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.