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Stuff 'N Nonsense Transitions And Adjustments
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Well, after much planning and talking about doing it, I've finally managed to make good on my plans to cut back. I've successfully cut back to 15 hours a week with a solid plan to make my graceful exit from the newspaper staff by January.

All I can say is wow.

Ten years is a long time to spend with one employer. The staff has become like family and I mean that in every sense of the word. Sometimes you love them and sometimes you want to drown them but you'd defend them against anyone who dared to say anything about them.

It's hard to put into words the feelings I have about the transition. Of course, there's elation and joy to finally be able to simply make a living as a fiction writer but there's definitely sadness in there, too.

When I went to my editor and we discussed the action plan and put dates on the calendar I suddenly wanted to cry. Change is hard even if it's something you want and need. I got to keep my desk but I had to give up the camera. This hit me harder than I expected it too. I know it's silly to become attached to an inanimate object but I was the first one to open the box and use Canon Rebel EOS. I remember the day distinctly. Editor Marg Jackson and I were the only ones to get the SLR cameras because we were the ones who would use them the most. I spent hours learning how to use that camera until I knew it like the back of my hand. I know its quirks and shortfalls; I know when it needs to be repaired simply by the sound of the shutter. Over the years I've taken some amazing photos with that camera. It fits into my hand like an extension of my body and I'm going to miss it. Of course, I will buy my own camera because I remain a hobbyist photographer but I've already handled the Canon 5D and although it's an amazing camera, it's heavier than the Rebel and it's going to be another adjustment to get used to.

I won't lie; I'm struggling a bit to adjust to my new schedule. In fact, the first week, I still went to the office. I didn't clock in of course, but I enjoyed my morning tea with coworkers, checked emails and did what I normally do in the early mornings before the work day really starts moving. Somehow it just didn't feel right to not go in.

But as much as I love my morning time with my friends, I realized I wasn't being true to the intent of cutting my hours and slowly transitioning to the next phase in my life.

So I stopped going in unless it's my designated day at the office. It's still hard. I feel as if a piece of me is missing but I'm slowly finding my way into a new schedule, one that isn't dictated by ringing phones and scheduling interviews. Now, my schedule is all about the characters in my head or the cover I'm designing for a client.

We as humans make connections wherever we land because human beings are social animals. I've made so many connections throughout my tenure as a reporter for the Oakdale Leader, Riverbank News and Escalon Times, both in the community and in the office. I've been so blessed in my life that I can't help but smile even if there's a bit of sadness at letting go.

However, I can say that being able to say yes to my daughter when she asks to go get frozen yogurt when before I would've had to say no because I didn't have time, is a gift. Life had started to rush past me and I was forced to simply watch from the sidelines because work had taken over my existence. Somewhere along the way my boys became young men. I missed out on a lot with them even though I tried not to. I don't want to make that same mistake with my daughter. Before I know it, she'll be in high school and I'm going to want that time back that I sacrificed to make a living.

This year I was my daughter's cheer coach. What a blessing and a joy. I didn't know what I was doing most times but you'd never know it from the excited smile on my daughter's face and the proud way she said, "The coach is my mom."

Feels good. Really good.

And I'm ready for more.

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.