about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Archive for the 'Family' Category

The View From Here

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

We have a weekly rotation of about eight newsroom staff members writing “The View From Here.” It’s a column that runs in our Relate section every Wednesday with a photo of the columnist. The topic is whatever your heart desires, as long as you write 12-15 inches about it.

This week was my week. Since I am horrid at thinking of topics (and what I do think about I write here) and because I quite literally remembered about an hour before it was due last week, I decided to write about not going home for Christmas.

I wrote it quickly and barely gave it a second thought. In fact, because I took a sick day Monday, I actually forgot it was slated to run today. So when I was at a board meeting and one of the principals told me he loved my story, I was confused. “The one on Monday’s schools page?” I inquired, since it was about his school. “No, the one about Christmas away from home.”

Oh. That one.

At least a dozen people — at least! — at the board meeting alone came up to me and commented on it. From principals to board members to parents and city council members I’ve never even met before. Even my landlord commented on it when I saw him this evening. It was kind of funny.

I wrote the column, you know, about what it’s like to be away from home for my first Christmas, about all the traditions I’ll miss but how some of my friends here are in the same boat, and we’ll help each other through. I guess I never really thought about how universal it is to go through that. I was worried they’d all think I was being cliché. But apparently, a lot of people found it interesting.

Anyway, it was kind of cool (and annoying when I was trying to grab people after the meeting to get their input on the proposals and they wanted to talk about me!) to be recognized and to know so many people read my story. Even though I know they read my other stories, and several people did comment on other stories I’ve written recently, I think this was probably the one that the most people went out of their ways to comment on. Even the publisher said he almost felt sorry for me having to work Christmas. But I guess it’s something most people at some point get to experience.

My past Views have also gotten a lot of feedback. And I’ve heard numerous people in the community say they love the stories where reporters talk about their life because it makes us more human, more than just a name. I know some of the reporters don’t participate in the columns because “putting your opinion out there in any form can only compromise your coverage.” Pshaw, I say. I don’t write about things that have to do with my beat. Problem solved. Then again, my opinion is practically an open book. Or blog as the case may be.

So, for your reading pleasure, here’s today’s “View From Here”:

Not everyone will be heading home this Christmas


On Christmas morning, I will wake up and do something I’ve never done before on that day: I’ll go to work.

I won’t spend Christmas Eve with my family at one of my siblings homes, dining on my mom’s turkey and fighting over who gets to break the turkey wishbone while It’s a Wonderful Life is ignored in the background.

Come Christmas day, I won’t wake up entirely too early to tell my nephews to go back to bed or that they can open just one present before breakfast.

That afternoon, I won’t be there while my siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandma and grandpa pass gossip and gifts around my grandparent’s living room. I won’t taste a single one of my grandma’s oh-so-thin and perfectly iced sugar cookies this year, nor will I drink a Shirley Temple with my grandpa, the way he prepared them since I was a little girl.

But though I’ll miss the family traditions, I actually volunteered to work Christmas day. Newspapers don’t take holidays, so I knew I couldn’t swing both Christmas andThanksgiving off my first year on the job in this industry.

So I went home for Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday. Our annual gathering at the family farm is a holiday tradition I cherish above all.

On Thanksgiving, every extended family member up through my great uncles who can make it home from out of town comes — rain, shine, blizzard, whatever.

This year wasn’t quite the same because I was driving straight to the farm — six hours to Akron, Ohio, from Lafayette after working the night before. But I made it home. The commute, coupled the fact that I hadn’t been home since summer made it even more special to see everyone.

I knew as I grew up, I wouldn’t make it home for every birthday and holiday or get to keep every tradition I hold dear in my memories.

I also know someday I will have my own family, and I’ll want to share these traditions with them. But more than that, I’ll make new ones.

Though there are a lot of things I won’t be doing this year, I’m trying to focus on those that I will. A gift exchange and Christmas cookies are in my future — just not with my family this year.

I’m not the only person I know spending Christmas away from home. So we’ve decided to band together.

We might not have a genuine dining table among us, and we may be novices at cooking real meals. But we’ll work it out and whip up a respectable Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner. And even if the food sucks, celebrating with friends in the same boat will make up for it.

Watling is the education reporter for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached at mwatling@journalandcourier.com.

Why the rush to move on?

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I went home this weekend to Akron for Thanksgiving. I’m working Christmas, so I don’t know when I’ll be home next, but likely not this year.

Good thing. It seemed everyone I talked to asked when I was coming home (as in, moving back to Ohio) or when I was moving on (as in, how long do you think you’ll actually stay at the paper? are you looking for another job yet?).

Woah, back up everybody.

I haven’t even been in my position a year. I’ve only just gotten familiar enough to not mapquest every place I need to be. I finally know the different school boards members and temperaments and the 30-some principals in this county by name and sight — and they know me! And I actually understand the issues (OK, most many? of the issues) driving things happening today.

