Blog for a cause

Something you might not know about me is that my dad died in a car accident when I was four years old.

It’s OK, really. Or at least that’s what I tell people when we talk about it person because there’s not much else to say.

For a long time, I didn’t talk about my dad with other people until we had been hanging out for awhile, or until they asked about my family—like six months into our friendship or something. Then, all of a sudden, I’d have to get into it, and they’d ask why I didn’t tell them sooner.

It’s just one of those things that doesn’t come up a lot in conversation. But it comes up a lot in my mind, and I think it always will.

Loss is like that.

When you lose someone, there’s a part of you that always misses them. The door in your heart never closes all the way, and the only real comfort is knowing that you’re not the only one wishing it would stay open. Other people miss them, too.

So we go on, and we talk about the good times, or shake our heads at the things we never said.

We laugh at the stupid things we remember, like his favorite flavor of ice cream or how she scratched her head when she was thinking.

Then we wonder why we remember these things—of all things. And we wish we had more time.

I’d give anything for time with my dad. But I’m not writing to you today about me and my family. I’m writing about another family with a little girl and a boy and a mom who has Multiple Sclerosis—a family where time is running short.

MS a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, slowly damaging nerve cells and causing problems, like numbness, muscle damage, blurred vision and severe fatigue.

It’s a not deadly disease for all people, but in this case, it could be.

The mom, Julie Amos, was diagnosed with the disease in 2007 at age 23, and since then, her illness has been rapidly progressing to the point that she walks with a cane, and she and her husband Rich have exhausted their options.

Julie, her husband Rich and their two children.

Julie, her husband Rich and their two children.

Julie is entering secondary progressive MS, which means there are no medications left that can help her.

At this point, doctors at Northwestern University in Chicago believe the only viable option is a stem cell transplant. But the initial cost of the treatment is $130,000, and her insurance company won’t pay for it.

So as Julie’s friends, family, church and random acquaintances, we’re rallying together to raise $150,000 to cover the cost of her treatment, along with some of her travel, recovery and pre-op/post-op requirements.

I would like to tell you that Julie and I are close friends. But the truth is, I’ve only met her a few times. (And I can already tell she’s one of those rare and beautiful people who maintains a positive attitude and sense of humor no matter what happens. I really admire that.)

But the point is, I don’t think you have to know Julie well to help her. You just have to relate.

I know what it’s like to grow up without one of my parents. And if there’s any amount of cash that can change that for another child, then why wouldn’t we try?

A Facebook group called Juls of Friendship has formed around the effort, and we’re organizing three fundraising events that are open to the public to help save Julie’s life.

There’s a Volleyball event on Saturday, Nov. 21, from noon to 4 p.m. at Empowered Sports:

  • You can sign up with a team of 4 people and compete. The ticket price is $60 per team, or you can buy individual tickets for $15 and enjoy other activities like corn hole, family friendly games, beer pong and a silent auction. Children 12 and under are free, and there’s free childcare. On top of that, all proceeds go toward Julie’s cause.
  • Volleyball Event Poster

We’re also hosting a #BeAHero Danceathon at my church Aldersgate on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 8 p.m. to midnight:

  • Admission is $10 per person, or $15 for admission and a headband. We’re going to have a big dance rave, play some games, eat snacks and of course, have a superhero costume contest, so come dressed as your favorite superhero.
  • #BeAHero Event Poster

The final event is actually this week, on Tuesday afternoon at Sonrise Church.

  • We’re having a Nelson’s Chicken dinner fundraiser from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., so come out and have dinner with us! We’ll be in the parking lot until the chicken runs out.

If you want to get involved with these events, stay tuned for updates, and “like” our Facebook page Juls of Friendship.

Of course, you can always donate to Julie’s Go Fund Me page, too, at http://www.gofundme.com/de32dzz8.

I know that $150,000 sounds like an obscene amount of money to raise, and anything we accomplish might be a drop in the bucket. But I also know that it is possible, and we have to try.

It might not change the world, but it will change the world for one family.

And if you ask me, that’s enough.

How to prepare for your New York internship: Part two

Consider this part two of the two-part blog I’m writing on how to make the most of your New York internship. In part one, we covered the basics: Scoping out your internship location, finding housing, discovering the city’s cultural districts and navigating public transportation. Now onto the fun stuff (or at least the stuff that’s more easy to explain).

Which metro card to buy:

The best way to get around the city is the Metro, or subway, system (as explained in my first post). As soon as you get to New York, you’ll want to buy a Metro card. You don’t have to fool around with the people in the glass box thing at the Metro station. Just go to one of the computer kiosks, and swipe your credit card.

