The last couple of days for me have been like a day on the Oregon Trail. Or how I have always imagined that painful dusty journey to be.
Plug along, persevere, keep your mind focused and your heart quiet.
There's a job to be done.
After all, it's Monday and Tuesday. And for the news staff that means it's push time.
For almost nine years, every week of my life has been dictated by our production schedule.
It's a heartless boss. So sometimes is the economy.
That's why I find myself saying goodbye to those of you who are my friends and those whose names I don't know. You've been my priority all these many months and years since I first walked into the Itemizer Observer one cold January day in 1993.
Now it's time for my computer log-on to be retired as an older and tougher me puts the paper to bed for the last time, a few months shy of my 500th issue.
Times being what they are, we're going through a restructuring here at the paper. The bottom line sends me moving on in search of a new adventure.
Some things have to be said when you're saying goodbye to almost a decade of a life.
I have a quote on my computer screen: "What I do today is important because I am paying a day of my life for it. What I accomplish must be worthwhile because the price is high."
When I first read that years ago, I clipped it out right away and placed it on my monitor where I could see it every day.
It kept me honest, it kept me committed and mindful.
Thankful every day that I was lucky enough to have a job in a profession that has the power to make a difference.
My favorite movie is "It's A Wonderful Life," and every Christmas Eve I watch it and cry, full of gratitude that I have been placed in a position to etch out a moment, no matter how small, to make someone's journey in this world a little richer, perhaps a little less painful.
While we all have that opportunity each day we head out into the world, the chance the printed word affords to share a message, to plant an idea, to get stuff moving for a good cause is something deeply meaningful to me.
I had the good fortune to land in Polk County at the age of 31. My journey has been filled with warmth and friendships -- the educators that have taught my children, the friends I have made through my work.
Then there's the people you find at all the local businesses and places like the library that give you a smile and a nod of recognition along with the superior service that's so common in our communities.
I've worked with many reporters, advertising reps, production staffers and administrative support staff during my time here at 147 SE Court Street.
They've all been a gift in one way or another, and believe me when I tell you that if this newspaper has ever helped you and your family, they've played a special part.
Being the child of a sports editor, I never had a hometown. We moved from Texas to Tennessee to Nevada and places in between. Here I have found a home and a hometown for my children. To all of you who have taught me what that means, and there are many, thank you.
To Arlie Holt, you made the people who are the history of Polk County come alive for me. Always a ready resource with a kind word, you are a treasure beyond compare for this county and this newspaper. You are a true friend, Dear Gizzard.
For anyone who wants to know what dedication to service looks like in human form, spend some time shadowing County Commissioner Mike Propes.
He is the epitome of selfless service and an intelligent, compassionate public servant. Those words all together in one sentence are hard to find these days, but not in Polk County.
Consider also State Rep. Lane Shetterly. You may not like his politics, but I challenge anyone to find a shred of dishonesty or anything less than heartfelt dedication in his record.
There are many others in our communities who reflect these qualities, and they aren't hard to find. Just visit your city council, school board, county commissioners or fire board.
Carol Sebens and Lou Ann Grosch at the Polk County Commission on Children and Families, Dallas Police Chief Jim Harper, former Dallas Schools Superintendent Dave Voves and Dallas Superintendent Dr. Dave Novotney
no editor could ask for better resources to help them report the news of the community to the community.
They're dedicated people who always put people first. And they work hard to insure that their co-workers are responsive as well. There are many, many more like them.
Well now it's becoming clear to me that this farewell could break my own policy of "no more than 15" listed in a thank you, so I'd better stop short.
There are so many more of you to thank, and I hope you know how much you are appreciated though I doubt that's possible.
So please know that while I may be gone from the pages of this newspaper, my heart will always remain here with the people and the memories of Polk County and my dear friends at the Itemizer Observer, a truly magical place on earth to work.
So many in our weekly journalism profession hope for the day they might work at a "daily." Well, I've worked at three very large, very metro dailies.
Nothing could come close to the opportunity we have here to touch lives on a daily basis, to put faces on the people in a community, a school, a neighborhood street.
To touch hearts and inspire to action, to educate and to press for change.
To be human.
And nothing could compare to the incredible wealth of stories here, in a place where neighbors still help neighbors and hometown pride in school and heritage is alive and nurtured.
There are so many quiet heroes here, so many stories of sacrifice and love, of struggle.
But stories can't be told if people aren't willing to reach out, to trust us. To all of you who have opened your lives to your neighbors and to us, thank you.
To all of you who have offered constructive advice and (sometimes painful) criticism, I will be forever grateful.
To Nancy and Tom, Daniel, Justin and Sam, Linda and Cindy, Karen and Dawn and Karen, Caroline, David, Heidi and JoAnn, Cathy and Debby, Chris, Christine and Joy, thank you for being who you are, which is always nothing less than the best you can be.
To everyone at the Itemizer Observer, thank you for your friendship and dedication to a common goal of service.
Long after the news of today has become a dusty entry into some decades-old bound book of newspapers, there will be a subtle ripple or two from those days when we called the Itemizer Observer home.