My Favorite Thing Today: A Great Piece Gets A Pulitzer

One of my favorite NY Times Magazine pieces in the last few years won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing when the winners were announced earlier this week. This is one that definitely choked me up.

Click here to read it. It’s fantastic.

Here’s one of my favorite parts:

Ashley Volk was home in her kitchen in Chicago. She had been working graveyard shifts tending bar. She knew that Winter had been trying to get Siatta out but did not know about Chambers’s offer, or that a release was imminent. She saw Maureen’s number and answered.

Siatta’s voice was on the other end.

“Love,” he said.

“Oh my God!” she screamed. She fell against the kitchen cupboard and then to the floor, where she curled up, sobbing. Through the phone she could hear Siatta. He was crying, too.

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A New Category

I think I’m nearly done stretching this website out too much. I know you, my most wonderful readers, have needed patience to stomach all the random things I’ve written about recently, but I promise we’re done, unless of course a future employer does something contractual that makes me amend that. But I don’t see that happening.

In any case, I want to tell you about a new category/series I’m going to be starting. On my personal Facebook account, I often share an article, meme or something every day or two that I’m a fan of. Sometimes it’s an article that choked me up, sometimes it’s an inspiring meme, sometimes it’s a great quote from which I hope to start a discussion.

This new category, titled “My Favorite Today :)” will be where I do that here, in a more public forum. It’ll give you a reason to come back, new readers a reason to check my site out, and above all just something worth reading that maybe can make your day better in some way. Most of what interests me is generally positive, so I promise I’ll be limited with what political weirdness I share.

These first few posts will be catching you up on what happened earlier this week, but after two or three, I’ll go to one post every day or two. Expect about four posts per week, maybe a few more, but not usually any fewer. Just depends on what interesting stuff I find online.

Knowing that I’m a journalist, you can probably expect a good amount. 🙂

Reporting: Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Social Media First Amendment Case

In Fall 2012, Craig Keefe was removed from the Nursing Program at Central Lakes College in Minnesota for posts made outside of class on his personal Facebook account. After a denied appeal by the school, Keefe sued for violation of his right to free speech and his right to due process.

One of Keefe’s posts included the text “Im going to take this electric pencil sharpener in this class and give someone a hemopneumothorax with it before to long. I might need some anger management,” according to a ruling by 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, filed in October.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions to hear the case.

The denial means the 8th Circuit’s 2-1 ruling against Keefe will stand.

Frank Lomonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said he was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We’ve got to get clarification from the Supreme Court over where a college’s authority over student speech begins and ends, and I think this was a real missed opportunity to get that,” Lomonte said.

Monday’s decision also means university students concerned about what is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment regarding social media might have to wait a while before the court provides any further clarity, Lomonte said.

“I can’t say right now that I see anything on the horizon that could be that ‘test case,'” Lomonte said. “What I think the Supreme Court is telling us right now is that they are not interested in wading into the area of social media.”

Two issues were central to the case: freedom of speech, including what type of speech is and isn’t protected under the First Amendment and especially regarding social media, and due process rights of students in academic settings.

The first dealt with whether or not posts on social media could be used to remove a student from an academic program when they are not related to in-class academic conduct. Students in the program complained to university officials saying they felt posts by Keefe made them uncomfortable and, in at least one case, “unable to function in the same physical space” as Keefe, according to the 8th Circuit’s ruling.

In the ruling, the majority wrote that lower courts had, in their rulings, “conclusively established that the posts were directed at classmates, involved their conduct in Nursing Program, and included a physical threat related to their medical studies.”

In doing so, the court opened Keefe’s posts to possible interpretation as disruptive to the academic learning environment, and thus possibly unprotected by the First Amendment because of previous court interpretations of the Amendment.

Also important to the case was the fact that the school did not expel Keefe from the university, but instead told him he would need to change academic programs, toward which his previously accomplished Nursing credits would be counted as electives.

Judge Loken, writing the opinion of the majority, cited that action by the college as reason for why the court doubted Keefe had a “cause of action” regarding due process.

