I quit my job a year ago because I had to pee


I used to joke that the word “salary” was Latin for “free.” But it was no joke when I was working 50, 60 and sometimes 70 hours per week at the job I had for 10 1/2 years.

Today is the first anniversary of my freedom. One year ago yesterday was my last day as the supervisor/editor/manager of a small group of newspapers owned by a multimillion-dollar newspaper company. That job also included sometimes being a trainer, photographer, reporter, building manager, supply keeper, record keeper, fundraiser, public speaker and paper delivery person.

Oh, it didn’t start that way. I was hired by said multimillion-dollar newspaper company to manage three newspapers – a weekly, a bimonthly and a monthly. The job wasn’t hard and I loved teaching new journalists things like how to work a beat, localize national news, handle the always awkward and sometimes painful “victim interview,” and how to cover accident and crime scenes.

My supervisor hired me, she said, because the minute she read my résumé she knew I was the one that would make the papers better than they were before. She also once confided in me that she almost had to sit on her hands while interviewing me so she wouldn’t appear as excited as she was by my ideas and passion for news.

But it wasn’t all that long into the job that The Boss began to block me. I would tell my people how to do something and she would go behind my back and tell them otherwise, even when she and I agreed on the course of action beforehand. She also wouldn’t let me run things the way we had agreed I would. Maybe that should have been my first clue that at some point this job was going to go terribly wrong.

Or maybe I should have gotten a clue when less than a year into my employment, I had to have emergency back surgery. Two days later, when I got home from the hospital, a reporter brought me a CD with stories on it and instructions from The Boss that they needed to be edited. I did as I was told, but I was heavily medicated and even a week later couldn’t tell you what I had read.

A second emergency surgery two years later brought the same results. My hours, which I had been told would never be more than 45 a week at the extreme, began to increase before and after my hospitalization. And yes, I took phone calls, answered emails and edited stories just a day or two after that operation as well.

The three papers became four, and I ended up with responsibility for three weekly papers and one monthly, and four websites. Five-day weeks were extremely rare; I often worked six or all seven. No raise in pay. No extra benefits. In fact, I even was told when I could take my vacation, when I was allowed to take it at all.

The following years brought other disappointments – being told to come in when I was sick, not being given any time off after the death of my beloved dog, many more hours on the job over the agreed upon 45 per week. It also brought rude and nasty comments from The Boss about my weight and the weight of some of my staff members, never mind that The Boss weighed more than we did. Other inappropriate comments were made as well.

There was a 10 percent cut in my pay, followed within months with another 5 percent cut that extended to all employees. People began to leave and were not replaced. Oh, their jobs didn’t go away; they just got parceled out to others. And being the sole person on salary meant I could work as many hours as the company and The Boss wished.

Things really fell apart when we moved from an old, drafty, leaky building into much smaller quarters. We went from four bathrooms – two for the men and two for the women – to only one that would be used by all 25 of our employees, even though the city ordinance said you had to have one bathroom per 15 employees. When we asked before the move how we were going to get by with one bathroom, The Boss said, “I guess we’ll get friendly with our neighbors.” But our neighbors in the business park weren’t always there, and who wants to go to another nearby business to go?

Not long after moving into the new space, the toilet started clogging up. All. The. Time. Repairs had to be made that included replacing lines and other parts of the system. Sometimes, the toilet would be out for days over the course of several months. We all had to get in our cars and drive to the nearest McDonald’s or Target to go to the bathroom during the workday.

Sometimes, we would carpool to a public bathroom. If someone was leaving to go, he or she would announce it and take others along. I’ll never forget the day that I and one of my reporters left the building together and headed to the nearby Burger King, only to find signs on their restroom doors saying they were temporarily out of order. We would have laughed harder, but we really had to go.