I’m finally comfortable with where I fit in and what I should and can do here. And already, everybody wants to know what my next move is?

Why the rush?

As I was explaining to one of my friends (also a j-school grad) when we met up this weekend, I don’t really know for certain what my next move will be or even when. But now is definitely too soon. There’s still much for me to learn here. But as I always intended (yet apparently didn’t articulate well to anyone back home?), I’m going to play it by ear. I’ll just know when it’s time or when something too good to pass up comes along. I mean, sheesh! I started here on Martin Luther King Day. That’s mid-January, folks. As in, it hasn’t even been a year since graduation let alone starting my job. I’m still recovering from my last job hunt, and you all are ready to see what I’ll do next?

It kind of freaks me out how universal everyone’s assumption was that I am biding my time until I find something else. I’m not. Trust me. I wouldn’t have taken a job for that purpose. I didn’t. Yes, it’s Indiana. (But the city and people and paper are nice.) Yes, it’s only about 40,000 circulation. (But the push is for enterprise, and I’m being given opportunities I’d never get anywhere else, especially not at a larger organization.) Yes, it’s six hours from home, and nearly all my best friends are scattered far, far away. (This sucks, trust me I just got in from that drive and am not looking forward to an eight hour shift tonight coming off it, but I needed to move away and prove to myself I could.) But get this, I like it. As I told my grandma when the topic came up, I’m doing exactly what I thought I’d be doing and most of what I hoped I’d get to do — and more.

So everybody, calm down. I’m 22. Think about that. At a minimum, I’ll be working the next 50 years. I have plenty of time to see what’s out there. But in order to do whatever that “next” is well, I need a strong foundation. To get that, I need to take the time to develop and not rush and stumble along just because of others’ expectations for me.

I feel old

Monday, July 30th, 2007

I feel old. And it has nothing to do with my birthday yesterday.

Though, I will admit I feel sad not to be 21 anymore. I know everyone will think I’m crazy, especially since I’ve already lamented being treated young. But 21 is just a youthful age. It’s like, you have your whole life ahead of you. You can do ANYTHING. And it was a really good year for me. A lot of positive (and a few negative) things happened in my life.

But now, I’m officially 22. The next real birthday that counts for anything is 25. Then my car insurance goes down and I can run for U.S. Representative. Woo hoo. But seriously, I do realize that 22 is still really young, especially for where I am in life.

But why I really feel old has nothing to do with my age.

It has to do with my j-school peers. Over the past several months/weeks I have watched them landing jobs and several, many more than I would expect so soon, moving on to second jobs. Yes, second jobs. While I’m still worrying about my best pals who graduated in May and are still on the prowl, I’m watching Facebook statuses light up with excitement by peers I quit worrying about ages ago because they had a job. And now, they’re moving on. They’ve given their year and a half and they’re trading up.

It’s scary to me, to be honest. They’re all moving on so quickly, some it seems for the sake of moving on, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

My mom came to visit me in Lafayette this weekend. It was the first time she spent any time here. I had fun taking her around, showing her downtown, going to all the must-see and must-eat places. She had fun, and I realized, perhaps for the first time, how much this place has grown on me in just six months. I’ve finally figured out the one way streets and how to pronounce and spell all the Indian names.

I’m already sad at the prospect of leaving it someday. And as I watch my peers galloping toward their futures, I’m scared about how soon that someday might approach. I guess that’s the nature of the beast, right? Most people do move on from their first job within a few years, and those who don’t adopt a new home or get stuck not being able to move up. I’m not ready for either just yet. As I told one of my friends here, I’ll stay as long as I’m still learning new things, as long as there are new things for me to learn. How long that will be, I don’t know. I guess I should just feel lucky that I landed somewhere that I’m not just biding my time waiting for the next best thing to come along (as some people were and have jumped ship as soon as it did come). I really like it here, even the things I hate I can handle. I’m OK with that.

Profs play ’20 questions about your new job’ game

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Sorry for the lack of updates. The last few weeks, especially last week for some reason, have been pretty hectic and draining on me. I think it might be my attempts to squeeze way too much into too little time. Perhaps that is why it seems time has sped up rather than slowed down as I get more into my job. On the bright side, I had my 90-day review and it went well. Looks like I don’t suck too bad; they’re keeping me around. ;)

A few quick updates, just to catch everyone, including myself, up to speed.

I went home this weekend. Home, home, to Akron, Ohio. It was my mother’s birthday, and I surprised her with an unannounced visit (that took a lot of maneuverability on my part and included working Easter).

