My Causerie

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

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.



Communication majors seeing more green September 17, 2014

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 2:41 pm
Photo Credit: wistechcolleges via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wistechcolleges via Compfight cc (cropped)

Midterms are looming in the horizon along with the gray skies of winter. Times like these, we can all use a little good news to brighten our day. For students in the Department of Applied Communication Studies at SIUE, this article from, “The College Majors Whose Starting Salaries Have Increased The Most” just might do the trick.

Many college students are bombarded with horror stories of college graduates still waiting tables and making a living off of tips because they either can’t find a job at all or can’t find one that pays enough to “pay the bills.” According to data cited in the above article, the communications discipline had the second-greatest jump in salaries showing a 10.1 percent increase over 2013, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics states public relations specialists are still seeing continued growth in the industry. So while the job market is competitive, the jobs and the salaries are seeing promising growth for new public relations professionals.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise to me because I hear success stories from a lot of recent graduates. I also see LinkedIn updates from many of our alumni as they land their first jobs, and for many, in a short period of time, move beyond their initial entry-level positions.

The “teachable moment” in these success stories is for current students to see the common denominators among those experiencing this success. You don’t see it coming from those who while in college just wanted to scrape by doing the bare minimum necessary to walk across that stage in May. However, success doesn’t necessarily just go to the 4.0 students either. On the contrary, the students I see achieving early success in their careers are those who not only performed well academically, but also realized the value of professional development outside the classroom. These students took leadership roles in student organizations such as PRSSA; they took the effort needed to ensure they attended local, regional and national industry-related conferences; and they participated in not just one but often two or three internships over the course of their college careers.

It’s exciting to reach out to former students and ask them to come back and serve on one of the PR professional panels that I host every semester. These panels often served as networking opportunities for these ambitious students. Now, they are sitting on the other side of the table and sharing similar advice with students sitting where they once sat just a few years ago. This offers hope to students because for many, seeing is believing. I can stand up in front of these classrooms and say, “Do this, do that” until I am blue in the face – but let one of these young professionals come back and tell them, “You need to get an internship, you need to be a strong writer,” then they are paying attention!

So, there is good news for communication majors, but start taking action now toward achieving that success. Join PRSSA or another professional group relating to your chosen career; set up your LinkedIn profile and begin learning how to leverage it toward your career goals; take advantage of volunteer opportunities; find a variety of internships; read and learn about the industry you plan to enter; and take your coursework seriously. Look at each assignment beyond the mere 100 points you may earn in the current class. See the forest!

Photo Credit: fatboyke (Luc) via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: fatboyke (Luc) via Compfight cc

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


Happy Birthday, Dad September 4, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

Today Dad would have turned 85. Although he didn’t darken the doors of a church very often in his lifetime, he enjoyed singing some of the old-time hymns, and he lived his life loving others and doing whatever he could to help someone in need.

A generous, hard-working, intelligent man with just an eighth-grade education, Dad went to work at a young age to help support his family. Later while serving in the U.S. Navy, he would keep a minimal amount of his monthly pay, sending the rest home to his parents. Sending money home to his parents, buying his little sister a dress for her eighth-grade graduation, caring for his dad up until his death and even providing a home for his older brother who needed a place to live, Dad lived a life of extravagant generosity.

His generosity extended beyond family too. He often donated his time and money to worthy causes and would even extend a helping hand to strangers. I remember the time he loaned his car to a complete stranger; he was an honest man and expected the same of those he encountered.

My home is full of treasured keepsakes from Dad – all with a story to tell like the Navy locket I keep safely under a glass-top table. It is a constant reminder of the amazingNavy locket for Phyllis Jean love he had for his little sister who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 15. Her death was hard on him, and he often talked of the time he said she came to him and told him she was fine and that she didn’t want him being sad any more. He cried every time he told me this story.

