Happy birthday, Jack

Trying not to get hit by a football, 2015.

On this date a few decades ago, I got a two-fer: a baby brother who grew up to be one of my favorite friends.

Jack is the only person in the world who calls me “Sis,” and today is his birthday.

With Jack on our wedding day, May 22, 1994.

I am four and a half years older than Jack, so I can only vaguely recall meeting him for the first time. What I remember is that my older brother and I had spent the night with our grandparents, and we were having our breakfast of gravy and biscuits when our parents pulled up to take us home. We dashed out into snow flurries swirling as we climbed into the backseat of the car. My mother had a big bundle of blanket in her lap, and Jack was inside that bundle.

I liked holding him, giving him his bottle–though I did get in trouble once for giving him Pepsi in his bottle–and kissing him goodnight.

We played together a fair amount as little kids, but he was quick to push my hand away whenever I tried to put my arm around his shoulder as we might be walking along somewhere.

Until he was well into elementary school, he refused to eat much of anything except French fries–one of many indulgences given as the baby of the family. Oh yes, he definitely was spoiled, but it didn’t hurt him in the long run.

About to climb Mt. Cammerer, 2011.

He was popular in high school–voted “cutest” boy in his senior class. The cutest boy never lacked female companionship, either.

I should have graduated from college at least a year before Jack graduated from high school, but my life took a couple of turns that prevented that from happening. Jack even lived with me for about a year while I was on one of those turns.

One of the funniest things he and I have ever laughed about happened during that time. I had a house cat, and Jack came home late one night with his dinner in a McDonald’s drive-through bag. Preparing to spread out on the floor in front of the TV, he took out his burger, opened it to add salt and discovered he didn’t have any salt packets. He stood up and went to get the salt shaker and, when he returned, he found a growling cat dragging away the hamburger patty.

Jack and Carrie, people who show up for the big things.

He moved back to our hometown and started college and, not long after, I moved back close to there and resumed college. We were both going to Tennessee Tech and when we ended up taking an English lit class together, that was one of the most fun experiences of my time in college.

We’ve gone to football games, baseball games, bowl games, movies, concerts, beaches and mountains together. We have a knack for making one another laugh.

We aren’t 100 percent, exactly alike, but we have a lot more in common than blood.

Today, I’m very glad to say, he has been married for barely more than one year. After spending the majority of his adult life as a self-employed bachelor and being OK with that, he met Carrie through a business transaction. After a while, they began dating and after a few years, they got married in December 2018. He’s a guy who can take care of himself, but he has a big heart, too. It makes me glad to see him in such a strong and loving relationship, one in which his big heart is happy.

So, happy, happy birthday to my (big) little brother!


Ladies Night

Newspaper people.

What can you say about them?

KNSLadies1They work hard. Crazy hours (see, especially, “sports” or “election night”). Weekends. Holidays. Regardless of the weather and, sometimes, because of the weather.

They care about the truth. They comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. They uphold democracy by holding government accountable.

What they can’t do with numbers, they more than make up for with words. Writing. Editing. And designing. With news judgment.

With the co-hostesses with the mostestess, Georgiana Vines and Vivian Vega.

They are under-appreciated, sometimes disliked, often criticized, and their pay is disproportional to what is a fair amount of power they hold.

They are also, in my humble but accurate opinion, the best people. Not because, looking at the field of journalism more broadly, they are better people than TV or radio journalists. Those are fine people, too. Newspaper people are my people and some of my favorites because of what I learned from beginning my career as one.

Betsy, Cathy and Jan.

I learned not to take anybody, including myself, too seriously. I learned to take nothing at face value. I learned there is a whole community of people, like me, to whom words really matter. I learned to be comfortable working under pressure, in a din of ringing phones and shouting, swearing voices.

I learned to take criticism with a thick skin and with the understanding that the goal was getting the best work onto the page.

I learned to write better, faster, and according to three rules: 1. Accuracy. 2. Accuracy. 3. Accuracy.

Kristi, with Susan over her shoulder.

I’m not a newspaper person anymore and, because of the tumult the business is in, neither are many of the newspaper people who used to be my colleagues. But I like to believe all of them are still my friends.

And on Saturday night, I had a wonderful time visiting, laughing, noshing and catching up with about 20 of them. All women. At what has for years been called “Knoxville News Sentinel Ladies Night,” and which happens much less often these days than it did years ago when a lot of us still worked together.

It did my heart and soul good to spend the evening with a sorority, of sorts, of women who almost assuredly were too independent–OK, maybe even cynical–as college journalism majors to have been members of an actual sorority.

IMG_7273Of the 21 of us who brought potluck yumminess to share, only one remains currently a working, professional journalist, and back in the day, all but one or two of us worked together at the same time.

A couple of us moved on for new opportunities. Several had retired. The rest–except for Kristi, who continues to cover health and medicine–had been laid off from their newspaper jobs.

With Jan.

Jan, the kind, patient and talented editor who was my very first supervisor, now is mostly retired and a freelance copy editor.

Betsy has a handful of freelance gigs, takes care of her 90+ year-old mother, and sells Mary Kay products.

Margaret went back to school and now works as an occupational therapy assistant, but she still shoots photos professionally.

With Margaret, my Stockholm roommate and partner.

Jennifer works in communications at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Christina works in marketing for an IT company.

With Lisa.

Lisa is director of development for the local Sertoma Center. Chrystal manages a chiropractor office. Cathy starts a new job at Radio Systems on Monday. Rebecca is enjoying being retired, as is Susan, who I think is still plotting her next move. Idonna, who used to run the office/newsroom, is now helping manage her husband’s business. Marti enjoys spending a lot of time with her grandchildren.

Vivian, our co-host, is greatly enjoying–thank you, very much–the retirement she took a few months earlier than planned.

Georgiana, our co-host who invited us all into her home, has been retired for a while but hasn’t slowed down–she’s been a political columnist, an adjunct college instructor, a board member of the East Tennessee Society for Professional Journalists (she was also once national SPJ president), and is a devoted grandmother.

Margaret gets a snapshot of George and Kylie.
George and granddaughter Kylie.

We were fortunate to get a brief cameo by George’s granddaughter Kylie–about whom I remember the excited announcement in the newsroom of her birth–who is now a college freshman.

I looked forward to last night for weeks and I relished the time we had together. Lisa’s comment in her Facebook post was dead on: “…amazing, resilient women…a treasure.”


And as another, very clever comment put it: “The Mohicans.”

I sure hope they/we aren’t the last. But I do think they’re the best. 😉