Add This

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A plea from Banda Aceh

The world seemed suddenly very small when I learned of the earthquake and tsunami in southeast Asia. My immediate thought was of my newfound friends living in the region. Although they are devastated by the losses, they are responding quickly to the need for relief and supplies. This urgent message asking for help arrived today from my colleague Eddy Suprapto, president of the Alliance of Independent Journalists in Jakarta, Indonesia.

He writes:
"The disaster, which occurred on December 26, 2004, also hit eight Asian countries and seven African countries, has been estimated of claiming more than 80.000 death. According to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, it has been estimated that at least 45.000 people were killed in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

AJI, an organization of journalists in Indonesia affiliated to the
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has members in the affected areas, namely eleven (11) in Lhokseumawe and 25 in Banda Aceh and a security officer of the AJI office in Banda Aceh, excluding AJI members in Jakarta who have relatives in Aceh.

Currently, we are monitoring their existence and their families. From the latest report we received, all of AJI members in Lhokseumawe have been found safe, while in Banda Aceh, only nine (9) people have been found alive, and 17 went missing.

Therefore, we call on the community to participate and provide assistance for our colleagues who become the victims. Financial assistance can be sent to:

Account Number: 446-1479


Name of Bank: BNI Senayan Branch


Address of Bank: Jl. Gatot Subroto Kav. 55
Central Jakarta 10210

Other assistance can be sent to:
Secretariat of AJI Indonesia
Jl. Danau Poso Blok D1 No. 29
Bendungan Hilir Jakarta
Indonesia 10210
Phone: +62-21-5790-0489 / Fax: +62-21-573-4581

Jakarta, December 30, 2004
The Alliance of Independent Journalists
Eddy Suprapto

For further information, you can contact us at:

The Jakarta Coordinating Post
Eddy Suprapto (62-818-774-724)

Ulin Niam Yusron (62-818-912-361)

Abdul Manan (62-818-948-316)

Lensi Mursida (62-815-943-5493)

Yulia Siswaningsih (62-815-1322-0269 or

Lina (62-812-839-0035)

The Banda Aceh Coordinating Post
Nani Afrida (62-812-696-0395)

The Lhokseumawe Coordinating Post
Zaenal Bakri (62-811-671-971)

Ayi Jufridar (62-811-672-648)

The Medan Coordinating Post
Dedi Ardiansyah (62-815-3313-0251)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

My holiday wish for you

Hard to believe the year is coming to a close. At times it seems as if it were just yesterday that I left the comfort and security of regular employment to launch my own thing. Other times it feels as if I've been doing this forever.

Once again the start of the year finds me with some interesting opportunities. But before I make decisions about where my career takes me next, I'm going to take what remains of the year, unplug and spend time with my family and friends.

It's easy to get so close to and consumed by work that we can forget what's most important in our lives — in my case, the love of three little boys, my husband, my extended family and many friends and colleagues.

My wish for you this holiday season is that you take time to unplug from our electronic world and frolic in the snow, go ice skating, read something you enjoy, tell stories by the fire, take an afternoon nap, give extra firm hugs, and remember to tell the ones you love just how much they mean to you. Because the greatest gift we can give is our time. As the French playwright Jean Anouilh wrote: "Love is, above all, the gift of oneself."

I look forward to picking up our conversation in January, dear reader.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Confessions of a Christmas snooper

They get it honestly. I was the best of the best when it came to snooping for Christmas gifts. I shouldn't really care. After all, it's their surprise they've blown, not mine. But I am a little bummed and I think the boys sense they've let me down a bit. (Although that's not likely to keep them from snooping in the future. I know it wouldn't have stopped me.)

No one ever tells you how short of duration is the whole Santa Claus magic for parents. It can be as short as 8 or 10 years. And the age drops with each successive kid. Ryan and Patrick are, of course, on to the whole mom-and-dad-as- Santa scene. But keeping it real for Michael is proving to be a greater challenge this year.

That's because my snoopers obviously did not inherent my finest snooping quality — stealth! I had the ability to sniff out the most bizarre hiding places. I grew up in an old house (built in the 1920s) that had a creepy old basement. For several years, my parents took to hiding our Christmas gifts in a back storage room for which you needed a skeleton key to enter. It was sort of a crawl space, reeking of mildew. My heart pounded wildly whenever I turned the key, my overactive imagination sure that the basement troll (or my older brother) would pop out and frighten me. Did that stop me from snooping? No, sir.

We had a pop-up Starcraft camper that my dad kept in our equally creepy (and dark!) detached garage. One year, I found the keys to the camper in the junk drawer and decided to check it out. I crawled inside (since it was kept in its lowered position) with flashlight in tow and there I found the treasure trove of Christmas gifts.

I'm not sure if my parents knew of my activities. I believed that my movements were so stealth-like, with everything put exactly back in its place, that they never knew. After my boys' activity this morning, I'm guessing maybe they knew all along and just didn't say anything.

I'm not sure why I was compelled to snoop. I know that I'm not proud of my activities. My mom and dad always did their best to make Christmas special for us, despite some lean years. And they always succeeded. Looking back, my snooping leads me to believe that I doubted their ability to know my heart's desire, which is silly because they always knew.

And that's a little what I'm feeling today, that my boys doubted my gift-giving prowess. So I'm left today trying to figure out why I did what I did. And here's what I've come up with: I think on some level I don't like to be surprised. I like to be the one doing the surprising and I like to have all the information (it's the know-it-all in me).

Of course, I'm also sure there's a very big part of me that proudly (and perhaps wrongly) believes my loved ones incapable of surprising me. I fancy myself quite gifted at picking up signals whenever plans are underway. And maybe that's why my loved ones don't bother. I ruin their pleasure or they're afraid of disappointing me.

It's been a long time since my husband and I have exchanged gifts at Christmas. It's pathetic, I know, but we always seem to have a good reason. We're saving for a new house, renovating the kitchen, buying new furniture, carpet, TV, computer, bedroom suite, fill in the blank…. But while we were out on our annual shopping excursion for the boys this weekend (actually while we were sitting at the bar at the new Hoggy's at Crocker Park), we came to realization that we've got to change our ways — in many ways — in 2005.

Maybe it's a little early, but here's to a better year in 2005! And here's to learning how to enjoy life's little (and big) surprises.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Citizen journalists

A fellow panelist from the Trends in New Media panel in Korea was Oh Yeon ho, CEO and founder of OhmyNews,an online news organization driven by citizen journalists, or what he calls news guerillas. Launched in February 2000, it is, according to Mr. Oh, now the Internet's largest newspaper with 33,000 citizen reporters and more than 35 full-time reporters.

Mr. Oh founded OhmyNews in response to the massive media power wielded by big media in Korea. "Our weapon is the proposition that 'Every citizen is a reporter.'" And its working since the site has rapidly grown from its initial 10 reporters and 700 news guerillas in just four short years.

Here's how this two-way journalism works:
Anyone can register and contribute to OhmyNews, but must first agree to its code of ethics, agreeing to only write facts and not slander. Of the 150 to 200 posts received, about 80 percent will be accepted. Those whose work is accepted receive a small fee (20,000 won or $17), but Mr. Oh is very clear that these citizen journalists are not writing to make money: "They are writing articles to change the world. We give them something that money cannot. We make OhmyNews a public square and a playground for the citizen reporter and readers. Traditional papers say, 'I produce, you read' but we say 'we produce and we read and we change the world together.' That's the power of Ohmy News.

It certainly has clout. Right after the 2002 South Korean presidential election, Ohmy staff reporters got an exclusive interview with President Roh Moo Hyun. "This surprised not only the Korean media market, but also the whole nation," said Mr. Oh during his presentation. It was the first interview the president-elect granted to the domestic media after his election.

In March of this year, 200,000 people gathered for a candlelight ceremony in the center of Seoul to express support for President Roh (who was being threatened with impeachment), an event covered by 20 staff reporters and several citizens reporters. Using text, photo and video, Ohmy published a special edition of the weekly paper. "We broadcast the event live on OhmyTV and updated text articles every 30 minutes during the six-hour demonstration," said Mr. Oh. "About 400,000 OhmyNews readers participated in the demonstration online and more than 80,000 comments on the one issue were recorded on our site. With this kind of coverage, OhmyNews is challenging and changing the traditional media formula of how to write and how to edit." Oh showed footage of the demonstration, which clearly shows what real-time reporting should be.

But is this a successful venture? According to Mr. Oh, the Sisal Journal survey of media ranked OhmyNews the sixth most influential, up from 10th in 2000. And last year the site broke even financially.

Mr. Oh talked about why this concept took root in South Korea and noted several things:

• Korean readers have been disappointed by the mainstream conservative media and have sought alternative sources.
• Korea's Internet infrastructure is superior to most other countries — 75 percent-plus broadband penetration allows for easy use of multimedia.
• South Korea is small enough in size, allowing a team of staff reporters to reach news scenes in a few hours to verify citizen journalist articles. Yes, that's right they are edited and checked for accuracy.
• Korea is a "uni-polar society," meaning the entire country can be engulfed by a couple of issues, making the news guerilla approach particularly effective.
• Korean citizens were ready. They are young, many in their 20s and 30s, active and reform-minded.

And that young, smart, sophisticated and information-hungry population is now driving how news events are covered, in some cases actually participating in the coverage.