I recommend getting the unlimited 30-day card. It costs about $100, but if you think about it, you probably spend more on gas each month in the Midwest, and this will get you on every subway and bus in the city until it expires at the end of the month. Don’t lose this card. Put it somewhere safe, but also accessible because you have to swipe it every time you get on the bus or subway (which is a lot). The only thing your Metro card won’t work for is taxis, which you can pay for in cash or on your credit card.

Which Bank to use:

When I was in New York for a semester, I opened a Chase Bank account because there was a bank and several ATMs near my apartment. Chase is all over New York, so if you have an account, you can use that. If not, just get one when you get there.

How to save money?

People ask me this question all the time about New York, and I always laugh a little when I hear it. Save money? In New York? Spoiler alert: It’s not going to happen. Everything is super expensive. Even your basic trip to the grocery store will cost way more than it does in Indiana. But the good news is, there are a few cost cutting measures you can take.

1. Don’t shop for groceries at Duane Reade, if you can avoid it.

When I first arrived at my apartment, there was a Duane Reade drug store right around the corner, and I bought a ton of groceries there. When I came home, my roommates laughed at me for paying too much. Duane Reade is basically an upscale version of Walgreens, and the groceries cost way more than they do at average New York grocery stores.

Even so, Duane Reades are conveniently located (and they do have great deals on certain products, like a $7 pair of snow boots). But when you need to get groceries, go to a grocery store. New York grocery stores have weird names. I think the one by me was called World Foods or something, but it was nice and affordable.

Also, when you’re buying fruit, always shop with your local fruit cart man who will probably be parked right outside the grocery store. His fruit is better and his prices are cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else.

2. Don’t pay full price for Broadway.

There’s a secret to attending tons of Broadway shows at a fraction of the cost, and it’s called “standing room only.” Most Broadway shows (besides the top sellers like Lion King, unfortunately) offer majorly discounted tickets if you go to the ticket booth an hour or two before showtime, and you’re willing to stand. Here’s how you do it.

Find the theater and show time you want. Then go to the box office about an hour or two before the show starts. Tell the person at the box office that you want last minute tickets to whatever show at whatever time. At first, he might try to sell you the tickets for something like $50 or $70, but tell him you don’t want those. You want the “standing room only” tickets. They should be in the $25-$40 range. And the good news is, even if you pay for “standing room only,” you might not have to actually stand. Once the show starts, the ushers will sometimes let you sit in the empty seats if people don’t show up and claim them.

3. Shop at Goodwill, Forever 21 and H&M.

Everyone in New York looks fashionable every day. Every single day. If you’re a shopaholic like me, you might have trouble controlling yourself and feel constantly under-dressed for every occasion. But even though it’s worth your time to browse the big names like Bloomingdales, don’t spend all your money there. You can get something way cheaper (and possibly better) at any of New York’s Goodwill stores.

Goodwill in New York is not like Goodwill in the Midwest (and it’s pretty great here). When you go to Goodwill in New York, you can find designer names for unbelievable prices. I splurged on a few expensive things when I was in New York, but I still get the most compliments on my $5 Goodwill finds. I hear there’s even an outlet in Queens that lets you pay by the pound regardless of what you’re buying. I never went myself, but you should look into that.

When you want to find cute clothes for work, shop at Forever 21 or H&M. Again, these stores have their best collections in New York, and new stuff comes in literally overnight. In the Midwest, items from these stores might be too trendy to be considered office apparel. But in New York, everyone dresses a little more trendy all the time, so I’d say it’s safe to buy nice items at these stores and wear them to your internship.

If you’re looking for something more office appropriate and still affordable, try the sale racks at Anne Taylor or J. Crew. You should also try the sale racks at Urban Outfitters and Anthropology if you’re just looking for fun clothes to hang out in.

4. Eat meals at home, go out for dessert and only buy drinks on special occasions.

The best way to save money in any city is to eat at home and cook for yourself. When I was in New York, I learned to make delicious chicken fajitas with chicken tenders, cheese, salsa, tortillas and prepackaged fajitas spices. I also packed my lunch almost every day at work with a cold cut sandwich.

New York is home to tons of great restaurants, and you need to try some of them. But if you want to watch your budget, eating at home is an easy way to save, and it makes the meals you go out for even more special.

Instead of going out for dinner most nights, go out for a fancy dessert after dinner instead, and make a night of it. It’s fun to buy drinks on occasion, too, but you probably won’t want to make a habit of that if you’re on a budget. Even the cheapest drinks are usually about $10 in New York.

Just FYI: None of the restaurants split tabs, meaning that if you go to dinner with five people, all five will be on the same bill. An easy way to remedy this without doing too much math is for everyone to pass around the bill and write the total for what he/she ordered along with the last four digits of his/her credit card number on the back of the bill. Then give all the cards to your waiter/waitress.

