Goodbye to a First

“Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course.” – Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth Commencement speech


Recently, a trusted friend advised me to remove my first job from my resume. He said it aged me and didn’t add anything to the current iteration of my career. Of course, he’s right. Being an editorial assistant in the mid-90s at a publishing company that no longer exists doesn’t speak to where I am professionally today. But before I delete it entirely from my LinkedIn page and resume, I want to pay homage to that job.

Saunders College Publishing was a division of Harcourt Press and mainly put out math and science textbooks. When I was first hired, my family found it ironic that I’d be working in the math department because I went through hell to earn Bs and Cs in my Algebra II and Geometry classes in high school. But my job in the editorial department had very little to do with math and everything to do with publishing. As an editorial assistant, I supported four editors and saw countless textbooks through the editorial process. I secured and paid reviewers, updated authors with status reports, prepared manuscripts for the art department, and often weighed in on different options for book covers. Somewhere in the world, there is a calculus textbook with my name in the acknowledgments section praising me for a job well done.

I still remember the job interview where I felt I hit a home run with all four editors. My boss, Alexa, and I were big readers and shared a love of historical fiction. Anita had my father as her social studies teacher back in the day. Mark was a die-hard Phillies fan like me. And Terri and I graduated from the same university. GO RAMS!

All of the assistants working at Saunders were recent college graduates. I was excited to see my old friend Caren at one of the desks. We went to West Chester and worked on the student newspaper together. She introduced me to everyone and showed me the ropes. Our building was right by Independence Mall, and we often ate lunch in the park with the other assistants. Besides complaining about our bosses, we also placed frivolous bets on who would be promoted or get engaged next. For a while, there was a string of engagements, including my own, and mornings would be wasted as diamond rings were shown off and wedding planning tips were exchanged.

Besides hanging out with my work friends, I grew quite attached to the large copier in the mailroom, but strictly on a professional level. We had a love/hate relationship. Most of the time, the machine was well-behaved as it spat out several copies of 200-page manuscripts. (We killed a lot of trees back then). But eventually, the Xerox machine would throw a tantrum like a child that no longer wanted to cooperate with its mother. I spent hours in that mailroom begging and pleading with that copier to keep working. When it refused, I pampered it by changing its toner, switching out ink cartridges, and unjamming sheets of paper from mysterious locations deep inside the machine. As I said, we got to know each other well.

Outside the office, I experienced some history in the making. I shook hands with Governor Bill Clinton at a campaign rally behind Independence Hall before he was elected President. And we all gathered around to listen to the news report when the O.J. Simpson verdict came in. And our building was once evacuated after a bomb threat was called into the ATF office a few floors down. In the stairwell, people were crying because this happened shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing. Being on the 12th floor, it took forever for everyone to reach street level, where police and firefighters instructed us to run away from the building. A bunch of us hugged in the park once we realized everyone was safe.

One of my first visits to the west coast was a business trip where I sat with dozens of math teachers to learn the “new math” coming out of Mt. Hood, Oregon. I don’t remember much from that trip except the feeling that I might have done a much better in Algebra and Geometry if this teaching method had existed back then.

Finally, it was time for me to move on. I grew tired of my boss asking me to “fetch” things for her. I thought that verb was more appropriate for her dog than for her assistant—and I wasn’t sure if she always knew the difference. It was time to break up with the Xerox machine and leave my friends behind for a new role at another publishing company.

And now, thirty years later, it’s time to leave Saunders behind again. You are officially off my resume, dear friend, but you will never be away from my fondest memories.

Such A Good Day

The rarest and most precious of weekends are those when I have no plans and can spend the entire day however I please. Take today, for instance.

I woke up at 8:30 am and stayed in bed until 9. I sunk into my favorite spot on the living room couch, savored my coffee, and enjoyed the view from my bay window. It was cold outside, but I was nice and warm indoors, sporting my best flannel pajamas. I am about a week behind on the Ultimate Blog Challenge because I had COVID and then a three-day work retreat out of town. I’m sure I won’t catch up to everyone else in the challenge, but I’ll do my best.

