Forgiveness In A Place Where Camera’s Can’t Go

I witnessed a powerful moment in the halls of juvenile court today. It’s a place where cameras aren’t allowed. So I wanted to share it with you in writing.

I sat in on a trial this afternoon for the 10th teen charged in the Kroger attacks. I heard the 17-year-old victim speak about what happened to him that night, how he has nightmares when he thinks about having pumpkins the size of soccer balls thrown at this head.

Then I heard the teen suspect’s mother take the stand. She told the judge that she didn’t raise her son this way. And that he deserved punishment. But she didn’t want to see him be thrown under the bus.

Then the 16-year-old suspect took the stand. He admitted to kicking the victim to the ground. And said that he kicked him in the head because others were doing it and he was trying to impress girls.

Then the judge found him guilty of aggravated assault and turned him over to DCS for rehabilitation.
After all that you would think emotions would be high.

As we all walked out of the courtroom the victims father, Mark Sauser, was stopped the two mothers. They were in tears, saying that they are sorry for what their boys did to his son. That had their son been attacked they would be very upset.

After a hug one mother said “I wish my son was here to say he is sorry.”

“I tell him I forgive him,” Mark said.

At this point I was holding back tears.

It’s been a rough couple of months in Memphis. Fights, attacks and people saying horrible things on social media. When you cover the good and the bad in Memphis, it’s hard not to get a little emotionally invested.
Mark Sauser’s words, spoken in the hallway of juvenile court, may be the most powerful words I’ve heard in awhile.

Something to think about as we move forward from the Kroger attacks and remember there is so much more good in this city than bad.

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Off Camera Beat(s)

Very little of what happens in my daily job ends up on TV or in any of my reports.

It’s sad sometimes because the people I meet, the conversations I have, and smiles I share are, on some days, more telling than the stories I tell.

Today was one of those days.

Last week, while visiting the Carpenter Art Garden in Binghamton, I met a young boy named James. He was holding a pair of drumsticks that he had decorated with blue tape.

“Are you a drummer?” I asked.

“No. I play the snare.” He said.

“Well that makes you a drummer, silly!”

Then I asked him all about being a drummer. The seemingly shy kid suddenly came to life when I asked him about it.  He said he used to play in the band at school before the program was cut. All he had was a pair of drumsticks but no way to practice. He answered question after question.  Did he know traditional or standard technique? His favorite beats? Did plan to keep playing?

Then the organizers of the Garden asked him to show off his art work. You see, James is talented. He took something as simple as pipe cleaners and produced art. He creates them at the garden and then sells them to help raise money to keep it going.

After James left, I learned even more about him. When he first came to the garden he didn’t talk. His response to a question was barely a mumble.  He wasn’t social and he didn’t fit in. But then he discovered his artistic abilities. And loves it.

pipecleaner1 pipecleaner2

Over time he’s become one of the most social kids and is constantly creating something.
I left the garden and couldn’t help but think about how he might use a drum practice pad. You know, the kind that allow you to play without annoying everyone but also rock out for some real practice without setting up a drum.

This weekend Scott and I went to Memphis Drum Shop in Cooper Young and got James a drum pad and new sticks.
Tuesday, with an intern shadowing me, I asked my photographer to stop by the Garden for a few minutes. I told our intern that this has nothing to do with our story but that it was important to me. And as long as it didn’t impact my assignment, I needed to get it done.

I took the drum pad out of the box and then showed him some of my (rusty) beats.  James was very excited, for a shy introvert. Though he wasn’t quite sure how to react, the smile on his face said it all.

“Now it’s your turn!! Play me a beat!”

“I don’t play beats. I play snare solos.” He said

“Well, play me a solo then!”

James took to the drum pad.

Dut-Dut-Dut-Dut.
Dung-a-dut. Dung-a-dut. Dung-a-dut.
Buzzzzzzzzzzz.

He did it over and over again. Each time bouncing the sticks higher and higher. I wanted to take a picture but I knew if I took out my camera is would ruin the moment. Instead, I just enjoyed it.

His excitement grew.  I have a feeling he won’t stop playing tonight until someone says it’s time for bed.
This short moment out of my day reminded me what really matters. And, hopefully taught my intern one of the greatest lessons she’ll learn on this internship.

Most of the time, what happens off camera is the real inspiration for who you are on camera.

Ready Christmas Card

2013

Our Christmas/News Years Card For 2013

Greetings from Memphis, TN!!

That’s where Lauren and Scott moved in January 2013. We say this every year but it’s been an incredible journey. Another year of big changes. We moved to Memphis, bought our first home and both have new jobs.

