“My First Column of 2016,” Feb. 2, 2016

I was standing at the sink peeling shrimp for dinner (and thinking how I like to eat shrimp more than I like to peel them) when I had a revelation.

It hit hard, like a punch in the gut. I heard myself whisper: “This had better be good.”

Not the shrimp. The shrimp would be fine. Even I can’t make good shrimp taste bad. What prompted the whisper was a realization that I needed to write a column. Again. And I wanted to make it a good one.

In the past 25 years, I have written, give or take, 2,000 or so columns. Few were as daunting as the one I’m writing now.

In December, when I wrote my last column of 2015, I thought it might be my last ever. I had just learned that my syndication _ the process that distributed my work to newspapers around the country _ was ending. The news took some getting used to. But I told myself, OK, maybe it was time to shut off my laptop and work on wrestling moves with my grandkids.

I knew I would miss hearing from readers. That’s the part of the job I loved most. That, and the paycheck. But I would not miss being on deadline.

Most people who live long enough get to retire someday. My husband retired recently after 40 years in the news business and he seemed fine with it. Maybe I’d be fine, too?

So I wrote that last column to say goodbye to readers who seemed like old friends. It pretty much broke my heart. But I hit “send” and went to the kitchen to eat something greasy.

Meanwhile, the Retiree tried to be helpful. “You don’t have to quit unless you want to,” he said. “Just decide what you want to do.”

Mostly what I wanted to do was sit around in my pajamas feeling sorry for myself. I’m sure you never do that. But I can do it until the cows come home. Or until I call my brother. Joe is blind. His great pleasure in life (besides eating) is pulling for the Clemson Tigers’ football team, who’d just lost a national championship to Alabama. So I called him to offer condolences.

“I look at it like this,” Joe said, about the Tigers _ and life. “They gave it their best. That’s all you can do. I’m proud of ‘em.”

“Next year,” I told him.

“Yep,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

Joe has an eye for seeing perspective. He likes to make me see it, too. I felt better after talking to him. Not a lot, but some. Then a funny thing happened. Mail. Tons of it. Email, snail mail, messages on my website and Facebook.

I wish you could’ve read it. People said lovely things. It was like going to my own funeral without having to be dead. I read mail for days.

Finally, I stopped reading and started trying to figure out how to self-syndicate my column.

Imagine my surprise when almost every paper that had carried the column for years agreed to continue doing so. Editors get more complaints than thanks. I know because I’ve worked with some of the best, and even married one of them. If you’re reading this in your local newspaper, it’s because editors at that paper said yes. Don’t call them. They’re on deadline. But if you see them at the Piggly Wiggly or wherever, please give them a hug for me.

I said this in my last column and I want to say it again: Thank you for your friendship and encouragement; for your prayers and kind words; for your honesty and trust in telling me your stories; for making speaking gigs feel like family reunions without the fist fights; and most of all, for reading my words, hearing my heart and writing to tell me my stories are your stories, too. You have been, and continue to be, such a gift.

I don’t know how to write a “good” column. I just show up and try to give it my best.

Like Joe says, that’s all we can do.

Next time we eat shrimp, the Retiree can peel them. Thanks to you, I’ll be on deadline.

 

Comments

  1. Nancy Fischet says:

    Ms Randall :
    This is first for me … In the earliest quiet morn, I find myself lounging in my leather reading chair reading the morning paper page by page …on this day…June 28th , 2017 , your carefully crafted words brought tears to my eyes… happy tears … I refer to it as ” cleansing the soul.” The title , Believing is seeing outcome as fulfilled” in itself stood out like a flashing beacon… to my surprise I find myself in a battle to regain my health. Belief… Vision…Mindfulness…Acceptance…propels healing ! … just as I was propelled to message you… your words touched my soul … definitely clipping the article to revisit as I continue my new beginnings … know that words touch many hearts and minds…

  2. Cindy says:

    Hi Sharon – you and your columns are a true blessing! My mom read your column in the Salina Journal until the day she died, January 7, 2013. She introduced me to your column on one of my many, many visits home to visit her many, many years before that! (I can’t remember but it’s been many!!!) Here in Plano TX I read your column on your website every week. So for those who only see you in print – I’m thankful it all worked out!! For those of us who read you online – I hope and pray that you will never stop writing!!! Your articles always tug on every emotion AND most of all I can certainly see the fruits of the Spirit in every writing!! Peace, love, joy, goodness, kindness, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and self control!

  3. Cynthia Giel says:

    Hi Sharon!
    Just found a few quiet moments to have by myself and thought I would check to see if you had anything new and VOILA!!! Here you are!. So glad to have a chance to enjoy your column again, Welcome home!

  4. Vicki Pennington says:

    I’m so glad you’re back in the Wichita Falls Times Record News. I was opening my paper on Thursday and thinking “I wish I could see it.”

