2017/11/16

Analysis of the Article : “Neurodiversity: The Future of Special Education”


This post is an analysis of an education article titled “Neurodiversity: The Future of Special Education”. You can find a link to the original article here. The following is a thoughtful response that I wrote for a small audience and I thought I would share it here.


Special Education is a topic that is near and dear to my heart as I know several individuals and families that depend on its services to educate their children. While laws require that schools offer and fund these services to students, how they are offered and performed can vary greatly in schools; even schools in the same district can have widely varied programs available. Some schools may even choose to flout the laws requiring special education and parents are forced to start lawsuits to achieve any services as all. One thing that seems consistent in schools over the country is how special education and those students who need it are viewed: students with disabilities are seen as having problems and weaknesses and those who need special education are not as intelligent or as able as ‘normal’ students. These viewpoints with their emphasis on disability, dysfunction, and other negative connotations that go hand in hand with them can cause resignation and a negative outlook in students and families for their future prospects. Thomas Armstrong brings a fresh perspective on special education and how the perspectives and viewpoints of teachers and schools can and should change to facilitate better learning, the development of programs that support a ‘whole person’ growth, and to develop positive perspectives and momentum both in scholarship and individual growth.

In his article titled “Neurodiversity: The Future of Special Education”, Armstrong states that the ways special education programs are currently developed and understood by its practitioners needs to change in several key ways. He suggests that schools and educators recognize the neurodiversity of students as a positive trait to be honored and respected just as with other human diversity traits such as race, gender identity, religion, etc. While current programs for exceptional education tends to emphasize a student’s deficits and strengths, he believes that a new approach should be developed that emphasizes the students’ strengths (such as what currently happens for gifted or talented students.) Some formal assessments to help determine a students’ strengths are the VIA Character Strengths, Virtues, Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Assessments, and the Baron-Welsh Art Scale. Informal assessments that are currently available for educators to utilize for additional information on learning strengths is the Neurodiversity Strengths Checklist, “strength chats” as devised by Epstein (2008), and motivational interviewing. This emphasis on positive talents should then be used to build on the students’ strengths and minimize their weakest areas by utilizing workarounds to help students manage both academic and nonacademic challenges without allowing their disability to hinder them. According to Armstrong, this approach is very different than current special education services where students are taught how to live with their disability instead of working to overcome it.

Another key component of Armstrong’s suggested neurodiversity acceptance is that all students in classrooms need to be taught about the intrinsic worth of human variation and neurological diversity. By educating all students on how the human brain works, how environment shapes brain structure and function, and that all students have a capacity for learning, the expectations of everyone involved in the special education system would change. Some research studies suggest that when teachers expect positive outcomes from their students, academic results usually improve. Also, inclusion would be more effective as learning diversified students would be viewed more as assets in the classroom rather than a difficulty or burden. As a side benefit, if students are taught to respect and embrace neurodiversity, students who learn or act differently are more likely be accepted by their peer groups and less likely to be marginalized or bullied. If implemented, the author’s recommendations have a significant potential to change the way special education is understood and provided to students as well as positive implications for both individual and community development.

This article has several strengths. The author discussed traditional methods of special education and compares and contrasts these methods with his recommendations. He includes research that supports his conclusions and also addresses some of the challenges that would need to be overcome to implement them. He suggests assessments that are currently available to educators to help determine student strengths so that they can be used to facilitate a learner in knowledge attainment. He states that educators who start to utilize these methods will have positive feelings for the children they teach who have learning weaknesses and that these positive feelings will translate into strength manipulation to help students recognize and work to overcome the learning areas in which they are weak. Armstrong’s work can be used for students that have been shunted into special education to help create IEPs that truly look at the student as a whole person and not just a list of ‘things to check off.’