Now it seems there may be a citizen journalist site taking root here in the states by none other than Dan Gillmor, a veteran newspaper journalist and tech writer for the San Jose Mercury News. According to this piece on the recently launched OhmyNews International, Gillmor is leaving his post to start a citizen journalist venture. In his Dec. 9 blog he wrote: "I hate the idea of leaving (the newspaper). But I'd hate not trying this even more."

"I hope to pull together something useful that helps enable — and demonstrates — the emerging grassroots journalism that I wrote about in my recent book (We The Media, 2004). Something powerful is happening, it's in the early stages and I have a chance to help figure this out."

And we'll be watching closely.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Creating a Christmas card

Every year I wonder if I'll have the time, energy and inclination to send Christmas cards. And every year after I've decided there's not enough of all of the above, I start to feel that familiar twinge of guilt. It usually begins right after Thanksgiving and persists as I open card after card with adorable kids' photos and news from friends and family afar.

And so I decided again that there are simply too many people scattered across the country that deserve at least to know that they are in our thoughts as the year draws to a close.

Since Ryan and Patrick were very small, I've always done a photo card. The many aunts and uncles, cousins and friends enjoy seeing how they've grown. But as the boys got older, I was running out of original ideas. I took to getting a group photo on our summer vacation, which worked well because we were usually at the beach, the boys were happy and I could snag them for a few moments without requiring a change in outfits.

But we didn't vacation this year. In fact, the sad truth is that we never once made it to a beach this summer — surely a Hoke family first (and something not to be repeated). While I still had my neighbors digital camera after Korea, I took to taking a few photos of the boys, very random, very unplanned. And the one I chose for this year's card is now on my desktop and makes me smile whenever I sit at my computer. I sent it to Danny at work and he said it makes him smile as well.

The boys aren't dressed in any holiday finery. Honestly, my guys don't do holiday finery. They will grace their grandparents' presence on Christmas Day with a pair of wind pants or jeans, though I'll insist on a pair without holes. In fact, they are in sweatshirts or T-shirts, but it's their faces that make this photo. All three are smiling naturally (as opposed to the typical teeth-clenched "are we done yet?" grin). Ryan is looking every bit the pre-teen he is. I see an older, teenage version of Patrick in his maturing face and little Mikey...well, he's kneeling behind his brothers but has him arms around their shoulders and a big grin, the same dimple as his dad revealed in his cheek. Around his mouth are remnants of the chocolate cake he had for dessert that night. And visible on his chubby little fingers are the marker stains leftover from school.

I know plenty of moms who would die of embarrassment or freak if they saw the photo. Not me. That's Mikey — messy face and all. And that's my boys when they are relaxed and enjoying each other's company.

Anyone who knows them will probably smile when they open their card … just like Danny and I do when we look at the photo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Katie, Katie, Katie — pull-eeze!

I never turn the TV on the morning. It's too much of a distraction for the kids and since we're always pushing just this side of tardiness, I can't afford to have them distracted from the morning routine for nary a moment. But, since it was a snowy night, I thought I'd turn on the Today show and scan the crawl for any closings. No such luck — for the kids anyway.

But there was Katie Couric, about to interview Jim Carrey about his role in the new kids' flick, "Lemony Snicket." If you have a kid somewhere in the age range of 8-12, I'm guessing you know of what I speak. Patrick, at age 10, is very into those books right now and he's going to see the movie with our neighbor on Friday. Thought I'd see what Carrey, who has my newfound respect as an actor after watching him in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," has to say about the movie and his role.

Instead, I nearly gagged as Katie giggled her way through a waste of airtime. Carrey can be thoughtful in his remarks and, clearly, he had something to say about this role. But Katie either giggled over him or tried to inject her theories on child pyschology through literature and film instead of letting the poor guy respond. The interview was about Katie (who I think was actually flirting with Carrey), not the movie. It was embarrassing to watch, both as a woman and a journalist.

Now, I can't reveal anything else, but I will share this quote from the current spirituality book I'm reviewing. I think it cuts to the core of our humanity:

"If your life is not flowing, stop stepping on the hose."

Friday, December 10, 2004

This one's for the girls

Okay, ladies, let me say one thing about my experience in Korea that I found, shall we say, “less than.” Our Asian counterparts are not quite with us when it comes to equal treatment of women.

My SPJ colleague and fellow freelancer, Sally Lehrman, warned me about this. She said it’s not necessarily an overt anti-female feeling, it’s found more in the subtleties. But since I was both American and a speaker at the conference, she guessed that I wouldn’t see it quite as much.

But see it I did. My first inclination was the first day we were in Korea. When I researched the hotel beforeheand I saw it had a fitness center and decided to bring my running gear along. Figured I was on a roll running about five miles a day in the month leading up to the trip. It would be nice to keep it going at least once or twice while in Korea.

However! When I visited the fitness center, two young Korean gentlemen, who barely spoke English, informed me, “No women. Men only.”

“You’re kidding!” I responded, laughing.

Oh no, they most certainly were not kidding. So when my friend Mac came to breakfast the next morning after his workout I snipped, “Hope you enjoyed it because some of us aren’t allowed in the fitness center.”

I was on a mission that first day to learn as much as I could about how women are treated. Our tour guide, Erin, informed me that most young Korean women today are more career-minded. So times they are a-changing, however slowly.

But when I was getting in an elevator in the Korea Press Center to return my camera to my hotel room, I was startled at how I was pushed aside by Korean men who sought to both enter and exit before me. Apparently holding the door, the elevator, etc. is not required or expected. In fact, it’s not unusual to get bumped about on the sidewalk as well.

While visiting a Hyundai Motors production facility, we walked into a state-of-the-art auto factory and found an elderly woman on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. This in a factory that prides itself on being 90 percent robotic. There were hardly any women working in the facility. As our young male tour guide told us, they have to stay home with the family. Of course, he also pointed out a hot new red sports car Hyundai manufactures and said, “You can use it to pick up girls and get lucky.”

Sonya, Ann, Susan and I all looked at each other horrified and amazed!!! We had headsets on so we could hear him and not the noise from the plant.

“Did he just say get lucky?” I shouted to my journalistic sisters, my mouth hanging down to the cleanly scrubbed floor (no doubt by someone's Korean grandmother).

I must say, however, that there were times when I was included in the all the male fun and I think it’s because I was one of the only women to present at the conference. My colleague, Inday Espina-Varona, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines was scheduled to speak about the wretched state of safety for journalists in her country, but was unable to attend due to the murder of another reporter.

And one member of the Vietnam delegation, whom Mr. Kang proclaimed the most beautiful woman at the conference, gave her country’s report because her English was better than the head of the delegation.

I, however, was called upon to give toasts, several of them. “And now we have a toast from Mees Wendy.” It was great fun and I’m delighted they included the women in the fun.

There’s no question that we left our Asian colleagues with a very positive glimpse into our brains, energy and enthusiasm for journalism, Korean culture and certain kitschy '70s tunes.

And that’s a pretty good thing. Upon returning home, my friend Ann Augherton and I both received e-mails from the Koreans addressed: Dear Wendy Beauty and Dear Ann Beauty.

On a completely unrelated note. I couldn’t pass up sending you here for Jon Friedman of CBS Marketwatch's best and worst of journalism 2004. Here are a couple of highlights to tempt you on:

“KEEPING THE FAITH: To Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker. His reporting about the Iraqi prison-abuse scandal at Abu Gharib represented the best work by any journalist this year. (Amen!)

CLASS WIT: To the creators of Their Bush-Kerry skit, to the tune of "This Land Is Your Land," is my favorite memory of the 2004 campaign. (Good for a few giggles, particularly the Hillary cameo at the end. Caution: You may find your 5-year-old singing, “You’re a right-wing nut job” in the wrong company.)

THE FUTURE - MAYBE: To you blessed bloggers everywhere. (You bet, baby!)

MURDERERS' ROW: To the columnists at the New York Times. To the disgust of the "red-state" mindset, I think there isn't a more gifted group anywhere in newspapers.” (Ditto!)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A prayer for Terry

May God watch over you today as you undergo surgery to remove cancer. May he guide the skilled hands of your surgeons to find it all. And may he protect you from any in the future. Give Terry the strength of mind and body to recover fully. And keep watch over Kim and Mitchell as they nurse you back to health. We are blessed to have you in our lives and call you friend. May God continue to grace us with your life and love.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Widening my perspective

On the drive in to Seoul from Incheon International Airport, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I expected an exotic experience and even though it was 10 at night, the sites seemed all too familiar. The expressway looked similar to any other expressway in the U.S. Signs on the highway were the same Crayola green as in the states.

As we neared the city limits, one of the first establishments to pop into view was an Outback Steakhouse, that Aussie-inspired (though Tampa-based) bastion of the bloomin' onion. Closer to our hotel we chuckled at the Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC, but delighted in the proximity of Starbucks. One can never be too far away from Starbucks and a grande café mocha.

Ah yes, how delightful to see such wonderful Western influences as Domino’s Pizza, the Coffee Beanery and Tea House and, of course, McDonald’s. This is America’s influence in the world. One has to believe there must be a market for such eateries in foreign markets or they simply would not survive.

Our influence, I've come to believe, was evident on a deeper level — in the dogged pursuit of freedom, particularly press freedom. And that’s one of the very best exports we can model. Our colleagues in Asia are the freedom fighters of their day, pursuing freedom with no less fervor than our forefathers did, often at great risk to themselves or their families.

