Passion ignited again

Passion ignited again

I’ve been on cloud nine since June 8 when I started working full-time again as the new editor of the Sanibel-Captiva Islander on beautiful Sanibel Island. Every day as I drive over the bridge there’s a calmness that takes over as I take in the scenery. On more than one occasion I have stopped on the causeway at the beginning and at the end of the day, just to take in the beauty, take a deep breath.

My passion for my craft has ignited again. I absolutely loved working from home creating my own hours, well running my own show. But . . .  I have to admit that I love working in an office outside of my home even more. It’s nice having that interaction with others face-to-face instead of just over the phone. It’s nice to leave work and officially leave my work at the office.

The best part are some of the assignments I have given myself to fill my paper.

My assignments have been fun over the last month, especially when they take me outdoors to further enjoy the tranquility of the island. This week I went on the Tarpon Bay explorers nature cruise and loved every minute of it because of the wildlife I was able to capture.

Here are a few pictures of what I was able to capture . . .

FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers3FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers4FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers8FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers9

FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers5FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers6P1050851FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers2FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers12FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers10P1050830FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers11

FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers1P1050858FACES_Tarpon Bay Explorers7The best part was spotting dolphins, which are in the above two pictures.

Another chapter starts

Another chapter starts

At 6 a.m. I slowly crawled out of bed as my alarm woke me Monday. Pure excitement washed over me as I got ready for my first day as the new editor of the Sanibel-Captiva Islander.

I was leaving to go to work. I was heading to an office where I would be working with others. My streak of working only out of my home doing freelance work came to an end that morning.

The hardest part of Monday was saying goodbye to my little puppy who I have spent pretty much every day with since we adopted her in April 2014. The look she gave me as I closed the garage door made me smile as memories flooded of the time we have spent together. My heart broke a little knowing that she will now spend a good portion of the day alone.

The goodbye with Jason carried me through the jitters of my first day. He always knows the right thing to say at the right moment. His excitement shined through his sleepy words and his sweet smile as he looked into my eyes. For the first time in two years, I was the one who kissed Jason goodbye, wishing him a good day as I left and went to work.  As I walked out of our bedroom, a smile swept across my face.

It’s true I have the support of a beautiful man. A man that has continued to share how proud he is of me through my career changes over the past almost six years.

That morning reminded me of a day in September 2009. I moved back to Fort Myers from Arizona a few months prior and began a job search. After a few months, I found a listing for the Cape Coral Daily Breeze and went in for an interview. I was at Jason’s place when I got the phone call . . . I was hired as a new reporter for the paper. The excitement he shared with me that day was beyond supportive. A memory that still makes me smile.

The sky was blue with typical Florida temperatures engulfing the car as my drive to work began before 7 a.m. earlier this week. It was the most relaxing 40-minute drive. As soon as I crossed the toll for Sanibel my shoulders relaxed and my back hugged the seat a little more as I took in the view of the water. Cars were already parked along the causeway as another beautiful day unfolded. I stopped where no other cars were parked next to the water, took a picture and breathed in the salt water before continuing my trip to the office.

First day at Islander

I did it. I was offered a full-time position, a position that will allow my passion of writing to continue.

The same smile I had after walking out of our bedroom surfaced again as I opened the door to the office. It remained as I introduced myself to Craig who I am replacing.

We shared information about ourselves before diving into the responsibilities I will be taking over come Monday morning.

I honestly felt like I was home again. As I sat in his office, soon to be mine, the passion of my craft consumed me. I am faced with another challenge . . . well opportunity . . . of making another newspaper into a great weekly sharing the news and stories of the island.

One of the true beauties of this career is the endless opportunities it provides in getting to know, fully diving deep into the character of a community. Although I grew up in Southwest Florida and have spent time on Sanibel, I really do not know the community well. Now, working on the island I have the opportunity to really get to know what makes this area a destination for so many.

My first day sped by relatively fast. It was absolutely perfect. That smile remained throughout the entire day. I was introduced to people, got some leads on stories and had the opportunity to see some of the beautiful island.

That night Jason, Lucy and I went to Fort Myers Beach to embark on one of my favorite past times. We stopped at Publix and I ordered us subs before we headed to our destination. We used to eat dinner on the beach while watching the sunset before we left for Tennessee.

