Category Archives: Work

Hands-down and hands-free: my pick of Verizon Bluetooth headphones

Verizon's LG Tone Infinim headset

Verizon’s LG Tone Infinim headset

I’ve been in the market for a pair of high-end headphones to use to listen to music as well as to conduct hands-free telephone interviews. Verizon Midwest provided me with two different Bluetooth options to try out for several weeks each: Tracks Air by Motorola X SOL REPUBLIC and the LG Tone Infinim headset.

These were two completely different styles but I wasn’t sure which I would prefer until I tried them out. The Tracks Air is an over-ear headphone while the LG Tone Infinim headset sits around your neck.

Tracks Air by Motorola X SOL REPUBLIC

Verizon’s Tracks Air by Motorola X SOL REPUBLIC

While music sounded great on the Tracks Air, telephone conversations didn’t sound as good. Those on the other end of the line said I sounded fine, but the over-the-ear design made me feel like I was talking in a small enclosure. My own voice echoed in my head. My husband used the headset to mow one day and that same design was a plus when it came to canceling the noise of the mower.

LG Tone Infinim headset

Verizon’s LG Tone Infinim headset

Hands-down, though, the LG Tone Infinim was my favorite of the two because of the versatility of listening to music and making phone calls. I have small eardrums yet the earbuds fit well. I loved that the cords for each earbud were retractable since I always seem to get headphone cords tangled within minutes. And, surprisingly, the headset was so light that I actually forgot it was sitting on my neck (it weighs less than 2 ounces).

Disclaimer: Verizon provided three-week loaners of each headset for purposes of this review. Views of the products are my own. You can find more reviews of Verizon products and accessories on Instagram and Twitter by following the hashtag #vzreview.


Also posted in Randomness

Range map: Places to see Fourth of July fireworks shows

Back in April, I worked on an article for the Wichita Eagle on places within driving distance of Wichita, Kan., to see a great fireworks show on the Fourth of July (Follow the boom: Fourth of July road trips). This ran in a special summer guide tabloid published in May — a little early for many people to make plans for the July 4 weekend so I thought I’d share the information I gathered now that it’s a little closer to Independence Day.

I’m including bonus material, too. Several of these destinations got cut from the article because of space…and the Wichita Eagle didn’t use the photos that I gathered from the tourism folks so I’m sharing some here.

Follow the boom: Fourth of July road trips

Wamego Kansas annual Fourth of July fireworks show

<photo>The annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Wamego, Kan. (photo courtesy

A thousand explosions within a minute lit up the sky and rumbled the chest of spectators at the Wamego Fireworks Show. Newbies figured this must be the finale. Seasoned show-goers in this town 10 miles east of Manhattan, Kan., knew it was only a third of the way through the 30-minute set.

“We call it the finale that never ends because there are multiple times when you think it’s so spectacular this has to be the finale,” said Megan Umscheid, executive director of the Wamego Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve been voted the best public fireworks display in Kansas, and we should be voted the longest finale ever.”

Wamego’s Fourth of July fireworks show is unique because the meticulously choreographed display is planned and executed by a pyrotechnic crew of local volunteers. It was that way until the 1990s when increased regulations forced organizers to outsource the show. After just a few years, community volunteers committed to the training and licensing necessary to return the show to a local production.

“With a crew of about 24 folks, including 13 seasoned shooters, who spend a year on this one show, you generate some pretty interesting ideas,” said Chris Hupe, a second-generation pyrotechnic crew member and lead technician. “We’re able to do things that other shows can’t because we’re shooting across an area that covers acres. We have more than 60 different shoot sites within the fireworks show, and our crew can shoot into different parts of the sky at once to create a much deeper and wider effect.”

Volunteers donate hundreds of hours and sponsors donate thousands of dollars to offer the free show, which starts at 10 p.m. on July 4. The town grows from 5,000 residents to as many as 25,000 so it’s best to come early and enjoy activities throughout the day: more than 200 antique cars and tractors, carnival, parade, live music and more.

