Friday, December 31, 2010
I can't say I'll miss 2010 for many reasons, some of which I can post in this blog and others I can't. But being unemployed seven months and counting has meant a dent in the finances and has put the kabosh on any traveling. Which is why it was so nice for Oma and Opa to fly *here* and experience their first East Coast Christmas in more than 30 years. A huge snow storm dumped snow all around us but it completely skipped us in the DC area which delighted us to no end, being that shoveling snow gets very old very fast.
So....for Christmas Eve, we repaired to St. Andrew's in College Park, which had a no-rehearsal kiddie pageant in which Veeka dressed as an angel. I remembered that I was exactly her age (5 1/2) when I too dressed as an angel at St. John's, an Episcopal church in Bethesda that we were attending back in 1961. How odd that nearly 50 years later about 20 miles away my own little girl would be dressed as an angel on Christmas Eve. As shown here, Veeka had to wait in a pew, her halo a tad askew, with some other little angels, before they trooped up to admire the baby Jesus.
On Christmas Day, Uncle Rob showed up (see family photo) for the morning as Veeka opened the lion's share of all the gifts. A kind friend of mine sent a large box of gifts for her as I was not in a position to spend much at all. So Veeka splurged on puzzles, videos and other goodies. I'd hoped to take the family for a walk but it was so cold that day, we didn't leave the house. We did get to the Washington cathedral the next day and then out to lunch with Rob and his new fiance. Yes, you read that right; he and Jan announced their engagement Christmas Day. This was the first time I'd met Jan; ditto for my parents. We're all hoping 2011 will be a much better year for us all.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
This is a photo of Veeka playing in the snow we got last week. Fortunately most of it had melted away by the time Oma and Opa flew in yesterday on Alaska Airlines. In fact the weather here is very breezy but quite sunny; probably a relief to pilots everywhere.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Finally some of my articles are finally seeing the light of day - the latest being this piece coming out in Sunday's Washington Post magazine. The story is about all the folks who took the Huffington Post buses down to the Stewart/Colbert "sanity rally" on Oct. 30 and ended up getting there so late, they missed most of it.
Friday, November 26, 2010
We spent Thanksgiving this week at the home of Canadian friends who were trying their hand at their first American Thanksgiving meal ever. The cooking was superb and I loved simply driving there and relaxing and not having to cook myself. Quelle relief.
Every Thanksgiving morning I take out a certain blue notebook that I only write in one day a year. It's an informal Thanksgiving diary where I note all that went on the past year and what happened to give thanks for. Like, not getting laid off last December when 110 other Washington Times staffers were getting the boot. The five-month reprieve I got was vital in that I got a three-part series into the paper (in April) that I'm hoping will be a contest winner.
This is not the first time I've lost a job over the years and each time the switch has ultimately proved to my benefit which is how I hope this experience will work out. This time is the first time, however, that massive amounts of people have also been without work alongside me, plus I am quite a bit older than I was last time I jobhunted. Which is not helpful in today's job climate.
Pictured here is a photo of Veeka and I at Sun Mountain Lodge, a gorgeous resort in Winthrop, Wash. Which was one of our nicer experiences of 2010.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
In the last day or so, news has come out that the venerable St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Seattle is splitting and that 3/4 of the parish is leaving to form a new congregation that will join up with CANA, one of the new Anglican jurisdictions hoping to supplant the US Episcopal Church. I knew of this six weeks ago when I spoke at St. Luke's one Sunday morning, then had lunch with the rector and his wife: John and Holly Roddam, at a local Thai restaurant.
Friday, November 5, 2010
"A half moon is shining over a crowd of 20-somethings, clumped together like so many penguins in a futile effort to avoid the chilly wind. Clad in all manner of Halloween costumes, hoodies, jeans and woolen scarves and clasping signs, they stand in a long line at the vast parking lot surrounding Citi Field, home of the New York Mets just south of LaGuardia Airport in Queens. But nothing is too big a sacrifice for the cause: in this case a massive meeting 209 miles away on the Mall in Washington with the odd title of “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” starring Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, most known for their late-night antics on “The Daily Show.”
