BFF = Best Furry Friend

They say dog is man’s best friend but if it were possible to have someone closer than a best friend, something tells me that’s how a correctional officer and his K9 partner would view each other.

A couple months ago, I visited the Connecticut Department of Correction’s K9 Unit in Enfield and met an extraordinary team of “officers”…and their human owners. (Any pet person would say their furry friends are really the ones in charge!)

These dogs are fearless and yet inspiring at the same time. They have no qualms about standing up, in between or for their human counterpart -the corrections officer.

Yes, everyone is familiar with the CO- whether through movies, a TV series or you may even know one in real life…but what you see on TV or from far isn’t always realistic. It might be surprising to learn that 31% of CO’s have PTSD- even higher than Iraq war veterans!

Maybe it’s that “out of sight, out of mind” theory– because we don’t see the CO as often as we would see a soldier or even police officer or firefighter, we forget the risks and stress they go through on a continual basis. While they are inside the prison walls dealing with what most of us on the outside would never want or could comprehend in our lives, they also must fight to keep their physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual well-being …and at the same time, maintain the peace as much possible in a world where calm can turn to chaos at a moment’s notice.

The health risks are astoundingThe high rates of divorce, alcoholism and stress often go unnoticedBut not much is out there to understand and fix the problem.

So you can imagine the bond between a K9 dog and a correctional officer who are in this “fight” together. Peering from the outside in on my field shoot, I felt the bond but I’m sure no words or TV segment could explain the connection between these two.

Watch Connecting Point on 2/13 Thursday night at 7:30 to hear correctional officers express their love and concern… not for themselves or their own safety, but for their canine partners- and maybe it’ll bring a different perspective to the phrase, “A man’s best friend is his dog.”

p.s. I left the best part out- hear how Vested Interest was able to step forward and go one “paw” further in protecting these dogs who, in turn, protect their best friend- the corrections officer.

k9andAliz

image

k9

This new job is for you, Yiayia …

“If you could interview anyone, who would it be?”

They say be prepared for any question in a job interview but I had never been asked that before…let alone during a job interview.
I was asked that question though while interviewing at WGBY to join Connecting Point.
Thinking for a second, immediately the answer came to mind.
Yiayia.
I would interview my Greek grandmother on my dad’s side.
Unfortunately I never met her because she tragically passed away before I was born but my dad talked of her constantly about what a great mother and Greek woman she was.
So even though I never had the privilege of meeting her, I felt as if I knew her from the stories and memories of my dad who unashamedly called himself, “a mama’s boy.”
What would I ask Yiayia?
Was she scared coming over on a boat from Greece not knowing the language or way of life in America?
Did she get emotionally happy or stay quietly strong when she saw the Statute of Liberty as she sailed into Ellis Island?
How did she manage to raise a family and be there for her kids yet still work herself to the bone at the same time?
I would ask her if my dad was always this awesome or was he a trouble maker?
How did she know my mom was the perfect girl for dad and then made sure to tell him so?
And so many more questions I would ask her about her life… dreams… goals.
I’m convinced I have her work ethic passed down through my dad.
I wonder what else we’d have in common if we spent time together at family weddings, funerals and holidays.
Or would we get to see each other more often than that?
I guess I’ll never know and that is so sad yet she inspires me.
If she didn’t give up til her last breath, neither will I.
If anything, out of tribute to her and her willingness to forge a new path in life.
I can’t imagine not being her Greek granddaughter.

And it’s amazing how such a simple question can make someone think long and hard about loving a person they’ve never met.

So I thank God for that question from the people I now get to call my bosses and co-workers.

They may not be big fat and Greek but I’m proud to call WGBY family.

“Mass” Move Update

concussions umass

Aliz Koletas is the host and producer of Connecting Point, a TV show on WGBY in Springfield, Mass. Originally from Troy, she started her broadcast career in the Albany area but moved farther east this summer after the merger between WXXA and WTEN. She comes from a big fat Greek family which is at 18 …for now.

Q We last talked to you in 2011. You were reporting for an independent TV show and opening a consignment shop in Troy. Catch us up to speed.