To start, the move to Memphis happened fast. We got a call on January 3rd, by the 6th we had accepted and by January 25th we were packed up and on our way to Memphis.

Lauren accepted a job at Action News 5, WMC-TV in Memphis. It’s the same station where she interned in 2007. It’s been a goal of hers to get back to Memphis and when the opportunity presented itself they couldn’t pass it up.

In her short time at Action News 5, Lauren has covered a lot of ground. Starting with a road trip to Michigan with the Memphis Tigers for the NCAA tournament. Then, a trip to the White House to cover a Memphis Soul Concert and several days in Moore, Oklahoma covering the tornado aftermath. In a few short months she’s quickly fallen into place as a member of the team and is now focusing on community interest stories and in-depth investigations.

Scott was able to keep the same job through the move, working from home for John Deere. After 18 months at home (12 in Omaha, 6 in Memphis) Scott got a little cabin fever and decided it was time to put away the slippers. He took a new job with International Paper in May. Scott is also preparing to go back to school to get his MBA. He has applied at Christian Brothers University and will start classes in Spring of 2014.

This summer they also bought their first home. It’s walking distance from the “world famous” Beale Street…hint hint. Visitors are welcome. It’s been fun exploring Memphis and making it home.

We’ve also gotten involved in the St. Peter’s Young Adult Group, Memphis Iowa Club, Catholic Young Adult Commission, a kickball league (see Christmas card for photo) and several service groups. One of those is the Urban Bike Food Ministry (hence the helmet photo on our card) They are a group of bicyclists that go out EVERY Wednesday night (rain or shine) and deliver food to the homeless people of Memphis. It’s been an eye opening experience for us both. We’ve also met some great people in the process.

It’s also been great being close to Lauren’s family. In fact, this year we all ran in the Race for the Cure together for the first time in several years. But we’ve also made a few trips back up the Midwest for weddings and Ready family events. Iowa is ALWAYS in our hearts.

Check out our 2013 RECAP VIDEO:

2013 was an amazing year. We are grateful that God has guided us through all the adventures. And can’t can’t wait to see where he leads us in 2014.

Wishing you and your family the best this year. Maybe a trip to Memphis is near?!?

Seeing God (and Good) In Everything

Disclaimer: this blog is very different from my last. Well maybe not very…just a different topic. 🙂

So I started reading a new book a few months back. I know what you’re thinking (if you know me)…what Lauren started a new book and she still hasn’t finished it? Yea, welcome to my life. I don’t have a long attention span.

BUT this one is really interesting. It’s called “A Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything” and it’s really interesting so far. It keeps me coming back. Even if its been a few weeks.

It is written by a Jesuit priest and explains their perspective on faith. I find a lot of their perspectives to be very helpful for me, a modern day Catholic.

First and foremost I love this line: “God can be found in the everyday events of our lives. God is not just out there. God is right here, too. If you’re looking for God, look around.”

I think that is so true in today’s world and as a journalist, I find this so true in my everyday life. I meet new people everyday. Many of them inspire me. I have the opportunity to tell their stories with is often very humbling.

What’s even more humbling: knowing that god puts people in our lives and vice versa. There is power in that. And of course tremendous responsibility. Something we can easily fall short of in our daily grind.

Still I find hope in striving to see God in everything and everyone. And if you’re reading this and don’t believe in God, lets change it to “see GOOD in everything and everyone”.

Pass it on!

Life Moves Fast

Yep, the title of this blog certainly describes our lives right now. It seems like just yesterday we moved to Memphis. Come to think of it, it was only January!! Since then we’ve had job changes, made new friends, explored the city and purchased a new home!

So in just about 6 months our lives have pretty much never stopped moving. I accepted the job in early January, in three weeks time I was down here beginning my work.

In May, Scott accepted a job at International Paper here in Memphis. So he made the transition back into the office. He’d previously been working from home for 18+ months. It is taking a bit of getting used to for both us. Him having a regular commute to work. Me not having someone home all the time. Yes, he worked while he was home, but it was very convenient to have him home. I also saw him a lot more.

But his job is going great! And he is enjoying being back in the office.

My job is going well, though it’s been busy and hasn’t seemed to slow down much at all! I’ve been a traveling machine. Started with the NCAA tournament, then the White House and finally Moore, Oklahoma after the tornado tore through. You can read about those experience in previous blogs.

It’s been an absolute blessing to be back in a station and job that I have a renewed passion for again! Seriously, I feel like God has put me exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. Though I wonder what he has in store for Scott and I in the future, for the first time in a long time I TRUST that I’m in the right place, for the right reasons. Excited to see what doors are opened and where God calls me next.