To add to the drama, internet diva Arianna Huffington had announced Sept. 28 on The Daily Show she personally would fund “as many buses as people to fill them” from New York to help fans get to the Oct. 30 rally. After well over 10,000 people enlisted, her web site, Huffingtonpost.com, closed registrations Oct. 24. And so here we are, about 10,000 strong in pre-dawn 42-degree weather. ....
That is the beginning of a Washington Post Sunday magazine piece I am writing about one of the weirder adventures I've had recently. The night of Oct. 27, one of the editors messaged me via Facebook, asking if I'd care to take an unusual assignment. They'd had a liberal journalist follow some Tea Partiers around at the August Glenn Beck rally. The Post was looking for a conservative journalist (me!) to follow tons of left-of-center folks as they boarded one of 200 free buses - courtesy of Huffington Post - at the crack of dawn in Queens. The only problem is I had to be up in New York Friday night to do this thing.
Now I was spending all day Friday in Baltimore as a panelist at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion pushing the "Fire and Glory" book. Plus there was the small detail of who'd take care of Veeka. But on Thursday I decided to take the assignment after I found friends willing to watch her (bless you!) until I could get back home late Saturday afternoon. And thus began the strangest adventure beginning with my catching a train to New York from Baltimore, then taking another train to Queens and staying in the same hotel I did when covering the 2005 Billy Graham crusade.
The next morning, I was up at 4 and within an hour, I was in Citi Field interviewing tons of shivering people who were waiting for these free buses to Washington. It was 42 degrees, I later learned and my hands were so cold, I could barely write. A nice photographer called Robert Woudenberg took this photo of me interviewing some college students who were dressed up as - and spoofing - the Chilean miners. It's about 5:15 a.m. at this point. I ended up on the same bus as the "miners" and when we pulled into RFK Stadium around noon, a Post photographer was there to meet us. Together we followed the "miners" about this huge rally which we saw almost nothing of. The organizers didn't know that actual attendance would be quadruple their projections; there were far too few jumbotrons and the speaker system was totally inadequate. All those wonderful HuffPost buses ended up bringing some 10,000 New Yorkers there hours too late. All the good seats were taken hours before.
But the signs! So many people were hoisting about the most clever signs and the weather was gorgeous. I was being paid for being there but I felt sorry for the poor folks - some who'd flown in from California - who were crowded out of the rally. As a local resident for almost 15 years now, I've learned one does not attend rallies on the Mall because of the sheer misery of getting there and standing there so chances are I would have never been there on my own. So it was a real kick to see this close up.
When does the article run? Either December or January, so stay tuned.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Wanted to say the last part of my sweep through Washington state involved a 3-day visit to the Methow valley, a fertile green finger of land sandwiched between the dry hills of Washington's arid center. We got there over the North Cascades Highway and the middle photo is of Veeka shivering at the Diablo Lake overlook. Mountain lakes are emerald green in that part of the world just south of the Mt. Baker wilderness.
We swept through Washington Pass and ended up in Winthrop, a small town in the eastern foothills of the North Cascades where my friends Dick and Pam Ewing have lived for 25 years. They moved there in the mid-1980s and built a gorgeous log home there which Veeka and I adored running about in, especially the new and gorgeous spiral staircase connected the 2nd and 3rd floors. We spent the first day driving up through a pine forest to Sun Mountain Lodge, the local posh resort, which is surrounded by all manner of paths that turn into cross-country trails in the winter. We wandered down one ringed by aspens (see photo of Veeka and Dick) to a beaver pond although we unfortunately did not spot a beaver. Veeka hiked nearly 3 miles that day, a record for her.
The next day, we repaired to Rainy Lake, a hike up in the Cascades to another gorgeous mountain lake and through typical moist Northwesty forests complete with tons of firs, pines, mushrooms, ferns and other opulent flora. Back at the house, Veeka loved running around the property and petting the kitties and exploring the two large gardens that Pam kept up.