A I opened my High Maintenance, Low Budget Consignment Shop in Lansingburgh and had such a blast getting involved in my neighborhood. Reporting and clothes are two of my passions so it was great doing both at the same time. Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad car accident in October 2011 and spent the next several months in the hospital, rehab and then physical therapy. I sadly had to sell my consignment shop and focus on getting better but it was such a great experience overall.

Q When did you join Fox23/WXXA?

A A couple months later, I decided to leave the show I was reporting for and join the local Fox station. They didn’t have any on-air positions so I worked off camera and bugged my boss until he let me go out in the field. I am very thankful for the many stories I got to cover but unfortunately, that didn’t last long. Fox23 and Channel 10 merged and I like to say, “They let all the awesome people go.” I wanted to balance my career with my personal life so I decided to look for an opportunity specifically in the Springfield, Mass. area. My car accident ironically helped me slow down and smell the roses.

Q What do you do now?

A Over the summer, I reported for ABC40 in Springfield. I was able to meet different people in the area and learn more about western Massachusetts. I am happy to announce though that I just accepted the position to become host for Connecting Point, a TV show that connects you with people, places and issues that matter most to Western New England. It airs on WGBY.

Q What will your new job entail?

A WGBY is a PBS station and they don’t have the same time constraints or limits like commercial TV does, so I get to dig deeper and discuss stories more in depth. I’m excited to explore issues and topics that are relevant and important to people in the western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut, southern Vermont and areas beyond.

Q How does your culture play a role in your career?

A Greeks love to talk and socialize! Even though I didn’t say a word until I was four, my dad loves to joke that I haven’t shut up since! I love to meet everyone and nobody is a stranger in my book! Also, in the WGBY interview process, I was asked if I could interview anyone, who would it be? I’ve never been asked that question before but in a second’s notice, the answer came to mind. I would interview my Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) who tragically passed away before I was born. She came over to the United States on a boat and faced innumerable odds with learning a new language, culture and way of life. That determination and fearlessness is something that inspires me and makes me part of who I am. I think she would also be proud of my baklava, too.

http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2013/09/19/news/doc5239e7a462704597557200.txt

Aliz Koletas named WGBY ‘Connecting Point’ host, co-producer

Aliz Koletas, who has been a reporter for WGGB, Springfield’s ABC affiliate, has been named host and co-producer of “Connecting Point,” the popular series, on topics of area interest in a variety of fields, broadcast by WGBY-PublicTelevision for Western New England.

Koletas will join Jim Madigan, director of public affairs on the show, which launches its fourth season on Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. She replaces Carrie Saldo, who was with the half-hour show since its local inception. Saldo left in June to take on a new role at Rocky Mountain Public Media, an affiliate in Denver, Colo.

“I am so honored and very excited to join this award-winning station as host of ‘Connecting Point.’ As we start the new season, I hope viewers across Western New England will explore and learn with me, as we tell the many untold stories of this unique area of the Northeast,” Koletas said in a station release.

Koletas began her broadcasting career in Albany, N.Y., at the local Fox affiliate, and as a reporter for Parentology, a weekly parenting program. She is a graduate of Albany’s New School of Radio and Television.

“Aliz’s enthusiasm and dedication to storytelling and analysis will be a wonderful complement to ‘Connecting Point.’ Her attention to social media will help us make great strides in engaging viewers and bringing our content beyond broadcast,” said Lynn Page, WGBY’s deputy general manager.

This season ‘Connecting Point” will air three nights each week, instead of five. The schedule change will free up resources for field work, according to the release.

“It has been a number of years since our producers have had time to create a long-form documentary of their own,” said Keith Clark, director of local production and services.

For more information, visit http://www.wgby.org.

http://www.masslive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/09/aliz_koletas_named_wgby_connecting_point_host_co-producer.html#incart_river

Operation Greek Princess Demolition Derby

What? a Greek girl dressed in a pink helmet, pink polo dress and pink boots purposely crashing a hot-pink princess car in a demolition derby

When? Labor Day 2013

Where? upstate NY

Why? because. just because

Here are the ABC’s to my crazy-idea-turned-reality:

Again? nah, I think I’ll pass. once was good enough for me

Bragging? absolutely. til the day I die

Cried? broke down when my dad asked me why I didn’t take the stereo out of the car to sell for a profit. “I don’t even know how to drive in a derby, dad. That’s the least of my worries!”

