My Tinnitus Story

In Spring 2018, the American Tinnitus Association published my article about my experience with tinnitus. They gave me the okay to publish the full article on my blog so more people can see it.

I wanted to republish this because so many people have reached out to me since reading my article. I hope that spreading it further will help more people with tinnitus.

Here’s the full, unedited article, originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Tinnitus Today.


Pursuing Dreams, Life, and Joy, Despite Tinnitus

By Ellen Meny

I can’t believe I’m writing this.

Even now, the idea of me doing this is shocking. Up until about a year ago, I couldn’t even see the word “tinnitus” without an icy spike of fear going up my spine.

Every time I saw that word, I was thrown back to Clemson, South Carolina, standing in the hallway leading to my bedroom. I remember the smell of a lived-in college apartment, the springy carpet under my ratty sneakers. It was February 2014. I’d just finished a solid workout, and I was about to hop in the shower and get on with my day when…

It happened. You all know what I’m talking about. Both ears. Medium pitch. Relatively quiet.

The rest is a rush and painful to think about. It comes in flashes of memory that still make me feel sick, even years later. I remember the animal panic that short-circuited my mind as the hissing ring in my ears picked up and continued, lingering like an unseen alarm. What was happening to me? It was so bizarre and unexpected. I couldn’t process it. Something very delicate and very sharp had snapped inside of me.

My friends were in class. My family was hundreds of miles away.

It was the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life.

I always feel odd saying that – guilty, even, because I think of all the worse things that can happen to a person. But I know tinnitus isn’t as simple as that – it robs someone of silence and attacks their quiet time, their sleep, their conversations. For some, it’s like a train roaring in their head without end. For me, although my tinnitus is relatively quiet, it preyed upon something that I was already dealing with in my life: anxiety.

I’ve always tried to control the parts of life I can – to make the world a little less uncertain and scary. But tinnitus was like the personification of my anxiety, the ultimate test – I couldn’t control it. I’d done nothing to trigger it. It could get worse over time. And there was no cure.

After the initial shock, came doctor’s visits filled with waiting rooms smelling vaguely of disinfectant. Each appointment featured cool, plastic instruments inserted into my ear. My shoulders would shoot up to my neck when I felt the scratch against the shell of my inner ear, fearing the slight tampering would make my tinnitus worse.

At first, I wanted a solution. I prayed the doctor would step back and say I had an ear infection or some bizarre allergy that prompted the tinnitus. Either way, the doc would present a cure.

After several different doctors, a perfect hearing test and some well-meaning suggestions for vitamins that didn’t help, it became clear I wouldn’t get that cure I was looking for.

Each visit ended the same way. The doctor sitting back on his wheeling stool, slightly crushed by years of use. His expression was flat, but his tone was always reserved and light, like he was an ice cream parlor employee about to tell me they were out of chocolate.

He didn’t know what caused it. It could’ve been a jaw issue or a low-grade ear infection. He wasn’t sure.

It might go away. It might not. It might get worse.

I’m not sure.

I’m sorry.

Even after I realized a cure wasn’t going to happen, I still searched for a doctor who would understand my emotional struggle and lend an understanding ear regarding my own ears. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen – whether it was because I chose the wrong doctors, or because I’m a young woman, or something else entirely, I’m not sure.

At the time, I was the only person I knew who had chronic tinnitus. I could only get so much support from my friends and family at the start, so, after I failed to find professional support in my “real” life, I went online. Unfortunately, my first foray into the online tinnitus community wasn’t the American Tinnitus Association website, which is filled with accurate information and resources to get help.

Instead, thanks to a mixture of morbid curiosity and misguided intent, I found myself on random internet chatrooms for people affected by tinnitus. They were filled with concerned friends and family members, and sufferers themselves, fraught with terror. Every message was helpless and scared, often mentioning suicide. The worst-case scenario, it seemed, was the only scenario in the world I’d stumbled into.

It was like peering into the future, discovering my inevitable fate. My anxiety fed into this rhetoric like a flood. Would that happen to me? Surely, it would. I’d already developed chronic tinnitus at age 20, what chance did I have?

I finally quit my “research” after my mom talked some sense into me, but the damage was done. Every time I happened to see the word “tinnitus,” a cold rush of terror would come over me, and I was back in that hallway. Every loud noise – the bang of pots and pans, a car horn – was a golden opportunity for my tinnitus to get worse. To put it bluntly, I was a mess.

And then, slowly, I became less of a mess.

I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment I started sleeping soundly through the night, or the first time a motorcycle roared past me and didn’t leave me worried the rest of the day. Small victories like those came and went, but they all came from the same place. I started habituating to my tinnitus, and I realized something.

