Close to Home

Three-Dead-Logan-4We never know when a tragedy will hit. None of us were prepared for 9/11, the Boston Massacre, or Sandy Hook. Yesterday there was a tragedy that occurred in a place I used to call home, Logan, Utah. I didn’t know any of the victims, but I remember the places.  I went to one of my very first college dance parties at the building where the shootings took place. I can’t imagine the fear that passed through Mackenzie and Jonathan’s head’s prior to their murder. The public doesn’t know any of the back story from the “text messages” but what I am guessing is neither Mackenzie or Jonathan had any inclination that their lives would be cut short that night. What has been said about both is that they had bright futures ahead of them, there were going to go places. That all ended with a few gun shots. As I learned of who the shooter was and saw his picture, I saw a regular USU student, one I would talk to at a party, or sit next to at a class… Not a murderer. But, that is exactly what he became. In his suicide note he stated what he was about to do was “selfish.” I have no idea what he was going through or the challenges he faced. It has been stated that Jared and Mackenzie had had a romantic relationship, but she wanted to date other people.  From what I have heard he was a wonderful and trust worthy friend. He was patient and kind. My question is how does someone like that become a murderer? How does someone kick down the door and kill two innocent people and then seek a third? It is hard to comprehend and with-hold judgement because of the lives he took. Nothing if anything that Mackenzie or Jonathan had done to Jared was worth the punishment they received.

I am not claiming that I am an expert, and I have no idea what was really going on in the minds of those involved.When I was in Junior High I was selected to be a peer mediator. At the time it what a great honor because I got to skip some classes and be trained on how to help others solve conflict. I remember thinking how silly some of the examples that were given and how the people in the discussion couldn’t resolve the problem with their words. As I have grown into adulthood, I have realized how unrealistic and uncommon it is for people to “solve their problems” without violence, passive aggressiveness, or plain hate.  At Utah State I took Jennifer Peeples class “Communication and Conflict” and each class period was used to learn how to solve conflicts with communication. In our examples we found that many times there were misunderstandings because of someones perception, miscommunication, or lack of listening. As we slowed down the “conflict” it was easier to hear and understand both sides arguments and needs. When this happened it was more likely for a conflict to be resolved without a lot of lasting animosity. While studying Communication at Utah State, I learned the importance of it. It could be the determiner of a job you wanted, a potential partner to marry, or in this example, your life.

Again, I want to reiterate that I have no idea what really went on in this tragedy. I don’t know what the families of the victim’s or the shooter are feeling right now. What I do know is, it is time use our words. More and more weapons are becoming the brunt of the conversation. I don’t know if it is because the increase of violent media, the training the shooter had in the military, or a mental imbalance. What I do know is that each life has meaning and purpose. There is no reason to cut it short.

Think before you act. Use your words. Seek Help. You are not alone.



Jury Duty

IMG_4058I have a somewhat twisted mind. I will admit it. This doesn’t mean I am going to be the next Ted Bundy though… I just enjoy Law and Order (SVU),  hearing about crimes and murder on the news, and last but not least unsolved mysteries… I don’t know what it is about them, but I am attracted to it. I want to solve them and be involved in the “drama” that television has portrayed. About a month and half a go I got a life changing letter in the mail. My Jury Summons. I ripped open the letter to see I would be “on call” for the week of April 14, 2014. It was my first jury summons and I was elated. I did what most people do, I studied up. I watched Runaway Jury, Legally Blonde, and read through some of my old debate notes. I wanted to be ready just in case the lawyer needed me to step in and help (that didn’t happen unfortunately). My reporting number was 391. I called in religiously to see when they needed me. It was on Thursday morning that I called in and was picked. Thrilled to be part of something new, I left work and entered the Idaho, Ada County, Court House. I went through security, and felt like I was getting on a plane… Instead I entered the elevator and headed up the fourth floor. I found the jury assembly hall, entered and received instruction. We sat and watched a movie about how grateful the government and people of Idaho were that we were fulfilling our civic duty. As I looked around you could see many were not too excited about being there. The video finished and they started to call out names and assign us a number. I was lucky 13. We formed a line straighter than the ones in elementary school and filed down to the court room. That sat on the hard “church like” benches and began to tell us what the case was about. It was a criminal case (SCORE). The offense was a misdemeanor injury to child. Now, this was a sad subject and it was very apparent on the jurors faces. As we sat there waiting to be asked questions, I looked at the defendant (the guy who MIGHT have committed the crime) and began to judge him. I realized how prone we are to deciding who someone is or what they have done before hearing them out. At that point I pushed all of that aside, and gave him a blank slate in my mind. The lawyers started to ask questions, they included things like this:

Have you ever been spanked?