The college had argued it could remove Keefe from the program because students agreed in writing to follow the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics when enrolling in the program. The code in part states:

“When acting within one’s role as a professional, the nurse recognizes and maintains boundaries that establish appropriate limits to relationships. . . . In this way, nurse- patient and nurse-colleague relationships differ from those that are purely personal and unstructured, such as friendship. . . . In all encounters, nurses are responsible for retaining their professional boundaries,” According to the ruling.

Also at issue was whether or not public, state colleges and universities could adopt professional codes of ethics by which to govern their academic programs.

Ultimately, the court ruled the college could remove Keefe from the academic program for unprofessional conduct, even which had occurred off campus, as long as the administrations actions “are legitimately related to pedagogical concerns,” the 8th Circuit said, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1988 case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.

The Student Press Law Center filed a brief on March 27 urging the high court to hear it, arguing in favor of Keefe, saying his right to freedom of speech was violated. Students may not generally be disciplined for conduct outside of the classroom unless it interferes with the academic environment.

“The court has ruled that time and time again,” Lomonte said.

Now, however, Lomonte said, the ruling and the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means free speech is among the least protected rights college students have.

“The government can’t punish you for unprofessional speech anywhere except apparently in college now,” Lomonte said.

While the comments by Keefe cited in the case might have been interpreted as threats by his fellow students, Lomonte said the school did not use this as a grounds for dismissing Keefe.

Instead, they removed him from the Nursing Program for unprofessionalism and for violating the ethical code of of his anticipated profession.

“I think they forfeited that argument, that they needed to remove him for the safety of other students,” Lomonte said. “They didn’t do any of the normal things they would normally do if they thought he was violent.”

Such steps might have included removing Keefe from the university as a whole, rather than just requiring him to transfer to another program, Lomonte said. Instead, the court allowed Keefe’s life to be changed in a way he said he wasn’t sure they took completely seriously.

“This guy potentially lost his entire career,” Lomonte said.

 

 

Sports: K-State’s Women’s Basketball Victory Was About More Than Standings.

And I got to write about it!

Read about it by clicking here. 🙂

The reason I am writing today, though, is to tell you about how excited it made me feel to watch such a beautiful game played with such artistic resilience, by both teams, especially K-State. :).

When Kansas State University’s women’s basketball team played undefeated Connecticut earlier this season, they started slow and ultimately couldn’t overcome it. They showed grit in that game, dancer-like determination as they fought back from 25-8 at the end of the first quarter to bring the game to just 11 points later on, but the prospect of an upset never to me seemed realistic after the first quarter. UConn was just too good to give their lead up, and they’ve proven it since, extending their record-setting winning streak to 101 games.

That was a heck of an atmosphere, one I’ll never forget. Bramlage Coliseum, with its 12,528 seats, was completely sold out. Every seat was spoken for, if not actually filled. Friends of mine in the pep-band told me leading up to the game that the band was receiving instructions to be as big as needed to be strong, but to be aware that space would be limited.

Tuesday’s crowd was less-impressive than the one against UConn, 4,377 according to ESPN. The grit shown by the team, however, was not.

If you ever have followed sports for an entire season, regardless of the sport, you can appreciate the value of finishing a season strong. Teams can start rough, but if they finish the season on a winning-streak than they can set themselves up to place well in the standings and enter the playoffs/tournaments feeling confident.

This fundamental truth to competition applies regardless of sport or athletic endeavor. A competitive runner almost-never hears their coach or trainer emphasize starting strong over finishing strong. That doesn’t mean they don’t try to start strong, but they know a powerful push at the end of the race is both the most difficult and most effective way to leave the course, with confidence that you can close the show even if you’re tired.

That applies to dancers too, who try to perform perfectly always but who dream not of opening the show but of closing it. There’s an old sports proverb (from the movie “The Replacements”) that says “Champions always want the ball in their hands at the end of the game.” The same is true for all athletes and performers.

While Tuesday night’s game was not the end of the season for the Wildcats, it was a strong showing by a team which has had its ups and downs this season. Sure, prior to Tuesday’s win they had beaten the No. 12 team in the country in West Virginia, but hindsight is 20-20 and we know now, with just three games left in the regular season, that West Virginia was probably not nearly as good as the No. 12 ranking suggested. They have long-since dropped out of the top-25 altogether.

Oklahoma was a very different story though, and K-State beat them.

