Judith Valente | WGLT

Judith Valente

News Reporter

After traveling the country for PBS-TV for the past 15 years, Judy Valente was looking for a new challenge. She is delighted to have found one WGLT as a member of the GLT news team, allowing her to grow here in Normal where she is planted. Judy is also an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry collections. She recently completed a memoir of her regular visits to Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, called "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith." She is often invited to speak on how to slow down and live a more contemplative life.

In her free time, this New Jersey native likes to traverse the Illinois prairie and is a member of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. She enjoys theater, especially Broadway musicals and Heartland Theater's 10-Minute Play Festival. She is also a lay associate of the monastery in Atchison, having taken vows to live out the monastic values of listening, humility, hospitality, simplicity and stability in her life as a married woman – and as a professional writer and journalist.

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Alisdare Hickson/Creative Commons

"Even though I don't have documents, this is my country and I will do whatever to defend it," said a 30-year-old undocumented immigrant who wants to be called Victor because he fears being deported under new Trump administration policies.

Judith Valente

By the time Jenn Carrillo crossed into the U.S. illegally from Mexico,  her family had already tried for years to to obtain legal status.

The family's original petition was filed in 1996. That application is still pending.

"We still haven't heard back from that petition. I can look it up and track it and see where it is in the stack," Carrillo, who came here at age 10, said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

"For a lot of us, there is no legal remedy."

Jim Larrison

To deal with severe over-crowding in Illinois prisons, a bi-partisan governor's commission has issued recommendations that, if adopted, would represent the most sweeping changes to criminal sentencing laws in decades.

Gary Jones

One of Dorothy Day's favorite quotes comes from one of her best-loved authors, Dostoyevsky. "The world will be saved by beauty."

Michigan State University

It all began over a glass of wine at dinner. A friend of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha told the Flint, Michigan pediatrician that she suspected there was something fundamentally wrong with that city's drinking water. 

Judith Valente

Sporting a life-size photograph that asked "Where's Rodney?" about a hundred demonstrators gathered outside Republican Rep. Rodney Davis' district office in Normal to urge the congressman to speak out against much of the Trump administration's agenda.

Judith Valente/GLT News

As a teenager, Robert McLaughlin would go to the public library in the small town in upstate New York where he grew up and check out the cast albums of Broadway musicals. 

One of those musicals was Stephen Sondheim's "Company" from 1970. 

"I knew his name from "West Side Story," but I didn't know this musical, "Company." It started with all these voices overlapping, calling out the name of the main character. I'd never heard anything like that. It was one of those moments when your heart goes whoo. And I was hooked from then on."

Now McLaughlin has a new book out that looks at the artist and the man, called "Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical." 

Illinois State University

Illinois State University creative writing professor Gabriel Gudding specializes is crossing literary genres.

His work often mixes poetry with essay, memoir, history and even scientific research. He wrote one collection of poems as a notebook chronicling his frequent road trips between Illinois and Rhode Island to visit his daughter.

Gudding also isn't afraid to take on complex subjects. His most recent book is Literature for Nonhumans, which explores the often regrettable relationship between humans and the animal and plant worlds.

Singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer is perhaps to the Midwest what Bruce Springsteen is the the New Jersey shore.

Her lyrics evoke not only a landscape, but a Midwestern sensibility of neighborliness and an appreciation for tradition, common sense and the land.

Her rich alto voice, acoustic guitar work and knack for capturing the sacred in the ordinary have delighted Twin City audiences for decades.

Community Players

Before there was Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon" and the popular Disney film "Frozen," composer-lyricist Robert Lopez collaborated on an odd hybrid of a show  in a theater workshop that used both puppets and actors.

U.S. Coast Guard/Flickr

They produce one of the most distinctive and pleasing sounds to the ear. The mellifluous tones of hand bells and chimes are a regular part of the music ministry at many churches, like Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington.

Emma Shores/WGLT

Traffic stops in Normal have increased dramatically since the police department began a policy requiring officers to have a minimum off two contacts with citizens during each shift.

Police made 19,637 traffic stops last year compared to 12,961 in 2014 -- an increase of 51 percent.

That amounts to an additional 21 stops a day, according to Illinois State University Criminal Justice Professor Michael Gizzi, who analyzed the traffic stop data.

Flickr

A charismatic populist candidate for president promotes a platform to create prosperity and restore America to greatness. Sound like today's headlines?

It's the plot premise for Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here.

Things did not turn out well for the America that elected Lewis' fictional candidate, Buzz Windrip.  He quickly outlaws dissent, dilutes Congress' power by dividing the nation into administrative districts led by businessmen, and establishes a Gestapo-like police force called The Minute Men.

Mindfulness, meditation, non-violence, non-attachment. These are all key practices of Buddhism.

In fact, Buddhism has been described as a practice rather than a religion.

In Bloomington- Normal, there are are not Buddhist temples where people can go to practice their faith in community. But individuals manage to practice the principles of the faith on their own, said Illinois State University Professor Pruthikrai Mahatanankoon.

