’t have my nasal spray with me and I suddenly couldn’t breathe at all. I didn’t enjoy the music and just wanted to get back to a Walgreen’s for refuge.

Finally, my wife convinced me to see a doctor. I went last week and he prescribed me a steroid spray to use once in the morning and once at night. He said it’s a “bedside thing” I should do to begin and end my day.

As for the OTC stuff, he recommended I slowly wean myself off the spray. Instead of doing multiple sprays in each nostril, I should only do one. And then I should start reducing the times I spray throughout the day the following week. Eventually, hopefully, on the third week or so I can stop using the steroid spray all together.

I’m happy to say I haven’t used the OTC stuff at all for three days. My last time was this past Monday while on a flight from Denver to Dallas. I got seriously stuffy on the plane and I used it once in each side of my nose.

I still get stuffy, but not as bad. Every few hours my nose will get a strong tingle, then one side will suddenly get stuffy and blocked. I’ve been resisting the urge to spray and I think it’s working. After about 30 minutes or so, my nose will clear up a bit.

So what can be said about this?

This nasal spray addiction is a real thing, and after confessing on twitter, many other people have told me they’ve suffered too. I’ve received all sorts of support from my followers and recommendations: Saline spray. The Neti pot. Breathe strips. Only spray in one nostril.

 

 
So far, I haven’t had to use these alternatives.

The real test will be when I get back to Denver on Friday. I’m feeling clear here in Dallas, however I may be allergic to something back home. We’ll see.

I should have paid attention to the warning labels on these bottles. You’re only supposed to use them for a few days and then stop, even if symptoms continue. Overuse, I’ve read, can result in severe damage to the nasal cavity and a loss of smell. I hope this hasn’t happened to me. We’ll see.

For those of you who find yourself here looking for relief, I highly recommend a doctor’s visit. The steroid spray seems to be helping.

Good luck.

“Hi Jeremy…..Okay, I have to go now.”

I write this from a hotel room in Phoenix with some time alone to finally process a goodbye to my paternal grandmother. Her life came to a sunset a couple of weeks ago on Thanksgiving.

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My grandmother, Margie Reardon (Nelson) 1933-2017

 

Even though her mind was fogged with memory loss and her failing body was resigned to a bed in a distant Pennsylvania nursing home, I was able hear her voice one last time.

My aunt held the phone close to her bedside. I wasn’t sure if she’d remember me.

“Hi Jeremy,” I heard with familiar enthusiasm. My aunt said she gave a “big smile” as she said my name.

I really want to believe this is the exact greeting my grandmother said to me on the day I met her for the first time at age 5.

I don’t remember much about that day in 1984.

I just remember seeing my father cry for the first time while I was trying to comprehend that this light-skinned woman named Margie Reardon (Nelson) was somehow related to me and that I should call her “grandma.”

The story of how my father tracked her down 30 years after his adoption is for another time. It’s too complex and too long to begin tonight. I know if I started, I’d be up writing until 2 a.m.

I will say her decision to give up my father 63 years ago has a profound and everlasting effect on my own personal identity today. The 17-year-old ranch hand she fell for back in 1953 in New Mexico is a complete mystery. He may have been oblivious to my father’s conception.

I wish I pressed my grandmother more about my father’s father, but those are waters I thought were too dark to explore, especially over the last few years as her memory dwindled.

I often wonder what it was like for her to see her grandchild for the first time that day in 1984……the child of the child she let go.

I had the blessing of seeing my grandmother a few times over my life. She came to my wedding eight years ago. She was the first to greet me after the ceremony with a big smile.

Now’s the time to say goodbye here, through the therapy of writing.

And as I come to a close, I just realized in the paragraphs above I described three greetings with my grandmother.

A day to reconcile a birth.

A day for a wedding.

A day to acknowledge an end.

“Hi Jeremy,” are the last few words she said to me. I’ll remember them forever as a beginning and an end.

I take comfort in that greeting and oddly, what she said immediately after:

“Okay, I have to go now.”

I understand grandma. It’s okay.