What to do about space and stuff in your apartment:

When you’re living in a New York apartment, you probably will have at least one roommate and you probably won’t have much space. The airport’s luggage limits will help you pack lightly. Just try to pay for as few extra bags as you can. When I got to my apartment, I didn’t have much room to unpack my suitcase in the closet or on any of the shelves, so I went to Target and bought a cheap plastic drawer set  and a cheap clothing rack so I could hang nice clothes. This was all a good idea until I had to carry it home on the subway and walk a few blocks. If you’re planning to buy big home items, make sure you plan ahead and get a cab if you need one. But basically, cheap dorm stuff at Target will do the trick for space solutions around the apartment.

As far as living with roommates goes, just know that it’s not like having roommates in Indiana where you can live together and hardly know each other. When you live together in a tiny New York apartment, you get to know people pretty well (which is a good thing). But you have to be honest about your needs and frustrations or it just won’t work out.

What to do about walking long distances, especially in bad weather or good shoes:

It’s bound to happen. At some point, you’re going to need to go to work on a morning when there’s torrential rain or snow. So be prepared to carry an umbrella and extra shoes. Actually, I recommend leaving a nice pair of work shoes at your office, and wearing good walking shoes every day. This is totally acceptable in New York and most business people do it.

Even if you take the subway or ride the bus, you’re going to end up walking a lot, so be good to your feet. During my internship, one of my friends was on crutches because she broke her foot walking in high heels for long hours. If you want to wear dress shoes, leave them at the office, and wear your walking shoes to and from work.

For women, there are five basic shoe types that you need to have in New York:

1. The shoe that’s practical for weather: Regardless of when you come to New York, you’re likely to face rain or snow, and since you’ll be walking outside most days, you need a shoe (or two) that can handle the weather. I was lucky enough to find a double duty rain shoe and snow boot pair of Sperrys I got on sale at Macys for $35. If you can’t find something similar, another good option is an insulated rain boot to keep your foot warm and dry.

2.  The comfy office shoe: At your internship, you won’t want to wear shoes that will slow you down. I recommend a pair of simple black flats with some support. I found a nice pair at Target for $20. But you can find even nicer versions at stores like Macys if you’re willing to pay a bit more.

3. The comfy casual shoe: This is the shoe you will wear most often around the city. For girls, I recommend a flat boot of some kind, if it’s fall/winter. If it’s summer, opt for closed toe sandals or comfy flats. If you have open toes, your toes will get dirty and gross from the streets, so try to avoid that. One great option for every season is a pair of combat boots. This is a New York staple, and people wear them with everything from shorts to dresses and pants.

4. The gym shoe: You’ll probably want to join a gym or at least go for a run occasionally while you’re in the city, so bring a good pair of gym shoes for that.

5.  The dress shoe: At some point, you’ll want to dress up for a big night out or an office event. If so, you can probably buy a pair of dress shoes at Payless once you get to New York. But if you want to bring some from home, they probably won’t go to waste. But like I said, just don’t wear them on your commute.

A quick list of Do’s and Don’t’s

DO: Rent bicycles in Central Park. Look for deals on Groupon. It’s worth every penny, and it’s a great way to get exercise.

DO: Make time to relax on the weekends. You’ll probably be exhausted from the daily hustle of the city. Don’t make plans in the mornings so you can sleep in the first few weekends.

DO: Eat at Shake Shack. Get the Shack Burger combo. You won’t be sorry.

DO: Try to attend a TV show. The Kelly and Michael Show. David Letterman. The Today Show. You have tons of choices.

DO: Try to attend SNL at least once. You have to camp outside for tickets all night, which is why I couldn’t do it. But you should really try. I hear it’s fun.

DON’T: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s exhausting, and the only thing on the other side is Brooklyn.

DON’T: Pay to see the Statue of Liberty. Take the Long Island Ferry for free and run to catch the Ferry back as soon as you get there. The ferry goes almost the same route as the paid boat, and it’s good enough.

DO: Pay to go to the top of the Empire State Building. Go right before sunset if you can. It’s beautiful.

How to prepare for your New York internship: Part One

New York New YorkSo you just landed that big city internship in the biggest of all big cities. Congratulations. If your New York experience is anything like mine, it will be full of ups and downs and all of the wonderful realizations that we humble Midwesterners have when we come to the Big Apple for the first time.

But when I went to New York City for my internship, I had a secret key to success. I was blessed to have one of the most savvy and sweet New Yorkers who ever lived personally walk me through all of the scary first steps that come with moving here. (Thank you, Katie Hay.) But I realize that not everyone is so blessed as to have Katie to take you on your first trip to the Metro station at rush hour or tell you what to do when the only train that services your part of town breaks down. (She was really a lifesaver.)

