Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Here's What I Didn't Do on My
(Non-Existent) Summer Vacation

For the sake of efficiency, I've decided that rather than take part in the time-consuming task of individually answering the oft-recurring question about my summer vacation plans, I'd simply respond by sending this article from the Wall Street Journal. It nicely outlines the conundrum of being self-employed, and how one tends to not want to wander off too far, for too long, lest you miss a project or two. And in an iffy economy, that dynamic looms ever-larger. Of course, millions of Americans aren't taking a vacation this summer for other reasons, such as being laid off and without income. So I remind myself about that whenever I'm on the verge of feeling sorry for myself. In any event, don't let that stop you from telling us about your summer vacation plans, or the trip you've already taken, or the cool places you've seen, even if on staycation, a newly coined term that you may have been hearing a lot lately, for all the obvious reasons. After all, perhaps we'll get some vicarious thrills that way.

18 Comments:

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

Well, John, I had dreams of taking the kids on a two-week trek out west to give them a feel for how big and beautiful this land is, but then (without getting into all those mopey details) ... things changed. Maybe next year.

So, it's the staycation for us, but that's really okay. In fact, we're blessed. We just became members again at the YMCA and we've been swimming indoors and out several times a week. We've also enjoyed the beaches. (I just love Mentor Headlands -- you can really pretend you're way, far away when you're there.)

I love to sit in my big swing on my lovely front porch in the morning and evening. And the library is free.

We have food, clean water, indoor plumbing, decent shelter, and clothes to wear. And again, free libraries! What's not to love?

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger Kim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7:26 AM, Blogger Kim said...

What a great article and slice of advice for someone (me) who is hoping to build some freelance work soon. Now I have an explanation WHY I am checking mail, cruising around the networking sites and keeping my finger on the pulse of the fires I started. (and it's paid off, I have two very promising leads that I have been able to follow up on this week!)I should go away more often?

 
At 8:07 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Pat, your appreciation of small summer pleasures is a testament to the power of choosing the right things to focus on. A lesson there for all of us. And good luck, Kim. I noticed that message you posted on Linkedin the other day. May it be the beginning of big things.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Donna said...

Pat Washington, I like your style and I've also just bookmarked your blog. Way to enjoy the sweet life!

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Now that's cool: finding a new fan via a comment on another blog. The beauty of the web...
I know you two will enjoy each other, as well as each other's blogs. And I've already commiserated with Donna over our mutual lack of summer vacation. In fact, I posted this very item with her partly in mind. So this nicely closes the circle on that conversation.

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

Well John, as you already know, things changed for me this year as well. Not necessarily for the better. So no big vacation plans, more like the stay local variety, which I've been documenting on my blog. I've got a few more trips planned before the fall semester begins and I get swept away by my teaching obligations. But, like Pat mentioned above, I've still got a roof over my head, indoor plumbing, food, water, and great friends and family, so life isn't too bad.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

So glad we're all able to remind each other of how much we have to be thankful for. And with your love of roaming and appreciation for architecture, I think you'd be a hell of a great traveling companion, Miles. Who knows, perhaps a trip together is somewhere in our future. Or would two writers traveling together drive each other crazy? I think not.

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger Jane Levesque said...

We are enjoying our landscaped patio. It's a luxury we never had. We call it our private resort.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Nice. I look forward to perhaps having a cocktail with you there sometime before the weather turns cold, Jane. Which it will soon enough. That's a great example of enjoying a small pleasure close to home. So who does the landscaping? I assume it's not Chuck?

 
At 10:34 PM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

Well, thanks, Donna! I'm looking forward to learning more about you via your blog, as well. Drop by to visit anytime, and maybe suggest a topic or interview for me.

And John, if I didn't choose good things to focus on, there are plenty of things to get depressed about! At least in this one area I have had some success in training my mind.

This way of thinking is what pulled me through a very dark time (did I say it was very dark? It was DARK) when my marriage was falling apart, I had postpartum depression, and my baby had screaming colic for 8 months in which she would only sleep for 20 minutes at a time.

It was then that I started a gratitude journal and made myself write down nearly every day 5 things that I was grateful for. I soaked in the pleasures of hot showers, a well-made cup of coffee, the warmth of the sun on my skin on a crisp fall day, my little boy's earnest hugs, the smell of my baby girl's hair, et cetera.

Bad economy? Piece of cake. (Relatively speaking, of course.... I realize it's foolish to try to compare one person's pain with another's.)

