A journalist’s rite of passage: The layoff

I had meant to update this space with little morsels like “Lessons learned at the bar” or maybe something about the Royals being in the World Series. But I felt like I was constantly working, and in my downtime, I was moving to a new apartment or attending a wedding in Kansas or I just didn’t feel like firing up my laptop on my day off. But it looks like I’ll have more time to write in the coming weeks, because I’ve been laid off.

My last day at the Press-Citizen is Oct. 31. After a reorganization of the staffs in Iowa City and Des Moines that required all employees to re-interview for new positions, it turns out there’s just no place for me in Gannett’s “newsroom of the future.”

I feel like a loser and a failure. But I also feel free.

The truth is, Iowa wasn’t working out anyway. My husband, who thrived as a social studies teacher and football coach in Kansas, has spent the last year making pizza at Casey’s. Our cars are falling apart. We struggle to make rent. We have few friends and no family for hundreds of miles. And the only reason we were even living in Iowa was this job. Now we’re free to leave.

So we’ve hatched a plan. George (that’s my husband) couldn’t bear the thought of spending another Thanksgiving at Casey’s, so we aim to vacate the state within four weeks. We’re subleasing our apartment (the one we moved into Oct. 1), packing our things, and setting up camp in my mother-in-law’s basement near Wichita.

From there, we enjoy the holidays with our family for the first time in a while, and we look for new jobs in new places. So uh, hop on over to my LinkedIn.

I think I’m getting good at something

So here’s a confession: I’ve never felt like I was good at my job. I never advanced past concessions at the movie theater. I found working a drive-thru at Diary Queen overwhelming, and the swirls on my cones always fell apart. As a copy editor, I made too many mistakes. As a page designer, I felt like a failure. But lately I’m starting to feel confident in my skills — at least some of them — and that’s a feeling I’ve waited 26 years for. Continue reading

Tyler Kirk is under my skin

18-year-old Sarah Kelly was a weird person.

18-year-old Sarah Kelly was a weird person.

There are two sides to every tattoo story: the tale how how you got it, and the tale of why. Most days, I prefer to explain the how: Right after high school, my best friend Christian moved to Austin to join the AmeriCorps and I hitched a ride down there just for the adventure of it.

After midnight, bored on 6th Street and too young to drink, I decided to get a tattoo. We picked a shop at random and I explained my concept, forcing the artist to draw and redraw the stencil until he came up with something to my liking. (Side note: Don’t ever do that, especially with a piece this big. I could have been mangled.)


The concept isn’t as sophisticated as 18-year-old Sarah Kelly thought, but the work is good enough. I thought about having it removed, or at least covering it with makeup for my wedding, but I couldn’t — because of the why.

“Sweet dreams and flying machines” is a line from James Taylor’s song “Fire and Rain.”

Since 2003, the song has been inextricably tied in my brain to the death of Tyler Kirk.

Continue reading

Iowa State is the new enemy, Jayhawks

They used to say Kansas State is our rival, but Missouri is our enemy. Conference realignment has complicated that, but tonight is the dawn of a new era.

Saturday’s win over K-State was fun, but it didn’t compare to the satisfaction of beating Missouri. Other than an irritating penchant for camouflage, Kansas State and its fans don’t bother me. We’re brothers.

Not so with Missouri. I hate everything Missouri stands for. Every victory over Missouri felt like a moral triumph.

This is for Quantrill’s raid.

This is for celebrating Quantrill’s raid 150 years later.

This is for the time Missouri fans took a shit in my friend’s grill at Arrowhead Stadium.

This is for that horrific video you made a few years back.

Now we’re left with no one in the conference to hate, and that just won’t do. May I suggest: Iowa State.

Continue reading

How I’m surviving seasonal depression in the Midwest

This stock art dude suffering from seasonal depression was totally me.

This stock art dude suffering from seasonal depression was totally me.

I missed a lot of Midwestern things when I lived in Texas, but I never once missed “real” winters.

Adults who get excited about snow —I say this affectionately — are the worst people on earth and they need to grow up. Snow is terrible. It’s cold and wet, it makes driving dangerous, it ruins the hem of every pair of jeans. Snow is the reason I left Kansas in 2011.

And while everyone thought I was being ridiculous, my biggest reservation about taking a job in Iowa City was the weather. Everyone said I’d be fine, the winters weren’t that bad, and climate preference was no reason to turn down a good opportunity.

I didn’t mention that I’d struggled with depression for years, or that it was worse in the winter, or that central Texas winters had saved me. Because that stuff is kind of heavy.

In Iowa, I’d have a great job with normal hours, and I’d finally marry my fiancé after two years of living in different states. How could I be sad if my life was finally coming together?

I’m Sarah Kelly, and I always find a way. Continue reading

No place like home: My Jayhawk wedding recap

Every trip to Lawrence is magical, but this one takes the cake.


If you hire a photographer in Lawrence, it better be Jerry Wang.

I learned to read in Lawrence, got my degree in Lawrence, and met my husband in Lawrence, so you’d better believe I insisted on getting married in Lawrence. That’s home.

The full mass Catholic ceremony at St. John’s was for my husband. The reception, in turn, was the most Sarah Kelly thing I’ve ever done. Check the cake toppers:


Guests found their seats at the Chamberlain table, the Chalmers table, and the Sayers table, because I’m obnoxious. Naturally, the wedding party was at the Naismith table.

The reception was at the Adams Alumni Center on campus, and everyone we worked with was absolutely amazing. I liked the KU decor, the location, and the alumni connection, but what sold me on the venue is this:


They dress up this Jayhawk in a tuxedo for special occasions. Sold.

Before Allen Fieldhouse and the alumni center, we stopped at another campus spot that’s always felt like home: Alpha Delta Pi.


I lived at ADPi for two of the best years of my life, and met most of my closest friends, including all four bridesmaids, there. The organization has given me a lifelong connection to women all over the country and helped me find my place in each city I’ve lived in, but 1600 Oxford Road will always be home home.

And here’s another cool KU connection.


After the wedding, a bunch of us met for drinks at The Oread and ran into Andy Joseph, a friend of one of the guests and someone I’d been following on Twitter for quite a while. It was great to finally meet Andy, but I think he had a better time meeting my friend Rachel.

image (1)

The lighting at The Hawk is impossible, so you can’t really tell we’re showing off our Arizona State pitchforks because Phoenix.

Andy and Rachel are both KU alumni who live in Phoenix and happened to be in Lawrence for the weekend. Not enough coincidence for you? Rachel is in the process of converting to Judaism and Andy just so happens to be Jewish. They hit it off in Lawrence, met up the next night in Phoenix, and now they’re all anyone in our respective friend groups has talked about all week.

So, cheers to Jayhawk love in all its stages.


What’s next for me? Now that I’m not drowning in wedding plans, I’ll be putting together some KU watch parties in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area. Know someone who’d like to join? Email me!

Four reasons to get excited for Kansas football (really!)

Football season can be a trying time for Kansas fans.

It hasn’t always been this way. Remember this?


That was Jan. 2008, my first year at the University of Kansas, and probably the best year of my life.

Six years ago, Kansas won a BCS bowl. Last year, Kansas won one game. The Jayhawks won two games in 2011, and three games in 2010. Lately, it’s been difficult to get excited about KU football. But here are four reasons to try.

Continue reading