So I put together a list of everything Katie taught me and everything I learned from personal experience making the transition from Indiana to New York for my internship at a news network. With the high demand for this information, I figured a blog was the best way to share it, and it turned out to be a whopping two-part series, so stay tuned for part two.

But if you know me and you’re planning to go to New York, please call me and ask questions anyway. I still talk about the city all the time, and it’s nice to have an excuse for bringing it up every now and then.

Now let’s get started.

The basics in preparing for your internship:

1. Look up the address of your internship on Google maps.

This will help you figure out your housing and Metro station options. So go to Google, type in the address and see where it lands you. You can even go to the street version and see what it looks like up close.

2. Look for colleges or universities in the area that have student housing.

Different colleges in New York do student housing in different ways. Some have special dorms or residence halls for their students; others rent out rooms or entire floors of pre-existing apartment buildings. Either way, see if you can find a college, and talk with their housing coordinator. Tell them you are a student from whatever college, and you’re looking for housing for one semester. I know that Kings Academy, a Christian college now in the Financial District, will usually help intern students out and fit them into their housing schedule. Some of their arrangements are a little pricy (or at least more than the $650 a month I paid living in my own arrangements), but they will put you with students your age, and they’ll put you in a nice area of town. If you’ve never been to the city before, this might be a good place to start.

Honestly though, you can usually get a better deal if you talk around with some students who are already living or studying in New York. I found my apartment through girls at Kings who weren’t attending school there anymore, and like I said, I was paying $650 a month for a one bedroom on the Upper East Side (granted I was sharing that one bedroom with two other girls).

It’s best to go through a college or live with students because if you’re really only going to be there for one semester, you don’t want to pay rent for any longer than that, and you don’t want to hassle with finding someone to lease your space to. But if you can’t find affordable housing with a school, here’s a link to other options for short term housing: http://www.unionsemester.org/Default.aspx?tabid=132.

3. Consider the city’s cultural districts.

While you’re thinking about housing and where to live, you might want to consider what the major cultural districts have to offer. I’m sure there are tons of districts I’m leaving out here, but these are just the places that I got to know the best while I was there, and I think this will help newcomers get a basic idea of what to expect.

Lower manhattan

Lower Manhattan: Think Wall Street. This is where you will go to find the World Trade Center Memorial, the Wall Street Bull and easy access to the Statue of Liberty. Everything I experienced in this area of town looked very similar: brown buildings, brown pavement. It’s fun to visit, and it’s a must-see for every first time tourist (the scene at the church in “National Treasure” was filmed here), but it’s one of those places that always had that “doctor’s office/insane asylum” feel where all of the walls and streets are the same color. It’s not a bad place to be, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it.

New York internship

The West Village: Think “Friends” meets hipsters. Big time hipsters. This is probably the most fun part of the city. All of the best night life is here, and since it’s in NYU’s backyard, who can argue? If you go to the West Village, which you really should, you can find Monica and Rachel’s apartment in “Friends,” even though it’s super disappointing that you can’t go inside. (It also doesn’t really have a balcony, and Central Perk doesn’t exist because the entire TV series was filmed in LA, but I digress.)

Another gem in the West Village is a cute little bakery called Milk & Cookies. It’s very important that you eat a cookie at Milk & Cookies every time you go visit the “Friends” apartment. Don’t ask. Just do it.

Before I get too carried away, let’s get to the point. The West Village is the best place to go to have a good time. But I didn’t want to live there for two major reasons. First, the rent at the apartment I was considering there was higher than the rent other apartments I found. Second, since I was going to NYC for work, I didn’t want the distraction of all of the nightlife right in my backyard. I also figured that as a single girl who might be walking alone sometimes, I wouldn’t want to be near the bars or clubs where drunk people are more likely to be wandering around. But as long as you’re with a group of people and you’re aware of your surroundings, you’re probably fine.

Macys

Midtown: Ah, Midtown, the bane of every true New Yorker’s existence. Midtown is home to everything we Midwesterners typically think about when we think of New York. You have the big Macy’s store, Times Square, most of your major news networks, Broadway and some of the best shopping on Fifth Avenue. Needless to say, it’s a huge tourist attraction and most people who live in New York avoid it like the plague. Try walking through Times Square at any hour on any given day, and you’ll know why. I won’t spoil it for you. Just wait and see.