The Sooners have lost seven games this season, but only three of those have been to unranked teams (unless you count West Virginia on the grounds of my argument above, who was ranked when they beat Oklahoma last calendar-year but no longer are). K-State was the most recent, but they hadn’t lost to an unranked team since before calendar-2017 started, going 11-3 in that time. They’d lost to Baylor, and Texas, the only two teams ahead of them in the Big 12 conference standings, and to West Virginia, but that was it.

So what the Wildcats did Tuesday night was big. The Wildcats, who have had a much rougher season, ended up busting out to a lead against a much-higher ranked team that was on a five-game winning streak and was playing good basketball at the end of the season.

And despite a furious comeback by the Sooners, the Wildcats held on.

Tuesday’s game likely won’t mean anything to the conference standings, but it should mean a lot to those in purple who were there: both to the fans who watched it, and to the women who played in it.

Not Looking For A Ted Mosby Kind Of Love

I recently saw a post on one of my dear friend’s twitter-feeds talking about how he could see himself as a Ted Mosby type guy. It’s a comparison that’s occasionally been made similarly about me, especially others who have seen my hopeless romantic side.

And until this morning, I always thought I wanted that. Not to be him of course, but to find love like him: to have a girl I was destined to meet and fall in love with and to one day know the stars had nearly aligned so many times until ultimately they ran out of ways to keep from aligning perfectly, causing said girl-of-my-dreams and I to finally meet, fall in love at first sight, and know that we were right where we were supposed to be.

I also thought maybe it’d be like Ted and Robyn were, where they found love in each other so many times only to keep screwing it up until they finally gave up from angst, until they realized they hadn’t.

All of this I’ve long thought I wanted.

But as I walk around my apartment this morning with the fresh realization that coffee somehow calms me down and makes me sleepy, a fact likely to confuse my friends to no end, I have a realization that I no longer care how love comes.

I don’t dream of finding a Ted Mosby kind of love. I’m just excited to dream about what it’ll be like to find it again at all.

God knows I’ve failed enough times at this whole love thing. I’m terrible at going from friendship to boyfriendhood and I’m as awkward as they come every step along the way. God also knows I should fear love, and that in many ways I appear to fear people even though I actually don’t, except when I do. Still, somehow I want to believe in it. I want to write about it. I want to daydream about it. I want to imagine a girl one day getting as excited about random texts from me, and I want to one day make a girl happy instead of making her feel awkward when I tell her I love getting even the smallest, simplest of texts from her.

I can’t wait to find that, and somehow I’m too naive, too stubborn, and perhaps too pretentious to believe such a thing doesn’t somehow exist, even for someone like me.

I dream of it: the subtle, unexpected kind of love that doesn’t make its clichè, “love at first sight” appearance, but instead starts small and builds slowly, artistically, subtly. Not like the love novel, but like the waves.

Who knows. Maybe I am destined for that Ted Mosby type love. Maybe there’s no other option for someone as “cheesy,” frequently “over-affectionate,” and prone to overthinking as I’ve historically been.

Or, maybe, just maybe, I’m starting to grow out of that last little bit.

Maybe now I’m finally learning to avoid overthinking, and thus maybe I’m ready for something a little more unexpected. Something exciting by not seeming to exciting. Something that doesn’t need Taylor Swift love songs or William Shakespeare poetry to describe it, because it instead is best described with a simple, U-shaped curve of the lips.

I’ll keep y’all posted.

The 3 Days 3 Quote Challenge

Day 1. Jan. 4, 2017

Starting off 2017, I have been invited into the “3 Days 3 Quote Challenge” by the lovely and kind Harriet over at A Ballet Of Life. Check her site out, she’s constantly trying to encourage other dancers, which makes us similar in that effect, and her site is incredible :).

With my quotes each day, I’ll try each day to provide at least a little inspiration, and at least one concept maybe you haven’t heard of or thought about before.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Post three quotes each day for three days
  3. Nominate three bloggers each day
  4. Inform the nominees

 

Here are mine for Day 1!

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”

-Martha Graham! 🙂


“Practice doing things that make you happy. Practice them often. If the things you are doing stop making you happy, find new things to do. Go after happiness.” 