Even when the toilet was working, you’d often have to stand in the hallway, legs crossed, praying you wouldn’t soil yourself while someone was in there for what seemed like forever. Or you would run back and forth from your seat to the bathroom door sometimes four or five times to check and see if it was open. Sometimes, when it was quiet and you could hear the door open throughout the building, multiple employees would rush toward the bathroom, resulting in awkward games of who had to go the most.

It wasn’t like I planned to stay so long at the job and be mistreated, but time has a way of getting away from you. And being an optimist, I always thought it would get better. The readers and my employees were the reasons I stayed, and some weeks were pretty great. But as time went on, they didn’t outweigh the bad.

When The Boss left and was replaced by a wonderful manager, we all got a bit of a reprieve. But when he started getting the shaft from the company, he headed out of there. I had to take on most of his duties, and got treated even worse. When I was ordered to come in one day while I was in the emergency room with a 103-degree temperature, I knew I had to leave.

Becoming a freelance writer has been as hard as it has been wonderful. It’s difficult sometimes to motivate myself. The pay is lower than I expected and I’m working more than I planned to in order to get it. I have to do without a lot of things to which I was accustomed. But I get to stay home with my shepherd if she is ill. I can stay home when I’m sick and not be harassed by anyone. I can work in my pajamas all day if I want to.

The funny thing is, I didn’t budget for or think about the added expense of the amount of toilet paper I go through these days, which is a lot more when you’re using your own bathroom almost 24/7. On the other hand, I get to go anytime I want.

Football just isn’t the same without Peyton Manning


I fell in love with football during my college years. Coincidentally, it was also during my college years that I first met Peyton Manning.

Oh, it isn’t like we’re friends or anything. I doubt he would remember my name if you asked him. But I did run into him a few times over my years of covering news.

He is a generous man, kind and polite, and he’s funny. The many things he does for charity, you likely don’t often hear about. He has helped many, many people and has never asked for credit.

During his days at the University of Tennessee, you could see that he had skills and promise. Next thing you know, he was the quarterback for my home team, the Indianapolis Colts.

He developed those skills over time, and my love of the game also developed. I enjoy the intricacies of football, the designs of the plays, the finesse that is sometimes required. I love the cheering, the face painting, the roar of the crowd. I don’t love how dangerous the game has gotten, and I have great disdain for those players who seem intent on hurting others and who even appear to enjoy it. That certainly isn’t what football is supposed to be about.

My friends know something of my great love of The Sheriff, who retired earlier this year after playing 18 seasons in the National Football League and winning a second Super Bowl ring.

And I watched each of those seasons, cheering on Peyton and the Colts from whatever state I was living at the time. I clearly remember “watching” games with my dad over the telephone from my living room and from various sports bars after I had given up watching television in 2008. We would call each other back and forth throughout games to yell, “Did you see that pass?” or “Can you believe they scored again?”

We were on the phone (me in a hotel bar outside Seattle, my dad at home in Indiana) on Feb. 4, 2007, when Peyton and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Peyton’s first Super Bowl win. I cried. And my dad sounded emotional, too, as we cheered and shouted across the miles during the last minutes of the game and the first few minutes after the game.

I wept when Peyton was injured and had to sit out an entire season. I cried again when I learned that he would be leaving the Colts, who I felt treated him unfairly in his waning years. My dad and I have never agreed on that, so we just don’t talk about it.

I “followed” Peyton to the Denver Broncos and they became my team for the next few years. I cheered mightily when he won his fifth Most Valuable Player award in his second year with them in 2013. (Among his many accolades, he was the first, and so far only, player to win five MVP awards in the NFL.) I still feel bitter about how the Colts treated Peyton and will likely not cheer for them again.

I have screamed myself hoarse at actual games, and possibly been too rowdy in a number of public places where I watched “my” Peyton play.

When the Seattle Seahawks drubbed the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, I was in a sports bar outside Seattle, the lone person wearing an orange No. 18 jersey in a sea of blue and green. I was horrified by Peyton’s performance and the results of the game. I sat silently with tears streaming down my face at the end.