The thing about Midtown is New York knows that it’s a hotspot for tourists, and they jack up the prices on just about everything. So don’t do much in Midtown besides shop for clothes. Fun Fact: There’s no tax on clothes in New York. Katie told me that’s because in New York, clothes are just as important as food. I think I believe her.

upper east

The Upper East Side: Think “Gossip Girl.” This is where I lived when I was in New York, and it’s not a bad place. Actually, most of the city’s ultra-elite live there, so it’s a nice place to be if you want a side-job as a nanny. But the main reason I would tell you to avoid the Upper East Side is that it’s very inconvenient. There’s only one subway line that runs through that side of town whereas most other areas have at least two or three or five. To help alleviate this problem, New York is building a second subway line to service the Upper East Side,  but it’s not set to be finished until 2016 (last I heard), and sometimes I think the construction messes up traffic on the one good subway that’s already there, which is even more inconvenient.

If the subway isn’t working, you have to flag down a cab, which can be really hard to do during rush hour or you can wait for one of the buses to come. The Upper East Side is absolutely reliant on the bus system because sometimes it’s the best way to get around. If you live here, make sure you know your bus stops well (more on this later).

No pictures 😦

The Upper West Side:  Think “You’ve Got Mail.” This is it—the most beautiful and magical part of the city that is “God’s gift to Manhattan,” or so they say. The Upper West side is home to the beautiful Columbia University and so many other good things I can’t even begin to name them all. You must, must, must go there. When you do, go to Zabar’s (the classic grocery store where Meg Ryan tries to avoid Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail”). Make sure you go to the Zabar’s café and get yourself a cup of coffee in the Zabar’s mug that you get to keep for just a dollar extra. My Zabar’s mug is still one of my favorite souvenirs.

While you’re on the Upper West Side, you should also go to Café Lalo. It’s a delicious and adorable dessert spot (where Meg Ryan’s mystery man who turns out to be Tom Hanks stands her up). In real life, the café is much brighter and busier than in the movie. Most days, you’ll have to wait to get a seat. But it’s totally worth it, and it stays open obscenely late (something to the tune of 3 a.m.), so it’s a good place to go after a late night Broadway show or something.

But before I stop talking about the Upper West Side, I want to take time to talk about something you might not consider: Harlem. When I first went to New York, I thought it would be a super sketchy place with a ton of crime, but it’s actually not too bad. A lot of students are starting to move there because the rent is cheaper than most of city, and it’s easy access to the Upper West Side without the price tag. Also, if you plan to go to Midwest favorites like Target, you’ll probably have to go to Harlem at some point anyway.

4. Getting around the city.

If I attempt to tell you everything you need to know about navigating New York’s public transit systems, this blog would never end. Seriously. Katie told me they make the New York subway system especially difficult to understand just to ward off newcomers and tourists, and anyone who has ever gotten lost on the subway knows that their plan is working.

Unfortunately, so much of finding your way around the city is trial and error. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hopped on a subway, tapped someone on the shoulder and asked him/her where the train was going just to see if I was on the right one.

The important rule to remember is that for most stops, there is an Uptown train and a Downtown train. The Uptown trains run south to north. The Downtown trains run north to south. So if you want the Green line 4, you can’t just hop on any Green line 4 train that comes. You have to figure out if you want the Uptown or the Downtown depending on where you currently are.

To make things even more complicated, not all of the subways stop at all of the stops along their route even if it says so on the map (here’s the map). When you’re looking at this map of the system, you’ll notice that some of the stops (the dots along the colored lines) are plain black and others are white with black outlines. The white ones are the Express stops. If you get on an Express train, it will only stop at the stops along its route with the little white dots. This is very convenient if you’re in a rush, and your stop is at one of the white dots. But if it’s not, you’ll need to get off and find another train that’s not Express.

All trains stop at the white dots. Only trains that aren’t Express stop at the plain black dots.

To help you out, someone created this wonderful tool called Hopstop.com, which is also a free app. It’s like a Google maps for the Manhattan transit system. Just type in your current address and the address you want to get to, and it will give you directions complete with which subway line and bus to take. If you don’t have the internet on your phone, you can go into any Staples and use their computer for just a couple of dollars to print off directions.

When you’re trying to navigate the streets while walking, it’s important to know how to use the numbers on the avenues and the streets to your advantage. Let’s start with the avenues. You have 12 avenues, starting with 1st Avenue on the far east and ending with 12th Avenue on the far west. (Yes, the famous 5th Avenue is about right in the center.)

With the streets, the numbers start low at the bottom of Manhattan and count up. By that I mean, 3rd street is further south than 33rd street. (Just as a rule of thumb, you probably won’t want to travel much further north than 100th or 120th street.)

As far as the bus system goes, just know whether you want to travel east or west, north or south. The bus system was the hardest for me to get the hang of, and even after three months, I had trouble navigating it, so good luck. The best rule of thumb here is: When in doubt, just ask. Contrary to popular opinion, most people in New York are very helpful and friendly and were new to the city themselves at one time. I found that strangely few New Yorkers were actually from New York.

Another good rule of thumb is: When in doubt, take a taxi. It costs a little more than the Metro or bus, but it will get you where you need to go if you’re lost or pressed on time.

