Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Week in Review

A nice relaxing weekend was shattered on Monday morning by the five a.m. alarm clock reminding me that I needed to be at work at 6:30 a.m. Well, that's the poetic way of putting it. The truth is that I was already partially awake when the alarm went off. Sunday morning I actually woke up at 5 a.m. sharp and got out of bed wide awake without the alarm. Admittedly, I took a nap a few hours later, but my body was up and raring to go at five. Monday... well, I wasn't dragging. Just slightly befuddled.

Sunday was also Mother's Day, which meant calling my mom. She and I chatted for a bit about the usual stuff before she asked about the wedding... and I said, "what?" and she realized that I was a different daughter than she thought I was. Heh. At least I know with absolute certainty that she treats us the same! Having four sisters, I sometimes wonder. In any case, she said I sound exactly like my oldest sister. I also, apparently, sound exactly like my youngest sister. So that's two vocal doppelgangers in my life. Heh. Mom said when she and her sister went to an event together, the other ladies complained that they couldn't tell which sister was laughing because they both laugh exactly the same.

No problem getting my shower and breakfast, although I couldn't eat much. Just too early still. Eric and I plotted on Saturday and I made some snack packs for after deadline this week with beef jerky (boy is that expensive!), Pirate's Booty and little packs of raisins. I packed up six of the suckers and took them to work, since everything in them is shelf-stable.

I played with the cat a bit Monday morning, since it was early and he is still very confused by me getting up at 5 a.m. While I was 'netting and trying to ignore him, he started making his "intruder in the yard!" sounds, so I got up to look. There was a new cat in the back yard, a cream-colored one with a pinkish-purple collar. It came right up to the sliding glass door when I tapped on the glass then tried to smell me through the glass. Inkwell was furious. Then both Inkwell and Creamy's heads snapped in unison to the corner of the yard. It was the phantom shadow cat, who bears a distinct resemblance to Inkwell but is definitely a stray. He glanced at Creamy and then just continued on his way, unconcerned. Inkwell raced to the window two rooms over to get a better view. Creamy vanished from the yard. Just a little morning drama for me.

I was the first reporter into work on Monday, at our new 6:30 a.m. report time, by about three minutes. Ha. Despite having sent e-mails Sunday afternoon to my coaches, there were no responses and the police logs either hadn't been posted or didn't have the comments yet, so there was literally nothing for me to do. We'd been so careful about making sure we were ready for Monday that we left little to do if the folks on the other end didn't come through. Oh well. About 7:15 I finally got my first coach e-mail and started writing up the track report. Then comments from my local police that I cover came in while I was writing that. After getting those done, I had to wait again for the sheriff's log to be posted, and fortunately my other coach responded at 8:15 a.m. But I didn't complete everything until 9:15... missing the deadline by 15 minutes. Ouch. It was mostly out of my control, but it was still frustrating.

I had my snack after deadline and learned that Pirate's Booty doesn't play well with raisins and jerky. Storing them in the same container isn't a good idea. The Pirate's Booty had gotten a bit chewy and tasted a bit like jerky. Not horrible, but not as good as fresh Pirate's Booty.

Eventually I went to lunch with my brain in a muddle, trying to work out my schedule for the rest of the day. With a city council meeting Monday night, I was expected to leave work a bit early. But I also had dairy stories to work on, which meant I needed to get some afternoon time in. The house was warm and muggy and Inkwell was unhappy. I got the brush out and gave him a thorough brushing, which he seemed to appreciate. I headed back to work after a long lunch, deciding to split the difference and see if that helped. After an hour back at work cleaning up the morning messes and getting stuff ready for Tuesday, I headed out to get an interview, which went better than expected.

A bit later I went to the local health food store to see if I could find that awesome raw honey that I got a sample of at the meet a farmer event. When I entered the store, it looked completely different than the last time I was there, which was for an interview about a reflexology doctor working out of a section of the store... which was a medical supply store at the time. The supply store closed, the health food store moved in, and this was the first time I went in since the change. The reflexology office was still there, everything else was changed. I talked with the clerk, who pointed me to the honey, and found the good stuff right in front of the door. I cringed at the price a little, but frankly, $6 for a half-pint of REAL honey isn't too bad. A cup of honey can last a long time if you are careful and don't waste a drop.

One of my other assignments for all this week was to check each day for people who have filed as a candidate in any of the local races up for election this fall and do a report, with quotes from people if possible. I'm splitting the job with a co-worker, and we determined there are 25 races to follow. Six people filed on the first day, including one in our city who was the very first person in the county to file. My co-worker tackled the job of contacting people and getting quotes for the first day, but I noticed when I got home from the interview that I had an e-mail from my co-worker asking me to interview one of the candidates if she showed up at city council.