And although we were cheering for opposing teams, others in the bar respected my love of the game, my quarterback and my team. A woman who sat beside me during the game, an obvious Seahawks fan, went across the street to the Mrs. Fields after the game and brought me fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies to ease my heartache. I will always remember that moment – one fan truly caring for another no matter that we supported opposite teams.

But I am having a problem watching football this season. I can’t seem to muster any passion for the games. Gone, at least for now, is the trash talking, the shouting at the screen, the standing up and sitting down from the couch while my dad sits in his recliner nearby. This is the second season in which we can finally watch together in the same location, but I find I can’t pay attention during the games, and I feel like there is no team left for which to cheer. I long to hear the familiar call of “Omaha!” just one more time.

Did I love the game all those years or did I love Peyton? I guess time will tell.

Read my latest post on Dogster!

Lily (on the bottom) and her daughter Lola loved to play together every day.

Lily (on the bottom) and her daughter Lola loved to play together every day.

I didn’t even know they had posted this, so I am late sharing it with you. Sorry about that.

My Dog and I Bonded Deeply After Losing Our Mothers the Same Month

This story is about me and Lola losing our moms just eight days apart. It was a hard time for both of us. The funny thing is that earlier today, I said to her, “Maybe my mom had to go away so she could take care of your mom when she got there.” That reminded me that I had written this last month and it had never run, so I looked for it again.

Please go check it out and share this post with your animal-loving friends!

Happy birthday, Star Trek – here’s what you mean to this Trekkie


People often ask me about my love of Star Trek, and on this day, the 50th anniversary of its going on air, I thought I might try to explain to nonTrekkies what it means to some of us Trekkies.

I was always a black sheep, a misfit toy, the odd girl out, even when I was a child. I knew as far back as I can remember that I was different.

For starters, I had an immense compassion for animals (to the point of capturing bugs in the house and taking them outside, which I still do); bad things that happened to people wounded me deeply, to the point of not only tears, but complete exhaustion (think May Boatwright in “The Secret Life of Bees”); and I was a girly girl who also liked things that girls weren’t supposed to like (jumping ramps on my bike, climbing trees, playing Army with my friends, who were all boys).

I didn’t really fit in anywhere, with anyone. And that was OK with me, because I’ve always enjoyed my own company, and I always knew deep down that being different didn’t mean being wrong, because as I thankfully learned in Sunday school, God doesn’t make mistakes.

But children can be hard on each other, and seeing original “Star Trek” reruns on the screen when I was little helped ease my discomfort, my loneliness, my pain. In this bold new universe, I saw and related to people with too much emotion, people with too little emotion, people who had pointed ears, people who were different colors, people who had different talents, people who were happy, people who were sad, people of all races and colors and creeds, all living together in harmony and peace.

Heck, there were even girls who did “boy things,” like Lt. Uhura on the bridge of the mighty and glorious Enterprise. I longed to live on that ship, where everyone cared about everyone and no one was bullied or ostracized, where everyone was not only tolerated but accepted and celebrated no matter who or what they were.

And before you knew it, there came the movies, and then “The Next Generation,” and all the series and movies in between and after those. I wonder, when Gene Roddenberry was creating that first show, if he knew that he was creating a place where us misfits could fit in, could feel approved and valued, could feel we belonged, could even be the cool kids. If he didn’t then, I hope he knew before he died.

He created an alternate place for many of us to reside – in secret or in the open – to become a family, to be good to one another, to be loved. I so thank him for that, especially today, on Star Trek’s 50th anniversary/birthday.

And I thank all of my Trek friends, my own band of cool kids, who have made me feel less lonely in a world gone quite mad with power and hatred and ridiculousness.

And to all of you, Trekkies and nonTrekkies, I wish for you to Live Long And Prosper.

Remember Jacob Wetterling; end male sexual assault discrimination


Jacob Wetterling has been found.

And today, 27 years after he was abducted in October 1989, his family now knows that he was molested and murdered that same night. Their wait for their beloved boy to come home is over.