Wow. That’s a lot of information for one blog post, and I still have a lot more left to say about what type of metro card to buy, how to dress for success and how to conserve money. I’ll put that in a separate blog so I don’t overwhelm you.

Thought of the day: A case for personal censorship

I was fuming about an article I read on Facebook today. Someone I don’t know posted a link to an article about journalism on one of my “friend’s” pages.

When it popped up on my news feed, I clicked on it like any nosy Facebook user.

It led me to an article I didn’t necessarily agree with—to put it lightly.

Actually, I thought the article was awful. It was insulting. It represented a view that was completely illogical, in my humble opinion, and I thought the writer was out of line.

How could she think that way? How could she say those words?

She represents everything that is wrong with the industry, with America, with mankind, I thought, and I was ready to tell the world.

Angry thoughts boiled in my mind ready to spill out onto the comment box.

I’ll write my own post to set the record straight, I thought. I’ll say what I want to say and tell the world what I know is right, and then everyone will see that I am right, and she is wrong.

Then I remembered that I work for a newspaper. I internally grumbled as I moved my mouse from the comment box to the little red “x” at the corner of the page and closed my laptop.

Working for a newspaper means sometimes I can’t have an opinion—or at least I have to watch what I say. Most of the time, I understand that it’s important for reporters to be “unbiased” about certain issues. It inspires less anger in the community when we cover controversial topics.

But at times like this—these “Facebook post moments”— I sometimes resent my profession. After all, everyone knows that I have an opinion, so why should I hide what I believe? Why should I pretend I don’t side with one argument over another when we all know that deep down I do? Shouldn’t I say what I think? Everyone else does, and hey, it’s a free country.

As an advocate of free speech, I mulled over the issue all day. Then something occurred to me when I was driving home from work. That new Miley Cyrus song came on the radio. Yes, the same infamous song she “twerked” to (whatever that means) on the VMA’s Sunday night.

I don’t want to talk about Miley much because the thought of one more article about her this week makes me nauseous. But I have a point to make here.

Miley’s song “We Can’t Stop” is an obnoxious (albeit catchy) declaration of juvenile freedom, and one of the lines goes: “It’s my mouth I can say what I want to.”

That’s when it hit me. That “I’m going to say what I want without worrying about you at all” attitude is the real problem in our country. All Americans, including reporters, have the freedom of speech. But so many of us have translated the freedom to speak our minds to mean the freedom to disregard other people as human beings with thoughts and opinions that are just as valid and valuable as our own.

We take something good, like the freedom to express our point of view, and twist it until it can be used it as a weapon to tear someone down or ward someone off and discourage legitimate discussion. Our society tells us that we can never be wrong, so we close our eyes, cover our ears and don’t ask for a second opinion, and I’m just as guilty of it as you are.

Sure, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to worry about what I said on social media. There are days when I wish I could broadcast my opinions as front page news.

But at the end of the day, I’m proud to be a reporter who is able to step back and consider how my words might affect other people. I’m proud that my job requires me to have an open mind, and I’m proud to think before I speak or post.

The challenge of personal censorship often reminds me that holding my tongue takes more integrity than speaking my mind.

Saturday Night Legend

By Kara Hackett

Louis and Jamie Klein talk with friends outside the standby line on 49th street Friday afternoon.

Louis and Jamie Klein of Ridgewood, N.Y., are popular on Saturday nights at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the studio home of comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL).

“One time when Jamie and I walked into the building, Jimmy Fallon left a whole crowd of people and gave her hug,” Louis says, smiling at his wife of 11 years.

Louis, 64, became the first SNL “superfan” granted permanent tickets by show producer Lorne Michaels in October 1990. The former accountant in Yonkers, N.Y., has attended almost every taping since SNL’s first episode on Oct. 11, 1975. The 37th season finale on Saturday, May 19, was his 666th show.

“They remember me by name,” Louis said. Every week his tickets are on the back bench in front of the band. “If I don’t show up now, they ask me why.”

But Louis and Jamie weren’t always popular. As children and young adults, classmates ridiculed them. Louis has cerebral palsy, and Jaime was born without ears.

The couple met in 1999 when Jamie, 36, a longtime SNL fan, e-mailed Louis about a letter she wrote for SNL cast member Chris Kattan. Louis doesn’t deliver letters to cast members, but he took pity on Jamie because she said it was her fourth attempt to contact Kattan.

“I thought she was 16,” Louis said.

Hoping to console a heartbroken teen, he asked for permission to call Jamie, and on Jan. 23, 2000, the couple spoke for the first time.

“The entire call was geared toward me,” Louis said. “So I asked for a second call.”

Two days later, the couple talked on the phone for five hours.