One weakness that the article has is the author’s use of polarity language. He uses language to discuss his thesis and special education in ways that is inherently divisive. His recommendations are littered with language that radiates positivity: growth mindset, nuance, creating, thrive, transformation, assets, etc. However, the language used to describe the current system is very different: deficit, disorder, dysfunction, negative connotations, insular, remediation, burdens, etc. I do not disagree necessarily with his word choices as they do allow him to discuss his research with readers and work to motivate educators into implementing his stated program. However, I worry that the language used may turn off some of the very people that are needed to implement the changes suggested. Another weakness is that the author doesn’t address funding needs to implement his changes. Armstrong acknowledges that both educators and parents may fear the process of funding special education for children if disabilities are viewed more positively- it is the use of terms such as disability and dysfunction that make that funding currently available. If his recommendations are put into normal usage, would the funding dry up? I think that it is quite understandable to worry about this aspect as, even with protections for funding that are required by law, these regulations are still held in contempt by some schools and school districts. Armstrong suggests a way to protect current funding under the system by continuing to use the traditional methods of determining disability and dysfunction that will open the door to special education services. Educators would then try to discard the ‘disability mindset’ after initial diagnosis and use the recommendations stated above to motivate and teach their students. However, Armstrong does not suggest how to get the funding to utilize his recommendations in the classroom. He recognizes the financial problems that are conceivable if special education funding becomes restricted, but he doesn’t offer any ideas as to how to use that funding for development of similar programing in schools. At one point in the article, Armstrong gives suggestions for educators to utilize his research; schools in specified districts working together to integrate his research, promoting school wide ‘fairs’ for students on neurodiversity, and hiring a neurodiversity coordinator to help monitor the changes put into place. Where is the funding for these extra services going to be found? Will it take away services that are already in place for students? Will funding for a coordination for a school district make funding dry up for special education teachers in different schools in the district? It is really hard to know and the author has not addressed that at all.

As stated above, I would really like to understand how this research can be funded and put into common usage. As a mother of a child with a few learning disorders, I see a potential benefit for using Armstrong’s research for changing the way that school deal with and teach individuals with disabilities. As neurotypical students also have many different ways of learning, it seems correct to believe that all students may need some help for success in the classroom. As such, it seems reasonable that educators who recognize the differences between a “disability paradigm” and a “diversity paradigm” would be able to quickly modify the ways that they provide services to their students. I would like to have a better understanding of how best to help ‘change perspectives’, both in educators and parents to see a more positive yet realistic outcome for their children. I would also like to know exactly how accessible the student strengths assessments are to educators and whether there are fees or other hurdles to ease of use. As the most clear cut assessment mentioned- the Neurodiversity Strengths checklist- was developed by the author, I would want to understand what financial benefits he might enjoy from this product. (This could also be seen as another weakness in the article as it might be more of a sales pitch depending on what benefits the author stands to gain.) Also, Armstrong mentioned some ways of modifying lessons to help students with learning differences achieve better results from their students. However, every modification he mentioned suggests to me that the students he is thinking of would have two specific traits; at least normal intelligence as defined by current special education assessments and their education would be provided by a decently funded educational system. I would be curious to see what modifications that he would recommended for individuals of less than normal intelligence scores (forms of mental retardation) or for individuals who attend schools with significant funding issues that can’t afford to purchase specialized software, virtual reality applications, etc. I could not tell if Armstrong had studied the ramifications of working with students who display significant physical, mental, or learning challenges when developing his views and conducting his research as this information was not mentioned. I would really like to know how his theories work and can be used across the whole spectrum of students and not just a majority.

I can see several ways that Armstrong’s research can be used in practical settings in schools. For schools districts and educators that are able to see their students from the perspective of student strengths over weakness, teaching and inclusion could become more specific for each student- even in larger classes. Currently, inclusion of special education students in mainstream classrooms can make teachers feel overwhelmed and they can view these students as a distraction or encumbrance to themselves and the others students. Any perspective that helps teachers to see the good in the children they teach and give them a desire to help all students perform at their best regardless of ability is an essential part of true classroom inclusion. As Armstrong mentioned in this article, when teachers view particular students negatively, other students may develop the same attitude towards those students. This can lead to bullying, ostracizing, and other negative consequences towards special education students which can create an unsafe school situation for all participants.

One way that this research can be applied is to provide a more specific emphasis in equality in the school environment. By helping students to learn with the strengths that they have, it should create an environment that doesn’t stratify as easily among financial and perceived intellectual lines. I suspect there will always be some form of social class functionality in a school- there will always be a student who is always last to be picked for team sports for example- but helping to minimize those aspects in classrooms by creating more equal opportunities for learning should be very helpful for helping students to prepare for their future. Teachers who are able to take the time to understand both the weaknesses and strengths of the children that they teach can take that knowledge into the mainstream classroom to create an inclusive learning environment that holds realistic and high standards for all student participants. These actions as performed by teachers conform to the recommended guidelines in the InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards; specifically, Standard #2 titled Learning Differences.