I wanted to feel like myself again.

This wasn’t a passive recovery. After several months of sleepwalking through life, I knew I had to wake up. I had too much to do at the time and too much I wanted to do in the future. I had to finish college, follow my dreams into the world of broadcast journalism, find a cute apartment in some faraway city and some equally cute guy. I couldn’t control my tinnitus, but I could control how I responded to it.

I started seeing a therapist who specialized in tinnitus, a commitment with a 45-minute weekly commute in rural South Carolina. We talked about coping mechanisms, treatment options, and how my anxiety magnified my tinnitus. How when I drank alcohol, my tinnitus got worse – and when he imbibed, his tinnitus went away. I saw that therapist for a relatively short time, but I walked away in a much better mental and emotional state.

I opened up to my family and friends more. My mom was there for every late-night call, every weepy worry, and dash of uncertainty. When I went to a concert with my friends, earplugs in hand, they made sure I was comfortable as we got closer to the front of the stage.

After I finished therapy, I bought a book on anxiety, and I knew I had to commit to managing my anxiety, as well as understand how tinnitus affected it. I chose to manage my anxiety through my lifestyle. I started exercising again and caring about what I ate. Slowly, I felt in control again, like the world wasn’t going to crumble around me at any possible moment.

But, the last thing to go, the last bastion of my terror, was my fear of the word “tinnitus.”

About a year ago, now on the other side of the country and working for a local television station, I went to the gym for a quick workout. On my way to the treadmill, I passed a rack of magazines. Like a bizarre superpower, I sensed the word immediately, front and center on a glossy magazine cover.

TINNITUS TODAY.

The familiar fear made me feel like I was sinking under water. Even in the gym, of all bizarre places, I couldn’t escape it. It was almost funny.

I was almost tempted to pick it up, but I wasn’t ready yet.

Now, I am.

And that’s why I can’t believe I’m writing this article – because four years ago, even one year ago, it would’ve been impossible to relive my trauma so many times or become so intimate with the word tinnitus. I would’ve broken down on the first sentence.

Now, I truly feel like a stronger person having gone through and survived such a traumatic personal event. Even though my tinnitus still makes me anxious sometimes, I’ve built up the self-care skills to manage my anxiety.

My friends, family, and boyfriend are still the main people I go to when my tinnitus gets tough. I exercise regularly and try to stick to a healthy diet, despite my love for Mexican food and doughnuts. I keep myself busy with creative projects, work, friends, and family. When quiet time is no longer literally “quiet” time, I find it better to keep active and engaged.

In the past, I’ve considered the word “habituation” as something negative –

living with something, resigning oneself to it. But now, I realize that’s not the case. Habituation means going through something you thought would ruin your life and emerging from it with the realization that you can survive and flourish, despite the challenges. For me, it’s returning to my hopes and dreams for the future and making them a reality, despite the added struggle of tinnitus.

I’m not going to lie – bringing back these memories is still challenging for me. The pain has softened over time, but it’s still there. Even so, writing this article shows me how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked to come out of my diagnosis mentally and emotionally stronger.

Everyone’s story is different, but this is mine. And if I can convince one person that they can survive, work towards feeling better, and end up okay four years down the road?

Writing this article was worth it.

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Have questions about tinnitus? Head to the American Tinnitus Association’s website. They have accurate information, access to support groups, and cultivate a positive environment.

New City, New Job, New Blog Post!

Hello there!

Long time no see, right? It’s been a minute…

Well, I won’t keep you waiting. I moved and got a new job!

I am now part of KING 5’s Evening Magazine team in the beautiful city of Seattle, Washington.

Evening Magazine airs at 7:30pm PT, Monday through Friday. It’s a show about everything Pacific Northwest- the people, the places and the food that makes Seattle (and beyond) so unique!

I’ll be reporting, shooting and producing for the show. My formal title is Multi-Platform Producer. I’ve already been able to see some pretty cool sights thanks to my job- like this $18 dollar hot dog at Deep Dive bar!

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Yes, that’s caviar on a hot dog!

Will I continue running this blog? You bet! What will I post? Pretty much what I post now- whatever I want!

Thanks for reading this slightly self-indulgent post. Now, back to unpacking. I promise I’ll have some meatier content soon. Meatier than an $18 hot dog? We’ll see.

What to Eat, See and Do in Vancouver, BC

Oh, Canada! You’re so awesome.

I visited Vancouver, BC for a long weekend in July. I’ve been to Canada once before- I visited Montreal when I was very young. Unfortunately, my only lasting memory of the trip involves a shopkeeper angrily berating me in French. I forget why.