It was a lovely reprieve for all too soon we were back in the Washington area, facing an October of no job possibilities and a complete dry-up of even freelance work. Turns out I'd slated some work to be done on my bathroom (it's a wreck) so I've been more than busy running back and forth to Home Depot for supplies. And then this past weekend, a church kindly helped Veeka and I attend - for free - a gathering at the lovely diocesan retreat center of Shrinemont in the foothills west of the Shenendoah Valley. The fall weather could not have been more perfect - and we visited wineries (a national sport in Virginia) on the way home, only to run into a 9-mile backup on I-81 going home and a Beltway with the nastiest traffic. And then someone thoughtlessly rearended me as I was exiting said Beltway.
So this morning was spent with a chiropractor. Back to earth, we are.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
There are times when Veeka can surpass all expectations and yesterday was one of them. Dressed in a deep purple flouncy dress with black shoes, she was absolutely perfect as she marched up the aisle with her purple flowers and stood by her older cousin Lindsay as Carley and Jed said their vows. ALL the other flower girls - and ringbearer - wandered off during the ceremony but Veeka was the only one who stood there in place during the sermon, vows, songs, you-name-it. She loved being up front, wearing lavender eyeshadow and lipstick and being a little star. She thought that seeing Uncle Rob in a tux - attire one must have when giving one's daughter away - was pretty cool.
Unfortunately the sun hardly broke through the clouds the entire day, making it a cloudy Saturday but that didn't dampen peoples' spirits as we all gathered in North Bend for the church ceremony, then drove nearly an hour away for a reception in a farmhouse that gave new meaning to the word "isolated." We were deep in the woods east of Duvall in territory even my parents had never driven about.
Am including some photos here of Miss Veeka in her finery, Carley and Jed saying their vows and the happy couple holding my little darling.
It's been a fun few days in Seattle where I've either been at a wedding shower, rehearsal or the event itself. Today (Sunday), I spoke at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on my newest book and tomorrow Veeka and I head to the Methow Valley for a few days. Veeka is enjoying her time with Oma and Opa and all the other relatives.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
It really was a foretaste of heaven; driving south on Highway 67 from Divide, Colo., toward the tiny town of Victor, the highway became like a golden tunnel, full of the famous "quaking aspens" that high-altitudes in this state are known for. I had to drive to 9,600 feet to see them and it was delightful jumping out of the car and clinging onto those birch-like trees whose leaves rustle in the mountain breeze like nothing else I've ever heard.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
So far, so good; gorgeous weather in the 80s and sunny. We spent 3 days at the Westin Tabor Center in Denver for the RNA conference where Miss Veeka got ahold of a notepad and practiced interviewing friendly people. She's been at 2 meetings of religion reporters - at least - and has become like a little mascot there. Everyone seems to love her - even people who I'm not sure like ME - and the Little One has a way of talking her way into peoples' hearts and onto their laps.
Today we headed south to Colorado Springs, stopping at a lovely home for lunch with friends near Monument, Colo., then continuing on to the Garden of the Gods area where we tried doing some late-afternoon hiking before heading north to Castle Rock for dinner with yet another friend. This state is so lovely; the highways so clean, the weather so perfect - I wonder if the locals know how good they have it. I understand they do have lots of snow but they also have skiing! Would move here in a minute if I could.
