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Two-Lane Livin’ magazine

The Cover of the First Issue - September 2007

Two-Lane Livin’ – Bright Star, Beat-up Car

In the beginning it felt like a newborn child that needed protected, nourished, defended, promoted. And like any child, it grew in its own way, expanding and developing in beyond our plans and expectations, demanding more and more of our time and attention.

Launching an independent magazine–or any small business for that matter–is much like birthing a child. Your life becomes that child which often demands your constant attention. It surprises you with needs and situations you did not expect or plan for, keeps you up at night often.

This child does not really care about your business plan, or your dreams for its future. She becomes what she will, of her own fruition, becomes a living, breathing character influenced by those who support her, befriend her, embrace her, nourish her.

And like any child, you hope that your creation will grow healthy and strong, will flourish and shine brightly. You hope that she will become a mature, responsible, functioning adult that at some point, will not demand so much of your time.

Time.

Ten years can fly by in an instant, but you feel every second of it in your bones, see the life sucked from you in every dry wrinkle and sag. A decade gives you perspective, and time to learn and mature.

With Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine, ten years means hauling heavy loads home from Parkersburg more than 120 times in all seasons of weather. Ten years means delivering magazines over ten Thanksgiving breaks, ten Christmas breaks, ten wedding anniversary weekends. For Frank and I, ten years of Two-Lane Livin’ has been a decade of scheduling our lives around this child’s rigid monthly deadline–me a week every month tied to the desk, him a week every month on the road.

We have loved Two-Lane Livin’ like a child. I birthed her from nine months of planning and from the very first issue she had a life of her own. (All copies were gone in three days.) From the beginning she was more than we had ever hoped for, and quite often more than we could handle. In ten years, we have never been able to solicit enough advertising revenue to produce enough copies to meet reader demand.

Our popular girl wanted to go farther than we ever imagined, into twice the number of counties we originally planned, twice the mileage on delivery vehicles, twice the time delivering. Strangers and friends volunteered to help get the monthly issue circulated into their own areas.  Writers from across the state began offering to write for us. We never planned to offer subscriptions, but in response to demand, reached 18 states and two countries outside the U.S.

For ten years, Two-Lane Livin’ has been a bright star shining from, in, and for central West Virginia. I believe that. I truly do.

Bright stars burn quickly.

I have come to believe that small businesses in West Virginia age in dog years–seven years of aging for every year of existence. The amount of energy, dedication, creativity, strategy, problem solving, and work required to get a small business up and running and to keep it running smoothly ages it prematurely.

(This month on my birthday, I hit the big Five-O. Perhaps it’s not the magazine that has aged, perhaps it’s just me.)

I thought retiring Two-Lane Livin’ would feel like killing my child. Instead, I find it’s more like giving up a beat-up but beloved car that has almost 300,000 miles and no longer holds third gear. She’s dented and has a slight oil leak; smells of newsprint, fast food, and hay. But boy we’ve had some fantastic adventures together.

Two-Lane Livin’ has been good to us, and has been a wonderful experience. But our time with her has come to an end. In dog years, she’s more than 70 years old.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being with us during this Two-Lane experience, for being fellow witnesses to the life of our creation, our child, our dependable car…

Our shining star.

Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine
September 2007-December 2017

(P.S. We will be maintaining the twolanelivin.com web site, and will, over time, be making all issues of Two-Lane Livin’ available as flipbooks and featuring favorite articles we encounter in the process. To keep up with those developments, you can sign up for our email newsletter in the form at the right of this page.)

Stay on Task

After being down with  a cold for 2.5 days, I’m frustrated with the little amount of crafting, sewing, growing I’ve done. Of course, any energy I have has to be focused on getting the December issue complete and put to bed (deadline 2 days early due to the holiday.)

I do have one quilt half-quilted, another quilt top of pieces half cut out, and the material for a third quit washed and pressed for measuring.

But not much progress has been made the last three days. Needing to accomplish something while I lay miserable in bed, I started filling out and addressing my Christmas cards. I made it about half way through the list.

I also researched new themes and layouts for the TLL web site, and ordered the new theme today. It’s a “responsive” layout, which will automatically adjust  depending on the size screen the viewer is using. (Phone, tablet, laptop, desktop.) I was tempted to activate the theme today, but did not have faith in the process happening without a glitch or two, and I didn’t have the time to get sidetracked by glitches.

My goal is to have it up and running with the new “mobile friendly” design by Monday morning.

In the meantime, in spite of the cold, I am on schedule with the December issue (knock on wood) and should make the deadline without too much pressure. I’ve missed contact with a few crucial clients (think first day of deer season), but other than that, we should be right on track.

Those quilts keep calling my name, but Christmas creating will just have to wait.

Two-Lane Livin’ – We’re NOT the News

I do not enjoy telling people “no.” I take no pleasure in saying, “We don’t do that.” However, when people approach us to cover news and current events, I have no choice.

You see, we’re NOT a newspaper. There are no reporters, there is no staff.

When folks call to say, “you should send someone to cover ____,” we have no one to send.

Our columnists are volunteers, who have made a personal commitment to write on a specific topic — nature, nutrition, frugal living, homeschooling, etc. We do not give them assignments, we don’t tell them what to write, we simply give them the room to explore and explain their topic of choice according to their knowledge of the subject.

We’re more of a co-op than a staff, and we don’t do NEWS.

Now, all across the world, there are marketing and public relations gurus who tell businesses that newspapers and magazines are desperate for content. I understand why people call and want their story to be told in the region’s farthest-reaching, most popular magazine.

I don’t blame them for calling us, it’s just that — that’s not what we do.