So, I was excited to return to our Northern neighbor- and Vancouver did not disappoint. Travel guides often describe Vancouver’s waterfront as stunning and “glassy”. I didn’t quite understand the description until I visited. The city’s wide waterfront sparkles with bright, glimmering buildings.

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I feel like Vancouver is as close as I’m going to get to visiting a literal utopia. Or, at least, a city that looks like one.

Everything was clean. Everyone was polite and friendly. There’s a ton of fantastic food. It’s a diverse, multicultural city with incredible culture and a love for the outdoors. The waterfront sidewalk is split in two- one side for pedestrians, the other side for bikes. And people actually followed the rules! Which is truly a testament to the city.

Okay, I’m rambling. If my weird city-worship has convinced you to visit to Vancouver, the least I can do is give you some recommendations on what to eat, see and do in the fair city.

Granville Island Public Market

Seattle has Pike Place Market, Vancouver has Granville Island Public Market. This popular attraction sits across from Vancouver’s waterfront, on Granville Island. Hop on one of the convenient Aquabus boats and explore the public market.

img_3656Much like Pike Place Market, the market is colorful and loud and wonderful. Fruit and vegetable vendors wedge their stands together in narrow aisles, piling cherries in tiny pyramids to show off for shoppers. Bouquets of fragrant, blooming flowers at astoundingly low prices decorate florist stalls. And fish. Lots of fish!

I’d recommend getting there right when it opens to beat some of the crowds, especially on the weekend. Be sure to stop by Lee’s Donuts while you’re there, and get the Honey Dip donut. They’re almost always served warm, and they’re good for your soul. Your body? Debatable. But really, the soul is what matters in the end.

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Miku

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If you’re looking for incredible seafood and sushi in Vancouver, Miku is the place to go.

It’s a sleek, stylish restaurant right on the Burrard Inlet, a popular waterfront area. They specialize in Aburi sushi. Translated directly, aburi means “flame-seared”. The chefs take a blow-torch and a piece of coal to the top of the sushi, searing the fish lightly. What results is a really unique, rich flavor, complimented by the different sauces they use.

It’s an expensive restaurant, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. This is a distinctly Vancouver experience, and if you want to treat yourself to an amazing meal, go here. The food, the view of the waterfront- it’s all fantastic! The cover photo for this post is from Miku.

Bella Gelateria

Bella Gelateria is world famous. I didn’t know that when I stopped by, though. I was just looking for the nearest ice cream shop, because I wanted ice cream and have zeroimg_3820 self-control when it comes to food.

Bella Gelateria has won dozens of gelato competitions, been consistently voted “Number One Gelato/Ice Cream in Vancouver”, and even won “Best Gelato in North America” in the Gelato World Cup. The Italian Consulate of Canada has also given it their seal of approval, and it gets mine as well!

Their gelato is rich, creamy, fabulous stuff. And they have a host of interesting flavors! I got Black Sesame and Matcha Green Tea, because I’m a sucker for pretty food and unique flavors.

Vancouver Water Adventures

Boats are everywhere in Vancouver- little Aquabus boats zipping up and down False Creek, kayakers gliding on the water, houseboats hugging the side of Granville Island. So, it’s only fitting that you take a boat tour of a boat city.

Vancouver Water Adventures is a great option. I took the City and Seals Tour, an hour and a half tour that takes you past Vancouver’s most well-known spots. We swung around places like Siwash Rock, Lions Gate Bridge, and Vancouver’s nearby seal colony. And yes, there were plenty of adorable seals! They’re just so darn cute, I can’t get over it. They’re basically dog mermaids.

The company uses Zodiac boats, which is apparently the same type of boat used by the Coast Guard in Vancouver. I felt pretty safe jumping into one of those.

Stanley Park

Stanley Park is 1000 acres of lush greenery, quiet beaches and beautiful views. It’s oneimg_3756 of Vancouver’s main tourist destinations, and for a good reason. It houses Canada’s largest aquarium, as well as one of the city’s most famous icons, Siwash Rock. Pictured here! Ignore me.

The best way to see Stanley Park is on foot. A walk/bike path winds around the perimeter of the park, along Vancouver’s seawall. On a sunny, warm day, you’ll see plenty of people enjoying the weather- but even when I went on a beautiful Saturday, I never felt too overwhelmed with crowds.

You can get your exercise in, and see one of Vancouver’s most famous sites! Win-win.


