One of the best things about writing a newspaper column is the immediacy. It's a thrill to comment on the news as it breaks, to be part of, maybe even influence, the story.
One of the worst parts of the job - besides deadlines, hate mail and death threats - is that the news never stops.
Catch a cold, go on vacation, and you miss something you'll desperately want to write about.
So it's with great trepidation that I inform you I will be away for a while. Any day now, I'll be delivering my second child.
I took maternal leave of this space once before, in 2004. Sleep deprivation being what it is, I was so delirious in the first few weeks, I could barely read the paper, let alone regret my absence from it.
But when New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey imploded and delivered his infamous "I am a gay American" resignation speech a few months later, I couldn't stay quiet. So I pounded out a column with Baby Jane on my lap.
Thankfully, the child was too young to appreciate the cynicism spewing from my mind onto the keyboard as she drooled.
As then, I take my break now worrying about the politicians I live to chide, the sagas I can't shake.
Summers are often slow in the news business, so if I had to predict what story might make me second-guess a second go at motherhood - or motivate me to grab a notepad before I'm, technically, back - it would be State Sen. Vince Fumo's corruption trial.
A legal spectacle like that must be seen in person. It should be well worth the price of hiring a sitter.
Mostly, maternity leave means that the columnist becomes a regular reader, absorbing and analyzing the news the way you do.
In this region, there is plenty to chew on and stew over.
Speaking of Vince, will Fumo ever sell his Spring Garden mansion? Any bets on how low he'll drop the price to get rid of the place?
In New Jersey, when will Fumo's counterpart Wayne Bryant - a former state senator indicted on fraud, bribery and pension-padding charges - face
judge and jury? Could both powerful men wind up in the same federal pen?
While we're talking politics, will Pennsylvania legislators ever find the courage to listen to their constituents who are crying out for commonsense gun laws?
Or will the cowards in Harrisburg continue to allow hunting for humans, a blood sport in which cops and kids get blown away every day?
With two states and hundreds of towns to keep track of, I'll have plenty on my mind away from the writing grind.
Will the city or courts ever do right by the residents on Osage Avenue, two decades after the MOVE bombing destroyed their homes?
And speaking of MOVE, will anyone ever be charged with the murder of John Gilbride? It has been nearly six years since he was gunned down in Maple Shade in the midst of a bitter custody fight with MOVE matriarch Alberta Africa. After all this time, why must his death remain an unsolved crime?
Will the Delaware River Port Authority raise bridge tolls to $5? Will commuters revolt?
Will Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey live to regret punishing his own so swiftly after the videotaped beating that sickened the world?
And the question on many minds: Will Mayor Nutter's epic honeymoon ever end? If - when - crisis strikes, how will he fare?
Lest you think you'll be rid of me, remember no one ever unplugs in this era.
Beyond voice mail and e-mail, which I check religiously, I post on Facebook.com (search under my full name) and pop off on Twitter (
So, please, drop a line or a dime. Keep those tips coming.
Readers are my eyes and ears. I'll be back, in search of the next column, before you know it.