Jamie told Louis about her birth defect, and the two bonded over how they once endured scorn because of their disabilities.

“I told her, ‘Welcome to the club,'” Louis said.

When the couple married in 2001, the show’s producers extended Louis’s permanent seating privileges to his bride.

Today, Louis and Jamie bypass the standby line fans form on 49th Street as early as Thursday, waiting for tickets distribution at 7 a.m. Saturday. But the Kleins still take the M train to Manhattan early on Friday afternoons to talk with friends.

Christopher Bligh of Staten Island, N.Y., was in line at noon Thursday, May 17. Louis convinced Bligh to attend SNL in 2007. The 2012 season finale was his 68th episode.

“When you go to the first show you realize it’s different,” Bligh said. “You want to come as many times as you can.”

One of Louis’ favorite shows featured Alec Baldwin and Christina Aguilera in November 2006. His favorite sketch is Anna Faris’s “Tell Him,” which aired in October 2011 and features Faris trying to teach women to attract men by pretending to like video games and dislike children.

“The comedy has changed,” Louis said when asked about the show’s progression over the years. “They’re more politically oriented now, but I don’t get much involved in that.”

The most recent show Louis and Jamie missed was a live filming of NBC sitcom’s 30 Rock on April 26.

“We try not to let them down, but we were at Disney,” Louis said.

Next to SNL, Disney World is one of the Klein’s favorite places. They spent 10 days at the Orlando, Fla. park on their honeymoon in 2001.

“She never wants to leave,” Louis said of Jamie.

As Louis sits in his blue scooter outside the standby line Friday, he brushes Jamie’s hair away from her forehead, revealing a headband hearing aid attached to a small box clipped to the waistband of her jeans. The box, called a Blue Rollator, picks up sound vibrations she can hear.

“She’s had some reconstructive surgery,” Louis said. “Now she hears some things better than I can.”

Louis mentions one of Jamie’s favorite SNL moments with Paul McCartney in November 2006. She giggles and pulls out an iPhone in a blue case, shyly showing her picture under the Beatle’s arm.

But Louis treats celebrities like normal people because he knows what it feels like to be different.

“I talk to them like I talk to anyone else,” Louis said. “They appreciate that.”

Kara Hackett can be reached at karahackett@gmail.com.

Seeing Coffee Differently

By Kara Hackett

Jackie Jackitis jokes with customers at Gregorys Coffee at 58 West 44th Street in Manhattan, N.Y.

At Gregorys Coffee, drinks are an art form.

“We train our baristas in latte art,” said assistant manager Jackie Jackitis behind the counter at 58 West 44th Street in Manhattan, N.Y.

Jackitis has worked at Gregorys for almost two years. She chats with customers in line, calling some of them by name, laughing at pictures in their wallets when they pull out their credit cards to pay.

“We have lots of regulars.” Jackitis said.

“Mostly regulars,” adds Maciej Casperowicz, sitting at one of the black and white marble tables.

Casperowictz is the company’s social media coordinator, barista and coffee tester of two years. He works at his laptop in a plaid shirt and jeans.

“What sets us apart is the amount of effort we put into making our coffee,” Casperowictz said. “We have new technology, and we research new ways to test our brews. It’s the ability to make high quality coffee at a high volume shop.”

Gregorys Coffee offers seven “artisan” roasts: Costa Rica Organic, Colombian, Gotham Blend, Rwanda, Kenyan, Kerosi327 and Greg’s Blend. Their most popular item, a traditional latte with foam designs, sells at $3.50 for a small, $4 for a medium and $4.40 for a large.

With the Algonquin Hotel across the street, the shop is constantly full of customers, sitting on the chocolate colored cushions and talking over the soft rock music.

But down the street from the shop designed to help customers “see coffee differently,” Habib Nazwao of Queens sits on the chair inside Joe’s Kitchen—his boxlike food den at the corner of West 44th Street and 6th Avenue where he’s worked for 10 years.

On a busy afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, Nazwao has no customers.

Habib Nazwao of Queens, N.Y., watches customers walk by his food den, Joe’s Kitchen, at the corner of West 44th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan.

“It’s a real problem,” Nazwao says, sipping a can of Sprite on the counter above an assortment of bottled drinks and breakfast rolls. “Every morning I go to the bank, but I don’t make much money.”

Nazwao works from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day at Joe’s, offering breakfast, beverages and lunch. Coffee is one dollar, and the most expensive item on the menu is a $6 meatball sub.

But people show no interest in bargains, scurrying into restaurants and gourmet coffee shops.

Nazwao points at Gregorys Coffee.

“The coffee I sell is just as good,” Nazwao said. “But Gregorys has the cups just like Starbucks.”

Nazwao laughs, shakes his head and sips his Sprite.