Thanks for reading! If you can’t make it up to Vancouver, but can swing by Oregon, I’ve also got you covered. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Eugene, as well as my favorite place to view waterfalls in Oregon.

Happy travels! Oh, and always remember–

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Where to Find Some of the Best Waterfalls in Oregon

Oregon is clearly Mother Nature’s favorite child.

How could a state have so much green, so many waterfalls, such a variety of incredible nature…and not be a favorite? Sure, the rain can be an issue sometimes, but as someone once told me: “We need the rain- that’s what keeps Oregon so green!”

Now that our land is a little dryer and a little warmer, it’s time to get outside. If you’re looking for waterfalls this summer, I recommend heading to Silver Falls State Park.

Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon. It boasts 10 waterfalls and a whopping 9,200 acres of land, which includes miles of trail, a restaurant and lodge, and plenty of parking. And yes! They have bathrooms.

The park is hidden away in Sublimity, at the end of rolling country roads. Depending on where you’re coming from, you might lose phone service and internet along the way- so download a map or follow the signs.

The main hike that allows you to see all 10 waterfalls is a 7.2 mile loop, and considered a moderate hike. I did the slightly shorter hike, a 5.1 mile loop that took me around (and under) plenty of incredible waterfalls.

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The path snakes around massive, gorgeous waterfalls, takes hikers on bridges over South Fork Silver Creek, and leads you through quiet, green woodland. The path even dips behind some waterfalls, into half-moon canyons coated with moss. Standing so close to the crashing curtain of water and cool spray is an experience like no other.

A piece of advice- if you can, arrive early! I arrived at 9:30am to a relatively empty park. However, by the time I left at 1:30pm, the parking lot was almost full and the trails were getting crowded. The early morning allows for a quieter, peaceful hike- if you can stand the early wake-up call.

There’s a ton of amazing waterfalls in Oregon. But if you’re looking for a great hike and views like the one below? Head to Silver Falls State Park.

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What’s your favorite place to hike on Oregon? Favorite waterfall? Comment below or drop me a line right here. And if you’re hankering for another Oregon adventure, check out my blog post on the famous Blue Pool!

My Tinnitus Article

Above is the photo of a very proud, very excited woman, holding the most challenging and rewarding article she’s ever written (so far).

I’m going to talk about that article soon. But first, I think you all need some background.

In February 2014, I lost the ability to experience silence.

To put it less dramatically, I developed tinnitus. It’s a medical condition that produces a sound in your ears only you can hear- a ringing, a hissing, a buzzing, a murmuring.

For some people, it’s temporary. It’s the ringing in your ears after a night at a loud concert. For others, it’s permanent. It can occur after you catch a cold, or develop an ear infection. There are dozens of reasons why someone develops permanent, or chronic, tinnitus. I’m one of those people.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, about 50 million people in the United States experience tinnitus. 2 million suffer through “extreme and debilitating” cases. That’s akin to a roaring train, or a blaring fire alarm, trapped in your head.

Tinnitus can lead to depression and anxiety, or make mental health conditions worse if you already have them. Severe cases can lead to suicide.

When I first developed tinnitus, it was a struggle to adapt to my new normal. My life was a chaotic mess of anxiety, a common feeling for many people immediately after they develop the condition. The loss of silence is something so nebulous and strange, it was hard to process. Lots of sleepless nights, and worry, and wondering if it could get better.

My tinnitus didn’t get better, but I did. Four years later, I still have the condition, but I’ve learned to manage it and live a very happy, healthy life. My tinnitus is close to background noise now, but it’s never quite left my mind.

I’ve never been able to forget how alone I felt when I first developed it. I know there are other people who were in the same place I was four years ago.

That’s why, in September, I reached out to the American Tinnitus Association, a national non-profit that publishes a quarterly magazine, Tinnitus Today.

Eight months later, I’m incredibly happy and proud to present my article in their Spring 2018 edition, “Pursuing Dreams, Life, and Joy…Despite Tinnitus”. It’s on page 26. In case you want to read it. Hint, hint.

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I wanted to tell my candid story, how tinnitus has affected my life, and how I’ve coped with it after four years. Writing this article brought back tough memories I had long buried, but it was absolutely worth it. I can’t thank the American Tinnitus Association enough for giving me a chance to tell my story.

And…that’s that. I’ve bared (part of) my soul, and I’m feeling happy and proud and nineteen different other things. It would mean the world to me if you read my article. Pass it on if you know someone with tinnitus.

As I’ve said before, if I make one person feel less alone, it was worth it.

Click here to see more of my published writing. If you’d like me to write for your publication or website, send me a note!

