Category Archives: ramblings

Writing’s not hard, right?

As someone who works as a communications professional and writes every single day, I can identify with this quote often attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

“There is nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

While I may not be sitting at a typewriter, I understand the sentiment. Writing isn’t easy, at least good writing. It’s a craft, and to write well, it takes time, effort and a lot of rewriting.

But unfortunately, when you work in a creative field, especially in a corporate setting, it sometimes seems like everyone has an opinion and advice about your work. Let’s just say, sometimes that can be a little frustrating. So today, I offer to you three things you shouldn’t say to the communications/editorial/public relations professionals in your company.

  1. Why isn’t my title capitalized? OK, guys. Here’s the deal: most journalists, communication and PR professionals use the Associated Press Stylebook to set baseline rules for how to handle specific words, concepts and ideas. Remember when you were in high school or college and your paper had to follow APA, MLA or Turabian? It’s a similar concept and provides consistency so that every piece of content has a similar feel and look. And the AP Stylebook has some specific rules on titles, particularly that they aren’t capitalized unless they are used in front of a name. For example, the title is capitalized in this sentence: Deputy Director Smith leaked the information to the press. But it wouldn’t be if written this way: Smith, a deputy director, leaked the information to the press. So when you see the press release and notice your title isn’t capitalized, take a deep breath. It’s not because the communications department hates you or doesn’t want to give you your due. It’s because we have a set of rules to play by that are designed to make communication clear and concise. And we’re just trying to follow the rules.
  2. Are you sure the grammar is correct? I’m not saying you shouldn’t question something if you think there’s a problem; you should. Grammar isn’t always an exact science, and we make mistakes. Sometimes, you catch a mistake our eyes have overlooked because we only see what we think we’ve written. (And when you bring those mistakes to our attention, please don’t be condescending!) But you should remember that there’s a difference in a grammar issue and a personal preference. Sometimes, what people identify as a grammatical error isn’t; instead, it’s simply a construction they don’t necessarily like or something they’ve been told is wrong, such as ending a sentence with a preposition. Most communications professionals have at least some training in the ins and outs of grammar and have spent years perfecting their craft. Bring true mistakes and typos to their attention with kindness and humility rather than in a manner that seems to patronize their knowledge and training.
  3. Oh, your job isn’t very important. And I don’t have time to help you with this project because my job is important. Yeah. . . that’s not going to go over so well. In a corporate setting, communications can be undervalued simply because its impact is hard to measure, according to a 2015 FastCompany article. But communications covers a wide variety of aspects, from reputation management to social media, community relations and holds much of the responsibility for establishing the voice, tone and public face of the company. So rather than allotting degrees of importance to various roles within the company—with yours at the top—understand we all have a role to play and share your story, so that the communications department can weave it into the greater narrative of the corporation.

100 words on home

I want to go home. I say those words often. In quiet moments when I’m tired or feel forgotten or alone. When parts of life seem hard or stressful. When there’s a longing in my heart, a feeling that all the joys and beauty of this world can’t seem to fulfill. Sometimes, it’s a desire to go home to visit my family, to go to a place that feels comfortable, where I feel cared for. Sometimes, it’s a longing for my own house. But more often than not, it’s a longing for my true home, where all will be made right. Eternity is written on my heart, and the longing gives me hope.

The Light Still Shines

As 2016 drew to a close and 2017 began, it definitely felt like there was more darkness in the world than light.

This afternoon, as I walked my dog on our usual route around the complex in the fading light of dusk, my mind wandered over the last few months. An election that created enemy lines. Cancer diagnosis after cancer diagnosis, in my church and among childhood friends. The Friday before Christmas, I sat in the

The Friday before Christmas, I sat in the high school gym where I had once cheered and listened to as one of our former high school basketball stars eulogized his twin brother, who lost a years-long, hard-fought battle with cancer just days before Christmas.

Friends lost grandparents and loved ones. Just days before Christmas, my close friends accepted another foster placement, a 3-year-old child with nowhere to go. A coworker’s brother was badly hurt in a difficult-to-fathom crime.

