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This is Part II of a seven-day series I’m calling Treatise on Life in 2010. The series is designed to be an inspirational account of my fall from a plateau I was on, down to what might make some think about bringing it all to an end.

Instead, I’ve found that  God has done some wonderful things in my life the past 18 months and much of that time, I’ve thought he was doing things “to” me, not “for” me.  My mistake.

My goal here is to help you see the changes that have come about in my life that are refocusing my life mission and melding me back into someone God is using to affect positive and great change.  I’d very much gotten off that path, and to get my attention, He decided it was best to remove the “distractions” aka thought to be “the good life,” so that I could indeed focus once again.

Yesterday’s first installment was entitled The Treatise on Life in 2010–How I stopped fighting God and Started Following Instead. To move on to the next key points and explain to you where I’m going, it’s necessary to give you a little history about where I was and where I went.  Essentially, I listed out all the things people USED to say about me and my work, but had stopped doing.  Therefore, today’s piece simply is entitled, The Old Me.

The Treatise On Life In 2010–The Old Me

In October of this year, I sat down and made a listing of the things people used to say about me or used to describe me in my younger of years.  The stark reality when I got through with making this list is that people had quit saying these things about me.   Now how’s that for an attention getter?

Always something of an innate “ham,” I began public speaking at age 10, speaking about the bicentennial in July of 1976 to crowds on K.I. Saawyer AFB.  Mom still talks about how I just walked out onto those stages in my Cub Scout uniform and began talking.  My life-long friend, Michelle Bogue Trost, still likes to chuckle when she also says that I would “rock” back and forth while I spoke.  But nonetheless, that was me; 10 years old and on stage giving a presentation about the 1976 US Bicentennial with a school presentation about the flags that have flown in America since then.

In the eighth grade in Atwater, CA at Mitchell Middle School, I got an “F” on a journalism paper and a “D” for the semester for one simple reason: Our temp-teacher, Mrs. Reid, wanted us to write a FICTION story for the class.  A FICTION story in a Journalism class.  I resisted on principle and complained loudly that this was the wrong thing to be doing.  My “story” wound up being more of an accounting of how wrong it was to be writing a FICTION piece in a Journalism class.  I even had to read it to the class and there was a debate to decide if I was right or wrong.  I think most of the class caved with Mrs. Reid.  Chicken-sh**s.  And sadly, today, what we see of the news business, particularly TV news, has evolved into Mrs. Reid’s take: infotainment; almost total entertainment mixed in with a few facts when necessary.  More on that later.

I believe that every college student should have two different jobs in college–One in fast food and one in retail for there are few things that will make one want to get a degree and get out of college more.  I slaved the morning shift as a “crew leader” at Wendy’s in Montgomery, Alabama.  That year-and-a-half of work there at the store on Ann Street I won the June 1985 Employee of the Month and then Employee of the Year award the same year.  I worked hard.  When I was off I was there helping.  When the lot was still covered in dirt from construction, I was out front with a hose for hours washing the lot.  I was also the “lot man,” which meant I kept the outside clean.  At Ann Street that year I slaved to help the store win the “Lot Contest” in the group so all three or four of the managers and their partners could take a trip to the tropics.  I know, but I still have plaques to prove that I did what I did. 

While in college, I did a couple significant things: At Auburn main campus I spent more of my time working for The Auburn Plainsman than I did going to class.  Dr. Perry, who I’m almost certain is no longer the Dean of the Chemistry Department, still has yet to give me a passing grade for taking his course twice.   Mom and Dad wanted me to be a doctor.  Indeed, after two years of biology and anatomy and physiology in high school under Dr. Paul Hubbert‘s wife, Ann, I thought that’s what I wanted to do.  But I’d also had two years of Mr. Craig Jackson for history and then a semester of “Political Science” my senior year.  Mr. Jackson only inspired me more and more to stick to principle and all a bull-shitter a bull-shitter.

That year I also went in to interview President Dr. James Martin in his office at Samford Hall.  When we were almost done, the recorder was off, etc. he said, “You’re a military kid, aren’t you?” Puzzled, I affirmed that I am, and asked, “But how did you know?” My hair wasn’t cut military life, my pants weren’t flooding, etc… He said succinctly, “Well, I don’t get many freshmen in here asking me about the budget.”

