Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Do You Love?

One time Emily VD asked me what I love. Karolina said that Dr. Strauss asked this question in her aesthetics class too.

It's a good question, and one I should ponder more often. I'm very pessimistic and critical, as maybe you can see from my blog topics. Today I say, let's remember what we love, and talk about it.

Here's a current list (in no particular order):

  • Huaraches
  • Jacob's laugh
  • The Trinity (GOD)
  • My family (Dad, Mom, Karolina, Timothy and Janie)
  • Bob Dylan
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Pink Floyd
  • Carne Asada Tacos
  • Smoking menthol American Spirits with friends
  • Long talks about the world, and life
  • Long walks in the rain, with headphones, and good music
  • Mexican colours!
  • The sound of Spanish
  • Jacob when he sings Frank Sinatra 
  • Words, their sounds and meanings
  • Laughing fits
  • Messy curls
  • Singing in cars
  • Wrinkly puppies that look like Jacob
  • Sushi
  • Old people long in love
  • Los Angelos!
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Staring at the changing sky
  • Incense in my hair
  • Being naked
  • The ocean (indescribable, my first love)
  • History class
  • Knowing I'm being heard
  • Learning another person's story
  • Full moon nights
  • Walking barefoot
  • Spontaneous trips, that turn into the best trips
  • Dancing with hippies to the didgeridoo 
  • Mangos
  • Avocados
  • Paintings
  • Floating in water
  • Clean clean teeth
  • Artsyness
  • Tanned skin and green eyes
  • The idea of South America
  • Controversy
  • When I'm learning, and suddenly it all makes sense
  • Changes in scenery
  • Eccentric looking people
  • A child's imagination
  • Ecclecticity
  • Feeling like I'm home
  • Those times when I'm so overwhelmed I could cry, because there is so much to love.
This list will never end.

                                  Feel free to comment about what you love

Last night's dream was a reoccurring moment.

You walked quietly behind me, with your gentle hands caressed my neck
but when I turned to look, I only saw the back of my chair the window behind
but I knew it had been you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Keep Up the Challenge

Jacob and I were talking and he said that one of the reasons he was a cocky bastard is high school was because he was never challenged. He tutored most of his class mates and he'd sleep through school. Because of this, he said that he would like to home school his future kids because:

1. Kids can learn so much more than they do. They have spongy brains, and schools seem to underestimate them.
2. He wants to teach his kids a lot more than what average American schools teach, because when kids aren't challenged, they become arrogant.

I like both his reasons, but about the second point and going beyond the topic of home schooling, does the lack of a challenge breed arrogance? I believe it does.

One of the most humbling experiences is to realize that you don't really know that much. It's when you realize there is so much more to learn, an infinite amount of knowledge to gain. It's being told that you were wrong about something, and being taught the truth.

Of course, if only a few people are learning, there is still the problem of being more intelligent than the masses, and that obviously can breed arrogance too. So, a lack of challenge probably breeds arrogance, but being challenged won't necessarily take arrogance away.

Regardless, returning to Jacob's first point, this could apply to anyone. PEOPLE are capable of learning so much more than they do. People in general should always be challenged by others or themselves, by learning and learning and learning.

(Now you ask, what do you mean by learning, but I don't want to talk about it right now)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

the life

make tacos not war
explore the world
write about it all
lounge in the beach sunlight
embrace messy hair
rock out to Led Zeppelin
smoke to Bob Dylan
cry to Neal Young
step on the gas
be a bird in winter
escape to South America
learn Spanish
and wear blankets and bikinis
and leather sandals
contemplate history and its writer
gaze at many sunsets
weed in fields
poems on Twitter
let minds be blown
in our fucking mansion
you’re always on my mind
dream of the life
I need you in my life,
this life.
I'm just a kid.

Safe Schools Equals Equal Education

He was only about 9 year old at the time. The other boys would chase him during recess, and granted, the boy wasn’t the fastest runner being slightly chubby. He was quiet, and he couldn’t think of what to do when the other boys didn’t understand the meaning of “stop” or “no”. They would corner him up against the chain length fence, all the while calling him names, mocking him. They’d grab his lunch pail from his cold hands, throw it on the ground and stomp on it, smashing his sandwich, cookies, juice, and banana.

