The Joy in a Moment

I feel pretty good, but so jittery today. My heart is like a slow hummingbird in my chest. I look up at the sky and see all the grey and black, thick and fluffy, awesome clouds crawling over the sky and horizon and as I watch the rain fall... I feel peace. The sky is amazing with full black and dark clouds crawling and pulling themselves forward across the sky filling the air with thick grey shapes and tendrils. They appear to move quickly across the sky and like cotton candy float down into the atmosphere as they move. Some might say that today is a cold gray or dark day, but all I can feel is joy. I stand in the rain feeling the drops touch my face and slip down my cheeks as I look upwards at the brilliant shapes and patterns in the sky above me... and I just feel joy. It's been a long time since I stood outside and didn't feel rushed and pushed to accomplish things. Almost always I struggle with rain and dislike the feeling of water on my skin. But today, everything came together for that amazing moment of time. I feel really blessed and thankful today.


Busy Time

The last month or so has been very busy for me. On top of my usual responsibilities and life changes, one of my co-workers has been out with surgery and recovery time and I have been trying to take her place. I have known for a while that working full-time for me- at least in the jobs that I've had over the last few years - is no longer physically possible for me for long periods of time. This was a great experiment as I was able to sort of see how long I could work full time before my body complains too loudly. I discovered that I can't work too much without having significant health issues. I am very grateful that my coworker is back and my hours have been cut back down. As much as I need the money... I definitely don't need the physical pain that I was getting.

Since I've been so busy with work I really haven't accomplished very much else. I have some genealogy that I've been trying to work on and I have been very slow at accomplishing it. I've looked at a few online sources for doing college classes that I can get for free- I would like to take more classes but I'm not sure I want to go on to a graduate degree- and I haven't spent any time following up on those either. I've done the bare minimum on my housework and I'm grateful to have some time off to try to make my house cleaned up and enjoyable again.

I have quite a lot to be grateful for. I'm so thankful and thrilled to be able to spend some time with Katey this weekend. I'm grateful for the time to work on getting my body back to a more stable condition. I've had some time to catch up on housework and I have a fridge full of fresh food. I recently had some flooding in my house and I am fully caught up in getting that picked up, cleaned up, and getting everything back to normal. I have most of my garden pots and beds set up for the season and filled with dirt and compost... I'm almost ready to add seedlings. I have happy feline companions and the mice are hanging in there as well. I've had time to read some books and catch up on paperwork. I'm able to end this day resting on my couch enjoying a few episodes of "Red Dwarf." I have a cup of cinnamon tea and dried bananas to snack on. In essence, I have been better, but I'm doing well. I have a few BLS classes over the next few days, a day at the pharmacy, and family time this week. This is a week to rest in spare moments and get ready to get back to my normal priorities and work load next week. So I'll rest up and get ready for what the future holds. Let's see what happens next.


Abuse in the Church

Abuse is never an easy subject to talk about let alone try to stop. At first it seems like a black and white issue because nobody likes abuse and everybody thinks it is unacceptable behavior. The problems come in the ways we try to recognize and deal with abuse. In a patriarchal society, most victims of abuse are women and children and many of these victims have to deal with unintentional additional trauma on top of the primary abuse such as not being believed, not getting support, difficulty healing from the trauma of the abuse, etc... Sometimes we as family, friends, and community members can make the problems worse for the victim. When we don't believe them, we tell them that their experience is not real and we do not trust them. When we don't support them, we make people feel like they need to stay in abusive relationships longer because they cannot leave them without our support. When people need to talk to heal and we do not listen and empathize, we make healing a much harder thing for victims to do. Recognizing and dealing with abuse is a very complex subject indeed.

Currently, the LDS church is trying to find a way to deal with the allegations of abuse that have recently hit the national media. So far, I admit I do not find comfort and empathy in the way that the institutional church have reacted to the situation. Even when an accuser is heard on tape admitting to the abuse, the institutional church has tried to victim shame, support laws that would make recordings like the one recently released illegal, and downplay the situation as much as possible. While this is a way that most of us collectively and individually may instinctively deal with abuse... I hold the church of my heart to a higher standard and I confess to disappointment at the responses given. One of the reasons that I am so disappointed is that I've heard stories like this from people both in person and online from friends, family, and acquaintances for years. It is so clear that abuse happens and as a church, we react poorly. Some bishops tell women to stay in abusive situations, tell them the abuse is their fault, and punish them for the sins of their partners. I know of rape victims who have been disfellowshipped because they are considered to have fault in their rape. I know women who have been cheated on by their spouse and their church leaders have made it very clear that if they leave their spouse, they (the victim) are the one in the wrong. I'm not writing this to complain about the institutional church because plenty of people are doing that already and I don't think it will be of any help. However, I am concerned about some of the ways that we as members personally are dealing with abuse. As individuals I think we can do a lot better to combat abuse and one of the things that will help that goal is discussion. There are few reasons that discussion can help and change the situation for the better.