It’s inspiring and humbling in a way. But if my week in Asia — not nearly long enough to explore these relationships in detail — revealed anything it’s that we share more in common with humankind than not. We all want to support our families, engage in work we love, find opportunities for learning, worship our God or no God, and ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Are there differences among us? Absolutely! But it’s those differences that can also serve as bonds of strength between us.

I’m an eternal optimist and I confess it emerges more strongly at this time of year than others. My hope for 2005 is that Americans take more of an interest in the larger world. No human is an island and certainly we can no longer afford to think ourselves as independent from the rest of the world.

So take a little time in your day and read a bit of news from outside our country. Travel if you can. Talk to foreign nationals. Scour the ‘A’ section of your newspaper for foreign news. Read the national dailies more frequently. Pick up The Economist from time to time. Peruse the International Herald Tribune. Tune in to the BBC. Or simply visit Google News and search by geography.

You won’t be sorry. Your perspective will widen, you’ll start to frame questions in your own mind about how, why, where and when the U.S. is engaged in the world. For example, how involved was the U.S. in the Ukrainian elections? You might want to read this article in The Guardian. And don’t miss its newsblog, which I find better than anything U.S. papers are doing. For the most part, American traditional media are still wringing their hands while demonizing bloggers and are missing out on how to create a symbiotic relationship with them. But that’s fodder for another post and another day…

Haven’t checked in a while, but I was buoyed today by this horoscope of mine. Onward and upward, fellow Virgos!

August 22 - September 21
A business opportunity in a distant state, or perhaps even in a foreign country, could be in the works, dear Virgo. It could, however, require a lot of travel, or perhaps even relocation. You may have mixed feelings about it, but you're not likely to turn it down. This could be a real break! Your health over the next year should be robust and glowing, and you'll have the energy to take on just about any project you want. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Land of Morning Calm

When I left for college in 1985, a great aunt gave me a set of “worry beads” she had picked up at a Greek festival in Columbus. I wasn’t a worrier by nature, but I found that holding and twisting the cobalt beads was soothing in a very primal way. I still have them hanging on a leather strand in my office today, easily within reach.

There’s a comfort that comes in twisting and handling beads that has its roots, for me, in the rosary. It’s a way of occupying my hands, which always seem to need something to do, while allowing my mind to explore deeper thoughts — prayer, contemplation, dreams and even nightmares. I carry my rosary whenever I travel. If I’m feeling uneasy or simply thankful, I say a few Hail Mary’s, a Glory Be and recite my special travel prayer.

Korea brought out a different spirituality in me, a realization of just how connected and how similar we humans are. If I were to describe what I seek in terms of spirituality it would be a calmness of mind and spirit, even as I’m unsure if that is possible for me. My nature is more like a comet hurling through life, hoping to gather everyone along in my light. Though I wish to calm myself, I wonder if extinguishing that ball of fire would alter me unrecognizable or worse — extinct.

Nevertheless that doesn’t stop me from envying those who are of a quieter mind. Perhaps I feel they possess something I cannot — the meaning of life, the secret to happiness, the wisdom of knowing what's to come. I don't know if that's true, but it's what my hyperactive imagination believes. My Korean friends possessed that quietness and grace that eludes me.

While I am a born-and-raised Catholic, I find aspects of other faiths very appealing, particularly as I get to know more about them. The Jewish Day of Atonement and the peacefulness of Buddhism I find quite akin to my spiritual sensibilities.

Peace, calm and quiet were found at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju Province, even amid throngs of tourists. Originally built by Kim Dae-seong in 751 in honor of his earthly parents, it was restored to its present beauty in 1971. It symbolizes Buddha’s land on earth. As we entered the site, my new Korean friend, Mr. Park (himself a Buddhist), explained that we were walking along the path of enlightenment.

As we walked across the Haetalgyo Bridge, I stopped for a moment to take it all in. The day was glorious and the mountain view spectacular. To the right was a small trickling waterfall, to the left a reflecting pool with a tiny island in the middle.

We walked toward the main worshipping hall and up 33 very steep steps. Mr. Park explained that there are many steps to enlightenment, but that we cannot hope to find it in this world. We can get close but, ultimately, enlightenment is found in another world.

Mr. Park later wrote that his heart was opened by his newfound friendships. It seemed to me as if his heart already was open since he was so willing to share his country’s culture and history with us. He seemed to anticipate my questions. In the front courtyard of the main hall were two pagodas. “They are quite beautiful, aren’t they?” he said, walking up from behind me. Dabotap represents elaborate splendor of the mundane (or seen) world and Seokgatap represents the beauty of the inner spirit. It was hard not to feel the balanced elegance standing between the two.

Greeting us inside the courtyard was the monk with the friendly face whose chosen name was “One Who Swallows Stars.” If ever I could figure out how to post photos on my blog, I’d share a beautiful one of him.

I chose to explore the vast temple on my own, walking in and out of many conversations. Occasionally one of my Korean friends would find me and explain another point of Buddhism. A group of us(from Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia and Indonesia) even offered a prayer to Buddha for peace.

I slipped off my shoes and quietly walked inside a temple where the golden images of Buddha sat at the altar and the subtle smell of incense burned. We were not permitted to take photos once inside the worship hall and two highly efficient Korean women made sure we didn’t. There really was no need. It was a place you commit to memory more than capture on film. As we marveled at the centuries-old place of worship, a monk came in, unrolled his prayer mat and began his prostrations. I couldn’t help feeling a little as if I were intruding on something sacred, so I quietly slipped out and back into the courtyard.

I found Robert Leger (one of the many Catholics on the trip) carefully stacking rocks in a prayer garden situated in a shady side courtyard. These mini sculptures were each crafted in prayer and the hope is that the one whose sculpture stands will have his or her prayers answered. Similar to my beads it was occupying the hands with a task, while offering up a prayer.

Robert and I wandered over to the gift shop and perused the Buddhist artifacts. I can still see a painting of a beautiful Buddhist woman. I don’t know who she was or what relevance she had to the faith, if any, but her countenance was stunning. And then I found display after display of the wooden Buddhist prayer beads. I picked them up and rolled them through my fingers. They were larger than my worry beads and my rosary, but the effect was the same. I’m kicking myself now for not having bought them. Someone called my name for a group photo, the spell was broken and I never made my way back to that part of the temple.

Guess I’ll just have to return to get my beads.

Monday, December 06, 2004

In the name of freedom

The road leading to the Demilitarized Zone is called Freedom Highway, an oxymoron you realize as your drive toward North Korea. The late afternoon sun glints off the water of the Han-gang and the Imjin-gang rivers as the western banks expand and contract with the landscape. But posted every 500 feet or so are military guard posts — each manned with a South Korean soldier at the ready, rifle in hand. And between the lookouts, rolled barbed wire fencing line the highway and the riverbanks. Hardly a welcoming view.

If ever there was a place where I felt I was in a foreign land, it was in Paju City and the Dora Observation Post at the DMZ. Throughout the week I asked fellow journalists how they would describe what we saw and the word most frequently cited was "bleak." The land is spent, there's nothing for miles except rolled barbed wire, soldiers, jeeps and harvested rice paddies.

We stopped at Imjingak, oddly enough a mini-amusement park, where we had 10 minutes to see the Bridge of Freedom, where POWs marched from the North into the South after the armistice was signed. It doesn't look like freedom. It looks like a steel cage. As I raise my camera with telephoto lens, the guards in the post, lift their rifles in hand and start yelling, "No photo! No photo!" I snapped anyway as did most of our group. The photos are hazy and eerie and, though utterly unintentional on my part, convey the bleakness of the region. In one photo, an empty train is emerging through the bridge, but from where?

I was unable to see the faces of the soldiers while driving up Freedom Highway, but once we got to the main Dora checkpoint, I looked out the bus window and saw the faces of boys. It made me shudder, mostly because I thought of my own boys still young and yet growing toward adulthood ever so quickly.

Once we passed the checkpoint, we were told we were no longer allowed to take photos. My colleague Terry Harper and I snapped photos of the checkpoint from inside our bus and some of them have a Zapruder-like quality to them. A military escort led us across Unification Bridge as our buses wound their way up the mountainside, dodging spiked barricades set up along the way. We passed minefields in which the only safeguard was a low wire fence and signs featuring skull and crossbones.

Once inside the Dora Observatory, we viewed a model of the DMZ and could look out the large windows into North Korea. Last year, the American delegation was singled out from the rest of the forum and taken into North Korea. That proved a source of contention among the other Asian delegates not permitted such access. This year, we remained with our Asian colleagues and viewed North Korea through the high-powered binoculars at the observatory.

Our guide told us that the South had posted billboard of propaganda aimed at North Korea, enticing its citizens to come over to the South, the land of freedom.

There's a haze that hangs in the air all over Korea. And that afternoon it was quite thick, making it difficult to see anything but a small building here, an empty shack there. We strained to see the North Korean flag and many tried to photograph it hanging in the stillness. I looked through my viewfinder and opted against shooting. I chose, instead, to record the starkness of what I saw in my notebook.

