It’s pretty cool when you watch someone you first met as a 22-year-old college communications student change the hearts and minds of the world through her writing years later. That’s what I’ve witnessed with Jennifer Hines.
I first met Jennifer Hines (then) Jennifer Mitsch around 1996 when she worked as a production assistant at WDAY-TV, where I worked as a weekend news anchor. Also, on the weekend news team was meteorologist Kip Hines, who was just starting out his career in weather. I adored working with both of them. They were fun and a little bit nutty.
Then again, they’d have to be to agree with our scheme in Halloween of 1997 or 1998,dressing up like the Spice Girls. That’s me in the neon red DayGlo wig as Ginger Spice. Anchor Kerstin Kealy was Baby Spice, Jen was Sporty Spice, and Kip was silly enough to agree to be Scary Spice. Former anchor Najla Amundson was supposed to be Posh Spice, but had to stay home to be with her son, who was sick. (That was her story anyway. I suspect she might have had creative differences with the rest of us and was pondering a solo career.)
I didn’t know it at the time of this picture, but Kip and Jen had recently started dating. (Whether that led to the breakup of our Spice Girls is a matter of debate. I’m more under the impression we broke up by next Halloween because we looked nothing like the Spice Girls and had no singing talent.) Kip and Jen eventually got married and left WDAY for KVRR-TV, where he worked as a weekday meteorologist and Jen worked as an anchor and reporter. As the years went along, they bought a beautiful old fixer-upper in Moorhead and had three adorable children. Jen decided she’d trade in her reporter’s notebook to become a stay-at-home mom. I’d run into them occasionally in town and, of course, stayed in touch through Facebook. We even had a chance last year, at a WDAY reunion, to re-enact our famous Spice Girl pose (this time, mercifully, without dressing up in costumes).
We chatted a bit that night about Jen’s successes with her blog, The Mighty Willow, where she writes about her daughter, Willow, who has Down syndrome. Through her nationally-recognized posts she’s helping spread the word about the myths and misconceptions of Down syndrome. I was excited that Jen agreed to do a story with me. I went to the Hines’ house a couple of weeks ago where Jen invited me to sit in her dining room for a cup of coffee. We were surrounded by boxes because the family is moving to Staples, Minnesota, in September. Occasionally, Willow would leave “Frozen” in the living room to join in our conversation. Read her story here. I really enjoyed writing it and, even more, I’ve enjoyed watching Jen grow into an amazing and admirable woman. Even cooler than Sporty Spice.