1. Open discussion on such a contentious topic makes it clear that the topic is of import and vital. If we are unwilling to discuss abuse then we are sending an unintentional but clear message. That message is that abuse does not matter and is something that is so rare that it is not necessary to discuss. That in itself can make victims keep their silence and hide their problems because they worry about how they will be treated.... by us. By opening discussing a contentious topic and ways to recognize and disavow abuse we are making it clear that not only is the topic important, but we want to help victims and we want to create an environment where abuse is not tolerated. It is not enough to say abuse is not tolerated... we must create an environment where all members know that abuse is not acceptable and will not be tolerated no matter what.

2. With discussions open, we must as individual members make it clear that we personally do not accept abuse and are open and willing to help the victims of abuse. We need to be trustworthy and hold ourselves and those around us to those high standards. We cannot change those standards based on who the abuser or victim is... For instance, if the abuser is our best friend we cannot change our mind on what the standards are. The standards of zero tolerance for abuse must be enforced no matter how trustworthy and kind-hearted the abuser may be seen in our community. Should we do research to try and confirm abuse? Absolutely. But we need to start with belief, empathy, and love. We need to offer support and whatever we have to offer to help the victim get the support and resources they need to heal. We need to work to become true disciples of Christ.. to be there for people in these situations. We also need to recognize that it is not easy to prove abuse and we need to do our best for the victims whether abuse is clearly proven or not.

3. In our communities and our wards, we need to make it clear with lessons and through the hierarchy (bishops, stake presidents, etc) that abuse is unacceptable. Lessons discussing abuse, the trauma caused, and local resources to help victims are key to helping our church community acknowledge and learn to recognize abuse and how to help those suffering from it. Teaching empathy, understanding, and instilling a desire to help victims is so important. I feel quite safe in saying that there is at least one person in every single ward/ church community who is struggling with this problem and that person does not necessarily believe that they will get help or even be believed... and this is a serious problem. We cannot mourn with those who mourn and comfort them if we will not even give them the benefit of the doubt. When victims need recommendations for treatment, it is so important the bishops and other ecclesiastical leaders do not make recommendations that they are not able to professionally make. Recognizing where your experience and talents leave you weak is very important for our church leaders and referring victims to people with more experience, depth of understanding, and knowledge of abuse is key.

4. Lastly, we -both individually and collectively- as church members need to learn how to deal with contention and ineffective communication patterns. There's so many things that cause contention between church members: personal differences in opinion, lifestyle choices, differing understanding of doctrine and church policy... yet so many of us have never learned how to deal with contention. Many of us have learned to do anything to avoid contention which causes passive aggressive behavior, gossip, "tattling" to authority figures instead of appropriate first-hand discussion, shunning, etc... Contention is not always a negative and can be used by people to gain empathy and understanding for different people and different viewpoints. I state this knowing that I struggle with some of these same problems and I too do not always how to best deal with contention.

I saw an example of some of this failure online today. I saw one member try to have a discussion about abuse in the church and then the conversation was shut down as contentious. The conversation deteriorated further into anger, name calling, and 'tattling' in the hopes of negative consequences for one of the parties. There was only one thing that I am sure of that probably resulted from this conversation- anybody who read it who is currently being abused is not going to say a word or feel comfortable asking for help. She is going to stay silent and hidden because she can easily see the trouble she will open up for herself. This is not the way things should be in the church. And this is why open and deep discussion is so desperately needed.

If each of us could work together to make some of former changes in our lives, we can become the change that we seek. For instance, creating a strong network of support that will exist for all church members where there is no expectation that a perfect personal facade needs to be maintained, victims can comfortably turn to others for support and relief without fear of condemnation or negative judgment. That allows victims to feel strong enough to be able to speak up and get the help that they need. By committing ourselves to practice patience, empathy, understanding, and love in our relationships with others, we create a positive and nurturing environment for ourselves and others. When we help others by having empathy for them, we invite empathy towards our own frailties. We can also work to become better communicators and resist polarizing passive aggressive word choices in our conversations with others. We can become more involved in community resources for abuse victims so that we have a better knowledge base of how best to support and help abuse victims of all ages. We can be introspective and fight to eradicate the seeds of abuse within our own actions and lives.