From Dora we went to Dorasan train station, a new state-of-the-art train station that President Bush visited not too long ago. I stood in front of the sign that says, "Pyeongyang 205 km" and had my colleagues snap a photo. There was no one at the station and then suddenly, as if on cue, an empty trained pulled up. It's part of the infrastructure the country is building for when reunification takes place — a goal many South Koreans support. But for now it appears ghostlike, with trains that go nowhere.

There's a new industrial complex currently under construction about 18km from the DMZ. It's known as Kaesong City and is a big effort of the South to bring commerce and industry to the North.

We think, here in America, that we understand issues of security. But I don't think our general population has any notion of what it means to have your very security threatened on a regular basis.

Though South Korea felt very safe to me — and at times very western — there is evidence of the fact that this is a nation still technically at war, though the armistice with the North still holds 51 years later. Lining the block on the street outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul (a very ugly building), are buses of police in full riot gear. Their job — their entire shift each day — is to remain in those buses, in that gear, in the event something happens outside our Embassy.

As we neared the Koreana Hotel after an excursion to the Korean Folk Village, I was shocked to see rows and rows of police in full riot gear at the ready. It was a startling site to my unitiated (or maybe naive) American eyes. There was a civil servant protest taking place and these officers were ready for anything. In the end, it was a peaceful protest, but it was a reminder of how a situation and indeed our very security can change in an instant.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Hold the kimchi

I'm an adventurous eater. There's very little food I don't like and even fewer I'm unwilling to at least try. But the Korean diet was, at times, a challenge. It's not that I didn't enjoy the food, but I was never really sure what I was eating and so describing it has been a challenge.

Perhaps I was poisoned early on. A month before my trip, my brother-in-law told me about kimchi, Korea's national dish. I've been describing it as fermented cabbage, garlic and spices. But really it's any variety of salted vegetables (cabbage, cucumber, radish) covered with a mixture of fish oil, garlic, red pepper paste and spices. The mixture is put into giant clay pots and left to ferment for an indeterminate time. My brother-in-law, who was in the Marines in Korea, claims kimchi pots were buried in manure in the ground and left to ferment. "It's nasty stuff," he told me. Somewhere in my subconscious, "kimchi = nasty stuff" must've hovered.

My Korean guidebook says it can become addictive. Certainly it is served at every meal, including breakfast. But, the book says, "Most foreigners either love it or hate it." I fall in the latter category. Gave kimchi the old college try, but it's not for me — too spicy, garlicy, cabbagey, etc. Our tour guide, Erin ("It's a good Irish name, no?" she said), told us that McDonald's in Korea serves a kimchi burger. Yuk! (Erin, an incredibly good sport enduring the unending questions and dumb jokes from journalists, was eventually nicknamed "The Kimchita" by our colleague from Russia. And every group photo, of which there were many, evoked "kimchi" in unison from the subjects.)

Our first Korean meal was at the Korean Folk Village. The remaining two women in our party hadn't yet arrived, so Sonya Smith, a senior at Cal State U., Long Beach, and I bonded early. Our stomachs were iffy, and Sonya is a vegetarian, which proved an even bigger challenge for her as the week wore on.

We opted for a dish called, and I know I'll misspell it, bimbimbop. Essentially it is white sticky rice and vegetables mixed with red chili paste. It was delicious and Sonya and I could probably have survived on it all week. I was grateful to young Mr. Yu who, at that first meal, gave me a lesson in using the metal chopsticks that are the standard in Korea.

My other favorite dish was bulgogi, meat barbecued at the table. It was good when rolled into a dried seaweed tortilla with a little rice and spicy vegetables.

We ate all manner of treasures from the sea, some I enjoyed, others I didn't. Shark fin soup was a gelatinous mixture in need of seasoning and I think I had more problems with the texture rather than the taste. But I could have consumed gallons of pumpkin porridge. In fact, any of the vegetable dishes were truly wonderful.

My favorite place we visited, though we only stayed for a short while on the last night, was Suwon City. It's in the center of the Korean peninsula and, like much of Korea, combines an intoxicating mix of ancient and modern.

We enjoyed a traditional Korean-style barbecue dinner (no shoes and seated on the floor), which proved tough for some of the American men, but they managed. We enjoyed grilling galbi right at our table, beef-ribs seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, toasted sesame seeds and pears. It was delicious. And there were plenty of mashed potatoes so my friend Sonya had something to fill her shrinking belly.

Suwon also is known for Bulhui, what Koreans call healthy liquor. It's made from 12 medicinal materials, including red ginseng (one of the country's largest exports), mulberry and Chinese matrimony vine. They claim it gives no sign of hangover. Near as I can tell, they are correct. We drank many toasts and did many "love shots" with Bulhui and I felt fine the next day, a good thing considering we were flying out.

But as much as I enjoyed (mostly) expanding my palate, I found myself craving McDonald's french fries, something I rarely indulge in here at home. In fact, during my layover in Minneapolis, I made for the Golden Arches for a large fry and "Coca-Cola Lite" as they call it in Asia.

And when my husband asked what he should make for dinner the night I got home, I suggested something along the lines of hamburgers on the grill. He made pork chops instead — and they were delicious.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Down and out this week

Well, the traveling and holidays were bound to catch up to me sooner or later. And they did, with a vengeance. After a lovely trip to my sister's new house for Thanksgiving, I suspected we were in for trouble when Michael wouldn't sleep on the car ride home. He was talking incessantly because he was overtired.

By Saturday night, the flu bug set in and I spent most of the night walking the upstairs hallway back and forth from Michael's room to my room. By Sunday morning, I could barely keep my eyes open and would fall asleep on any chair.

When the alarm went off at 6 on Monday morning, I got out of bed, walked a few feet and said, "Oh boy" and crawled back into bed. Michael was already on the mend, but I had planned to keep him home from school. My hubby got the other two boys ready for school while I crashed again.

Not too long after he left for work I heard the garage door opening and Danny climbing the stairs to tell me that Ryan threw up in chorus and was home. So now it was me in bed, Ryan on the couch and Mikey running the show. He was terrific, fetching popsicles and water for his big brother, letting the dog in or out, grabbing an extra blanket or pillow or kleenex. At 5, Mikey was up to the task of taking care of the family.

I tried once or twice to get out of bed and at least check email, but my body felt like lead and I quickly had to crawl back under the covers. And then I remembered a conference call scheduled for 4 p.m. with what I hope will be a steady new client. Somehow, I muscled my way into my office, gulped some water and was able to successfully convince them of my enthusiasm for the project, enough that they are flying me to their offices in about a week.

All the while I was on the phone, my head was spinning and I was sweating profusely. But by the time the call ended, I was feeling slightly energized by the possibility. So I mustered up the strength to walk downstairs and engage in life again. I must have slept 20 of the previous 24 hours (no doubt due in part to leftover jetlag) and it was time for Mom to get back in the saddle.

Meanwhile my husband wisely kept his distance, heading to basketball practice and then to his basketball league. But then it was Patrick's turn on Monday night and Tuesday. As of yesterday, everyone was on the mend and today we're all back in action.

May you and yours stay healthy this holiday season. And if the flu should strike, let it run through your family with all due speed. It's the only way to deal.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Our eyes--and hearts--are opened

I am forever changed by my visit to Korea and much of that it owing to the people I met and the conversations we had. The first time this notion really hit me was when we arrived at the Twin Cities airport on our way home. We had maneuvered through customs and immigration in Japan and South Korea and were never made to feel as unwelcome foreigners. But from the moment Mac and I walked off the jetway and into the customs line, the difference was palpable. We both observed it instantly.

We are the big, ugly Americans, singling out foreign travelers and questioning them ceaselessly about where they've been, what they're carrying with them and the purpose of their trip. It was profiling at its worst. If that were my experience in Asia, I would not feel compelled to return. Customs agents operating like rent-a-cops were a complete embarrassment to our country. We were forced to pick up our bags, walk them less than 100 feet through declarations and then check them again for the flight home, something we were not asked to do in Tokyo.

I was on my cell phone when we got in line, calling home for the first time in seven days, when a customs agent (no doubt with short man's disease) comes up to me and says, "Ma'am, you can't be on the cell phone in here." What???

American airports are bastions of paranoia. No photos can be taken, no talking on the cell phone. After all, this is critical infrastructure. The Asian airports are far more sophisticated and modern in their technology and design than anything we have (not to mention a whole lot cleaner). Watching this crass TSA woman shouting to an elderly Asian man in a wheelchair, "Sir, you're going to have to walk through the security monitor" made me bristle. The screening area resembled a retrofitted fortress and was an utterly depressing welcome. There's an illustration of what you cannot bring into the states including a drawing of a bomb that resembles something Wile E. Coyote would be handed by the Road Runner.

All I could think was that we Americans, though victims of a horrific terrorist attack, really have no idea--still--what it means to live with threats day to day. The threats our colleagues in Asian countries face may seem small in numbers, but the impact is seismic.

And so it was with great interest that I read this column by David Shaw in yesterday's L.A. Times.

I was compelled to write to Shaw about the struggles I heard from our Asian colleagues. Throughout the afternoon on Nov. 18, we heard reports on the status of journalism and freedom of the press from all the participating countries. I was struck by the stories of our colleagues in Malaysia, Indonesia,
Bangladesh and the Philippines.

In fact, the Filipino delegation could not attend at the last moment because of the latest killings of journalists. But while these journalists decried the fates of their fellow colleagues, they remain ever-vigilant in their efforts to speak truth to power. It's interesting to note that in most cases, no one has been arrested, let alone charged, for these crimes.