Wamego Kansas pyro crew Fourth of July fireworks

<photo> Wamego’s volunteer pyro crew (photo courtesy

Fourth of July falls on Friday this year and there are no public displays of fireworks scheduled in Wichita; these are perfect conditions for a road trip to Wamego or one of these regional destinations (shown with approximate mileage from Wichita).

El Dorado, Kan. – 30 miles

The city’s Independence Day celebration begins at 10 a.m. July 4 in East Park near downtown with a children’s fishing derby. Activities – from chalk art to a wiffleball tournament – run throughout the day and all are free, including a hotdog feed and swimming at El Dorado Municipal Pool. The city gathers at McDonald Stadium for a 7 p.m. baseball game followed by fireworks.

El Dorado's McDonald Stadium Fourth of July

<photo>El Dorado’s McDonald Stadium (photo courtesy City of El Dorado)

Edmond, Okla. – 150 miles

LibertyFest covers nine days and includes 10 festivals, culminating on July 4 with ParkFest at University of Central Oklahoma, the largest parade in the state (more than 100 entries) and the largest fireworks display in the OKC metro.

Wamego, Kan. – 150 miles

In case you’re just skimming this post I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss Wamego … so go back up and read the intro to this article, which explains why you should go to Wamego to see an awesome fireworks display. (p.s. While in Wamego, check out Oz Museum which I’ve visited and written about.)

Fourth of July fireworks show in Wamego, Kansas

<photo> Fourth of July fireworks show in Wamego, Kan. (photo courtesy

Dodge City, Kan. – 160 miles

The Boot Hill Museum will help visitors celebrate the Fourth of July old west style – think sack races and seed-spitting contests – along with its regular entertainment. The city is hosting the Dodge City 300 Centennial, a motorcycle celebration July 1-6 to honor an important race that occurred there in 1914. The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series is at Dodge City Raceway Park July 4-5. The community hosts a free fireworks display July 4 at Memorial Stadium.

Dodge City Fourth of July

<photo> A 1914 Harley Davidson, part of the Dodge City 300 Centennial motorcycle celebration, parked in front of the Boot Hill Museum’s Long Branch Saloon. (photo courtesy of

Bartlesville, Okla. – 160 miles

Freedom Fest, from 6-10:30 p.m. on July 4, is centered around revitalized downtown Bartlesville. Visitors will find live music, games, a flyover by the 138th Fighter Wing, fireworks show and activities – including a patriotic kids parade.

Bartlesville Oklahoma Fourth of July

<photo> Patriotic kids’ parade in downtown Bartlesville, Okla. (photo courtesy

Oklahoma City – 160 miles

Stars & Stripes Family Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 28 in the Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River. Free activities include live music, vendors, watching water races, an interactive exhibit of Olympic sports including rowing, kayaking and gymnastics, and the fireworks show. Paid activities include racing and RIVERSPORT Adventures, an area with aerial adventure trails, wall climbing, paddle boarding and more.

Night sprints on river in Oklahoma City July Fourth

<photo> Night sprint racing on the Oklahoma River (photo courtesy of Georgia Read/OKC Boathouse Foundation)

Kansas City metro – 185 miles

The biggest fireworks displays on July 4 in the Kansas City area are KC RiverFest at Berkley Riverfront Park along the Missouri River and the Star Spangled Spectacular in Overland Park, Kan., at the city’s 52-acre Founders’ Park. Both include a variety of live music, games and rides for children and concessions. If you arrive early for RiverFest the $5 admission is waived. The Overland Park event offers free admission.

