Last week I intended to write up a Wednesday/pre-Thanksgiving post about all the things about being a reporter that make me thankful. But then my husband swept me off to a movie, which I'm thankful we saw. (See what I did there?)

So consider today's entry the post-Thanksgiving, still-grateful-edition.

Here's what I count among my blessings when I'm on the beat:

1. I can't get enough of good conversations. When faced with interview prep, I'm often awash with concerns that my questions won't be sufficient. Then when I'm actually in the conversation, people open up to me in ways I never could have predicted, and I just go with it. I start asking questions that aren't on "my list," just because they've sparked my curiosity.

2. I still can't believe I get to write for an actual job, and actually get paid for it. It's like putting puzzles together at work. Put this piece here, and that piece there, work in some analysis, craft eye-grabbing leads and smooth transitions. Put together disparate points of view so that they balance and complement one another. It's all so very fun and fascinating.

3. I don't have to do the photography but I still get to be involved in the process. The rule of thumb is that we should request, assign or forage for a piece of art for every story. This can be headshots, handout photos or more photojournalistic pieces. Whatever it is, I've got to keep in mind that the story needs to be visually told as well as written. This is one of the more challenging aspects of my job. I'm still learning.

There are a lot of other things I'm thankful for, but I'll save those stories for another week.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! May you be blessed in all your endeavors.

I didn't blog last Wednesday, which, as you will remember, was the day after the 2016 presidential election. I just couldn't.

I spent that morning bawling my eyes out in bed while my husband comforted me and murmured his solidarity. I seriously wondered how I was going to get up and face a day at work as a reporter after the news that Trump won the election.

As I was telling my hair stylist and friend last night, I now have so many regrets. I was overconfident, thinking that Hillary, a leader I've always admired despite the fact that so many conservatives actually and truly hate her, would be the easy winner.

No way, I thought, could a man so despicable as Donald Trump, so outright racist, sexist and xenophobic, such a liar, such an aggressively evil-hearted person, win the vote of the people.

And yet.

Now that we're on the other side of Nov. 8, I see how my journalistic tendency to remain publicly neutral kept me from taking the action I now wish I would have taken.

That is, to take a page from the book of a few people I know and admire who became activists for Hillary, hunting out all the facts on a daily basis and sharing them on social media, knocking on doors and convincing fellow Democrats and independents to get out and vote. The #ImWithHer crowd. The #PantsuitNation crowd.

I was one of them in my heart, but what I inwardly believed never bubbled up to the surface except in conversations with like-minded friends.

So what will I do with all of this regret? It's time to start speaking my convictions, even if just on this blog and not in my official capacity as a journalist.

I will speak up for the voiceless. I will take the beliefs I hold dear and translate them into action. Marriage equality? Check. Freedom of religion, not just for Christians? Check. Reproductive rights? Check. Freedom of the press? Check. Protecting our nation's historic values of welcoming the stranger and the immigrant? Check. And the list goes on.

It's no easier to say these things now than it would have been before the election, when I might have made a difference. But the sting of a loss with such terrible ramifications is yanking the truth right out of me. Come what may.
When you are a reporter, sometimes you go to an interview with lawyers and you (probably) have food stuck in your teeth.

Now that I have your attention. Really. It's been bugging me all day that I came home from work and took a selfie of my outfit, only to find as I was staring into the lens back at myself that I had some black specks of something stuck in my teeth.

This is before the dreaded "black speck incident" occurred. I call it "black speck-gate."
(And that's my co-worker Jesse in the background.)

Were those specks there when I was interviewing two posh lawyers in a posh office downtown? It will haunt me all week.

Another fascinating fact from my reporter's notebook this week: Story ideas fly into my inbox faster than I can keep up with them.

When I was in the interview stage with GRBJ about seven weeks ago, I had to do a homework assignment where I needed to come up with 10 feature story ideas and 10 news story ideas. It took me about two hours to find enough story ideas to fill out the requirement. Now, I could find enough story ideas to cover all eight of my beats within about 15 minutes. People know my name! I'm hearing from the community!

This is what I wanted. To have my finger on the pulse of the city. To be on the inside track. And I'm learning a big part of getting to be "in the know" comes with having your name on a website where PR people can see it and start sending press releases. Ha! But seriously. It's so much fun to be part of a team that decides what is important and newsworthy and what deserves attention. It's a responsibility I never want to take lightly.