Here's a brief rundown of some of the threats:
In Cambodia 11 journalists have been arrested or detained since 2002. Two
were under death threats and a third was tortured. A radio broadcaster who
criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party was
gunned down in front of his office.

15 Filipino journalists have been killed in the past two years. Only Iraq, a
nation at war, had more journalists killed this year. And the Philippines
is supposed to be a democracy.

In Bangladesh:
Anwar Hossian Appollo, asst. editor of the Daily Asian Express, was shot
twice in the head on Oct. 24 inside his newsroom by an attacker who stormed
the office.

Dipankar Chakrabarty, executive editor of Durjoy Bangla newspaper, was
murdered while walking home on Oct. 2.

Kamal Hossain, a correspondent for Ajker Kagoj, was killed Aug. 22 after he
had been receiving death threats.

Humayun Kabir Balu, editor of a regional daily, was killed in a bomb attack
on June 27.

Nabile Ahmmed, a freelance journalist, was killed on March 7 after he helped
police to ID some gang members.

Manik Shaha, of the daily New Age and a BBC correspondent, was killed when a
bomb was thrown at his head on Jan. 15.

During May and June, 108 Bengali journalists were tortured or harassed in 80
incidents of press bashing.

Shaw responded by calling it "a sad and tragic state of affairs." But the story doesn't end there.

In a flurry of e-mails exchanged since our return, I've wished my Asian colleagues Godspeed in their pursuit for a free press. Certainly we have serious problems here in the U.S., but as my colleague, Peter Lewis, of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. wrote: "I've returned home inspired by what we have in common and humbled by our courageous colleagues in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia for whom press freedom is all too often a matter of life and death."

And from Neil Ralston, a fellow SPJer and professor at Northwestern State University in Louisiana: "My main impression now is that the visit to another country has taught me as much about myself and the American culture as it has about the people in Korea. We Americans have much to learn if we want to stay ahead economically and otherwise."

Indeed. There was something utterly depressing about coming home to headlines of a NBA brawl in Detroit and our President acting like a cowboy, rescuing his Secret Service agent in Buenos Aires. Major stories in Korean papers focused on the the Korean won's appreciation (and the weakening of the U.S. dollar in foreign markets, a story you'll find in today's business section on page 3)and its impact on exports; the national university entrance exam, which is a huge deal for students and their families; and a front-page analysis piece on the impact of Condoleeza Rice as secretary of state on Seoul.

I'm not saying that this news is more important, only that it demonstrates what is perceived as important to the region. How important is an NBA game? What's more important about the the Asia-Pacific summit--that Bush mistakenly thought he was John Wayne or that he squeezed the South Koreans out of the next round of talks with North Korea?

It seems I and my American colleagues are not the only ones who are changed. I received this response from my dear Mr. Park. "Are you changed? So am I. I have been too shy to make me known or "heard by singing" to people around me, particulary foreigners. Your open heart has contributed to the change in my attitudes. I'll never forget the happiest moments spent with you and your friends.

"I would like to show you a Korea felt inside when you make a second visit to Korea, the land of morning calm. Korea has undergone so many hardships ranging invasions from Chinese and Japanese to financial crisis. We survived, nurturing the ability to see hope in the face of adversity. You could find in the fragmented piece of a roof tile - one of the souveniors you have taken to America - the smile of perseverance and hope."

And that's what impressed me most: In the face of such horrific adversity there was unquestioning perseverance and boundless hope for a better future.

Monday, November 22, 2004

A life-changing trip

Fresh from my trip to Korea last week I'm still trying to process all the friendships, experiences and conversations I had. To say this was the trip of a lifetime is an understatement of the highest order. In the days and weeks to come, I'll do my best to share it with you. For now, I think I'll let the experience marinate a bit. Here are a few snippets that my jet-lagged brain can process.

• Though Asian journalists face challenges to their job (including threats to life and limb) that we American journalists cannot fathom, we all share a common belief that borders on the idealistic to do what is right and good and in the interest of freedom.

• That karaoke and boilermakers can promote peace among cultures. There's something about a roomful of people from Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and America all singing "Daydream Believer" at the top of their lungs that is singularly moving and unifying. There was a whole lotta love in the room.

• That we can all share a laugh. On a bus trip from Suwon City to Seoul (with all of us glowing from the after-effects of Suwon whiskey shooters), the jokes began. It all started with a delightful riff between the Australians and Americans, but quickly spread to include the Cambodians, Bengalis and Koreans.

• That I will never forget the generosity and beauty of my new friends at the Journalism Association of Korea. They taught us what it means to truly bring people together in the spirit of fellowship and learning and how to cross seemingly insurmountable cultural divides.

I am especially thankful to the many wonderful insights of Mr. Seong-Ho Park. He had a quiet manner, but never hesitated to share many cultural insights, whether we were discussing Buddhism, Korean food, our sons or the state of the press in Korea. And, admittedly, I'm a sucker for being serenaded. Move over Tony Bennett....

I am equally thankful to my family for enduring my absence so I could learn so much. And to my fellow SPJ travelers (Mac, Sonya, Ann, Susan, Terry, Robert, Irwin and Neil) who now feel more like family–my sisters and brothers in spirit if not in name-than mere colleagues.

Kamsahamnida. Thank you...

Friday, November 12, 2004

My gypsy soul

"In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag."
- W.H. Auden

Okay, the light at the end of the tunnel is nigh and I'm about to call an end to a hectic week. There's still much to do before departing the states, but the work portion is complete.

Now I turn my attention to making the ever-lengthening list of kids' activities, practices, homework, etc. to keep track of while I'm gone. And then it's time to pack.

I tend to check my horoscope before embarking on major events such as traveling, and found this one today:

Physically you might be feeling a little under the weather today, dear Virgo, but mentally you're flying high. Ideas could keep popping into your mind at a thousand miles an hour, sending you off into flights of fancy that could excite your creative abilities. This is a great day to read, or watch documentaries on TV, or otherwise feed your intellect. Whatever you learn could be of great practical use to you later.

I'm afraid I've spent most the day in my car, but the ideas do keep coming. I hope to share more on those in the coming weeks. For now, the only flight of fancy I'll be taking is the flight to Seoul, departing Cleveland at 8:55 a.m. Sunday.

I haven't really let myself get too excited about the trip until today and I am flying high. Someone is going to have to pull me off the ceiling and back to earth. It would be a hard task because my gypsy soul is singing, my friends. I'll be traveling until Monday night, but hope to be posting regularly on Creative Ink beginning Tuesday about my experiences in Korea.

This is wholly unrelated to the above post, but I had to share nonetheless. I just picked up Carl Hiaasen's children's book, "Hoot," for my boys. Here's a great interview with him in Miami's New Times. Hiaasen, talking about the journalism profession, states:

"You have to have a strong masochistic streak," he counsels. "You have to be able to say, 'I'm never going to be rich, but I'm going to be happy. I'm doing good work and changing people's lives.' You have to tell yourself that every morning when you go into the office, because every day this business is becoming less and less fun."

Reporter: That's some pep talk: Welcome to a life of diminishing returns! Now polish your lede.

"Well, being a journalist is also a legal way to work out a lot of problems," Hiaasen quips, flashing just the hint of a smile. "I look at it as free therapy.... If you can make people laugh, if you can take them along on this great ride where they're enjoying themselves, and at the same time get a few riffs in, if it sticks, fine. If it doesn't, at least you've got it out of your system."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Why we love Yeats

While sorting through the many stacks of books that now clutter my office, I happened upon a slim collection of poems by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, a master romantic. Thumbing through the pages I found this quietly beautiful, moving verse.


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false and true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Truth to power

This time next week I'll be sitting on a panel with the founder of Ohmy News, a professor from Korea's Ewha Womans University and the executive director of the Journalism Association of Korea's Journalism Research Institute talking about trends in the new media industry.

We'll be amid delegates from all over East Asia gathered at the Korea Press Center for the second East Asia Journalists Forum. I'm not sure what to expect of this event. I was asked to prepare remarks in advance, which I did and sent to Korea in October. My subject: "How Blogging is Shaping News Coverage."

Found it curious that at last night's program, "Media Ethics and the 2004 Presidential Campaign" at John Carroll University (sponsored by SPJ and the JCU Center of Media Ethics and Program in Applied Ethics) that most of the panelists spoke about bloggers with venom dripping from the corners of their mouths, nearly choking on the word.

I chuckled a bit because it was providing ad lib fodder for my presentation next week in Korea. Clearly missing from the panel was a blogger who could address some of the invective directed at them en masse by the four representatives of the traditional media and the token academic.

Their characterization of bloggers working in the middle of the night on computers in their rooms with no windows spewing vexatious lies was off base and missing the larger point: That bloggers are serving a readership, sometimes with clear point of view, other times without. And that the public, in some measure, and the media, probably to a larger degree, are reading them.

Many, though clearly not all, bloggers “devour information, making them a smart, skeptical audience. Any journalist who would not welcome that is a fool. Given a choice between a world of nonreaders zoning out with MTV or a posse of tart-tongued digital watchdogs, I say: Up with blogs!” said Chris Satullo, editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a Sept. 26 column.

