Brunch with My Daughter

My grandchildren are at camp this week – a Salvation Army camp on the shores of Sebego Lake.

It’s their week to commune with nature.

My children went to day camp when they were young – it was my way of dealing with day care as a single working mother.

My daughter works for the Salvation Army – she’s a case manager.

This week she has more free time than usual. We had a chance to get out to brunch today. It was great to have time with June – time to catch up.

Now she’s off to visit a friend she’s had since high school.

Time passes far to quickly.

I miss the days when taking my children for Chinese food after work was the high point of my week. Now I am thrilled when I have a couple hours to spend alone with my daughter. (Or my son, but that is too infrequent. His home in the woods of California is a little out of the way.)

The days of being always rushed, always over-committed have given way to grandmotherhood. It’s really more fun to sandwich the minutes of connection in between equal slices of separation.

There Are No Words Sufficient

I’m good with words – I’m a writer. But I have no words to tell the story of Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Coughlin who died Friday, June 19.

The young man recently returned from serving a tour in Iraq.

What I can say is it is sometimes impossible to make sense of events in the world.

The Marine died in a tragic accident in a quarry in Quincy with a few of his friends.

If only I had words that would explain the story. If only there was something that could be said to comfort his family.

Sometimes nothing can help. This is one of those times.

Fathers Day 2009

My father, Francis X. Desmond, died in April 1965.

I was ending my freshman year in college.

This is the first time in my life I have ever written something for public consumption about him. My feelings about my relationship with my father have been too complicated to think about letting strangers take a look.

My father grew up in Milton. He graduated from Milton High in 1939. His mother was widowed but left with enough of a support system that she maintained two households. They summered in Marshfield.

It was a different society then. My father’s three brothers all went to college. But he went to work for the telephone company after high school and then went on to serve in the Army in the days of World War II.

He never talked much about his time in the war. Whenever he was asked about it, he’d turn the conversation in a different direction.

He had married my mother just before boot camp. When he returned from the Army, they lived with her parents in a tiny home on Pleasant Street. I have no idea how the two couples were able to co-exist in the house. I was six months old when my parents got their first apartment near Central Avenue. I’ve always been attracted to small living spaces. I guess that’s my history.

My father served as a Town Meeting member in Milton. He would wear his suit and go off to the Annual Town Meeting. He was proud of his contribution.

Even after all these years, I can see him in my mind.  He was a solemn man. He worked overtime often to support his family. He (and one of his cousins) built the house my family lived in during my school years. He added to the house twice.

He had been brought up in the Catholic faith and never questioned it, never missed a Sunday Mass, never ate meat during Lent, always ate fish on Friday.

He lived by values he never questioned.

His simple faith defined him.

Slow Summer

Our staff lunch today was the last time the full staff will be in the office this summer.

Vacations begin next week.

I haven’t hired an intern this summer – for the first time in more than 10 years.

And we pared back the use of freelance contributors back in December when the new editor began working.

Cash flow has not matched our 2008 numbers – but that is not the end of the world as long as this is a temporary dip.

More Web Site Changes

This week we are switching to a photo gallery that begins to offer a way to monetize our local web franchise.

We’ve been on the web for a dozen years and never done more than break even on the venture.

The news that goes on line is only a small sample to what’s available in the print paper. We have tried and failed to create paying subscribers for news on the web and since people have been paying for the printed newspaper, we are going to make sure they realize the way to find news about Milton and its residents is to buy the paper on the newsstand or through the mail.

Anyway, we now have a photo gallery that offers prints, customized merchandise and downloads. We’ve tried an in-house photo gallery without much success. The real problem was the amount of in-house time it took to maintain. We tried a gallery that specializes in working with East Coast newspapers and found the photo galleries didn’t seem to work for our readers – they could never seem to find what they were looking for and so continued to call the office looking for help finding a desired photo.

The new site is something we discovered because it works for Roy Chambers, the photographer who captures MHS sports for us. He has been using a company called

We have a couple galleries set up on the site at but we may be changing the domain to as soon as the new registration takes hold.