I also think that teachers that encourage students to utilize learning by tapping into their strengths are teachers that affected students will work harder to achieve for. At the beginning of this class, almost all learners mentioned a specific teacher that made a difference in their lives and all of those teachers had one thing in common. That commonality was that each student felt the teacher’s sincere desire and support for the student’s educational growth . When each of us feel cared for and developed a strong bond with that teacher, we worked harder and achieved more because our success was no longer just for us, but also to cement the relationship that had been previously created between teacher and pupil. Not all teachers feel inspired or have any desire to develop that kind of deep relationship with their students, but all anecdotal evidence provided in class suggests that teachers who create positive circles of communications and a unique relationship with each student do create significant knowledge growth and more positive outlooks for these students. I suspect that teachers who are willing and desire to create these tight bonds with students will also desire to provide the student what they need to succeed. If so, that extra time or service will not feel so strongly like a burden to be endured, but a challenge to overcome; a slight difference in viewpoint, but one ripe with better outcomes.

I found myself very interested in Amstrong’s research and I am happy that my library search brought it to light. I thought the article well written and provided many opportunities for thought and opportunities for more research. I can think of several ways that this information could be utilized in a classroom and I hope that these particular recommendations are incorporated into the traditional special education programs that are currently functioning in schools locally and across the country. I would be interested in seeing how these techniques work in the typical classroom and within the resources currently available to rural schools. I look forward to more research to suggest whether this program is optimal for most students.

Any thoughts on both the articles and it's topic? An experience that you wish to share? I'm eager to hear if anyone has first hand experiences with this program and it's implementation....

2017/10/24

The Space Between Life and Death


To sit at the bedside of the death of a friend is to look into the gaping mouth of hell. Grief chops at you little by little as their life is slowly drawn away. Sometimes, watching every breathe is painful and you want to see the continued rise of the chest ... and you desperately want it to stop to end the suffering therein. You find yourself stroking the frail frame and speaking of the banal because you can't say all that is in your heart for there are no words... or the words and emotions behind them will not help and will only cause more hurt. So you sit quietly and listen to every breath until you find your own mind and body become the mirror image of the life ebbing away. Your breathing slows and all you can see is the simple image of life and desire intertwined. You start to feel their pain in your own body and your mind whispers the same prayer over and over and over. You don't even feel the tears running down your cheeks and barely notice that you can no longer see as your glasses are coated with the tears that have been falling over your lids for what seems like eternities. You struggle to notice the discomfort in your limbs because your own comfort has fallen behind your one need- to be present in those few moments that will soon be over and will never be repeated. In these moments, I feel my own weakness... my own inability to stop suffering or help to end it. I feel some of my beliefs crumble to ash and I am forced to face the deficits in my faith and my heart. The bone deep weariness that surrounds you feels like the new normal as everything you do brings you back to this single point... sitting in a chair next to a friend... watching the failing physical frame and murmuring to the strong soul within which will soon be released. You watch the seizures and you shake, the breathing and you mirror it, the silence that envelopes you both. For this brief periods of time, I hate death and I pray for it... I push it away as I grasp it... I welcome any positive change even if it means death has won for now. Soon, the mouth of hell will close and only love and grief will live on... but in these brief moments I feel like I learn more about what hell really is and what heaven may be than any Sunday school lesson ever taught. And I do have so much more to learn... so much more...

2017/10/18

Self Care.... Filled with Hormones


I have been struggling this semester. I think there are a few reasons including feeling a lot less motivation with the loss of my grandpa, work health problems... the usual suspects. I tried to work on some homework but I seem to be unable to concentrate on either history nor interdisciplinary studies so I found myself roaming my shelves for something to read. I have agreed to try and take some time for self care- I'm quite terrible at it and I am working to do a little better- and I have decided that some of my self care should include stretching and fun reading. My eyes slid down the rows of books and then stopped on my nutrition textbook. I have never been willing to get rid of it because I sometimes find myself using it as a resource for trying to understand comments from my doctor better or even as a resource for a history paper. So, amusingly enough I hauled it to the couch (We can't say I picked it up because it's huge) for a bit of 'light, restful reading. I found myself quite frustrated by the reading so please take that in mind when I discuss my thoughts below... I guess it wasn't very restful reading.

