Sunday, January 31, 2010


I have been busier than usual this week -- which is really saying something, because my normal is busy -- so this will be a quick post. I really thought I would have time to post every other day when I started this blog exactly one month ago.

House update: My dad's best friend (otherwise known as Dad#2) went with me to see the house this week and, as I suspected, he could find no problems at the house. Dad#2 has built many homes and is better than an official inspector -- although I'll obviously have an official inspection. He can find no problems, I can find no problems...and so, I plan to make an offer on Wednesday around noon. I'm going to play the numbers game a little bit, hoping to tweak the final digits into something manageable for a single-income home.

This whole thing has been a little like a roller coaster. I've been so fixated for the last week and a half, I haven't accomplished much outside of the absolute requirements of my jobs. The rest of my focus has been on preparing for this new stage of my life.

Many of my New Year's resolutions have had to take a step to the left as the biggest resolution --moving into my own home -- takes center stage. I haven't had a single bubble bath ... not quite hitting that one bath every 14 days rule ... I haven't been bowling, I have only finished one book, I have only crossed three movies off of my list ... argh!

But, as one of my best friends is always telling me, I need to take a deep breath, be patient with myself, and take time for relaxation. I'm so excited for this next step, but I do need to live in the now. I keep finding myself thinking 'I can do that once I've moved into the new house.' And that applies to a lot of things. I can read once I've moved and I have a reading nook, I can watch more movies once I've moved into the new house and don't want to pay for cable at first. I can do xyz when I move into the new house... I need to remind myself sometimes that the move isn't happening tomorrow!

I really, really hope the 'offer' is taken the way I anticipate it will be taken and that the end result is a home purchase at a price I can afford. I'm going to ask those of you who pray, to say a little prayer for me on Wednesday around noon.

Thanks! ~kll

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It seems like two weeks have passed since yesterday morning, so much has least internally.
Yesterday morning, I was pre-approved for a mortgage as single woman...with no cosigner in sight. Maybe that isn't quite such a big deal these days, but it wasn't that long ago that a single woman wouldn't have gotten an appointment with a mortgage consultant.
Sex and the City is THE television show for many women my age. There is a reason the movie sold out theaters like crazy and the sequel is in the works. For those of you who don't follow the adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte I'll try to 'speak' generally enough that you'll be able to follow along.
Years ago there was a very memorable episode in which Miranda, arguably the most financially responsible and mature woman in the group, decided to purchase an apartment on her own. She was a lawyer, very financially stable, I think she was a partner in the law firm.
She tried to get a mortgage and the mortgage/bank guy was mortified by the idea that she would attempt to purchase a house on her own. "Will your father cosign? An ex-husband? A boyfriend?" And the classic question of the episode was "it's just for you? Just you?" And her stock answer, "Yup, it's just me."
Even Charlotte, her yuppie, rules-minded friend, argued against purchasing a home as a single woman. "It throws off the power structure." There were concerns that Miranda would never find a man if she could so easily prove she didn't really 'need' one.
I had flashbacks to that episode as I walked into the bank Friday morning. I think I was sort of geared up for a fight.
Now, for the financial side of me: I'm INCREDIBLY cheap. I pretty much don't spend money--ever. I've been living with my parents for about a decade. I'm a journalist and we pretty much don't make any money. My best friend, Chris, has been like a financial guru to me from our college days right up until the last bit of advice he gave me about a week ago. I worked really hard to pay off my credit card and my car last fall. I got a much-lower interest loan for my student loan this week and will pay it off about 3 years early (in a best-case scenario).
Apparently, being as stingy as possible translates to a really high credit score and a very quick pre-approval for a mortgage.
I think there may have been a tiny part of me hoping I wouldn't qualify...Sorry Mom and Dad, I have to live here for free forever! Whoops!
I had scheduled a house tour for later that night, but it was for a listing with no photos...and I'm extremely leery of those listings...what are they hiding? As far as I can tell, the house I toured last night is nearly perfect for me. Right price. Right size. Right storage space. Right bathroom space. Right amount of yard. Off-street parking. Hardwood kitchen floor. Appliance inclusions.
Can it really be this easy? Pre-approval in the a.m. house to buy in the p.m.?
Is this the payoff for so many tough years? Am I about to hit my stride? Could that weird little wish to be in my own home by my March 4 birthday, be a reality soon?
This is so not how I envisioned my life turning out when I was a little girl. My career in journalism was something I always knew would happen. But I think I always believed it would be accompanied by a husband and lots of babies. (And a Murphy Brown-sized salary, too...not so much.)
I think I even put off moving out of my parents house, even into an apartment, because on some level I always thought it might be a waste of time. The relationships I had throughout my mid to late 20s always seemed to be 'going somewhere.' So why not wait to move out until the time I would be 'moving-in?'
The last relationship I ended has taught me how silly I've been for so long! This is MY life! MY LIFE.
When I look back on the girl I was, who was waiting for someone to complete her ... I just don't recognize that girl. To be fair, I was never in a financial position before now to purchase a house and ultimately staying at home for so long is what made it possible. But, still I've wasted a lot of time.
Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm grabbing life with both hands. I'm grabbing two big handfuls and I'm running with them. They might just be full of paint I can throw on my new walls...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Under attack!

