protect and serve

October 29, 2014

Growing up, I was always taught that police officers and firefighters are “the good guys”. They save lives, they fix problems, and when you need them, they will help you. As an adult and a journalist working in a city where there’s a lot of attention on everything the police department does, things get a little more complicated. Police officers are humans — and sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they also do “the wrong thing” by choice– and we report on it when they do.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice released a findings report culminating from an investigation of the police department here in Albuquerque. It stated that the Albuquerque Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” Since then, the city has been under negotiations with the Department of Justice to develop a consent decree laying out plans moving forward, and the department has been working to improve relationships with the community. It is an interesting time to be a journalist, and there are a lot of layers to the process.

The community is divided on a lot of police-related issues. But most people I talk to describe a willingness to have the community and police work together and support each other. When I think about that support, I often think to an event that shocked Albuquerque and brought people together. This weekend marked the one-year-anniversary of that event.

On October 26, 2013, a man named Christopher Chase armed himself with an AK47 and told people on the street to call police. When they arrived, he started shooting- eventually hitting three officers and a deputy before he crashed into a gas station and police shot and killed him. The deputy, in particular, suffered a shot to the leg that hit an artery, and she was saved because of quick work by others and a tourniquet. In the days, weeks and months that followed, that day stood as a reminder of the danger officers often face in the line of duty, and people used it as a reason to think about what officers go through, and how to help them. To honor that day, I talked with an officer on the front lines that day, the deputy who was shot, and a sergeant credited with saving lives.

I chose to tell the story without any track — to let their words explain what they felt that day, and what they feel now looking back on it. I’m glad that’s how I told this story- or, well, how I helped them tell it.

cheers to the weekend

October 27, 2014


I’m technically off Sundays and Mondays, but even with work on Saturdays the normal “weekend” always feels like my “weekend,” while Mondays are more about cleaning, laundry, planning and errands. I try to pack in both fun and a lot of relaxation on Sundays- and yesterday totally did the trick.

I got up early, got coffee and went for a quick little drive through the mountains before meeting up with Shaun and his family. We sipped lattes, ate banana bread and spent the morning together before I slipped home for an hour to whip up some chocolate-chip-M&M cookies (with the autumn-colored M&Ms only…I know, I’m a dork).

Shaun had set up a tour of our local fire station for his mini-me, who loves firefighters, so when I brought the cookies back his son insisted we bring the cookies to “hungry firefighters” because “they are our friends”. So we did (after he snuck a few for himself… and I snuck one for me!). His mom ordered him the most adorable firefighter costume for Halloween, and the firemen loved it. It was a sweet afternoon.

Yesterday we also had time to squeeze in linner at Rosati’s. If you have one near you- especially if you don’t live near Chicago- you need to try it. It may look like your average sports pub or pizza joint on the outside but the pizza is amazing. I also happened to have my first job the summer before high school working at one in Illinois, so that might add to the effect for me…but when they opened one in New Mexico I knew we had to visit and see if it was still as good. It was!


I spent the night enjoying a beautiful New Mexico sunset and munching on chips with salsa and guacamole, being 100% antisocial and unproductive. But I did catch up on Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Madam Secretary and Law & Order: SVU… so maybe a little productive.

Now, to spend the rest of the day doing some massive fall cleaning and organizing. My mom comes to visit this weekend so I need to get ready for that… and I want to get life in order before the holidays sneak up on me like they always do!


October 24, 2014

It’s been a busy week and I need to watch How to Get Away with Murder now, so just some little bite-sized posts :o)

Loving: Fire in the airfire

The weather is finally getting cold enough that the scent of fire is fresh in the air. I love getting off work at 10:30pm, driving with the windows rolled down and instantly being transported to a camping trip or a cozy night by the fireplace. The picture above is actually from a backyard bonfire with friends a couple weeks ago. I have a fireplace in my apartment but haven’t put it to use yet- to be honest I’ve never set a fire myself… Hopefully I’ll have Shaun help me get it going this weekend. For now, I’ve been enjoying the smell of charred wood sneaking up through my neighbors’ chimneys!


Listening: The Suburbs, The Arcade Fire
This album is a few years old, but whenever fall creeps up I find myself listening to it again. I love the whole album. It’s perfect for mornings spent driving around town as colors change on trees and the air gets a little cooler.

Searching: the perfect sweater
No photo yet because I haven’t found it. I’m looking for a big, warm, chunky comfy sweater I can throw on and off all winter… one big enough that I can snuggle up in it, but small enough that it doesn’t make me look gigantic. The search begins.