Traditional media should fear not. It will always have a place. After all, it is traditional media that often provides grist for the daily blogging mill. The larger question is: Isn’t there a way for us all—journalists and bloggers—to get along?

I think there has to be. If journalists are to continue to serve the public, we have to find ways of delivering quality content in formats to which readers will respond. In the end, we’re all reporting on events. New media is simply another method for reporting.

The danger comes in the outbursts of both sides blasting one another. Journalists dismiss bloggers as non-journalist scum while the bloggers shout big media bias and monopoly at traditional media organizations. There’s an underlying friction and maybe a bit of it is healthy for the craft. As a blogger and freelance writer for traditional media, I would venture to say we need each other more than either side will admit.

There’s no question that there is power in blogging. They serve increasingly as newsmakers and news breakers, but also as the watchdog of the watchdog.

And if there’s any good to come of this, it’s that bloggers will continue to challenge journalists. In our hearts, journalists are fierce competitors and bloggers are pushing us to become better—at research, sourcing, interviewing, verifying and, yes, writing. Those journalists and news organizations with any foresight will figure out a way to create a symbiotic relationship between the two. The smart organizations are doing it already.

Journalism, regardless of the method of delivery, must survive “(Media conglomerates) enable the craft, but they also inhibit and cheapen it. What matters is that journalism survive, that the craft of speaking the truth to power with factual care not be snuffed out. Because power prefers lies. Without journalism, lies flourish and liars rule,” said Satullo.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Conversation with my soul

I can't remember a time when music didn't profoundly influence my life. It was always in my house. We had a piano, though sadly only my sister was serious about learning to play. She's now an elementary music teacher.

My mom played piano, my dad sang and whistled constantly. My older brother sang and played guitar and my younger brother played drums. As for me, I played flute for seven years and took voice lessons for a year. But there's more to music then what I learned at the B-W Conservatory of Music. It's helped define me at so many points in my life. I've come to believe that it opens a conversation with my soul.

One of my most favorite things to do as a child was to take my dad's stereo headphones and lie on the floor with my eyes closed listening intently to rhythms, melodies, harmonies and phrasing. My sister and I can still pick apart any melody and harmony. We could spend hours together harmonizing. At one point, music was so much a part of my life that I considered pursuing it in college. But I am much more an appreciator of music than a performer.

Though if you can keep a secret, I'll tell you that I've always harbored the fantasy of being a great jazz vocalist. While I have no problem belting it out alone in my car or in the company of my sister, I'm painfully shy about singing in front of anyone else.

Still, I've had some poignant musical moments in my life. The one that stands out most vividly was a trip my dad and I made to Educator's Music in Lakewood to get my flute repaired. I had a beginner's flute. It was all my parents' could afford. But I asked if I could try playing the gleaming open-hole flute in the display case. The salesman pulled it out of the case and I began playing a piece I knew by heart. My dad's eyes were rimmed with tears when I finished. "You play beautifully, Peanut," he told me. I wanted that flute so badly and I knew in that moment that if he could have, he would have bought it for me. And that was enough for me.

During my senior year in high school, I took voice lessons from a private teacher. By day, she was a teacher and mother of young children, but by night she was a jazz vocalist. I envied her dual life. Things she taught me still stick with me today. She would seemingly contort my body to get it to produce a beautiful sound, explaining where I should "feel" the sensation of singing. "The tip of your nose should buzz." And when I did it well, it did buzz. She would press in on my belly, forcing the power within to find a way out.

For reasons I didn't know then, I spent a lot of energy holding back. I was afraid of that power within and not simply the musical power. To a degree, I still am. But as I get older I realize that music has a spiritual verve that resonants in my subconscious and I find it's been a lifelong companion, at turns comforting and provocative, and yes—powerful.

So now I'm going to end my afternoon with a little Van Morrison, who always soothes me like "Tupelo Honey."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Values, day two

And on day two post-election the values impact continues. This New York Times op-ed by Garry Wills, an adjunct professor of history at Northwestern University, says Karl Rove’s approach shows “many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution.”

I don’t begrudge anyone their cultural, spiritual or political beliefs. But I am fearful of becoming a nation driven by one political agenda, one cultural view and one spiritual identity. As Wills points out:

“Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

“It is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other. We torture the torturers, we call our God better than theirs - as one American general put it, in words that the president has not repudiated.”

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Feeling ill

My heart is sick today in the aftermath of yesterday's election. It's no secret that I supported John Kerry for president. With a huge gulp, I suppose I have no choice but to accept the electorate's decision to give W four more years, though I have grave misgivings about the direction of our country.

But that's not what's making me most ill. It's that this election also saw complete control of the House and Senate in Republican hands, including the addition of some truly frightening right-wingers to the Senate. All I can say to Bush is that I sure hope he gets something done with this Republican sweep.

Districts have been redrawn in states like Texas, resulting in record numbers of Democrats losing their seats. The Democratic Party is quickly becoming irrelevant. The only bright spot is Barack Obama, who will be fighting an uphill battle every day as the only black member of the Senate. My heart is heavy and I wish I didn't care as much.

I was struck by exit polling suggesting the impact moral values played in the outcome. What does that mean in the context of a political election? Or cultural values? Does that mean we don't like anyone different from us and that makes us better people? And who ever said that George W. Bush has high moral values? Give me a break. If he's mister Bible-thumper then maybe he knows that line about "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The messianic fervor with which he leads is downright frightening.

And with Chief Justice Rhenquist suffering from an aggressive form of cancer, I don't even want to think about what will happen to the court. We may soon find ourselves living back in the Dark Ages.

Then there's Ohio, which despite the objections of its Republican governor and senators, approved the most far-reaching marriage rights bill in the country. Peter Jennings of ABC News felt compelled to read the ballot language on air. For the record, I don't need the state government to protect my marriage. It's a despicable law that I predict will be archaic in a few years. In the meantime, Ohio is fast becoming a laughing stock of a state.

The bottom line is that our country functions best when there is a balance of power. The scariest part of the next four years is that we don't have a balance. My hope is that in the next two to four years the Democratic Party figures out how it and its message can be more moderate and relevant to all parts of the country, not just the Northeast and the West Coast.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Frustrated idealism

I’m a frustrated idealist. There’s a huge part of me that wants to change the world, improve the human spirit and condition in life. But there’s also a dark side of me that often wonders, “Why bother?”

Quite simply, the answer to why is: If I don’t care, how can expect others to care? It's not in my nature to give up and walk away. And so that's why I'm feeling just a little buoyant on this election day. Even my children are engaged in the discussion and talking about what's at stake. And so, as I’ve done in every election since they were born, I will take them with me to see democracy in action.

The only difference is that this year I’m not optimistic that this election will be over tomorrow morning. The words "too close to call" keep echoing in my head. It saddens me to think that the chasm between left and right, red and blue will only deepen in light of today's results.

But just as any good relationship—personal or professional—involves a mix of skills and ideas, and diversity of thought, I’ll remain ever hopeful that our country can come back together to address the very real problems facing our future.

And so on the heels of this divisive campaign season, I’m looking at the glass as half full. Early reports from family and friends describe long lines at polling places. Though I've also heard of one story where a voter was harrassed about wearing a campaign button in the polling place. Surely engaging ever-larger numbers of the electorate must be good for our country.

I’m not alone in my hope. This op-ed from NY Times’ Paul Krugman reminds us that there is reason to hope in America.

“I always get a little choked up when I go to the local school to cast my vote. The humbleness of the surroundings only emphasizes the majesty of the process: this is democracy, America's great gift to the world, in action.

“But over the last few days I've been seeing pictures from Florida that are even more majestic. They show long lines of voters, snaking through buildings and on down the sidewalk: citizens patiently waiting to do their civic duty. Those people still believe in American democracy; and because they do, so do I.”

And so do I, so don’t forget to vote.

Monday, November 01, 2004

My friend the rock star

Jesus, Friday was one of those incredibly nutty days. Went from spending the morning in my son's kindergarten classroom to lunch with a high school classmate of mine. But this wasn't any friend, she's also the drummer for Kid Rock. We hadn't seen in each other in almost 20 years.

I met Stefanie Eulinberg on my first day of seventh grade at Roehm Jr. High in Berea. It was late October and my family had just moved from Cincinnati. I felt like the world's biggest hick coming into this huge two-story junior high. If I could have melted into the walls I would have. It was all so intimidating and everyone seemed to fast, so advanced compared to my little girl heart.

But Stef latched on to me and saved me from disappearing completely. We were in Mr. Ferlin's English class and this black girl in red overalls leaned over to me and said, "You know Mr. Ferlin gives his pants to me to hem in home ec." I looked down and saw him sporting a wicked pair of floods. I started to giggle and then panicked about getting into trouble on my first day. Stef saw my uneasiness, but she has made me laugh and she loves nothing more than that. Besides, I learned that day that Stef never seemed to get in trouble. Her sense of humor always got her out of a jam.

Her sense of humor hasn't changed much. She left a message on my cell phone while I was in my son's class saying, "Hello Wendy? This is Jean from Jeans R Us. Your jeans are ready." She was calling to say she's running late. No surprise there. And then she gets off the phone singing something quite beautifully, albeit unintelligibly.

So I found myself eating hummus and waiting for her at Aladdin's in Lakewood. I didn't mind that she was late because it gave me time to jot down some of my Stef memories.

