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?!?

What We Can Learn From The Memphis Grizzlies

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It’s late, which is often the time of day I have the most thoughts. But I don’t often take the time to write them down. So here we go…

Tonight the Memphis Grizzlies won game 4 of their NBA playoff series against OKC. Wednesday they could take the series with a win on the road.

I just moved to Memphis in January, so I’ve only been here long enough to be a bandwagon fan. But I have experience the magic that comes with cheering on the Grizz. And I’m starting to buy into what they stand for.

You see, the way I’ve always seen sporting events and teams is this: They are fun to follow. They all have stories and they are all examples of hope, hard work, diligence and commitment. And I think we can learn a lot from them. Professional athletes are PROS, they work hard to get where they are and they prove that hard work and sacrifice can pay off.

For me, they are a parallel to OUR faith. No I’m not saying we worship sports (though some do) and I’m not saying that everything is all about sports. What I’m saying is there are several things we can learn from following a team. Much like following Christ and our faith, there are ups and downs. But sticking through it all, we learn something. And it’s usually something we can pass on.

We can also learn A LOT from the Memphis motto: Believe. You see if we BELIEVE in the team, we start to hope for success, we start to come together for a common cause and it spreads. City wide…I see it. Everywhere you look people post BELIEVE MEMPHIS. We chant “Don’t Stop Believin'” and we hold hold up our growls towels with pride. It brings everyone together, from all walks of live, from all parts of the city. From all backgrounds. From all beliefs and perspectives. They fill FedEx Forum, they crowd into bars, restaurants, homes, churches and businesses to share their love for the team. They instill pride in all that we do.

I feel that pride and it’s contagious.

But what if that pride, that belief, went beyond supporting a professional basketball team?

What IF we all believed in something BIGGER than the score, the success and the thrill.

What IF we acted on that BELIEF? Volunteered our time? Took time to clean our city? Said thank you to people who make a difference in our city? Helped others experience the good in our city? Worked hard to maintain our neighborhood? Mentored our children? Spent time with the less fortunate? Gave back to the place we love? Worked hard to keep the positive going?

What IF we payed if forward? Spread the LOVE, JOY, PRIDE and BELIFE beyond basketball season?

You see, this is a GREAT CITY! We’ve got so much to be grateful for and when I see everyone come together to support the GRIZZLIES it inspires me to do more for this place. It makes me happy to be here. It gives me reason to act. It inspires me to BELIEVE in something much bigger than basketball.

And I hope it does the same for you.

In fact, I challenge you this week to do something for someone else. No act too small. Pay it forward, give back. Make a difference. Inspire someone else. Believe. Come together. Learn.

As we follow the Grizzlies (hopefully to the NBA Finals) let us remember to say THANK YOU. Be kind to those around us. Take pride in where we live. Do good. And BELIEVE in something more.

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.

April 15th, 2004

For most, April 15th is tax day.  It’s the day we all hope we’ve already done all the paper work for our taxes, many of us wishing and hoping we’ll get a nice return.  For some it’s a sign of adulthood, the first time you have to file.

But for me, April 15th is a day I’ll never forget. April 15th changed my family’s life forever. It’s a day I grew up fast…and it began my adulthood.  It changed my view of life…forever.

It was April 15th, 2004.  I was a senior at Xavier High School.  I was working at KCRG-TV as a production assistant.  We had just finished up the 6 pm newscast when my dad called and asked me to come home for my dinner break.

I drove home, it was the longest 15-20 minute drive of my life.  When I got home both my parents were sitting on the white couch in our living room.  They asked me to sit down and then they utter words I’ll never forget. “Lauren, your mom has breast cancer.”

You see, my mom found a lump during a routine monthly self-exam.  She wasn’t going to do anything about it until after my graduation but my dad insisted she get it checked. We had just lost her mother in October 2003, so it was important to be proactive.

I remember feeling like my whole world was crashing that day.  I wondered how bad it was, if my mom would live to see my graduate, get married, etc.

Little did I know, the next few years my family would push through the cancer battle.  We’d use our Catholic faith to get us through the good and the bad. We would rely and depend on God and the Eucharist every Sunday. It would be our signal of strength and suffereing. My mom would become the rock on the family. She would become our inspiration for living life to the fullest. My parents love for each other would grow deeper than anyone could imagine.  And it would lay the groundwork for so much more to come.

9 year later I’ve learned that so much good can come from bad.  That day my whole world came crashing down.  But it wouldn’t stay that way forever and I would come out of it stronger than ever. April 15th, 2004 would teach my family to BELIEVE.

momToday, my mom is happy and healthy.  Cancer free for 9 years…this October we’ll be running in the 10th Breast Cancer Race since she lost her mom.

And I will continue to hope and pray for a cure.

Color Me Rad: The Most Colorful 5K In The World

There are few times in life when we get the chance to go against everything we’ve ever learned. Sunday, July 9th, Scott and I got that chance. I’ve never been one to completely and willingly destroy my clothes, shoes and possibly hair. Color Me Rad 5K is what they call it. There are others similar, on called The Color Run. But Color Me Rad is pinned “the most colorful 5K in the world” and it’s pretty awesome. The idea is you run a 5K (wearing all white) with no real attention paid to just how fast or slow you’re going. Every so often you come upon a color station and the Bomb Squad throws color at you. By the end of the race you’re covered in color. It’s like human tie dye or community art. Either was a blast and it was all for a good cause. In this case it was for Special Olympics. And the crowd proved to be generous. They hoped to raise $15,000 and according to Facebook, they went through 3,000 pounds of color.


At the end we were covered in all kinds of color.  The picture give a little perspective.  You’ll notice Scott has a GoPro on his head. Well, as you can imagine, we don’t go long without documenting the adventures we have, so there was a video from our day:

If you’re wondering how it all came out, because let’s face it, it kind of looks like we’ve been dyed with permanent ink, their website says its: “non-toxic, non-rash-inducing, Kroger branded, colored corn-starch. Subsidized by the government and processed in the good ol’ US of A, these blasts of starch will change your color, and your demeanor, but never your level of wellness.”

It came out of everything. Though our white shirts are less white than before. And we haven’t quite figured out how to get it out of the shoes, we decided to run in old shoes anyway.

All in all, it was the most fun 5K we’ve ever ran. It didn’t feel long and even though I think it took longer to run because we stopped to get color, it didn’t feel long. The best part was the end, not because we were finished but because everyone gathered together and threw color packets into the air to make one giant COLOR BOMB.

So whether you’re a runner, a clean person, or looking for an adventure, I recommend you check out Color Me Rad or Color Run nearest you. I’m all about adventure and I’m all about letting loose every once and awhile. And I can’t explain entirely how amazing it is to run through a race and come out a piece of art. It left both Scott and I feeling happy…and we had a blast in too.