We’ve also gotten involved in the Catholic Young Adult ministry here in Memphis. It’s been a great way to connect with fellow Catholics and I think it’s strengthened our faith together!

Not to bury the lead here but WE BOUGHT A CONDO. And move into our first home in a week. That’s super stressful but exciting. Closing and preparing to move again is a lot of work BUT we are exciting to call a place HOME and known that we’ll be there for awhile. It’s right off South Main Street in the arts district of downtown Memphis. A lot going on and a lot of walkable attractions. We also feel like we can expand in the condo. Yes, we can start our family. But not for awhile. Just nice to know we have a place. 🙂

So there’s a quick Lauren and Scott update…life is moving fast. It’s crazy but it’s a fun adventure. And we’re not doing it alone.

Here’s to more of life! And more updates about our adventures in Memphis and beyond.

Walkin’ In Memphis…Literally

NOTE: I stated writing this blog on Monday April 15th. I was quickly sidetracked by the Boston Marathon bombings. I did not finish it. Or publish it. The days following I was consumed by the coverage. Today I re-read it and finished it. As a sign that live continues to move on after disaster.

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As I sit in our “office” in our apartment in Memphis, I still can’t believe how fast it all happened. My last blog post was in January. I was reflecting on the past year and hoping that 2013 would bring wonderful opportunities and memories.

I’ll be honest when I say I was at a real roadblock in me career. I wasn’t happy and it was effecting all parts of my life. I still had the passion for telling stories but for some reason I didn’t feel like I was completely living out that passion. But I didn’t know what the meant for my life.

I have a pretty common problem of constantly worrying about what’s next and not fully living in the *now*. I’m sure we all have that problem, one way or another.

You see if you asked my where I would be right now, 5 years ago, I would have said “a job in a top 50 market, perferrably Memphis.” However I would have have said “married” in that description. It wasn’t even on my radar. Which I guess is why it happened the way it did. 😉

CHANGE: Scott accepted a job at International Paper. He is headed back to the office in a week. ———————– Scott and I have moved to Memphis. He is currently working from home (like he did in Omaha) for John Deere. He manages servers and storage worldwide. So his job takes him all over the world. Since we moved here he has been to Germany, Finland and Moline, Illinois. It has truly worked out well for both of us. He had been able to continue growing in his wonderful career, while I do the same. It’s truly a blessing.

I have accepted a job at WMC-TV in Memphis. I’ve been here about 2.5 months now and WOW have I been blessed with opportunities.

IMG_0199A month in and I was traveling to Auburn Hills, Michigan with my good friend Carrie Anderson. We covered the NCAA tournament with the Memphis Tigers. I got to cover the fan angles while she focused on the games, teams and sport part of the trip. It was fantastic. But it was A LOT of work. 12+ hour days every day. Turning 4 stories a day, 6 total from both of us. But it rocked and we had a great time!

 

Then, just two weeks after got back from the trip, I was given another AMAZING opportunity. This time I’d travel to Washington DC with our main anchor for the Memphis Soul Concert at the WHITE HOUSE.

IMG_0383 IMG_0401 IMG_0408 IMG_0419 IMG_0489 IMG_0486Joe and I spent three days in DC. We arrived on a MOnday and left on a Wednesday. The first night we shot stand-ups in front of the White House. YOu can see from this photo is was absolutely beautiful.

 

 

 

On Tuesday we covered a Memphis Soul workshop inside the dining room at the White House. This photo gives you an idea what the set up with was like. The students filed in the chairs in front of us. Two of them some Memphis Stax Academy. What an amazing opportunity for them and for US.

 

It was truly an amazing experience. Michelle Obama greeted the group of students and for the next hour and a half students got the chance to hear from the experts. Sam Moore, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, Charlie Musslewhite and Ben Harper. It was awesome. And for the record, it wasn’t awesome because I have a political bia, it was awesome because not matter who is president, it’s an amazing opportunity to cover an event inside the White House (sorry I had to say that for the record because I know someone is reading this thinking I am a bias reporter or something).

The entire event was surreal. Covering the White House at this point in my career wasn’t exactly what I had expected. Joe Birch, our main anchor has been here for 35 years and he has NEVER been inside the White House. It was one of those experiences that you couldn’t help but be excited and awestruck by.

I also gained a new found respect for Memphis Soul Music. It’s truly unbelievable music and talent that came from Memphis, TN. And to hear to hear it honored in a performance at the White House was even more amazing. These people have the REAL and RAW talent that most artists dont’ have these days.

