Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saints and Angels

My latest project has been reading a book titled Saints and Angels All Around by Gregory J. Wismar. It's a delightful, easy-to-read, relateable publication and it outlines the good works of saints and angels throughout history. It sheds light on a lot of happenings in the United States and elsewhere, and makes me thankful that there are saints and angels hard at work even today.

So far my favorite is Saint Benedict.

"Heroes don't always carry weapons or ride white horses into battle. Some notable saints have won crucial victories and accomplished lasting good in peaceable, quiet ways. Benedict won an important victory for the Christian faith and for all of Western civilization by organizing religious communities during a turbulent time in Europe. A hero of his era, he patiently gave structure to the monastic movement established earlier by Saint Basil and others, setting rules by which men and women lived together as Christian brothers and sisters in an ordered and productive way.

The monasteries themselves were not the major contribution. Rather, it was the work they did. through the monasteries he established, skills like bookbinding, painting, and stained-glass making were saved during the darkest times of the Dark Ages, when savage invasions and wars dominated people's lives. In Benedict's harmonious religious houses, music, art, and literature were preserved, treasured, and developed, and the Graeco-Roman cultural heritage was kept alive.

He was born in Italy in 480. As he grew up, daily life seemed unstable and the world was chaotic. Like young men and women of different centuries (including our own), Benedict chose to remove himself from the society he saw collapsing around him. However, instead of escaping his world through drunkenness or the sensual excesses of the decaying Roman culture, Benedict hid out in a cave and devoted himself to prayer and meditation. Soon his reputation for Christian holiness of life became well known throughout Italy. Searching pilgrims found their way to his cave, looking for some kind of structure for their lives in a chaotic society. The right man at the right time, Benedict offered people of all ages and backgrounds a new and orderly way for a Christian communal life, one that visibly expressed being in the world but not of the world.

Blending Roman law with Christian tradition and mixing in a good measure of common sense, Benedict established what came to be known as the "Holy Rule" for monks. Its 73 chapters outlined a life of stability that included a strict daily routine, mannerly living, and obedience to those in authority. Observing that "idleness is the enemy of the soul," Benedict made sure that the brothers and sisters in his religious communities would work as well as pray and study.

Benedict's example of balancing work with worship and action with reflection is a model for each of us to follow in our own daily lives. A special feature of his rule was its emphasis on Christian hospitality. Rule 3 states, "All guests who come to a monastery shall be received as though they were Christ." By welcoming strangers and preserving learning, the Benedictine monasteries held together the cultural fabric of Europe through challenging times. Benedict's rule became a blessing to the Middle Ages and provided a legacy that benefits us still today as we put our Christian lives in order."

Even today, I see works like those of Saint Benedict all around me, and I'm thankful for the people who carry out these works. I pray for the courage to put Christ first in all things; to be dedicated, patient, and hospitable in this and every place, and to be a blessing to many.

Monday, June 22, 2015



In the past few weeks, I've been through a lot of interesting adventures. 
Probably the most notable experience was losing my job at KJL Marketing. In my last post, I wrote about how excited I was to finally have a full-time job. Indeed, I enjoyed the job because it involved greeting potential customers and warmly inviting them to try a product. 

Well, in the middle of my second day "in the field," perched in the middle of Walmart at the vendor table, I found myself in love with my job. I loved greeting potential customers, and Jenny (the account manager who was training me) made the process easy and digestible. But suddenly, out of the blue, she looked me in the eye and told me she didn't think I would thrive in the environment KJL Marketing set forth, and that they were letting me go. I was a little stunned, but I couldn't help but simply say "Okay. Thank you, Jenny," and walk away.

I'm honestly not used to rejection. I'm used to being praised for my work ethic and determination. Not being enough for this company was slightly heartbreaking, but I'm only thankful for the experience I had. I finally got to see what it's like being a marketing consultant, and I learned that I enjoy it! It doesn't intimidate me or overwhelm me. Knowing that makes me confident in searching for another job.