The highlights of the weekend included surprising my mom at dinner with flowers (that should have been delivered to her office but the company lost my order!); catching up with my sisters, mom and dad; seeing the Monet in Normandy exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art; hearing a ridiculously funny comic at a comedy club; not dying in perhaps the most narrowly avoided high-speed, late-night highway covered in snow accident of all time; spending time with my dog; hanging out with all my Stater friends; finding out the Stater/KSU student media did awesome in the SPJ regional competition; catching up with all the JMC professors; finally seeing my diploma — four months after graduation.

This morning/afternoon I made the rounds in Taylor Hall talking to all the professors. I swear I was asked at least half a dozen of the same questions related to the Gannett “information center” and how it applies at my paper. Who posts to the Web? Does it go through an editor? What do you post? When? Do you write the same or different for online/print? Who writes the headlines? Are you doing video/shooting stills/doing Podcasts/blogs/etc.? Why/why not? Are other people/citizens doing those things? Who edits them? Do you have all those different “desks”? How does that work? Is it really 24 hours? and so forth.

Then there were the questions more pertinent to me/my daily job: Do you like it? The city? The paper? Your roommates? How about your co-workers — mostly older or younger? how many reporters? who’s your editor? do you like them? What all are you responsible for covering? Is it mostly assigned or school board meetings or do you do more enterprise and issues? What’s a typical day for you? How many hours do you work each week? How many stories do you write? What’s your favorite that you’ve done so far? How long do you think you’ll stay? Where do you think you’ll look next? (The last two questions, just in case my editors happen to read this, which I don’t think they do but you never know, are very premature. I’m about to sign a 12-month lease. This means I intend to stay for at least another year. So relax. I’m not jumping ship.)

I felt like I should have prepared a handout with frequently asked questions. (The last time I felt like that, incidentally, was when I was going through my round of job interviews and I felt as if I was being asked the same half dozen questions or variations on them from every single person.) It was funny because they all asked almost identical questions at first. They all seemed really eager to see how I was faring in the real world. I’ve said before that I think I’m their guinea pig in terms of “how does a KSU graduate with the talents and skills employers say they’re looking for fare when she leaves the confines of college and starts working for a newspaper company?” Sometimes it makes me afraid to answer because I think they might take it at face value and alter their curriculum or something crazy based on my personal experience. At the least, I know from my own classes and hearing about other grads, my job will become an anecdote for their future students.

But I guess, as Jan put it when we met for coffee, they are all journalists — former reporters and editors. Asking questions is what they do best. But seriously, I felt like we were playing 20 Questions about your new job. Still, it was nice to catch up with everyone and hear about the Franklin Hall excitement/confusion/concerns.

It’s also very surreal to be back in the Stater newsroom, a place where I spent the majority of my collegiate career, and not be a part of the paper. When they were all upset about some headline on the Forum page, it was nice to be able to sit there and say, “Ha. Not my problem.” Probably not nice to them. But it was a nice feeling for me not to be responsible for everyone else’s mistakes. I will say having been editor, managing editor and campus editor in college makes me much more appreciative of the work my editors do every day. And I’ve told my editor on a few occasions that I don’t think I’d ever want his job. His response was, “Get one crappy assignment too many, and you’ll change your mind.” We’ll see about that. In the meantime, as much as I loved being editor and being able to execute my vision for the paper/Web site, I really appreciate that my job now has me answering for me not 100+ other kids who may or may not care as much as I do.

OK. Bed time. I’m heading in early Tuesday to catch up on e-mail and messages from Friday through today before my day really picks up. I promise to try and do a better job updating this week.

What could possibly hurt more (than a toothache)?

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Dr: “On a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being not at all and 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced — how would you rate your pain?”
Mer: “Pretty close to 10.”

I used to think an earache was the most painful ailment possible.

I based this on my two decades of accidents, injuries and illness. I’ve fallen from the top of trees and been run over by a lawnmower. I’ve broken arms, legs and fingers, torn ligaments, sprained my ankles a dozen times and pulled my shoulder blades out of place more than once. I had the chicken pox twice. I am and always have been accident prone.

But this week I discovered the worst pain in the world is nothing I’ve experienced before. The crown had previously belonged to the two ear infections I had my freshman year of college, but even when coupled with the respitory infection I had simultaneously, they don’t compare to the pain throbbing in my head right now.

The worst pain I’ve ever experienced is a toothache.

It started hurting last week, and I tried to ignore it. Took some excedrin and tylenol and wiped on some abesol hoping it would go away. I don’t have the money or time to deal with it. You see one of those lovely things that happens when you graduate from college is that you’re no longer covered by your parents insurance. Great time to get a toothache, wouldn’t you say?

Well my ignorance is bliss method didn’t work. By Sunday night I was in so much pain I couldn’t even eat dinner. I tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t. It hurt so bad I thought my brain was going to explode. Seriously. I don’t know if it’s possible. But that’s what it felt like, as if any moment the throbbing would become too much and my brain would just explode from the pressure.

