Monday, November 28, 2011

Another sporadic update

I cannot believe the final month of 2011 is almost here. This was a year of growing for us. I started reporting, J went back to CrossFit to train again for police jobs, and we got a kitten, Simon Le Cat, who has lit up our lives in innumerable ways. Plus, I returned to school for accounting and just got hired as a seasonal tax preparer at H&R Block. I start training this week, and though I'm nervous that I might screw up on someone's tax return and have to answer to the IRS, it's a good way to learn.

In 2012, I hope to keep growing and stretch my comfort zone a bit more. I'm still unsteady on my feet at work, trying to balance reporting, writing, design and editing (plus breaking news online, blogging and tweeting), and I hope next year is the year it clicks. I took two classes this fall with my accounting and H&R Block courses, but it got to be a little overwhelming with a more than full-time job, a husband with whom I'd like to spend time and a new kitten who wants to wake his mommy and daddy at 5 a.m. I don't remember how we used to do it at WSU, when we'd karaoke, hardly get any sleep and still manage to go to school and put a paper out every day. Maybe the key is more karaoke.

It has been a busy year, especially in the last three months or so, but it's nice to see some progress, even if it's sometimes too slow for my liking. I survived the softball and girls swimming seasons, and now it's on to boys swimming and possibly gymnastics. I'm hoping J and I will run a 5K in December. I don't run very much, but I was under 37 minutes the last time I attempted a 5K on the treadmill, so there's hope. And I have an A in accounting. One thing I'm trying to work on is counting my blessings. I'm grateful for love in human and kitten form, family, friends, our health, employment, music, a car accident-free 18 months, coffee and the return of the NBA.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer update

I've had a bunch of vacation these past few weeks, so it has been really nice to get out and see the world a bit. We went home for my sister's graduation, then drove to Portland for our third wedding anniversary. About a week and a half later, we went back to the west side for our friends' housewarming celebration and my 10-year high school reunion, which was fascinating because only 25 people showed up out of about 300. During the Fourth of July weekend, we traveled up to Brewster to see J's grandpa and parents, then returned to town so we could hang out with some friends on the Columbia River and watch the fireworks. This was my first work-free Fourth of July since college graduation, so it was great to be out of the newsroom for the holiday.

I have a three-day work week, then two more days off. After that, we don't have vacation for a while, but it's OK. It will be good to get back into the office and return to my routine. I have some summer features to write, and work is beginning on the high school fall sports season, which means football, football, football.

We do have a couple more west-side weekend trips planned. We're going to see Sade in Seattle — I impulsively bought tickets and don't think we'll be disappointed. I kind of love the band, and J knows all the words to "Smooth Operator." Then the next month, we'll help my sister move into her dorm at Seattle U.

October will be an enjoyable month. We'll go to Boulder to see WSU's first Pac-12 football game against Colorado. We have a Chromeo concert in Seattle, then I'm heading back to our old town to visit my best bud, who graciously got us Foo Fighters tickets. I've seen them once before, as the opening act for the Police at Dodger Stadium. After their set, I turned to J and said, "How are the Police going to top that?"

This fall, I plan to be more busy outside work. I'll be taking a tax class through H&R Block, and hopefully I'll be a WSU student again. It depends on whether I can get resident tuition. There are two specific accounting classes I want to take, and I hope to complete them by May. I've been out of school for more than a year, and the thought of taking these classes has been nagging at me for a while. I'd like to get something going on the side so I'm not so worried about the future of our industry. I wish I were supercreative like a lot of my friends who do graphic design or web work. The only skill I could possibly sell right now is editing, and I'm not very confident that would generate any money.

Maybe someday in the not-so-distant future, I'll be a bookkeeper/tax extraordinaire.

Monday, May 23, 2011

End of the road

My softball journey ended Saturday with regionals played locally. After that, I'll hang out in the office fielding calls and designing/editing pages while the state softball tournaments are played elsewhere. We're sending reporters to cover track, baseball and soccer state finals. Also, the state tennis tournament is here, so we'll have a writer covering that, but someone must stay behind and get the paper out on time. I'm OK with that. Maybe next year, I'll make the trip to cover state softball.

What have I learned from my first season in the circle, so to speak?

1. I didn't forget how to write. Yes, I worried about whether I could still do it after so many years editing other people's stories. But my second feature ended up on A1 (a local softball player has leukemia, and her team and others stepped up to honor her throughout the season). I guess I did something right.

2. My time management skills need work. Writing, designing pages, taking calls, doing agate and editing can be incredibly tricky when you have to do all of that in an eight-hour shift. It will be even harder in a few weeks when our hours are cut to 37.5 a week. Though I don't do a bad job of managing my time, I can always improve.