Ellen Eats: Vengan Pa’ Ka

The first few times I drove past Vengan Pa’ Ka, the name tricked me.

It’s a sleek food truck painted a glossy dark gray, posted up in downtown Eugene’s park blocks. The gold splash of a garlic bulb decorates the side, and over it, in thick white brushstroke, is the name.

VEGAN PA’ KA.

Wait. No.

Vengan Pa’ Ka.

My curiosity grew with every trip past the truck. Was the name some kind of subliminal messaging? What did it mean? Was I obsessing over this too much?

Yes, but that’s just me. And thankfully, the owner of Vengan Pa’ Ka, Juan Umaña, didn’t think it was weird when I asked to profile his food truck on my blog.

So when I finally got to ask him about the name, I realized while I might be weird and obsessed, I wasn’t technically wrong.

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Owner Juan Umaña and his food truck, Vengan Pa’ Ka

The name Vengan Pa’ Ka is a trick of the eye doing triple duty, an optical illusion that represents the food truck’s diverse menu.

Juan explained the meaning behind the name when I visited the truck earlier this winter.

Vengan is a Spanish verb, meaning “to come”.

Pa’ Ka is Caribbean street slang, derived from the phrase para acá, meaning “over here”.

Hence the name Vengan Pa’ Kacome over here, and try delicious vegan food inspired by Juan’s multicultural background. The name is a celebration of the life he’s chosen to live, where he came from, and the Spanish and Southeast Asian flavor of the menu.

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Vengan Pa’ Ka’s winter and spring menu. If you stop by three months from now, chances are it won’t look the same. The menu changes with the seasons.

Juan’s vision for Vengan Pa’ Ka isn’t just about the finished dish. He cares deeply about where his ingredients come from, trying to source his produce from local businesses and farms as close to the truck as possible. The truck’s slogan reflects that idea: “Street food with a conscience”.

“I wanted to make sure I had a menu that resembled seasonality and the produce that grows here,” Juan said, “showcasing unique and individual ingredients and letting them do the talking.”

Perhaps the best example of that is the Winter Stir Fry, a traditional rice noodle stir fry filled with almost every winter vegetable you could possibly think of.

Celeriac. Kale Sprouts. Cabbage. Rainbow carrots. Mushrooms. Sautéed red potatoes. Ginger red onions, a favorite garnish at the food truck. All tossed on the griddle, sizzling with sesame oil and tamari.

My soul felt a little warmer when I grabbed one of the offered eco-friendly wooden forks, popped open the cardboard take-out box, and chowed down on a delicious, filling stir fry that is completely vegan. To me, it’s kind of the “have your cake, eat it too” mentality.

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And I know that’s a nasty stereotype following vegan food, no matter how many creative chefs defy it- the idea that vegan food is a leaf of spinach, or a single, tasteless block of tofu. It’s an ignorant, lazy stereotype that Vengan Pa’ Ka absolutely blasts out of the water.

The food truck serves lighter options, like mint-beet soup, but there are plenty of filling meals on the menu, like the winter stir fry. What doesn’t change is that all of the dishes are plant-based.

“The showcase always has to be the vegetables,” Juan said.

Juan usually doesn’t replicate animal products in his dishes, which is a vegan phenomenon growing in popularity- cashew cheese, seitan bacon, almond milk yogurt. But he makes an exception when he’s whipping up cultural food that relies on those dairy and meat-based components.

He has a few signature ingredients that make me appreciate how creative vegan cooking can be- like carrot bacon, made from thinly sliced rainbow carrots seasoned with tamari and liquid smoke, fried on the griddle.

But the one that impressed me the most was the cheese sauce.

Yes. Vegan nacho cheese sauce for vegan nachos.

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An unholy vegan delight

For the nachos, Juan slices up a corn tortilla and throws the pieces into the fryer to crisp up into thick, fresh chips. While the tortilla chips are bubbling away, a mix of mashed, spiced pinto beans, mushrooms and celeriac go on the griddle.

The nachos are listed on the menu as a side, but for me, they’re big enough for a meal- and just as satisfying. Freshly made chips pilled with the pinto bean mix, cilantro, ginger red onions, and blistered pieces of Anaheim pepper. All smothered with a generous helping of the vegan cheese sauce, of course.

It’s what he calls his “smoked Goodahh” sauce, although it’s potato-based and features absolutely no dairy. It’s uncanny how close it tastes to actual gouda cheese. Witchcraft!

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Clawing at the sandwich like it’s my lifeline

The last menu item I sampled is tough to photograph, I’ll admit. If you want a better view of it, check out the video at the top. For now, you’ll have to settle for my punch-drunk smile, doped up on badass vegan food.

