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Archive for the ‘Atlanta’ Category

So I’m back in Huntsville. Long story short, the Atlanta move just didn’t work out. Short story long, I still can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up.

The problem is that I’ve already been what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that career barely exists anymore.

I had known I wanted to work at a newspaper since I was 10 years old.

When I was in the fifth-grade gifted program, our teacher was determined to expand our little minds beyond the standardized tests that had, presumably, placed us in her class. (I want to think that her name was Mrs. Wilkinson, but let me assure you that if you think you’ll ALWAYS remember the name of everyone in your life who has been important to you at one time or another, you are WRONG. Write it down. Let’s just call her Mrs. W.)

Mrs. W. wanted us to understand practical things, like how banks and the stock market worked. She also allowed us to conduct a deeper exploration of subjects like geology – I spent hours wearing safety goggles and breaking up rocks from the driveway with a hammer to look at the patterns inside. (And still never received my coveted rock tumbler.)

She also tried to inject a little cultural cachet into our group by accompanying us to the opera in New Orleans for a matinee performance. Now, I didn’t exactly take to opera (nine years later, in fact, one of my fellow gifted students would find himself elbowing me awake repeatedly during a production of The Marriage of Figaro at the University of Southern Mississippi), but I remember falling in love with the IDEA of opera, and live performances in general.

Mrs. W.’s greatest contribution to my future, however, was definitely our field trip to the Sun Herald in Gulfport, Miss. Don’t get me wrong: I come from at least two generations of daily newspaper readers, so the concept of print journalism was not foreign to me at all. I grew up understanding that no breakfast table was complete without a newspaper.

The Sun Herald folks gave us a tour of the entire operation, including the pressroom. They gave us copies of the preprinted sections, hot off the press. The moment one of the press guys handed me my section, I realized that it took A LOT of people to get the newspaper out the door every morning, and I was certain that I wanted to be one of those people.

Fast-forward past college: I was a copy editor and staff reporter at the Mobile Press-Register for nearly 10 years. It was the most awesome job ever, and now it’s gone. I got out of the business a few years before it really hit bottom, but last summer, the position I had literally disappeared from the newsroom, along with dozens of others.

The newspaper business is a treacherous place right now. There’s no going back, but I’m still trying to figure out what to do going forward.

I ran into an Internet friend at Earth Fare today – Joe Martin of Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp for Women fame. (It’s always weird to meet Internet friends in real life, but it’s also kind of awesome, especially when said Internet friend is somewhat of a fitness guru and you’re feeling reasonably fit that day and are carrying only bananas and spring-mix lettuce in your basket.)

While explaining my recent return to the Rocket City, I mentioned that my post-newspaper career had been pretty flighty. His response? Something along the lines of, “Imagine how flighty it would be if you had stayed in newspapers.”

What a duh moment for me. I mean, I know that I’m better off having gotten out of the newspaper business before the implosion, but I don’t know that I’ve ever understood that other people, people outside of the industry, understand that, too. And I think I carry a little guilt for not staying until the absolute end, although, as Joe suggested, that would have been a terrible idea.

So here I am. Former newspaper copy editor turned technical writer turned research analyst turned proposal coordinator. Wife, freelance writer, decent weightlifter, mediocre runner, culinary adventurer, cat owner, amateur photographer, blogger.

A little flighty, maybe, but also gifted with the experience that can only come from a multi-pronged career path and the curiosity to wonder what comes next.

Let’s do this.

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I didn’t know how desperately I valued my right to vote until someone told me I couldn’t have a ballot.

I didn’t realize how much work there is to be done to educate voters on their rights until I witnessed multiple people turn away with a shrug after being told that they weren’t on the voter registration list — even though they were quite certain that they were — and, therefore, couldn’t vote.

I had forgotten the warm, heady feeling of furious indignation until it surged forth when I realized just how ridiculously broken the voting process was in Fulton County, Georgia.

When the secretary of state says you’re registered to vote, it seems pretty official. It wasn’t official enough for Fulton County officials, however, and they turned away A LOT of voters on election day. The county official at my polling place acted like I was a fool for thinking that seeing my name on the secretary of state’s voter registration list meant that I was really registered to vote. In what I’m now convinced was an attempt to just get me to leave, she actually sent me out to the library computers to look my name up on the “official” Fulton County voter roll so I could see for myself that I wasn’t really registered. She wasn’t at all happy when I returned to inform her that the county website accessed its voter registration information from — wait for it — the secretary of state’s database.

The Fulton County elections department may well be mismanaged from the top down if, as at least one poll worker asserts, workers were still delivering voter registration lists hours after the polls opened.

My biggest problem with the whole debacle was the lack of give-a-damn on the part of election officials. The county worker at my polling place gave me a provisional ballot only after I proved unwilling to simply slink away without casting my vote. I heard her say, multiple times, “There’s nothing we can do.” She said this to people who were newly registered, who had changed their address, who voted in the last election and hadn’t moved or changed ANYTHING, who had made the deadline, damn it, and had SEEN their name on the registration list.

There’s nothing we can do.

Computers have made it easy for people like this to rule over their lazy little kingdoms. You’re not in the computer. There’s nothing we can do.

I’m not going to make it easy for her next time. If I have to stand outside my polling place (at a legal distance, of course) wearing a sandwich board exclaiming “ASK ME ABOUT PROVISIONAL BALLOTS IF YOU HAVE BEEN DENIED YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE,” I’m going to make it much more difficult to disenfranchise voters through incompetence.

