Work place woes

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house, tiny bathroom and even the same office. But not always the same opinion. The Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on every-day issues, told from two different perspectives.

HE SAID: Certain words spoken over the course of a relationship carry on for eternity.

"I love you."

"Will you marry me?"

"I do."

A certain phrase was recently added to our list: "Sloppy execution."

My cute and talented wife had e-mailed me her story about tips for incoming freshmen high school students. I told her the premise was good, but that it carried too much of her voice and not enough of the senior students she interviewed.

I thought freshmen students would like to hear more about what the seniors had to say, rather than a twenty-something professional, no matter how cute or talented. Good premise. Sloppy execution.

From here to forevermore, I will be reminded of those words.

Sloppy execution.

It was poor judgment on my part. I was the freshly appointed news editor, trying to inspire a feisty features editor to strive for something better. I was also a pig-headed husband who had come to expect greatness from his cute and talented wife. I would have not used the same language with another reporter.

Work life and home life are often not good bedfellows, and I'm finding it difficult to balance the two.

I take Callie for granted at work; I'll give others undivided attention, and only half-listen to my wife. She'll understand that I'm busy because she loves me, I stupidly tell myself.

Conversely, typcial friction that would naturally occur between a features and news editor at work spills over at home, too. Suddenly, the fact that I left my dirty socks on the living floor finds room in the same coversation about getting pages done sooner.

At the same time, our work has often brought us closer together. We both love writing; it's one passion we both share. (But she's learning to love baseball, I just know it.)

We often critique each other's work, usually with a constructive tone. We steal (share, I mean) stories from each other. We feed off each other. We learn from each other. She's made me a better person in a lot of ways, my professional life included.

We have a friendly competition going. Up until a few months ago, we were tied with 10 writing awards apiece. Now, she's well ahead of me with 15.

She reminds me of this quite often.

Though she doesn't come out and say it, she's telling me exactly where I can stick my sloppy execution.

SHE SAID: Oh, woe is the couple who works together.

Bob and I never really escape work. It follows us home, to restaurants and youth league baseball games. To family gatherings and on vacations.

Relationship books always advise against discussing anything work-related once you're in bed, so we've tried a couple times to limit our newspaper chatter.

Occasionally, around 3 a.m., I'm awakened by Bob groaning "oh no!"

"Whadja forget this time?" I always ask before rolling my eyes and drifting back off to sleep.

See how supportive I am?

A former boss once told me Bob and I feed off each other. If one of us is unhappy about something at work, the other is right there as backup.

I don't think my boss meant it as a compliment exactly, but I think feeding off each other is one of the perks of the job.

If I get an idea, I run it by Bob first and get his feedback. We've done a couple projects together and managed not to kill each other. That alone was a factor in my decision to marry him.

Despite the extra baggage it comes with, the fact that Bob and I can work together is something.

Sure, he's more critical of me than he is of other reporters and consequently I've occasionally felt the urge to strangle him in front of coworkers, but I've always managed to refrain.

Just barely.

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