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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 🙂


The Ag-Gag Selfie

It is a well-known fact amongst my friends that I am not an animal lover in any way. I would literally have two sets of quints before letting a dog or cat (and maybe a fish) into my house. I don’t judge others who do, it is just a love I never developed. The closest I get to animals is Pinterest, and yet I sit here, questioning YOU Idaho… This congressional session was a waste of time. You literally passed the “Ag-gag” bill. The Huffington Post perfectly summed up Bill SR 1337. This bill “would make it a crime, punishable by imprisonment, to simply photograph or videotape abusive, unsanitary or otherwise unethical activity on a farm. Even employees and journalists who take photos or video to document misconduct on farms — whether it’s mistreatment of animals, food safety hazards, worker safety violations, sexual harassment, financial embezzlement, or environmental crimes — could face criminal prosecution if the bill is passed.”

I decided to write the world a letter… from Elle Wood’s Perspective

cow selfieDear Mr. Law Writer:

I recently took a tour of a dairy farm, and I was preparing to post it all over my Social Media when I got a tweet that said the “Ag-gag” bill had passed. First I was like AS IF! How could they do this to me right now? I needed this to up my Klout Score. I just want you to know Mr. Law Writer by passing this law you are totally infringing on my freedom of speech and the press, and cramping my lifestyle. Honestly,  in MY life, I document everything. When I took a tour of dairy I knew I would definitely be Instagramming it. If I didn’t Instagram it, I would run the risk of it “never really happening” because I did not document it to my followers. That is like SOCIAL SUICIDE. As I was walking through the dairy, I was totally trying to capture some good selfies, I was so upset though. Every time I went to capture this moment some cow would photobomb it. Not only the cow, but it’s owner with a cane hitting him! Ugh it’s called a selfie for a reason. At first I didn’t let this bother me, because I just kept thinking I would have another chance to get the perfect profile picture for Facebook. At the next stop, I went to take my soon to be viral picture, and it was photobombed again! This time it was a one of the workers jumping up and down on the cows back while blindfolding them. Seriously?  Can’t we make a law that bans people from photobombing? That would be much more beneficial. I tried like 5 more times and was never successful, I couldn’t even believe that these people would dare to ruin my pictures. It was super stressful, but I decided I just wouldn’t let it bother me… I would just let the world see and hope they only focused only on me! Obvi, no one cares about the cows it’s about the meat and milk. So driving home I started to Instagram my day. Ugh to my distress, people started texting me and calling me and told me that I can’t post things like that. I was like WTFREAK? I am just posting what I saw on my tour and I am being punished… I decided that ORANGE was not my color (and the prison thing scares me, I’ve seen Shawshank…) and so I deleted my pictures. Devastated that a WHOLE day had been wasted, I sat down to write you this letter. So Mr. Law Writer, I just want you to know if you see any of my pictures, I am sorry… I didn’t even mean to, I had no idea what was going on in the background of my selfies (seriously let’s talk on that photobomb law).


Your Super Concerned Citizen

Okay, that was a satirical approach, a joke, sarcasm… But seriously? This law is a joke. The problem here is not the people filming, it is the ABUSE that is happening. Shame on you for trying to cover it up. I deserve to know what happens to the animals I am potentially going to eat (sorry PETA, my Dr. says I need to gain weight). You as our Government have power (or so you think) use it for good! I mentioned some real things in my fake letter, why are we not upping the punishment for animal abuse or texting and driving. I know I don’t know everything about this law, but what I do know… Is it is not humane… I hope that the next time I am taking a selfie, that none of these animals being abused show up in it and I end up being punished for capturing the moment….


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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