-Tara Stiles! 🙂


“Writing is an art, and few people from big education or elsewhere can do it.”

– Kansas State University athletic director John Currie


Thanks for reading :). Here are my nominees. Don’t feel like you have to participate, it’s just a fun way to connect with other bloggers and writers, and learn about each other as we start the new year. 🙂

Ellie’s Little Bit of Sunshine

Beginning Ballet

Imitation Ballerina

Have a great day everyone. See you tomorrow :).

Unpacking Baggage, and Celebrating Swiftmas

In my senior year of high school, we performed a musical by Elton John and Tim Rice. It was called “Aida,” and its score entranced me so much that I ordered the bloody thing.

I have it to this day.

Song number one of the musical is called “Every Story Is A Love Story,” and this morning, I can’t stop thinking about that line.

I hear the recording of the original Broadway cast singing it. I haven’t actually heard the song in what must be at least six years. Still, it won’t be silenced within my head.

A couple of nights ago, I lay in bed in the dark. I had been doing something occasionally common of late: dwelling on my frustrations at romances lost.

I was deep in thought. About all the times I had messed things up. About all the times I had lost friendships by suggesting they become romantic. About all the times I let romantic relationships go too far only to eventually fail for other reasons entirely, and about all the times someone had simply chosen someone else.

The hobby of trying to figure out where I went wrong or what it was about me that made people shy away had become a favorite hobby, on par with dancing, and far surpassing poetry.

Yet as I lay there that night, in an empty room on a queen-sized bed in a basement apartment, a softer, gentler voice from somewhere deep within spoke up for the first time in a while.

“When are you going to finally let me unpack?”

It was the better part of me speaking, the hopeless romantic and optimist who I’d long ago exiled somewhere accidentally, and it was finally back, returning from exile like Napoleon.

As I lay there, I remembered something: carrying around baggage doesn’t help anyone, least of all us.

And that’s why I have to write this today.

To some degree, every story really is a love story. Every interaction we have, regardless of sexual preference or affiliation with the other person, is a page in the way we treat others. When the Bible tells us “Love your neighbor as yourself” it does not mean “as long as you can be with that person romantically.” It means period. It means “take care of one another.” It means “trust one another, build one another up.” “If I don’t love, I am nothing” does not mean that the person who dies single at age 120 lived in vain, unless they never took care of those around them.

Every story is a love story, with or without romance.

Still, on a more personal level, I realized the other night it was time to unpack. I was sick of carrying around regret and sorrow at things that had failed.

I will no longer remember the wrongs or the failures. I choose to remember only the lessons and, above all, the hope of finding her, my “one,” who these lessons have prepared me to love every bit as gracefully as she deserves.

Muddled together in the suitcase of my past life had been clothes I ruined on the chaotic seas of my previous adventures into romantic love. Clothes of personality traits that I wore until they no longer served to assist or protect me from the hard winds and cold rains I had battled and, at times, danced in.

But mixed among the ruined clothes of my memories were the mementos of the lessons I took from each. Not sorrow-filled or sadness-affiliated ones; just… happy ones. Sure, my heart had been sore at those I lost, chased away, or had to be left behind by, but hidden among all of those memories, once I decided to unpack them all and stop dragging them everywhere with me, were little gems of hope.

My first girlfriend in college introduced me to the soundtrack of the musical “Spring Awakening.” I’ve never seen it, but one lyric from one of the songs comes to mind:

“Those you’ve paid, they carry that still with them. All the same, they whisper ‘All forgiven.'”

This week, as we look ahead to the holiday season, I encourage you to take a second and unpack. We all have it, and though I’m certain I’ve unpacked all of mine, I know someone reading this likely has baggage they aren’t ready to unpack yet.

That’s OK. All I’m saying is remember to go easy on yourself if you haven’t found your “one” yet, especially in a season during which everyone around you might appear to have everything you’re still looking for.

In a season full of holidays that include probably getting new clothes, let us wash the clothes of our memories clean and hold on only to the helpful lessons, the mementos, of that which we’ve left behind.

It’s “Swiftmas” everyone. On this day 27 years ago, a girl was born who, as a child, would write some of the truest literature about love to ever be written in any language.

Don’t forget to love a little childishly today.

Let me know if you need anything.