I entered this chapter with little knowledge about hormones and how they affect the average person’s body, and by extension, my own. I have listened to doctors chatting about my hormones to my parents from about the age of 14 onward. In almost every doctor’s appointment that I attend as well as incidental evidence in my own life, my hormones are in control of me… and not me of them. I see menstruation and the whole process of hormones in a very negative light. As early as 18 years old I wanted to get a hysterectomy to try and end at least part of the process. The only thing that has stopped me from a hysterectomy is money... and if I was offered the opportunity to have it done tomorrow and have it paid for...I would not hesitate at all. As mentioned in the text, some of the societal and cultural ideas around menstruation are definitely alive in my mind for I too believe that I am filthier and more disgusting during the time of my menstruation and I want to avoid people and try to do anything I can to hide it. I don't talk about it much and I used to go to great lengths to hide any evidence including sanitary supplies from any one in my home- I even used to hide it from my husband when I was married... which was challenging and sure looks foolish from where I stand now. The way I think sure has changed... as evidenced that I am try to talk about it here. I found myself a bit bemused to read the words on the pages in front of me such as “One Indian phrase for menstruation is the flower growing in the house of the god of love” and “when researchers looked for positive changes in the premenstrual phase, they can find those as well." I haven't found those yet I guess.

The chapter listed a lot of research on women's health as well as hormones and sexuality. I suspect that the reason there appears to be so much research focused towards these topics is that hormonal changes are seen as an overall negative in quality of life for the majority of women. As Americans live in a fairly patriarchal society and women are not seen or treated in many cases as equal to men, focusing on the differences- and perceived negative differences- makes perfect sense. In general, if we look for the bad over the good that is what we will find. As a history buff, the discussion of women, women’s health, and sexuality have been seen in a negative light throughout many cultures and ages in time. The text also mentions that religion can also play a role in how hormonal changes, menstruation and reproductive activities are viewed and treated. It seems clear to me that many cultures and religions view the unique actions of women's bodies as problematic and use social pressure to control these actions, using members of both genders to create and reinforce this pressure. Another thing that most people who practice medicine have noticed that wasn’t mentioned in the text is that there is gender bias when it comes to many serious problems such as pain, heart attack, etc. How a person is treated when experiencing these disorders can vary widely based on the gender of the person experiencing them and that bias tends to create more negative outcomes for women than for men. What these facts and ideas say about our culture are not great. If the perspectives and biases in our culture and society tend to be more negative towards women, their health and potential in our society, it shouldn’t come as a shock that more studies are focused on the negative aspects of women and their health when research is being discussed, funded, and developed. If society sees men unconsciously as physically better and less hormonal as the male gender has no outward appearance of hormonal changes as stated in the text, then it also makes sense that research is much less likely to turn its focus toward men. Research in general tends to start with the spark of an idea on how something works, an idea of how to change something, or even how to fix a problem or perceived difficulty. If a culture in general is unable to recognize that men’s hormonal cycles exist or that they are important, no funding or time is going to be focused on that as it will be seen as waste of time and resources. I think that creates difficulty for both genders as men’s health and experience is ignored or undervalued so that problems are not recognized and potentially helped and women find that that their health and the study of their health is focused more on the negative aspects of it – or perceived negative aspects- and less on the positive traits and aspects of the health differences.

If more research was focused towards men and their health as well as hormonal cycles, I believe that we could gain knowledge that could be quite beneficial for men and the health problems that occur for them. However, it must be acknowledged that the majority of all medical research is focused on men- just not hormonal research- and it is vital to start including women in these processes. Excuses for leaving women out of health studies include the perceived 'variability' of their hormone cycle and the 'uniqueness' of the female body's functions... which feels a bit like a cope out. After all, the majority of all of our bodies- male and female- work and respond the same in similar circumstances.