Darkness. Everywhere.

But as the dusk turned to evening, the sky deepening to navy, my thoughts slowly shifted to a prayer.

Father, in our grief, we trust you.

In our fear, our doubt, when the light seems overcome by the darkness. 

We pray for healing because we know You are a Healer. We pray knowing that whatever happens, You can use it for Your glory. We pray because our hearts cry out for You and our souls need reminders of the hope we only find in You. We pray—trusting by faith, trusting your Word—when our doubts and feelings tell us not to trust You. 

Remind us, Lord, that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). 

The darkness may seem to be winning, but the light still shines. Rest in that hope.

 

Saying good-bye

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before. I started training someone to take over my job.

I’ve had interns and trained younger editors. I’ve tried to explain what all my job entails to teenagers and adults alike. But I’ve never actually trained someone to take over, to do the job because I won’t be here.

I was 24 years old when I started this job. I went to grad school straight out of undergrad and started in this position the same week I graduated with my Master’s. They actually gave me the Friday of graduation off, though I’d only worked about three or four days and didn’t have any vacation days on paper. I was a copy editor for several years, working on undated and dated curriculum pieces, then promoted to editor. For the last 10 years, I have been the editor of our daily devotional for teens, which comes out each month. I also maintain the social media presence and provide the content for the app.

There are so many memories here. The time I had coffee with the Jonas Brothers, long before they were well known. That day we stuck sticky notes all over Karen’s office. The time I was leading a visiting musician upstairs for an interview and walked right out of my shoe on the stairs. When my favorite past intern told me she had fallen down those same stairs when she came for her interview. Lunches when we laughed, so much that Mike’s face turned red and others in the cafeteria turned to stare. People who have supported, challenged, and encouraged me.

Twelve years can be a lifetime. I was 24 when I came and thought I knew so much. And now, I’m 36 and know that no one knows that much and that being an adult and a professional doesn’t mean you’ll magically have insight or wisdom. I came here for my first job, and I thought for a long time that it would be my career. But God has opened another door, and I need to see where it leads.

So, yesterday, I began to train the young woman who will replace me. I wrote outlines for an issue I won’t edit. I tried to tell her tasks and things I do that are second nature to me, as natural and commonplace as breathing. I tried to give her a history of the resource she’ll edit because, in many ways, I’m the only one here who still knows the history. I’ve created lists and spreadsheets, all trying to capture 10 years of my life’s work.

It’s hard to say good-bye, even to a job, even when you know that it’s time and are excited about your new opportunities. It’s hard to let go of something that has been a defining part of your life for so many years.

But it is also a new beginning—and beginnings are good.

A little grace

Several months ago—maybe as long as a year—I read a Facebook status update that has stuck with me.

It was one of those posts where someone is obviously working out passive-aggressive frustration online in public view. And the writer boldly declared that everyone needed to stop saying they were “tired,” because only people with children or medical disorders could truly say that.

My fingers itched to type a response. I actually started one once or twice but decided that my words wouldn’t be written or delivered in love so I needed to keep my mouth shut—or the virtual equivalent of that.

But the comment stayed with me. And so did the reminder that I’ve so often needed to call to mind when I’ve been frustrated or upset with someone’s behavior:

You don’t know what that person going through. You don’t know what it’s like to walk in his or her shoes.

It’s easy to pass judgment, to see someone’s situation from our point of view and proclaim that they’re lazy, unorganized, or don’t really know what tired (or stressed or depressed or poor or whatever) is because you’ve got the corner on the market.

We go through life making easy judgments about the people we interact with, when we have no idea about the inner workings of their lives. The stress at work she downplays. The marriage that feels like it’s falling apart. The child who is making choices that causes him to stay up at night, praying for God to help and protect that son or daughter. Grief that comes when she least expects it and threatens to drown her in the waves. Fear. Debt. Mistrust.

Instead of passing judgment when someone doesn’t behave the way you think they should, I’m proposing a new option. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Acknowledge that you don’t know the things they are going through that may be causing turmoil under a seemingly calm and perfect life. And instead of getting angry or assuming you know more than you do, commit to show them grace. Grace that they don’t deserve. Grace that is confounding to the world and overwhelming and doesn’t make sense.