Do you think it is okay if you use more than spanking?

Do you hate policeman, the court system, or the government?

Who does not want to be here today?

Those were a few of the questions the lawyers asked. The one person who was excused immediately was a young woman who was due on Friday and was having contractions, her excuse was worthy the judge said. After some deliberation, the jury was selected. I was now number 4. I had made it onto the jury, and I was excited to cross this off of my bucket list. With that I got to keep my  “juror” badge, that I was extremely proud of, and the trial began. What people don’t tell you about jury duty is that there is A LOT of down time. Luckily I had brought my iPad and I could still get some work done. You would go into court for about an hour and then you would have a “recess” very similar to elementary school once again. There were witnesses that would come to the stand, be sworn in and then give their testimonies. The testimonies that were the most depressing and hardest to listen to were of the two kids. One was 11 and one was 7. The father had admitted to hitting the son across the face, he kept using the word “pop” which was defined as a slap. The father continued to say that the hit was justified and beneficial to his son because of how he was behaving (which is in accordance with the law). A doctor came and testified that there was a bruise on the child’s head but could not be identified as abuse. The bruise was not in the area that the child, defendant, and mother had testified him being hit. The State (who took him to court) did not do enough research. It was a horribly thought out case with too many holes. The defendant wasn’t much better either…

The Trial went into 2 days. We were to hear from 6 more witnesses that day. After making it through two the defendant’s lawyer said he rested his case. We were shocked that he had skipped his witnesses. They said we would break for about 15 minutes and then come back for closing arguments… TWO hours later and a delicious Good Wood BBQ lunch (super normal p.s.) we were called back in. After the closing arguments we started deliberation. The Marshal takes all electronics and lock them up and you are locked into a tiny room with the other jurors. At this point no one can leave until you have made a decision. It took about an hour, and grudgingly we found him not guilty. There was not enough information to prove the burden of proof, or that he was truly guilty. It was a lost case. After we handed in the verdict, we were enlightened on the behind the scenes. The defendant was arrested the night before for intimidating a witness and was held on bond for $150,000. He had tampered with the two children’s testimonies. This had slipped up when they were giving their testimonies.

When it was all said and done it was painful to say goodbye to the other jurors. In those short two days we had become friends. We had been locked in a room together for long hours. We made a decision together that would alter the course of people’s lives. I don’t know why people don’t want jury duty… I hope everyone gets the chance to sit on a jury. I learned more about the court system, I became more grateful for the life I have, and met people I had nothing in common with but left as friends. That was my jury duty. In case you were wondering, you can not become a career juror… I already asked…. There is always Federal Court though 🙂


5 Tips for Professional Communication

“Communication- the human connection- is the key to personal and career success.”

-Paul J. Meyer

clare_5x5(1)Like Paul J. Meyer stated, communication is the key to success.  Communication happens around us daily even when we are not completely aware of it. It can happen through facial expressions, body language, and through a lack of listening (bored, uninterested, ect.). The word communication is interchangeable with information. It is through communication that we convey our message to a friend, colleague or client.  In a work place setting, it is vital to convey your message in a positive, professional, and concise manner.  When you communicate it does not only reflect who you are but also the business and its values. Having the ability to communicate professionally will allow you to find more opportunities for doing business. When a client or customer leaves a conversation feeling like they were heard, their time was not wasted, and they were treated like an equal they are more likely to recommend you amongst their own network. When a negative interaction occurs, it can be damaging to your reputation as well as your company’s.  Here are four concepts to be aware of during a conversation in a workplace setting.

1. Know the Person/Situation- It is very important to understand who you are talking to. Take into consideration their perception and their values so you can align your thought process. This is important so the conversation can have the same context for each participant. The situation is also important. Entering into a conversation claiming “you know everything” is the worst thing you can do. When that message is given, it becomes a competition not a conversation. It does not allow for a positive channel of communication and creates a hostile environment. Always enter a conversation with an open mind and a listening ear.

2. Pitch and Tone- If I was to come into the office YELLING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, one might assume that I am upset. When I think of pitch and tone, I think of mothers. You can always tell by the tone of your mother’s voice if she is happy or mad. A lot of our feelings are revealed through our voice. Sometimes we can get carried away in the midst of a conversation and our voice begins to increase in volume. It is important to continually do a mental check of your pitch and tone throughout the entire interaction.