Today my father turned 86!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Finally a long-awaited vacation in the Rockies followed by a trip to Seattle for Carley's wedding. We are stoked. I've been slaving away all summer sending out resumes and freelancing my heart out to try to make ends meet. In case anyone wonders whether freelancing pays the bills - it doesn't.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
When you work for newspapers, you're never allowed to engage in politicking, so it was with some trepidation I agreed to be a poll worker earlier this week. By that, I mean standing in front of one of the local polling places handing out literature in favor of a candidate.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Our summer would not have been complete without a visit to the Scottish Highland Games over Labor Day weekend. It was a visit to those games 14 years ago that resulted in me winning the I-wish-I-could-play-the-harp contest whereby I beat a dozen or so other contestants with my rave rendition of "Morning is Broken" (it was for people who'd never played the harp before) and with my victory got a free loaner harp for a year which started me to learning how to play this fascinating instrument. Sadly, I hardly play at all these days; a situation that must be rectified somehow. Veeka does not have the concentration to learn and I no longer have the reasons to play that I used to. Weekly lessons, concerts with other harpists and competitions kept me practicing like crazy each week for many years. The height of it all was attending an international harp convention in Edinburgh, Scotland in the spring of 2001.
Anyway, Veeka, her uncle Rob and her mommy went to this year's festival where the sunny, breezy weather was so beautiful, it hurt. The festivities were marred a bit by Veeka's habit of wandering off whereby I and Rob spent an anxious half hour searching for her. She had wandered into some kind of tower, the little minx. And then, after a friend gave her a Scottish frisbee, she promptly lost it.
The photo shows Veeka and her uncle sunning themselves in the back yard as temps are still in the 90s during the day. But the nights have cooled down quite a bit now and little pumpkins are starting to pop out in my garden.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
After much thought and agonizing, I decided to switch schools on Veeka, sending her to a place where she will learn a "classical" curriculum made famous by Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning." The big new trend now is for kids to go to these classical schools where the focus is much more on memorization and reading classical texts and - for kindergarteners - learning the histories of ancient Egypt and Rome.
Will say there was some sticker shock involved in nearly $500 in registration, books and equipment fees that I was not aware of when I first approached the school. This was a serious hit to the pocketbook, being that as of Sept. 1 (tomorrow), it will have been three months since I was laid off. Only today was there a story on how the paper was sold back to Rev. Moon for $1 after one of his sons made a mash of managing it. Who knows whether all of us will be offered our jobs back or not; the lucky ones have moved on whereas the rest of us gallantly freelance for not much more than pennies! Things need to change soon on the job front or Veeka may end up leaving her lovely classical school and going to public kindergarten - a sad possibility I'm hoping to avoid.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Take a close look at these beautiful new light maple chairs in my kitchen because I spent much of the day driving to an Amish settlement about 50 miles away in St. Mary's County to pick these up. A few months ago, I was driving around on some back roads and saw a sign (one of many) advertising furniture making so I drove down a long driveway to a large shed where there were all manner of chairs in various woods and stages of manufacture. Out walked Raymond Yoder, an Amish carpenter right out of Central Casting who discussed with me what sorts of woods and chair styles I wanted. He gave me his business card but refused to take any money for a deposit. Amazing.
Three months later - the chairs were ready. He'd used some community phone to get ahold of me the week before and I sent him a letter back (no email with that group) telling him when I'd show up. And I did, with some friends in tow who wanted to see where the Amish lived. So they've perked up my dining room quite a bit. Now that I am unemployed, I'd think twice about such an expense but I put the order in just before I lost my job.
Still....various things are going on the fritz, such as my Olympus camera, which just bit the dust after 6 years. The camera shop was doubtful they could fix it for less than $200 and they said I could get a pretty decent Canon for less than that. And there are expenses such as Veeka's school, also a chunk. And don't get me started on the horrific expense that COBRA health payments are costing me.
Meanwhile, things are still pretty crazy at my old employer according to this piece as it seems that half of Washington is waiting for the paper to bite the dust. Which it refuses to do. Meanwhile I've moved on to hopefully better things. Am freelancing pieces like this (about Jewish singles) plus others that have not been posted yet, so I can't brag about them but let's just say I haven't sat around this summer.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This past weekend, I had one of my more interesting encounters of the summer at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference which can be explored at this outdated link here. I'd visited Twin Oaks, which is northwest of Richmond in the middle of nowhere, central Virginia, 10 years ago to do an article so I was familiar with this group of 100 or so people living on 400+ acres. Every year they sponsor a communities conference which I thought might be the perfect place to interest folks in my new book.
