Saturday, February 28, 2009

The cheese is moving for print newspapers

I've been a fan of Who Moved My Cheese for some years now -- a little fable about adapting to the changes in one's environment.

I've been a writer for years, both as a journalist and in various public relations and marketing communications positions. I'm currently a freelance writer, working primarily with the Record Searchlight and Enjoy! Magazine.

Journalism is changing. The I-want-it-now mentality, coupled with the *astounding pace of technology and information development, is taking its toll on our traditional news sources, and across the country newspapers, magazines, and publishers are downsizing, cutting, and trying to look at business models that will enable them to survive.

The cheese has moved.

Yesterday, the Rocky Mountain News published its own obituary, just 55 days shy of its 150th birthday. It's one of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, and sadly it joins a list of others that have gone down recently.

The San Francisco Chronicle is periously close to closing -- a Hearst Corp. publication.

And while I, along with millions of others, hate to see the demise of the print newspaper, I suppose it's time. Certainly it appears to be inevitable.

That doesn't mean the news will go away. People read news online, including my beloved, who browses not only online newspapers, but news blogs and magazines. I, on the other hand, love the feel and smell of a print paper in my hands, sitting down for a half hour and drinking coffee and browsing through the news.

It goes back to my childhood: I don't remember a time when there wasn't a daily paper in the house, folded to the crossword puzzle that my dad would pick up and put down all day until it was finished, sports section folded back, or maybe holes where my mother had clipped coupons or recipes. My grandmother's letters always included at least half a dozen clippings about different things -- news of someone she knew, a recipe, a home remedy.

I admit that as the papers have shrunk, the depth of news just isn't there. As reporters have been chopped, fewer local stories are getting covered, and those that are generally are local politics, and even that isn't as in-depth as it might be. There's little money to go around even in-house; freelancers can cover only so much, and generally that is not hard news, but the fluffier stuff. (Nonetheless, people like reading about their friends and neighbors...)

Here's a look at what the future of newspapers may be, and here's a take from four editors in SF. Bottom line: print papers are dead. Long live the news.

The cheese has moved, and I, along with reporters, editors, publishers, and other journalists, need to adapt.

We live in interesting times.

*Makes me wonder if Skynet is closer to being reality than we'd like to think!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Having a baaaaaad day?

Today's Daily Om has a good message -- not that I'm necessarily having a bad day, mind you, but it does help to put a perspective on things.

Nobody gets through life without pain and suffering. Just flat nobody.

The level of pain and suffering differs. Sometimes there is physical pain, which can sap everything in you, take joy right out of you. Sometimes there is mental pain -- which does the same. We can get trapped in our own heads, in our business, and it's hard to see any way out. There's grief, fear, anger -- all cause pain, all cause suffering.

The only thing we can really control is how we react to it. Drugs and alcohol may take away physical or mental pain, at least temporarily.

In the end, it's what we do with what we have, where we are, that makes the difference.

Pain and suffering can't stand up too long to gratitude. Even if the pain is still there, gratitude lessens it. Sometimes even the smallest gratitude makes the difference -- a hot cup of tea, a heating pad, a phone call or e-mail from a friend.

Sometimes it's calling the pharmacy and learning that your insurance will only pay for a limited number of tablets for the month -- and it's the exact number that you need until your next doctor visit (when you'll get a prescription change anyway).

Find the blessing, even on bad days. There's at least one there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You can say that again

From one of the bulletin board sites I read regularly came this post:

"I cannot love a person out of their life lessons ... they cannot love me out of mine either!

We all learn what we learn along the way and maybe, just maybe,
that is exactly howthe Universe plans for us to learn, slowly, intensely, and individually."

Smacks a punch, hm?

From another one:
"You begin and end somewhere and I begin and end somewhere else. Healthy boundaries are the foundation to healthy relationships. Don’t take on what you don’t own. Let others be responsible for what they are responsible for."

And also this one:
" If nothing changes, nothing changes. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. In order for things to change, you must change things."

The last two are from Getting Past Your Past, a blog I've read mostly daily for months. While I am not, thank god, in an abusive relationship nor have ever been, my daughters have been. I've shared some of these writings with them from time to time, although I also realize that you don't hear and see until you are ready to hear and see. But mostly I read because the lessons are good ones for any relationship.

I'm trying to learn to hold my tongue these days rather than instruct/inform/lecture/berate -- which, these posts remind me -- is pretty useless when you're dealing with anyone, sick or not. Sometimes silence is indeed golden -- something I forget too many times.

This is one of my life lessons: to learn to be speech-less sometimes, to remember that all the talk in the world will not effect change if the person doesn't want to/isn't ready to change.

All I can do is take care of MY business, to establish boundaries I need.

I'm grateful for the Internet and the lessons that are out there on so many wonderful sites, just waiting for us to find them, like books in a library. We teach each other by our stories, we encourage each other with subject-oriented bulletin boards. We are not alone in our experiences, or in our pain. That is important to remember.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hard times seem to be everywhere

I don't know quite what has changed in the universe, but things sure feel bleak right now for us and for everyone. I'm working to keep some perspective and to find blessings, and I do -- but boy, there doesn't seem to be a lot of light at the end of this tunnel right now.