3. Verify- Communication is a way to deliver information, how the information is received is up to the listener. What they take from the conversation will be based upon their frame of reference. That is why it is important to make sure you both have a similar understanding.  There is a fine line between verifying and being condescending. If you continually ask if they understand you run the risk of making the person feel inferior or less educated. If in doubt, it is okay to ask, but once they say they understand trust them that they do.

4. Listen- When a conversation is one-sided it resembles a monologue rather than a dialogue. It is easy to get carried away and dominate a conversation. I feel that this habit is hardest to break. If you are a conversation hog, my encouragement for you would be simple. Just listen, don’t interrupt, and wait your turn. That way each party has the opportunity to present relevant facts or ideas to the conversation.

5. Be Confident- Confidence in your communication skills is very important and can make or break a conversation. If you don’t know an answer, say you don’t! If you are knowledgeable about the subject, it is okay to share some of it.  The balancing act here is that your confidence should come as knowledgeable, not arrogant.


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The R-Word

End the R-WordI want to speak about a somewhat taboo topic, disabilities and mental handicaps. I want to introduce you to someone who I love dearly and consider my good “pal” as he would say it. His name is Uncle Bret. He is my Uncle, and everyone I have introduced him to consider him to be their own Uncle Bret. He was born in Germany while my grandpa was in the Air Force. When Uncle Bret was born, he was different, he had Down Syndrome.

Down syn·drome

noun: Down’s syndrome; noun: Down syndrome; plural noun: Down syndromes
  1. a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. It arises from a defect involving chromosome 21, usually an extra copy (trisomy-21).

End the R-WordI remember when I was little and my grandparents would drive from Logan to visit us in Boise. I would get very excited, it meant Uncle Bret was coming. At the time, much of my excitement came from the fact that my mom stocked the house with chocolate milk for him (one of the few things he likes to drink), but now it has become much more. On one of my grandparents visits, I remember going to Albertson’s with my dad and Uncle Bret. At first I was afraid of what people would think of us because Uncle Bret looked different from the people staring at him. I didn’t know if people were curious or were looking down upon him. It was when a son and father had walked by and the son kept staring, the dad grabbed him by the arm and said “stop staring at that retard.” I am pretty sure I was the only one to hear it. My.heart.broke. I was so little, but I knew we never ever used that word, because it wasn’t kind. I wasn’t always clear on why my mother told us not to use it, but that day I learned exactly why. As years have passed I have heard many stories of how my mom and her two sisters protected Uncle Bret. It is hard to think that we ever have to protect him, that there are still people out there who will tease him for who he is and what he looks like. People with disabilities have a unique and special spirit and the kindest hearts. They have talents that many of us don’t have.

uncle b 4Uncle Bret and I have spent a lot of time together. I went to college in Logan and would see him 2 to 3 times a week. I consider it to be one of my favorite blessings. I have learned so much from him. He has taught me kindness, love, patience, true happiness, and has been a tender mercy to so many around him. I have learned that we have some similarities… We both like shows, and we both like to watch them over and over again. We can quote them, and we never get sick of them. We both love  a good routine, there is nothing better than a regular schedule and sticking to it. We both enjoy teasing each other. Usually we have fake arguments that end with him saying “Clare Cry” and him giving me a hug and saying ”back better.” Even though we are different in appearance, we still have similarities.

I consider myself lucky. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that not everyone grows up knowing someone who has disabilities and I have been blessed by a love that is rare. When we come across something unfamiliar we are not always comfortable.  Sometimes when we meet someone who is “different” from us, we tend to stare, or feel uncomfortable because it is new to us. When we are unsure on how to do something, or feel uncomfortable, the only way to overcome that is to try it out, get to know them, find out what they like to do, spend time with them, I can promise you that you will have a lasting friendship. The reason I wanted to write on this was because it is end the R-WORD week. If you are someone who uses the word, just stop. If you use it as a describing word of something you find “stupid, uncool, or dumb” I want you to reconsider.  God made all of us and he loves all of us, we should follow his example and never show unkindness towards someone who is different.


Valentine’s Day…No Love? It’s Okay, You Still Have a Love Language!

Psycho ValentineIt’s Valentine’s Day. We all know what that means. There are those who post the picture of the Valentine’s flowers and chocolates they received from their spouse/gf/bf and there are those who post the uncomfortable “I’m single… my life is so hard” Facebook status. To the first I say I am glad you are enjoying your relationships, and making them work. To those who are celebrating S.A.D than I say, even with a fiance Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite. To me it is a commercialized holiday that makes money, I can show my love any day of the year. I actually feel more love for people on Halloween or Fourth of July, who knows why (rhetorical question)? I am in LOVE and I am happy, but that is every day of my life (now that I finally found the right person). For Valentine’s Day I enjoy a creepy card or a good movie. This card to the left had me laughing for a good few minutes… Please send me your favorites!