Hold me accountable, folks!

That's all for this week. Come back next week for more reflections on the journalist's life.
It's week three on the job in my life as a business reporter, and I'm learning more each day about this work and about myself.

Here are a few examples:

1. I CAN get on stage in front of 300 people and present awards without mispronouncing anyone's names or tripping or getting stage fright. And I did so at Tuesday night's 40 Under Forty Business Leaders event at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, hosted by my company.

This is me at the 40 Under Forty cocktail party. In the middle is my co-worker Sarah and on the right is my co-worker Tom.

2. I keenly feel my newbie status when juggling a lot of stuff. Literally. This week I had to go to a job site and wear a hard hat and neon vest and ask questions and stay out of the way of two TV crews while taking notes and carrying my tote bag and climbing flights of stairs inside the building under construction. I'm out of breath just saying it! And at one point while I was interviewing an official I heard one of the camera guys say, "She's nervous!" Great. Thanks for picking up on that.

3. There is an inverse relationship between typing speed and accuracy. During phone interviews I find myself rushing through typing a sentence so I can get the whole thing before the source moves on to the next point. When I read the sentences back to myself I see that words like "partners" became "patrns" and phrases like "policing initiatives" became "policng inititatives." Please tell me it's OK to invent alternate spellings. Productivity would go through the roof!

4. Most of us are learning on the job. I have a co-worker who's been a reporter for something like 10 years and she still has to spend tons of time trying to decode unfamiliar terms, prep extensively for complicated interviews and find new ways of saying old things. It's not. Just. Me.

That's all for this week. Come back next week for more!

I've been a business reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal for a week and three days. In that time, I've written stories on...

  • The tech industry
  • A college fair
  • Game developers
  • A startup film series
  • A camp expansion up north
  • The economic impact of our local zoo and public museum
  • An animal welfare convention hosted by the Humane Society
  • A foundation that is making possible physician fellowships to save lives from peripheral artery disease

From the minute I interviewed for this job, it was clear that variety would not be lacking, and that's been true each day, right down to the tickle-my-funny-bone happenings that crop up as I go about my job.

One amusing moment from this week was when I went to a news conference and quickly realized I was the only media member there. The rest were PR reps and CEOs presenting their spiels. So they all were looking at ME from the podium, emphasizing each new statement with pointed eye contact and smiles.

A couple days later, a marketing consultant I was interviewing half-ashamedly revealed there would be free beer at the event I was previewing. She almost, ALMOST asked me not to print that, for fear that it would attract the wrong kind of crowd. But then she basically said, "Forget it; let them have beer!"

I'm sure many more such slices of life will make their way into my reporter's notebook as I dig into this job. Stay tuned!

Last week I headed into one of the toughest, yet most rewarding weekends of my year.

Of what do I speak? Breathe Christian Writers Conference. The event in Grand Rapids covers fiction, nonfiction and poetry, as well as insights from editors, agents and marketers on how to get published and grow your platform.

The tough

This year (my third as an attendee) came on the heels of me accepting a new job as a reporter at Grand Rapids Business Journal. I knew my job would be starting the Monday after the conference. This gave me exactly one day to rest in between.

So I was stressing out. Worrying that I would be drained from all the socializing and networking. Fretting over my lack of creative writing productivity the past year. What will I have to tell people about who I am as a writer if I didn't write much in 2016? Who's going to believe that I'm a poet and a blogger if they google me and don't find anything recent?

The good

Breathe blew me away — AGAIN. It showed me how much room there is in God's plan for MY story, the one that includes fits and starts, fruitful days and dry spells. 

Some of the most affirming things: 

1) Novelist Tracy Groot's lunch forum, "On Creating a Good Work" encouraged me that our best always starts with our least. And so the question I should ask myself is not "How can I do a perfect job?" or "How can I have the most productive year?" but instead "What is the least I can do today to get the job done?" God isn't looking for perfection. He is looking for movement in our hearts.