Very often, I hear that we should.

But there are many other wonderful newspapers and magazines that already do that. Other publications with paid writers and numerous staff members and hefty budgets for travel. They have those things at hand, because that’s what they do.

Our mission isn’t to inform people of current news and developments. Our mission is to teach people to lead healthier, more self-reliant, enjoyable lives in Central West Virginia. In many ways, this is CONTRARY to local news. We try to maintain that line.

Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine — We’re NOT the news.

Learning to Go with the Flow

I tend to be a control freak. You see, I have a master plan for everything. Some folks who have trouble sleeping count sheep at night, I re-work my world.

Now I’m old and wise enough to know — while a plan is a good thing –many, many things are beyond our control.I am learning that discipline, flexibility and perseverance are often more important than a good plan.

I had the ultimate business plan for Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. I spent nine months working on that thing. And while we are still moving along the main time line of the plan, many points and details have changed along the way.

For the magazine, I felt creating the plan was fairly black and white.

But I didn’t realize there was another plan — just as big — being created by our hearts, and not our heads.

It’s called The Garden.

At first, we gardened because we wanted healthy non-engineered food to eat. And then, we gardened more because of the money we saved on food throughout the winter because of our harvest.

But now, we garden because we no longer want to exist without that high-quality food and that savings.

Of course, this all developed in the background of our lives. We didn’t sit down and plan to have a garden as big as a soccer field. We didn’t plan to add an herb garden, or a hot bed, or a flock of chickens. This is where our desire for healthy, we-grew-it-ourselves, home made flavor foods has led us.

I was so busy enacting and processing the plan for our magazine, I didn’t realize that we actually needed a plan to deal with where our gardens have led us.

The computer and desk that is the hub of our magazine cannot compete with the lure of the gardens on a sunny day. Deadlines for printers and contracts seem less important than time lines for planting by the moon and the sun. Plant trays are examined and coddled with attention far surpassing the editing level.

This is a pleasant surprise. The workaholic has found something to draw her away from her work. Of course, that thing, the garden, is actually more work — but it is satisfying and sweaty, exhilarating and exhausting, and includes two things the desk and the computer cannot provide: exercise and time outdoors.

Time disconnected from “the job.” Time on a task that only requires my own approval, meeting my own standards.

Of course, Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine is a priority in our lives. But how liberating to discover it is not the only one.

Two Readers Who Truly Touch My Heart

Two-Lane Livin’ sponsors two monthly contests, the most well-recognized is The Cover Contest for which the readers submit their own photos to be featured on the magazine’s cover and win a Two-Lane Livin’ T-shirt. The other contest, the Find the Hidden Graphic Contest, challenges readers to find the hidden signpost graphic in the pages and send it in to be entered in a drawing for a Two-Lane Livin’ bumper sticker.

Neither of these are exotic prizes, I know. But most interesting are the entries we get.

Gina (not her real name) discovered Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine about a year-and-a-half ago. She has entered the Find the Graphic Contest every single month since. She has won… Twice. Her tiny clipped-out entry form is always accompanied by a hand-written letter with a copied poem of some sort, and some version of “I love Two-Lane Livin’ it’s the greatest!”

Now, about four months ago, Gina must have introduced Two-Lane Livin’ to her neighbor, Nicole (not her real name). That’s when we started receiving Find the Graphic entries from her with, “My neighbor introduced me to Two-Lane Livin’. I really like it,” letters included. Gina and Nicole live on the same road, their house numbers in their return addresses are less than five numbers apart.

Over the months, these two ladies have sent in their entries with notes and submissions for our Reader’s Page. Gina sends poems likely copied from the internet, and until this month, Nicole simply sent variations of, “I really like Two-Lane Livin’. I read it when I can.”

But this month, Nicole wrote an essay:

“When I was a Lettle Grial, this old man put me to sleep. He told this story about Running Bears and cats and his father Saw me playing whith the cats can Hurt you Bad. A Bad A Bear can hurt you too as Bad. then the man ask me what did I whant for Christmas and I Saide I what a puppie. Im not so good writeing this too Two-Lane Livin I Really Like it and I Love it I hope you Like this Lettle. I can’t write Like I whant to.”

What is especially interesting is that the essay has nine places where Nicole covered mistakes with white-out and made corrections. She, knowing she could not write well, put forth every effort she had to send something that was to her very best ability. This was not a quick note. Not an easy task for her. The white out shows that this was a project that she spent time on. Imagine the time alone in letting the white out dry.

She worked at it, and I appreciate her efforts.

Nicole, I know, will write us every month – just as her friend Gina does.  Gina’s writing is a little more legible but includes more scribbled out places, but Nicole dots her i’s with little circles, and troubles herself with white out, no scribbles. For as long as our magazine exists, for as long as they are able, both of these ladies will take the time and effort each month to find the graphic… cut it out… tape it to the form… write the accompanying letter, poem or essay… address the envelope (each came this month with decorative Christmas stickers added)… and place it all in the mail.

Nicole and Gina are reading. They are writing. They are Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine’s most responsive and dedicated fans.

I picture them, Gina bringing Nicole her copy, and the two of them sitting down together to search the pages for the hidden graphic. I see them passing the scissors to each other to cut out the graphic and the entry form. I see them sitting at the kitchen table, addressing their envelopes, choosing which Christmas sticker they want to use from a pile that’s been gathered from junk mail “gifts for you” over the years.

And then Gina drops them in the mailbox along the side of the road on her way home when they are finished.

It touches my heart. The picture in my mind may not be accurate. It matters not.

Our mail would not be the same without them.