Fireworks at Kansas City's RiverFest Fourth of July

<photo> Fireworks at Kansas City’s RiverFest. (photo courtesy of Brian Rice/

Overland Park Kansas Fourth of July

<photo> Spectators gathering for Overland Park’s Star Spangled Spectacular (photo courtesy

There’s plenty to do on either the Missouri or Kansas side before fireworks, too. The Kansas City T-Bones independent baseball team plays at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Village West at 7:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 5:05 p.m. on Sunday. Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery (30 miles north of downtown) will be open for tasting reds and whites while listening to blues music; Fort Osage National Historic Landmark reenacts Independence Day in 1812; and Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead has patriotic lessons, crafts and activities planned.

Independence Day celebration at Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead in Overland Park, Kan. (photo courtesy

<photo> Independence Day celebration at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, Kan. (photo courtesy

Kansas City T-bones

<photo> Kansas City T-Bones baseball team plays at home July 4-6. (Photo courtesy

Springfield, Mo. – 250 miles

The city’s annual fireworks show is June 28 at Hammons Field, home of the Springfield Cardinals. Family-friendly activities start at 3 p.m., the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals plays at 5:10 p.m. and fireworks start at 9:45 p.m. Tickets to the game start at $7.

Fourth of July Springfield Missouri Hammons Field

<photo> Fourth of July fireworks at Hammons Field in downtown Springfield, Mo. (photo courtesy

Seward, Neb. – 260 miles

Twenty miles west of Lincoln, Neb., this town of 7,000 residents becomes a gathering spot for 40,000 celebrating in “America’s Official Fourth of July City-Small Town U.S.A.”, a designation from Congress in 1979. More than 100 events make up the all-day festival on July 4, ending with a giant fireworks show at Plum Creek Park.

Fourth of July Seward Nebraska car show

The car show is part of the all-day Fourth of July festival in Seward, Neb. (photo courtesy

St. Louis – 435 miles

This year the annual Fourth of July events at the Gateway Arch will move to the grounds that hosted the 1904 World’s Fair – Forest Park. Fair Saint Louis is coordinating with the city’s year-long 250th birthday celebration for free concerts, parades and fireworks July 3-5.

Wichita – 0 miles

There are no public fireworks displays scheduled in Wichita on the Fourth of July. Here are the options in Wichita that week:

  • July 2: Salute to America’s heroes and fireworks show after the Wichita Wingnuts vs. Amarillo Sox baseball game at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore St. Tickets: $6-$13. Game begins at 7:05 p.m. For information or tickets call: 316-755-7328.
  • July 3: Celebrate America jazz concert and fireworks on Bradley Fair Plaza, near 21st and Rock Road. The free concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and is followed by fireworks over the lake at approximately 9:30 p.m.
The Wichita Wingnuts playing at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in downtown Wichita. (MeLinda Schnyder Instagram photo)

<photo> The Wichita Wingnuts playing at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in downtown Wichita. (MeLinda Schnyder Instagram photo)

Fireworks over Lawrence Dumont Stadium after a Wingnuts game in Wichita, Kan. (MeLinda Schnyder Instagram photo)

<photo> Fireworks over Lawrence Dumont Stadium after a Wingnuts game in Wichita, Kan. (MeLinda Schnyder Instagram photo)


This, of course, is not an all-inclusive list. Check out the events calendar at and other states’ tourism websites for listings.

Also posted in travel

Remembering a failed interview with the X-Man

Here's Xavier McDaniel in a Seattle promotional poster. The dog was not with him at the interview :)
Here’s Xavier McDaniel in a Seattle promotional poster. The dog was not with him at the interview :)


Xavier McDaniel will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame tonight. This brings back memories of my first summer in Wichita, Kansas … and having the NBA player basically kick me out of his gym.

I moved to Wichita for the summer of 1992 to take on a sports reporting internship at the Wichita Eagle newspaper. I covered a little of everything that summer – minor league baseball, the annual NBC amateur baseball tournament held in Wichita every year, professional tennis {Martina Navratilova was on a visiting team}, horseshoes {not kidding}, auto racing, motocross racing and a lot of youth sports. Then there was the time I was asked to interview Xavier McDaniel; it was one of my first assignments of the internship.