2) All the poetry sessions on Saturday were great. Amy Nemecek led a session on the poetry of Luci Shaw, and Matt Landrum led two sessions: one a poetry critique workshop (SO helpful!) and the other on submitting to literary journals. I was so grateful for the extra emphasis this year on the craft of verse. I walked away from the critique session armed with suggestions on how to revise one of my poems, and I felt a deep sense of encouragement that I'm on the right track.

See how much the good outweighed the bad? I'm really glad I didn't listen to all those nagging fears about the conference. It refreshed my soul.
This weekend brings one of my favorite times of year: Breathe Christian Writers Conference, a time of gathering with like-minded writers and lovers of literature to learn from nationally acclaimed speakers and local folks alike on the craft of writing. 

This year's theme is Celebrate Story, and the smart, savvy group of writers, agents and editors who run this conference have been promoting the theme on their blog since, oh, about May.

My friend Alexis, who is on the planning committee, just picked up the programs today:

(Photo courtesy of Alexis De Weese)


I can't wait. I am excited about learning more about appreciating, writing and pitching great poetry; how to become a better blogger; how to hone my voice as a writer; and how to persevere through those pesky dry patches and times I just want to give up.

On top of all that, I'll get to see the many writer friends I met there in 2014 and 2015, browse through a mobile bookstore courtesy of Baker Book House, and enjoy catered meals as part of my registration package.

If you want to come, it's not too late to register. Hope to see you there!
Last night was the kick-off to my church's fall women's ministry/small group sessions for the year, and I couldn't be happier that I went.

Here's my small group for the year.
If you're an introvert like me, you know that sometimes the most appealing way to spend an evening is at home in your pajamas, nose in a good book or binge-watching your favorite TV show. This is why it's always a battle for me when it comes time to decide whether I want to join a small group at church.

To be honest, most years I've opted out. In 2014-15, I joined a fall/spring group and a summer group—and was so glad I went!—but then I skipped 2015-16 altogether.

This year, I've been somewhat isolated because for the past six months I've been between jobs, job-hunting from home. So it's going to be a really important step for me to have a regular commitment that gets me out of the house one evening a week.

And guess what else? When we were getting to know each other at the kick-off last night, we discovered that many of us are introverts. So we're in the same boat.

If you are on the fence about joining a group, whether it's a book club, small group or writer's circle, I highly recommend you give it a shot. You never know just how your life will expand and flourish as a result.

As for me, I can't wait to see what lies in store for our group as we dive into the book of Colossians together.
It's been awhile since I posted! The summer drifted by in a pleasant laze of trips to Grand Haven, learning to kayak both tandem and single, reading in the backyard or at the beach, binge-watching Netflix shows (The West Wing and Doc Martin), reading some more, and of course, job-hunting.

Oh job-hunting. These days I'm perfecting the art of the cover letter, networking like a boss on LinkedIn, and greedily gobbling up Forbes listicles about workplace etiquette, interview do's and don'ts, what you say with your body language, and best jobs for ISFJ personality types. (That's me!)

Here's me in my job-interview-ready fashion in July:

And here's today's interview look:

Oh and here's a picture of me kayaking for good measure:

I aim to start posting a little more frequently now that fall is here. In the meantime, hope you all had a great summer, and good luck to those of you who are starting school or who have kids starting school.

I color in several different coloring books when
I'm feeling anxious. This is one of them.

Last night I watched a new Netflix detective show, "Marcella." It stars one of my favorite BBC actresses, Anna Friel, of "Our Mutual Friend" fame. After two episodes of the show, I was a shaky, anxious mess.

If you don't like scary movies or serial killer plots, don't watch "Marcella."

After the show, I was pacing and jittery. I went for a walk. Only helped somewhat.

So my brilliant husband suggested I whip out one of my three adult coloring books and have at it.

Here's what I colored last night.

If you are anxious or stressed, it's a well-documented fact that coloring has amazing benefits for adults, including better focus and increased mindfulness. In an article for The Washington Post, psychologist Craig Sawchuk at Mayo Clinic said that coloring acts "almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response."

Still not convinced? Maybe a personal testimonial will help. Last night I was sure I would have nightmares because of watching that show, but after an hour of coloring I was calm and relaxed.

I slept like a rock.
The college whose outdoor track I like to use.