3. I've got to allow myself room to grow and make mistakes. Too many times this season, I wanted to just quit writing and go back to the desk full time because I wasn't satisfied with my beat work. I didn't feel like the right person for the job because I didn't know as much about the sport as I felt I should. And with time constraints, I felt I wasn't getting enough time to edit and do the things I know I can do really well, such as checking facts and proofing pages. I need to accept that things won't be perfect when my time must be divided in so many ways, but I'm doing the best I can. A hard lesson for someone who spent so much of her life striving for a 4.0 GPA.

4. Jake is a saint. I was consumed in my A1 story, trying to make sure everything was factually accurate, but he told me I needed to make the reader feel something, too. After the story was published, a few people told me it made them cry, but I think that had less to do with how I wrote it and more with the subject. At any rate, I don't think the story would have gotten the reaction it did without Jake's influence.

The biggest reason I call him a saint is because I developed extreme tunnel vision this spring, and he gently reminded me that while I could talk to him about softball, I shouldn't talk at him like he's a tape recorder. Too many times, I was saying my notes out loud, and he would tune out because we weren't engaging in a back-and-forth conversation. I needed to be reminded that while Jake understands what it's like to be an obsessive-compulsive reporter, he's my husband, first and foremost.

5. Getting a life is necessary. It kind of goes back to No. 4. Jake and I both get stressed with our work, and we need an outlet. I haven't really ventured out much here, and now that the weather's starting to warm up and the softball beat is behind me for the most part (a bunch of top players participate in summer ball), I won't have much of an excuse to live like a hermit anymore.

In a similar vein, I haven't exercised as much as I've wanted to lately, and my food habits can be quite sad at times - either I hardly eat or I end up eating something I regret later - so getting back on the treadmill and going to farmer's markets will be a must this summer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Entering the circle

I'm entering a new phase in my working life.

For almost six years, I have been on the desk working nights and weekends, putting out a daily newspaper. Now, I have a new job title:

Softball writer.

I don't know much about softball. I could compare it to baseball, but there are distinct differences between the sports. For one, baseball pitchers throw on a mound. Softball pitchers throw from the circle, which is on a flat surface. I just realized that this week.

I'm going to my first softball game Tuesday, a nonconference matchup between two of the area's best teams. I'm not writing much about it, maybe eight inches or so, but it's still nerve-wracking. Will my writing suck? Will I say something stupid to the coaches? Will I even understand what's happening? I shadowed one of our writers at a basketball game during the winter. I tried to keep score and follow the action, but afterward, I felt as if I had never seen a basketball game before. You have to develop new eyes for the game when you're a reporter.

Luckily, I haven't been intimidated when talking to coaches over the phone. I think taking prep calls on busy Friday and Saturday nights rids you of your fear. And when I have had questions about terms or rules of the game, coaches have been pretty good about not making me feel like a dumbass, even if I'm beating myself up internally.

I'm writing a season preview to run at the end of March, so I'm reading up on the area's recent softball history and taking copious notes from interviewing coaches, all while trying to learn what this sport is about. I think my main problem is time management. I could spend my weekend calling coaches and still not feel as if I've done enough. I need to force myself to spend time away from work. After all, I'm going to be plenty immersed in it this spring.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"All You Need Is Now"? I think that's true

I've never been objective when it comes to Duran Duran. Even with their most critically panned albums, I have found a song — or three — to love on each. (Check out "Serious" or "My Antarctica" on "Liberty," or "Perfect Day" on "Thank You.") Therefore, you can take what I have to say next with a grain of salt, but please note this regarding the band's latest release, "All You Need Is Now":

You are missing out if you do not listen to this record now.

If you are familiar with early DD hits such as "Rio" or "Planet Earth," this is the record that will reunite you with those sounds of yore. The drum intro on "Girl Panic!" smacks of "Girls of Film." "Leave a Light On" is the distant cousin of "Save a Prayer." The buoyant melody of "Runway Runaway" is reminiscent of "Last Chance on the Stairway," the seventh song on 1982's "Rio," and the panicky vocal harmonies at the end of "Being Followed" harken to almost anything on their 1983 album "Seven and the Ragged Tiger." "The Man Who Stole a Leopard," which features a haunting cameo from Kelis, borrows from the seductive build of "Tel Aviv" (the closer on the first album) and incorporates plenty of synth-violin stabs a la "My Own Way," the second song on "Rio." And like "Rio" 28 years before, "All You Need Is Now" ends on a sparse, shuffling note. "Before the Rain" is "The Chauffeur," 2010 style.

In the end, this record, produced by self-proclaimed Duranie Mark Ronson, is a love note to DD fans who have hoped the band could capture some of that youthful magic in a bottle and bring it into the new millennium.

The only thing missing on "All You Need Is Now"? A few good measures of saxophone.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upcoming additions to the CD rack

This blog is called "Blogging to the Beat," and yet I haven't written about music. I'm changing that tonight.

I love to walk into a record store and walk out with a bag full of CDs or vinyls. Tonight, however, I went to the virtual record store known as and splurged on some music that will reach our home in five to nine days (thanks, free Super Saver shipping!). Though I could have saved more money by downloading the music and having it instantly, I love the tangible product too much. It's worth the wait.

