Thursday, January 31, 2013

Not Bad, Just Broken

"That's a hotel for bad girls," my dad explained.

It's the comment he'd make on our rides from Cincinnati to Youngstown - family treks to visit my grandparents and other relations in the rust belt town. We'd pass a brick and cement structure just south of Columbus, its grounds wrapped in chain link fence and barbed wire, and my little girl self would ask about its purpose.

More than 25 years later I believe that in most instances people are inherently good. An old manager's comment echoes in my brain, a lesson she taught her own daughter: people aren't bad, they just make bad choices.

And so, it's about that "bad girl hotel" that I wonder about the lives lost, the trials and tribulations weathered. The women behind those cinder blocks and barbed wire. What happened to make them broken?

And then I wonder about a former colleague.

Years ago I worked with an assignment editor. Her voice was a song from the Kentucky hills, gravely from years of nicotine and low slung like a Harlan County porch. Her words rolled over some vowels and careened through others. That's how people talk in Eastern Kentucky. It's a hackneyed creole that harkens back to their Scotch-Irish roots.

Orange from a tanning bed and yellowy white from a bottle, Amy looked like a beauty queen has-been. She always told young reporters and male interns that she used to be a looker, her teenage bikini shot dangling from a plastic photo album on a key chain.

Life had been good to Amy, once upon a time.

She worked the assignment desk like the bridge of destroyer. Sweet talking dispatchers on her beat list, quickly catching police calls on the scanner, Amy didn't miss much. This Eastern Kentucky girl was a newshound, always pushing to dig up a better story for the reporter on duty.

When the editorial pressure or managerial fracas got to be too much, Amy would grab her pack of Virginia Slims and clip her Nokia cell phone to the chest of her dress. She'd step outside and puff away, knowing that news was never more than a call away.

The slender 30-something didn't eat much, and several newsroom staffers wondered if Amy had gotten tied up in Hillbilly Heroin, what with little mannerisms like little twitches and erratic behavior. OxyContin had emerged as a quick high in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and in the early 2000s pharmacies started storing the pain medication under lock and key.

Meant to help ease the agony of cancer, OxyContin was a cheap way for others to forget about poverty, wasted dreams and other trademarked, American angst.

And Amy must have been hurting.

In Payless pumps and snagged panty hose, Amy would talk about her home life. A husband who loved her, a bright future with hopes of children. Amy wanted the American Dream, or whatever pieces she could get her hands on in her little hometown.

Somehow I lost track of Amy.

I can't remember who left our newsroom first - whether I headed for Cincinnati or she transitioned elsewhere, but somehow our paths diverged, until her name was mentioned to me in the context of a crime.

Years removed from the news business, I still knew how to navigate county clerk websites and mugshot repositories like it was my job. Some quick sleuthing turned up a sad photo of my old colleague, her face worn well beyond her years and her hair a grown-out marker of the last time she'd bleached her roots.

More searching led to news articles and court papers and snippets of a sad story that was easy to piece together. Amy had fallen on hard times, a cliche in any region but especially true in the rough living of Eastern Kentucky.

Drugs. Murder. Arson. It was the kind of rap sheet Amy would shout over a two-way to a reporter, but instead the charges were her own.

Today she sits in one of those cement and chain link structures, in a "hotel for bad girls," and I can't help but think she isn't bad. She's just broken.

And it reminds me just how fragile we all are.

Creative Commons License
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Say What You Want To Say

Sometimes I feel like I have a ball gag in my mouth.

Bet that piqued your interest, eh? As much as my life has some excitement from time to time, I'm inclined to keep it to myself these days.

And that's my point.

I don't know if it's age, disinterest or a growing sense of modesty and reputation management, but I've become far more private in recent years. It's a far cry from when I was blogging in 2004 and writing about everything from my criminal record to racy dating exploits.

My 27-year-old self was brash, committed to over-sharing, and eager to find depth or a clever nuance in just about anything.

Cheeky as ever, these days I play things close to the vest. I suppose it's in part because I realize most people don't give a damn about my poor housekeeping habits or my deep thoughts about a woman in her -insert age here-.

While those topics make me easily relatable and more humanistic, they're pretty pedestrian and anyone could jot down a few missives about them.

So why should I?