Freelancing is always a bit of a feast-or-famine gamble: when you're busy, you don't have time to do a lot of marketing, and when you're not, it is a hurry-up-and-wait game. Freelance journalists are all having a hard time these days because so many of the markets -- like print newspapers -- are drying up, or groups aren't doing newsletters, or they're making do with volunteer efforts rather than using professional help. And often freelance rates aren't set by the individual, but are paid by the hiring organization. They, like salaries and benefits, are subject to cuts as well. Try 40 to 50 percent. Ouch.

Illness of any kind demands a new set of rules and requirements, and it takes time and persistence to go through the system to get what you need. Meanwhile, living expenses continue. Symptoms can be distressful, but doctor appointments don't always happen when symptoms flare. It's also a hurry-up-and-wait situation, and one only hopes the medical attention will happen quickly enough to prevent more severe consequences.

Today I've talked to friends whose businesses are non-existent, or cut back considerably, and they're all struggling with bills, how to afford medical costs, fuel, etc.

Do you take whatever you can find for a job and tough it out, even when stress and unhappiness clearly affect your mental and physical health? Or do you pay attention to what your body tells you and find ways to tighten already tight budgets?

What happens when your business is going downhill because of circumstances beyond your control -- hackers take down your online business site, for instance, causing you to lose money, or manufacturers place unreachable sales goals on their sales force because of their own desperation? You can do all you can to stop it, but it may not be enough. It may not work.

Many, many people do not have any wiggle room or rainy-day resources to help them, so requests for help from "the system" are increasing, yet those budgets are also decreasing. And it is a "hurry-up and wait" system: you can fill out applications to start the process, but what do you do in the meantime?

Times are not fun right now. It's one day at a time for all of us. Time to do all you can where you are with what you've got. And pray that you see a way to make things better. That's what I'm doing.

On stage! -- for a cause

I got back on stage Friday night as a participant in "The Vagina Monologues," a benefit performance for Alternatives to Violence, the local agency that helps women (and men) who are experiencing violence in their lives.

And wow. What a powerful experience. What a fantastic audience. What a GREAT audience!

From our little community, 387 people -- many of them men -- came out to see the show. That's a great response, especially when we weren't at all sure if people would come.

I wrote about the play for the Record Searchlight. I wrote about the accompanying art exhibit. Everyone helped distribute flyers and put up posters.

I got to do "The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy," a monologue that includes a very fun section of different styles of moans. So I got up there with fishnet stockings, an all-black brief outfit underneath a leather jacket, and talked about moaning, peeing, and about finding your passion (literally and figuratively). I had a blast.

No, I never thought I'd be up on a stage demonstrating various kinds of orgasmic moans (The clit moan, the WASP moan, the uninhibited militant bisexual moan, the tortured Zen moan, etc.)

But I did. And the audience was right there with me, laughing, cheering, waiting for the next sound out of my mouth.

What a rush!

I've been in a lot of plays over the years, but I've never felt quite the power that I felt Friday night. It was good to be up there again, to be performing. I'd love to do more.

Tony says I transform into someone else when I'm on stage. I suppose all actors do, really, because it is ALL about being in the moment, being right there, fully present. I know several women in our cast experienced for the first time the power of holding an audience. One of them said, "It's like crack! It's addictive! I want more!" (not that I think this woman has actually done crack, mind you...)

It wasn't just for grins and the shock value that I did this, however, nor did any of them. "The Vagina Monologues" is one part of a much larger global focus on ending violence against women and girls, and our performance included a somber look at an unfathomably violent war that has been waged using women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa.

In our own homes and communities, there are women of all educational levels, all economic levels, all walks of life who are subjected to abuse and violence, from childhood molestation to emotional abuse to murder. Since we have been working on this performance, I have had friends and acquaintances tell me a little about their stories -- surprising and dark secrets from people who seem very together, very strong. Some of them have come through what Elizabeth Lesser calls "The Phoenix Process" to emerge new and better from the ashes of their former lives. Some of them are still burning, still shedding the vestiges of their violent and unhappy lives. I hope they make it.

If you have a chance to see "The Vagina Monologues" or one of the other plays Eve Ensler has written as fundraising vehicles for her Vday organization, please support it. You'll have a good time. But you'll also be helping a sister, a mother, a daughter, a niece.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Living in gratitude

It's not that things are all rosy-posy and life is smooth. Rather the contrary.

But I am floating on a cushion of prayers and love that has just been amazing to me, and I am neither anxious nor immobilized. I'm doing what I need to do fairly effectively, I'm not spinning about things I neither caused nor can control. I'm asking for help when I need it.

And I'm grateful.

Today I had an out-of-town appointment and drove a couple hours down CA 99E -- a mostly two-lane road that is not a barrel of laughs when it's sunny and dry. It was raining most of the way, not torrential downpours, but rain.

It was actually very easy and very beautiful.