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

A gratitude journal. Now there's a thought for the day. Thanks for making me smile after the extreme dyspepsia prompted by watching the egregious Fox TV network for the last half hour. I force myself to watch it sometime in order to stay educated on what the near-fascist right wing of this country is telling itself. You can come away fearing for your country if you let it get to you. So If I kept a gratitude journal, I'd be noting all the media outlets that try to combat this horrible propaganda by simply bearing witness to the truth, without fear or favor.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

"Thanks for making me smile after the extreme dyspepsia prompted by watching the egregious Fox TV network for the last half hour."

Oh, John, you're funny. Perhaps I should catch Fox News on the net, as we don't get that channel. I must admit it is hard for me to keep up with all the news, let alone understand the issues in-depth. I still haven't made the time to read the healthcare bill, and feel I can't comment on it too much until I do. But I do understand that the desire to make a profit is a good and powerful thing. I have doctors in private practice in my family, and they don't particularly like what's going down. On the other hand, I can't afford health insurance, like so many others....

I'm sure you already know this - but many people who write or comment on the "news" (a relative term), be they left or right, don't know what the heck they're talking about. I was a good example of that. As a reporter fresh out of college, I was forced to attend village council and school district meetings, and I hadn't a clue what many of the issues were about. For example, I didn't know what millage was, but I wrote a few articles about it anyway! Just follow the formula -- write the who, the what (a simple noun will do, even if one doesn't know what it is), the when, the where, and maybe the how. Leave out the why. Throw in a couple catchy quotes from some big wigs, and there's your article, submitted right at press deadline....

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger Jane Levesque said...

John,
I'll see if I can get you an invitation to the private resort. I'm trying to keep up with the weeds, but they seem to be ahead of me all the time.

 
At 11:42 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

They key thing you said in there is that you can't afford health insurance. As Newsweek's Jonathan Alter (an FDR biographer) noted tonight on MSNBC, that's the main outrage here, and the issue we have to solve. He added that the system we now have discriminates against those who can't afford insurance, and thus it's a civil rights question. He's right.

As to your suggestion that lots of people who write don't know what they're talking about, well, I'm afraid that I'm painfully aware of that. The example you cite from your own past, writing about tax millage, represents a failure of the editors of that pub, not of you and other novice reporters. Good editing is simply teaching, and they failed you as teachers in that case. Plenty of that happens.

But we could also point to plenty of good editing and teaching in a thousand newsrooms around the country. The financial squeeze they're now undergoing makes that harder, and thus sometimes requires even more heroic measures than in the past. But even with the epic flood of recent departures, there are plenty of quiet heroes left in journalism, and to the surprise of many (though I'm not among them) applications to journalism school continue to be strong. I think that's a popular vote on behalf of both idealism and the expectation that the crisis we're now going through in how to fund traditional journalism will be solved in time, perhaps in a shorter time than many imagine. At least I hope so.

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Jane, I'm looking forward to visiting your resort. I'll bring my cabana and margarita mix.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

"a failure of the editors of that pub, not of you and other novice reporters."

Apparently, the article made sense, but it didn't SAY anything - because I didn't know what or how to say it. All I knew was that they expected me to produce words to fill spots in the paper. However, as crazy as it sounds, there WERE actually times when I knew what I was talking about.... And that's when I really enjoyed my job.

But this seems a problem with many newspapers, and especially local TV news (I don't get cable news). Oh my, the things that pass as newsworthy....

Nowhere in K-12 school was I taught how to cull news for myself. This bothers me, and I think it needs to be taught more than ever. After all, we are a culture that uses the mere phrase "as seen on TV" as an endorsement.

 
At 9:33 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Part of what you're referring to has to do with how much journalism is driven by certain tired formulas. That's resulted in a lot of the audience getting bored and looking elsewhere for illumination about civic affairs. On the other hand, it's also given rise to so-called new journalism or narrative journalism (it goes under several names). That entails less formula, better storytelling and more authenticity. That's what journalism should be all about.

Your final paragraph gets into what's often called media literacy, a tent under which a lot of idiotic hot wind is often being blown these days. But to me media literacy simply means being an informed consumer and having an ability to judge what outlets are credible, and why. That is getting increasingly hard in some ways, but in other ways, with the exploding diversity of views and outlets, it's easier at least to get a rounded view. Like everything in life, it's a mixed bag.

 

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