Author Archives: Karen Mitchell

Does everything in life have a deeper meaning?

mom sudoku

Mom was able to fill in 10 of the squares in the Sudoku puzzle. At that rate, we’ll finish it in about four more sessions. Guideposts in a journey such as this are good.

Does everything in life have — or have to have — a deeper meaning?

This year I was hit with a series of events that I do believe have a deeper meaning: My job was eliminated, I moved back to Des Moines then my mother became very ill and I have been able to be in Phoenix to help her out.

Mom’s illness is now three months old and we are still learning just Continue reading


My short-lived trip back to the newsroom

Betting on Gannett didn’t pay off this time

About a month into the job at The Tennessean, working on two laptops and a desktop computer.

Getting oriented back into a newsroom included working with two laptops and a desktop computer, relying on my old systems while I learned the new ones.

Well I gave it a shot. I placed the bet, rolled the dice and crapped out. I know “crapped out” isn’t the correct term (I’m looking at you, Mary Lawrence) but I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for the right gambling analogy and, well, crapped out.

Just a few days past my one-year anniversary at The Tennessean in Nashville, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. (It also happened just four days after my Continue reading

When anosmia becomes more than just a nuisance

My effort to cook dinner this week became a scary, potentially hazardous event, reminding me that something that has been a big bother could also be deadly. I’ve been dealing with the lack of a sense of smell — anosmia — for about six years now. Because the two are so interconnected, typically with the loss of smell comes a loss of taste.

What's left of the oven mitt.

What’s left of the oven mitt.

Yes, not being able to taste makes for a lot of dissatisfaction in life, especially living in Nashville, with all of its Southern food and home to many premiere chefs. It’s sad when a burger from Top Chef Winner Richard Blais’ Flip Burger is no more satisfying than a thickburger from Hardee’s. Textures become really important — mushy meals don’t cut it for me, I need crunch.

Since I can’t taste most things, I’m using my recent move to Nashville as an opportunity to break some bad habits, to save money and eat more healthfully by cooking more meals. The house I’m renting has little kitchen counter space so the flat surface stove (my first) often doubles as a counter.

On Tuesday I was cooking chicken with rice and beans. With the chicken cooking I threw on some water to boil then turned around to the sink to wash some dishes. A few minutes later I turned to check to see if the water was boiling. I have no idea if it was because all I could see was a huge cloud of smoke — I had turned on the wrong burner and an oven mitt was about to burst into flames.

Fortunately one side of the mitt was made of some sort of fire retardant or heat resistant material. Any other type of material would have caught fire much sooner. Instead this one smoldered longer.

Well, those are the facts, here’s the emotion — I was scared to death. I hadn’t smelled any of the smoke that was billowing from the mitt, and that’s pretty scary. The smoke detector didn’t go off. That’s really scary. What if I hadn’t turned around when I did? What if there’s ever a fire somewhere else in the house and I can’t smell or see it? That’s the scariest. So this weekend I’ll be buying a few more detectors and placing them within a couple of feet of the stove. That’s a $20 investment in the lives of me, Frankie, Alvie.

So this is why they build museums

I’m not one for museums. That’s odd for an artist, don’t you think? I don’t know what it is but I just don’t gravitate toward them. You have to drag me almost kicking and screaming to go to one.

This week a new friend I met at a training session wanted to go to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and she asked me to join her. I didn’t have an excuse not to go other than just not wanting to. And when I thought to myself, “I don’t want to” it sounded pretty lame. So I went.

This post is about a painting and an experience that should forever remind me Continue reading

18 people die in one week of Tennessee’s record setting winter

I have joked about the weather weenies here in Nashville, but I overlooked just how dangerous these conditions can be — and have been — when they occur as rarely as they do in Nashville.

Good samaritans Kristi Clark and her son, Carter Oakley, 10, were killed Monday night as she tried to help passengers of an SUV involved in a crash on I-65 in Franklin. (Photo: Courtesy Chelsea Mattocks)

Good samaritans Kristi Clark and her son, Carter Oakley, 10, were killed Monday night as she tried to help passengers of an SUV involved in a crash on I-65 in Franklin. (Photo: Courtesy Chelsea Mattocks)

According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency 18 people have lost their lives in the past five days. As of this writing the entire state is in a Level III state of emergency, with severe cold, snow, freezing rain and rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

I’m a native Iowan who has dealt with snow and sub-zero temperatures my entire life. So to hear that 18 people have died this week is a bit hard to understand. So I went in search of Continue reading

Music City knows how to party — until the snow starts to fall


Icicles hang from a railing over a highway overpass in the metro Nashville area on Tuesday. (Photo by Jae Lee/The Tennessean)

Nashville is in the middle of an historic winter storm. Now, having said that you might think it’s something of Boston proportions.

