Dementia, media literacy, Reading, Social media, Writing

Student projects revealed

We are officially in finals week here at Tech. Crunch time is upon students and faculty members, who are busy grading, averaging, and even preparing for next quarter.

My copy editing students, as you may recall, worked on a project with Ruston Nursing Home. The students went out in pairs to interview residents at the facility and produced lengthy feature articles highlighting their assigned resident.

The students were a little anxious about the project – not only because it was a large portion of their final grade, but also because they were unaccustomed to having to interview individuals with dementia or other memory problems. Not all of the residents had those issues, of course, but many did.

The stories – y’all. I was blown away.

Here are just a few snippets I had:

“Like sisters do, they had arguments, but (name removed) made it clear that she loved her sister when she cried over not being able to see or talk to her again. When she tried to talk about her other siblings, her words got lost and jumbled because of her health issues combined with her overwhelming emotions.” 

“’He’s just a nice man; it’s as simple as that,’ she said. ‘He’s going to find me wherever I am, every day. And when I find him, I’m going to go over there and shake his hand, kiss him on his forehead and ask him how he’s doing. And he’ll say, “I’m doing beautiful.” And I’ll say, “You better be, because I love you.”’”

“She wouldn’t let the residents forget that it was her birthday, either. Her birthday request? Black-painted nails and a pack of cigarettes.”

They told stories – they told stories of individuals born in the 1920s, individuals who are in the nursing home because of physical injury, because of mental injury. They told the stories about babies being born, about marriages, about divorces, about careers and opportunities passed, about death and loss. These are real people they interviewed, real joy and sorrow they recorded, and real stories they told. This is the job of a journalist.

I did ask them about the project, if they liked it or didn’t like it, and they said they enjoyed it. They said they enjoyed talking with their resident and having the opportunity to flex their writing muscles with a lengthy paper instead of a shorter article, which they usually write.

I am proud of these students. They worked hard, they spent several hours talking with their residents, and they produced great work. This was a great class. They were smart and creative, but, then again, most of my students are.

So now, as we finish up the fall, I’m also preparing for winter – social media, media law, and introduction to mass media. And it’s going to be amazing.

For students wanting to prepare for one of these three classes, read/watch:
MV5BNzI2NDA3MTA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjA5MzkzMDI@._V1_UY268_CR110,0,182,268_AL_“Freedom for the Thought that We Hate” by Anthony Lewis (Media Law)
“Content Analysis in Mass Communication” by Lombard, Snyder-Duch, and Bracken (Intro to Mass Media)
“Making a Murderer” – Netflix documentary (Media Law and Social Media)
“Nosedive,” “Black Mirror” Episode, Season 3, Episode 1 – Netflix (Social Media)

See you this winter!


Jesus, Reading, Writing

A thought about prayer journals

Last week, I posted about my goal to attempt to be wiser on my 36th birthday than I was on my 35th. One of the ways to accomplish this is through prayer.

I’ve prayed in a variety of ways – written them down, spoken them, quietly meditated on the words. Back in April 2016, I started a prayer challenge where I prayed 30 minutes a day. It was refreshment for my soul – and, more importantly, those hours in prayer over those weeks helped carry me through when my dad passed away at the end of that month. I wasn’t able to pray for a while after that, but because I had spent so much time in prayer, I still felt connected with God.

Prayer changes lives. I have experienced this in my own life; I have seen it magnified in others. I do not always lead by the best example, but I do experience joy when I am praying to and praising God.

I also like to write things down (who knew, right?). Over the years, I have used a variety of tools to help organize my prayers, but I have stuck to these two because I love the format, the quality, and the heart behind the creators of these two journals. Jonann Byargeon is a close friend who published her prayer journal last year, and Val Woerner is a Louisiana Tech journalism graduate like me (#hbtd). Both of these women have a passion to help others spend time with God.

Let me stop here and add this: you do not need anything to pray with God. Prayer, to me, is like running – there’s no special equipment you need, no certain time you have to do it. When I decide to run, I lace up my shoes and go run. I have some wick sweat shirts, some fancy running shoes, and even some cold weather head gear, but honestly, running is just running. I don’t need a gym, a treadmill, or the snazzy workout gear. I just need a path.