Before we left the house it started raining, but since we live in Florida we ran to the car and hoped for the best. It rained on and off the entire drive to the beach. We ended up eating dinner in the car waiting for the showers to finish.

Fortunately the rain stopped and an incredible sunset covered the night sky.

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That night was the first time Lucy truly got to experience the beach. Although she was extremely hesitant of the water, Jason and I eventually encouraged her to get her feet wet.

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It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

The next few days were just as successful as the first.

There is truly no better feeling than working in an office with others who have the same passion as mine. It’s nice to be surrounded by others, instead of being isolated in my home interviewing people over the phone.

Another perk of working on Sanibel came to fruition Thursday night on my way home. For the first time since Jason and I started dating we work in the same area. So, before I left the island I stopped by Jerry’s where he cooks and said hello.

With our hours, most of the time we only get to see each other at the end of the day, when I’m falling asleep on the couch waiting for him to come home.

Although it was a brief visit, it was great to see him.

With a smile on my face I began driving off the island when a rainbow caught my attention. The water began calling my name, so I decided to stop on the causeway and get out of the car. The weather was perfect at that moment as my hair started flying in every direction with the wind coming off the water. I stood there taking in the scenery, smelling the salt water and listening to the wave’s crash against the shore. I probably stood there for 15 to 20 minutes.

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As I climbed back into my car I was completely relaxed as I drove the rest of the way home. It was at that moment that I truly felt grateful for the life Jason and I have. At that moment I began thinking about my journalism career here in Southwest Florida.

Since September 2009, my editor Val has taken care of me. I have gained heaps of experience as my duties change as a new position opened.

When I shared I would be moving to NE Tennessee in 2013, she kept me on as a freelance reporter. A phone call sharing that Jason and I were moving back to Florida offered her word in keeping me busy with freelance work until something full-time popped up. Val kept to her word. My workload tripled for the Cape Coral Daily Breeze as a freelance reporter.

Last week my world changed when I received an email from Val asking me to call her. That phone call, which led to a meeting in her office, was another promise kept.

I love what the beginning of this new chapter has offered so far. I’m excited to fully dig in next week when I no longer have to shadow the editor who is here now.

I firmly believe that our move back to Southwest Florida was meant to be. I continue to feel myself relax while the stress diminishes.

This week, although has worn me out, has been one of the best week’s I have had in a long time. I’ve met some really nice people, have seen some beautiful places and have contributed articles to a newspaper that will soon be filled with my byline.

‘I sing to the cats’

Patricia was a lot of fun to interview because of her passion. It’s a really cute book for youngsters, she sent me a copy.  

Interactive book shares story about a tuxedo cat

Published March 1, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

Youngsters have the opportunity to learn about a tuxedo cat through an interactive book of song and illustrations created by a Sun Lakes resident.

Patricia Koepp, a retired elementary art teacher of 29 years, has released “Mr. Mittens’ Magical Mittens: Listen, Read and Sing Along,” through Tate Publishing. The author, illustrator, editor and layout designer will have a big launch for her interactive book in June.

Sun Lakes resident Patricia Koepp wrote and illustrated her book “Mr. Mittens’ Magical Mittens: Listen, Read and Sing Along.” Submitted photo to SanTan Sun News

Sun Lakes resident Patricia
Koepp wrote and illustrated her book “Mr.
Mittens’ Magical Mittens: Listen, Read and
Sing Along.” Submitted photo to SanTan Sun News

“I have located a little plush cat that looks like Mr. Mittens in the book,” she explains. “They are being delivered to me in June.”

A longtime animal lover, Koepp is a volunteer for the Arizona Welfare League and Humane Society.

“All my cats that I have adopted have been rescued cats,” Koepp says.

She adopted her first cat, which lived to be 18, while she was in college. Another cat became a part of her family for 16 years before it, too, died. Now she has a 22-pound solid black male and a 16-pound female tuxedo cat who are brother and sister. These siblings helped inspire her book.

“Mr. Mittens is a combination of the two,” Koepp explains. The character takes the personality of her male cat and the body type of the female.

The song that tells the tale of Mr. Mittens came to Koepp as she was brushing her cats on their pedestal in the kitchen.

