An early Zoom meet-up at home with my daughter Isabel in March, 2020.

Today is my one-year anniversary in quarantine.

One year ago today I taught my last in-person class at The University of Alabama, packed my laptop and some midterms and went home. I’ve left since then only to walk each day or pick up drive-up groceries. My 18-year-old daughter has been home with me.

Gone are the “Let’s have a quarantini!” sad, virtual happy-hour jokes of the early days of quarantine.

Like all of us I learned that my life didn’t stop just because the world slowed down. My daughter was diagnosed with autism, graduated from high school and started college…

One year ago this week — Sunshine Week — I set out to chronicle journalism in America in 2017 by driving 10,000 miles. As a former full-time journalist turned journalism professor I wanted to step out of my own newsroom experiences and learn. I was interested in holding a mirror up to the journalists who bring us the news every day. “Who,” I asked, “is watching the gatekeepers?” I visited news outlets big and small, for-profit and non-profit, traditional and cutting-edge across all media.

During this project, most days I would drive nine to 13 hours (my Apple watch thought…

April 28, 2011 the morning after an EF4 tornado killed 53 people in my city, I surveyed my back yard.

I dust off the plastic bin I put away 10 years ago and carefully pry the top open. I stand outside on my balcony because the years of dust cover it.

I gasp when I look inside.

It was the same gasp I took 10 years ago — with a shallow breath — as the tornado rolled over me, hunched in my bedroom closet, my body on top of my then-8-year-old, Isabel. Eyes closed, I braced for its impact just before windows blew out, our furniture was sucked toward the sky and one tall pine tree after another fell. …

Nothing could prepare me for the unplanned beauty and fear of having an adult child diagnosed with autism.

Isabel on The University of Alabama quad (where she attends college) just after the pandemic began.

My daughter, Isabel, and I are out with friends. She is 17 and, unknown to us, a pandemic is barreling toward us from across the ocean. We’re having fun. She’s been accepted to several colleges and I’m looking forward to having an empty nest because society has taught me that’s the true measure of successful parenting.

Isabel and I are best friends. Like Gilmore Girls with double the age difference. People find that either endearing or weird. We don’t care.

A friend…

Lolly as a kitten. My daughter is in the background a with a bin of toys.

She was never going to be mine.

This tortoiseshell cat with piercing green eyes, I did not want.

She sat in a cage in a Birmingham pet store and looked up at me. I did not want a pet store cat. If I wanted a cat at all, it would come from the animal shelter. But there she was, a kitten separated from her siblings who were huddled in another part of the cage far away. They wanted nothing to do with her. Her mother was nowhere in sight.

I had intentionally avoided getting another cat. I was not over…

Travis Reier on the air at Tide 102.9 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Dec. 19, 2017

Tuesday, Dec. 19

11:45 a.m., Tide 102.9, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

After a year of traveling for my #followmylede project to chronicle journalism in America in 2017, it is fitting that I end at home, in Tuscaloosa, after almost 10,000 miles of newsrooms across the country.

On a cold December day, I visit Tide 102.9, located in a building that houses multiple stations owned by Townsquare Media, including 95.3 The Bear, 92.9 WTUG, Star 101.7, Catfish 100.1, Praise 99.3 and Nick 95.7.

In the lobby sits an old teletype machine from the Associated Press, a fun, throwback unexpected item.

WIAT CBS 42 in Birmingham, Alabama Oct. 13, 2017.

Editor and Executive Director Susan Greene at The Colorado Independent July, 2017

Friday, July 7

6 p.m., Denver Open Media building, Denver, Colorado

The Colorado Independent is housed in the Denver Open Media building, which serves as a community media center with open music sessions and a radio station created by and for the people of Denver.

News and Sports director, as well as Production Manager, Jim Williams, at KSNO-FM July 7, 2017.

Friday, July 7

7:45 a.m., KSNO, El Jebel, Colorado

When I left Glenwood Springs I traveled to El Jebel to KSNO-FM. The station serves Snowmass Village, Aspen and El Jebel, Colorado. Jim Williams, the station’s news and sports director, as well as production manager, greeted me with Diet Coke especially for me. I thought this gesture was kind, yet also necessary because I don’t drink coffee and that’s my morning caffeine. He asked me to be guest DJ, and also to chat on air about my 10,000 miles project. …

Glenwood Post Independent, July, 2017

Thursday, July 6

5:50 p.m., Glenwood Springs Colorado

If you’ve ever seen the TV show Everwood, that’s what I walked into July when I visited the Glenwood Springs (Colorado) Post-Independent. A beautiful — picturesque even — resort town known for its springs, it could easily be the centerpiece for its own TV show.

Meredith Cummings

Multimedia journalist. UA Senior Journalism Instructor, social media manager, marketing content writer and nonprofit director.

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