As the Alzheimer’s began to steal his memories away, he would often ask about family members who had long since passed. He asked how they were, if I had seen them lately, and he wanted to go visit them. Knowing those he loved so deeply welcomed him at the gates of heaven gives me peace. Their reunion actually makes me happy, and as much as I miss him, I know he is happy.

Currently more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and millions more are faced with the financial and emotional challenges of caring for a loved one with this disease. If current trends continue, Alzheimer’s will bankrupt families, communities and our healthcare system, and cause many more families to endure the heartbreak of watching a loved one slowly slip away right before their eyes.

But there is something we can do to stop this devastating disease. We can walk together to end Alzheimer’s by supporting the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.

The Alzheimer’s Association®, the leading voluntary organization in Alzheimer research, care and support, is dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and an eventual cure for the disease. I support the Alzheimer’s Association because I know how important these resources are; I turned to the Alzheimer’s Association several times while I took this journey with Dad.

Would you please consider making a donation? You may visit my online fundraising site to learn more and make a donation, or you can mail your donation using the donation form. No amount is too small; every dollar counts, so please consider supporting this cause. Checks should be made payable to the Alzheimer’s Association, and your donation is tax-deductible. You may also be able to double your donation if your employer has a matching gift program. Find out by visiting

Although the disease robbed Dad of his memories, it could not steal our love for each other away. Because of that love, we were able to enjoy many happy times together during his last year of life. If you are facing a similar journey, I hope our stories encourage you. While living with this disease, it is important for you and your loved one to do just that: live. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association, Dad and I did. You can too.

Thank you to family and friends, thank you to SIUE students, thank you to members of the SIUE Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America for joining in the fight, and thank you in advance to all who donate to the cause. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.


Aloha to God’s Perfect Timing August 23, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 6:33 am

A father-daughter love.

I sat in the quiet of my house, tears flowing as I read the last book in a series titled, “Journeying Through Grief” by Kenneth C. Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist. A friend from church gave it to me with a note attached saying, “I am sorry I am getting this last book to you late.”

But you see, the book wasn’t late at all. In fact, it was delivered in God’s perfect timing. I have struggled with so many emotions the last couple of weeks as the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death approached, and this book was filled with the encouragement I needed. It reminded me that there is no time table for grieving, and that even though this past year of “firsts” has been difficult, if I continue to find year two, three, five or 10 difficult, that it is perfectly fine. There is no “one-size-fits-all time frame for grief. As Haugk says, “You don’t go to bed on the 365th day still grieving and wake up the 366th day feeling completely healed.” I have made it through a year without my dad. It’s not that I had any doubt that I would as I know the Lord renews my strength just as Isaiah 40:31 tells us, but I have missed him tremendously, and I know that isn’t going to change on day 366 or any day after that.

For many who lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease, death can seem like the second loss because the first one comes when your loved one no longer knows who you are. I faced this sense of loss in the last year of my dad’s life. Many times we felt that he was seeing me as my mom in her younger years. In fact, sometimes he would pat my hand or caress my face and say, “I have the best little wife ever.” Once he asked his sister if she knew who I was, and she replied, “Yes, I do.” My dad just grinned and said, “She’s been in our family a long time.” My aunt and I just smiled.

In Chapter 5, Haugk shared this quote from a gentleman by the name of Dennis Klass: “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.” He also shared a saying from an Irish headstone that said, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.” The first one is true. Death nor even the cruel clutches of Alzheimer’s could end the relationship with my dad, but no matter the depths of love, Alzheimer’s can, and does, steal our memories away.

It’s sad that Alzheimer’s robs a person of their life even before their death. How many times throughout our lives do we say, “I’ll never forget…” Now, I realize that until a cure is found, those treasured memories can be pilfered from our minds – but not from our hearts. It’s true that my dad seldom knew my name in his last year of life. Yet, without a doubt, I know his heart knew that I was somebody he loved and that I loved him too. His big smile, his eyes lighting up with joy, and then that jovial, “There she is!” as he reached out to give me a hug was all he needed; it was all I needed. No names required.