Grace.

Like the grace God has shown you.

 

All About Me

Two things happened today on my way to work.

The first is an ongoing issue in my condo complex. Right outside my unit is a large v-shaped speed bump. The curb after this speed bump (and nearest my unit) is painted bright yellow, marking it as a no parking zone. Yet, over the past month, a frequent overnight guest of a neighbor continually parks there, probably because it’s more convenient to get to her friend’s house.

The problem with parking there—beside that it’s a no parking zone—is that because of the location of the car, the speed bump, and the layout of the parking lot, it turns our street from a 2-way street to a 1-way street.

But, instead of thinking about others and assuming the rules don’t apply to her, the driver parks there several times a week and usually overnight.

Then, as I was sitting on Rosa Parks, about to turn left onto Broadway in downtown Nashville, I looked across the street. The oncoming lane of traffic is actually divided into two lanes there. One that goes straight, and one from which you can turn right onto Broadway or go straight.

And a massive pickup truck sat there at the red light, straddling both lanes, while smaller cars attempted to edge past him to the right lane so they could turn onto Broadway and not damage their vehicles in the process.

I get that we all have rights and freedoms. What I don’t get is when exactly we became so entitled and self-focused. My neighbor’s friend parks in a no parking zone because it’s most convenient for her, even though it is ILLEGAL and inconveniences every other resident. This pickup truck driver can straddle the lanes because his truck is huge and nobody can do anything about it. He has the right, so why not exercise it?

I know today that I’ll deal with the same thoughts. What’s easiest for me? What’s most convenient for me? Why shouldn’t I say that remark that isn’t helpful, encouraging, or edifying? It’s my right, isn’t it? 

When those thoughts and feelings come bubbling up, I’m going to make a conscious choice to choose to push them aside. I’m not the most important person in the universe.

Lord, help me to serve others today, even if it means inconveniencing myself. 

I dreamed a dream

I dreamed about my grandmother’s house last week.

I’ve often dreamed about my Grandma Ruby’s house, torn down a few years ago, but I can still navigate it in my memories.

But last night, the dream was about my Grandma Polly’s house. A small, old house with a floor furnace that used to scare me. It sits across from my aunt and uncle’s house in a tiny Missouri town I only visit at Christmas now. A new family lives there now, eating dinner in the kitchen where a coat of paint covers up the growth chart on the paneling next to the cellar door, etched with dates and names. Me. My brother. My cousins.

I dreamed about the house the way it used to be. The way it was the last time I saw it when she lived there. I was sleeping in the room that had been my mother’s, in the bed with the bookshelves on the headboard. In the dream, I walked from the kitchen down the hallway darkened by paneling so popular in the ’70s, past the bathroom, the picture of Jesus knocking on a door, my grandparents’ bedroom, and the living room. I remembered it all: the pictures on the wall, the color of the carpet in their bedroom, the bookshelves just inside the living room door where my grandma had displayed the photographs of her grandkids.

Sometimes, I get homesick for the way things used to be. When we could hop in a car on a Sunday afternoon and go see my grandma. She was one of my biggest fans, and I miss her.

Not with the biting grief of those first months after her final stroke, but a gentle grief. A happy grief if there can be such a thing. I am happy that I got to be her granddaughter (the only one), and happy that she is at peace. I am happy that my memories of her are good and that I know she loved me. I am happy that grief still comes, mostly unexpected, because it reminds me of the depth of her love for me.

Good Things (episode 3)

It’s Friday, and it’s been two weeks since my last “Good Things” post. So, with no further ado. . .

  • Two of my favorite podcasts collided this week. I’ve listened to “Stuff You Missed In History Class” for a long time (through several hosts, actually), but ran across Nate DiMeo’s “The Memory Palace” when I was searching for something to fill the void of “Serial.” This week, the ladies at “Stuff You Missed” chatted with Nate! They’re big fans, too!
  • “The Memory Palace” will start releasing new episodes each week on June 21. Subscribe if you like good storytelling. Favorite episodes for me: “The Brothers Booth Schmancy Platinum Remaster Edition,” “High Above Lake Michigan,” and “Episode 65: Two-Dimensional Projectiles.” 
  • Good news and new opportunities.
  • IMG_3875
    Mmm, good! Especially with homemade vanilla ice cream!

