Kansas basketball is keeping me sane

I don’t have a lot going on these days. Since losing my job and moving into my in-laws’ house, my days are filled with sitcom reruns and job applications with little to look forward to. (Did you know FX shows “Mad About You” on weekday mornings? Next time you’re home sick from work, hit me up and I’ll tell you where to find the good stuff on TV.) While I’m thankful for a lot of things — namely my husband’s great job and my in-laws’ remarkable generosity — life isn’t awesome right now.


Me and Meghan in Austin

Some people use unemployment as a chance to get their homes in order or catch up on their reading or tackle a project they’ve neglected. I’ve devoted my newfound free time to Kansas basketball.

In a previous life, I traveled to Austin and New Orleans to see my Jayhawks. I paid way too much to watch KU play in College Station (in basketball and football). I drove to Houston to watch the national championship with other Kansas alumni. I even made it to the 2013 Sweet Sixteen in Dallas, but I never blogged about it because it was the first time I’d ever seen Kansas lose in person and I was just too sad.*

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My life is a weird sitcom

Last time you heard from me, I had just been laid off by the Iowa City Press-Citizen as part of a “Newsroom of the Future” restructure that eliminated about 15 percent of newsroom positions between Iowa City and Des Moines.

Now, I live in my mother-in-law’s basement in a very, very small town.

Andale, population 964, is about 15 miles west of Wichita. I learned the hard way this week that the entire town is a dead zone for pizza delivery.

We share the house with four cats and a springer spaniel, Murphy, who refuses to recognize my authority.IMG_0195.JPG

The whole situation sounds like the premise of a sitcom — some CBS fish-out-of-water show with a laugh track.

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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.

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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.

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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