My Causerie

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." ~ Ronald Reagan

I teach; therefore, I learn. December 4, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 12:27 pm
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Another semester is coming to a close, which means an end to grading blogs for a little while! Although grading 90+ blogs every semester is daunting, this is honestly one of my favorite assignments to grade.

I do not assign topics for students, so they can blog about whatever they want, which is a win-win. It makes the writing more fun for students, which hopefully results in them enjoying the weekly writing practice more. It also makes grading the blogs more enjoyable for me. Nobody would want to read 90+ blogs on the same topic!

However, I often tell students that the blogging assignment is a double-edged sword for me. I always end up learning something from them, but it can take me several hours to grade all the blogs! Because the students write on a variety of topics, I tend to get pulled into many of the stories. I follow the links they often share and before I know it several hours have passed, and I am not even remotely close to having all the grading completed!

Over the years I have learned a lot from reading my students’ blogs: different perspectives on current events; newest trends whether in technology or fashion; some great new recipes; fun places to visit; and some great health and fitness tips too!

Sometimes their blogs also serve as a source of encouragement. They can express wisdom beyond their years, inspiration that surpasses their age, and the compassion of a child. These are the posts that when I am finally finished grading, whether at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., I walk away from my laptop feeling like I just learned another valuable life lesson – or maybe a refresher when I needed it most!

First card of the season from one of my students!

First card of the season from one of my students!

Sometimes I can get discouraged; I wonder if I am making a difference at all, but then I will get a thank you, a handshake, a hug – even a Christmas card from a student thanking me for my efforts throughout the semester. These little acts of kindness make my long days and short nights seem worthwhile.

My teaching profession is certainly not rewarded monetarily, but yet I walk away from each semester feeling a little richer because of the students that have sat in my classrooms and the amazing lessons they have taught me.



College students: Stop rolling your eyes at those group projects November 13, 2014

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 11:08 pm
Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

Group projects: many college courses require them. Group projects: many college students dread them. Yet, according to a recent study conducted by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the ability to work in a team structure ranked as the #1 skill employers say they seek in new hires.

The complete list includes:

1. Ability to work in a team structure
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others

As the article emphasized, this list applies to all disciplines. No matter what field students plan to enter, companies want employees who demonstrate these skills. For students at SIUE, the Department of Applied Communication Studies offers a variety of classes to strengthen these very skills. From an initial interpersonal communication class to a real-world senior capstone project, the coursework is geared toward preparing students to succeed in their chosen careers. Theories, research methods, persuasion, social media, public relations writing and technology, group, organizational, health, intercultural and interracial communication classes – these are just a few of the classes that are offered, which can help students master these sought-after skills.

Check out the Department of Applied Communication Studies website to learn more about the public relations, interpersonal or corporate & organizational undergraduate programs or the graduate programs offered through the Department and learn how to master the trick of clearly communicating your skills.

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.




Documentary “I’ll Be Me” Raises Alzheimer’s Awareness November 3, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 10:25 pm

I am definitely going to see the film, “I’ll Be Me”…soon. I have to wait until it comes out on DVD though because it is certainly not something I can see in a theater surrounded by strangers. In fact, I may need to just watch it by myself.

The documentary, “I’ll Be Me” has the opportunity to raise awareness about a disease that has no treatment, no cure, no survivors. Increased awareness can help generate the funds that are needed for research so that a cure can be found, and to continue to provide education and support for the millions of caregivers caring for those living with this disease. I emphasize living with the disease, not dying from the disease because those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are still capable of living life. It’s a different kind of life than what they had before, but it is life. Providing support and educational resources to caregivers – in private homes or in Alzheimer’s care facilities – needs to happen to ensure the quality of life, not only for those living with Alzheimer’s but for their caregivers too, is the best it can be. Raising awareness can serve as a teachable moment for everyone impacted by Alzheimer’s.

When I watched the clip about Glen Campbell’s initial diagnosis and the movie trailer, I cried – a lot. In so many ways, Campbell reminds me of my dad; his humor; his smile; his determination. I remember one of the initial doctor visits with my dad when a doctor asked him questions like, “What month is it?” He would just nonchalantly cast the question aside with a comment like, “Oh, I don’t think too much about that anymore.” The doctor asked him where he was at, and he responded that he wasn’t sure. She asked him if he was at a school, and he just said, “Well, I don’t think so.”

Too many questions and he would get agitated, but just spend a little time with him, holding his hand, touching his face, telling stories, and he would just light up. I’d love to have those days back. To see his face light up when I walked in the room, going on walks and listening to his stories or sitting at the table and laughing – good, ole’ belly laughs – with him. He was so happy; I thoroughly enjoyed that night! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment with him. These are all Alzheimer’s memories – many late-stage memories, and I am thankful I took the time to make them.