Override Passes

Today the voters of Milton went to the polls and decided to approve the largest operational override in the town’s history.

About 45 percent of the registered voters turned out for the election.

A detailed story will appear in the Milton Times June 11 issue.

Ledger Retreats

Looking back at my first job brings a smile to my life.

The people I worked with at the Patriot Ledger back in the 70s were bright and committed and caring.

Back then I was part of a company union that included about 70 reporters and copy editors. We all considered ourselves professionals. The Ledger covered about 30+ towns from Plymouth to Westwood in those years. There were three (or three and a half) editions. Each town had a correspondent and none of the correspondents were part of the union.

The Ledger was in a growth stage back then. There were rules about town coverage. We were sure to cover Selectmen and School Committee. Each day (five days a week) there would be a town column. The bigger towns, with bigger readership were high status amongst our little band of journalists.

Of course, Quincy, being the only city in the region and the highest readership was the jewel.

Most of us wanted to be the city hall reporter.  My turn came in the early 70s. It was a great time. There were scandals to study. Amazing people to profile. It was a great life.

Then another war broke out in Isreal. And being interested in the larger world, I decided I wanted to be a war correspondent. I didn’t plan to make a lifetime of it. I expected the war would be over in a matter of days.  I told the executive editor, Ed Querzoli, that I wanted to cover the war in Isreal. He told me I was the city hall reporter but that he would talk it over with the editor, Don Wilder. Within a matter of an hour, Don and I were discussing my hopes and plans.

He told me I could take a month but when I returned I wouldn’t be the city hall reporter. He said the Ledger wanted first refusal on all the stories I might write while I was in Isreal but he wanted promising they would publish them and I’d be paid as a freelancer during my leave of absence.

The time I spent in Isreal during the Yom Kippur War helped me understand a great deal about myself and my world. The war only lasted three weeks. I was able to travel in buses to the front with other journalists. I watched mortar fire explode in the sand of the desert. I interviewed soldiers who came from the US to join the Isrealis because they were Jewish. I interviewed civilian soldiers who put their lines on hold every so often to fight – men and women.

I talked with people who lived near the mountains of the Golan – people who were accustomed to gun fire and missiles in what people considered times of peace.

And then I returned to the Ledger. Collected about $300 in freelance fees. And went back to working general assignment.

One lesson I learned was that everything is local.  For the people I met and interviewed during my time in the war zone, the end of the fighting was just a reprieve.

For me it was a lesson in the value of commitment.

These days the Ledger has changed its focus, away from the intense desire to cover all the news about its communities.  They let all the correspondents go. They continue to decrease the staff. And the readership continues to diminish.

Fred Hanson, who has been the Milton reporter for a while, has been reassigned to Braintree. No one is being assigned to replace him. The Ledger is down to about 30 people in its editorial union. It is a sad time.

Personal Issues

Well tonight a pipe near my livingroom wall decided to explode.

The good thing is I am capable of turning off a water main.

Of course there will be much more work to the clean up. For now the towels sopping up the water that soaked into the carpet will have to be sufficient.

Why do pipes burst? I know there was a plumber doing something for a couple on the third floor Tuesday morning. I know that because the third floor people left a note in the lobby warning that the water would be turned off for a few hours. I wasn’t home at the time.

Having personal issues certainly gets in the way of growing a business.

Dealing with life – reality – can be annoying.

Does anyone know how to prevent pipes from bursting?

Space Tightens

Tabloid newspapers, like the Times, are built in increments of four.

Our very first newspaper in 1995 was 12 pages. These days the paper is usually 24 to 28 pages. There is no magic to the number four – it’s just the way the printing press works.

We decide the number of pages based on advertising for the week. Our formula calls for 30 to 40% advertising and 60 to 70% news. Usually in the spring, the paper grows. Advertising in a small community is seasonal. The spring and the fall are usually busy.

This year is a little different. We’re not sure what to expect during July and August. I guess we expect papers that are 16 to 20 pages.