As church members, we are asked to participate in making the world better. We must do all we can to prevent abuse and then do everything possible to assist and heal the victims of abuse that does occur. In addition we must school ourselves so that we do not commit abuse and create victims of our own. These suggestions require a great deal of energy, humility, and commitment so I recognize but my suggestions are hard. However, if we do not protect and help heal those of trauma and abuse in our own communities... How can we end the cycle of abuse for anyone?

President Gordon B Hinckley (1985) once stated - "There appears to be a plague of child abuse spreading across the world. Perhaps it is always been with us but has not received the attention it presently receives. I'm glad there is a hue and cry going up against this terrible evil, too much of which is found among our own." Even though two decades have gone by since this statement, abuse is still happening... too much of which is found among our own. For many of us, the church is a safe place and we do not believe these things happen in it. We believe that the gospel makes us different from other people outside of our faith who abuse others and that therefore we are protected from the horrors of abuse. As long as we continue to ignore abuse in our midst or make it impossible for abuse to be dealt with... the specter of abuse will always be waiting for when we turn on the light.


Professional Participation Activity at the Birchwood Living Center

This is a paper I wrote on my experience last April of spending eight hours interviewing and learning about different ways of working to educate adult students with disabilities. It has been heavily edited for privacy concerns. I absolutely fell in love with this facility and I am grateful for the time I spent there. Without further ado, here it is. :)

Throughout this class we have discussed the many ways that education happens and how diverse challenges can be addressed to promote social parity and learning advancement in students. Our classwork has focused on school age individuals, public education, and uses and access to literature as many of us hope to work in the public education system. I was interested in how nursing or primarily medical facilities dealt with trying to stimulate and educate older individuals. After some research and discussion, I chose to observe and participate with teaching at the Birchwood Living Center located in Ellsworth, Maine. It is a program under the management of Yesterday’s Children, Inc. and is an inpatient nursing facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities and unique medical needs. The residential program can accept up to 15 clients at a time and the facility caters to all their medical, dietary, and educational needs. The clients that I observed in this facility were varied in diagnoses and medical needs, however, many were non-verbal and limited in many aspects of physical expression/ movement due to their specific disabilities.

I visited this facility on two separate occasions and participated in a few different activities- I will focus on day treatment and on understanding how this facility addressed the educational needs of its clients as well as the individuals specific medical needs that impact educational success (occupational therapy, sensory integration), as well as physical health.
All inpatients attend the Day Treatment program in a nearby building and this is where most of the group activities happen. A ratio of four staff members to eleven clients is maintained and it is this that makes this particular facility very different from other facilities who might care only for immediate medical needs. Clients are removed at different times from the group to complete some forms of therapy. I watched as a large group of clients was seated around a table making some get well cards for missing staff members. Some members were in regular chairs and some in specialized chairs while one slouched forward nearby wearing a helmet for their protection from potential falls. The majority of the physical work- picking up stickers and sticking onto card paper, bending, folding etc.- was completed by support staff. I observed questions and choices of stickers and designs asked by staff to different members of the group and eventual choices were made based on feedback received from group members. I am not knowledgeable enough to recognize how each member’s level of attention was focused. What I did observe was that I could start a conversation with someone, give them a marker or a pen, and suggest drawing, and I would get appropriate physical responses to my requests- a name written, a picture scribbled together. I rarely got verbal responses; if I did they were not usually words, but laughs, shrieks, and other noises. It was very apparent that the staff members could interpret correctly what was being said even if it was not clear to me; I still feel a bit of awe and wonder from watching that. I saw no behavioral difficulties that were out of the norm for each person- for some clients, aggression or self-abuse are common to their diagnoses and it is watched and redirected when appropriate.

Each individual who was removed from the group for therapy was removed for only a short time to a side room with a worker. Therapy available includes occupational and physical therapy to help promote functionality, mobility, and fitness for these individuals- many of whom are confined to specialized chairs due to poor physical independence. I watched therapy given to promote relaxation and encourage muscle use and development as well as sensory processing. Sometimes it was obvious that the person didn’t have any interest in participating in their therapy that day and they would make that abundantly clear in both physical and verbal ways. Redirection was kind and thoughtful and modifications in materials were sometimes made to achieve compliance without complaint. It is not required that all individuals must be in the group the whole time and I observed some patients removing themselves from the group for periods of time for their own comfort or privacy. Even with these wanderings (which were quietly supervised), it seemed that full inclusion was achieved to the best of each individual’s ability to participate.