 

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My grandma at my wedding in 2009 

 

 

 

 

Don’t click on this link about gun control, because now is not the time.

How could you click on this link?

Shame on you.

Now is not the time to talk about gun control.

Shouldn’t you be sending your thoughts and prayers somewhere?

Okay fine, you’re here.

Let’s talk about bump stocks, even though now is not the time to talk about gun control.

At ANYTIME, while we’re not supposed to be talking about it, someone can purchase a bump stock, which can make a semi-automatic rifle fire like a fully automatic weapon, all within the confines of the law.

The shooter in Las Vegas had multiple bump stocks to enhance his weapons.

Bump stocks use the recoil of a gun to bump against your body and trigger finger in rapid succession for enhancement. Here’s a video of a bump stock in action. 

They are LEGAL and approved by the ATF.

These devices were pulled off the online shelves by Walmart and Cabela’s in the immediate wake of the incident in Las Vegas.

But let’s not talk about bump stocks and how lawmakers have tried in the past to make them illegal.

Let’s not talk about them now because we should be focusing on the victims who are already dead.

Let’s hope our thoughts and prayers are enough to keep a deranged madman from walking into a shop and getting more bump stocks.

Keep thinking about it.

Keep praying about it.

But don’t talk about it.

There and back again (the anchor chair)

Anchoring a newscast is like being the captain of a ship who takes the wheel after so many talented and hardworking people have toiled all day to make sure the boat is ready for sail.

You’ve got producers, directors, assignment editors, production crew members, etc.

There’s A LOT going on behind the camera.

Viewers are also on the boat. Some are enjoying the ride. Others are picking apart how the captain is turning the wheel and questioning his or her bias to the starboard or port side.

I absolutely love the job. It’s fun, especially when there’s a great crew of people making sure sailing goes smooth.

As I’ve been filling in as an anchor on a temporary basis, some of my old memories of sitting in the anchor chair back in Albuquerque about 12 years ago have been coming to the surface.

Perhaps it’s the scent of a freshly printed stack of news scripts that’s making me remember.

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The KASA Fox 2 set. Year? Oh geez…maybe 2005? 2006? That’s Jessica Kartalija who is now an anchor in Baltimore.

While I had fun anchoring then, it was extremely tough mentally since I had two roles at the same time.

Daily, I had to find a story and report for the 10 pm news on KOB. But before I went live for that report, I anchored the one hour 9 pm newscast on KASA.

I often had to sprint from the set of the 9pm show to another studio for the 10pm show.

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Going live as a reporter minutes after anchoring

My reporting duties and anchoring duties collided, literally at the same time, and I often had to forfeit concentration on one job for the other.

I often read the newscasts cold. I stumbled over words and sentences. I often couldn’t carry a script on air because I had no idea what was coming next. I was new. I was green on the set. Thank god YouTube didn’t exist then.

The gig, while exciting and a great opportunity, also had an impact on my confidence.

I often felt down on myself and second guessed my anchoring abilities, almost nightly.

The stress of trying to be perfect made my performances worse. I often took frustrations out on coworkers and producers who were just trying to beat the clock too.

Looking back at those times, I believe I was too tough on myself given the circumstances.

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Producer Zach Pearl (far right) reviewing my 10pm report just before I had to hit the anchor chair at 9pm. Producer Brian Close on the left is now in Colorado too and works as an attorney. Hi Brian!

I appreciate that experience even more so today. It’s taught me that taking time to craft a news script, even it’s just a 10 second blurb, is extremely important to make it sound concise and clear.

People have been asking me if I enjoy anchoring now that I’ve been filling in temporarily. I really do. I love it, especially with a perspective of being off the desk for the past 12 years or so. Plus I really love the crews I work with. They make the job cake.

It’s an extremely fun position and I’d like to hope my enjoyment for the anchor chair can be seen by people who’ve watched.

Anchors away!

 

All images in this post were taken by Gadi Schwartz who is now a correspondent for NBC News.