We ended our trip with LIVE shot at the NBC Washington Bureau. That was also very cool. I struggled containing my excitment. If you notice in these shots we were standing in the same spot you see reporters stand for NBC’s Today show and Nightly News. It. Was. Cool.

Everyone in the press room at the White House was also very nice. They welcomed us, showed us around and even let us use some of their lights to shoot some amazing stand-ups.

The trip reminded me that hard work pays off. I shot video for Joe and then turned a story on my own. When I took this job I was a little worried about my title and how I’d be treated in the newsroom. I am technically a Video Journalist/Backpack Journalist/Multimedia Journalist. Those are all fancy names for “shoot your own video” but it really should be a fancy name for “jack of all trades” or “versatility”. Since I can shoot my own video…it proves to be helpful in multiple ways. I get to work with a photographer more often than not but when I need to, I can and do shoot.

Don’t tell my boss but I enjoy shooting video as much as working with someone. They both provide opportunities to be creative. And they both have challenges.

Anyway, I feel so blessed to be here. Every week something happens that affirms the choice to move here. While we miss our friends and family back in the Midwest dearly…and Iowa will always be my home…this experience has landed us right where God wants us. And he is opening so many doors.

Aside from career opportunities Memphis has strengthened our faith. You see down here Catholics are the minority. As a result we find ourselves taking more ownership in our faith. Because we have to. We are becoming more intentional and more consistent. It’s something that now takes knowledge and depth to practice. Commitment is also important.

We have met some wonderful young adults too. I can’t wait to see those relationships grow n

Again all the while remembering our roots. Where me came from truly shapes who we are today.

So I hope y’all come visit soon. We miss you.

God bless.

International Women’s Day: What It Means To Me

Today is International Women’s Day. I found this video by GOOGLE a very good explanation of their logo graphic today.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know it was a day until I got on Facebook this morning and saw many of my friends had posted comments and links about celebrating the day. I even found an article that gave 10 ways to celebrate.

When I read it, I got to thinking about how I wouldn’t likely do any of those things to celebrate. But I also got to thinking about what it means to be a woman and how so many women before me haven’t had the same lifestyle. I know many women choose to stay home and raise their children. In fact, I know a lot of women whom I respect dearly and admire, have stayed home. Truth is, it may not be for everyone, and it may change. At this moment in my life I know I am focused on my career. But I am learning that sometimes the focus changes in life. Either way I am proud to be a working woman and I recognize the challenges that may come with that. I have a passion for storytelling and that may change and mold into something else.

One woman in my life who is a perfect example of this is my very own mother. When I was born she worked as a hair stylist. She did this for years and then we moved to Cedar Rapids. For about a year she stayed at home with us, which I we loved. But then she felt the desire to go back to work. Briefly she sold make up and jewelry. But soon she had a desire to go back to school for something she’d never imagined: criminal justice. It turns out, during her time at home she spent a lot of time reading true crime books. She started at community college, attended Mount Mercy and went on to get her masters degree. All the while she was a mom, student and cancer patient. She was proof that you can do it all but it’s not easy. And I guess that is why she is my hero. She has learned to balance her love and passion for her family with her love and passion for her career. All the while living with purpose and setting and example for her daughters.

As for females in the workplace…as a female who works in news and sports I have felt first hand what it’s like to be a woman in a “man’s world”. It’s definitely an uphill battle. That being said I now work in a newsroom with a female boss. So all theories are out the window. And I enjoy the female leadership.

As far as me and my career, it will be a struggle. In a society that has always told women they are supposed to stay home and care for their children, it’s rare that you see women last very long in our business. When we all start having kids and want to spend time with family, it quickly becomes a matter of choosing between the two. Unfortunately that is not the case for men. In our newsroom alone, the men all have wives who are the primary caretaker. In the course of 30 years we’ve had the same male co-anchor and three female co-anchors. Same goes for Cedar Rapids/Waterloo TV. Male anchors stay, female anchors go. Many of them left on their own, some left because they were forced out. But sometimes I believe that it was truly that the women were force out by the culture and expectations placed on women. It’s a tough world out there. I keep reminding myself that leaving the business isn’t failure, it’s a change of direction (should I choose to do so…or be forced out). Besides…when I think about how we are all here to do God’s work, I often wonder where he’ll lead me.

At the end of the day, today is just a reminder of how far society has come. Women now work.

As I type this at work, I find myself saying ‘thank you’ to all the women who’ve paved the way for people like me.

Keep on paving!