Monday, August 2, 2010
The Layoff was two months ago and in a quirky coincidence, my take on the risks of going on the record - and how little appreciated this sacrifice turned out to be - made into a web site: Big Questions Online. Please check out my story here.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I never thought I'd give in but after Koki Smith - a friend in the neighborhood and a web genius - gave me a tutorial last Friday on how to enter Twitterdom, I caved in. I am now contactable @juliaduin. Which is a Twitter address, I think. You can see my Twitter home page here.
Of course I have no idea how to work this new technology but it's like the iPhone; buy now, figure it out later. Which is also why I just bought "iPhone: The Manual" or something like that. It cost me plenty at Barnes & Noble.
Other big news today is I did not get selected for a jury. For the past two months, have been dreading this day as I really didn't want to get roped into a trial. Several of us were taken into a room where we were questioned by a judge re our participation in a civil suit having to do with a car accident. But I was not one of the lucky finalists. Must say there were about 150 of us crammed into the jury room at the Prince George's County courthouse this morning BUT the surroundings were humane. We were allowed to bring in a lunch, store it in a fridge, use a microwave, sip free coffee and use our lap tops. Much nicer than the Fairfax County courthouse where they berate you if you so much dare to walk in with a cell phone or computer that has a camera attached.
Above photo is of Miss Veeka posing on a swinging bridge that we found up in the mountains.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Well, we did escape to the mountains of western Virginia - not WEST Virginia, but Highland and Bath counties which are in western Virginia. I'd always driven through those counties on Routes 39 or 250 but hadn't really stopped there to see some of their charms. The last time I drove back from West Virginia (where I've done quite a bit of exploring), I swore I'd return to the "drive-by" portions of west Virginia.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Pictured here is Miss Veeka on a road trip we took a few weeks ago at the eastern entrance to I-68, which is the back way to Pittsburgh. On Saturday we're heading to the mountains of western Virginia for a few days. I've always wanted to spend more time in Highland and Bath counties which are just stunning in the beautiful mountain views and drives. Soooo, found a B&B that takes kids and costs less than $100 a night and so off we go.
People ask how the jobhunting is going. There are some flashes of hope but it being summer, everyone is away or just coming back or just leaving for somewhere. I spent much of this week picking up some freelancing, trying to figure out how to get unemployment benefits through the DC government's web site and wrestling with the COBRA folks re health benefits. The premium I am now having to pay is pretty stunning. Can't do that for too many months.
And so I am taking a few days off from all that.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Once a year we try to get to the seashore so I thought this year I'd try something different: going to Rehoboth over the Fourth of July weekend. I'm glad we went but a lot of collateral damage came with going at such a time.
First, we chose to be there during a heat burst that struck the Washington area with 106-degree temps. Come to think of it, maybe we did well to be on the beach at that time. Back at home the local water authority decided to levy water restrictions on 2 Maryland counties, including mine, meaning that when I got home tonight, some of the nearly $500 I planted in landscaping this spring is in danger of dying. Yes, there are water restrictions in place during a HEAT WAVE. Someone wasn't thinking when they decided that one. I am sure some folks are quietly hosing down their back yards but mine looks very peaked right now.
Anyway, Miss Veeka and I left Friday for Rehoboth to spend a few days at the Drift Inn, a child-friendly B&B that's about 100 yards from the beach and which is neat and clean and very cheap! We did all the usual stuff: Amusement park rides, lots of beach time, swims in the very cold surf, watching the jellyfish wash in with the tide, lots of ice cream consumed and plenty of restaurants sampled. The night of the 4th, the fireworks were on the beach just down the street from our lodging so we all parked our lawn chairs on the sidewalk and watched. Well, almost all of us. Veeka dashed inside and I found her curled up under the sheets in our bed.