Today, as I prepared to turn my computer at work off for the night I got an unexpected pop-up window announcing that my computer was under attack!

I have to admit that at first I sort of laughed and kept clicking off of the window because I assumed it was an advertisement of some sort...but apparently it's a spy ware virus that operates by trying to guilt you into 'protecting' your computer by clicking 'yes.' I repeatedly clicked 'no,' but it wouldn't stop. It wouldn't even let me log out of my computer.

It felt a little like a pirate was communicating with me via pop-up window. "Beware, you're under attack...argh matey..."

The best part was that my options were to click yes to install antivirus live or to click the button that read "leave my computer unprotected" ... like this is an option that people want to choose!

I had to yank my thumb drive, so I'm hoping it's not infected or anything. I ran home and changed the password to every one of my Internet accounts just in case.

Now, I'm frantically searching my mind. Did I wander into some Internet vortex today that the IT guys are furiously scrambling to fix? Am I going to get in trouble for accessing my bank account and my facebook account during the work day?
The last site I visited, just to kill time while waiting for things to save to my thumb drive, was awkward family photos dot com or something. I told the IT guy I was only in a few Web sites today that I don't access on a routine basis...argh!

It's scary to be under attack by out of sight Internet pirates! I wonder if anything is left of my hard drive...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On writing

In my professional life, I'm a newspaper editor, a reporter, a photographer, a paginator, a manager, and chief bottle washer ~ but when you peel all of those layers away, I'm basically just a writer.
I belong to a writer's group in Pittsburgh. We critique each other's work on a mostly monthly basis. The writers in the group are amazing and I'm extremely lucky they let me tag along.

They are so knowledgeable about different aspects of writing, different genres, techniques, etc.

I've known that I wanted to be a writer since I was about five or six years old. I know that sounds ridiculous or impossible, but I have a vivid memory of my father teaching me how to write in cursive and I fell in love with the motion of my hand sweeping the pencil over the page. I never put my notebooks down after that. Watching TV? I would be writing something. Playing with my friend? We had pretend businesses and I was in charge of 'paperwork.'

Storytelling came later. Sitting in the back seat of our van, on the way to our grandparents' homes or maybe on a camping trip, I would stare out the window until I saw something that triggered a story idea and I would amuse myself by spinning tales about whatever I'd seen. People-watching is incredibly important in my storytelling process.
In second-grade, my teacher gave 'awards' to everyone in the class and mine was 'best storyteller.' That was about 25 years ago and I still remember how it felt to claim that prize.

Journalism came a little later. I loved the show Murphy Brown and thought, well...I guess I'll have to be a really important reporter. When I think back on those days, I can't help but laugh at what I assumed my career would be like.
I assumed I would be flown all over the world to cover very important stories, just like Murphy. My college years didn't diminish that expectation very much, I just figured I'd end up at the New York Times one day...(wow, to be 20 again and think those things would come so easily!)

