Out of work, out of whack

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(This photo was taken on the last day of operations for the original Ann Arbor News in 2009.)

Last Wednesday morning, I stood in front of my closet and asked Joe, “So what do you wear to get fired?”

The line was kind of funny, in a gallows humor way; but this wasn’t just a joke, and I wasn’t speaking hypothetically.

After receiving a late-in-the-day Tuesday email – containing three clues that blinked like a neon sign, pointing to my imminent layoff – I’d stayed up late, uploading the hundreds of videos and photos (mostly of my daughters) from my work-issued phone, and sending documents and contacts I wanted to keep from my laptop.

It was like living out that “If you were stranded on a desert island” scenario, but with your two most essential gadgets.

We tried to hold to our usual morning routine on Wednesday, getting Lily to the bus stop, and dropping Neve off at preschool; but then I stepped back into our quiet, empty house, left to twiddle my thumbs until nearly noon.

Which led to the next question, “What do you do while waiting to get fired?”

I’d thought a bit about this the night before, while frantically uploading, and I’d decided that this would be the perfect window of time to finish up my year-end wrap-up of local theater highlights and news. I was off the clock, and year-end pieces like this had recently gone the way of the dodo, but I’d wanted to do it, anyway.

It would be my swan song, my parting gift to a theater community that had weathered a pretty tough year; and as it happened, this gift was mutually beneficial, in that I felt grateful for being able to focus on pulling together story under a tight deadline – just like old times – and leaving my nearly 12 years in arts journalism with a story that only I could write. Continue reading

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A dream deferred (or surrendered?) to motherhood

While marking the one year anniversary of An Adequate Mom this week – a big thanks to all of you who stop in now and then – I thought I’d talk about something that’s haunted me for quite a while now.

In a strange but telling coincidence of timing, Lily was conceived within days of my return from two weeks at an artist colony in Lake Forest, Illinois called Ragdale. I’d earned a place there, during the competitive summer months, on the basis of a book manuscript excerpt that I’d submitted with my application.

Writing a book had been what my life had seemingly always been pointed toward. The first thing I remember saying in response to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question, posed by my grandfather while I, at age five, dried dishes in his kitchen, was, “An author.” (Yes, I later claimed “Avon lady” and “veterinarian” as career goals, at a time when playing with makeup and animals held great appeal, but I eventually came full circle. Good thing, since I never came to wear makeup in day-to-day life.)

I loved books and stories from the get-go. Once, when we’d driven the seven hours to my grandparents’ home in Clay City, Indiana and arrived late at night, my parents had told me it was too late for my grandfather to read to me. So what did I do? I waited until it sounded like everyone was asleep, grabbed my ragged copy of A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh,” and woke up my grandfather to read to me. The ritual was one of the main things I looked forward to in visiting my grandparents, and I wasn’t about to be cheated out of it because we arrived at an untimely hour – something completely out of my control.

A couple of years later, I sat at our family’s kitchen table with our humming blue electric typewriter, and I typed out, word for word, pages of various Nancy Drew books I had read. I liked playing at being a writer, and pretending I was in the act of creation rather than merely copying text. Continue reading