“I sing to the cats as I was brushing them,” she explains.

She jotted down the lyrics as the words flowed. That encouraged her to go to the store and buy a miniature keyboard. Although she cannot read music, Koepp researched which keys correlated to what letters on the scale.

“I hammered out the song on the keyboard,” she says.

The book, which is geared toward youngsters ages 4 and older, includes 18 pages of illustrations and songs, a coloring section and sheet music.

“Each page is a verse of the song and the next page is an illustration of that verse,” she explains.

The first verse describes Mr. Mittens. It is followed by a black and white versions of the illustrations so kids can color them. The final section includes sheet music and a CD of the music. Koepp says the music was orchestrated by a friend of hers using two female voices—a woman who majored in voice and piano in college and a young girl, a friend’s relative.

“The song itself is a chorus singing about the cat. The cat responds to the chorus in the next verse,” she explains.

Adults can either read the book with the youngster or sing along with the CD.

“I’ve had really good feedback from people in town here,” Koepp says.

Second book

After another song struck Koepp, her second book “Mr. Mittens’ Dreams Come True” was born. She says the book will be available this summer.

Her second book, which again is told through song, shares the story of Mr. Mittens being adopted into a family from an animal sanctuary. While at the sanctuary he meets another animal that he sings with, which is later revealed to be dog. The duo, who end up being adopted by the same family, share the story of how everyone dreams.

Her artistic journey

A self-described hyperactive child in school, Koepp discovered that drawing cartoons and doodling kept her in her seat.

“My idol when I was growing up was Walt Disney,” she explains. “It was always a dream of mine to be an illustrator and cartoonist.”

When she attended college, she went after a double major, English and art education. Upon graduation, she stumbled upon a job, an art position in Phoenix.

“I decided I would rather teach art than English,” Koepp says. “I loved my profession. It was a lot of fun.”

She says with an overactive imagination, she is able to express herself through her artwork and share it with other people.

“I have always envied musicians who can play a guitar and take their craft wherever they go and share that with the people they are with,” Koepp says.

With a published book, she can share her craft with friends and people she has never met.

“All through my life I had been writing stories and drawing,” she says.

The book, CD and plush kitten can be purchased by emailing danceswithbunnies@q.com, calling (480) 883-0662 or visiting www.tatepublishing. com.

Individuals can also purchase other Mr. Kitten’s merchandise at www.cafepress.com/mrmittenskittenkaboodle.

First interview …

Today I went for my first reporter interview since arriving in NE Tennessee, which I think went pretty well.

Before hitting the road, I gathered the six letters of recomendation that I received from members of the Pine Island community, as well as the PIO from Lee Memorial Health System. These letters were accompanied by my resume and a cover piece of paper displaying all my contact information.  I placed them all in a portfolio, so I could  give it to the editor in which I had an interview with this afternoon.

An interview, which was scheduled last week, occurred because of my persistence with the editor of the paper.
My 30-minute drive to the paper calmed my nerves and allowed me to gather my thoughts, which made me reflect on my career as a journalist.

I left Tennessee and entered Bristol, Virginia in awe of the scenery I continued to pass along the way, which was a beautiful ride to take for an interview.

I spent an hour and a half talking to two editors and the reporter who currently has the position I applied for, the police beat.

As the night editor asked me questions about the stories I have covered I mentioned Pine Island and my job there. He told me he used to live on a mound in Pineland, wow what a small world. The conversation flowed freely as he asked me questions and I answered them. 

I spent quite a long time with the editor as she asked me questions and I explained past responsibilities I had. She told me she was interested in talking to me because of my experience, something she said stood out to her because the other applicants were fresh out of college.

Out of all of my experiences as a reporter, this position will be a completely different beat to cover. Although I have covered car accidents, fires and murders, working solely on those topics have never been my full responsibility.

During the interview the editor asked how I would feel about seeing a dead body … well that would be a new experience for sure. As she talked about what I would be responsible for, I got excited because it is all breaking news stories, topics people generally want to read. A new challenge, which is always good.

This will be a new learning experience for me if I am offered the job. Something new I can hopefully conquer. 
Now the waiting begins as she finishes another interview this week. I have to say I received good vibes from that interview … I left feeling positive.