He would refuse to go to school, and his mom couldn’t figure out why. She finally got some of the story out of him. There were mean boys at school, who wouldn’t leave him alone, and he was terrified to go to school anymore.

She talked to the principle, who thanked her for bringing the issue to his attention, but his actions led to no change. He talked to the boys, but not to their parents. He didn’t supervise the boys, and the bullying continued. Would his mom have to quit her job just to go to school with her son to make sure other students left him alone? Were they unable to provide a safe learning environment for all students?

Before we begin, I will define bullying as- to cause another person emotional, physical, or psychological harm by verbal, physical or sexual abuse or harassment.

If the Brown vs. Board decision was made to give equal educational opportunity for all students, then schools should be doing more to protect students from bullying so that all students can have equal educational opportunities.  Bullying creates a hostile environment for its victims that is hard to nearly impossible for them to learn in, because they are always worried for their safety. Bully victims are also victims of discrimination from other students, which is imposing on their civil rights. 

This boy from the story was my brother, and stories like his are not uncommon. I would like to focus on bullying in general, but also specifically aimed toward gays/lesbians and cognitively disabled (CD) individuals.

Anyone who has ever been to school, whether it be public or private, has experienced bullying, either aimed toward himself, or at his peers. I honestly don’t think that bullying is anything that will ever go away. It is a result of sin and corruption that lies inside of every human. However, I do believe it should be considered a crime. My goal here is to make people more aware of bullying in schools, to give a few examples of bullying, and possible solutions to make it less common.

Recently I heard a story on NPR which inspired me to write about bullying (unfortunately I could not find the transcript anywhere on their website and I do not remember the names.) A mother told her son’s story. I forget his age, but I believe he was a freshman in high school in Massachusetts. He was a “mamma’s boy” and he had always been very loving and sweet. However, when he began high school his mother noticed that he began distancing himself from her, and he became unnecessarily rough with his little siblings. He mentioned a few times that the kids at school called him a “fag”. 

One day he came home from school because he had gotten in a fight with a girl who had been taunting him. The principal decided that the students would either be suspended or they would have to sit together at lunch for the rest of the year. He didn’t want to be suspended because he was always a straight A student, and he never got in trouble, so he agreed to sit with her. He came home and informed his mom what had happened. She was infuriated, and she hadn’t realized how bad the bullying had become. She told him that she would go talk to the principal. She was infuriated that the school had not even called her. That night her son hung himself. This is one in hundreds of stories of gay/lesbians being harassed to death by their peers.

Many CD clients I have worked with, or that my mother has worked with, have dropped out of school or been afraid to go because of bullying. One young boy was called retarded, and he was chased and pinned against a fence. He couldn’t cry out for help or tell them no, because his disabilities make it hard for him to communicate. Another man, when he was in high school, he was mocked because of his high pitched voice, and his inability to socialize “normally” due to his asparagus. He was a very smart boy, but he eventually dropped out to avoid the mockery.

According to a report by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, “The number of complaint and consultation calls to OCR and OSERS demonstrates steadily increasing allegations and proven situations of disability harassment.” 

There are hundreds of other stories that have come to the attention of the press that I could recall, but I won’t. Although not exclusively, bullies usually go after people who are different, or vulnerable, which is why many of the targets are people perceived to be gay, or those who have disabilities.

Although almost all states have laws that force public schools to prohibit bullying, it seems that they aren’t doing a very good job. The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition found that 25% of teachers do not think bullying is a big deal, and two-thirds of students feel that adults do not help them deal with bullies. Often times, bullying is seen as just a fact of life that kids, and some adults, deal with and people have to learn to live and grow stronger from it. As far as I know, bullying itself is not a crime, so too many students get away with it. 

This is ridiculous. Bullying ruins people’s self-confidence and feeds them the lie that they are pathetic and worthless. It drives people to depression, aggression, suicide, etc. It gives bullies a false sense of confidence and importance. It should be considered a crime because it infringes on other people's right to life. 

But what should be done? Here are a few suggestions.

In light that so many of the victims of bullying are gay/lesbian or disabled, first, I suggest that all students be educated on civil rights. Why do we learn so much in school about the civil rights movement, but we only talk about Blacks and other ethnic minorities? All people are created equal, regardless of their sexual orientation or the disabilities they may have. Schools should be teaching students to be kind and tolerant. It is scary if students are not learning these characteristics in school, because they spend more of their childhood in school than in their home.