Damage? car was banged up pretty bad. so was my neck for a couple days

Elegant? considering I wore a pink polo dress and had to climb in and out of car through window and windshield…yes

Fans? hundreds of them. stopping me as I made my way to meet the family in the stands. “Way to go, pink girl! I was rooting for the pink car! Love the outfit! Love the car!”

Girlie? absolutely not. which is why I added so much pink. blends well with dirt & grime

How? dumb determination with a tiny bit of sheer stupidity

Investment? none. www.pemberconstruction.com from Troy, NY sponsored me

Junk? absolutely, but I still got emotional when I scrapped the car after the derby

Koletas? yep, through and through

Lesson? check blind spots more often. cars come out of nowhere, especially when you’re driving a hot-pink car

Mirrors? all must be removed from a derby car along with any glass. Refer to above question why that was not a good thing for me

Number? wanted 22 to be my car number as I’ve had significant events happen in my personal life on the 22nd of many months in 2013

Outcome? best looking car trophy

Preparation? involved “helping” a demo derby pro strip the car. by help, I mean, stand there and say “what’s that? what are you doing? why are you doing that? how are you doing that? is it gonna hurt? this is easier to watch than do!”

Quit? never. when the head honcho came over right before the race started to assure me I could back out whenever I wanted, I interrupted him with, “LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!”

Response? “you’re crazy!” 1000x over from everyone

Safety? pink helmet. no airbags which I found out can be very unsafe in a derby. go figure. 

Time? 3 days of prepping & planning = 3 1/2 minutes of actual derby time

Umbrella? didn’t open it once even though it poured like crazy. I’m tough like that.

Variety? there are too many choices of semi-gloss black spray paint 

Walmart? has really cheap hot-pink paint. and princess decals. and stencils.

Xenos? a Greek word that Greeks use to describe non-Greeks. *oops, getting back on topic now*

Y? because. just because.

Zero? regret.

 

 

I work in the media & I like to shoot guns. I’m also Greek.

Let me guess- you’ve already formed an impression of me? You’re most likely wrong.

Just because I like to shoot guns doesn’t mean I vote Republican. Just because I work in the media doesn’t mean I vote Democrat. Just because I’m Greek doesn’t mean I talk loud, eat a lot, come from a big crazy Greek family or talk incessantly about being Greek…well, two outta three stereotypes ain’t bad 😉

I’m not ashamed of the fact that I love to shoot guns. In fact, do you know what my favorite gun to shoot is? An AR-15. That’s not what this post is about though. I’m not here to write about the NY SAFE Act. Or gun control. Or lack of it. I’m not here to write about gun violence. Or ways to stop it. I’m just here to say one thing: I work in the media and I like to shoot guns. Oh… and I’m also Greek.

Why should I hide the fact that I shoot guns? I shouldn’t. Why should someone judge me based off the fact that I shoot guns? They shouldn’t.

It’s really none of your business what I personally think or feel about any gun control laws or legislations. And I have no intention of sharing that with you. To be honest, I’m not even always sure what I agree/disagree with when it comes to gun legislation. Working in the media though requires when one presents a story- to tell both sides of it and let your audience make up their mind where they fall. But just because I work in the media doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to have preferences or hobbies, even if it’s controversial to some or even relates to a newsworthy topic.

Are guns the same as cigarettes? No. That’s an easy question, I know.

Not so easy questions?

Are guns safer than cigarettes? Do more people die from cigarettes than from guns? Can more be done to stop gun related deaths? Can more be done to stop cigarette related deaths? Should the cigarette sales tax increase to prevent more people from smoking? Should the cigarette sales tax decrease to stop punishing smokers? Should there be no cigarette sales tax at all? Those are all great, thought-provoking questions and what a news story may focus on.

But should someone in the media be excluded from talking about these topics simply because they are a smoker and would thus be naturally prejudiced? As a professional in the media, they don’t (or shouldn’t) let their smoking cloud the issue they are presenting to the viewer. It sounds too simple to be an acceptable argument but my shooting guns shouldn’t stand in the way of a story about anything to do with guns.