That being said, I'm hoping my next employer has a little more faith in me and I can hold the job down for more than a week.

Things will fall into place. In the meantime, I'll be soaking up the season. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Well, I came here to write without a battle plan. No particular subject comes to mind, but it's raining, so I'll write about rain. 

I love rain. It gives me a kind of energy I don't normally have. I think I get sort of high when it rains; a most peculiar phenomenon. It makes me feel as if the world is going a bit slower, and I get to savor each moment a little longer. I can reflect on things I wouldn't normally think about. I can run around outside and get soaked just for kicks. I can rule the world. Maybe.

And it makes green things greener. Beautiful.

Everything smells fresh outside after a good rain. A kind of renewal happens, like waking up from a long nap, and the effect sticks around until the air is dry again. Best of all, it's free! It just happens without us having to ask for it, at least here in the good ole Midwest. We've been so blessed this season with rain. Hopefully this doesn't change as we head into the thick of Summer.

Speaking of Summer, I have a really good feeling about this year.

Most notably, I have a new job. I'll be a retail sales and marketing representative at KJL Marketing, helping big name brands reach their customers with effective marketing campaigns. I'm extremely excited about this. It's my first full-time job, and one that pays decently, so I'll be able to buy a car and maybe an apartment before the year's over. I start in two days. June 1st. So anxious to start learning and doing.

Secondly, my birthday is in July. Yes, this happens every year, but this year I'll have money to spend. I'm thinking I'll have the 21st birthday celebration that didn't happen and go out on the town for drinks. Maybe spend the day leading up to that kayaking on a lake or something. We'll see. Might blog about my ideas later.

That's all. I'm going outside to bask in the rain now. :)

Friday, May 22, 2015

To live

Like any hyperactive college graduate, I'm given to dreaming up the perfect life. The dream job, the dream lifestyle, the dream home... 

Here are the things I have on my big to-do list:

1. Move to Virginia Beach. Nearly every summer of my childhood was spent here, visiting family and exploring the city's natural and man-made wonders. From the shoreline to the Marine Science Museum, from Jamestown to Yorktown, this area has so much going for its residents. It always has been and always will be my favorite place. Case and point:

2. Own a Jeep. I don't know what it is that makes me love this car so much! It's just so versatile and friendly. The four-door model would allow me to pull something along with me. Perfect for road trips - something I'll be doing a lot.


3. Buy a small cottage. Other than being completely adorable, I would save big on utilities. Most of my time would be spent at work or exploring the city, so I would only use this space for sleeping, eating, and hygiene. Maybe a little entertaining in the backyard. This will probably only happen if I'm living the single life. 

Tired of the era of McMansions? Check out these 10 cozy cottages that showcase the charm of small house living. These homes are less maintenance, too!

4. Lead an active lifestyle. I would regularly be signing up to run 5k's, 10k's, and marathons. The boardwalk and surrounding forests would be my best friends. And I would do a lot of kayaking.


5. Regularly visit local breweries. Local craft beer is one of my favorite things. I would always be looking for the perfect brew, chatting it up with my fellow beer lovers every weekend or at the end of a long work day.

6. Dream job? Not sure. My ideal job would somehow involve communications - magazine writing is at the top of my list, but I would be content working in the communications department for a company, local school or college. I also wouldn't mind a career in sales. 

7. Open a bed and breakfast. This is a very Lorelai Gilmore-esque dream of mine. I've always wanted to open my own B&B. Hospitality is an industry I think I would thrive in - being in the business of helping others enjoy their stay in Virginia Beach would be phenomenal. This is the Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast on the corner of 16th and Arctic.

Barclay Cottage Bed & Breakfast

8. Always be involved in my community. Volunteering will be an important part of my life, whether it's for a hospice center (what I do now), sorting food at a local food bank, or helping a local museum with regular operations.