This spring, I've rediscovered my love of running or walking on the community college's outdoor track in our neighborhood. It's delightful to get there before the sun gets too warm and feel the breeze on my face and hear the birdsong in the air while I exercise.

I've also been pairing that time with some shameless people-watching. Here are a few things I've noticed about humanity while I pound the pavement:

1. Some people are grouchy. Say hi to them and they will pretend they didn't hear you, even though you know they aren't wearing headphones. I understand that for a lot of people, exercise time is "me time." But still, how hard is it to say hello back when someone says it to you?

2. Some people are toooo friendly. Recently I ran what was probably my best time because there was a guy leaning on the fence who kept staring every lap I'd make, and I didn't want to slow down and risk conversation with him. Now who's the grouchy one?

3. The neighborhood is full of life and beauty. We live in our town's historic homes district, and it is widely known to be one of the largest and prettiest in our state. Right now, there's a construction project going on across the street from the track, so it's fun to watch the crew as I make my way past them each lap. Construction crews are fascinating, the way they all know what to do and how to work together. And the neighborhood is green and full of flower gardens and people walking and biking and skateboarding. Like I said, full of life and beauty.

4. Sometimes people are odd. Yesterday I got to the track early, thinking I'd have it to myself, but there was a yogi with his mat in full downward dog. Right ON the track. I had to think about how I would politely ask him to move, and I had the speech all worked out, but then by the time I got around to him on the track, he had already moved. But as I got closer, I noticed he was only wearing boxer briefs. In public. Yuck!

5. The nurses are fun to watch. Right next door to the track there's a hospital, so a lot of nurses or support personnel like to come out to the track and walk during their breaks. As I pass large groups of them I hear snippets of conversation about what it's like to work in a hospital. It reminds me of stories from my mom, who is a retired nurse.

I could go on, but I'd rather hear your people-watching stories. Leave me a comment and we'll chat to our heart's content.

Over this past fall and winter, I was acclimating to a new job that was almost completely writing-based. I enjoyed it immensely, but was dealing with depression and fatigue at the same time, and so I stopped blogging and writing poetry, essays and fiction for nine months.

I'm here to tell you, I needed that break. And here I am ready to step back into the blogging world again. I also intend to slowly add back in my other writing projects.

In the meantime, here are a few things I learned while on "furlough":

1. It's OK to take a breather. Unless you are facing a book deadline, which I wasn't, you'll find that it's actually quite easy to disentangle yourself from most types of writing. And no matter how much it hurts your heart, if you are burned out, you need the break. Cut yourself some slack.

2. Your blogging friends will still be here when you get back. This was a hard one for me, but I didn't comment on other blogs during my furlough. I simply enjoyed Facebook as a means of keeping up with friends and families' lives, and didn't worry about sticking to "online generosity" of reading, liking and commenting on my friends' blogs. Now that I'm back to blogging, I expect to start re-engaging with my blogger buddies.

3. No one will fault you for taking a break. And if they do, it's their problem, not yours. You know what you need in this season. Keep calm and stick to your guns.

4. You might be surprised by how refreshed your creativity will be post-break. Already my journal is much more interesting to read (if I were to let anyone else read it!) and I'm regaining ideas for blog posts and other types of writing.

5. Even if your break is shorter, you still need days off. This will probably not surprise you. You are a human, not a machine, and the Bible says, "Six days shall you labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing and harvest season you must rest." (Exodus 34:21, NIV) See, even the animals need rest.

Now, happy writing, but also happy resting!
Hello! I’m back to the blogosphere after a bit of a break over the fall and winter. More on that in a future post.

For now, I’d like to take a moment to extol spring. I’ve been rereading the “Anne of Green Gables” series, and it’s notable that so far in the series, every spring is mentioned in great detail, whereas the fall, winter and summer months are often glossed over. It’s because Anne’s favorite season is spring! And rightly so!

While I can’t so confidently say my favorite season is spring—because I like each season best when it’s here—I can definitely say I’ve been enjoying this one.

Here’s a sample of what my backyard “garden” produces every year, with no coaxing or maintenance on my part. Oh, the bliss.

This bed of violets:

This lilac bush:

This spiky bronze ajuga:

This wall of ivy:

And this dear little path to the front yard:

Isn't spring wonderful?