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Saying goodbye to the PJ and my byline

"I thought you were in Hawaii?" is a question I've been asked a lot lately. Not yet, but almost.

I'll be married in a week. By the time the paper hits the streets on Saturday, I'll no longer be an employee of the Pioneer Journal.

My first day at the PJ was June 22, 2006. I arrived at the office at 8 a.m. and covered my first county board meeting at 9 a.m. In the evening I took photos of the parade downtown. It's been a busy, fun job ever since.

In fact, after four years of deadlines, it's a little hard to put on the brakes. But it's time to slow down, write my last column, clear out my desk and pack my belongings. I'm a pack rat at the office so I've got stacks of papers to go through.

A four-year collection of notes and names at the PJ isn't the only accumulated paraphernalia I have to sort. I've also been trimming down my belongings at home. Whatever I don't want to ship to Hawaii or burden my family with storing has to go. Emptied out closets combined with bags of candles, gifts and material for my wedding reception centerpieces makes for an interesting conglomeration representing the phases of my life. My baby book, a grass skirt from a bridal shower and a teddy bear from my fiance have all found a temporary home on the college computer desk I want to get rid of before I leave.

I've come across letters I wrote as a child and journals I kept as a teenager. The journals record a more difficult phase in my life when I was ill and before I was able to finish school. I earned my degree a little later than most and it wasn't easy to toss the notebooks from college coursework I loved.

Reporting for the PJ was my first job after college. I had no idea I would end up in Wadena, the town where my sister got her first post-college job, when I graduated, but I am glad I came here. Being a member of a small staff is challenging and rewarding. There are a variety of responsibilities that fall on each person's shoulders, and you get to have a real impact on the product your company produces.

Working in close quarters can make for a tight-knit group. I've enjoyed sharing an office with all the people who have occupied the newsroom. It's nice to get up and go to work each day with people you respect and appreciate. I've enjoyed reporting on the events and people in Wadena.

It's also been a lot of fun to live near my sister and her family. I got to welcome my little niece into the world at Tri-County Hospital last October.

Saying goodbye is never easy, of course, but I am ready for a new adventure. I'll say some goodbyes on my wedding day and hello to a new life.

I've done a lot of "lasts" lately from signing my last rent check to writing the last entry in my history column. Soon, I'll trade those in for a list of "firsts." I'll have my first surfing lesson and I'll sign a check for the first time with my new last name.

The "Hacking" in my byline will be a thing of the past.