In addition to educating students, I believe that the consequences for bullying should be much more severe than simple suspension or grounding. Bullying should be considered a crime, so the bully should be prosecuted. Parents of both parties should be notified, and maybe both the victim and the bully should receive counseling.

Finally, students who are being bullied should be made well aware of their rights, and of help that they can receive. On this note, students who are being bullied should actually have help readily available for them in the form of a school counselor and some kind of security to keep the bully away from his victim. Students and teachers who witness or suspect bullying should be strongly encouraged to report it, even if anonymously. 

Bullying has always been around but it has come more into the spotlight in the past decade with the many stories published by the press about the consequences bullying has on lives. In order for all students to receive equal education, all students must be safe in school. Hostilities that cause emotional, psychological or physical harm will make it harder for students experiencing this to learn. So, in the spirit of Brown Vs Board, states and schools need to make schools safe from bullying, through prevention programs and stricter consequences.

Friday, June 10, 2011

No One Has to Be Afraid of the Best Party

I've been listening to NPR now days on my way to work since my CD player doesn't work and the other radio stations are annoying and boring. Today I heard a really hilarious story about a comedian, Jon Gnarr, who ran for mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland (the capital).

He named his party the "Best Party" because "what could be better than the best"? He always out promised the other candidates in everything they said. He also made some comic promises, for example, he promised to build a statue of Bjork because she is a worldwide famous Icelander. He said that the statue would be comparable to the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

No one really knew if he was serious in his campaign for mayor, or if he was just doing it as a joke. He did not have any experience or knowledge of politics when he ran. Regardless, his support grew and eventually he won.

When he won, suddenly he was terrified, and he told himself, "I could quit now." He was scared because so many people were supporting him and were expecting him to live up to his promises.

The campaign began as a joke, and a mockery of politicians, but he has since grown to respect politicians a bit more. He no longer believes they are all evil and corrupt people and he realizes that it is not an easy job. However, he has lost a lot of support because he raised taxes in order to create a new budget plan for the city.

This story had me laughing really hard. NPR (whoever the reporter was) interviewed him and he was laughing really hard as he talked about the statue of Bjork and the name of his party. I really want to meet this guy; he sounds awesome.

The New York Times also has a story, if you want more details.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boycott Wal-Mart

Boycott Wal-Mart!

I am boycotting Wal-Mart for the rest of my life. I watched the documentary High Cost of a Low Price and it convinced me. Wal-Mart endorses the futile system and creates a monopoly.

It is appalling that the CEO of one of the wealthiest companies in the world would be making about $27 million a year while that average hourly Wal-Mart employee makes about $13 thousand which is under the poverty line.  Wal-Mart pays its employees the least they possibly can while the leaders of the company are some of the richest men in the world.

Cooperate will give each store a certain amount of money each month for employee wages, and considering how many employees each store has, the amount each store is given is not enough to pay them all. So, what the store managers have to do is under staff the store, which gives everyone less hours and forces each employee to work that much harder on their shift.

Wal-Mart also encourages its employees to use government welfare, like Medicaid, WIC and food stamps. The medical insurance that the company offers is too expensive for most of the employees, especially those who work there and are supporting not just themselves but their families as well. So a company that in 2003 made $240 billion in sales can’t afford to give adequate benefits to their employees who are overworked and underpaid.

This is not only unfair to the employees but also to tax payers. Tax payers are supporting Wal-Mart employees who rely on state welfare, when the company has more than enough money to give their employees the benefits they deserve.

This is hardly different from the futile system where a few very wealthy people on the top own the company, and millions of workers at the bottom are paid hardly enough money to survive on.

Wal-Mart creates a monopoly, especially in small towns, because the store comes in with their low prices which are impossible for small businesses to compete with, and soon many small businesses in the area have to shut down. Eventually, all that is left is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has a policy where they will match any price from any store, in order to have to the lowest price. This seems great, but it ruins small businesses. Once Wal-Mart is the main place where everyone shops they have the liberty to raise their prices because they have lost all competition. Wal-Mart is a small business killer.