In the first place, I'm so grateful to see rain again and seasonable temps! We've had some good rain in the past couple of days, and the prospects for more stretch out for at least the next 10 days. Our highs and lows are where they should be, not in the 70s. It's wood stove time again, warm fuzzy sweats, sweaters. I love it.

And even though it's way too early, the orchards are starting to bloom, so there were little stars of pink and white sparkling through much of that drive. Further south, there were fields of a bright yellow flower -- not sure what it is, maybe mustard? -- that absolutely popped in the grey drizzle, especially against stark, dark trees that aren't ready to bloom.

I thought about how fortunate I have been to have the wonderful, supportive husband I do, who I love and cherish more than I'd ever dreamed I could. I thought about how lucky I am to be the mother of two daughters who, despite all their difficult issues and heartaches, give me great joy. I got to raise one of them from birth; the other since she was 16. Yeah, they drive me nuts sometimes and I want to shake them until their teeth rattle, but I wouldn't have missed it.

I am grateful that I live in this beautiful state, that I get to experience living so close to the land and the seasons. On the drive back home, the sun came out and through the clouds over the eastern mountains, little pockets opened up here and there and I could see snowy slopes that were almost pink from the sun's reflection. (And I wondered WHY oh why I don't always travel with my camera~!)

I love coming back to our house and its familiar warmth, not just from the stove, but because it is a place we created, that we filled with love and memories of our families. I love that our kitties miss us and are all over each of us as we browse through e-mails and read blogs and news. I like knowing that in a few minutes I'll head for bed, and they'll be right there, ready to cuddle down and guard us while we sleep.

I'm grateful for people who offer unanticipated support and caring words, for people who want to help others get better, for understanding. I'm grateful that so many people in this world are truly good people.

I'm very much living in the moment, doing what needs doing, taking care of business, but not going into the what-ifs and potential ice weasel territory. Tony says I'm compartmentalizing; I'm not sure that is it exactly -- it's just the way I'm living my life, all parts of it, for right now.

May you find blessings wherever you look, no matter what's going on around you.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Getting sucked in

I'm tired of reading the many posts on this blog that deal with our daughters and their respective issues. I'm tired of seeing the same behaviors in them over and over and over. I'm tired of seeing the same behaviors in ME, over and over.

I resent that I worry about them, each of them, at different times. That they tell me about issues, either their own or the other's, and then leave it hanging, so that I am fretting over stupidity or health or stability or money.

I want to stop that.

I don't want to get sucked in to their drama anymore.

I'm not quite sure how to accomplish that and make it stick. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. I love them and don't want them to feel that I'm deserting them, but I'm not sure how to maintain some balance here.

Actually, I've been doing pretty well at doing things I love to do and meeting my commitments, but I worry nonetheless, and I know it isn't good for me.

I guess I just need to remember, yet again, that I am powerless over people, places and things, and that they will do what they will. But....I do believe that my words can make a difference to them....I've seen that happen.

Either that, or they're blowing sunshine at me, and I'm falling for it, yet again...


So let me talk about rain. It's not a lot, but it is nice to have gray skies and even occasional raindrops. It's good to have a fire in the woodstove to take off the chill: it is not particularly cold, just chilly. I did see trees in bloom downtown yesterday, though, and that is not good. We have had such unseasonably warm weather that things are waking up, and they need to stay put a little longer.

I'm longing for the ocean these days, to hear that deep, calming heartbeat thrumming through my whole body, to feel the cold sting of the water on my feet, to watch the endless series of waves, and the shorebirds running to meet each new ruffle as it breaks on the beach. To see pelicans swooping and diving in perfect formation. To smell the salt-fresh air and take it deep into my lungs. We need a trip, even a day trip.

I'm reading eclectically: right now it's Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, who I saw on Oprah. I'm barely into it, but like what she's saying and agree that in our breaking open our pain and silence that we become who we are, even if we can't even see the possibility of happiness when we're so caught up in the pain of the moment.

But I also have read the latest of Diane Mott Davidson's cooking murder books, Sweet Revenge -- just a fun read, although I get hungry when I read her very rich recipes. I read Anne Rivers Siddons' new one, Off Season, set in Maine of course, and loved it until the ending, which I did not love at all (unusual for her books). I finished the latest Nora Roberts trilogy, truly a beach-read-style book and just plain escape. And I also read one titled I'm Still Your Mother, which was okay, but doesn't really speak to how to parent grown children who have 'issues'.

That's in addition to the various O magazines -- still a great read for the money -- Newsweeks, Business Weeks, various blogs, two daily newspapers, and assorted others that come in here.

It's been good to really read again. I always read something before I turn out the light, but often I have very little time during the day to read. One day over Christmas that was all I did, other than fix a few meals. It was wonderful.

I'm feeling the need to move -- to get some exercise of some kind, just because I'm so aware of diminished strength in my body and legs from doing so much sedentary work! I finally settled on a pair of good athletic shoes and they offer good support, so that excuse is gone. I just wish I liked something physical well enough to want to do it often.

It's already February. I am determined to make the most of every day, every month, and not spend useless time in worry or fear. I can change only one person -- me. And I'm working on that.