Although we've known each other for 25 years, our lives couldn't be more different. I'm married with three children, she's a lesbian caring for her partner's two young children. I work more or less in isolation and she regularly rocks tens of thousands in arenas and millions in television audiences. I find myself on the sidelines of my kids' football games and she's at rock and roll parties with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Mark McGrath and Uncle Kracker.

And yet we found ourselves sitting together laughing like we were in girl scouts again. "We you always that tall?" she asked me. "Yep, you were always a midget," I replied.

She's barely five feet, kinda stocky, with pierced tongue, eyebrow and tattooed arms and I don't want to know what else. Oh wait, she did moon me in the parking lot later that night. When opportunity was there, Stef could never resist mooning. She's still as pigeon-toed as ever, which reminded me of a story we shared later that night (after two bottles of wine!). When we were at girl scout camp she told some of the girls she could make herself cry if they held her feet and ankles turned all the way inward. Stef did cry and they laughed, but they wouldn't stop. I kept telling them to stop because they were really hurting her. She remembered I was upset by their actions and she said it meant a lot to her that I stood up for her.

On a band trip to Iowa just after our junior year we were roommates talking late into the night every night. At one point she introduced me and many others to chewing tobacco. I nearly puked on the spot. But she never mocked my inability to handle liquor, cigarettes or chewing tobacco at 17.

She filled me in on her crazy rock star life, but admitted she couldn't keep doing it forever. Her hands hurt in the mornings and it takes a while to get them working again. The constant partying was getting old and yet it's what you do on the road. She wants to have a baby, she wants to move back to Cleveland and set her mom up in a nice house and she wants to have a music career that allows her a little more normalcy.

She offers to go pick up the boys from school in her Cadillac Escalade. I tease her that she probably needs a booster seat to drive it and she announces a Chinese fire drill in the middle of Detroit Road in Lakewood. And so I drive the Escalade back to my mini-van.

As we're getting ready to say goodbye for the night, she tries to talk me into coming with her to Detroit to Kid Rock's Halloween bash. I pass for obvious reasons. But we hug and promise to stay in touch. As I pulled away I realized that Stef always accepted me, well, as just me. And I'm thankful for her friendship.

Monday, October 25, 2004

What are you reading?

I'm curious, what do you read regularly? Check this out from Time Out New York.

And this is good news from the Wall Street Journal. It seems Dow Jones is going to offer free access to Nov. 8-12 in an effort to drive new subscriptions. That's good news because now viewers can decide after viewing the online content for a week if they think it's worth paying $79 year for a subscription.

Ticket to the world

My passport arrived in the mail last week. I've been trying really hard not to be too giddy but the thing is, that little blue booklet is my ticket to the world and don't think I'm not completely JACKED (as my boys would say) at the possibilities.

Suddenly there are no barriers to just hopping on a plane and heading to London for Christmas or Paris in April. Well, okay, maybe there's that huge barrier known as money. But in the eyes of the state department, I can travel the world.

Much of last week was spent preparing for Korea. I wrote a presentation: "How Blogging is Shaping News Coverage," and I booked my flight. It's a long ways to Korea, 7,333 miles one way to be exact. I'll be leaving Cleveland at 9 the morning of Nov. 14, will switch planes in Minneapolis for a long flight to Tokyo (though I've just learned that two of my SPJ colleagues also will be on that flight, making the 12 hours seem not so bad) and then endure three more hours from Tokyo to Seoul, picking up a few more SPJ colleagues on that flight. We arrive in Seoul at 9 Monday night.

We've got Tuesdsay to get adjusted before the conference starts on Wednesday. My 82-year-old Grandma called me Friday night and told me that jet lag is all in your head. (Apparently she told my late Grandpa the same thing when they spent a month on their Grand Tour of Europe 20 years ago.) "Just get outside and keep to a schedule and you'll be fine," she said. Gram originally called me to say she wanted to join me on the trip. I think she's very nervous about me traveling that far, but she's also excited about the opportunities. I've promised to give her a a full report over lunch when I return.

Now on to the next big Korea challenge—what to pack...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Struggling with the church

For many reasons I've struggled with my faith over the past few years. I am a born-and-raised Roman Catholic and (aside from my fours years in college) I've been a practicing Catholic all my life. But it's hard work. The personal, private side of my faith still sustains, but the communal practice—the "church"—has left me feeling raw. And that's not good, because celebration is a big part of the Catholic faith.

I find little cause to celebrate right now. And its largely due to the politization of Catholicism. Driving down Lake Road in Bay Village the other day I nearly veered off the road at the sight of a smattering of campaign signs that read: Catholics Against Kerry. What??!! Is this what our faith proclaims? That we are not FOR something (or someone) but AGAINST a fellow church member? And, gee, let me guess the ONE reason why?

My blood was boiling. How can you sit there in church on Sunday, send your children to Catholic School and profess to ascribe to God's all loving model and then throw a sign like that in your yard? Simply proclaiming your support of Bush/Cheney would suffice. Though I don't profess to have any hotline to heaven, I'm pretty sure Jesus would NOT approve of such slamming of individuals in his name. And what message does that send our children? That we are short-sighted enough to base our entire political belief—and our very important vote—on one issue, which really has little to do with the state of our country?

When it comes to issues involving the future well-being of our country, they are numerous and they are critical and they are being largely ignored in this election process. Life is not black and white and it's an ignorant viewpoint to base your decision on one issue. The wise voters will read varying viewpoints and make their own determination, not based on one issue, but based on their informed perceptions about who will do a better job of leading our nation.

Connie Schultz had an excellent column in today's Plain Dealer. She writes about Catholic women who are feeling hurt, betrayed and angry by their church. I can relate.

Connie writes:
"For weeks, Catholic women have written and called me, often anonymously … they want me to know their faith is important to them, that they attend church regularly and want to remain active in their parishes. But they also want to talk about how painful it is to sit in church these days because their wombs, and what they do with them, have become fodder for sermon after sermon meant to influence how Catholics will vote in this election."

As one woman told her: "It's not just what the priest says, it's all the propaganda that comes with it." I'm not sure if I believe the diocesan director of Pro-Life that these efforts are not directed by the diocese. I'd like to think that's true, but this is a diocese that has made it mandatory for volunteers at schools and churches to be fingerprinted if they spend more than four hours in the building. Seems to me the problems related to the sexual abuse scandal were largely (though not exclusively) at the hands of the clergy, not the parents who volunteer.

I know there are some who would say, "Leave if you don't like it." It's not as simple as just leaving, though I'm sure many are feeling forced out. My heart is eased and comforted by the rituals of the Catholic church. It's what I know and, for the most part, what I need. One of the greatest comforts is that both my mother and grandmother have shared similar feelings throughout their lives, sharing with me their own struggles with the church, not necessarily their faith.

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I believe in God as an all loving and merciful being (that's my New Testament leaning). And I believe that it's the church's role to pray for the wisdom, guidance and leadership of ALL our political leaders, period. Not any specific one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Out of the rut

"Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive." — Edith Wharton

This has been one of those weeks in which I've sought to break out of the rut. How easy it is to slip into habits—waking at the same hour, eating the same foods for breakfast, reading the same material and in the same order. It often takes a conscious effort to break those habits.

Rewards are plenty when you turn toward uncharted ground. This week I've engaged in different opportunities, including speaking to two groups. What a difference meeting with different people has on your outlook.

Last Saturday morning I spoke to the West Side Writer's Group on stretching your writing muscles. I was prepared to speak for about 20 minutes and then answer some questions. But this incredibly lively group of fiction writers and poets had many questions and the first time I looked at the clock, it was an hour-and-a-half later. We spent time getting to know each other, talking about what we read, what we write, what inspires us, what scares us.

Yesterday afternoon I joined two of my SPJ colleagues and a magazine editor in discussing freelance writing with students in a feature-writing class at Cleveland State. I loved hearing about the students ideas, their passions, their plans. And I was reminded that sometimes the best remedy for falling into a rut is to drag yourself out to the masses. It forces you to open your eyes to new possibilities. And it gave me ample inspiration to carry me through another few weeks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Good morning, Mr. President

As professional experiences go, interviewing a former president has to rank pretty high. Yesterday I had 15 minutes on the phone with former President Jimmy Carter. Admittedly I was a little starstuck at first.

"Wendy, I have President Carter on the line," said the publicist.

"Good morning, Wendy. How are things in Cleveland?"

"Good morning, Mr. President. Things are fine, wet and crisp as you'd expect in October." Phew! I got through that first comment without fumbling over my words. I was supposed to talk to him about his new book, which I did. But I had a world leader on the phone and felt compelled to ask him questions related to his work on behalf of human rights and freedom and to ask him to respond to his criticism of the Bush Administration. Here's what I learned:

1) He's not so soft-spoken in an interview situation. He was "handling" the interview quite smoothly just like most politicians. The worst experience I ever had interviewing a public official was with George Voinovich when he was governor of Ohio. I had to interview him the morning after Christmas and he managed the entire 45 minutes driving his agenda of "working harder and smarter." When I finally managed to get a question in about his record on education (he called himself the education governor and most in the education community took exception to that moniker), his handler said, "Governor, we have two more minutes." I nearly tossed my pen in frustration.