The other important thing I did was take over the leadership of The Aumnibus, the student newspaper at Auburn’s Montgomery campus when it became clear that I was wasting money at Auburn.  I didn’t go right into the paper.  I actually was trying to focus on pre-law and poli-sci again, after all, Mom and Dad had made it clear they weren’t going to help me get thru college to go work for the Montgomery Advertiser for $14,000 a year.   In the last issue of 1986-7 year before beginning my editorship of the paper, I announced that we weren’t going to just write fraternity and sorority stories about how “they had a dance Friday night and everybody came and everybody had a good time.” I said, “We will be covering news.” I don’t think many took me seriously until Sept. 23, 1987.

That was the day we published a story saying that I had received a copy of an “AIDS List” of people in Montgomery kept by the Montgomery Police Department under the leadership of Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar.  It became a national AP story in an instant.  And that began the 1st of meetings with the Chancellor of the campus, Dr. James Williams, who that day asked if we were “trying to be a real paper or a school paper.” Oh, the joys of the closed-mindedness of collegiate academia and the never-rock-the-boat way of life they thrive in.

In the early 1990s, a history professor from Auburn University at Montgomery called me on a Saturday morning.  He said he was writing a book about the first 20 years of the school’s history.  In it, he called me “AUM’s foremost student iconoclast.”

To finish college, I took an internship with the governor’s office.  Trooper Mark Peavey, when I worked for Gov. Guy Hunt in Alabama used to say in respect, “You’re the first one here in the morning and often the last one out.” I didn’t want to do anything else once I started working for Gov. Hunt. (Indeed, I had already set the liberal poli-sci teachers off at AUM for running a historic photo I took of Gov. Hunt being inaugurated as the first Republican governor in Alabama since Reconstruction.)

Later, Alfred Sawyer, who Gov. Fob James brought from the ministry to serve as the “communications guru” of his 1995-1999 administration used to make fun of me and tell others mockingly, “He takes newspapers home and clips them on the weekends.” You’d be surprised how much you can learn from reading papers from all over the state, especially when you work in the Governor’s Office.

From 1988 I labored to go from a lowly unpaid college intern with the governor’s photographer to the assistant press secretary to the governor by April of 1993.  January of 1995, at age 30, I became the governor’s press secretary for Gov. James.

When I sought to come to Dallas, and get out of Montgomery, I was told “There’s a guy named Mike Moses who is looking for someone with your kind of campaign background.” Three weeks later I had an interview.  A month later I had a great job as the communications director for the 12th largest school district in America.

For his “State of the District Address” to the Greater Dallas Chamber in September 2001, I brought the media all together by telling them the superintendent was going to say that the district’s school buildings were “hemorrhaging” with age and in unbelievable disrepair.  When they all showed up to hear him say that, he asked, “You scared up all of these reporters?”

The Dallas D Magazine blog, FrontBurner’s, writers once said that I had “the toughest job in Dallas.” A job I had for six years before being sent away for frankly telling a new superintendent he and his leadership team had not a clue and was heading the ship into catastrophe.  In 2008, they ran aground with an $87 million budget shortfall that resulted in the layoffs and dismissals of teachers desperately needed to educate the children of Dallas.  It was a bloodbath that could have been avoided, but ego is such a powerful thing.

There are other points I could make, but I’d rather not be writing about the good things people have said about me.  Nonetheless, on October 6th of 2010, I wrote many of those points down and sadly realized, people had quit saying things like that about me and my work.

What hit me like diving into cold water, was that time, marriages, kids and success had changed me.  Wives who didn’t understand the difference between me needing to be at work vs. dropping everything to run home to tend to their present emergency hurt me in so many ways.  And in one of my own character flaws, liking to be needed, I acquiesced.

I remember colleagues saying, “She can handle it.  You need to work.” But the confrontations and stresses of both my marriages made me do the contrary to what I’d been doing for more than a decade.  The old adage of “If momma isn’t happy, no one is,” proved to be overriding.  I like for people to be happy and I truly dislike confrontation.  And regrettably, I had staff who helped cover my shortfalls.  I was wrongly enabling others, and in turn, out of compassion, others were enabling me.

As I write this, it becomes clear that something needed to happen in my life.  There’s an old saying, “He who hath never had a cushion doesn’t miss it.” Well, I had cushions all over the place, and I’d very much come to like them.   So when God started removing them, it was quite a shock to my system.   I fought long and hard.  I was told by my wife I was going to lose everything.  I was told by my old boss that I needed to get focused.  And when all the rugs were swept out from under me, I had but one direction to travel….

Tomorrow’s message: Regrets.

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