What isn’t over is discrimination – in criminal and civil cases, in police believing and following up on reports, in whether reports are made in the first place.

I remember the news accounts, the fear and the panic when he was taken. I’ve never forgotten his sweet, smiling face, and all of the good that came for other children after he was abducted.

News of his abduction was printed and broadcast across the country. People knew all kinds of details then – what he was wearing, how he was taken, that police had a person of interest soon after. But Jacob wasn’t found.

Now we hear from news accounts that some police didn’t take incidents of molestation of boys in the area seriously or didn’t follow up on them as they would have had the victims been girls. There are reports that say that some boys weren’t believed, that some were just disregarded. What a terrible double standard.

Unfortunately, that same double standard still exists today, nearly 30 years later. Many people don’t believe men can be raped. Many even think that a stranger groping a man is different, albeit even acceptable, than a stranger groping a woman. Many reports made by men, when men can summon the tremendous courage to report at all, are not believed or not investigated.

While many double standards exist for men and women, this one likely caused more boys to be violated and traumatized, and maybe even somehow failed to prevent the death of Jacob Wetterling.

I long for a world where we all – men and women, black and white, rich and poor, weak and strong – are treated equally.

On another note, there are those who may not understand how the man who murdered Jacob Wetterling will not face charges in his killing. I don’t know his family, but I knew many family members of girls and women taken and murdered by the Green River Killer.

When the time came for him to face the death penalty or to be let out of that and instead face life in prison without the possibility of parole, his attorneys bargained. Some families got remains of their loved ones who had been missing for decades. Some families finally got answers to their questions regarding what had happened to their mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends. And those answers were desperately wanted and needed.

I imagine the family of Jacob Wetterling wanted the same. They wanted to know what happened. Was he alive somewhere, somehow, or was he dead? They now know, and they have his remains so they can give him a proper burial.

There is no way to get over something like this for those left behind. But there are things people can do to move forward. And to help the Wetterling family? Jacob’s mother Patty Wetterling posted this statement yesterday on the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center Facebook page:

“The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together. We will be eager to talk to media as soon as we are able.

Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us.
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Be with friends.
Play with your children.
Hold Hands.
Eat ice cream.
Create joy.
Help your neighbor.
That is what will bring me comfort today.”

I would add find a way to help end this double standard that treats male victims of sexual assault differently than women.

Writer’s note: I didn’t name either killer in this post because I want them to receive as little attention as possible today. 

It’s all true: I go to Star Trek conventions and I love them

stlv love

“Oh, you’re one of those people,” a woman said to me when I told her I was heading to the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas for my vacation earlier this month.

What does “those people” even mean? Before I could even open my mouth to reply, she asked, “You dress up in weird costumes and stuff?”

I didn’t even stop to think about whether I cared what she thought and answered.

“Well, I do have a lovely pair of Vulcan ears,” I replied. “And then I have different T-shirts and jewelry for every day.”

I thought she was going to faint. But I doubt if she even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned those ears.

Confession time: I’ve been going to this multiday convention for several years and I love it. And I’ve been to many others. And I absolutely love Star Trek. I love every series, every movie (yes, even that one you think sucks), every character (well, maybe not Kai Winn, who was so evil) and every costume and alien race. OK, not every race. Some of those in Voyager and Deep Space 9 were scary as hell. (Hirogen or Vidiians anyone?)

The funny thing is this. People dress up and go to all kinds of things – football games, auto races, costume parties, charity functions – but I bet no one ever says to any of them, “Oh, you’re one of those people.”

Why is it that people can spend money on costumes and clothing and memorabilia for sports teams and they’re perfectly normal, but when we Star Trek fans do it we’re weirdos?

The first time I went to the Las Vegas convention, I went by myself. My friends couldn’t believe I was doing that.