“It’s all about the cups,” Nazwao says. “People choose the $3 coffee over the $1 coffee because it’s all about the fashion. Coffee is fashionable.”

Kara Hackett can be reached at karahackett@gmail.com.

The Christian Journalist Journey

By Kara Hackett

His conservative opinions and rounded glasses might remind you of Eugene Pulliam who pioneered modern American journalism at the turn of the 20th century.

But unlike his grandfather, Russ Pulliam, 62, of Indianapolis, Ind., provides evangelical Christian commentary on politics and ideas shaping secular America.

“My desire is to bring the Bible to bear on all areas of life,” Pulliam said.

Instead of attending seminary, the third generation newspaperman shares his faith in editorials at the Indianapolis Star, formerly the Indianapolis News.

But he didn’t always memorize scripture with the same dedication that he runs 1.5 miles before work every morning. Instead, his long, skeptical journey to becoming one of the most renowned evangelicals in the newspaper industry began as a shy boy.

“I was very introverted,” Pulliam said. “Looking back, now I can say the problem was I was not reconciled with Christ.”

Pulliam grew up on Woodside Drive in the same neighborhood he lives today as a husband, father of six and grandfather of three.

As a child, he attended Trinity Episcopal Church at 3243 North Meridian Street with his parents and sister, but his faith didn’t develop until he attended Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

Pulliam never felt obligated to run the family business. His interest in journalism developed naturally. He was an editor on his high school and college newspaper staffs, and he earned $5 per story as a stringer for a weekly paper and four daily papers, including the New York Times.

The summer after his junior year of college, he was selected for one of 25 highly competitive Washington Post intern positions, but Pulliam found success unfulfilling.

“There was an emptiness in my soul,” Pulliam said. “It’s possible the Lord was bringing me to the end of myself.”

When Pulliam finished college, he moved to New York to work as a beat reporter for the Associated Press (AP). He covered the bankruptcy of New York City in 1975.

But New York was strange place for a 21-year-old Christian in the 1970s. Evangelical churches were few, so Pulliam played basketball and shared the gospel with neighborhood youth to fill his spiritual void.

“I began to see the need for me to grow up in Christ if I was asking for them to grow up in Christ,” Pulliam said.

He was inspired by Campus Crusades and a group called Navigators who evangelize through personal relationships and Scripture memorization.

Pulliam wanted to know what the Bible said about issues like abortion at the forefront of 1972 American minds. But he enjoyed learning about faith so much he considered leaving news for full time ministry in 1973.

“As a Christian, I didn’t see the point of all the stories,” Pulliam said.

In 1976, Pulliam met Ruth Eichling of Metuchen, N.J., in Manhattan helping local children attend church. She prayed with him about how to integrate his faith with his reporting.
“I began to pray, ‘Lord, how do I bring you and the Bible to bear on the news stories I’m writing?’ Pulliam said.

Rather than going to seminary, he went on a personal journey to study systematic theology and church history at L’Abri Fellowship International in England and Ligonier Valley Study Center in Pennsylvania.

“I was like a sponge for Bible teaching,” Pulliam said.

He married Eichling in 1977, and in 1978, the couple moved back to Indianapolis where they had their first daughter, Christine.

Pulliam began writing editorials for the Indianapolis News, and from 1977-1987, nearly every topic he wrote about–from abortion to crime and alcohol abuse–had a direct relation to Scripture.

“I kept finding more and more themes about which I could say, ‘The world is saying this, and the Bible is says this,’ so how do I bring in the Bible to help people see the truth?” Pulliam said.

Before long, his belief in biblical journalism became developed into belief in the religious right of the 1980s. But flamboyant Christians unfamiliar with politics began to undermine the movement’s credibility.

“A lot of Christians who were conservative became concerned about cultural decline,” Pulliam said. “They made the mistake of thinking you could reform the culture if you elected more Christians to high office, but ultimately culture comes out of our hearts and not out of the law.”

So Pulliam doesn’t trust politics or even newspapers.

“If you put your trust in the news you’ll always be depressed,” Pulliam said, smiling.

He squints behind his glasses and quotes Psalm 146:3, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”

“The role of Christians in the public isn’t necessarily through politics,” Pulliam said. “You can’t save a country that way, and I’ve come to realize that.”

Pulliam’s second eldest daughter Sarah Pulliam Bailey, 26, of Indianapolis is the online editor for Christianity Today. The most significant lesson she’s gleaned from her father is his journalistic values and standards.

“There’s the stereotype that journalists have hard shells and are only interested in hard facts,” Bailey said. “My dad defies those stereotypes because he cares about people on a personal level.”

For Pulliam, true change comes through creating commentary among citizens.

“Put your trust in Christ,” Pulliam said.