How this blog has helped change me


What used to seem like a big anniversary passed without fanfare — proving that life marches on and time heals all wounds.

The irony of forgetting this particular anniversary is why I forgot about it.

Early in the morning on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, I biked to the Muscatine Journal, where I had been the editor for four-plus years. I had already been at work for more than an hour when I walked into the office of Publisher Steve Jameson for a meeting we had every week. Without fanfare, he said he had to cut a certain amount of money from the newspaper’s budget and he was eliminating my job. Immediately.

He handed me a severance package and told me I would have to clean out my office and leave.

It was a real punch to the gut. I don’t suppose it was the easiest thing Steve has ever done either. At least I hope it wasn’t.

I didn’t know where I would go eventually or what I would do. It seemed impossible then that someday the anniversary of that awful day would pass without my even realizing it. Or that I would say what I’m about to say: Letting me go was the best thing Steve Jameson could have done for me.

Losing that job was a good thing for many reasons. For today, I’ll only focus on one: This blog, which I launched on Dec. 17, 2009, and didn’t immediately figure out how to use.

In the 26 months after I started blogging and before I lost my job, I wrote 91 posts. In the past 36 months, I have published 461 blog posts.

Clearly, I like to write. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to come here and not leave until I’ve stitched together 500 or so words in a way I can find acceptable. If anyone else reads what’s here and likes it, that’s even better.

But what I really like about this blog are the skills I’ve learned as a result of it. There’s more to it than just writing and then trying to clean up all of my typos. There are many services like WordPress and each one provides hundreds of themes and options for blogging. So, the first thing that must be done is to pick a service and then pick a theme.  And then you’ll want to begin using widgets and the many other tools available to help customize your blog. Naming your blog is another big step.

In the earliest days of blogging, you needed to know how to write HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the code used to create web pages. That’s not necessary anymore, but you do need to have the persistence to simply keep experimenting until you’ve learned how use the tools provided for you to set up a blog.

After I lost my job, and especially in the eight months before I started a new job, this blog evolved many times as I learned what I was doing. As I added pages and other features, I became comfortable enough with what I was doing that I could eventually help tackle a recently completed project. Over the past year, I was part of a group of employees and board members where I work that overhauled my employer’s website. We added pages and PayPal buttons. We greatly improved the site’s blog page.

And we published the new page last week — three years to the day of my last day at the Muscatine Journal.

I’m pleased with the new But I’m really happy to have learned how to do this sort of thing. It’s something I was forced to learn — the latest in a lengthy list of new skills I’ve learned since the day I left the Journal. Those new skills are among the many reasons I’m now grateful for the decision Steve Jameson made on what, at the time, seemed like the worst day of my life.

Thank you, Steve, for what has turned out to be a very good day. So good, in fact, I forgot all about it last week.