Community journalism came after that.
My first job interview was with a terrifying woman who criticized my college portfolio but praised my spelling. It didn't look good. She brought in an even scarier guy whose first question was 'what is your least favorite form of writing?' I answered scientific and technical -- that class was agony -- and he considered this for a minute before saying 'that's good, most new reporters wouldn't admit that there was any kind of writing they didn't like.' Then he left the room. I overheard the executive editor outside the conference room telling everyone that she finally found someone who could spell...and then she offered me a job.
Three months after graduation from college, I was a reporter with a weekly, community newspaper in a suburb of Pittsburgh.
I spent that first year assuming I would move on to a daily paper in no know, begin that ladder climb. I left for a bi-weekly paper after one year. One month later that paper was closed and I lost my job.
The terrifying lady, who I'd grown to love as a mentor and a friend, gladly took me back. I took a new beat and stayed there, loving my job, for four and a half years. Then I was forced to leave that lovely town and take a neighboring beat. Actually 'beat' is a good word for that job because by the end of my three years there, I felt pretty beat up.
I started questioning my desire to stay in community journalism. I love journalism at the community level and I love weekly papers. I love being the main source of information for a town. I love having the flexibility to cover stories that the dailies don't have room to cover. Did Johnnie catch his first fish? Send me a picture. A second-grade class met their goal of reading 200 books? Let me write that story. Grandma's church group knitted blankets for the poor? Give me a ring!
The world of journalism is having a pretty rough time right's been getting worse since the economy started tanking. As journalists, we all live with the reality that papers can any time and without warning. Last year, our company offered a buy-out and I really considered it. Take the money, use the time off to find a new job...but I just couldn't do it.
When I was at the end of my rope at work, a new opportunity presented itself. An editor in another division of our company did take the buyout. He was the editor in my grandfather's hometown. My mother's hometown. The paper, when I found it, was in horrible shape. It was pretty evident that the former editor had been preparing for retirement for awhile. I felt this surge of enthusiasm for the job again. I sort of begged the boss for the chance to get my hands on that paper and resurrect it. I got that job on May 1, 2009.
It's amazing how loving your job can affect the rest of your life. I love the town I cover now. I love having final say on each week's paper as the editor. I like doing a lot of the photography. I love working with freelancers and teaching them the way I was taught about a decade ago.

Throughout the last 25 years of my life and 10 years of my career, I always assumed I would write a book at some point. It's along the lines of the New York Times biggie, I'll just eventually become an author.
That is not how it works.

I'm working on a book, which will be my first full-fledged attempt at a novel, and I realized again this week how lucky I am to be part of this writer's group. I find that when it's time for my piece to be critiqued, these authors are literally saving me from myself. I fall in love with my writing too often. I don't think critically, because I love the story I'm telling at that moment. I'm so glad to have them in my life. I'm so grateful.
I've focused on journalism for so long, I never gained the knowledge about fiction-writing that this group has and is sharing with me. I would love to finish this book and see it go somewhere!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

On being a pisces...

There is a big part of me that genuinely buys into my horoscope and an equally big part that thinks I'm probably a little crazy for even reading it.

The problem is that I'm a Pisces and every word I've ever read about the basic make-up of a Piscean personality matches me to a 'T.' So every now and then I check in with some random horoscope Web site ~ usually ~ and I'm always struck by how dead-on the 'big picture' readings are for me. The daily versions I don't put a lot of stock in but the monthly and yearly versions usually have me pegged dead to rights.

Portions of my 2010 yearly horoscope:

"Okay, pause for a moment and check your pulse. Still there? Good. That means you survived the last couple of years with both Saturn and Pluto in less-than-perfect places for you. And by "less than perfect," I mean "lousy." Good news! Both of astrology's heavyweights have moved on to more constructive places for you. Now is the time to take that famous Pisces sensitivity (still intact from the challenges of the last while) and put it to work making your life a happier and more comfortable place.

As a result of the last couple of years worth of hassle, you'll be a stronger person with better judgment.

One more noteworthy change from the previous year: Jupiter will be in your sign for most of the year, giving you a new-found sense of optimism and happiness about things no matter how they turn out. There will be a renewed emphasis on health, fitness and personal well-being in the spring -- take advantage of that."

I have to admit this horoscope has hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to the last few years being lousy and that I'm starting this year with "a new-found sense of optimism and happiness..."

I would never take a horoscope seriously enough to 'beware of a coworker on the 9th' or to 'wear your most romantic pair of pants on the 23rd' (what in the world does that mean?)...but I like taking pieces of my long-range horoscope to heart in the form of advice. Sometimes advice your friends won't give you like this little bit I cut out of the above passage "You'll be feeling expansive, but be careful not to expand too much -- this transit also comes with a more than usual chance of weight gain." Duly noted Ms. Astrologist, duly noted.