Haugk closes this last book in the series with a chapter titled “God’s Aloha.” He reminds us that “aloha both bids farewell and welcomes.”  So, in loving memory of my dad on this one-year anniversary, I say aloha to God’s perfect timing, to His amazing grace, to His unfailing love. He continues to bless me with all that I need as I go through this season of grief. No matter how long I am on this journey, I know He will continue to provide peace, comfort and strength. Loved to see you!

Aloha, Dad; until we meet again. I know you will be there to greet me with a smile and outstretched arms!

Please help us say aloha to Alzheimer’s disease by joining the Walk to END Alzheimer’s. Join or donate today.


An email, an article and a trash can August 16, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 10:57 pm
Photo Credit: kernlatta via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kernlatta via Compfight cc

What does an email, an article and a trash can have in common? All three have brought a smile to my face during a week that I have felt rather emotional. I think the emotion stems from various causes, but my top three guesses: 1) the stress of getting ready for another semester to begin, 2) the news of Robin Williams’ death and more than anything else, 3) the approaching one-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

1) Another semester beginning is always a busy time, and I tend to make it even busier by what my family characterizes as sometimes being a bit of a perfectionist! However, for all my extra effort, there is sometimes a return on my investment!

Teaching’s reward is not monetary! I know; such a statement is kind of like the Geico commercials: “Everybody knows that.” Well, did you know that teaching can make you smile more than money can? It can, thanks to students who take the time to say, “thank you.” When I receive emails from former students telling me how much one of my classes meant to them and how it had a positive impact on their lives, well…that’s the reward for all my efforts. That makes me smile. So, to the student who sent the perfectly-timed email this week expressing appreciation for my efforts, I want to say thank you. You chipped a little of the sadness away this week with your kindness.

Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc

2) As for the news of Robin Williams’ death, it is hard for me to explain because I am by no means a celebrity groupie. I’m not one to have much interest in who is doing what in Hollywood. But Robin Williams has always been one of my favorite actors. His movies, from the dramas to the comedies, have always been favorites too. Many of his films have amazing stories, and he was always an amazing storyteller. I think it was the way in which he told the stories that made you feel like you were actually friends. I guess that is why I felt so sad when I heard the news; it felt as if I had lost a friend. I came across this article, “7 Quotes from Robin Williams, for Communicators,” and I liked quote #2: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” It’s hopeful, and it made me smile. Rest in peace, friend.

Enjoying the Tri-State Rodeo Parade!

Enjoying the Tri-State Rodeo Parade!

3) And most of all, my heart is struggling this week with the approaching one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. In some ways, it doesn’t seem possible that he has been gone a year, and other times, it seems like he’s been gone much longer. My heart still aches; tears still flow. Simply put, I miss him. I miss his smile.

Yet, cherished mementos, pictures and memories make me smile. Like this trash can that my brother gave to me today! A trash can makes me smile? Yes; yes it does. It makes me smile because it has a story to tell.

My Dad's chicken feed container!

My Dad’s chicken feed container!

This trash can sat inside my dad’s chicken coop. He used it to store the chicken feed. I can remember making trips out to the chicken coop with him, scooping the feed out of this can and filling the feeders. I also remember the day we worked together making repairs to the chicken coop. That was a long day, but looking back, it makes me smile that I had the chance to spend that time with him. As a professional carpenter all his life, I am sure he had fun watching me hammer those nails!

As I think about all this: the email, the article and the trash can, it’s the stories told within each of these that made me smile. I’ve always loved a good story…what public relations professional doesn’t! And this week, I was on the receiving end of the stories being told, and they made me feel appreciated, hopeful and grateful.

So be sure to share your stories this week; you never know the impact they might have on someone. Just take a look at my trash can…go ahead, you can smile! It’s an awesome trash can filled with stories…and soon, chicken feed again!

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



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