Maybe a daily newspaper, with daily deadlines, will be my next adventure as a journalist.

It will be different to work a set schedule with the same two days off every week, as well as being the last reporter to leave the office every night.

With my last day at the Eagle taking place in April, the urge to write is becoming extremely strong … this of course only confirms that I found my career path.

Wow … simply wow

Today touched me in a way that left me absolutely overwhelmed … what a fantastic day, another day I will carry with me forever.

With only two days left as the editor of the Eagle, a going away lunch was held for me today.

Little Lilly’s Island Deli, a deli right down the boardwalk from us, made my version of the veggie wrap as the special of the day as a tribute to me. That in itself blew me away.

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They also put a message on their sign, which usually highlights the special of the day …

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This sign kicked off a very emotional day … Chris, Robin and Matt … you all will be missed. You all always brighten my day … especially that wonderful laugh of yours Robin.

Elsie, one of the first women I met when I started on the island, put a letter to the editor in the paper yesterday inviting the community to come say goodbye.

What a thoughtful gesture …

As the hour and a half went by, various individuals came in, shared their goodbyes, and well wishes. I received lots of hugs and a few kisses before we walked away from each other. Some even came baring gifts.

I was especially touched when Linda came into the deli. I instantly got up and hugged her, an embrace that shared every emotion she was feeling at that moment. That hug spoke to me, spoke volumes. As we pulled away tears filled her eyes as she shared how much she was going to miss me. Since I am an incredibly emotional person, I told her to stop crying or I was going to start. We hugged again, after I shared my contact information with her. That goodbye and best wishes touched my heart in such a deep way, made me feel incredibly loved.

As I sat with a great group of women at lunch, laughing uncontrollably, it hit me how much I am going to miss this island and all of the people who have touched my life. I never thought I would have so many emotions fill me as I said goodbye to a place of work.

The best part was those goodbyes continued as I went back to the office.

Although I worked today it did not feel like work. There was so much laughter, so much joy, so many good times. One of the best days I have had on that island.

I don’t think I will ever fully grasp what kind of impact I have had on this community.

The beauty of this job is it never really felt like a job. Yes, I worked a crazy amount of hours, worked way to many consecutive days in a row … and … yes complained about it from time to time. But, I worked with friends, people who I grew to know through the articles I wrote. I became a part of the community in which I did not live all because of the involvement I felt was important to have as the editor of the Eagle.

A community that embraced me, a community that treated me like a member of their personal family will always fill my heart with so much joy.

I am so glad I was given this job, it has changed my life forever! I have so many beautiful memories that I will take with me throughout my life due to the experiences and people I met.

I will miss Pine Island, I will miss writing for the paper that I poured my heart and soul into.

Wow, how incredibly lucky am I, this truly is the best career in the entire world.

So many emotions, so many beautiful, raw emotions are running wild at this very moment.

So many memories

With only seven days left as the editor of the Pine Island Eagle, (due to the move Jason and I are making to NE Tennessee), the push to find someone to replace me has come full circle. A few applicants have called me to find out the “scoop” of the paper in the last few days. These phone calls made me realize how much I have grown to like the Pine Island community, as well as the paper that I have worked so hard on week after week.

This sweet gal who recently moved from Rhode Island to Southwest Florida called with a list of questions this afternoon after she talked with Val, the executive editor about the position. Her enthusiasm for the possibility of becoming the new editor was contagious, which made me reflect upon the moment I was offered the job 18 months ago.

As her questions were answered and we got to know each other a little more, my excitement for her grew as she became more excited about the job. Although I do not have a final say in who replaces me, I decided to call Val and share the nice conversation we had on the phone.

It’s amazing how much of an impact you can have on a community through writing. On the flip side, it is amazing how much the community can have an impact on you as well.

A woman who I have grown to know since I started at the Eagle, due to her involvement in one of the groups that raises money for the island, showed me so much support tonight. She came up to me and asked if she could have a hug, which of course I provided. That hug was then followed by many incredibly sweet remarks of what I have done with the Eagle. As she wished me luck in my next endeavors and shared how much she was going to miss me, she had to cut it short because her eyes were swelling with tears and she did not want to cry.

