The One Thing vs. The Whole Thing

Guest appearance at Lipscomb. I was invited by Dr. Jimmy McCollum, who serves on The Tennessean's Advisory Board.

“I’m a journalist. I work at The Tennessean. I’m in charge of The Tennessean’s websites.”

This is how I’d answer questions like, “And what do you do?”

A strong community brand had become my own personal identity, and the rest of the things that could have made me a better, richer person were neglected at the expense of my professional goals. Continue reading


A Living Will

A living will:

If I am ever incapacitated…

If I am ever chained inside my body or – God forbid – my mind…

If I am connected to machines to keep me breathing, and if I’m disconnected from the world that has kept me alive, please, please dear loved ones, know this – Know I am still here. I am still a part of this world. Do these things for me: Continue reading

Cranes, and other gifts from above

My grandfather Bob Hall died on Oct. 7, 1998, in his bedroom in Lake Martin, Ala., with my grandmother at his side.

In the 13 years since, certain things have always happened to make the sad anniversary feel sweet: my grandmother has received flowers, and I have received birds.

I know where the flowers come from. I send them.

The birds? That’s different. Continue reading

She set fire to her diaries; I’d run into a burning house for mine

The bulletin board at my desk is decorated with postcards from my friends, a favorite writer (Jonathan Franzen - second from the left) and myself.

If it is personal, I keep it. Even if it’s painful or embarrassing, often if it’s silly.

My penny loafers from high school. (It was the early 90s, the grunge era, and everyone else wore Doc Martins.)

Postcards: I have a sweet handful from friends in other states, another handful my grandparents bought during their honeymoon, and one that the novelist Jonathan Franzen sent me in response to a letter I wrote him last spring. (I have a copy of my letter to him, too, of course.)

Notes passed in class during junior high school. Thank you cards from colleagues and employees. Funny, sweet or complimentary emails in an Outlook folder labeled “Things I Should Keep”.

Photographs. Mine. My parents’. My grandparents’. My great-grandparents’. Distant relatives of whose place on the family tree I’m uncertain. (I framed a photo of my dad’s mother – in her 20s at the time – posing semi-nude on a coffee table, which I then hung above my dining room table. I show it to everybody!)

VHS cassettes of home movies shot in college. One of them was for a creative writing class; we had to write a screenplay and I co-opted my boyfriend and roommate into giving long monologues about sex, faith and death. (My favorite topics at the time.)

Letters. From my mother when I was a newborn, from my ex-husband shortly before he became my ex, from me to myself – intentionally tucked away knowing I’ll stumble across them later when I need them.

Journals from second grade on.

The journals in particular are profoundly important to me, which is why I was so touched and troubled by author Dominique Browning’s recent New York Times piece about burning her diaries.
Continue reading

A day’s gift

Early Saturday morning: I eavesdropped on politicians over eggs and toast in downtown Franklin.

I shopped – bought myself a cocktail ring and a necklace to go with the outfit I was wearing that very moment – before meeting up with my little girl at the Starbucks on the corner. She drank a hot chocolate, then we walked back down Main and bought stationary at a favorite shop.

We drove to Nashville, windows rolled down. Alternated between her music and mine. Taylor Swift and a mix CD compiled by a creative friend several years ago.

We sat in the middle of Centennial Park, writing letters to people we love…

Continue reading