Of course consumers are attracted to Wal-Mart because of its low prices, but Wal-Mart creates poverty and then forces people in poverty to shop there. For example, in the documentary there is a single mom who works full time at Wal-Mart. She is on WIC and Medicaid because she doesn’t make enough for the basic necessities of life. After she gets paid, she shops at Wal-Mart using WIC. She is getting an unfair wage from Wal-Mart but she has to shop there still because they are the lowest price. Even some of the former business owners whose businesses were closed down because of Wal-Mart, now shop at Wal-Mart because they are living in poverty.

Why is it that these employees get paid so little? The company is one of the most prosperous in the world, and the leaders are some of the richest people in the world, yet many of their employees are in poverty, being supported by government welfare (by tax payers). How is this even allowed? Free market yes, but what about the rights of employees? It’s not like they don’t deserve more money. Wal-Mart is always busy; it’s a huge store with many impatient customers. Working there is likely stressful and tiring. Wal-Mart could not be as prosperous as it is without hourly employees running the stores, ad meeting the needs of consumers. How is it okay for cooperate to pay them so little while the leaders get paid so much?

The High Cost of a Low Price
How can we have a free market when Wal-Mart is closing down small businesses, thereby smashing any competition?

These are the reasons I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. It is a corrupt business that treats its employees like slaves and I refuse to give them any of my money. I would much rather shop at a small business and pay a little extra money, to support family owned stores.

There are now two Wal-Mart stores in Prescott, and in 2012 they are building yet another store in Prescott Valley. I am curious to see what this will do to businesses in PV. I hope that I have convinced you NOT to support them by shopping there.

If I have time while I'm in Prescott, I’d like to do more research on Wal-Mart, both its treatment of workers and its affect on other businesses, by talking to employees and business owners in the area. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh Shame

I’m red faced in the bathroom
Pouring water on my face
Palms to cheeks
And eyes wide, then tightly shut
Hoping that no one can see
-That I can't see-
The little girl curled up
Beat red in a corner
In the bathroom
Biting her lip
Trying not to cry (or laugh)

Caregivers Are Like Windows

I feel like such a grown up lately because I talk about my job a lot, but working is pretty much the extent of my social life right now, so it's on my mind often. My job is great because my co-workers are not just in it for the money, and we're all working together to make life more enjoyable for cognitively disabled (CD) people in the community. As caregivers, our goal is to make life as normal as possible for these individuals. We are the clients window to the world.

The clients live in group homes, which hold two people per home, with at least one caregiver on duty at all times. Most clients wake up at about 7am. They eat breakfast and dress, then are driven over to the Resource room at the office where they meet for the day program. Some clients will drink coffee or smoke when they arrive, and others will chat or just sit there. Every day the company has a planned activity, like going to the movies (today we saw Kung Fu Panda 2), bowling, going on a picnic, a scavenger hunt, etc. Almost all clients also have to walk for 30 minutes a day to maintain their health, so we may go to trails, parks, Wal-Mart or the mall to do this. In the evening, they return home to eat dinner, watch TV, and chill until bed time, and the routine begins again.

Sometimes I wonder if they get really bored doing the same type of thing every day, but most of them really like routine. They get stressed and anxious if plans change suddenly, so it is best to plan ahead, and inform them of any changes at least a few days in advance.

Helping these people can be unpleasant at times, especially when they lash out at me in anger. My second day working, a girl cussed me out, punched me, and hit me in the face with her hat. I learned to keep my distance from her, but I also learned that clients don't just get angry because they're mean and ungrateful. Often times they are upset about something, but they can't express to me what it is that is bothering them, and then the anger just escalates from there. I can't imagine not being able to express myself. Many of them understand a lot more than they can express, so it is also the job of the caregiver to learn how they communicate, and to listen carefully.

The thing that's great about this job as opposed to food service, where I have worked before, is that the job we do here is more permanent. Even if they do get angry sometimes, I don't get as frustrated because I know that my job is about more than just one incident.  Whereas in the food industry, people will flip a bitch if there are tomatoes on their sandwich when they asked for none, or if they have to wait too long to be served, when honestly, it won't even matter in the long run. Caregiving is about helping people with life skills. It's about today, next month, and twenty years from now. The impact we make affects every part of their life, not just what they eat. So even when work gets unpleasant, it is good to know that the clients need us and we're doing more than just filling impatient people's stomachs.