Another sweet moment that I will carry with me forever…

The wonderful thing about that moment is another woman soon picked up on who I was and instantly shared her feelings. She said she stopped reading the paper for a good amount of time because she was not happy with it, which she said changed when I began. A paper she did not go out of her way to pick up now makes her excited every week to go and get, so she can read the news of her community.

This community constantly thanks me for the paper I produce, their paper that they love. There is no need to thank me, writing is my passion, finding the stories and creating something for the community to enjoy is not work. It’s simply what I believe any reporter and editor would want to accomplish if they are given the opportunity to make a paper their own.

Overwhelemed is an understatement of how all these people leave me feeling after they share their thoughts and feelings about the paper, as well as about me.

It will be  bittersweet next Friday as I say goodbye to the community I have grown to know through the many articles I have published. There were countless memories made on this little island, many memories with individuals I would not have met otherwise.

What a journey, what a learning experience, what an incredible memory to take with me as we travel to Tennessee, where I hope to again make an impact on the community in which I work.

I am incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work in this island community as their editor and transform their newspaper into something I will always be proud of producing.

It’s amazing that all of these emotions rose with the simple phone call from a hopeful reporter who has applied for my position.

What is there not to love about a profession that provides that much emotion, good emotion?

Wow is all I am left to say.

A glimpse of my impact

The last few days I have revamped my resume as I updated it with my latest journalism jobs, improved the wording and changed the style. This document, which made me proud of my accomplishments, will soon be sent to newspapers of our new destination.

While working on my resume, it made me reflect once again on where I started and how far along I have come. Memories poured out of the words that appeared before me as the descriptions of my duties brought me back to the time and place of that particular job, making me remember stories, people and co-workers I have had the opportunity to work with.

This morning I stopped by my executive editor’s office to share a little more about my move, as well as discuss details about my departure. As we caught up on each other’s life, my appreciation for this woman increased as she told me she would take care of me and wished me the best on my journey. The more we talked the more she shared her excitement for my new adventure.

As the economy affected the newspaper over the past few years, this woman always found a position for me within the company, so I could continue my passion of writing.

It will definitely be a bitter sweet goodbye when that final day comes as I walk away from my newspaper that I have become so proud of, as well as my editors who have recognized my hard work and shared wonderful compliments.

As I drove from the Cape Coral office to my office, I began brainstorming who would be so kind to write a letter of recommendation. Within an hour, my first letter appeared in my mailbox, which almost brought me to tears as I read how much of an impact I have had on this little community.

beaconThe executive director of the Beacon of H.O.P.E. truly touched me with what she wrote.

“We will be at a loss to replace her, but I am confident that she will be an asset in any endeavor she attempts,” she explained in this letter addressed to whom in may concern.

I have truly enjoyed writing about this non-profit organization that began shortly after Hurricane Charley devastated the area. Over the years, this incredible island organization has provided countless programs, which are still increasing and improving, to help island residents young to old excel in life. As I wrote articles for the Beacon, I formed a friendship with the executive director and never left the room without sharing a hug.

“She would arrive on time for any event as requested, with a smile and a curiosity to really understand what was happening. Her writing was articulate and accurate and spoke well of our community,” she continued.

One of my favorite parts of being a journalist is conducting the interview because I love finding out why people do what they do. I love digging into the subject and finding out the story behind that particular subject.  Whenever I wrote an article for the Beacon, this woman always directed me to the right person to interview and was always happy to share the history of how a particular program began.

“Meghan has been the editor of our local paper, The Pine Island Eagle, and has functioned in this role with enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism,” she wrote.

The compliments continue through the many paragraphs that grace this letter of recommendation. I am incredibly proud of these words and look forward to pass them on to the jobs in which I apply for in the very near future.

Although I am walking away from this editor position to further my career, I will never forget all the wonderful memories that were created on this little island in Southwest Florida. I will always hold these compliments close to my heart as I strive to improve my writing and path in this amazing career.

I never imagined that a career as a journalist could be so rewarding and so touching. What an amazing journey these past 16 months have been.

I truly believe the best way to get to know a community is through being a reporter because of the rapid pace in which you learn about the area and what it has to offer. This community welcomed me with open arms and provided me with an incredible learning experience as I tackled being an editor for the first time.