There is something oddly affirmative about knowing that Jupiter is on my side this year and 'the stars have aligned' or something in favor of more happiness. Even if all this carries with it is a placebo effect, who cares? My personal motto, for as long as I can remember having one, is that every person should do whatever they have to do to be happy, whatever that means. I don't mean that people should be selfish and take advantage of others to be happy, this is a much simpler concept.
My best friend Bill, who died almost 8 years ago, needed medication to be at peace. He didn't want to be on medication at all, but my thought was and is that we all deserve to be happy. If that means you need to take a pill, or go jump roping on Tuesdays, or only walk on the left side of the street on Saturdays, you should do what you need to do to make yourself happy -- no matter how strange others may think it matter how strange you think it is. Everyone deserves happiness.
I'm in the process of figuring out what I need to be the happiest that I'm capable of being...and you can bet your bottom dollar that when I figure it all out, I'll be doing it. I'm going to tuck away this little bit of information about Jupiter being in the right spot this's always good to have something in your matter how cheesy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best. New. Year's. Day. Ever!

I'm not sure I can remember a Jan. 1 in my life that has been as perfect as today has been!

I spent nearly all day today with two of my closest friends ~ definitely two of my longest friendships ~ and their 3 month old daughter, Arabella. I haven't seen them since the day after the baby was born and even though I forgot the gifts I purchased months ago, she and I had a great time getting to know each other. She's an amazingly tough little girl. At 3 months she's holding her head up and darn close to standing. We watched the winter classic game, had pizza, and I talked for several hours...sometimes you forget how nice it is to just to talk to friends. And now I'm enjoying my new electric blanket and writing my new blog!

I can't think of anything in the world I would have preferred to do to ring in a new year!

So, on to the resolutions ~ there are 23 of them...approximately. I tend to overdo it when it comes to list-making. Some are not for public consumption, I think most of us have resolutions that are a little too internal for sharing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, these resolutions are recycled from last year.I'm not going to list them all, but I'll refer to the majority of them from time to time.

I hope to read nearly every book I own this year. I have a book-buying problem. I love buying and owning books. I love being surrounded by them. I love stacking them on my night stand and having one perched on the edge of my bed within reach. The problem is that I've become so busy in recent years it's become more difficult to finish my beloved books. My new theory is that I can directly relate the increased stress in my life to the decreased number of finished books in my life. Many of my resolutions are geared toward relieving stress. So, I have a list of every book I own and before I allow myself to purchase another book, I'm going to finish the books I already own. Given how frugal...I am in every other area of my life, it always amazes me how much I'm willing to spend at Barnes and Noble or Amazon!

I have a movie list. I don't watch a lot of movies and I rarely get a chance to go to the theater. Last year, I made a list of all of the movies I always hear people talking about that I've never seen and that I'd like to see. Most of my movie list is made up of classics ~ Schindler's List, Psycho, Citizen Kane, and The Way We Were are among the titles I was able to cross off the list last year.

I'd like to visit each museum in the general Pittsburgh region. I love art and I don't go often enough. I'd really like to get to the Carnegie museums of art and history this year. I would like company for these visits, but be takes me a very long time to adequately savor each piece before moving on.

I'd like to go no more than 14 days without spending an hour in a hot bubble bath with a glass of pinot noir and soft jazz music. It probably sounds ridiculous that I need to schedule relaxation, but try being a newspaper editor and get back to me ;)

I'd like to go bowling at least three times this year.

I'd like to finish my articles portfolio. This will be a huge task and will take a good bit of time/organization.

I would like to make sure that I visit my out-of-town friends every other month. Tex and Ber one month, Chris and Anna the next month. I plan to visit Japan and my best friend M. I'd also like to make sure that I get to visit Jason, Mandy and Arabella at least every other month. I don't want to let too much time pass between visiting those who mean so much to me.

I would like to visit my grandmother on a regular basis and work on the "Between you and me, Grandma" journal I gave her for Christmas. These journals are amazing. You give it to someone you love and they can either answer the questions and return it to you, or you can do what we're going to do and work on it together. I'll get to learn things about her that I might never have considered asking. My grandfather and I worked on a "Grandpa" journal for most of this year. We didn't get a chance to finish it. My grandma and I will definitely finish our project. Check out these journals, I defy you to click away without thinking about picking up one or nine for the ones you love ~

I'd like to finish the book I'm writing by the end of the year.

I'd like to be living in a house I own in time for my March 4 birthday. What a gift that would be!

Just reading through all of these lists makes my eyes a little droopy so I am off to sleep!