    Blackberry cobbler and a fun night laughing and talking with friends.

  • A weekend with NO plans. (I’m tired, people.)
  • Time off soon to see my dad for Father’s Day AND see my oldest nephew play t-ball!
  • Early morning walks with Mac. This little dog wakes up SO happy and it can be contagious. (But if someone could talk him into sleeping in a little on Saturdays, I’d appreciate it!)
  • Coworkers who were so generous to give to people they don’t know and minister to a family that’s grieving.
  • Coffee. It’s ALWAYS a good thing!

In disappointment

I’ve been thinking a lot about disappointment lately.

That moment when you realize that the thing you hoped and dreamed about isn’t going to happen.

When the dream you cherished seems like it’s shattered into a million pieces, and you’ll never be able to move on.

When the dream job isn’t so dreamy anymore and you wonder what you’re meant to do with your life.

When you do that thing you said you’d never do.

When life gets hard or confusing or difficult and you can’t see the other side.

When that person you love and trust lets you down, and you wonder if the risk involved in loving is really worth it.

I wish I could tell you that disappointment will never come your way, but it will. And the problem with disappointment is that it can be paralyzing. In that moment when it seems like all hope is lost, it’s easy to begin to question the situation. What did I do wrong? How did I get here? Will it ever not hurt? What do I do now?

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about disappointment lately:

1. Choose to trust God. If you believe that He is sovereign, then He is sovereign over this situation, too. Despite how you feel or the seemingly insurmountable obstacles you see in front of you, He is in control. I’m a firm believer that nothing is wasted with God, and He will use this situation for His glory. Trusting that when you don’t necessarily see it happening is hard, though. Do it anyway.

2. It’s worth it. A lot of disappointment stems from relationships. Here’s the deal: people are going to disappoint you—just like you’re going to disappoint anyone you know well. It may be scary to love and trust someone after great disappointment, but relationships are worth it. Do it anyway.

3. Evaluate your expectations. Sometimes disappointment comes from the expectations you had going into the relationship or the situation. And sometimes, those expectations were unfair or incorrect. When you get a little distance from the situation and can look at it objectively, take a look at your expectations. Learn to identify unfair expectations and wrong assumptions and get rid of them. Choose to learn from this experience.

4. Just because this one situation ended this way doesn’t mean similar ones will, too.  Don’t let the disappointment from this experience color every other situation that reminds you of it. Just because that boss reminds you of a former bad boss doesn’t mean he or she is bad. Just because one friendship ended in disaster because of misplaced expectations doesn’t mean every friendship will—unless you’re so focused on the past disappointment that you set up the relationship that way.

This bad thing happened and it was terribly disappointing, but it doesn’t have to shape the rest of your life. Mourn what you’ve lost. Even get angry, but then choose to forgive (yourself or others) and let go of any unfair expectations. Then, put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Disappointment is real and it can be devastating, but it was never meant to be the place where we live the majority of our lives.

 

Good Things (episode 2)

It’s been a very busy two weeks, but I survived. There was a lot of stress, a bunch of worrying, and some really good things. I’d rather focus on my blessings, so with no further ado . . .

  • Meeting a print deadline with little to no drama after a very hectic week trying to get ready for it.
  • A long weekend.
  • Allergy meds.
  • Watching “The Good Wife” on some random channel at 3 a.m. because you can’t sleep and actually enjoying it.
  • crunchy cheddar chicken with salad
    crunchy cheddar chicken with salad

    Trying out two new recipes and discovering I’ll actually use them again.

  • “Alias” on Netflix.
  • A trip to the beach with friends. And while this may make me an old lady—my new swim shorts.
  • A blog post I am really proud of: A house of memories.
  • Coworkers who are like family and really care about you.