Lovingly wrapped up in that wax paper bundle is the Vengan Pa’ Ka Portobello Melt, a sandwich that reaffirmed my love for giant mushrooms.

It’s a sandwich comprised of a sliced-up portobello cap, slow soaked in tamari marinade and sizzled up on the grill, resting on a mix of red veined sorrel and red mustard greens. The sandwich is topped with carrot bacon and ginger red onions, coated with the vegan cheese sauce, and served on toasted ciabatta.

In layman’s terms, Vengan Pa’ Ka is the bomb.com. Juan clearly puts thought and care into not just the dishes, but the ingredients themselves and the overall impact of the food truck. There is truly something about knowing you’re not just eating great food- you’re eating great food that’s locally sourced, that has passion behind it, that’s kind and sustainable.

But, that’s just my two cents. If you really want to find out what’s up with Vengan Pa’ Ka, you’ll have to try it yourself. What I’m saying is…

Vegan pa’ka to Vengan Pa’ Ka.


Got another food truck you want me to feature? Have other ideas for my blog? Comment on this post, or head over to the contact page.

Interested in other delicious foods in Eugene? I’ve got you covered.

And follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more shenanigans.

5 Things to Read, Watch and Eat in February

January was a busy month- besides talking with Oregon Public Broadcasting, I watched a lot of movies, read a lot of books, and ate constantly. I thought I could put my winter hibernation activities to good use and recommend some reads, flicks and eats. Enjoy!

Read/ListenSabriel (read by Tim Curry)

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As an awkward tween with two missing teeth and an affinity for fanfiction, I wasn’t particularly discerning with what I read. If it was in front of me and had pages, I’d generally pick it up- although there was one book that never quite caught my attention. Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

That is, until I was perusing the internet one day and found a list of recommended audiobooks. To my surprise, the top pick was Sabriel…read by Tim Curry.

Sabriel never succeeded in wooing me, but Tim Curry sure did. I grew up with Muppets Treasure Island, okay?

I took the plunge, and I’m glad I did. Sabriel is now one of my favorite YA fantasy books, mainly thanks to Tim Curry’s amazing narration. Every character is lovingly captured in Curry’s voice, from the snarking sidekick cat character to the quiet, serious protagonist. Give it a listen!

Watch: The Shape of Water

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This movie is about a human woman and a fish creature falling in love.

I wanted to get that out of the way ASAP, because a heartfelt movie about interspecies romance ain’t for everyone. Much like your peanut butter preference- smooth vs crunchy- this concept produces strong opinions. I like extra crunchy peanut butter and weird, whimsical movies about fish-people love. Some folks don’t. C’est la vie!

I’m also a diehard fan of the director, Guillermo Del Toro. He could make a movie about a potato and I’d see it.

That being said, if you’re a person with a mind for magic, an affinity for whimsy, and a tolerance for fishy love, please go see this movie. It’s an absolutely beautiful film with a huge heart. It’s one of my favorites of all time, which I guess says something about me, but, whatever. Fantastic score, immensely charming characters, and Michael Shannon insults my hometown. Wowza!

WatchDear Stephanie Meyer

Ah, Twilight.

Similar to The Shape of Water in that it involves a forbidden, interspecies romance. Different in that it does not involve fish-people, and was lambasted by everyone you knew in the early 2000s.

But this YouTube video posits: perhaps everyone who snarked Twilight could’ve been a little nicer, more understanding of teenage girls’ interests.

Lindsay Ellis looks back on the dumpster fire that was book snobbery in the 2000s, and analyzes why exactly people hated the Twilight fandom so vehemently. Ellis’s video casts a much-needed critical eye on how we as a society view female interests, and what we choose to deem “worthy” or “silly”.

Read: I Made the Cinnamon Rolls From Mario Batali’s Sexual Misconduct Apology Letter

Frustration at systemic and deep-seated oppression of women, thy name is cinnamon rolls.

When celebrity chef Mario Batali was accused of sexual harassment by four different women, he (and his PR team) released an apology letter…

…that included a recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls.

Obviously, most people thought that addition was a little…thoughtless? Tasteless? But, no piece has so clearly shown the ridiculousness behind the letter and the fury one feels reading it, quite like Geraldine DeRuiter’s blog post.

DeRuiter takes it upon herself to actually make the cinnamon rolls, describing in loving detail how horrible the recipe is, almost as horrible as the vein of harassment that continues to run throughout culture and hound women.