We are the clients window to the world. We are an example of what it means to be "normal". That is a hard term to use, but it is something CD clients long for. The ones I work with are 20+ years old, so they have had their share of high school mockery and bullying. They know that they are not like everyone else and they want to be. Caregivers allow them to experience the community in a safe way. Then through the day program and peer interaction, they are able to create their own community. They are no longer just individuals who feel weird and isolated, but they hang out with people like themselves. Then they have caregivers to help them experience the broader community.

This job teaches me to view disabled people as more than just this other type of human being that we are here to assist. They are pleasant, smart, funny, and kind people. The more I get to know some individuals, the more I grow to like them. We are different, but then again, all humans are different from each other. It is important to find our areas of commonality and I'm constantly realizing I have a lot in common with many clients. My job has been a learning experience, even just these first three weeks, and I'm blessed that God gave me this job and not any other.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reformed Arrogance

Charles Finney (I just thought I would throw this in there)

It was interesting to leave my reformed college, full of reformed friends and teachers, and come home to have this conversation. He said something along these lines, “The main thing I don’t like about Calvinists is their arrogance, because they think they have everything right. I believe that I am saved by the grace of God. If when I go to heaven he tells me that he chose me and predestined me, then I guess I will be wrong. But I don’t think it matters very much.” This statement ended a discussion about whether or not God has predestined some to be vessels of glory and others to be vessels of dishonor, some to be saved and some to not be saved.

I strongly believe in predestined salvation, and the complete sovereignty of God. However, the conversation itself didn’t matter as much as his last statement. Neither of us convinced each other of anything, but he did hit me right where I needed to be hit, by his statement about arrogant Calvinists.

Are we arrogant? We have our very particular liturgies and hymn books. We have our Westminster Confession and Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, and Calvin’s institutes. These statements of faith are seen to be basically as infallible as the word of God. If one disputes them, then they are probably not a Christian, or at least they are a very immature one. I don’t mean to undermine the importance of these historical statements. They are brilliant and beautiful.

 What I mean to dispute is the arrogant tendencies of people who believe in them.  

As a part of the reformed community, I have witnessed belittling or mocking comments made towards people of other denominations, and I even threw in some of my own comments in these conversations. Whether or not people of other denominations were present during these conversations hardly matters. We shake our heads at Pentecostals, Baptists, etc, amazed at their ignorance and unbiblical theology.

I am not claiming innocence or trying to be self-righteous. I have done this myself. However, I am appalled at my own arrogance and the arrogance of others, because that is exactly what the reformed faith is not about. We recognize God’s complete sovereignty and our helplessness, our complete depravity. We cannot take credit for our salvation or even the mind-blowing theology we believe in so strongly. Any knowledge we have is a gift from God, and if we look down on people who don’t believe like we do, can we really say we believe that we are helpless and completely dependent on our sovereign God?

I’m not saying that we can’t have discussions and disagreements with Arminians. Discussions force us to examine our beliefs through defending them, so they are valuable. However, when we have these discussions, we should be extremely humble and loving. Our faith isn’t about showing how smart we are, or how great Calvin is. It’s about bringing glory to God and showing our dependence on him. It’s also important to know that maybe we don’t have everything right, and we can learn from other non-reformed Christians (that is probably the hardest thing for me to realize).

Arrogance in the reformed Christian community is completely self-contradictory and hypocritical. We have to recognize that we are not saved, made wise, or knowledgeable because of our own efforts. It is all from God, by his grace. We owe all to him and can take credit for nothing. The last thing we should be known for is our arrogance. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Second Thoughts

I could quit school right now.
Get out of this cycle of work and sleep, just to wake up and work and sleep.
Summer means working to raise college funds,
When at school, it's the same thing.
Work and sleep, read and sleep, constantly fighting to open my eyes.
I'd like to just have time to discover the world, out of debt, out of work.
I could listen to music all day and stare in wonder at the sky and fields,
Mountains and sky scrapers, idiosyncrasies of small towns.
Sing and sing till my voice is nothing left but a whisper.
Take along a few good friends.
Stop at mini markets for smokes.
Stop at one story desert hotels.
Stay at beach hostels writing poetry with the waves.
How perfect.
But shit, who am I kidding.