Alzheimer’s is often referred to as the “Long Goodbye.” I won’t deny the duration; for many, the goodbye can last decades. But I think it is important to not let the goodbye rob you of hellos. I certainly didn’t. Every day I had the chance to say hello to a new day with my dad. Hello to laughs, walks, games, talks. This outlook not only made our time together better, but it has made my time since the final goodbye much better.

“I’ll Be Me;” I’m sure it will be an emotional movie to watch, but it has tremendous potential to help people see not just the challenges but the joy that can be shared while living life with a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s a positive outlook; focused more on the hello than the goodbye.

Go see the movie, and in the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.



Tractor Treating this weekend October 22, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 1:00 pm

Highland Hope United Methodist Church is hosting its 3rd annual hopefest Saturday, Oct. 25. A time for young…and young at heart to enjoy the fun of fall fellowship. hopefest

tractorThe fun kicks off at 5 p.m. with “Trunk or Treating.” Jim and I will be there…well farmer Jim and his lovely farmer’s wife will be there passing out treats to all who stroll by our Johnny Popper!”

Several church members will have their trunks open and decorated; from tractor “trunks” to Oscar the Grouch, kids of all ages will enjoy this treat trail!

There will be free food and drinks provided throughout the night including the “almost famous” Highland Hope chili. Live music, games, prizes, inflatable fun, hayrides and a costume show – all free of charge – will keep you entertained all night long. From age 2 to 92, come prepared to have a good time. All activities are outside, so be sure to dress for the weather.

For more information about hopefest or Highland Hope ministries, checkout the Highland Hope website or Facebook page. Hope to see you Saturday night!

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk!




Mercies in Disguise October 21, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 3:52 pm

Just got off the phone with my mom and got the news about my aunt’s biopsy. It is cancer, but more tests are needed to determine stage or treatment plan. It does seem to be contained to just one lung though, so that is a blessing.

It made we think of one of my favorite Christian songs: “Blessings” by Laura Story, who I had the privilege of seeing in concert with Stephen Curtis Chapman last year. This song has brought me to tears on so many occasions. Someone sang it in church shortly after my dad’s passing, and I thought I was going to have to leave. You know the kind of sobbing that makes your body start convulsing? Yeah, that’s what was happening. I wasn’t sure I would make it through, but I did.

What’s important to understand though is that the tears weren’t just from sadness. There was joy within the tears also; the words of this song are so true. A thousand sleepless nights, my greatest disappointment, my hardest night – they were in fact His mercies in disguise. I’ll share just a few:

1. I got to share a lot of one-on-one time with my dad.

2. I got to share a lot stories, smiles and laughter with my dad.

3. I got to share a lot of hugs and kisses with  my dad.

The “thought for the day” in my daily devotional said, “The trials we endure can bring us closer to God.” The devotional, written by Samuel Winchester, shared a story about perspective. He talked about his frequent flying and how sometimes he gazes out the window at all the beauty and wonder. Other times, he is squished in between two other passengers.

Yet he posed the question: “What is the difference between these two situations?” Nothing really. It’s the same plane, the same view. What had changed was his perspective. Winchester reminds us that we need to let God shape our perspective during the trials of this life. If we focus merely on trying to escape the pain, we risk missing God’s blessings.

It may be hard to imagine, but in my dad’s last year of life, when Alzheimer’s had robbed him of his mind and he didn’t even know who I was, I count that year, that time spent with him – the trials of this life – as God’s blessings. I am truly thankful God allowed me to travel through that valley with my dad. What an amazing gift I was given. If I had merely tried to escape the pain, I would have missed all the blessings God had planned for me as I traveled that journey with my dad.

So once again we pray for healing and to have our suffering eased; if that is not the answer we receive, let us allow God to shape our perspective and help us find the blessings hidden amid our tears. Help us be more like Paul: “I have learned how to be content in any circumstance.” Philippians  4:11.

Pull up a chair and let’s talk.


Are you preparing for your career? October 13, 2014

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 12:20 am

WritingStudents in the Department of Applied Communication Studies are taking advantage of writing opportunities that provide writing practice and strengthen their professional portfolios.

Kiley Herndon, SIUE PRSSA Chapter president, was a guest blogger for BurrellsLuce where she talked about Gini Dietrich’s recent visit to SIUE for the digital communication seminar that PRSSA and ELLA hosted Sept. 19.

Olivia Heller, who attended the digital communication seminar, wrote a news release about the event that was published on the College of Arts and Sciences’ website and the PRSSA National website.