Bill B/Flickr

Republican candidates for local offices are struggling with how to respond to their party's presidential candidate's treatment of women. 

Darron Birgenheier, Flickr

Millions of women have taken to Twitter in recent days to describe their experiences of unwanted sexual advances after Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump's boasted that he used his celebrity status to grope and kiss beautiful young women.

Sangamon Auditorium

In 2007, a low budget sleeper film called "Once" about a Dublin street singer and a Czech woman who begin to write songs together gained a cult following.

In 2012, "Once" was first staged as a Broadway musical, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was an unusual film and musical in that there's very little plot and character development.

The show's popularity stems from its staple of pop-style songs. "Once" is coming to Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium this Sunday, October 10

Judith Valente

Democrat Hillary Clinton was elected president Tuesday -- at Normal Community High School, that is.

The student body voted in a mock election sponsored by the McLean County League of Women Voters. The League is attempting to encourage 18-year-old first time voters to register before the election. 

The students chose Clinton over Republican challenger Donald Trump by 44 percent to 39 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson received about 10 percent of the vote.

Eric Avarado

It’s a colonial-style brick church with tall pillars and Georgian windows in downtown Leroy.

Seated on a stool in the church basement, Pastor Emeritus Sharon Bianchi answers questions about the spirit world from visitors and congregation members. Are there guardian angels? Is there such a thing as a bad spirit? And this one, about why a heated room might suddenly feel cold.

Vivien Evans, Flickr

The circular design known as the mandala is an ancient symbol that represents wholeness. Mandalas usually have a focal point in the center that can represent the divine presence within.

Paraclete Press

Adult coloring books have grown into a significant segment within the publishing market, and spirituality book publishers are picking up on the trend.

 Laura McKendree, national marketing representative of Paraclete Press, a spirituality book publisher in Orleans, MA, says doodling with crayons can be a pathway to prayer.

Judith Valente

Vesper services to mark the passing of day and the onset of evening are a tradition that derives from monastic life, and dates as far back as the 6th century.  Much Vesper music is based on the melodic lines of Medieval Gregorian chant.

Judith Valente

Home Sweet Home Ministries and the Midwest Food Bank are hoping to collect 50,000 pounds of food donations this Sunday from customers at the Hy-Vee supermarket in Bloomington. 

Judith Valente

Third graders at schools in the Twin Cities, Towanda, Carlock and Hudson will soon receive lessons in water conservation through a new program sponsored by Friends of Everbloom.

Willamor, Flickr

Is Christianity a fading religion? Can the faith be born anew?

These are some of the questions that will be explored this weekend at the annual Jim and Gwen Pruyne Lectureship in Progressive Christianity, sponsored by New Covenant Community Church in Normal.

This year’s speaker is theologian and author Brian McLaren, known primarily for his writings on what’s called the “emergent church.” McLaren comes from an evangelical tradition, but often takes issue with traditional teachings and practices.

Metronet

New super-high-speed internet, phone and cable service planned for Bloomington will not extend to the residents of the city's west side -- at least not in the near future.

MetroNet, an Indiana-based service provider, had promised in April to install a fiber optic network throughout the city. 

theempowermentproject.com

The Women to Women Giving Circle of the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation is an organization founded by women for women and children.

In the last six years, it's provided more than $200,000 in grants for local programs and projects.

This year, the focus will be programs that " inspire girls and young women to achieve their  highest potential," according to Kathi Davis, the foundation's program director.

About $40,000 in grants will be available for those programs.

Fernando Roman Garcia

Bloomington police are asking people who attended last Saturday's Criterium bicycle race to review any cell phone or other personal video they might have of the event.

Police are seeking clues as to who was responsible for throwing thumb tacks onto the path of cyclists. The tacks caused flat tires resulting in an eight-bike crash.

Five cyclists suffered injuries ranging from serious scrapes and bruises to contusions.

Chief Brendan Heffner said  video from public surveillance cameras downtown have so far yielded no clues, and no witnesses have come forward.

Bart Everson, Flickr

The long, hot, violent summer  plaguing several Chicago south and west side neighborhoods continues.  

Last weekend alone, there were more than 50 shootings, nine of them fatal.

One of the victims was 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge, a cousin of Chicago Bulls player Dwyane Wade. A mother of four, Aldridge was killed in a gang crossfire as she pushed one of her children in a stroller along a city street.

Many in the city were still grieving the death the previous weekend of Abner Garcia, a 23-year-old Army veteran and volunteer who counseled teens against joining gangs.

Tom Keller / facebook

Bicyclists who participated in the Criterium bicycle race Saturday are at a loss to explain why anyone would place thumb tacks along the race route in downtown Bloomington. The tacks caused flat tires that resulted in an eight-bike pile-up that sent five injured cyclists to the emergency room.

Mayor Tari Renner has asked Bloomington police to investigate.

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