Dreaming of: vacation
I wrote about it earlier this week already, but I’m so excited. Whenever I get a little stressed at work or annoyed in life, I look at pics and feel better! Photo via.

Watching: koalas fighting

I love koalas, they’re my fave. Today Shaun sent me this link from Gawker and I’m not ashamed to say I watched all of them.

snap chat

October 23, 2014

Ever since high school, when my parents bought me my first point-and-shoot camera, I’ve been a shutterbug. Not a serious photographer, mind you, and my photos may not have been the most artistic — but I’ve loved taking them. I think I do a pretty good job of catching people in their element- mid-laugh, a moment past smile, or looking admiringly at someone they love or care about. So after I got my first big girl job, the first thing I saved up for was a really nice camera. And for me, a Canon 60D was/is what “really nice” meant/means.

Here’s the problem (and please excuse how silly this may sound): this camera is intimidating! There are too many things you can do with it and too much customizability and too much potential for really great pictures… to the point where it kind of stresses me out. So, since buying it, I’ve just kind of haphazardly snapped shots of this-and-that and… out of fear of “not getting the shot”, I’ve captured way more life moments on my camera phone. Which works, and all, but what’s the point of having a “really nice” camera with potential for really great pictures if you don’t use it?

Well, it just so happens that under my new work schedule, I have Mondays off… and no one else really does… so I 100% have time for “hobbies.” And I’m pretty sure amateur photography counts as a hobby! So my plan is to, this Monday, read the manual cover-to-cover and finally really learn my camera. So I can use it without fear, and just enjoy taking pictures and experimenting with different shots again!

In closing… if the most stressful thing in my life right now is “figuring out a camera” and my biggest fear is “missing the moment”… I think things are going pretty well. Cheers to now.

family vacation

October 22, 2014

Tickets are booked, time off work was approved and my calendar finally has nine days blocked out in bright pink marker: this January, I’m going to Maui! And not just me…my whole big fat Italian family.

My family is super close. I think moving around a bunch when we were little played a role in that- we always met new friends, but the six of us were constant- and we not only loved and cared and shared with each other- we had a ton of fun. A few years ago, though, life broke us up geographically.

I moved to Missouri for school, then New York for work, now New Mexico; two of my brothers left Chicagoland for school in Iowa; and my littlest brother (the term little used loosely since he’s bigger than I am) heads to college next year. Since the moving started, it’s been basically impossible to find time we’re all free- and when we do, the trips are usually to where one of us are living. More than a week away, together, is going to be such a treat…especially in where might be the most beautiful place we’ve ever been!

(Photo via mauihi, which I’m following on Instagram to get a daily dose of we’re-going-here excitement!)

I’m looking forward to exploring the island, seeing Mt. Haleakala and taking the Road to Hana. I can’t wait to visit the Seven Sacred Pools or check out the lavender farm. But most of all, I’m excited to lay by the beach with a drink in hand, surrounded by family and our family friends, who we’re also going with. I want to catch up with everyone in person and have another adventure- one that will be a little different than vacations past now that we’re all basically “grown-ups.”

The one thing about the trip that’s a little bittersweet is the thought that it may be the last trip like this we have together for awhile. My youngest brother is going away to college, and my other two brothers will enter the work world (one of them already has an engineering job lined up for when he graduates). So here’s to planning the best way to spend that special family time. The countdown begins!

practice what you preach

October 21, 2014


On the left? Myself, talking about how the Department of Health is encouraging everyone to get flu shots this season. To the right? A photo of what I try to avoid at all costs… shots. Ever since I was little I’ve hated needles. When I was nine, only the promise of a milkshake afterward solved the problem. As an adult, I’m not scared perse, but I still don’t love them, so I get the shots I absolutely need to… and, well, avoid anything remotely elective. There are a lot of arguments out there about why people shouldn’t get flu shots, some of them may have some merit…but none of them back me up on why I didn’t get mine. The reason for that was simply, “I don’t really want to.”

Anyway, my point is that this weekend, I did a story about the DOH telling people- especially young adults, who typically don’t get flu shots – to get them… and yet I still haven’t gotten my own. So this morning, when I woke up feeling worse than under the weather, I figured the patron saint of journalist hypocrisy was getting revenge. I had a massive migraine, achy arms and legs and couldn’t stomach the idea of breakfast. I immediately promised the world that if this would please, please pass- I’d get the darn flu shot. Maybe in a drive through (did you know they do drive through flu shots? You just put your arm out and they prick you quick).