Megan Hanak wrote a direct mail letter as part of an ACS 313 class assignment. The SIUE PRSSA Chapter used her letter as part of their fall membership drive. The letter was sent to prospective PRSSA members and resulted in more students deciding to join PRSSA this semester.

If you haven’t stepped up to the plate (no post-season pun intended) to find more writing opportunities, consider the time and energy you put into your blog. Are you making the most of this weekly writing opportunity? If you need more incentive besides the possible points earned for the assignment, read the 5 Reasons Every PR Student Should Blog. Your weekly posts are far more valuable to you than the 10 points you earn in class.

You might also want to read the tips in Jeannine Wheeler’s post “Are PR Students Ready for a Changing Industry?” Although social media and technology skills are certainly needed, I like that strong writing skills never go out of style. This was also highlighted by many of the professionals at last week’s PRSSA round tables event. Members had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with five area public relations professionals, walking away with tips on everything from networking to interviewing and everything in between.

Whether you are one semester away from graduating or three years, now is the time to start preparing for the career you want. Start today.

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk!









Until a Cure: Be willing October 2, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 11:30 pm
The Purple PRoject Team

The Purple PRoject Team

The Purple PRoject team participated in the Walk to END Alzheimer’s last weekend. It was a great day to raise awareness and raise funds in the fight against Alzheimer’s. It was also a personal time of reflection for me. It’s been a year since I lost my dad. It still wasn’t easy having to pick up that purple flower, which represents losing someone to Alzheimer’s. But until a cure is found, if I could give advice to those who have loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease, it would be to “be willing.”

Be willing to listen. Be willing to ignore. Be willing to forgive. Be willing to go. Be willing.

Steve Lieurance, owner Lieurance Auction House

Steve Lieurance, owner Lieurance Auction House

Be willing to listen. Listening is one of the simplest expressions of love. My dad always liked to talk – my goodness, he even turned it into a profession when he decided to go to auctioneer school after retiring from Western Illinois University, and he was good at it too. Even as the Alzheimer’s progressed, he still enjoyed talking as long as someone was willing to listen. That willingness includes listening to the same stories over and over again and to stories that don’t even make sense. I walked with Dad one evening as he pointed out all the items that were about to be auctioned off; room after room of furnishings were going to be sold, according to him. We enjoyed talking about the “upcoming sale” and how much things would go for. Be willing to listen.

58th wedding anniversary

58th wedding anniversary

Be willing to ignore. With the listening comes the need to ignore. Facts are no longer needed, and if you are going to enjoy your time together, you have to be willing to ignore the absurdity and sometimes the hurtful comments that your loved ones might say. The day my dad reached out and took my mom’s arm, the woman he had been married to for 58 years, and asked her to leave “his” house because he didn’t know who she was, and he didn’t want her there was probably one of the hardest days of her life. Dad once told me that she (my mom) was an old girlfriend that was trying to boot his wife out…but he was going to have none of that! He said, “She’s a nice woman, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I’m a married man.” As hard as it may be at times, you have to learn to ignore some of the things that are said, knowing that they are not coming from the heart but rather a mind that no longer works correctly. Be willing to ignore.

Be willing to forgive. This may be needed for the things said and done under the ravages of the disease, but it may also be needed for things done long before Alzheimer’s became a part of your world. I’m the first to admit, I didn’t always see eye to eye with my dad – and that’s putting it mildly! But somehow, not even consciously, all of that dissipated as he aged and even more so when I began to see the signs of Alzheimer’s. Forgiveness is what you need to give, but really, it is a gift to yourself. Forgiveness helps you heal. Without forgiveness, the compassion, which I think you must have to make this journey, would not come easily. Without forgiveness, it is difficult to go with the one you love to the world in which they now live: the Alzheimer’s world. Be willing to forgive.

Be willing to go. No suitcase needed. No passport required, and yet, the journey is a long one. When you love someone who is living with Alzheimer’s, you have to be willing to go with them to their world because, sadly, the disease has already taken them out of yours. But if you are willing to go, you can still have so much fun with each other. I truly enjoyed my time with Dad. I remember one night sitting at the table and laughing – and I’m talking about good ole’ belly laughter! Some of the things he was saying were just crazy – maybe even a bit inappropriate, but wow, we were having fun together! I honestly was happy, and he was too. I think that is the biggest misconception surrounding Alzheimer’s; that people living with the disease, people caring for those living with the disease, just have to be living this sad, horrible existence. It’s just not true. Sure there are tough times, but don’t those times come to all of us? If you are willing to go with them into their world, there are still good times to be had. And for me, memories to be made and cherished. I was making memories with Dad even though I knew they wouldn’t be his memories, but I certainly count them as some of my most treasured memories now.

So until a cure: be willing.




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