Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Humid days

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.
Anyway, a month into this jobless gig, I've been lining up some freelance assignments plus I've been agonizing over whether or not to continue with COBRA, which triples my health-care payments. Please read here some of the issues at stake. I have to shake my head at the antics of the GOP leaders who oppose the subsidy and thank God there are Dems with a conscience. If this subsidy is continued, the US government picks up 65% of my payments, which would help beaucoup.
We have fun these days too, including a trip to the local Six Flags last Friday where Veeka experienced her first roller coaster (which was very tame and small). Her mommy no longer has the stomach for such rides, alas. And Veeka also behaved quite well at an Orthodox wedding last Saturday, which I informed her was warm-up for October, when she will be a flower girl in her cousin Carley's wedding. She can't wait!
This weekend, it's off to the beach. Might as well take the R&R when it's available.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June is bustin' out all over

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

June's lazy days

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

Off to Pittsburgh

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

First day out

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

Laid off from the Washington Times.

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.