The assignment: localize a national wire story about the one-year anniversary of Magic Johnson announcing he was retiring from basketball because he had the HIV virus. NBA player Xavier McDaniel was in Wichita conducting a youth basketball camp, so my job was to go ask him how Magic’s announcement had changed the league.

I’d heard of him — known as X or the X-Man — but I didn’t know much more than he was an NBA player. There was no Google in 1992, so I did a quick search of the newspaper’s archives before heading out to interview him. Turns out he’d played college ball at Wichita State University in the early 1980s, where he became the first collegiate player in history to lead the nation in both scoring (27.2 points per game) and rebounding (14.8 rebounds per game) in the same season. He was drafted fourth overall in 1985 by the Seattle Supersonics, which was the team I remembered him playing for, and lost the Rookie of the Year award to Patrick Ewing.

Some of the archives and/or stories shared by my fellow Eagle reporters also pointed to some anger issues that had gotten some publicity over the years. To say I was a little intimidated walking into a high school gym to ask the X-Man about the risk of HIV and its effect on the sex lives of pro basketball players would be an understatement!

I was 20 years old and this guy was 6-foot-7, 220 pounds PLUS his baldness gave him an even more menacing look. I mean, the guy was known for his intensity!

It might have been the world’s shortest interview, and I recall it went something like this:

Me: So we are running an article about whether Magic Johnson’s announcement has changed the behavior of pro athletes over the past year.

X: OK, so what’s your question?

Me: Um, well … has Magic Johnson’s announcement that he has HIV changed your behavior, or that of your teammates?

X: You want me to tell you if it’s changed who I sleep with? No way, I’m not telling you what me or my teammates do personally. You’re crazy.

His words were a little loud, not yelling but … intense :) It was clear that the interview was over.

Looking back, I don’t blame X for his reaction. I think I’d be able to approach the topic differently now that I’m a little older and wiser, and I’d get a few usable sentences out of him!

So there you have it, my brush with a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Sometime I will tell you about Norm Stewart yelling at me on the phone and hanging up on me, or how friendly Martina was not.

Also posted in Randomness, Sports, Weird shit that happens

Happy one year {career break} anniversary to me!

This week marked one year ago that I decided to take a break from full-time employment. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I was at a good spot to stop for awhile and think about it.

It was a planned break and one that Lee and I discussed and agreed on – planned but not completely mapped out. It was hard to define the break because I had a lot of questions and I knew that as I started to find answers, those answers would steer me in the direction I needed to go.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year and I’ve gone in several different directions to see what the road looked like. I still have some of my original questions to answer and I even have new questions to answer, so I’m certainly not “there” yet.

At one time, I envisioned a full career break or what some call a sabbatical. I read this great book Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life By Taking a Break and even had the chance to meet and talk to one of the authors, Catherine Allen (who happens to be a Mizzou grad!). I think everyone who is working – happily or unhappily – should read it and consider regular breaks, short or long. 

I didn’t quite go the route of the full career break, although I did have several months late last summer and early fall when I only accepted a couple of small freelance projects and had the rest of the time to explore. This was my “reconnection stage” according to the book. I learned Pilates (for fitness and relaxation reasons), I learned to slow down a little, I got enough sleep, I went to the gym often and I took time to visit family and friends near and far. I also worked on saying no to opportunities that might have stroked my ego to be asked to do but didn’t really match up with what I want to spend my time doing.

This break is really all about giving myself the gift of time. To quote directly from the book: “the luxury of time to step back, relax, reassess and figure out where and what you really want to be or do.”

Somewhere in the fall I moved into the “exploration stage” and I’m happily still in this phase. Some of the highlights: I’ve learned how to use WordPress and I started blogging; I’ve spent time taking photographs, learning to use Photoshop better and started to organize my photo files; I’ve identified conferences to attend and attended several; I’ve started to research the travel and tourism industry, met travel bloggers and writers and worked on querying travel magazine editors.