Put that on your official list, bureaucrats.

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So I’m FINALLY one of those women trekking to work in a pair of tennis shoes, with a drawerful of heels waiting at the office. And yes, I know that thousands of New York women can’t be wrong, but those cute little ballet flats just don’t give me the support I need to hike past a construction site and hoof it across a couple of very busy intersections.

I’m terribly unfashionable for approximately 20 minutes a day, meaning I’m likely only slightly more unfashionable than usual. Totally worth it to leave the car in the parking garage for the better part of the week.

P.S.: If the title of this post put a Missing Persons song in your head, my work here is done.

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I knew I had moved close to a Trader Joe’s in Atlanta, but I didn’t realize I had moved dangerously close. We’re talking an 8-minute walk, as opposed to the previous (and very, very rare) 2-hour haul to the Nashville store.

My first impulse purchase was Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee, which was filled with the flavors — and aromas — of orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I’m not fond of most flavored coffees, but this one is so rich and flavorful that I’m making an emergency shipment to my mom.

The much-ballyhooed Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Greek Yogurt, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It had all the requisite spices, and the flavors almost came through. What was missing? The fat. Fat carries flavor, and I’ve found that Greek yogurt with 2 percent fat does the job perfectly. The fat-free variety, however, is thin and … can I use “vapid” as an adjective for food?

I’m biding my time before trying Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream, which is rumored to taste amazingly like pumpkin pie. My hopes are pretty high, given that it apparently contains fat, as ice cream (and yogurt) should.

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I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how the heck side-by-side refrigerators got so popular in the ’80s.

I grew up thinking my family, with our old-fashioned one-door, freezer-on-top model, was missing out, that somehow the families with side-by-sides were enjoying better meals and tastier snacks. They were certainly enjoying hipper, more modern kitchens.

Oh, the misguided assumptions of youth. I finally got my new-fangled side-by-side refrigerator when we moved to Huntsville (at the same time, I might add, that the hippest homeowners were purchasing refrigerators with French doors and freezer drawers on the bottom).

I quickly ascertained that side-by-sides are virtually useless for anyone who actually wants to USE a refrigerator. I was constantly rearranging things to try to make other things fit. The freezer was a disaster, with two extremely deep, extremely narrow drawers that quickly turned into a tumbled mess of freezer bags and containers no matter how careful I was to try to keep them organized, and shelves that were difficult to navigate despite their small size.

Organizing the refrigerator shelves was like playing a game of culinary Tetris. A gallon of milk and a container of orange juice was pretty much all the top shelf could handle. My love for greens fresh out of the salad spinner required a dedicated bottom shelf. The small salad spinner, mostly reserved for fresh herbs, sometimes had to reside in the crisper, a problem given that the drawer usually already contained an array of veggies.

We never got around to getting another one, partly because someone had kindly custom-built the cabinets around the refrigerator, severely limiting the potential replacement models.

Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m once again living with an old-school, freezer-on top refrigerator with one non-French door. Only this time, I’ve decided that old-school is pretty awesome.

The refrigerator shelves offer wide, open spaces — currently, the salad spinner is residing alongside half a gallon of milk, a carton of goat cheese AND a jar of jelly. The freezer’s a huge open space — no shelves, but a couple of small plastic boxes can help sort a LOT of frozen foods. It even has a working ice maker, an innovation that I have, until now, not enjoyed in my own home.

The whole setup is so much more usable than the side-by-side that I’m not even curious about freezer drawers on the bottom anymore. I just want space that makes sense.

I guess the moral of this post is to be careful what you wish for, because you might be stuck cursing at it for five long years when you finally get it.

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Posting has been erratic here for several weeks because my brain has been occupied with big decisions. Like whether to apply for another job, accept another job and move to another city.

In short, the answers were yes, yes and yes.

The husband and I will be moving to Atlanta in short order.

I want to say it was a difficult decision, but it really wasn’t. Huntsville is a nice enough place, but I’m getting antsy.

I haven’t been sure about my career path for the past five years. I’ve wanted to be in the newspaper business since I was a teenager. I never quite recovered from leaving the industry, and the transition to technical writing has never felt quite right to me.

People say your job doesn’t define you. I would reply that no, it certainly does not, but you sure do spend a heck of a lot of time doing it, so you may as well try to enjoy it.

Thus, I’ve accepted an Atlanta job that I think will be an excellent fit for me — the company has already hired several former newspaper folks with great success. I’ll be doing lots of reading, analysis and writing, pretty much all the graduate school activities that I’ve been missing ever since graduation last December.

Atlanta itself? Pretty cool. Lots to do, lots to see. It contains a very busy airport that I’ve never been keen on flying through (in truth, I haven’t been very keen on layovers for several years), but that I’m more than willing to fly out of and into. Two-hour direct flights to New York City abound, and I could spend every vacation day I ever earn in Manhattan if I had the chance. Which I might.

I’ve been packing and getting rid of stuff for the past week. We’re hoping to live in Atlanta, not outside in the commute-stricken burbs, and the tradeoff for this is space. This is going to be the first move in which I really analyze what means enough to me to take. Stuff doesn’t just go in boxes because I own it; stuff goes in boxes because I want it, love it and/or will definitely use it.

I’m excited and nervous, a combination that probably indicates this is going to be awesome. It’ll offer plenty of blogging material, at the very least.

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