    It couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

  5. Chloye Bailey Pogue says:

    Oh, our newspaper just today printed your column telling about losing your syndication and I was so very sad!! I now come to your blog and see that you are still with us! I am so thankful because I, too, see my story in your column often and think “I could have written that!”. Keep writing!

    Chloye Bailey Pogue
    Little Rock, Arkansas

  6. Marilyn B. Archer says:

    So happy to read you once again in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette just last week. I am so glad it worked out for us and you too.Ready to read all about your family and whatever is of interest to you.Keep up the good work!

  7. Mary Ellen Lathrop says:

    I’m adding my “Yay! to all the others. Just checked to see if by any chance there was a new column from you, and there it was. We’re being snowbirds in So. Cal. and the San Diego has never carried your column, so I’m looking forward to your blog. Here’s hoping our Redding paper will be carrying it when we get back to No. Cal. I also thought about your brother when Clemson was doing so well, and when they were in the big game.

  8. Judy Kinney says:

    So happy to see your column returned to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as of last Wednesday! I’ve written “find Sharon Randall” in my desk calendar each week since you left and here you are come back on your own. Thank you for taking up the burden of deadlines again for our sakes.

  9. Marge Yoder says:

    Our paper stopped publishing your column several years ago. To use the Southern polite phrase, “Bless their hearts,” but I must say I think it was a disservice to their readers. Imagine my delight when I discovered this blog site! Fast forward to your last column of 2015. More sadness on my part, as so many of your experiences parallel mine; you always say it better, though. Now, after spending a week at Disney with my two grandsons, my son, and my daughter-in-law (who will be blessing us with another grandbaby in July), I find this newest column. What a great way to start my week! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  10. Susan Hampton says:

    Oh Happy Day! Sharon is back!!!

  11. Linda says:

    I guess I’m late to the giving of thanks, but better late than never. Our paper (The Reading Eagle) has a different column in your space each day of the week. Yours is Monday, and it’s just what I need on a Monday morning, especially today which started out at 11 degrees, is going to progress to snow, then ice, then freezing rain, with the grand finale being heavy rains all day tomorrow.

    In today’s column, you talked of your year old granddaughter, and the things you learn from her. This is one of the topics that I especially enjoy in your writing. I’m the happy Grams to three adorables, age 7,5, and 2. Each is amazing in their own way. The two year old has us constantly in awe at her thought processes. Her brother got that crazy dinosaur that was all the rage. Evaline was showing it to her dad, and said she wanted it to go. He told her that she needed the remote control. Of course I thought what does that mean to a two year old. I watched her, especially her eyes and her forehead. It was like having a window to her brain. After a minute or so, she got down from her dad’s lap, left the room, and came back with the remote!

    I know this is a long story, and you have oodles of comments coming your way, but it came to mind as I was reading your column.

    Thank you again for your return

  12. Marion Ingber says:

    May this day be spent doing whatever makes you happy. Have a wonderful birthday and good health and happiness in the coming year!

  13. Karen Ripple says:

    Thank you, Sharon, for dusting yourself off and continuing to write. Your resilience and determination are a testament to the strength and courage of women everywhere. Your writing has always been inspiring, but it will be even better after the “bump in the road.” Life has a way of showing us what we’re really made of. (You don’t have to start ending a sentence with a preposition just because I did. It’s just one of those sayings that doesn’t lend itself to proper grammar.)

  14. Helen Kraus says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for deciding to become self-syndicated and finding a way to come back into my kitchen every Sunday via the Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press. Your column is like a weekly letter from home, providing a smile, or a belly laugh, and yes, sometimes a tear.

  15. Jean Lucas says:

    Welcome back….reading the Sunday paper doesn’t feel right without your smiling face peering out from behind another section just daring me to read you first, and I do. Yes I pass up the funnies and news of the day to read your article. Thank you for all the years of fantastic stories. I really enjoyed the one of your brother and his baseball comment.
    I too at age 73 have been a “hard dog to keep under the porch”. I don’t write so much, my forte’ is sewing doll clothers for 11 1/2″ fashion dolls. Keeps me out of trouble.
    Good luck to you and enjoy your so-called 1/2 retirement.

  16. Joyce Bock says:

    You can’t imagine how happy your column made me. And how right it feels that you are continuing to write. We may have lost you in the Monterey area but we’re still here reading your thoughts and you’re still there where you belong… Writing columns. It’s just the right thing to do. Great choice and great to have you back. Love from your friend, Joyous Marie

  17. Jeanne says:

    So glad you are back in the Evansville Courier & Press. I look forward to your stories, they inspire me! Now my Sundays will be complete . We’ve missed you.

  18. Shelley says:

    I am so glad that I found this website when you said you were no longer in syndication. At least I am still able to read you columns this way. My editor must has said “no” because your column has not been back in our local paper. His and our areas loss of a great column. I just love your stories and I am glad I can still keep in touch. Maybe in the near future you will be back in my local paper, keeping my fingers crossed.