2) At the age of 80, I get the impression Carter's not holding back in life. He's advocating peace and democracy worldwide through the Carter Center, writing and traveling constantly. Of late he's also speaking out (to the dismay of Republicans) and publicly disagreeing with the Bush Administration's handling of foreign policy. (Many have questioned whether it's acceptable for a former president to question the commander-in-chief. I, for one, believe this commander-in-chief needs to be questioned more, not less.)

More recently he's charged that the election process in Florida (and he even mentioned Ohio) has not yet been been fixed. He's concerned about our loss of integrity in the election process (a point he apparently shares with local voters after listening this morning to WCPN's discussion with the head of Cuyahoga County Board of Elections). The Carter Center, which is in the profession of holding honest elections around the world, will turn its attention and standards for uniformity and integrity and balance in the elections process on its own country this year.

3) When I mentioned that I was traveling to South Korea soon, he told me to keep an open mind. (I think I can manage that.) He claims that the Bush Administration has driven a wedge between North and South Korea over those pesky nukes. It seems that many of South Korea's younger set favor reunification at any cost and, well, that just doesn't sit well with us Americans, what with our aversion to nuclear weapons, terrorism, dictactorships, etc. He heard President Bush describe how he was in the most dangerous spot in the world at the DMZ and Carter says he looked at his wife, Rosalynn and said "that’s where we built eight houses last year." Think I detected a touch of smugness in that remark.

Beyond feeling at his age he's entitled to speak his mind, I can't help but wonder if he doesn't have his own agenda. Who knows…? If John Kerry is elected president there may yet be a position for Carter as special ambassador to North Korea. Or for the Carter Center to be peace broker of the decade, thus earning it a much-coveted Nobel Peace Prize. Hmmmm…

Friday, October 15, 2004


My current favorite song is by John Mayer. I find the lyrics poignant to my life and filled with wisdom beyond this musician's years. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

"I know a girl
She puts in the color inside of my world.
She's just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change.
And I've done all I can
To stand on the steps with my heart in my hand.
Now I'm starting to see
Maybe it's got nothing to do with me.

"Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do.
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too.

"Oh, you see that skin
It's the same she's been standing in,
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she's left
Cleaning up the mess he made.

"So fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too.

"Boys you can break
You find out how much they can take.
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without warmth from a woman's good, good heart.

"On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the guide and the weight of her world...

"So fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do.
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Going international

Life has certainly taken a quantum leap in the last month. I have been invited to be a member of the Society of Professional Journalists delegation to Seoul, South Korea for the second East Asia Journalists Forum Nov. 14-21.

While there, my colleagues and I will be participating in a three-day exchange with journalists from that part of the globe, led by our counterparts in the Journalism Association of Korea. We've been asked to provide speakers for panels and I'll be speaking on a panel covering trends in the new media industry.

One of today's tasks was to turn in my passport application (which I had to pay out the nose to have expedited). As I pulled out of the Westlake post office parking lot it hit me: I'm finally going to see another part of the world. I'm thrilled and scared and trying my hardest to keep cool but inside my stomach is doing a little jig.

It was a trip that almost wasn't. I received the e-mail notice and nearly dismissed it out of hand. I mentioned it casually to my neighbor who looked horrified when I said I hadn't really thought about going. "I know you're not thinking about NOT going," she said.

I set about getting more information about the trip and discovered that I nearly passed up an incredible professional opportunity. I talked to my family about going and met with some resistance. It's not exactly the most stable part of the world and it's right before Thanksgiving and my oldest son's birthday. But I'll be home in time for all the festivities and, in the end, it was just too good an opportunity.

Our trip will take us across the U.S. and the Pacific to Tokyo and then on to Seoul. It's about a 20-hour flight across the international date line. In Seoul, we'll have lunch with the mayor of Seoul, visit the DMZ, talk about war and the role of journalists, hear from Christopher Warren (president of the International Federation of Journalists), dine with government ministers, visit historic Gyeongju and the Bulguk Temple.

My head is spinning. I've been asking everyone if they've ever been. Turns out two of my brothers-in-law have, and I've been duly warned about kimchi, a common delicacy of beef and cabbage in which the beef is slow-cooked in a clay crock buried in the ground amid manure. Yuk! Think I'll pass.

I've also been warned by one of the women who attended last year that the members of the JAK love their rice-based liquor and apparently imbibe with gusto at karaoke bars.

Warnings aside, everyone I talked to said it's an amazing experience, one not to be missed. And so, as my son Ryan told me, "Screw the terrorists." I'm going to Korea.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Long-term payoff

A good friend of mine once counseled that I must think about how I can solve a particular editor's problem, as in their need for good stories/ideas, etc. Of course I should've known this because I've been an editor with those very problems. But somehow hearing his words and "steady there" always seemed to set me in the right frame of mind for evaluating a potential project. And so whenever a new one wafts my way, he is the person I consult first. The reason is that he's never given me bad advice.

In fact, in a way he's been the one to gently shove me when I've hesitated and the one to cause me to ease off the gas when I'm a bit too jazzed. How can you thank a friend like that? It's impossible, really, except that you have to do what he espouses daily and pay it forward to someone else.

And that's exactly what I hope to do. Because the words he shared with me back in March and April, when I was still wondering if I had made the right decision about my career, are literally paying off for me now in terms of steady assignments.

There's not a professional situation I launch into these days in which I don't hear his words in my head: "Steady there," "turn this over in your mind a bit," "think about what problem you can solve," "how can you make a connection here," "how can you turn this into a positive for Wendy Hoke."

Though I consider him a friend, I suppose he's really been a mentor. The reason I bring this up now is that I've been reading and writing a lot about mentoring. I'm convinced that behind every successful individual is a mentor or mentors who were early observers of potential, and coaches for life. In a story I just completed, I asked CEOs of 10 companies about their mentors. All along the way, they were quick to credit someone who saw in them qualities that would pay off in the long term.

Although I'm still a long ways from my dreams, I take comfort in knowing that my friend and mentor is a phone call or an e-mail away, always the calm to my frenzy and the cheerleader to my doubting Thomas. And the constant reminder that I must be happy in small ways. With a little luck and effort, I hope to return the favor.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Contemptible decision

I’m pretty sure the average citizen could really care less about a federal judge’s decision to cite New York Time reporter Judith Miller for contempt for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA agent’s identity. But it shouldn't care less.

Just read this column from LA Times columnist Tim Rutten. He notes that “the Bush administration's war against the press entered a chilling new phase” with U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan’s decision.

Here’s an important excerpt:

“It's possible that only avarice makes corporate or governmental bureaucrats more ingenious than the inclination to secrecy. Faced with an embarrassing leak, why not demand that every employee who might have been the source formally waive any guarantee of journalistic confidentially? Anybody who declines might as well wear a sign that says, "Fire me. I'm the snitch."

“How long can it be before private corporations demand blanket versions of such waivers as a condition of employment?

“This country is now at war in part because our government acted on misinformation collected in secret and selectively disseminated. Miller and the New York Times were unwittingly complicit in that process.

“The fact remains, however that the road to Baghdad was paved with ignorance. Miller and her colleagues may understand this with a special clarity, but the 1st Amendment rights they defend are not theirs but the American people's. As they weigh the merits of Miller's case, Americans might ask themselves whether they'd like to know more or less about their government's conduct when they go to the polls next month. That's what this fight is about.”

And if you’re still not convinced of the urgency of this matter, I invite you to read Bill Moyer’s speech to the Society of Professional Journalists National Convention in September.

"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." — James Madison, fourth President of the United States

Panic relapse

It happened again two weeks ago. I nearly set myself down the same destructive path of stress that I sought to avoid by becoming my own boss. All the symptoms came rushing back -- the giant knot in the middle of my back, the chronic headaches, the hives, inability to sleep and a constant upset stomach. I thought I had learned the lesson that life is far too short to allow myself to be physically ill over work.

But I relapsed just as my counselor years ago warned might happen.

There simply weren't enough hours in the day to accomplish my work, let alone be a wife and mother. Granted all was complicated by the loss of my computer. Regardless, I was rapidly coming unglued. And when the pain in my chest started rising in the middle of a interview I knew I had pushed myself too far. Only this time I knew what was happening. So I sat in my car, took many deep breaths, put on a little Van Morrison and closed my eyes to the sun. I had a steady diet of coffee and Altoids for a week straight. It was time to get on the treadmill, drink plenty of water, eat well and not set foot in the office after dinner or on the weekends.

This weekend I spent a lot of time outside, playing with my boys. And it was just what I needed. Something about fresh air seems to clear the brain of all the clutter. I've come to some difficult decisions about some of the work I'm doing. I love writing. But the constant drain of one project was leaving my creative vessel utterly empty. And that's a frightening place for a creative person to find herself.

I was warned that the big steady paycheck may not be nearly enough for the time involved. And that's indeed the case. I've learned the hard way that I'll either have to substantially increase my fees or simply pass on the project in 2005.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Digging out

My computer is back with a new-and-improved hard drive and I'm beginning to dig out of the wreckage of a hectic week. Hope to be posting again later this week.

In the meantime, here's a little wisdom courtesy of musician Jack Johnson.

"Don't let your dreams be dreams,
you know this living's not so hard as it seems."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Deadlines and difficulties

Feeling pretty badly about not posting, but this is the deadline week from hell. And my hard drive crashed on Monday so I'm relying on the kindness of friends who are letting me hang at their offices and use their equipment. Hope to be back and posting on Creative Ink by next Monday.

Thanks for reading...