I’ve been working at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. for more than two years now, as I just hit my two-year anniversary May 22. While it’s been sort of a whirlwind and there have been ups and downs, I love my job and I am thankful to be here.

I have made some great friends here, including our sports editor Lizi Arbogast. She’s my go-to girl with all work-related things and personal things, too. She’s my lunch buddy but also my best buddy in Alex City. She’s got several years on me in the journalism field and I’ve learned so much from her professionally, but she’s also helped me out personally.

Lizi does what a good friend should do — she encourages me. She encourages me to do things outside of my comfort zone and things I wouldn’t normally do. 

It’s no secret to those who know me I’m a homebody. I enjoy my home time more than people probably realize. I have six pets at home (yep, you read that right, six) — Pocket, Lila, Sawyer, Cheese, Miss Meredith Grey and Penny Lane — and I hardly get to spend time with them because I’m at work so often. When I’m home, I enjoy being with them. They’re my babies. Plus, I get to spend quality time with my boyfriend Ryne. He’s my best bud. 

However, Lizi has always encouraged me since Day 1 of knowing me to get out more. She’s always asking me to go to a community event or this or that and I hate to say I’ve said no more times than I’d like to admit.  It’s simply because sometimes in the moment I feel like crashing at home is the better activity. Many people know I have a chronic illness and while I really do need my rest, it’s no excuse not to get out every now and then and enjoy this community I’m lucky to call home.

I’ve recently set a personal goal to get out in the community more and there are a few things I’d like to do, no matter how busy I get and no matter how much I love spending time at home. 

1. Spend more time in Elmore County

I’ve been to Wetumpka many times over the years but most of the time it’s only been passing through. Until recently when interviewing candidates for our open Wetumpka Herald/Eclectic Observer reporter position have I actually stepped foot into The Wetumpka Herald office. While I’m the assistant editor of it, my home office is in Alexander City so that’s where I spend my days. However, when I visited our office I noticed Wetumpka really is just as charming as everyone makes it out to be. 

The downtown area is something special with all the shops, restaurants, mural that’s in progress and of course the charm of the Bibb Graves Bridge. There’s a great feeling of hope as the city rebuilds following what was a massively destructive tornado in January. 

One of the best parts is when you walk in establishments, people are kind and friendly; they smile, hold the door and tell you to have a nice day. That can be few and far between nowadays and when you have a community like that in your reach, it’s worth spending some time there.

Elmore County is a special place and I hope to spend more time there.

2. Spend time at Wind Creek State Park

When my late editor Mitch Sneed interviewed me for my position, he took me to Wind Creek and rolled down the windows when he got there, waiving the day-use fee by saying, “I’m with the paper.” I’m sure local officials heard that from Mitch many times. I’ve always wanted to go spend some time out there but haven’t done anything other than ride through that one time. Yep, seriously. 

My three nieces — Zoey Marie, 7, Katy Jade, 6, and Hailey Madison, 5 — are going to be staying with my mom in Union Springs for the summer and I really want to take them to Wind Creek for a day. There’s so much to do out there and I know they’d have a blast. 

3. Attend some Sun Festival activities

If I’m able to sneak away from work, my pups would enjoy being in the Dawg-Gawn Good Parade, and I would enjoy going because who doesn’t love dogs in costumes?

There are some other things I’d like to attend, including Strand Sessions and Jazz Fest which brings me to my next point.

4. Enjoy some of the many live music events offered in the Lake Martin area

We are fortunate to have Strand Park in Alexander City and The AMP on Lake Martin as a venues for live music acts and right now we have Strand Sessions once a month and Jazz Fest is coming up. I have yet to attend a Strand Sessions event and haven’t been to Jazz Fest the last two years either, so I’m hoping to make it out for those. It’s a good opportunity to meet new people and hang out with some old friends too. 

5. Spend a day on the lake

Anybody got a boat they’ll let me hang out on for a day? Being out in the sun or in the water for hours are two things I don’t particularly love (I know, I’m weird) but I live at Lake Martin, so I better get used to it, right? I can’t live here and not spend at least one day on the lake. So, hopefully I’ll get to do that this summer. 

6. Go to Children’s Harbor Thrift Store

OK, y’all can make fun of me all you want but I’m a thrift store queen. I was raised rummaging yard sales and consignment shops and it’s no different now I’m an adult. My mom and I go thrifting several times a month and have explored all the thrift stores in Alex City but have yet to visit Children’s Harbor Thrift Store. I’ve heard it’s good, so I wanna check it out for myself one of these days.

7. Take my family around the area

Ryne hasn’t discovered what a gem the Lake Martin area is yet and I think it’s just because he hasn’t seen it all. While there’s still a lot I haven’t seen either, there are plenty of places I’d like to take him to show him what a great community we live in. My mom hasn’t seen a lot of the Lake Martin area either (other than the thrift stores) and I’d love to show her around more too. 

8. See a sunset at Smith Mountain

It will take some real convincing to get me there because I hate hiking and anything strenuous and really can’t help it due to my heart condition, but a sunset at the top of Smith Mountain is something I’d love to see. 

There are tons more things I’d like to do but I’ve gotta get home to my bed. 

I’m kidding.

Sorta. 

Santana Wood is the assistant managing editor of TPI's newspapers.