With that thought in mind, I sat down at my laptop with my second cup of coffee and started writing seven pages of total crap. Okay – not total crap, but nothing worth posting yet. 🙂

I walked away from those pages and opened another document. I’m taking a writing workshop and wanted to finish providing feedback on another person’s manuscript. After that, I completed my submission for the workshop and sent it out to the group. Needing a little more feedback, I sent my piece to my sister and two good friends for honest reactions and extra support.

Then, I went on to my next writing project—my Trader Joe’s shopping list. Butter chicken and Naan. Sesame seed bagels and lox with the Everything Bagel seasoning. And Hold a Cone ice cream for dessert. It was probably the best thing I wrote all day.

And then, I returned from food shopping with the full intention of getting back to writing. But I cleaned out my email inbox instead. I’m a loyal subscriber to a few dozen newsletters, but I’m no help to their open rate. I ignore so many of their emails that are chock-full of the inspiration and motivation I need to keep going. I dove into my inbox and drowned myself in writing advice.

Now, it is two hours later, and I haven’t written anything else today (except this blog post), but I’m feeling recharged and focused on the tasks at hand. I should really get moving. But I have dinner plans tonight. So stay tuned for another blog post and much more where that came from starting tomorrow. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed your Saturday. 🙂



This Mom Has the Write Stuff

“Yes, I am silently correcting your grammar” – as seen on every editor’s t-shirt, coffee mug, and screen saver

In our house, we have always had an equal distribution of skill sets regarding homework.

Got an insane statistics problem to solve? Dad is your guy. You say your science fair exhibit isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. Talk to Dad. But when it comes to writing book reports, term papers, and college essays, I’m your girl.

I have over 30 years of editing experience behind me. I’ve been a freelance writer, an editor, a social media content creator, and a communications professional. But my family did not always welcome my stellar spelling skills, grammar expertise, and high-level critiques regarding theme, content, and overall cohesiveness. It’s a well-known fact that if you want me to read your paper, you should be prepared to rewrite it.

Sorry, not sorry.

As you can imagine, this often caused a lot of fighting and frustration around the kitchen table. Eventually, I restrained myself, limited my red pen markings to typos and punctuation errors, and left the prose to them. Occasionally, I’d let one or two editorial comments slip in by suggesting a better hook or a way to rewrite the ending. Sometimes my feedback was accepted, but back then, the more eye-rolling I received, the less I wanted to push the issue.

Now that the kids are older, they recognize what I have to offer them. (FINALLY!) So last night, when Jenna asked me to read her personal statement for an application, I was happy to oblige. I took a first pass at it and provided what I like to call “suggested edits,”—meaning she didn’t have to use them. They were merely suggestions. I sent her paper back to her and braced myself for her reaction.

“Mom, you tore up my paper!” – she exclaimed.

And then, she said what I’ve always wanted to hear – THANK YOU!

This was the beginning of a long night of her writing and my editing. She is an excellent writer, a chip off the old block, I’d say. But putting together a personal statement is no easy task. Not only does it need to be well-written, but also compelling. It has to say, “I’M PERFECT FOR THIS POSITION. PLEASE HIRE ME!” without being too obvious.

After she accepted my suggested edits, the real work began. We had an in-depth discussion about what she wanted to convey and how the stories she told tied into her career goals and enhanced her statement. At 10 pm, everything was in good shape, except neither of us liked the beginning or the end. At this point, we were on a roll, and after yet another discussion and rewrite, we were both happy with the end result.

When we were done, I shared with her what a joy it was to help her and how I struggled with how much I should weigh in on her work. But she stopped me right there and admitted that in high school, she didn’t always appreciate me as a writer and an editor. I was just her mom. And now, she wants me to edit away and share my perspective because she understands she will have a much better result.

Moms and Grammar nerds for the win!

P.S. The above story is meant to explain why I didn’t write a blog post last night. She used up all of my writing mojo for the evening! 🙂

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