Same goes with prayer – I don’t need anything to spend time with God. I just need God. But I do like these prayer journals. They help me keep organized. They prompt me when I need prompting. They help me remember specific prayer requests.

Valerie’s prayer journal covers the whole year and offers space for answered prayers, burdens, and other various prayer requests. It’s big enough to write in but small enough to fit inside my purse. I have used variations of her prayer journal for years. In addition, she has other items that you may be interested in, including a family legacy journal, a men’s journal and kid’s journal, and journals for pregnancy and adoption.

Jonann and me with her newly-printed prayer guide

Jonann’s prayer guide is a more cost-effective option and offers the ability to add or remove pages. It’s easy to flip through and offers suggestions for prayer throughout the week. Jonann was our Sunday school teacher in the late 2000s, and she taught our class to pray using her guide’s outline. It was very helpful then when I didn’t pray more than an evening “thank You for this day” shout out.  It was a way to jump start my prayer life.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. “

Prayer journals are not necessary – but neither are fancy running shoes. But I do like having them on hand, being able to take them to church or to work, and being able to remember specific prayer requests or look through and see the answered prayers in my life.

Prayer really is a lot like running. A little effort makes a big difference.


Dementia, Jesus, Writing

Happy birthday, Dad

My father passed away in 2016 due to dementia complications. His birthday is the day before mine this week, and in honor of his legacy every year, for his birthday, I share my testimony in Christ.

Me and my dad when I graduated with my master’s degree in 2008

First, let me say this – I believe a testimony should be a constantly evolving process. I want to be able to look back at certain times in my life and say, without a doubt, “Ah, that’s how God moved in my life.” I want to be able to say next year that I am closer to God than I am this year. I never want my testimony to always be about something that happened five or ten years ago. While I do believe it’s beneficial to see how God has moved throughout my life, during these particular writing occasions, in honor of my dad, I want to offer a testimony of how God has moved in my life more recently. I could tell you the story of my salvation, but it is fairly straightforward. One day, I might delve into its depths a little more, but I don’t feel called to that right now. I want to tell you how God has pushed me in the last few months.

When I look back this year, I see a visible change in emerging from my comfort zone. I spent about the first six months in a comfortable lull – everything was going well, everyone I knew was happy, and I just continued on a stagnant path. I didn’t see it as stagnant – my prayer life didn’t generally include anyone who was seriously ill or who had gone through a tragedy, which was a pleasant change from the norm, and I was enjoying the calmness that comes with a lack of overwhelming trials.

That changed in the summer when a dear friend challenged my ideas of stability and normalcy and rocked my perspective on my life and our church. Yes, everything was fine, but was fine the limit I had set for myself in terms of achievement? Did I want to stay fine or did I want to go further? Didn’t I want to be in movement to mirror Jesus more? Why stay in my comfort zone when there was so much need in my community – whether or not I was seeing it?

For a week or two, I fought with these ideas. I was angry, I was confused, and I was unsure of myself. I had been praying and reading my Bible regularly. Why had God not told me these things if I needed to push beyond my comfort zone? Why didn’t He reveal Himself to me?

He did – through my friend.

I rediscovered my walk with Christ as more than something just for me and my family and more for the world around us – neighbors, friends, Sunday School classmates. Suddenly, I saw that my comfort zone had become a clutch – a clutch to keep me from pushing myself.

I do like my comfy life. I’m the girl whose favorite evening includes pjs at 7 p.m., Netflix, and a good, warm drink. And while none of that is bad, I do need to remember that I have been called to stretch myself out of my introverted comfort zone.

If I don’t engage, how am I helping anyone? I’m not even helping my family. My girls need to see me out in the community, serving and leading – and following Jesus.




Dementia, media literacy, Social media, Writing

Telling your stories

I’ve got to brag on my students a bit.

300x300I am an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. In my time here, I have taught all sorts of classes in communication and journalism: media law, feature writing, social media, public relations, introduction to mass media, intro to journalism, civic journalism – and that is not a comprehensive list. Every class, even those I’ve taught dozens of times, is always a new challenge because communication – and journalism in particular – is continually changing. It’s fascinating and fast-paced, and no two days are the same. I love my job. I really do. It’s not perfect, but I love teaching and researching my favorite subject: how people communicate.