How I survive airplane turbulence 

While I may seem calm when turbulence happens, I’m running up and down the aisle of my mental fuselage like a terrified renaissance painting figure while screaming OH MY GOD WE ARE GOING DOWN….THE WINGS ARE GONNA FALL OFF. BYE WORLD. 

Is that flight attendant freaking out? Watch her face….if she looks worried it’s time to accept death. I think she looks worried. Shit. This is it. We’re gonna make the news. My body is gonna be shredded.  

Will a last will and testament survive on this Southwest napkin?

I sat in the worst section to survive this crash. Maybe if I jump before we hit land, I’ll live. 

I’ve been traveling by plane since I was 5 years old and fly often for work and personal reasons, yet there’s something about turbulence that jacks with my instincts. 

I know, thanks to the logical side of my brain, turbulence isn’t dangerous at all. But still, something deep down in my consciousness surfaces with silent terror. 

So how do I live through it? 

Just thinking about turbulence, you say, could make me more nervous, but I like to put on some mental armor before I find my seat. 

Before I fly, usually as I’m waiting in line to board, I read on my phone about how much turbulence planes can handle. 

Turns out it’s a shit ton and planes never really go down or are damaged because of the shitty shakes. 

This is a really good article by a pilot who also breaks down some comforting numbers. I have it bookmarked: 

About sixty people, two-thirds of them flight attendants, are injured by turbulence annually in the United States. That works out to about twenty passengers. Twenty out of the 800 million or so who fly each year in this country. – askthepilot.com

I also drink. Not a lot, but one to two beers just before and during the flight. This really helps me stay calm and feel good. 

The last long flight I took was from Washington D.C. to Denver. As we passed by a storm, the turbulence didn’t feel bad thankfully to some Fat Tires. 

I also try to get a window seat when possible. Focusing on the ground or at least looking outside decreases the sense of doom. An aisle seat might as well be a coffin in my book. 

And lastly, I know this sounds weird, but sometimes I’ll crank up some Rage Against the Machine or Metallica on my headphones. The aggressive music can put me in a tougher mood. 

(This article is not very metal….I know.)

Aside from turbulence, I really enjoy flying and traveling. 

If you’re someone who came across this post while searching about turbulence, don’t sweat it. 

Relax and take it easy. 
You’ll live. 
(I hope so.)

What happens when your Uber account is hijacked 

When I woke up to Russian text on my iPhone’s lock screen I knew something wasn’t right. 

This says a driver is on the way–one of the notifications I received
To sum it up, someone managed to hijack my Uber account and attempted to order several rides on two of my credit cards linked to my profile. 

These attempts occurred in Russia while I was fast asleep in the United States.

My banks were quick to stop the fraud as I waited on Uber to reset my account. 

Here’s what I learned:

This is common

A search for the terms “Uber” and “hacked” on Twitter will show users are regularly reporting their accounts have been hijacked in Russia. 

A podcast known as Reply All found this has been happening and explores how hackers may get access to profiles. 

So….how does it happen?

Uber has reportedly said it’s not the target of the hacks but that hackers are obtaining passwords from other social media accounts or from companies that have been hacked.

If you’re like me, you may have made the mistake of using the same password for several sites online. 

(Honestly, if I had a different password for everything I log into, I’d probably have about 20-30 different passwords. Who wants to do that?)

Anyways, hackers may get your username and password combo from large databases that have been hacked (LinkedIn, Adobe for example) and apply that to Uber to see if it works. 

The hackers can use special software to attempt “credential stuffing” according to one of the experts on the Reply All podcast. 

What to do

If you’re waiting for Uber to respond, try tweeting at their @Uber_support account. Be courteous and polite. Eventually I got a response from this account and then about two hours later I got an email with a link to reset my Uber profile. 

I’m going to be changing all of my passwords on every account I have using a password manager. These are apps that you can download that will generate passwords and then store them in a digital place for you to access when you need to log in. 

How long does it take to resolve?

It took about 12 hours for Uber to respond and then resolve my account. Other users have reported on Twitter it’s taken Uber several days to make the fix. Again, things may work faster if you approach Uber through Twitter. 

