Just call

“Just call,” the Cowboy and I told a friend of ours the other day. She was sad, lonely and wasn’t sure what she could do about it.

“If you want company, if you want to go somewhere, if you want to go visit your kids,” I asked her, “Do they know? You’ve got to let them or us or someone know. And, if you need anything, you need to call us, we’re happy to come by and we want to help.”

That was one of the days we had gone by with a home cooked meal over the holidays. This morning, we were thinking we should go check on her, wish her a happy new year and had planned to make her cookies. Ironically, she called before we even got the cookies in the oven today to check on us and just talk.

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This friend of ours.. she is 94-years-old and still lives alone. It’s where she wants to be – still living in the house where she was born in, that has been in her family for generations. But she is limited as to who she sees and what she is able to do, without the help of family or a friend. And few apparently came to visit with her or take her anywhere around the holidays. She was absolutely depressed about it.

She reminds me of one of my neighbors back in Madison. And of my grandmother a bit. And I hate more than anything that anyone ever feel alone and helpless to do anything about it. I know I certainly don’t want to be if I reach a ripe old age and still have my health and wits about me.

I may be off here – but based on the experiences I’ve had being very close to my own grandmother, making sure she and I did something every week when she was still alive and seeing some of the same sadness in her over the years as well as in countless neighbors, friends and even in my own family, some advice for those feeling alone:

  • If you’re lonely, call someone and tell them.
  • If you want to go somewhere, make plans to go.
  • If you need something, ask.
  • Don’t feel like a burden doing any of these things. Most likely you never are. But if you ever sincerely feel that way after being clear having others around would mean  a lot to you, chances are someone else who might like your company more than the person you’re seeking it from.
  • Enjoy public transit. Make plans to go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. What are you waiting for?
  • Get yourself a laptop. Have someone tutor you in a few basics of something like Facebook and link up with your kids and grandkids who are miles and states away. They may want to talk with you but you have to be willing to learn their lingo as much as they need to remember how to use yours – picking up a phone, dialing and actually talking ‘in person’ isn’t as common anymore as one might think. Have someone tutor you as well in what online scams look like so that you don’t fall prey to anything that’ll hurt you financially or otherwise while you’re at it.
  • Take an art class.
  • Learn a foreign language and travel.
  • Plan a gathering at your home and invite your neighbors, allow them into your life, don’t just assume no one cares because they don’t automatically stop by.
  • Try and remember what it was like to have a young family. Everyone is always going somewhere and has something to do, someone to take care of. They’re busy. And they usually think of you late at night after the hustle and bustle has died down in their homes when it’s too late to call. While they may email, you don’t have a computer. Communication fails. But not because they’re not thinking of you.

If I’m totally off track on any of the above, forgive me. I’m not an expert. I just have a heart and hate to see you sit home alone talking to no one but a tv all day when someone would love to get your call.

Call. Get out. Ask. Enjoy life while you can and invite others along for the ride.

For the rest of us, perhaps we might all do a better job to think more often about our family and neighbors. I know I need to. I’m as guilty as anyone of letting too many days go by without a call to my dad or other family. (Dad and I are way better now that he’s got a cell phone and has learned to text!) There’s a lot to learn from spending time with someone who’s lived a long, good life. We should consider ourselves the lucky ones.

Off to deliver cookies.

Embracing Change

“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” – Hazel Henderson

I love this quote.

Down the road

A lot of people reflect on their lives this time of year. We go back and ponder what it was we had hoped to accomplish over the past twelve months and what our dreams might be for the year ahead.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel we’ve had time to think about much of anything other than where we need to be next and what needs to get done for the holidays – not until this past weekend, anyway.

The house was completely quiet for about 24 hours as my daughter had taken off for the last half of Christmas break on a trip with her dad. The Cowboy’s three came back to the house last night. This past weekend was the first we’d been home, had down time and pure calm to just think and be still in months. And in the quiet of the morning yesterday, I began to reflect, on all has transpired over the past year.