That wasn't my only job at council. I was also asked by the editor to get a picture of the pastor saying the opening prayer, and also to interview a new employee if he showed up. The pastor in question didn't show, but the new city employee and the candidate both showed up, so I did two very quick interviews before the council meeting, which actually turned out to be somewhat fun. The meeting itself was shorter than usual, and the main topic was a presentation on emergency management. There were two new pieces of information in the presentation, so it made for a good lead story. Leaving after a shorter meeting is also refreshing, and I got home in a good mood.

The weather... hot and muggy. Add in some rain Monday night, and I was unable to sleep for a good portion of it. I got up with the alarm on Tuesday and stumbled to the shower, determined to get to work a little early, before 6:30, to get a jump on my city council stories. I got to work about five minutes early, with one of the other reporters ahead of me. Meh. It was not my finest hour. Still, I made the new deadline thanks to a very short county sheriff report. After deadline, snacktime. Then I started work on stuff for Wednesday and Thursday. And, surprisingly, got a lot done before heading off to lunch. I even finished work on the photo page for Thursday, of the wildflowers of Mount Rainier. It's always good to get assignments finished a day early.

Tuesday afternoon I headed to the baseball game at the local Christian School. A half-hour after the start of the baseball game I needed to head over to a softball game for the high school, so I hoped to get my photos quickly in the first inning of the baseball game. There was a light drizzle and a cold wind. On my way to the game, I drove to the four-way stop near the baseball field and stopped. I was turning right. A car came through the intersection from my left, and I was about to turn but a kid walked into the crosswalk where I was turning so I waited for him. Another car at my left didn't wait and nearly hit the kid as the car raced through the intersection. The impatient driver also nearly hit my car, as I was pulled out a little waiting for the kid to pass. I grumbled some choice words at the driver of the other car as I finally made my turn. I watched the car turn ahead of me into the parking lot for the game. I tried not to look, I didn't want to yell at the driver. Whoever it was opened the truck of the car and so I headed out to the field, figuring it was a parent getting a chair out. When I looked again, it was the umpire pulling on his gear. Yup, I watched the ump nearly kill a kid in a crosswalk.

I got into position, figuring the game would start soon, right? It was 3:30 and I snagged a roster from the scorekeeper then watched as the ump came up, said something to one of the coaches, then headed back to his car...where he took off his gear and got on his cell phone. What? The home team coach said, "he's calling the other ump." and I realized that, this being a high school game, there are usually two umpires. Only one had shown up. The ump came back over, with his gear now removed, and told the coach the other umpire would arrive in ten minutes. Then the game would start. I internally groaned, thinking how hard it was going to be to get my shots and still have time to get to the softball game, but waited patiently. It was 20 minutes later that the home coach went over to the umpire and told him to get the game going, he was gonna have to ump it solo. The umpire took his dear, sweet time putting his gear back on, but at about 4 p.m., the time I needed to be at the softball game, he finally started the baseball game.

My photo shooting was tough with the rain and how cold I was getting. I was stressed out and the angles were bad and I was sure I didn't get a decent shot. Normally I would have stayed two innings, but I ended up leaving for the softball game at 4:30 p.m. The second ump never showed up. I later learned that, due to the late start, the doubleheader turned into a single game. We also found two ok shots to use in the paper, so it wasn't a total loss.

Fortunately, the weather cleared up a bit by the time I reached the softball field and I got what I think is a decent shot of a batter smacking a foul ball with a look of intense concentration on her face. Then I headed home to relax.

Late Tuesday night the rain really started. I could hear it while in bed, and Inkwell came into the bedroom and made little upset noises at it before deciding the humans weren't going to bother stopping the wet noises. But the rain continued until mid-morning on Wednesday, with lots of local roads getting slightly flooded. When I went out to an interview at 9 a.m. I was terribly tempted to drive through the bigger puddles, but managed to mostly stop myself. Ok, there was one that I knew was fairly safe *and* it was in the middle of the road, so I went through that one. But I didn't go out of my way to splash.

Deadline Wednesday was tough for everyone, although I think I had it easier than my co-workers. I had a single story on candidate filing to do, and only one candidate to worry about for some reason. I got his comments in the morning and tossed together a quick piece, got my police logs written up in good time, got my scores and stats from my softball coach, and finished before deadline so I could go to my 9 a.m. interview. My co-workers were having a more difficult time adjusting to the new schedule, and the gal reporters went to lunch together so we could have a nice venting session. We had a great meal at Cactus Juice, meatloaf sandwiches and whining, a good combo.

The afternoon wasn't bad, with only two candidates filing before I left work, one of which called my cell phone as soon as I arrived home. A third candidate filed later in the afternoon, and I got him to email me comments. Thanks to the rain, the house had cooled down and Inkwell was in a good mood. Eric and I watched TV together and relaxed, which was nice.

Thursday morning I felt the full weight of a week of getting up earlier and getting to work earlier. Fortunately for me, I'd already been getting up very early. However, the earlier start time means I don't have as much time in the morning to accomplish things as I am accustomed to doing at home, which causes stress. I don't dare wake up any earlier... there's a point at which diminishing returns makes it pointless and I think I'm balanced on the knife's edge as it is. But Thursday I felt the stress full-on and had a miserable time getting to work.