As a potential future educator, I found this facility to be well- organized and primed to do the very best they can to help their clients progress in all aspects of their lives. Aspects of successful classroom activities were easily discernible in most parts of the facility: student pictures, artwork, and statements of patient rights were hanging on all public walls; teaching and therapy aids were easily seen and accessed; the day treatment facility has lots of natural light and appropriate ambient temperatures. There are areas for individual and group meetings, instruction, or medical or physical needs that are easily accessible. I also appreciated the other modifications that I saw all over the facility – such as color and areas for personal belongings- to attempt to soften the harshness and institutional flavor of what is an inpatient, residential facility- a difficult feat to achieve and not one that the center fully accomplished as evidenced by the obvious signs of institutional care and not home living. I look forward to learning more about this facility and its role in my community through future interactions.


Thoughts on Globalization, Education, and Interdisciplinarity

I think that globalization is affecting not only my education, but almost all aspects of the world that I live in. My grandparents spoke of a time where the world was ‘small’- people didn’t move very far away, family was close by, and most everyone works jobs that were common to the area or available where they were living in. They spoke of people moving around and the exodus of the nuclear family in regards to several generations living close by. The world described by them seemed quite compact and finite. I look at the world as I live in it and also see it as ‘small’, but not for the same aspects. A person can live in Salt Lake City and telecommute to complete their work in Tokyo, or can work at home with an internet connection that brings business and money directly to them in their home. In that perspective, I see the world as potentially small because communities and border no longer hold people into a few options for financial success. That said, I see the world as a vast global community with only a small percentage of people having the opportunities I mentioned above and for the majority the opportunities of financial success are stagnant no matter where they live. Globalization has affected my college as the faculty look to provide educations that will give their graduates an advantage in global market places- the positive effects of their efforts provide more options to students for future career paths… the negative is that higher education is still only truly available to a small percentage of the people in my communities (as well as the global population as a whole.) Globalization has created more options; different degrees, different career paths, pathways to success, etc… However, globalization both in education and life come with costs. The larger the picture, the easier it is to lose the value that is found in diversity, the desire to understand global problems, and the apathy to ignore the social justice and consequences inherent in globalization.

“...one aspect of my complex identity”

I liked this quote because it reminds me of how each of us prepares for our lives and actions every day. I am white and female… but I am also a mother, a student, an ex-wife, a Mormon, a lover, a friend, a mentor, a political activist, an animal welfare provider, a pharmacy technician, a BLS educator, and I could go on as I think most of us could. We all live within the labels that we create for ourselves or are thrust upon us. In some ways, life after university doesn’t feel that different to me than my current daily life. Only one of those labels will change- from student to graduate- and while I can obtain a different job and change or modify another label or two- everything else will stay the same. What I feel like my education has provided me that will continue to make a difference in my future after schooling is how I think and respond to information and behavior both around me and concerning me. I no longer take all information at face value and tend to analyze more. I think I recognize more often when engagement isn’t a great idea, how to respond to negative people and situations, and what to reasonably expect when I advocate for positions that are unpopular both in my community and culture. The ability to analyze, question, and look for better ways of understanding and empathy will serve me well in whatever economic or personal job choices I make.

The ability to understand the needs of interdisciplinary connections and underpinnings in discovering and understanding new forms of knowledge is pretty crucial. A fact held alone by itself is a bit like a toothpick- almost any other fact can make the first look suspect and sometimes can be used to disabuse it of its ‘fact’ status. Making decisions on the basis on one fact tends to cause significant problems in explanation and implementation creating outcomes that are rarely the ones anticipated. I would also argue that can a fact be a ‘fact’ if it cannot be proven on its own merits? Can it only be considered a fact if other knowledge helps sustain its truthful countenance? I would be interested in other’s ideas on that concept. True knowledge can be supported by facts surrounding it and about it- I tend to think of knowledge as the nucleus of the cell which can not live on its own, but needs the support of its ‘interdisciplinary team’ to survive and express itself as needed in its environment. Or put another way; we know what a nucleus does because of how it interacts with the other parts of the cell… and we know how the other parts of the cell work and express themselves due to their responses to the nucleus. A study of one must necessitate a study and recognition of all parts for a true, deep understanding.

What are your thoughts? How do you use interdisciplinary thinking in your life?