Eat: Black Wolf Supper Club

21369153_278438665975084_4287013324493734580_nOut with the old, in with the new. Rising from the ashes of the much loved Belly Taqueria comes a joint in downtown Eugene that knocks my socks off- Black Wolf Super Club.

Black Wolf comes from the same folks who brought you Buck Buck, another local favorite that serves deeply delicious, unhealthy food that fills both your soul and your arteries. So, when I visited Black Wolf, I knew to prepare myself for some damn good dishes.

Black Wolf serves up Southern cuisine, with a particular concentration on Creole and Cajun dishes. I’ve only spent a hot-minute in New Orleans, but their food (and drinks) made a lasting impression on me. So, at Black Wolf, I had to go for their andouille and fried chicken wing gumbo, and a massive frozen hurricane.

The gumbo was incredible. A rich stew filled with andouille sausage, sprinkled with bright green onions, crowned with a fried chicken wing. The hurricane was bang-for-your-buck-strong, but not enough to ruin the flavor- it was delightfully tart and refreshing.

I’m going to restrain myself from going back sooner, only because I care about my physical and financial health.


Got any restaurants, books or movies to recommend? Leave a comment!

And if you’ve got a story for me, or idea for my next blog post, head to the contact page. Thanks for reading!

Interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting

2018 turned the tables on me. Instead of doing the interviewing, I was the one being interviewed!

On January 2nd, I spoke with Dave Miller with Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud program. We discussed my blog post and Vox article on harassment in local news.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Working with OPB was a fantastic experience.26112417_2035654626461099_1217051890362708663_n Everyone I spoke with- the producer Julie, the host Dave- was incredibly professional and accommodating. We had an interesting discussion that further solidified why I care so much about this topic. I’m incredibly grateful to OPB for inviting me on their show.

I continue to receive messages from folks in the business who share their stories and thoughts. As I mentioned in my interview, the response has truly been powerful. I’m in awe of the number of men and women who’ve dealt with some horrendous behavior, and are brave enough to come forward with their stories.

That photo at the top of this post was my view during the interview. I was in the sunny (snowy) state of South Carolina at the time, so we did a remote interview from ARP Studio, just outside of Charleston.

Comments? Questions? Blog post ideas? Head to the contact page and shoot me a message.

Ringing in 2018 with Radio

Happy 2018!

I’m on vacation right now, spending time with my family and watching as much college football as humanly possibly, and humanly advisable. But I wanted to take a moment to update everyone on some things, and talk about what’s in store for the new year.

Firstly…THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who’s read, shared and contacted me about my blog post on harassment in local news. I truly didn’t expect the post to reach so many people, both in and out of the industry. I’ve met so many brave, ambitious folks who shared their stories of harassment and discussed their view of the issue. The response has been incredible, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share my writing and speak my mind.

Vox republished my piece in their First Person section, with some slight edits. This is my first piece published on a major website.

On January 2nd, 12pm PT, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud will interview me about my blog post/Vox article. You can listen both online and on the radio.

And looking towards the future…you’ll see more blog posts in 2018! What kind? More of my longform writing, more articles, more food recommendations and book recommendations- lots of different topics. A veritable blog buffet, if you will.

Thank you again for reading and sharing. And Happy New Year!

Eye Candy: The Harassment in Local News You Don’t See

In June, a man I’ve never met messaged me on my professional Facebook page and asked me to have his children.

beautiful babies

I could fill this entire blog post with harassing comments and gross requests from people I’ve never met and never want to meet. I’ve had a man tell me my skin makes him want to waltz. One guy asked me if he could be my slave.

There’s an old local TV news saying. Every day, people invite you into their homes. You’re on their TV every day, delivering them information. They put their trust in you, they learn things from you, and after awhile, they get to know a part of you- the public part. You become a slice of their lives, and a part of their city.

Many times, it can be a wonderful thing. People say hi to you on the street and compliment your stories. An older woman might bring baked goods to your TV station. You know almost every neighborhood and every street in your town. It’s an amazing feeling.

And then, sometimes, it’s different. Sometimes, people believe they have a right to your body, whether you like it or not. They think they own a part of you, because you’re on TV in their town, and you’re a pretty girl in a pretty dress who’s there for their entertainment. It doesn’t matter what’s in your head, or how hard you worked on your story.

Harassment in the media is a problem- that’s clear. The recent news about Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer cements that reality. That’s another blog post for another time.

But there’s another problem running through local TV news that affects women daily.

Harassment from the people who watch the news.

1

It’s the guy who screams, “F**k Her Right in the P***y” behind your live report. Or the local woman who sends you racial slurs because she doesn’t like the way you look. Or the man who sends flowers to your station over and over again. This is a pervasive issue. For the hundreds of young women in local broadcast news, there are thousands of stories of harassment.