Once at work, it wasn't difficult. I had the candidate story and the police logs, and the only other problem was a bit of office drama caused by the stress of the earlier deadline. On a lark I checked the new candidates early... and they'd been posted early. In fact, we had a new one that I was able to call and talk with before lunch, which was nice. Three more joined the race while I was at lunch, which was a long one because I was killing time for an afternoon meeting. I managed to reach two of the three immediately, and left a message for the last one, who got back to me in great time.

Then came the bombshell. Now, I had been hearing mutterings from my co-worker who shares my "cubicle" for awhile that she wanted to run for city council. Personally, I don't see the appeal, but she'd been making noises about stepping up and running for the position. She's been on a different city council before, many many years ago, so she has an idea what she'd be getting herself into. Anyway, on Thursday she filed for the seat. While it wasn't a complete shock to me, it was to another co-worker who, when he heard the news, ranted a bit about how difficult this is going to make life for us.

It's true, the problems with having someone who is a reporter at a newspaper running for public office are difficult. For one thing, she can't cover anything related to the council or city, which cuts out an awful lot of reporting. For another, the rest of the reporters have to work even harder at being objective, one of the most difficult parts of our job as it is. It can be horribly difficult to set aside personal feelings to write about certain subjects, and with her running for office we will have to go even further to keep our potential biases and any appearance of bias out of our reporting. Add in the fact that it's well known I'm not a big fan of the guy currently holding the seat she's running for, and it puts me into a bind. Especially since I'm the person who is going to have to interview her and anyone she's running against.

As it happened, the editor asked me to wait to interview her until the morning, so I did. I went to the afternoon meeting, which thankfully turned out to be less acrimonious than had been promised, Whew. Then went home and pondered the difficulties of reporting on my co-worker during what promised to be a difficult election.

Friday morning was hard. I will get adjusted, but Friday was definitely hard. Getting up and going was more difficult than usual, but I got to work almost 15 minutes early to start on a track story and the story about the meeting. To my delight, the editor had already written the track story, I just needed to add my comments from my coach. The meeting story was an easy one to write because, thank goodness, it was positive. We'd been expecting something negative.

My other big story was about the candidates who had filed on Thursday, including my co-worker. It was one of those surreal moments in life when you step outside your normal roles in the office and suddenly instead of co-workers I was doing my job and she was a candidate answering questions. At least I didn't have to hunt her down. She gave the usual canned answers of a candidate, which I handled all week, and it worked out well.

Then came the waiting game. I was NOT looking forward to interviewing her likely opponent, but I was bracing myself for it. I was obsessively checking the updates to the candidate filing list for new names all morning. We got a couple before lunch, and I called them. I then took a long lunch because I intended to stay in the office until I finished calling all the candidates from Friday so I wouldn't have to make any calls over the weekend.

Lunch was interesting, because Eric was home due to a day off at the schools. After lunch I decided to run down to the frame shop and take my Nick Cardy page to see what kind of framing we could get done. It has been poorly set in the frame I bought for it years ago for... well, years. I have been worried that it's deteriorating, so I wanted acid-free paper and a protective glass over it. I got there and we took off the old glass and found we could see a very faint version of the page on the glass. I cringed, and decided right there it needed to be properly mounted. She was happy to make the changes and properly mat it as well, and gave me what I feel is a very good price for the work. I'm pleased with the result:

My wall of Aquaman... at the right is my newly protected Nick Cardy page.

Anyway, after my visit to the frame shop and arranging to pick it up at 5 p.m., I got back to work and made some candidate calls. I also worked on my dairy story, which kept clinging to the inside of my brain and refusing to come out and turn into words on the page. I got steadily more frustrated as the afternoon went on since the last candidate update was at 1:20 p.m. and I really wanted to get the rest of the interviews over with. Finally I gave up trying to write and just kept hitting the refresh button until, at 3:45 p.m., the final list of candidates was posted.

I scrolled down and ... "JULIA!!" I yelled, summoning my co-worker to my desk at a pace I wouldn't have thought possible. There was no one running against her. The incumbent had not filed for the office. I was stunned and a little amazed. And dazed. It was a moment of shock followed by calculations on how it would affect us. In the meantime, Julia was also shocked. She'd been gearing up for what she feared might be a nasty campaign, and was as puzzled as me.

In any case, I only had one more call to make, that one for a different city council seat. So after Julia left for the day and I calmed down a little, I made my call then wrote up the candidate story ahead of time so the editor could rip it apart at his leisure over the weekend. Then I attempted and failed to finish my dairy story, but got far enough along that I didn't feel as guilty as I could have for leaving the office at 5 to go pick up my artwork.

I've had a relaxing Saturday so far, I guess. I'm still a bit overwhelmed by the candidate stuff. There's a lot to think about for the next few months, and there's more that can happen between now and election day. This is going to be an interesting year.