Your old pal Jean has never claimed to be an expert on journalism, but there's one thing I do know: When you write a newspaper column, you have to pour your heart out. You loyal Jeanketeers out there know all about my battle with my weight, my troubles with hubby Rick, and my series of lousy, low-paying jobs. I admit that some of that stuff is a little embarrassing. It's not the kind of thing you usually tell total strangers. But being so open and honest in my column helps me get things off my chest, and I always feel a whole lot better for it. (For a little while, at least!)

Well, lately, my face has been even redder than usual. You see, I've been reading my local paper, The Herald-Clarion, a lot because Roz, my manager at Fashion Bug, buys a copy for the breakroom every morning. Besides "Dear Abby," the obituaries, and good ol' Cathy (natch!), I've been checking out the weekly column by Herald-Clarion features editor and star columnist Nancy Feeney. Now, I'm not saying I'm a washout in the writing biz, but after studying Nancy's column, "Nancy's Fancies" (how cute!), I realize I've still got a lot to learn about writing a professional column.

Like me, Nancy writes about her personal life in her column. But, like a true professional, she never gets too personal. (Unlike some columnists I could name, she never would have told her readers that she got arrested for shoplifting circus peanuts at the Pamida. Or that her kitty Arthur choked to death on a Pinchers The Lobster Teenie Beanie Baby.) No, before Nancy gets too deep into any gory details, she always changes the subject to something going on in the community. Or she talks about some local person's triumphant battle with a disease. Or she mentions that a local WWI veteran recently celebrated his 105th birthday. (The names of the people she writes about are always in bold-face, so it's really easy to read! Isn't that clever?) Then she ends her column with an inspirational quote or a funny but tasteful joke she'd overheard. Get it? Very professional.

Remember those old TV commercials where the woman slaps her forehead and says, "Wow! I coulda had a V-8!"? Well, after reading a few of Nancy's columns, I said to myself, "Wow! I coulda written about stuff besides my life!" So, from now on, instead of rambling on about my own daily doings, I think I'll devote my column to little miscellaneous observations about the world around me. I'm calling it "Odds 'N' Ends."

So here it is, Jeanketeers. My first "Odds 'N' Ends" column...

I read recently that Fred Lasswell, the cartoonist behind Snuffy Smith, died. Now, get this–he had drawn Snuffy since 1942. Wow, that's nearly 60 years! I only hope that Cathy Guisewite can last that long! Actually, she probably can–Cathy doesn't look all that hard to draw.

Speaking of death, Dale Earnhardt's fatal accident at the Daytona 500 was a huge shock to racing fans. The shock could be felt in the Teasdale household, too, since Dale was hubby Rick's favorite NASCAR driver. After Dale died, Rick swore he'd never watch another Winston Cup race again. "There will never be another Intimidator," he said. That seemed kind of extreme to me–I mean, there are always a whole bunch of racers on the track, and surely they must have talent, too. So I brought up that one cute hunk who wins a lot, Jeff Gordon. "What about him? Couldn't he be your new favorite driver?" I asked Rick. You'd think I'd asked him to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge! He went on this tirade about how totally clueless I was, saying I had absolutely no understanding of NASCAR or anything else that didn't involve kitties or a bunch of TV-talk-show ladies "on the rag" drinking tea and crying their eyes out about preemies on respirators.

Yikes! What brought that on? (Cue the Twilight Zone theme!) Don't get me wrong: I'm sorry Dale Earnhardt died. But, after all, he did race cars at speeds approaching 200 mph. There are loads of far safer sports he could have chosen. Like soccer, for example.

Nancy Feeney talks about ordinary yet inspiring local citizens, which I think is great. It just goes to show that you don't have to be famous to be a superstar! Unfortunately, I don't know a lot of people in the community. I tend to not leave the house much, except to work and shop, so I'm not really as well-connected as Nancy. But she did say something in her column the other day that practically bowled me over, because it reminded me of a very similar event in my own life. Observing the generation gap between Baby Boomers and their parents, Nancy mentioned that her mother had criticized her for wearing too informal an outfit to a church gathering.

Talk about uncanny! Several years ago, my own mother and I attended my cousin Heidi's wedding, and Mom didn't like the fact that I was wearing an electric-blue rayon pantsuit. Throughout the ceremony and reception, she kept sniping to me about how "immodest" and "informal" it was. Then, during the car ride home, we got into a screaming match that rivaled something you'd see on the WWF show! She called me slovenly, and I accused her of being a loveless, abusive, hypocritical witch. That got her so mad that she kicked me out of her car near the outskirts of town, forcing me to trudge one mile across this marshy field in patent-leather pumps to the nearest bus stop, bawling all the way.

Oops. I suppose I'm getting carried away again, talking about personal stuff. Well, I promise that in my next "Odds 'N' Ends" column, I'll shape up and be more professional. But I'll need your help. If you know of any disease-sufferers in my area who are probably going to live, or any 105-year-old WWI veterans, or anyone else of that ilk, please write me care of this newspaper.