 Inspiring post about making a difference! (Matthew 19:14)

These are only the highlights of the life I've been piecing together in my mind and heart. I didn't even mention religion. I would of course seek out a nearby church within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

I'm happy with my life as it is, but it's always fun dreaming up another one.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Communication in the journalism arena

It's Throwback Thursday, so I'm taking it back to a research paper I did for a speech communication class in the fall. Dated November 26, 2013, this paper has always been one of my favorites to re-visit, and applies to anyone interested in entering the profession of journalism.

The field of journalism has an endless list of communication skills, since its primary purpose is to communicate in some way or another to a large group of people. My area of study at IU South Bend is journalism, so conducting research about these skills has aided in my understanding of the field. Identified in this paper are three key communication skills needed to be a successful journalist: the ability to communicate in a small group, recognizing whether an interviewee is responding well to inquiries, and communicating ethically. These are only a few of the skills journalism requires, but if one of them were absent, the profession would not be an enjoyable or productive one. Even with digital innovations helping society communicate, these skills can't be replaced by computers and will remain assets in every journalist.

I have a curiosity about my surroundings and about people in general. Coupled with my love for written communication, this curiosity lends itself well to informing the public. I hope to attain a career in the field of journalism; particularly the area of writing. I'm confident this career field is one I'll be content with in the long run. Most would associate the area of journalism with newspapers alone (actually, a picture of a rolled up newspaper is one of the ways Career Services advertises the journalism major for IUSB). That's a good way of summing it up visually, but journalism can lead to many different careers. The two I'm most interested in are newspaper reporting and writing for magazines, but I would much rather write for a magazine. Throughout this paper, both of these career paths are relevant as I explain some of the communication skills present in a good journalist.

The path to my chosen career is rather vague. I have a habit of letting things fall into place as new opportunities present themselves instead of searching for open doors vigorously, as many of my peers do. I've never made a blueprint for my future, but I have inclinations as to how much education and experience is needed for pursuing journalism. My education at IU South Bend will prepare me with a bachelors degree in mass communications and a journalism track. I'm currently a staff writer for the university's newspaper, The Preface, which will equip me with useful journalism skills including fair and accurate writing, as well as how to get a hold of sources for a story. The paper has also put me in touch with the community on a level I hadn't experienced before, and this is a crucial asset in an aspiring journalist - knowing one's community is how great stories are developed. Without this knowledge, connecting with readers becomes a daily battle.

Other college-based educational skills I hope to carry with me are editing skills and learning to multi-task. Although I don't expect to become an editor directly out of college, I'm aware that editors don't always get everything edited. Writers are responsible for their own stories and should take as much weight off an editor's shoulders as possible. Multi-tasking is a growing asset in the journalism field as the digital age digs deeper into society. Readers look for more ways to receive a story; not only do they want to read it - they want to see it, hear it, and probably smell it (I wouldn't be surprised). Without the ability to post stories in multiple forms, a journalist cuts readers/subscribers short of what they're looking for. Alfred Hermida reported on this concept after conducting multiple interviews with professional journalists and journalism professors. "The advice for graduates was that they need journalism plus a new set of skills. The basics of journalism - curiosity, passion, accuracy, serving the public interest - were still important. But journalist students also need to learn about how the digital revolution has changed, and continues to change, the media" (2008).

I mentioned earlier that most people directly associate journalism with newspapers more than any other medium. Another generalization made is to immediately picture a pen, notebook, and a cup of coffee on a desk when they think of a journalist's average day. But journalism isn't such a relaxed profession. Interviews are a huge part of the journalism field - without them there wouldn't be much to write about. Maria Christensen sums up interviewing skills needed before entering the journalism realm: "The ability to think quickly and adapt to new situations is important in the fast-paced world of journalism. Being comfortable with people and able to conduct interviews, either on-screen or for a print article, is a necessity. Your interview subjects won't always be cooperative, so patience and tenacity are helpful" (n.d.).