I’ve also accepted more freelance writing and editing work, and I’ve really paid attention to what I like to write so that I can focus my efforts toward getting more of those assignments.

I’m very thankful that Lee and I have created a situation for ourselves where I am able to take this break in a non-pressure way – our electricity isn’t going to be shut off and we have health insurance through his employer. I’m also grateful for his support and understanding.

I consider this break to be taking a small risk, one that I believe will open up new writing opportunities and will eventually pay off for me and for us.

So, happy one year anniversary to me. I’m looking forward to another year full of possibilities.

Also posted in Lee, travel

Writing and working and traveling and writing and working …

I haven’t been able to post here on the blog as much as I’d like lately because I’ve been busy with work projects and planning for a big trip, which was also work related. Here’s a quick update on what I’ve been up to, starting with a quick explanation of my work situation.

I am a full-time freelance writer. No, I’m not writing the great American novel {although I like to tell people I’m writing the dirty version of Fifty Shades of Grey just to see their reaction}.

I am a journalist and also have experience in public relations writing and creating marketing copy. You can see my portfolio at I write articles for magazines and newsletters, news releases for companies, scripts for marketing videos, copy for marketing materials, and the list could go on and on but those are some examples of work I do often or have done recently.

What do I write about? Whatever people pay me to write about :) Nah, actually, I’m trying to not whore myself out. I want to write about things that matter to me {but mama does need a new pair of shoes once in awhile}.

Join me at TBEX

This is one reason I went to TBEX last week. TBEX stands for Travel Bloggers Exchange. From what I gather, this group started years ago when blogging was new and not everyone had a blog. It was a way for the few travel bloggers in the world to exchange ideas about this new platform.

As with food blogs or lifestyle blogs, the number of travel blogs has blown up over the past few years because someone like me can now start her own blog {thank you WordPress} with little expense or tech know-how.

What was once a small gathering of travel bloggers – an early conference attracted only 200 participants even though it was in a prime location of New York City – is now the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators. Each year TBEX has one North American conference and one in Europe.

I signed up for the conference last fall after stumbling upon the TBEX group online and seeing they’d just had a conference in Keystone, Colo. That conference drew 700 and the one I went to in Toronto, Canada, last week drew 1,300! That should give you an idea of the growing interest in travel blogging.

I went with the goal of developing more contacts within the travel industry – with publications or websites, companies or tourism groups and also among other travel writers.

During my first stint as a full-time freelance writer in the early 2000s, I wrote a regular feature for The Wichita Eagle on regional travel destinations. Even though Lee and I travel all over the place, what the newspaper really needed were articles about places people could drive. I had a blast getting to know more about the region I live in and the only reason I stopped doing it was that I got lured back to the corporate world and the newspaper could no longer accept my freelance articles since I worked for a corporation that it also reported on regularly.

The majority of my current work is in the aviation business because I know that industry well and I live in Wichita {Air Capital of the World}. I’ve spent about a dozen years either working in the corporate offices for general aviation manufacturers or working for them on a contract or freelance basis. I enjoy using my expertise in this industry, especially when I get to tell the story of how a company or individual has used their airplane to grow their business or serve a community, and I’m fortunate to have made good friends in the industry who I enjoy working with.

My goal is to continue to work with the aviation industry while spending an equal amount of time developing my expertise on all things Midwest-travel. I want to get paid to write about why people should land in these so-called flyover states. TBEX was a great opportunity to learn from others and to help me focus on what my niche should be. I spent quite a lot of time in advance of the conference researching who I wanted to meet, getting my online portfolio in order, etc. Now I need to spend even more time taking action on what I learned.

I’ll be writing more about my experiences at TBEX — what I learned about the travel industry and blogging, and what it was like on the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk (1,168 feet above ground!).

CN Tower EdgeWalk in Toronto during TBEX

That’s me hard at work in Toronto, experiencing the EdgeWalk atop the CN Tower.



Also posted in travel