The folks at the B&B loved Veeka and the shot of her in the bike thingy is with Judy - a nice woman from Pennsylvania who took a liking to the tyke - and spoiled her rotten. Veeka didn't pull too many of her let's-run-down-the-beach-and-see-if-mommy-can-catch-me routines mainly because my left foot is still not so great and I yelled at her if she wandered off. She loved being her little princess self - see her pose beneath the umbrella - in the sands.
By Tuesday morning, we were ready to pull out which is when I discovered my car would not start. I spent all day - dripping with sweat - trying to figure out what was wrong as the battery was new. Waited for HOURS for the tow truck from my insurance company, which never arrived. Finally broke down and ordered a tow from elsewhere, but the car didn't get to a garage until late in the afternoon. By then I and several helpful folks from the B&B had discovered even more problems with car, ie it was leaking anti-freeze everywhere. Great.
So Veeka and I arrived on the beach at 5 pm. which is a lovely time of day; the air turns bluey in the late afternoon sun, the crowds have left and the water had finally warmed up to being swimmable. But to my surprise, Veeka had no interest in the water and just sat on the beach and pouted. Or sang and danced. A friend of mine told me later that her kids basically get bored with the beach after the third day which amazes me in that I used to spend weeks at the shore as a kid. But the novelty had worn off with Veeka who basically wanted to either watch TV or her videos. The fact she had no one to play with was a factor.
So we sat around the B&B all day waiting for the garage to call me back. When they didn't by 4 p.m., one of the angels at the B&B - name's Kelly and she's the owners' daughter - called the cell phone of the garage owner to find out what was what. Then she drove us to the garage with all our luggage. Yes, the car could run, they told me. Problem was, the cooling fans were not working. Just turn off the AC and drive over 35 mph, they told me. Do not under any circumstances idle in traffic more than 5 minutes or the engine will overheat.
WELL, I about collapsed in terror - the thought of a car breakdown on the Bay Bridge uppermost in my mind. Plus I knew the insurance company was none too quick with furnishing tow trucks. Apparently tow companies all over the Delaware peninsula were busier than one-armed paper hangers all weekend long because everyone's cars were breaking down. Kelly, who had not struck me as a particularly devout person on first impression, lectured me on trusting God to get home. My knees quaked. Put me to shame, she did. So we piled in with the windows down and I flew home in 2 1/2 hours through Delaware and eastern Maryland with no problems. Veeka didn't even complain about the windows being down or about being hot, even when her DVD player shut down in the middle of "Finding Nemo."
Thursday morning, el carro heads for the Subaru dealer.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
In case some of you wonder why my profile on this blog is empty, well....I just spent an hour trying to compose something under 1,200 characters and NOTHING works. No matter what I do, Google simply will not accept what I write, so I've chosen to have nothing on my profile as the site basically won't accept anything I type into it.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Uncle Rob with Veeka
Now that life has settled down, I've been unpacking boxes, lots of them. Out pour memories of 14+ years of work. I've got souvenir booklets of Benedict XVI's visit, a Christmas card from the Church of Scientology, piles of notes from my 2006 trip to India, a list of Hindu holidays, documents about radical Hindu persecution of Christians in Orissa, notes on ethics dating back to the Clinton era, directories for the local Catholic archdiocese and Episcopal diocese, several dictionaries and AP style books, a Kurdish flag, my coffee mug, piles of business cards, notes on Chinese dissidents, two copies of the Book of Mormon with my name inscribed on the cover, files on abortion, Planned Parenthood and a nasty procedure called "selective reduction" whereby a woman pregnant with several fetuses arranges to have some of them killed right there in her womb. That was one of the toughest stories I ever had to write. Also a back rest, a few biographies of Billy Graham and piles of other religious books, many of which I'll be giving away.
It is pleasant to rest; to be reading "Stones Into Schools" (the book that comes after "Three Cups of Tea") and to actually have to try out an exercise club and meet someone for breakfast, which is how I spent this morning.