And now, the shopping list:

Broken Bells, "Broken Bells"

LCD Soundsystem, "This is Happening"

Devo, "Something for Everybody"

Gorillaz, "Plastic Beach"

Scissor Sisters, "Night Work"

I expect to have a report on these albums in a week or two. I'm particularly excited about Scissor Sisters' new record, the album cover aside. *ahem* It sounds as though they took Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the Bee Gees and Pet Shop Boys, thoroughly mixed up those sounds and poured them into their CD.

Later this summer, Chromeo is coming out with another record full of its sexy Montreal funk. If the new single "Don't Turn the Lights On" is any indication, I think Jake and I will have that album on repeat for a few months. Also, I'm getting amped up for Maroon 5's CD, "Hands All Over," which comes out in September. Whenever I hear "This Love" (and I still hear it quite a bit on the radio), I remember meeting the band backstage at Beasley Coliseum in 2004. I wore out "Songs About Jane" when I was at WSU.

I'm also addicted (begrudgingly) to Katy Perry's "California Gurls." As a copy editor, I'm bugged to high heaven by the song title, even though Perry claimed it was an homage to Big Star's "September Gurls." Please, people are dumb enough already - just spell "girls" correctly. *copy editor rant over* Anyway, the song is played to death here, and I'm a California native whose skin would not melt a popsicle, but the funky guitar riff and Snoop Dogg drive this into guilty-pleasure territory. The bridge and the chorus get stuck in your head for days. You know it's ear candy, so constant consumption will only rot your brain over the long term, and yet you prefer to live in ignorant bliss because it feels so good in the moment.

Damn you, Katy Perry.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Got a new car and other things

It's a 2006 Hyundai Elantra with about 30,000 miles. We've had it almost a week, and Jake loves it. However, we're seeing some electrical issues we didn't notice before, so hopefully we can get them fixed without much hassle.

This weekend was our second wedding anniversary, so Jake and I went to Mendocino, where I lived for 2 1/2 years. Most people would probably kill to live near the beach every day, but when you're 8 or 9 years old and can't really swim, the water doesn't do much for you. Also, you need to see people or go to the mall. And more than three FM stations would be nice. Thank goodness MTV still regularly played music videos when I was a kid, or else I never would have known about Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul or Duran Duran.

Still, I made some good memories with Jake this weekend. We stayed at a nice cabin right off Highway 1 in Little River; it's part of a set of bungalows called the Andiron. We went past my old house in Mendocino, which looked a little worse for wear, but then again, I lived there almost 20 years ago. After that, we drove up to the North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg and found some 12 percent beer that did us in very quickly. We sobered up by getting a brownie (not pot-infused, thank goodness) at a local - read: non-Starbucks - coffee shop, then meandering down the main drag and seeing how many businesses had moved on since I was last there. Sadly but not surprisingly, there were a lot of empty storefronts.

We returned to the cabin, then woke early the next morning to check out and then tour Mendocino. We drove in front of my old school, which has become a K-8 school; it used to be just a grammar school next door to the middle school. We then went into the "downtown" area, which consists of a handful of streets. The post office was still there; so was the big grocery store, Mendosa's. I walked into the bookstore where I spent much of my allowance and birthday money on "Baby-Sitters Club" books. I didn't spend any money there this time, but I was tempted! We bought some gifts for friends and family at various food and clothing shops, then checked out the water from the headlands. Jake took many pictures of waves crashing against the rocks. We would have actually walked onto a beach, but it was an extremely windy day, so the water was ridiculously choppy and likely very cold. I stood on a bluff and watched the waves smack the rocks as they came ashore. Jake, meanwhile, jumped down into an area with some tidepools, then leapfrogged from rock to rock to take photos. He was especially amazed by the view from the high school. The school's track has a pretty clear view of the ocean, so you can run laps while looking at the sea. A fantastic distraction from exercise, to be sure!

We left Mendocino at about 4 p.m. and headed up to Highway 20 (but not before a detour to the grocery store for some of that 12 percent beer). We wanted to connect to Highway 101 and reach Healdsburg - another one of my former towns - at about 6:30, so we could get food and watch the Lakers game before continuing the rest of the way home. We found a brewery that was showing the game, and it was a great thing we stopped, because the Lakers were kicking ass and taking the Celtics' names. Yeah, baby!

I also saw a girl with whom I went to school from fifth to 11th grade. She said she recognized me, but she couldn't remember my name at first. She invited me to the high school reunion, but I told her I moved before graduation. She said the organizing committee wasn't limiting the guest list to graduates, and I told her I would think about it. I've never seriously considered going to either of my high school reunions. I just figured I was never really a part of either school, but I did graduate from one of them. So maybe I would go to the reunion for the school from which I got my diploma? I don't know; I consider WSU my school far more than any of the elementary or secondary schools I attended. The only context in which I've thought about high school these past 10 years is that I had to get through it to reach college, which is where life really began for me.