On this cold, damp, cloudy November type day before Mother’s Day, I’ve spent much of my time watching a friend prepare to move to New Mexico.

If it weren’t for the scary forecasts for snow, heavy rain, hail and even tornadoes along all possible driving routes to her destination, the Ghost Ranch retreat in northwest New Mexico, longtime NFPW member Mary Jane Skala would be well on her way there.

Mary Jane is a Cleveland native who spent most of her career as an editor of suburban newspapers there and the last three as a staff writer for my newspaper, the Kearney Hub. We have known each other for decades as leaders of our affiliates and NFPW. We often roomed together at the national conferences so we could catch up.

Before she came to Kearney, I had visited her in Cleveland and she had spent a long weekend with me in Kearney on the way to a year in The West after leaving her editor’s job.

That year … and a little longer … took her to many wild and wonderful places. But it was volunteering at the Ghost Ranch that captured her heart and renewed her spirit.

So when the staff there contacted her several weeks ago about a paid position as volunteer coordinator, I think she knew in her heart that she would accept, even before the rest of her had considered all of her options.

She bought a new-to-her used SUV and started packing it with things form her small Kearney duplex. The couch, chair, mattress and box springs that had been in my basement and were moved to Mary Jane’s home in 2012 were donated to charity. They sure didn’t need to sit in my basement unused for more years to come.

However, other things that simply couldn’t fit in the SUV will reside here for however long they need to stay. It provides me some certainty that Mary Jane will come back to Kearney to get them, all at once or a few at a time, during her journeys between New Mexico and her family in Cleveland.

She has spent the afternoon getting a spare tire for the SUV that, for some odd reason, was not sent with her when she bought it; stopping at the Hub office to check email one more time; and returning to her duplex to clean.

She will stay in my spare bedroom tonight and leave early Sunday morning on what we both hope is a calm, sunny spring day. Her new job at the Ghost Ranch starts on Monday.

We’re both invited out to eat and to a movie tonight with two of her best Kearney friends. I might go to supper, but it will depend on some family plans I still have late this afternoon.

It was wonderful to have such a longtime NFPW friend nearby for three years after so many years of enjoying face-to-face meetings only at the conferences that are for so many of us like family reunions.

Mary Jane won’t be coming to the 2015 conference in Anchorage, but I’ve pointed out that the 2016 conference in Wichita will be almost a straight shot east for her. And that many of her newer Nebraska Press Women friends will carpool and caravan to the Kansas conference.

I’ve never moved very far away from my childhood home and never lived outside of Nebraska, so I can’t really understand someone like Mary Jane who loves to find new places to call home.

Maybe I never felt that I’d landed in “the place” somewhere new because I was blessed to have been in that place all of my life.

I hope all of you will be sending good wishes Mary Jane’s way on Mother’s Day for a safe journey and wonderful new next step in her life.

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