One thing I'm mulling over is whether to re-start my weekly religion blog and publish it here. "Stairway to Heaven" really did have quite a few fans, as I'm learning now.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Veeka learns to swim
Actually, June is proving to be quite busy; had no sooner returned from Pittsburgh than my brother Rob was in for a surprise three-day visit. Of course I put him to work mowing my lawn. In the 27 years I've lived away from home, this is the first time he's visited me. Veeka of course was glad to see someone with testosterone around the house so she clung to him a lot. Now she prays for him at night, along with Carley and Lindsay.
Yes, the resumes are going out, for those of you who are curious about such things. I am also resting. Other than a three-month maternity leave, half of which was spent in sub-zero Kazakhstan, I've had no break in more than 14 years so I am enjoying this time. One top priority is getting my foot healed, which is taking longer than I'd like. I finally managed to squeeze said foot into a sandal today before hobbling about the supermarket.
Meanwhile, Veeka is busy with her swim lessons at the University of Maryland and there should be a photo here of her in the arms of an instructor as he coaxes her to float on her back. (She refused).
Friday, June 4, 2010
WELL - after an unexpectedly eventful week, we are off for two speaking engagements and one TV appearance 250 miles away in Pittsburgh. Veeka and I are going to stay with a family with seven children that includes a little girl Veeka's size and age. I, for obvious reasons, need a rest.
Post-Gazette scribe Ann Rodgers previewed my visit with this piece here.
On Thursday, I picked up the Post Style section to see myself - looking hot
and sweaty - and Veeka by the masthead plus the same photo - enlarged - next to an inside story. Veeka's daycare folks were excited to know she'd made the big time. Even more emails and phone calls poured in. Other articles of note ran here and here. Also learned Thursday there was one more layoff. Lots of rumors out there as to what's next for the newsroom.
As for us, out the door....
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
By now I am sure you've all seen this blog on the WPost web site that quickly spread to some other journalism blogs. I've been amazed all day at the weird breaches of ethics I've run into; when I sent a private email to one blogger, he published it! And a woman supposedly doing a story on me for a web site all but accused me of lying about my situation. She was so abusive, I finally clammed up on her. It's sure enlightening being on the other side of the reporter's notebook.
I've noticed photos of me do not show the unfortunate foot that underwent surgery so just to prove that I was disabled, here is a photo of me bandaged up. The stitches were taken out today but I am still hobbling about.
Veeka is over her fever today, thank God. Visited the Adventist bookstore in Silver Spring and could not believe how in the 14+ years I've been here, I've never before visited this place. What an amazing amount of stuff - and so I loaded up on music CDs and a toddler Bible more geared to Veeka's level. Tonight we raced through Genesis, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau.
I've appreciated the gracious emails and Facebook messages I've gotten from so many people. My brother Steve weighed in this afternoon with this which I thought pretty funny.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Well, the other shoe dropped today: Remember the story that ran a month ago today in which I was quoted in the Washington Post about snakes in our newsroom? If you want to see it, please go to the "birthday month" entry below.
I thought journalists were truth-seeking types. Also, I am always trying to coax people to go on the record. Isn't it a bit hypocritical of me to not do so as well?
Alas, my employers felt differently. I knew things were going south when my articles were either cut in half, tossed out of the print edition or placed at the back of the paper. An one exception was this piece which got snuck onto the front page when the editor was away. Then we just had a new design of our web site and I couldn't help notice that "faith" was missing from the home page whereas "entertainment" was prominent on the navigation bar, even though we have no entertainment reporters. Then I heard last week that my religion blog had been killed.
But I was out sick most of that week due to surgery on my foot. Then Veeka came down with a fever over the weekend so I spent the morning of Memorial Day in one of those emergency doc-in-a-box clinics getting her antibiotics. So when I went into work today, it was on crutches with a bandaged foot, with Veeka in tow and a bottle of kiddie Tylenol in my purse. We were going to stay 1-2 hours while I gathered up some notes and prepared to do the rest of my work from home. So I was starting work on a column and Veeka was watching one of her videos when Sam Dealey, the editor, walked up. Now he has refused to speak to me since the Post article, so I knew something was up and sure enough, he invited me to his office.