It got me thinking about how many times we do stories imparting advice from the “experts,” but don’t follow it ourselves. I learn a lot at my job, and I only include information in my stories that we as a newsroom decide is valuable for viewers (of course there are disagreements about certain facts but we attribute, what I mean is that we wouldn’t include something that has no basis whatsoever), so why am I not always practicing what I preach? I should be the first person to have a “winter survival kit” packed in my car and should have taken a self defense class by now… but I haven’t.

The moral of this story is not that I’m lazy or don’t listen or don’t trust the stories… it’s that people who watch the news- and people who do the news- are often busy. Life gets the best of you, and you don’t get to those little things you know you should do. If someone who’s actually writing the story can’t find the time or passion to get whatever it is done- why should we expect viewers to? My resolution: make sure with every story, I make it easy for viewers to take something away…and know that if I’m not moved by the way the story’s told, it’s likely no one else is either.

For now, flu shot, here I come. And for the record- pretty sure I just have a migraine, not the flu or a virus- judging by the colossal slice of cheesecake I just managed to polish off. :o)

feels like fall

October 20, 2014

erica zucco

Growing up in the Midwest, September typically brought the start of fall weather, colors and clothes. Here in New Mexico, not so much. I haven’t needed a jacket yet and started wearing my fall boots simply because I wanted to, not because I needed to. This weekend was the first that brought a good chill and really felt like fall — the perfect time for a trip to the pumpkin patch!

McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty, New Mexico is actually much more than that- hayrides, a corn maze and lots of games and fun stuff for kids. My boyfriend Shaun and I went with his two-year-old son, mom, aunt and cousins — and everyone loved it. We actually got lost in the maize maze (that’s what happens when you let a toddler pick “left or right?”!) but clearly, no one was upset:


(In case you’re wondering, the red hat is a plastic firefighter helmet from our local department. Shaun’s mini-me insisted I also wear one the entire day…I gave in despite the “you’re silly” looks from other grown-ups at the patch… snuck it off for the top photo though!)

After the farm, pizza and some group trampoline time Shaun and I got caught up on Parenthood (the NBC show, if you’re not familiar). I love a lot of “trash television” that I don’t feel the need to defend but Parenthood I will defend, to anyone, anywhere, anytime. It’s not trash television- it’s realistic and hilarious and heartbreaking and feels so true to what big, close families (like mine!) are like. Anyway, my point is that if you haven’t seen the show, you need to hop on Netflix, catch up and then enjoy the current (and last) season. Just have tissues ready if you’re anything like me (I am a crier)– I cry during every. Single. Episode. Happy tears, sad tears, nostalgic tears– they’re there. Shaun and I always watch the episodes together and we have a running joke about how soon the crying will begin. It’s all good crying, I promise.

It was a fun, busy day with a relaxing end. I have work off tomorrow too, so that’s when I plan to get organized for the week (and clean, and do laundry, and maybe a little shopping…)- but today was a nice chance to just enjoy the day, do nothing productive, and recharge.

It was also the perfect “official start” to fall in my new(ish), warmer climate. I’m ready now to start a fire, pour some hot apple cider and make some fall treats– I know the holidays will sneak up in no time, so I need to enjoy the little bit left of October!


(Note: the picture above was going to be an artsy insta-shot… then I got photobombed! :o) )

boo: halloween costume cluelessness

October 15, 2014


Every year since I hit 20 Halloween has brought upon a minute amount of stress only alleviated by a mass amount of candy corn. I love Halloween, I do. Always have. I love haunted houses and creepy ghost tours and candy and other people’s costumes. Key words: other people’s. I would just bag it and wear some black and orange, but I’m going to several Halloween parties and I just feel like that would be very “bah humbug.”

My boyfriend had some ideas for couple costumes but if we split at all for different parties that would be weird. A lot of other “creative ideas” I’d probably get in trouble at work for. Which is also the reason I can’t do any costume that could be considered inappropriate or offensive… which also narrows down most of the results you get when you search “Halloween costumes 2014.” If you’re a parent, you can get away with silly costumes that “your kid wanted you to be”… but as a single adult going to parties with other very funny and creative adults who probably like Halloween 10x more than I do already and spend time and money and effort on their costumes, it’s like, I have to come up with something.

Growing up, age 5 to probably age 13, all I ever wanted to be was a witch with green face paint and a black pointy hat. Then came 50s girls, 70s girl and 80s girl, and every year of high school I was a Christmas elf, which I thought was funny and ironic. Because, you know, different holiday. When I look back at college Halloween pictures I’m not really sure what I was supposed to be but all of them were last-minute.