“But you won’t know anyone there,” they told me again and again.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

See, that first year, I met a ton of people and I made friends that I kept in touch with all year. Being outgoing doesn’t hurt. But even if I hadn’t been, I bet I still would’ve made friends. And in each year since, I’ve made even more friends.

I truly love my Star Trek friends. They are a wonderful, sometimes wild and sometimes wacky bunch. But they’re also well-read, well-educated and know more about having a good life than many other people I have met in my years on the planet.

I’ve met many celebrities and some of them have become friends as well. I know, hard to believe, huh? In what other fandom does that happen?

True Star Trek fans care about the same things I do – science fiction, the environment, love, kindness, respect, diversity, exploration, inquisitiveness, education, and not only tolerance but acceptance and even celebration of the things that make us all different.

In the years I’ve been going to the convention, I’ve met more people like myself than anywhere else on the planet. These people are my tribe and I don’t care what anyone thinks about “those people.”

We take funny photos, we dance, we laugh, we have a few cocktails (OK, maybe some people have more than a few), we reminisce, we dress up, we hug (there’s a lot of hugging), we have intense discussions and we support each other’s love for the vision of a better world – one without hate or greed (not to be confused with acquisition) or hunger or caring about a person’s race or gender. We respect each other’s opinions and beliefs. We agree to disagree and we go on caring about one another.

If that makes us weirdos, so be it. I’m all in. And I already bought my ticket for next year. To my Trek friends, I can hardly wait to see you again. To the rest of you, I encourage you to go out and find your tribe, whoever “those people” are.

Do you have a favorite Star Trek or convention memory? Share it with me. And if something in this post speaks to you, please share it with others.

Read my latest post on Dogster!

ellie and me

Ellie always loved her squeaky tennis balls, and even had one in her mouth when we had photos taken a few months before she passed away.

I had no idea that they had put this up while I was on vacation.

Some of you will remember my beloved Ellie. I adopted her when she was 11 and she made it to almost 15. Although our time together was brief, I never regretted adopting an “old” dog!

I Adopted a Senior Dog I Didn’t Think Would Live a Year, and I’m Glad I Did

Please go check it out and share this post with your animal-loving friends!

The killing of Qandeel Baloch had nothing to do with honor

Qandeel Baloch/FB

Qandeel Baloch/FB

I had never heard of Qandeel Baloch, a model and Internet celebrity known as Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian, until early this morning, when I read a Wall Street Journal story about her murder.

I haven’t been able to get her off my mind all day.

I was sickened and saddened by the headline in The Wall Street Journal that said she was the victim of an “honor killing.”

The 25-year-old model was allegedly strangled by her brother in her parents’ home because he didn’t like photos and videos she was posting on the Internet. I’ve looked through those photos on her Facebook page today, and I have seen much worse from American celebrities and even young girls, and on television, and in movies and magazines. And while some of her photos and videos were risqué, many more of them are what I would describe as high-fashion.

She had more than 700,000 likes on her official Facebook page and more than 40,000 followers on Twitter.

Horribly, there is a video of her dead body on another FB page about her. Photographers and others surround her body, shouting. And some of the comments on posts on that and her official page are so vulgar, awful and hateful, I can’t believe the administrators at FB have allowed them to stay there.

“Born to a poor family from the backwaters of Punjab, Ms. Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, said she had run away from home to pursue her dream of becoming a star,” a story in The New York Times said. “She took to social media after unsuccessful efforts to enter the mainstream entertainment industry.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to strengthen laws intended to prevent such killings, but critics say no concrete steps have been taken yet.”

In some cultures, many girls and women are killed when a relative decides she has brought dishonor to her family, and these cultures call their deaths honor killings.

“In most cases, the honor killings take place within the family,” Syeda Sughra Imam, a former senator from Punjab who has pushed for legislation against the practice, told The Times.

“The accused and the complainant are from the same family and they forgive each other,” Imam said in The Times. “No one is ever prosecuted.”

But honor is variously defined as “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions;” “high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank;” and “high public esteem; fame; glory.”