You’d be wrong. Continue reading

Saturday morning Nashville

020715 Nasville morning loThis morning I went to a volunteer event in North Nashville. I wanted to go to it for a number of reasons:

  • I wanted to learn about the group sponsoring the event, Dogs Deserve Better, a national organization with a chapter in Nashville. I left Columbia vowing to get more life in my life, and this might be an organization I give some time to. They work to free dogs from a life being chained up in yards. Today’s event was a fence build, the group builds a fenced-in area in a residents yard so that their dog can roam freely, unchained, in a safe area.
  • I hired a freelancer to cover the event, a guy I’d hired before but had not yet met in person. This was a good time to meet him. And lastly,
  • I had not yet been to this area of the city and I couldn’t recall any stories we’d done out of that neighborhood.

I accomplished all of these goals with this picture as the cherry on top. As I turned the last corner on the way to the homes for the build I saw this. The light was wonderful in the way it silhouetted the kids who were playing both football and basketball in the street. The light also played off the power lines and reflected off the cars, which lined both sides of the streets. It struck me as a classic urban scene. Just a few hours later that beautiful light was gone. And so were the kids.

Why I share cute photos on Twitter

One of the more adorable photos found on Cute Emergency.

One of the more adorable photos found on Cute Emergency, and it doesn’t even have a real animal in it.

There are a lot of people who hate the proliferation of cute animal photos that litter the Internet. For the most part I do, too. Then I discovered Cute Emergency on Twitter.

hood lifeThe first time a Cute Emergency tweet popped up on my screen I’m sure it made me smile. I know this because almost all of them make me smile. But at that time I wasn’t going to give it — I just smiled and went on with my day. Then on a particularly tough day one of those tweets popped up, mostly likely a puppy. I smiled as usual but instead of moving on I thought that others might need the same kind of lift I had just gotten. So I retweeted and didn’t regret it.

Most of my friends and colleagues have stressful jobs and work long hours. In journalism we deal in a fair share of news that makes us feel bad. So when a picture like this comes across my Twitter feed, I feel good, if just for a moment, and I need that moment of release. I need that reminder that indeed most of what happens in our lives is pleasant and wonderful.

a study in whiteI try to be frugal about what I retweet because I don’t want to clutter your Twitter or Facebook stream, causing you to unfollow or unfriend me. This is a situation where less is definitely more.

If you like a ton of cute animal photos in your day, follow Cute Emergency. If you want just a sprinkling of those cute photos, follow me.

The standards for showing grief vary, depend on many factors

There’s no easing into my job here at The Tennessean. After a relatively slow day of training on Monday, the past three days have been hectic, filled with news and lots of meetings.

It’s only been four days and we’ve already had a stimulating ethics conversation about a photograph of a grieving widow.

Thankfully these conversations don’t come along often and I’m grateful that my years at the Missouri School of Journalism gave me chances to practice these Continue reading

Packing up, letting go

Moving sucks. That’s a no-brainer.

Moving 11 years of stuff — some of which I never even unpacked — sucks even more.

I think I've always been the only African American photographer on a photo staff. As such, I took pride in covering that community, to give them a much needed voice.

I think I’ve always been the only African American photographer on a photo staff. As such, I took pride in covering that community, to give them a much needed voice.

Some of the stuff was pretty easy to let go of, like a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn since I moved to Columbia. Other stuff is much tougher. A good friend here told me to purge my old things from my life.

“Remember with affection the part of you that used and even loved those things and those times in your life, and release her, too. I’ll be the first to agree it’s not easy. But you are on to new things, and you need to cut out the dead wood to make room in your life for fresh growth.”

But there’s something I have that I’m not sure I can part with, but not sure if I should keep, and I need your suggestions:

What do you do with more than 14 years of newspaper clips? (I’ve been in journalism since I was 19, so this includes my college years with the Drake Times-Delphic and about 10 years at Continue reading