So, after a few hours of listening to me cry, my mom forced me to the ER. The doctor gave me a few shots of what I suspect was just novicaine (which barely worked anyway because that stuff has no effect on me) and a couple prescriptions for antibotics and painkillers.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I HATE taking medicine. It’s like admitting defeat. It’s admitting that it hurts so much that I can’t reason my way out of it. But it hurt so bad I didn’t care what I was admitting; I couldn’t handle the pain. Unforunately, I had forgotten how much Vicodin knocks me out. (The last time it was prescribed after surgery, I took one and flushed the rest because it made me so out of it.) SO this week — when I need to be packing and preparing everything for my move this weekend, when I need to say my goodbyes to everyone and wrap up loose ends everywhere — instead of doing what I need to do, I’m so dead I can’t do anything but lay in bed and sleep and think about everything I don’t have enough energy to do.

My appointment to have the tooth removed (because anything that hurts this bad doesn’t deserve to be in my mouth, and because the Dr. said it was probably my wisdom tooth coming in that caused the tooth to break) is first thing tomorrow morning. Hopefully this pain will dull or die after that. Otherwise, my head may explode. But it also sucks because any follow-up appointments will mean I have to find a new dentist asap because I’m moving Friday.

Has anyone else noticed how I have the worst luck and timing ever? Anyone?

$1 for $5 is a good deal, right?

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

My 7-year-old nephew wants to get a pop out of the machine at the store next door. He comes racing in the house with two $5 bills crumpled in his hand.

“Do you have a dollar bill, the machine won’t take these?”

I tell him that’s because you can’t buy a pop with a $5 bill. He really wants that pop though, because his next question is, “Well, do you have two dollar bills I could trade?”

I try to explain to him that not all dollar bills are created equal and if I trade him two $1 bills for his $5 bills, he will actually lose money. But he really wants that pop. Eventually, I just give in and hand over a dollar for him and a dollar for his brother (so much for the eating on $1 idea, right?)

The whole situation reminded me of a Shel Silverstein poem:


My dad gave me a dollar
`Cause I’m his smartest son
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
`Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes — I guess he don’t know
That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just ‘cause he can’t see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!

And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the feed-seed store,
And the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,
And he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head —
Too proud of me to speak!

Luckily, he asked me not someone who would rip him off.

Family gatherings, conversation

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Perhaps it’s because my family is so big (my parents both have lots of siblings and lots of children), or maybe it’s because we all like to talk — a lot… But we have some interesting and hilarious discussions. To hit a few points of conversation at last night’s Christmas Eve gathering and tonight’s Christmas gathering:

  • Internet dating tips from my 40-something uncles, including “Don’t even consider anyone without a picture,” “If they’re obstructed by a peice of furniture, don’t waste your time,” “There’s something wrong if they’re waaaaay in the background, and you just see a tiny dot,” “Always meet for coffee or drinks during the day… Meeting for dinner is just asking for trouble,” “Anyone with like 20 photos of themselves thinks they’re hot stuff…,” “Everybody lies,” and more.
  • Spanish lessons for the whole family from Brandiann, including apparently saying “Yo” as in “Yo tengo” or “Yo necessito” or “Yo anything” only serves to emphasis the “I”. It’s redundant/unnecessary. It also makes you sound self-centered.
  • The finer points of Spanish insults from Brandiann and my dad (who picked up some terminology during his stint many years ago driving cab in Southern California). Since you couldn’t be there, I’ll point you to the comment left by my sister a few weeks back.
  • The trade secrets of selling meat from a truck, courtesy of my little brother. Need I say more?
  • My younger cousin telling us that apparently if you shoplift from Wal-Mart and the value of the items is less than $25, you get to keep it. I don’t think I’d take my chances, but the discussion prompted by this kept us laughing.
  • Now that the youngest “kid” among the cousins is well into high school, we have resigned ourselves to the kitchen kids table, leaving — for once — empty seats at the adults table in the dining room.

That’s just a sampling of the random conversations that occurred. Also, much discussion focused on my career/job prospects, my cousin’s new camera (which I literally spotted from across the room with my innate “new technology sensor”), and teaching my grandpa to use his new DVD player.

Tomorrow is our annual “Christmas Dinner” at Papa Joe’s in the valley. That means three consecutive nights with the extended family. But it’s fun, especially this year as I realize soon I won’t be able to attend our regular Sunday night dinners. (Not that I made many this year because I worked from about noon to 2 a.m. on Sunday’s supervising the Stater.) Nor will I make it home for every Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc. holiday to see them as often as I do now. So it’s nice to kind of round out the year spending lots of time with them.

I just hope I don’t make a repeat of the year before last, when I had to leave to go to the emergency room for stitches because I, apparently, can’t cut a roll. I still have the scar on my finger.