Tell me what is respectful, honest or fair about this young woman’s murder.

“Her videos were not very different from thousands others shared by 20-something social media celebrities around the Internet – she pouted like a kitten into the camera, discussed her various hairstyles and shared cooing confessions from her bedroom about her celebrity crushes,” a CNN story said.

Qandeel considered herself an activist and often talked about fighting for women’s rights to do what they want with their minds and their bodies. She stood up for others who felt the same.

On July 12, she tweeted, “#MalalaDay Why? Because one female can make a difference,” referring to Malala Yousafzai, another Pakistani female and activist, who was 15 when she was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban. She was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 2014.

You can learn more about Qandeel in this BBC video.

In a post the day before Qandeel was killed, she wrote this on her FB page: “As a women we must stand up for ourselves…As a women we must stand up for each other…As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thoughts free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM.”

Why isn’t this OK, for women to be who they are? Why are we blamed for what we were wearing or where we were when we’ve been raped? And why, in the year 2016, are women still abused, beaten, mutilated and murdered all around the world because, even in the United States, many still see us as second-class citizens or little more than property?

Just a little more than a week before Qandeel’s slaying, on July 6, she posted this: “Love me or hate me both are in my favour. If you love me I Will always be in your heart, if you hate me I’ll always be in ur mind.”

I am deeply sad about her death, and I can’t say how long it will be before she leaves my heart or my mind.


Police are supposed to protect, not kill, us

Photo image from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Tell me you don’t feel even slightly panicked when you see red-and-blue flashing lights directed your way.

I know when I see them in my rearview mirror, I feel nervous. Was I speeding? Did I make some mistake? Is something wrong with my vehicle? Am I going to get a ticket? How much money that I don’t have to spare will this cost me?

Don’t you feel at least some of that?

It even takes me a few minutes to calm down when they fly past me, and I realize they didn’t even want me in the first place.

Now, imagine the police not only turn the lights on you, but they start screaming and ordering you around, and you don’t know why, at least at the beginning of the encounter. Police can do whatever they want. They have guns, and they can kill people, often without paying the same price the rest of us would have to pay if we did something similar.

I’m not going to get into race here. I’m trying to make a simpler point. People panic when they encounter police. And people do weird and sometimes what we think are unexplainable things when they panic. Are you completely rational when you panic?

I know a lot of good police officers. A good friend of mine who was a state trooper was even killed in the line of duty, hit by a sleepy tractor-trailer driver on an interstate while he tried to direct traffic around an accident. Officers are human, just like the rest of us. They have troubles and they make mistakes, just like the rest of us. I understand that. But far too many of them are shooting far too many of us these days.

Police are supposed to protect and serve us. But when you see them pulling out handguns and shooting a man in the back as he walks away or as he lies on the ground underneath them, not being any kind of threat at all, you have to wonder what some officers are doing and why.

The day two police officers killed Alton Sterling, a friend of mine posted something about it and said we should ask for investigations into such shootings and for the police to have some real accountability when they fire a gun for any reason. Someone then posted a hateful comment on her post, and added that when someone disobeys police, he or she should die.

I disagree. I get flustered when police ask for my license and registration. And I can’t imagine how much more flustered you would get if you didn’t have one or both after getting pulled over. Or an officer approached you on foot and you were intoxicated or you had previously had some run-in with an officer. Would you be so scared you might not respond to a command immediately? Would you struggle when they shoot a Taser at you or start hitting you? Would you be so afraid you might try to run or drive away?

Just this morning, a man who reportedly was complying with an officer by getting his driver’s license out of his pocket was shot and killed as he sat at the wheel of his car. Philando Castile was the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016, The Washington Post said, citing its database that tracks such shootings. Of those victims, 123 were black, The Post said.

I was not at any of the police-involved shootings that have happened this year. So I admit I don’t know all the facts of any of those cases. But I know that even one person who shouldn’t have died at the hands of police but did is one too many.