This is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)
Every time I see this sign — on the side of a building in downtown Pensacola, Fla., — I always think it’s talking about my chosen-and-now-part-time field of journalism and how truly it is “citizen journalism” because reporters don’t have to earn specialized degrees or procure official certifications or register anywhere for anything. Can you write clearly, accurately, entertainingly and well? Good. You’re hired. Do you make things up, ignore the facts and don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your”? Sorry. Nice try. On the other hand, as journalism jobs disappear and the journalism landscape shifts almost daily, training and professionalism are key. Another thought: This obviously is my morning to ramble. Perhaps I should get ready to go to work? And kudos to the registered professional COURT reporters at Hitchcock & Associates in Pensacola. Love your sign.
I am such a geeky nerd. Or is it a nerdy geek? I’m not sure, but It’s whatever you are when the communications department chairman at the university where you somehow were asked to teach a media-writing class cleans out his office and leaves a big box of used books in the lobby with a “Free to good homes” sign and it’s like a mega sale at T.J. Maxx — you are THAT excited. So you pull the box over to a nearby chair and ignore the student chatter around you and delve into the treasures: “Ethics in Media Communications”! “Communicating for Results — A Guide for Business and the Professions”! “Media Flight Plan III”! Was there ever a greater collection of (used and possibly outdated) media textbooks? Strangely, I seemed to have been the only person interested in this unexpected bounty, and the department chairman walked by and whispered approvingly that I could ignore the two-to-a-customer posted limit. I cannot wait to browse through these and revel in the grownup luxury of getting to read textbooks without having to study them — and that right there, I believe, is what marks me as a nerd. And THEN, to make this day even better, my newspaper-editor husband brought home a couple of Junior League cookbooks from the food editor’s giveaway stash. Both were published in 1977, when only single women got to use their real names and everybody else got to hide behind their husbands’. The golf-themed cookbook from Augusta, Ga., is in green, of course, and features adorable golf illustrations. The hardback cookbook from Nashville is rather more posh — as Nashville believes it is — and starts with a formal-dinner menu that starts with caviar soup, which I don’t think I’ll be making but it sure is fun reading about.
You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of
an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes. For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.
When my boss asked to meet me at a coffee shop a few days ago, I was surprised. She’s so busy at work she barely has time to drink coffee in the break-room, much less take an hour away from the office. I figured this had to be Something Big.
“I’m doing such a great job, she probably wants to give me more responsibilities,” I thought confidently. “Maybe a move up? Or probably the big bosses realize they’re underpaying me and finally are giving me that raise. Yeah, yeah, that’s it.”
But as we sat down with our coffee, she sighed and said, quickly, “I’m just going to say it: I’m sorry, but you’re fired.”
Gee, this sure wasn’t going how I expected.
And, OK, she didn’t say “you’re fired.” I think Donald Trump’s the only one who can say that. What she actually said was, “Things are tight. They’re cutting the budget and dropping some things, and one of those things is you. It’s about money, not you. And I’m so, so sorry.”
Because she’s my friend as well as my boss, I knew she meant that last part.
On the other hand, that first part sure sounded like “you’re fired” to me.
Now, I know times are bad. I know the economy’s weak and finances are rocky and folks have to tighten their belts. It’s just that nobody asked me if I wanted my own personal belt pulled in a few notches.
Because I was fine with it the way it was.
And here’s the thing: This was the first time I’ve ever been let go from a job. Ever. And this is what I learned: It’s a lousy no-good very bad feeling.
Family and friends told me to go with that feeling.
“Take time to grieve,” they said. “Rant. Rave. Cry. Vent. Get it out.”
It will be alright, they promised. After all, considering the devastation and destruction nature heaped on the South this past week, losing my job doesn’t rank anywhere near the end of anything significant.
But it is the end of something.
It’s the end of 15 years of writing my a column for the first newspaper I ever wrote a column for.
My job – the job getting the budget ax – was writing a weekly column as a freelancer for the TimesDaily newspaper in Florence, Alabama. So today is the last Friday that column appears in the TimesDaily print edition.
I’m still in the sad phase of The Three Steps of Grief in Losing Your Newspaper Job. (By the way, those phases are 1) “I’m Really Really Mad,” 2) “I’m Really Really Sad” and 3) “Can Some of You Young Whippersnappers Show Me How To Use the Twitters?”) Hanging out with readers every week for almost 15 years in the pages of the TimesDaily has been an honor, a privilege – and a blast. I’m going to miss it. Heck, I already do.
And if you’re here at my blog because you read about it my final TimesDaily column, welcome! So glad you’re here.
Let’s sit and reminisce for a minute.
We sure have had fun during these years, haven’t we? We’ve laughed and cried together, grieved and celebrated. You stuck with me through weddings, graduations and band-booster meetings. We went shoe shopping. You helped me raise two daughters and four cats. Most recently, you shared husband hints to help me train the man who finally succumbed to my feminine wiles after decades of bachelorhood.
Thank you for that.
Thank you for everything.
And since there are plenty of adventures ahead, I hope you’ll keep visiting here. You don’t have to sign up or register or pay for anything or be bombarded with ads for stuff you don’t want to buy, so pour a cup of coffee and let’s keep the conversation going.