But it takes two to tango. I’m looking at you. It shouldn’t give you a false impression that I’m an Annie Oakley or a Sarah Palin. Or vice versa, that I wouldn’t enjoy shooting guns because I work in the media.

I’m simply me. Aliz Koletas.

A Greek girl who likes to shoot guns just as much as I love to play the piano. A Greek girl who loves to talk politics and religion just as much as I love clothes and shopping. A Greek girl who owns a pink motorcycle helmet, an orange Flyers jersey and a white Land Rover. A Greek girl who has a colorful closet but not a green thumb. A Greek woman who can do anything you can. I may not fail, I may not succeed but I most definitely am going to give it my all.

In a cute outfit and high heels.

While shooting an AR-15.

P.S. I’m Greek.

578242_10152669799600078_1788969550_n

66470_10152670927480078_1773836462_n

That Night

I was at my parent’s house that evening. I will never forget it. The phone rang with such urgency I could almost feel it through the line and I picked it up before the second ring. A panicked voice was on the other line screaming for my dad.

“Jake, is that you?!” I asked hesitatingly, not sure if it really was my brother-in-law.

“Get your dad on the phone! Get your dad on the phone! Daniel’s been in a car accident!” he shouted.

Immediately I ran across the hardwood floors of the dining room and into the warm glow of the living room. Almost as if the phone had caught fire from the fireplace, I dropped the phone into my dad’s lap while half yelling, half gasping, “It’s Daniel…car accident…It’s bad.”

 

I slowly made my way into the hallway and up the grand staircase.

“Mom.”

She heard the apprehension mixed with fear in my voice.

“What?….What’s wrong?!”

I didn’t know how to say it.

“Daniel’s been—been in a car accident. It’s—it’s bad….very bad.” I finally came out with it. My mom’s face immediately filled with questions but no words came out. She rushed past me, still standing shell-shocked on the landing. I could hear her softly sobbing, “Oh, God. Oh, God, no. Oh, God.”

Those next few hours would drag by so slowly that it felt years had passed before my eyes. The waiting, the prayers, the sleeplessness and absolute fear of the unknown kept us up all night. I crawled into bed with my younger brothers who had fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even cry anymore.

 

Across the hall, I heard my Dad begging God just to keep his son alive through the night so he could say goodbye. Just give him one more night—and then God could take him Home. Daniel hung on for one more night and very early the next morning, my parents caught the first flight out to see him.

The next week crept by at an unbelievably slow pace. I rarely picked up the phone except when my dad’s cell phone number showed on the Caller ID. He and Mom spent every single night at the hospital. They would wait every four hours to see Daniel for ten minutes.

 

I don’t remember the drive down south except stopping at the scene of his accident. I couldn’t believe how small the tree was. I picked up a personal belonging of my brother’s to bring back to him. I decided I didn’t like Mississippi.

 

I hated the smell of the hospital. The walls were stark white. The fluorescent lights were blinding. The elevator ride was stifling hot.

 

“Just be normal. Don’t act weird,” my dad instructed us cautiously. He opened Daniel’s door with a soft knock and my eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness and smallness of the room. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw. Beeping lights, alien machines, the heavy smell of medicine and tangled wires made their way all over his body. My very handsome, strong teenage brother was bandaged up beyond recognition with his arms strapped to the bed. His bright red Marine Corps blanket jumped out from the stark white sheets that seemed to match the stark white walls.

 

He was just laying there underneath it all. Silent. Still. Lifeless.

 

Was he dead?

 

My two younger brothers stood in my shadow—almost afraid to move. Our mouths were wide open at the pitiful sight of our brother. Something primal inside of me wanted to scream and yell at the top of my lungs to get Daniel’s attention. I wanted to rush the bed and force him to sit up and start talking to us. Most of all, I wanted to blink back my tears and open my eyes to wake up from this nightmare.

 

Instead, I slowly walked over to his bed, touched his paralyzed body and softly said, “Hey, Daniel. It’s good to see ya. I love you.”