A journalist's average salary is $36,408 a year ( I'm not particularly worried about this lower-end figure. If I earn less doing something I enjoy, it beats earning more doing something I dread. That being said, it's clear that money management skills will come in handy in addition to journalism skills.

Communication skills needed as a journalist, as with all aspects of life, are probably endless - there will always be something new to learn. One fundamental journalism skill is the ability to communicate in a small group. Journalists are part of a team. In my case, as a writer, I would collaborate with the editor(s), photographer(s), design editor(s), and other colleagues to come up with the best way to tell a story. This won't always be the case, but assuming the workplace I enter is open-minded enough to not have each department working in isolation, I'll be working in small groups quite often, in one way or another. As Sarah Trenholm's Thinking Through Communication points out, "the behaviors of group members become interdepedent; in a true group, any action by one affects all" (165). The author also elaborates on the collective identity of groups. This element couldn't be more applicable to the staff working at a publication. Each lends to the image or voice that a newspaper or magazine stands for, and when one staff member slips, the whole publication "falls on its face" to some degree. It doesn't matter if it's a spelling error by a writer, a fact-checking error by an editor, or a poorly placed/edited photo by the design editor; each of these actions does not lend to a positive image for the paper. Each staff member needs to work cooperatively for there to be a cohesive, unified execution of the material.

Another communication skill a journalist needs is related to the interview process. Journalists often have to get in touch with sources by phone or in person. Interviewing sources gives a writer fresh material to work with, and provides insight for a story that rudimentary research wouldn't provide. A very specific ability embedded in interviewing skills is to recognize the degree of someone's responsiveness when conducting an interview. Again, Trenholm helps in understanding this concept. She defines responsiveness as "the degree to which we are psychologically involved in an interaction, [and] is shown by such cues as rate and volume of speech, amount of gesture, and variability of facial display. [...] All of these messages tell us how we are faring in an interaction and give us cues about how to communicate" (104). Recognizing responsiveness during an interview helps in two ways. First, the interviewer must make the situation as comfortable as possible for he interviewee - this will make for more natural, unabridged quotes and a more enjoyable experience for both parties. Recognizing when someone is uncomfortable or distracted is done by picking up these nonverbal cues, and by doing this, the interviewer is more equipped to rein the interviewee into the interaction. Secondly, picking up on these nonverbal messages will aid in writing a more in-depth story. If the interviewee is distant, and this fact lends to the story's overall message, then the writer can describe the source as "distant," and readers will be more immersed in the story.

Being an ethical communicator is probably the most important communication skill as a journalist. In the news business especially, remaining unbiased is what every issue or production hinges on (or at least what they should hinge on). Wihtout remaining unbiased, media outlets tarnish the idea of democracy. Conflicts of interest are another area of media ethics that I would certainly run into as a journalist. Trenholm defines a conflict of interest as "a situation that occurs when a media communicator's professional role conflicts with a personal interest." (312). A personal interest that I will continue to struggle with is trying to please everyone. I don't enjoy being the object of someone's hatred, and that comes with any journalist's territory because we have to get both sides of a story. Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that journalism does not equate with public relations, and if there's a scandal going on, someone has to uncover it. My personal preference to avoid being "the enemy" will conflict with the fact that a story needs to be communicated to the public. My duty as a journalist, if I'm writing for a newspaper, is to inform the public, not to sugar-coat negative events going on in a community. However, if I were writing for a magazine, there might be more leeway to avoid conflicts of interest. Magazines are more niche-oriented, and there's room to put a positive spin on a given subject. My duty would still be to inform the public, but there would be less pressure to get both sides of a story, and whoever I'm approaching will likely know in advance what the publication's goal is. Sometimes, when I approach someone for an interview, their immediate notion is that I'm in favor of their view because I'm recording it. They are unaware that I must remain unbiased, and try to be my friend. It's troublesome to have to remain somewhat plain and clean-cut when attempting to engage an interviewee enough to get interesting quotes. One of the biggest ethical principles a reporter must follow is to refrain from vocalizing his or her opinion while on duty. (More specifically, opinions relating to the event or subject being covered).