My lack of posting also probably comes with the, ahem, more mature perspective that sometimes people don't need to know everything. I learned several years ago that writing about work is strictly verboten if you don't want to upset the applecart. And my sex life/finances/emotional status are good points to refrain from sharing, too.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel a little lost as a blogger.

Back in the old days when I was a news producer, I had several news directors who'd refer to feeding the beast. Whether you're a journalist for television, print or online, there's an unwritten, unsaid pressure that drives you to crank out more content. "Let's get a sidebar for the lead story! Who can flesh out a couple more angles?" I'd say to my coworkers, wanting to beat a dead horse keep telling the story.

Blogging shares a little bit of that pressure.

You know what I'm talking about - the blogger who posts content every day just because. Not because it's funny/insightful/deep/informative, but because it's a new post for a new day.

That's feeding the beast. That's blogging just because.

And I don't want to blog just because. I want to tell stories and share opinions that make me feel something, because if they make me feel something, then hopefully they'll make you feel something.

That's why we do this, right? At least, that's why I do this.

Each of my days are full of thoughts and feelings and experiences. Some of them are exciting and deeply personal, and others are completely inane and likely don't deserve the bandwidth. It's all that in-between stuff that I'm trying to nail down and decide if I should share it.

I'm at a loss for words regarding what I want to say, and sometimes I don't feel like saying a single thing.

Creative Commons License
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

This Girl Is On Fire

Thirteen has long been my lucky number.

It started way back when I was, appropriately, 13-years-old. I was at a school carnival at the Edwin H. Greene Intermediate School with friends and trying my luck at the middle school, high-stakes gambling game of Cake Walk.

For those of you not familiar, a cake walk is a simple game that gives rise to that old expression, "It's a cake walk," because it's easy.

A cake walk involves taping numbered placards on the floor in a circle and inviting participants to walk from number to number while a song is playing. During this era, I'm sure the tape player cranked out the stylings of Salt 'N Pepa or NKOTB.

Like I said, this was a long time ago.

Anyway. Cake walk. There I am, gingerly stepping from one piece of construction paper to the next, when the music halted. The number 13 was called, and I found myself the winner of a cake (donated by one of the PTA moms, but made by Kroger).

On that hallowed day, I went home with not one but two amazing, store-made cakes. Both thanks to the number 13. I thought I was a champion, a hero, a celebrity.

Ah, the simple joys of being an admittedly nerdy/dorky 13-year-old girl.

So, it is with pause and anticipation that I welcome the arrival of 2013. This year is the first of my life to bear my lucky number - the first year to offer so much promise and opportunity.

And I'm already welcoming those hopeful moments.

Some friends and I have started reading The Happiness Project. It is a great book that helps you set your intentions as opposed to making half-hearted resolutions. The book compliments some work I'm doing as a participant in the Cincinnati Chamber's WE Lead program, which is a fantastic, year-long program that focuses on female leadership development.

Both efforts involve setting personal goals and keeping track with measurable results and accountability. The accountability is what keeps me focused on sticking with my goals.

To that end, I've developed three goals for the month of January: Purging, Exercise & Running, and Meaningful Moments.

  • Purging: As an innate pack rat (it's a trait I inherited from both parents), I hold on to items that are sentimental or possibly useful in the future. My 1996 era, Kentucky Wildcat-branded Coca Cola bottles are sentimental, but do they deserve a place among my possessions? That's a decision I'll have to make in the year ahead. I'm working to purge one thing everyday.
  • Exercise & Running: A year ago I ran three half-marathons and was in the best shape of my life. I loved the focus and structure running brought to my life, and I also enjoyed the healthy benefits. It's time to revive the habit of regular exercise and running. I'm striving to run every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, and will schedule other moments of exercise on the off days. My two-mile round trip walk to work doesn't count.
  • Meaningful Moments: Living alone, it's easy to cast off my coat and bags and make way for the couch when I arrive home after work. This pattern of behavior (and some other recent trends of withdrawal) has made me feel very isolated and lazy. I'm forcing myself to engage in a meaningful moment everyday, whether that be a phone call with a family member, time to read a book, or dinner with a friend. I need to eschew the easy pattern of lazing around and watching television at night.
These are my three goals for January, and so far I've done a good job of sticking with my objectives (87 percent success rate according to my inner nerd). 

Every day is a fight, and so far I feel like I'm throwing left hooks like Rocky.

Bring it, 2013.

Creative Commons License
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.