My Phobia of Watches & Red Apples

“Give me ANY word and I show you how the root of that word is Greek…” Laugh, but it’s (mostly) true. Perfect example for this post? The definition of phobia is, “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something”…and it comes from the Greek word, φόβος, which means fear.

Most people fear death, public speaking, heights or spiders. Neither of those bother me. Just red apples and watches. Yep, you heard that right.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” probably comes from a Greek saying, too, but I digress. Anything that remotely resembles a red, WAXY apple will keep me far away. I love green apples but am convinced I will choke to death on the red ones. The texture, the look and how big they are is just downright creepy. I’m more scared of choking to death on one of them than actually dying. Makes no sense I know- hence, why this is called a phobia!

Watches though?

I’ve never been able to wear a watch because it’s like my friend Jamie Pelfrey aptly described, “all I can feel is this thing that is trapped between my hand and arm…it feels like a one-sided handcuff.”

It feels claustrophobic on my wrist like it’s trying to strangle me… and worse? In my mind, it requires way too much time to put on and take off.

Something changed in February though. I went to FL for a couple weeks and visited my grandparents at their winter home. My Yiayia and I went to a jewelry party and I fell in love with this beautiful bracelet watch. I loved how easily it slipped on and slipped off. I loved the sparkle from the diamonds. It looked more like a piece of jewelry than a watch. I was sold. A couple hundred dollars later and I was the proud owner of this special piece. I don’t wear it often- only to weddings and sometimes, church. It adds a sophisticated touch to my jewelry collection (see picture below) in my closet. Not only is it more than a simple, everyday watch, it also is a reminder that it came at a perfect time where I finally stopped feeling so claustrophobic about more important things in life… like commitment or opening up and sharing your future with someone you love.

Did that have anything to do with my acceptance of finally wearing a (bracelet) watch? I don’t know…only time will tell.

Stuff I Keep in my (hot pink) Purse

They say a woman’s purse tells a lot about her. Looking at an inventory of the items in my purse, I am not even sure what it says about me. I mean, what girl likes guns as much she likes makeup? Yet both are essential to my livelihood. I can understand why some guys are afraid to hold a woman’s purse. They don’t want to know what’s inside and the fear of the unknown scares them. I have a feeling if they are scared of the average girl’s purse, they shouldn’t keep reading this. Here’s my list:

A book about American History

Greek/English dictionary

Small notebook to scribble my thoughts

Passport

Pocket knives (one is camouflage, the other has cute high heels on it)

Empty shotgun shell

Phone charger

Two three video tapes of recent stories I’ve done

Flash-drive of all my work that’s aired on TV

Change wallet (it has hardly any change in it. I keep my receipts from eyebrow threading in there because when I save 8, I get one free!)

Bottle of perfume

Red nail polish

Hair clip

Business cards

Mascara & Pens (together in the same pocket)

Gum

Zipper pocket full of makeup

Keys

Commando Cleanup

I get to clean up the streets of Troy. I really do love doing it especially if I get to wear a cute outfit. I wish I could clean the streets void of any dirty people but I can only remove biodegradable trash. A couple of weeks ago I was “commando cleaning” with my teammates and somebody had the audacity to help us. Just kidding! No one would do that. They are too busy sleeping at 7am. Somebody though stole a roll of trash bags from us while we were commando cleaning. Yes, that is my favorite term now so please refer to me as Ms. Commando Cleanup Aliz. I almost took off down the street after this person but I was giving myself and Peggy (the other commando cleaner) the benefit of the doubt that we just placed the roll out of sight. So much for not going with my gut. I probably saved myself from an assault arrest for beating someone with said roll of trash bags (let’s be honest- the Troy police force wouldn’t even have the “force” to stop me)…I figured he must have needed them so very badly.

1. He had to clean another Troy street.

2. He had to clean his house.

Let me stop before I die laughing. If you have to steal a roll of trash bags, you probably aren’t looking to clean something up. Unless it’s illegal stuff you “mysteriously” got in your home. So if he’s reading this blog after done cleaning up, I hope you know how lucky you are that I didn’t get my hands on you because you would be begging to be set free after being forced by me to clean up all of Troy’s streets with your new free treasure.