He said the Washington Times is going in a different direction and that religion coverage would not be part of it; hence my job was being done away with. Yeah, right: for an organization whose four foundational principles are family, faith, freedom and service.
I flatly told Sam this was payback. Plus there I was having to pack 11 heavy boxes in a few hours containing 14 years of work - no easy task. And with a bum foot. Within about two hours, my phone and email were cut off. When dozens of Times reporters were laid off last December, they got two days to go through their email but hey, things have gotten nastier, haven't they?
Seeing what was going on, a few very nice employees took Veeka downstairs for lunch or out for a walk, just to help me out. Am including a photo that a helpful intern - Hillary May - shot on my iPhone of me sitting at the back of my car trunk after packing some of the boxes. Veeka began to cry so it took several tries to get her to smile a little. Poor little girl: having to be with her mommy during such a nasty day.
Hearing of this mess, the Levys, my neighbors across the street, ordered in Chinese and had Veeka and I over for dinner.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The photo here is of Veeka - in hot pink pants - singing a song with her classmates called "On top of spaghetti." She graduates from pre-K next Friday night.
Meanwhile her mommy is recovering today from very minor foot surgery which means she is pretty much confined to the house this weekend. Again, thank God for health insurance, although the premiums will being going up this year. Last night before the surgery I was out madly planting half of my new shade garden because it's pretty hard to use a shovel when you're on crutches for two weeks.
Because Mommy is feeling so pokey, Veeka is being farmed out overnight to the very kind parents of the little girl sitting in front of Veeka in the wagon. The girls really like each other although together they can be pretty devilish. Not long after I snapped that photo, they both joined hands and bolted out of the front yard, ran half a block down the hill and crossed the street alone. I and her parents were tearing out our hair looking for them.
Oma and Opa arrive Sunday for a few days and Veeka asks about their arrival every other minute.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
It's been quiet here - sort of - as we await Oma's birthday this Saturday and mine next Wednesday. I got into lots of hot water at my workplace for getting quoted here in our competition about the sudden presence of reptiles in our newsroom because - among other expenses to save money - my newspaper is no longer paying for an exterminator to keep out the mice and snakes. Which is a little dicey when you're situated next door to the 400-acre National Arboreteum where creepy crawleys abound. The story came out the morning of the White House Correspondents Dinner, so to say the top brass at the newspaper was less than pleased would be understating things a bit.
My brother Stephen commented on the story here. My snakes quote got picked up everywhere. Not quite the notoriety I was looking for.
Veeka is fine and she and I are posing next to a fountain at Rice University where this photo was taken two months ago.
My parents, I must add, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Thursday.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Last week some friends and Veeka and I went to a cool garden show at the National Arboreteum and joined some folks dancing around a maypole. Can't say I have ever done that before. I am off to the side in bright green and Veeka, of course, is smack in the middle in her multi-colored raincoat.
Have worked like a dog this week churning out various religion articles. Things at my workplace are as unsettled as ever. One of the cuts made is that of the exterminator who used to keep mice from entering our building. Well...we are next to the 400-acre arboreteum and now not only mice are ranging about the newsroom but so are snakes. We discovered a 3-foot black snake curled up behind the door of the conference room earlier this week. Apparently there's been at least two more. Just the sort of thing to liven up the workplace: a creepy crawly hiding under my desk.
I am busily making plans to remodel the second-floor bathroom with some Christmas money and today the new washer arrived.
Discovery of the week: the guy who does massages for $1/minute at Union Station, which is a very cheap rate for this area. Was racing through there to a press conference and had a few minutes to spare when I saw this massage stand near the escalator. Ten minutes after having the knots in my neck rubbed out, I felt so much better.