You won’t believe what 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable said the other day!
You know how you open up the newspaper every morning (you do open up a newspaper every morning, don’t you???) and read it and then shake your head and complain, “There’s never any good news. Why don’t they print any good news?” You know news people say that this happens because “good” news isn’t news since good things happen all the time and we’re only startled by “bad” news that’s outside of the norm. But we all know that “good” news can be as rare as … well, say, a coffee shop owner remembering that he overcharged a customer on her previous business and so without asking gives her her favorite drink for free on her next visit. That just happened! To me. And I wrote about it in my weekly newspaper column. Just, you know, to sneak a little good news in.
Spring’s arrival means several things: 1) Horror as we peel off our wool socks and take a look at our feet for the first time in months — emergency pedicure! 2) All basketball all the time as March Madness takes over — although my bracket is sinking so low that it’s fallen off the listing at the online bracket-game I play. And 3) we start inexplicably hungering for such treats as fresh tender asparagus and juicy sweet strawberries. In my weekly newspaper food story, I found out when spring arrives at local farmers’ markets and previewed what to look for — and when — although we’re lucky here in northwest Alabama since we’ve got Jack O’Lantern Farms, a hydroponic farm which grows lovely fresh veggies year-round. I’ll bet there’s someplace close to you where you can get a taste of spring soon.
Happy New Year’s Eve! Go forth and have fun tonight. With safety, please. And if you decide to stay home — whether you’re hosting a crowd or a romantic dinner for two — you’ll need something special and sparkly to drink. Several friends shared their favorite bubbly cocktail recipes in the food story I did this week for the TimesDaily. Check it out — it’s not too late to run to the store and stock up on beverage supplies. I did leave out one recipe from my friend Steve, who started off his list of ingredients with “Get some moonshine.” I love the South!
And then take a minute to read my weekly newspaper column for inspiration on making resolutions. Oh my goodness — I could fill pages and pages with promises to do things better. But then it would take me so long to sit down and write all my resolutions down that I wouldn’t have the time to actually, you know, do them. That’s my excuse, anyway. Like right now. I really should go out and walk before it starts raining. But it looks like it might rain any minute. And it’s windy. And cold, maybe. So I’ll just stay inside where it’s nice and warm and dry and THINK about going out to walk. I mean, that’s almost as good, right???
This past week I did get a headstart on one of my resolutions, which is to write more fiction. Of course, friends and family will argue that my newspaper columns already have touches of fiction but they’re all good sports and don’t mind that I might perhaps slightly edit things they say and/or do — for journalism’s sake, of course. Except for almost-3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable, whose adorability is an absolute fact that needs no exaggeration whatsoever.
Have I told y’all that I’ve got a new job? Well, I use the term “job” loosely because it’s really just fun that I get paid for. And I’m using the phrase “get paid for” loosely, too. I’m the new marketing director for a local arts association that oversees an art museum and a renovated historic theatre. It’s part-time — only a few hours a week — and of course it’s non-profit, so you can see that this is not the path to great personal wealth and riches. Of the money kind, at least. Because in terms of great personal satisfaction, this job rocks. The staff offices are in the museum, so we’re surrounded by creativity, talent and general wonderfulness every day. And the folks on the staff are exactly the type of people you want to work with: Dedicated, enthusiastic, generous and fun. Plus, I get to do what I love doing: Write. My prime responsibility is writing press releases and public service announcements and getting the word out about our exhibits, theatrical productions, concerts, workshops, tours, openings, etc. I’ve been building a media-contact list, talking to artists and newspaper and magazine folks and generally learning my way around the art world — which, by the way, is a fascinating place. Fascinating. One thing I’ve been thrilled to discover is that my work clothes from two years ago when I “retired” from fulltime newspaper-newsroom room still fit — but only because all those low-waisted skirts I borrowed from my daughters now sort of hang out around my waist since there seems to be some sort of impediment in my middle zone. But it’s OK, since I now have some spare cash I can put toward a new wardrobe the electric bill. (Oh, hi, Dear Husband! I didn’t see you reading here.) Read more about tackling a new job in my latest newspaper column. And Younger Daughter sent me off to my new job in style the other morning with broiled fresh peaches served with a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt. Oh, yum.
I love writing about our 2-1/2-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. I mean, he’s the smartest, cutest, most adorable genius baby ever. E.V.E.R. So of course you want to read all about him, don’t you? In fact, I’d be remiss in my journalistic responsibility if I didn’t keep you posted about the Captain’s doings. Also: All my friends are starting to roll their eyes and think of things they suddenly have to do when I inevitably start conversations with, “Oh my gosh y’all will not believe what Capt. Adorable did the other day and I just have to tell you …” So thank goodness I have both a newspaper column AND a blog so that I can bore you share all the adorability. Such as this week’s column, which is a visit to the strange and wonderful place called Two-Year-Old Land. Although, in the interest of keeping things family-rated, I didn’t talk about the somewhat disturbing bathroom habits of the native population, and I also forgot to caution against drinking the water, especially if it’s in a Thomas the Train cup that’s leftover from lunch. You have been warned.