I did my best in that moment to keep my mind from wandering into what my hopes and dreams are for 2014 because I wanted to contemplate what, if anything, we had actually accomplished this past year. Was it all I was hoping for? Could I have done more? How have we adjusted? Where exactly are we now? What does any of it mean? I don’t know but I’ve done my best to live by the above quote and remain only optimistic about whatever lies ahead.

We have, I believe, accomplished a lot. As a family. Blending homes is not an easy task. Given what others have told us, what I’ve observed with the advice we’ve given, I think we’ve tackled it with about as much grace, patience, enthusiasm and understanding as any family I know.

Career is a different issue. And, I’m thinking a lot about it right now because in the quiet of this past weekend, I came to realize it truly has been a year that I’ve been away from my previous job. One that I love(d) despite all it’s flaws and crazy schedules and demands.

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I signed off the news desk a year ago this week. There are so many reasons I have not looked for a similar job here in South Dakota, all have had to do with family and wanting, needing more flexibility at this point in our lives. But, “Do you miss it,” is a question I am asked often. I do. And here’s why:

1. The people – the news business is home to some pretty interesting people who get into doing news for very different reasons. Whatever the reason, it’s this crazy pool of a) young, hungry, at times misguided and naive but driven, interesting young professionals who often have a vision of what the world is or who are at their core curious about everything. If you get the chance to watch them over the years, it’s interesting to see how life experience changes their perspective on storytelling. b) Those that have been in the newsroom for a lifetime who get fired up by few things anymore, but their knowledge of the market can’t be replaced. It all makes for a wonderful, quirky, fun loving yet dysfunctional team that everyday, many times a day, meets deadlines and gets the job done. You can count on them. You have grown many times to count on these folks to be there for you and let you know what’s happening in the world. Even if you don’t feel it’s relevant to your life and you’d rather complain about them than change the channel.

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2. The people – not just those you work with but those you have the absolute pleasure of being able to go and interview each day. It can be anyone from the President to a transient, community leaders to criminals. And they all have a story worth sharing, something we can all learn from if we’re only willing to listen and spend time with them.

3. Piggybacking off of that, no day is the same – anchoring was about as predictable a day as anything in television news and while I never thought I’d want to be on the anchor desk as a young, hungry reporter who had dreams of being a foreign correspondent, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. It allowed me to best help raise my family on so many levels. A sincere thank you to Tom Bier, Larry Frost and Jim Harmon who saw enough potential in me to first put my mug on the air.

4. Gifts of food. Into to the newsroom. It was like no one had eaten in weeks. Devoured. Gone.

5. Having a beat – not everyone loves having a beat, but man it allows you to really dig into something and become knowledgeable enough you can hang with the best of them on it. You can talk extemporaneously about it and not rely on a notebook when you really know what you’re talking about. Beats seem to be going by the wayside with the downsizing of newsrooms – everyone has to be a bit of an expert in everything. Also fun in its own way. But if you have the chance to pick up a beat, I encourage it.

6. Tight deadlines and being able to walk away at the end of each day, knowing your job was DONE.

7. Free hair styling, makeup and facials. Wow, do I miss that. And boy could I use at least the latter again. I had never had a facial until it was part of the contract with the last newsroom I worked for. Wow. Facials. If you’ve never had one, they are awesome. Go get one.

8. Somewhere to wear all the suits I’ve built up over 20 years of reporting/anchoring. Rural South Dakota’s not really a mecca for professional attire. I’m still not 100% sure where my work life may lead me so I’m hesitant to give them away just yet (says the girl more inclined at the moment to throw on insulated coveralls before heading out the door than a 2-piece from Ann Taylor).

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9. Editorial meetings and the debates every day about what people would most want to know if given the choice between stories. These were always interesting, small brawls.

10. Taking sometimes hours of meaningful conversations and turning them into a relevant, informative 1:30 minute story others will find interesting enough to stay tuned to your channel. It’s not easy. It’s not perfect. But it does fill an important niche in our daily lives and can have a tremendous impact on community – when it’s done right and with the right intention.

What is wonderful is there are many ways one with a passion for people, storytelling and community building can find or create unique career opportunities. It’s been fun exploring what those might be, embracing all of the change and uncertainty of a new life and career.

Wishing everyone the best in 2014.