This fall, one of the classes I’m teaching is copy editing. In a nutshell, the goal for copy editing is to teach students to think like editors for newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, public relations, advertising, online media, etc. They work with words, transitions, quotes, interviewing skills, and learning how to treat the AP Stylebook with the reverence it deserves. We talk about meaning and content in articles, how to work with writers, how to write headlines and cutlines, and how to handle ethical and legal issues. It’s a big, tough class – but it is so much fun.

This quarter, my students have partnered up with residents at Ruston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. They are to write feature stories about their resident – the story topic really is up to them. Maybe their resident fought in WWII and they can focus on that. Maybe their assigned resident loved volunteering, maybe the resident raised a large family. The story isn’t meant to be biographical; it would be quite a feat to write someone’s biography in a single article. But the goal of this project was to capture a snapshot of that person, something that they found as relevant to other readers.

Everyone has a story. Every day, you have a story. My story today is that I got my teeth cleaned and I had no cavities. It sounds like no big deal, but there is a story behind it. Not that I want to go down a rabbit hole here, but the point I’m trying to make is that everyone has a story to tell – every day. Every day.

My students are to find that story.

I’m so excited about this project. SO excited. And part of it comes from my own story, with my dad dealing with Parkinson’s. I want these students to see these residents and talk to them. My dad loved talking to people, and even when he was unable to talk, he loved people to visit. I hope this project, small as it is, will instill in my students a love to hear people’s stories and to want to visit everyone, even people who grew up in a completely different generation. Sometimes age gaps and illnesses can be intimidating. I don’t want that to be the case.

Many of the students went yesterday to visit their resident for the first time. I can’t wait to hear later today about those experiences. What a fantastic journey they’re about to take, to talk to a stranger and find out about a life.

This is why I love my job.

media literacy, Social media, Writing

Back to school

I have returned.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom – okay, really just a few months, but it felt like FOREVER. At first, I was kind of under this delusion of “Hmm, maybe I could be a stay-at-home mom.” But, no, no, by mid-August, I missed my work. I missed my colleagues, I missed my students, and I missed my classes.

I do not take it for granted that I have a job that I love. I feel like I’m making a difference in our world, and I love teaching about social media and media law and even copy editing (actually, it’s one of my favs – but, then again, I generally say that about every class). The world of communication and journalism and media is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. But I never get bored.

Every day there is something new in my profession, whether it’s what the president tweeted that I use in media law or what ad was released that relates to media literacy and public relations and social media. All of communication interconnects and can be related in any setting. Communication is a human cornerstone. You have to have it. And I get to teach it! How can I not be overly excited?

So after I got my darling girls settled in their schools, Mommy returned to work. Kyle saw me on the first day and said, “I’m so glad you get to go back to work.” I responded with, “Ha HA, you’re just glad I’m out of pjs in the morning now.”

But, seriously, the first week was great. I may have scared my students a bit with my enthusiasm. Fall quarter is just fun anyway because everyone’s either new or coming back, we’re gearing up for the football season, and after not seeing everyone during summer, it’s just so good to catch up.

I walked into my first class with a big – no, HUGE – grin on my face. And I couldn’t help it. I said (very loudly), “I AM SO GLAD TO BE BACK TODAY! AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE AN AWESOME QUARTER EEEDDDDIIITTTTIIINNNGGG.”

The responses were less than animated that day, but that’s okay. I had enough eagerness for everyone. And they WILL learn to LOVE editing.

I love hearing my colleagues teach across the hall. I love talking about the news with other news junkies – faculty, staff and students alike. Yes, there are parts of my job I don’t like for sure. And I definitely don’t come into class every day feeling like, “Hooray! I get to teach!” But, in general – I do. And that’s a good feeling to have.

If only fall could really come to Louisiana soon so we can stop pretending it’s fall by turning down the AC. And I would like the love bugs to stay away. Please. It was like a plague of locusts last year. Small (miracle-needed) requests, really.

But I am so glad to be back. It is going to be a great year. I just know it.