The future seems to catch up with society faster and faster with all of the digital innovations that take place. In terms of journalism - in my case, newspapers and magazines - going from print to digital is what all the professionals are talking about. In 2012, a Forbes Magazine online article was one of many sources quoting Babba Shetty, Newsweek Magazine's CEO, after announcing the magazine would switch entirely to digital platforms: "In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago." (Bercovici, 2012). This reality shook the journalism world as the magazine laid off many of its hard-working employees. The question hanging in the air was probably "Who's next?" I'm sure there were more conversions from print to digital in the time between then and now, and I'm sure there will be more in the future. However, I don't believe that all newspapers, all magazines, and all books will switch from print to digital (ever). What will probably continue into the future is print publications making use of social media, blogs, and other such outlets to better reach their readers and subscribers. The Internet and technology in general makes reaching others so much easier, and cheaper. That being said, the Internet has also turned the "average Joe" into a journalist, sometimes even replacing a publication as a source of news. Citizen journalism will replace some journalists, but the ability to report in an unbiased manner and abide by journalistic standards is not something the average citizen can accomplish. This is why the profession of journalism is here to stay. Nothing can replace journalists as intermediaries between the government/corporations and society. The journalism world's partial switch from print to digital was recently addressed by a professional in the field. Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said, "Even in traditional media, journalists are adapting the new tools at their disposal to help themselves and their employers adjust to the new information marketplace. Yes, the journalist's tools and job description have changed. But the journalist's role hasn't changed" (2012). Journalists will continue to have to adapt to new ways of telling stories, but this doesn't mean the integrity of their position is lost.

I've only reviewed a few of the communication skills needed to enter the journalism field, but each of them is integral to the practice of gathering information and informing the public. The ability to cooperate in small group settings lends to a journalist's ability to keep the vision of the publication in mind rather than resorting to personal preference. Conducting interviews is a more productive process when a journalist knows how well an interviewee is responding - without this "radar," an interview has the potential to be counterproductive. Finally, communicating ethically is the cornerstone of journalism and is a crucial skill. While the recent switch from print to digital means changes for journalists, it doesn't mean replacing journalists altogether; it simply means journalists will adapt. Good writers and good communicators are needed everywhere. No digital innovation can replace the communication skills a journalist acquires. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The wisdom of an architect

Today, I came across some quotes from a well-known architect, E. Hill Turnock, who contributed greatly to the architecture in Elkhart, Indiana (my home town). His influences can be found in homes, factories, schools, gardens, and other structures, which makes exploring the town a wonderful experience.

Turnock's wisdom can be applied to many aspects of life - especially new beginnings - and it's worth a great deal of contemplation. The following are quotes I found in a brochure titled "Discovering Turnock."

Each home must be individual. Its artistic value is largely dependent upon this quality of distinction and, should it be repeated (even at some distance), it loses much of its intrinsic value, on the same theory that a copy of a master's painting is of slight value compared with the original.

Ruthmere Mansion

A small cottage, well planned and adapted to the requirements of the owner with a chaste architectural expression properly designed for its environment and location, with well-kept lawn and embowered in flowers, trees and shrubs, may be placed in close proximity to a costly and pretentious house, and the cottage will, in sweet humility, assert itself in spite of this seeming disadvantage.

Kuespert House

A home must be built to outlive fads and passing fancies.

Havilah Beardsley House

Sunday, May 10, 2015


This blog will serve as a collection of insights and research papers that I've been drowning in.
I'll start by saying I wouldn't be here without my terrific family, friends and colleagues. This past year has seen a whirlwind of positives and negatives, both of which have molded me into a unique individual. I'd like to share part of that with you.
It's always been a dream of mine to write for a niche magazine;I figure writing for myself is a good way to start.
Here's to beginnings,