And some of those women shared their stories with me.

IMG_8154
One of the many screenshots women in the business shared with me.

Imagine this. You’re a young woman in your first or second job. You’re hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from your family. Surviving on slim paychecks, living alone, and working odd hours. Usually, thanks to social media- it’s relatively easy to find out where you are at any given moment.

And, along with some guy who wants you to kick him in the balls, you’re dealing with people like this:

Harassment Post

Outside harassment is so commonplace, it’s basically become part of the job. You’re a public figure in a small town, a woman always dressed up and made up. Your first creeper is a right of passage. A weirdos obsessed with your shoes is a hilarious screenshot. It’s something to laugh about at drinks with fellow reporters- unless it isn’t funny anymore.

It’s a reality for women. For men. It’s even worse for journalists of color and LGBTQIA journalists.

I’ve tried to understand why these people threaten and harass journalists. Is it power? Sex? They’re just inappropriate weirdos and creeps?

I don’t know. But I do know these people are harassers, and what they’re doing is inexcusable.

creep blah

The wild and wonderful world of local news take its reporters everywhere- it’s amazing, and exhilarating, and many times, these young journalists do it alone.

It’s less amazing when you’re constantly worried about the man who pretends to offer reporters jobs before sexually harassing them. Or mentally preparing yourself when an older man approaches you while you’re reporting, and you can tell by the look in his eye that he’s going to say something lewd and offensive.

The kick in the chest doesn’t just come from harsh words or threats to safety. It’s the complete disregard for your intelligence and hard work. It’s that squirming feeling in your heart when you realize that many people consider women in TV news, first and foremost, eye candy.

we determine which news to watch by who has the prettiest girls

As women, and as public figures, too many TV newsers are taught to be polite and friendly. It goes against years of conditioning and stereotype to flip the switch and be aggressive. Even now, when I deflect any kind of harassment, there’s still a little twinge of guilt that I have to brush away.

As I wrote this article, I read a lot of stories from women in the business. At the end of many of them, they asked: Next time this happens, what should I do differently?

Should they be more aggressive? Smile and try to be polite? Every question was filled with a vague sense of guilt and one damning thought: Am I overreacting?

And you know what? That’s happening to me right now, as I write this post.

Let’s go back to the guy who wanted me to have his children. When I responded to him, he got angry.

“There’s a thousand other half-cute journalism grads who’ll easily replace your milquetoast-ass tomorrow. So don’t flatter yourself. No one gives a shit about you.”

His rejection-fueled rage was pretty obvious, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me.

Because, for awhile, I thought he was right. Who would give a shit about some small-town news girl getting creeped on? We’re a dime-a-dozen, generally represented in popular media as vapid bimbos with half a brain.

I sat on this post for months. I started working on this in late spring, but every time I came close to publishing it, doubt started worming its way into my heart. A little voice, whispering at me:

Who cares?

And then, other women began stepping forward, in other industries. Allegations emerged.

And the more women I saw come forward to tell their story, the more people reacted. Other woman, echoing that feeling of helplessness. Of weakness. And I realized that these experiences, no matter how slight or different, absolutely do matter.

I’m tired of getting messages that make me feel ashamed, or have me looking behind my shoulder when I walk to my car at night. I’m tired of talking with other women in the business, feeling their fear and shame, hearing their stories like confessions.

Creeper for Canva 2

And when I got tired of the man asking me to have his children, I went to my station about it. Not all stations are supportive when women come forward with their concerns, but mine was. They supported me whole-heartedly. I got in contact with our local police, who also supported me and assured me that it wasn’t a foolish move to report the message.

That experience was one of the two bright spots in this whole mess. The other?

The women I spoke with.

Despite this barrage of threats, sexual requests and invasions of privacy, the woman journalists I spoke with still press forward in their passion. Journalism is already an emotionally and mentally taxing business- to also deal with external threats and still create compelling stories is a testament to the strength of women working in the business.

Many thanks to Vox for republishing my piece.

If you’re a journalist who feels threatened by a harassing message or personal interaction, tell your news director and contact police.

NOTE: I would like to thank all of the women who shared their stories with me. This post wouldn’t be a reality without them.

NOTE II: Harassment is a reality for journalists, no matter what gender you identify as. However, I’m writing from my perspective as a woman, and chose to keep my focus on events close to my own experiences.

Do you want to share your story? Do you have thoughts on this topic? Comment below or email me at ellenmeny@gmail.com. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

© 2017 Ellen Meny

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