Juggling-Journo-Mama – Covering the Vatican in her PJs

Associated Press Rome Bureau Chief Nicole Winfield -- obviously NOT in her PJs -- in Los Angeles January 4, 2015

Associated Press Rome Bureau Chief Nicole Winfield — obviously NOT in her PJs — in Los Angeles January 4, 2015

Dear Blog Readers-

As my kids have grown, this blog has moved from crazed Mozzarella Mamma tales to more stories about my work with AP Television. However, this week the AP Rome Bureau Chief has give me some good Mozzarella Mamma juggling journo material…..so this post is starring Nicole Winfield covering the Vatican in her PJs.

It all started – as it always does – with her alarm clock not ringing on Wednesday morning at 630am. She had been stressing about work during the night and had taken a Tylenol at 3:40 am (Nicole is precise with numbers) and then the next thing she knew she rolled over and noticed the clock at 7:36am.

Nicole’s three children (ages 12, 10 and 8) were still asleep and her husband was on a killer work trip taking a cruise ship around the Mediterranean stopping in ports in Italy, France and Spain.

Nicole jumped out of bed, roused her kids, told them to get themselves some cornflakes and launched herself into frantic lunch preparations in the kitchen.

While the pasta water was boiling (she made them pasta with pesto), she grabbed 3 yogurts from the fridge and each lunch got a special treat of 2 IKEA ginger snaps, plus fruit and a water bottle. Since we are talking super-mamma-journo here, there is a professional link to the IKEA ginger snaps.

Nicole dragged her three children to IKEA on Saturday to look for cheap furniture for the new AP Rome bureau conference room. Going to IKEA in Rome alone is torture on weekends where one gets lost in a windowless maze of cheap IKEA stuff trying to follow a pathway with thousands of Roman’s with nothing better to do on a Saturday than wander around IKEA. A glutton for punishment, Nicole actually decided to save AP the taxi money and took her kids on the bus out to IKEA – it turned out to be a five and a half hour nightmare.

In the midst of all this, Nicole’s poor hubby was having a dreadful time on his cruise. The cruise ship was terribly crowded, his room was a small, windowless cubbyhole and in between blasting Jimmy Buffett songs (“Wasting Away in Margaritaville” etc) on the loudspeaker they were making constant announcements to come play bingo and sign up for excursions. But he was definitely not juggling.

Back in Rome, super-mamma Nicole – still in her PJs, hair-unbrushed—Vatican story breathing down her neck – realized her kids were going to miss the school bus. At exactly 8am, 24 minutes after she woke up, she hustled the kids out the door in search of a taxi that would take a credit card – no simple matter in Rome—Roman taxi drivers prefer hard, cold cash.

The reason Nicole needed a taxi with a credit card was that the bank balance was low, she had already raided her son’s piggy bank to do some food shopping, she had lived on 7 euros for 2 days before spending it at a coffee bar treating a source on Sunday.

As Nicole, in the front seat of the taxi, whizzed across the Victorio Emanuele Bridge with her trio in the back seat, her daughter spotted the school bus on Lungotevere. Her daughter suggested they race ahead to the Piazza Trilussa bus stop. Nicole got on her cell phone with the bus monitor while her daughter, in perfect Italian, explained the situation to the taxi driver – who zipped between some cars, raced ahead and managed to come squealing to a halt in front of the school bus as it pulled over at Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere. Her kids jumped out of the taxi and made a beeline for the bus.

Relieved that she had picked up the “missed school bus ball” and tossed it back in the air, Nicole, still in her PJs with unbrushed hair, refocused her attention on the pressing Vatican story ball that was heading for the ground and decided she would bend over backwards to grab that one and keep it in the air. It was 8:12.

She called AP Television cameraman Gigi Navarra who was already at the Vatican. He had recorded the Mass, the Pope’s homily was newsworthy and now he was waiting for a briefing by the French bishop. Nicole instructed the taxi driver to gun it to the Vatican. Screeching around another bridge over the Tiber the taxi driver raced back towards the Vatican where they pulled up at 8:25.

Nicole – after paying with her credit card – grabbed her bag and press credentials and rushed into the Vatican to the small AP booth at the back of the press office. She spotted the new Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, at the coffee machine with the French Bishop and breathed a sigh of relief but decided not to greet them because her hair was sticking up in the air and she was still wearing her PJs, and most importantly, because she needed to use the precious time to write.

A few minutes later, the press conference with the French Bishop began and Nicole realized she needed to record it. She grabbed her digital tape recorder, snuck around to the side door of the press room, turned it on, made a signal to Greg and with a quick swing of her arm sent it spinning and sliding down the long table at the front of the press room past several speakers.  You never know when bowling skills can come in handy. Nicole retreated to the AP booth to hammer out the AP copy on the Pope in her PJs.

You may be wondering what exactly do Nicole’s PJs look like. That is not a secret I am going to reveal, but I will give you a small hint – she could never have gotten away with wearing her PJs in the Vatican press office if they were some sexy, slinky Victoria’s Secret style lingerie.

A couple hours later I rushed into Nicole’s office to discuss the comments of the French Bishop and I found her huddling over her computer clutching a cappuccino in a small plastic cup. “I’ve had an insane morning,” she declared.

By the time Nicole had finished recounting it to me, I was determined to turn her misadventures into a blog post.  She agreed because she said, “I need the sympathy.”

So blog readers the best way to show your sympathy for a juggling journo mama is to read her stories and know that behind the carefully crafted words, the pruned paragraphs and the coolly cultivated sources is a massive juggling effort that involves raided piggy banks, swerving taxis, bowling with tape recorders, and PJs in the press office at the Vatican.

You can find link to her stories on her twitter account: @nwinfield

AP Rome Bureau Chief Nicole Winfield covering Pope Francis in Bangui, Central African Republic. November 30, 2015

AP Rome Bureau Chief Nicole Winfield covering Pope Francis in Bangui, Central African Republic. November 30, 2015

6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Alan
    2016/09/18

    . . been retired too long to have any sympathy – give it up, I say, and help fight they system! :-D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2016/09/21

      Give it up! We gotta bring home the bacon to feed all our kiddies! Give us another 10-20 years and we will go to a cabin in the woods and enjoy the out of doors and help fight the system.

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Annie
    2016/09/20

    Hi Trisha ,

    Are you sure you both didn’t reincarnate as Irma Bombeck….I know you loved her!
    Actually , the two of you together can definitely top her. A compliment of the highest, holiest order.
    The Vatican in Pajamas all day!?

    So much for the fashionable female press leading the way….or just maybe you are raising the bar…setting a new more enlightened standard We won’t tell Anna wintour.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2016/09/21

      Annie — It is true, I have always been a huge, huge fan of Irma Bombeck!! Nicole did not spend the entire day at the Vatican in her PJs, she eventually went home and got a shower, brushed her hair and changed. Italian women journalists definitely have a very high bar when it comes to dressing. I find it very hard to keep up…and not just with the dressing. In the summer, for example, they are always in beautiful sandals with perfectly manicured feet. I won’t even tell you what my feet look like most of the summer, it is embarrassing! Anna Wintour would be shocked and horrified!

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Kittie
    2016/09/20

    Sympathies and kudos! Loved the kids being cool and resourceful. They learned well!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2016/09/21

      Can you believe her kids? When my kids were that age, I never, ever could have taken them on a 5.5 hour bus trip to IKEA. I would have charted a helicopter and put it on the AP credit card to escape IKEA (JUST KIDDING). But seriously, I would have had to buy them a lot more than ginger snaps to keep them in line. My kids would have been up for the race in the taxi though to catch the school bus.

      Reply

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