  19. Vicki says:

    What a wonderful Sunday surprise! I turned the page and there you were, back where you belong with another wonderful column! My Sunday reading is complete again. Thank-you for blessing us with your words. We so appreciate you sharing with those of us who wish we had your gift. Looking forward to the weeks ahead. God Bless!

  20. Judy Mc says:

    Confession is GOOD for the soul. I never heard of you UNTIL a friend started sharing your columns with me. Not every one, she kept some to herself. But the ones she shared have been keepers and I have the folders of them to prove it!
    Glad you are still going and hitting deadlines and getting the retiree back working – in the kitchen! All the very best to you in 2016 and BEYOND…
    My first post – thank you for sharing your gifts with us!
    Judy – Dana Point, CA

  21. May Kitagawa says:

    Yay!! So happy to hear you are back! Just love your columns Sharon. Keep on keepin’ on!!

  22. Debbie Fortune says:

    You disappeared from my inbox, but now you’re back where you belong!

    A big hug and ‘Hello’ from Monterey…your home once upon a time, long, long ago in this far away place where you got started…only here we can say we knew you when…?

  23. Alice M. Anderson says:

    “Well hello, Sharon, hello, Sharon, it’s so nice to see you back where you belong!” Like so many others, I couldn’t believe you had disappeared from my computer. Then I found your blog explaining your absence . Now my Tuesdays will be complete. Maybe your letter arrival will be another day of the week. Your messages are magic for me, an almost 95 old fan and fellow Southerner.

  24. Cyndee smith says:

    Wonderful news!! So happy for you and for us!! Thank u for sharing yr life and stories!!

  25. Jeannette Buck says:

    Hallelujah! You are my inspiration! I was so delighted to see this pop up on facebook. Keep it up, Sharon. You keep us going.

  26. libby nowell says:

    Sharon,
    its Libby from lower Alabama (LA). I read your column every sunday in my paper but I have missed the last few since we have moved 250 miles north , close to Birmingham, to be with our children and most especially our grand children. I was startled to find out your column might not be the paper again..and so glad when I read on down and know that your column was saved. There is absolutely nothing I enjoy more that reading your post. Right now I am having to read it on line. but, it doesn’t matter where it is as long as I get to read it.
    Please let Joe know he is the first person I thought of when we beat Clemson. he can find solance in the fact that we had to work for it..that was a tuff win.

  27. Priscilla Hatcher says:

    Wow! I was reading my paper turned the page and there you were like an old friend turning up unexpectedly.
    I am glad that you were able to figure out how to self-syndicate your column.
    Welcome home.

  28. Becky Borovac says:

    So glad that you are back in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Have missed you wonderful column.
    A big fan from Mena, Arkansas.

  29. Jeff Deckman says:

    Looking forward to many more enjoyable stories now that you are back in our local paper (The StarPress-Muncie, In.) Happy writing!

  30. Sue says:

    What a surprise and blessing to open the paper this morning and see that your column is back! YAY! The LORD has a wonderful plan for you : )

  31. Barbara Hodges says:

    THANK YOU!! My eyes nearly fell out of my head when I saw your column back where it belongs in my Sunday paper (San Angelo, TX Standard Times)! So glad you managed to make some arrangements to continue your column!! Welcome back!!

  32. Marion Ingber says:

    What good news and on the eve of my birthday! I kept checking your website and you’ve delivered! All’s right again! As far as the shrimp – a favorite of ours – I’ve found a 16/20 count that Safeway carries which comes with the shell split and the shrimp deveined. To me, it’s well worth the additional cost to be able to quickly and easily peel them. Looking forward to your next of many columns. And Happy Birthday to you!

  33. Marla Suding - Muncie, IN says:

    I am so happy that you are back in our newspaper! I recently retired after 41 years as a registered nurse, and I was looking forward to casually reading your wonderful stories each week while drinking a cup of coffee, instead of rushing to read it or digging out the Wednesday paper from our recycle bin. Our kids and grandkids are similar in age to yours which make your stories even more enjoyable to us! Keep your wonderful stories coming, please! There are so many of us out here that appreciate and love them more than you know!

  34. Diana Nolting says:

    Ahhhhh, all is well with the world again! I’ve reread Birdbaths and Paper Cranes and many of your old columns to get my weekly Sharon “fix”. So grateful to have you back.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  35. Your column is in my paper on Wednesdays and I missed the news that you were leaving my paper as I was with my next to youngest daughters house with her as she battled breast cancer.My son’s wife died almost a year ago from cancer about the time we learned Vicky had breast cancer. Your column was always a light in the road . My daughter has finished all her treatments and is cancer free and you are back in my paper. It is like an old friend coming home.Welcome back and many more years.

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