Sex & drugs in Denver’s library – inside the “Ban Book”

While investigating skyrocketing crime and overdoses at Denver’s main library, I was able to take a look inside the “Ban Book” used by security officers to stop those who are banned from entering.

It contains pages upon pages of people caught doing…..uh…..some really bad things inside the library.

I covered faces and names of the people in the book because I haven’t confirmed any official law enforcement action on these particular cases.

Here’s the cover. A three-ringed binder. It’s really thick and organized by month.

BAN_BOOK

The most egregious case I found in the book is probably this guy:

CHILDREN_MASTURBATE_CAUGHT

The Legacy Room is where the library keeps the table used in the 1997 G8 Summit that occurred in Denver:

Unknown Female

You can see a dude walking behind her in the women’s restroom.

SEX_IN_BATHROOM

This kind of thing seems to be common. This guy isn’t the only one…..caught.

masturbator

The book contains loads of people caught shooting up inside the library. It’s only May, and the book was quite thick with many of these cases:

IV_DRUG_WITH_KNIFE

The library bathrooms contain sharps containers, which are always full of needles. This woman apparently dropped her syringe right in front of library staff:

DROPPED_SYRINGE

The book also contains people who have been repeatedly told they’ve been banned. They don’t get the hint and somehow manage to sneak past security, like this guy:

MASTURBATOR_BANNED

This man seems to be a repeat problem for security.

refuse_service

During my time at the library, I noticed a few people come and go who seemed clearly agitated and perhaps under the influence. Here’s a shirtless guy creating a frustrating scene:

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Another guy who’s deemed to be uncooperative.

uncooperative

 

Again, the above pages are only a small fraction of the ban book.

I thought it was interesting people who make the book can be allowed back in the library if they have a talk with security and sign some sort of behavior agreement.

 

 

The 5 minutes in school that impacted my life the most

Below is an email I just sent to a teacher from my middle school. I tracked her down and just sent it today. I feel compelled to share the note since it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. The good teachers often may not know how powerful they really are. I’ve redacted her name for privacy.

Ms.  [REDACTED FOR PRIVACY],

I hope you don’t mind me addressing you that way because that’s how I fondly remember you.

I’ve been wanting to reach out to you for years and I hope this message finds you well today.

Funny it’s Teacher Appreciation week….so perhaps this message is fitting and timely to express my appreciation for you.

I don’t know how many hours, days, weeks and months I’ve spent in public schools growing up. I’m sure it’s thousands upon thousands of hours. But out of all of that time in school, there were five minutes that mattered to me the most.

Let me set the scene to one day back in 1993.

Back at Swope Middle School you taught Speech and Debate. From what I recall, this class was my favorite class because students were free to be themselves in such a positive environment. You made it that way. You were such a great teacher.

On this particular day I had a presentation.

Being a student who struggled with grades and essentially saw school as an obstacle, I, for some reason made sure I would do my best on this presentation. I wanted to impress you.

After I spoke before the class and received applause, I sat down and I remember feeling felt pretty good.

But here’s where something extraordinary happened in all of my time in the public school system.

You pulled me aside after class and sat me down near your desk. It was just me and you in the classroom.

You began to cry and then said these words:

“Jeremy, I honestly believe you’re going to make it someday. I really believe that. You’re going to make it.”

At first I felt awkward and sad you were crying and didn’t really understand when you said I would “make it.”

Then I understood you were talking about success in life in general.

As a C student and as kid who felt out of place in school with a dangerous lack of confidence in academics, I can’t express enough to you how much that five minutes impacted my life.

My mother and father worked hard to give me what I wanted growing up and they instilled in me with much confidence as a child.

However, you were the first person outside of my family circle, within the public school system to sincerely express your belief in me.

And since then, you were the only one. You were the only teacher to tell me I had talent and worth.

You were the first teacher to make me feel valued as a student. You saw more than my grades. You saw me for me. It didn’t matter at that moment that I failed English the prior year.