So. Countdown to Halloween: 16 days. At this point, all I’ve got are an emoji (way too easy if I’m the girl with the pink shirt but maybe I combine some of the emojis), a basic ghost aka put a sheet on my head, cut two holes and write on it with permanent marker which would actually be really retro and cool, right (???)… or if I find the time and effort I could be Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy because even though I know that’s pretty dorky, I loved him.

Almost as much as adorable Dancing Baby Groot.

Yeah. Let your nerd flag fly!

sugar rush: on giving in & letting go

October 14, 2014

I’m not a perfectionist, by any means, but I am a person who likes to fix things that are broken. As a result, I generally have my act together for a twenty-something: great relationships with my family, friends and boyfriend; a career track I love with a decent amount of experience; a warm and comfortable home where I feel happy and safe; an exciting future full of possibilities. I’ve had a good amount of luck and a whole lot of support, but I’ve also worked hard and kept on top of things. Like I said, I’m a fixer. So when things aren’t good, I fix them.

…So one of the most frustrating things ever is when a situation is out of my control. This year, I’ve encountered one of those- it’s ongoing, and it’s complicated, and it’s too much to break down and discuss in one blog post – but suffice it to say it’s something that will get better, I just have to be patient — and sometimes, patience is the hardest virtue to find.

Sunday morning, in the midst of a near-meltdown where emotions basically exploded and I just wanted to scream… I found the cure for that “out of control” feeling.


Donuts. Yes, I am writing an entire blog-post-entry love letter to donuts.

But here’s the thing: donuts are easy. Donuts are not something I have to “think about,” or “put effort into.” You just buy the darn donuts, and you eat them. You don’t have to feel guilty for not baking them yourself because honestly, who bakes donuts? Or fries them, or whatever? If you’re raising your hand right now, congratulations, you win at life. But for me, donuts aren’t something I “do,” they’re just something I buy. Happily. And eat. More happily.

I get that yoga or exercise might be a healthier coping mechanism. But for me, the ten minutes I took while in the middle of a trying situation to stop what I was doing, take a little drive and buy a dozen donuts was enough to help me breathe, let go, and move on.

I guess the point of what I’m trying to say with all this is that as I get older, I’m learning that there are battles that you can’t fight, games you can’t win, things you just can’t fix. But you can sugar coat them – look at them with the rosiest possible glasses, let go, and focus on something else- a little moment of happiness, even something as simple as a chocolate sprinkled party bagel.

And sometimes, that’s enough.



like a kid again: balloon fiesta

October 13, 2014


So I said I’d write more about the picture above and I always keep my Internet promises so get ready for a lot of exclamation points… this event is a perfect example of why New Mexico is nicknamed the “Land of Enchantment”!

See that little tiny part of a hot air balloon in the corner of the picture above? Well, multiply that fourth by four and then multiply that by more than 500 and then add 100,000 excited people, a perfect sunrise and a ton of cinnamon rolls… and you’ve got the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!

Easy explanation? It’s a two-week celebration where hot air balloonists come together from across the nation and more than a dozen other countries to fly. Here’s a photo of just a fraction of the “Mass Ascension,” where balloons lift off in two waves and all fly at once, landing all across town depending on how windy it is:

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Harder to explain? How truly beautiful and magical it is. The best way I can describe it is… think back to when you were a little kid and your parents brought you somewhere so amazing you can hardly remember it. Whether it was Disney World or a beautiful camping spot or just anywhere you felt like you were on top of the world… that’s the feeling you get at Balloon Fiesta. In the morning, the balloons all fly… in the evening, they do a “balloon glow” where pilots light flames underneath the balloons and they light up together. Both events are beautiful. In addition to going for fun, this year I also reported from the field for work.


Yeah, that’s a mic flag along with a couple of my favorite balloons — the bumblebees! There are actually three of them, not two – there was a “couple,” and then they “had a baby bumblebee,” but that one flew away before this picture. That’s probably the most saccharine thing I’ll ever write, but trust me, it’s merited. Balloon Fiesta turns grown men and women into third graders focused on the sky and on making momentary friendships with other excited strangers.

Anyway, I spent my weekend balloon-crazed…with a 3:30am work wake-up call to field report and enjoy the beautiful sights…After that- a power nap and a trip right back to the park for the Glow, specifically to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday! We went with some of his family members and his two-year-old son — the only thing more magical than enjoying magic like a kid is watching a kid enjoy it :o) Perfect weekend and a reminder of the magic of New Mexico!