In the beginning of #Clott we talked about our “Love Languages” and how we like we knew someone loved us. This was the first time I had ever talked about it with someone. At first I thought mine were definitely Words of AffirmationWho doesn’t like to be constantly reaffirmed through words that they are loved and cared for!  I would recommend this quiz for anyone, married, single, or in the awkward “kind of dating” stage. Do it for a fun date or take yourself on a hot date and take this quiz in front of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with your Nutella, Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream, and you animal print leggings.

I took the test and it went fast, only 30 questions. The results were surprising and not what I had anticipated for my Love Languages. My highest scored language was actually Physical Touch. Now this doesn’t mean that I am over touchy, it just means that it gives me a sense of security. When someone I love gives me a hug or pats me on the back it makes me feel secure in my relationship. I have realized this is with a dating relationship and not necessarily a brother/sister/friend scenario. In those relationships it is different, I enjoy Quality Time and Acts of Service. I think it is possible to have different love languages with different types of relationships. My second highest score was Acts of Service. This one made perfect sense. I love when I see kindness! When I see an act of kindness my heart grows bigger, it is similar to what the Grinch went through on Christmas. It just makes me feel like a better person. In this scenario, I can tell you that when I see Mr. Bird do an Act of Service, I fall even more in love with him. I don’t know if that is how the love language is supposed to work, but whatever, that is how I am going to interpret it.

So on this Valentine’s Day, be bitter or be happy…whatever, it’s cool with me. But take some time and learn about what your love language is. When you learn how to better communicate the things you need to be happy, the healthier your relationship will be. Communication includes both the verbal and non-verbal things you do for the person you have a crush on, remember that, it is important… I wish all of my friends and family a happy V-DAY! I am hoping #clott does something romantic, like sneak into a graveyard…. #perfectdate

5 Love Languages Infograph

Gallup Strength Finder 2.0

Strength FinderWritten by: Clare Vaterlaus

This was originally posted on my work website.

I have often heard but never fully understood the sentiment -“a brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” At a recent training for Echelon Group this statement became clear to me. It is not hard to learn our own strengths and even our weaknesses, but it is more difficult to learn and acknowledge the strengths of those around us. Kim Schaff, Echelon Group’s Human Resources Consultant led us in a Group Strength Finding Activity. It is not often that our team members take time away from their work, but this was a special occasion that has proven to be very worthwhile.

Prior to the group meeting, each team member took the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0. The survey included 140 questions that you had 20 seconds to answer. To answer the question the test taker was to pick the answer that fit them best. After the test was completed we received our personalized results, highlighting our top 5 strengths. I will use my top five themes as an example.

  1. Activator- Turns thoughts into action
  2. Empathy- Sense feelings of other people
  3. Developer- Recognize and cultivate the potential in others
  4. Communication- Easily put thoughts into words, conversationalist, presenter
  5. Individualization- Intrigued with the unique qualities of each person

Amongst the general top five themes were personalized paragraphs of information For example both Kim and I received the strength Individualization, but our paragraphs read two very different explanations. This test was spot on in describing my top five strengths. What made me feel better was they all apply to my current position at Echelon Group and what I graduated in at Utah State University.

After reviewing each of our strengths on our own, we spent time sorting our talents into four different categories that allowed us to see who we would work best with.

         Builds Relationships

    Influence on Others

       Working Hard

     Working Smart

My top five strengths fell into the top two categories, which focused on working with people. I have been able to see that as a strength in my professional career, but also a weakness when it comes to creating processes. This is a weakness that I would like to work on, but is not something I could do on my own.  This training showed me people in the office who could mentor me in this aspect. Todd Severance, our Business Consultant, was the only one to have the Analytical theme present in his top five. This indicates his attention to detail in any situation. Together Todd and I could use our strengths to get the job done faster.  Through this training we found who would be the “go to” person in a situation based on our strengths.  In the long run, it could be more time efficient and effective to combine your strengths with others instead of spending countless hours improving your weaknesses. It takes a brave person to accept help from someone who has a strength you are lacking, but the results are worth the uneasiness. The first training helped us create a trust between one another; our next training will cover conflict and how to deal with it in a positive way. If you are interested in using this training in your workplace or group, give Echelon Group a call for more details.

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