You did something powerful for me.

Anytime I was feeling down about myself, I would think about that five minutes. And I still do think about that brief moment often.

I’m not sure if you remember me or not since you’ve thought hundreds of children, and that’s just fine by me.

I just wanted to say I will always remember you. Always.

Thank you, from the very bottom of that middle school kid’s heart.

Jeremy Jojola

P.S. Today, I’m an investigative journalist for the leading television station in Colorado and have won some pretty good awards over the years for my work. I speak in front of thousands of people now. Quite the increase in audience since that day in Speech and Debate!  Thanks for your inspiration over the years.  All the best for you and your family.

Thinking about a DNA heritage test? Here’s my experience….

Growing up, I always imagined my ancestors in shiny medieval armor, living in cinematic-like glory as they entered the New World with perfect posture on horseback.

As a boy, I was always told I’m a descendant of the Spanish Conquistadors and thanks to dramatic exaggerations and illustrations in my sixth grade social studies book, I had this portrayal solidified in my consciousness. 

I knew I was some form of Hispanic, but that definition was confusing to me and nobody seemed to give me a clear definition of what that meant.

Perhaps American society’s tendency to compartmentalize race and heritage like a TV dinner tray has an influence on my yearning to know more.

During my early adulthood, I consumed LOADS of history books about the Spanish settlement of New Mexico in a quest to find out more about myself.

Of course what was omitted in elementary and high school came to light, raising many personal questions about by heritage.

Add in my father’s lineage and his unknown father, and that has compelled me to get a better picture of who I am and who my grandfather is/was. 

Taking the DNA test and the results

Two months ago I sent a vial of my saliva to Ancestry after spending about $100 on a DNA heritage test kit.

I’ve been hoping the results will help connect me to my unknown grandfather and help me have a tangible, visual connection to my somewhat confusing background.

As I opened up my results, I admit I was a bit nervous because the test has been known to fracture old family stories and long-held personal beliefs of heritage.

(Example: Why many people think they’re part Cherokee.)

Results finally popped open in my email this past week and I was somewhat surprised, and honestly relieved because mostly what I have been told has been true.

In summary, the results say the bulk of my lineage is 73% European and traces back to Spain, Scandinavia and the Germany region. Results also say I’m 17% Native American.   

The results also place me in a specific genetic community that is tied to the early settlers of New Mexico, which wasn’t surprising.

Here’s are my results showing percentages and two maps from Ancestry.

In Ancestry, I can see other family members have done some genealogy work, connecting my tree to the first Spanish settlers who came into New Mexico back in 1598.

The accuracy…..

In the DNA results section, Ancestry placed thousands of people who are considered my “4th cousins or closer” in a list that tops with people who are closer to my branch.

From what I can see, the test is quite accurate because it has connected me to known cousins who took the DNA test. The top cousin on my list is a known first cousin to my mother.

But then there are many other cousins who I’m dying to know more about. I can say this test has raised even more questions now about my lineage.

What’s happening now

Since I’ve opened up the results, I’ve been emailing my Ancestry.com cousins in an effort to find my father’s biological family tree.  

I’ve been getting a few interesting responses that have raised some hope I may be on the right road in tracking down my grandfather.

As I search for his family tree, let’s just say at this moment I strongly believe, based on a few responses I’m in the right forest.

I hope, once my father takes his DNA test, I’ll be able to whittle down with precision his relatives by comparing his DNA cousins with mine and perhaps, I’ll find the right branch.

Conclusion

The test does reveal an American story that isn’t all unique, however, it is unique on a micro-scale. I am a blend of native peoples and other immigrants from other parts of the world who came to this land for something better.

I find a connection to this country even more, because while my heritage is different from a southerner or someone from the northeast, all of us here in the U.S. share this land. 

We are all in the same orchard of many different trees. 

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From left to right: My great-great-great grandfather Anders Nelson who immigrated from Denmark to New Mexico. My great-grand parents Adolfo and Carmelita Blea, and my great-great grandmothers Carmelita and Lucia Lopez.