I am not sure that reading this was really good self care or if I found myself distracted and worked up about something that really isn't super relevant to my life right now. But I found a few things that I was interested in researching at some point. I wonder how much of my health problems is based on some of the external influences the text mentioned. Do I feel more pain because of hormonal changes or because I feel like I ‘should’? Do I feel dirty and awful because of my sensory disorders which cause challenges with the physical sensations… or do I feel that way because I have been taught/ influenced to feel that way? Are the mental symptoms of confusion and personality ‘changes’ really a part of the hormonal changes, part of what I expect to happen, or pieces of both intertwined in the perspective and package of me? Certainly interesting questions to ponder this evening. Although the ponder must end soon as the guys are headed over. :D

What are your thoughts?



2017/10/17

Videography as an Art Medium


In an art class that I took, I was introduced to several short art videos. I found all of them really interesting- I used to love going to museums and looking at all the 'art', but I really didn't think much about the different mediums or ways that a piece of work could be created, seen, or even changed. Even with some practice, feel like I am not very accomplished at nor do I understand much when it comes to artwork or artistic technique. I know what I like and what moves me..and I have found those reactions to many pieces of artwork created in many different mediums. I hold no illusions that when I draw, my artwork looks like the concentrated scribbling of a six year old with dinosaurs that smile like people and cats shaped like bowling pins. Artwork created with video isn't something that I have thought of as artwork, but these three videos changed my perspective on that. They really helped me to conceive new ways of seeing, technology and how mixed together they can create significantly different pieces of artwork as opposed to other mediums. So I thought I would share my thoughts on three short films with links attached.

"MUTO" - I thought this video was amazing. I found myself so drawn into the images that near the end as the 'man' is breaking open his head, I felt like I too needed to open a space into mine to understand more information. I couldn't figure out how the man swallowed the paper or found myself trying to decide how the artist came up with his different ideas for the drawing. I found my head moving to follow the 'man/spider/diamond/etc' as it moved across the screen and at one point, my cat Roccu who was sitting next to me seemed to find the images/sounds interesting as well- she stood up and moved her face close to the screen and then tried to pat it.

"The City Lights" by White Stripes- another medium that I had never considered much. For the first parts of the video, I kept trying to understand why the canvas was dripping and kept dripping liquid and that some of the image would disappear as more was created it was only near the end of the film that I realized with was a finger drawing on wet glass. I think I found that the most compelling of all the art I looked at this week because I really kept being pulled in trying to figure out the 'trick'... and even when I learned the trick it still seemed like magic to me.

"Take on Me" by Aha- I originally saw this video when I was a teenager and only now recognize how fundamentally different it was from other music videos from that era. It is hard to describe the way it felt to realize that the images created in this short video and knowing it took almost 3,000 rotoscoped images to fully create the images shown suggests a staggering amount of work- more than most music videos have ever attempted to accomplish- certainly not all... Michael Jackson's Thriller comes to mind as an example of throughout artistic design.

Do any of these videos create a strong reaction within you? What was your favorite? How do you feel about the way the artwork was created? What are your thoughts....

2017/10/09

Research Methodologies


One of the most challenging tasks that educated adults need to undertake is to look critically at the world and media around us. Much of television and the Internet are full of vast numbers of stories on scientific research telling their audience how each of us should eat or drink, rear our children, what to purchase, what medication you must use, and other ‘needed’ information. Many of the studies cited in these shows or ads are groups of data that have been manipulated to suggest the outcome shown so it is not unusual to find ‘studies’ that directly contradict each other or doctors that play fast and loose with manipulated data to push specific product consumption. This only emphasizes the importance of a critical mindset with an understanding of research methods so that an informed decision about any question can be obtained. This short paper will look at three journal articles published in scientific journals and how different way of collecting and aggregating data were used to produce the outcomes described. This paper will focus only on the research methods used, not on the topics researched, however, I chose these three articles in particular because the subjects of race, gender, and the teaching profession were common to all three. (I am sorry that I could only link to one site with the full article- I originally printed out the articles from a library site that I no longer have access to. I can help point you in the right direction if my listings are unable to help- just let me know in the comments.)

My first article choice was published by the European Journal of Teacher Education and is titled “Race and Sex: Teacher’s Views on Who Gets Ahead in Schools”. Research for this article was completed by using a few similar methods to create three different data sources; a large scale postal survey of approximately 13,000 teachers from randomly selected schools, in-depth case studies of 18 schools chosen for the study based on specified guidelines, and several workshop discussions outside school settings that were conducted with specific interested parties. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, the research results were able to be used to aggregate data to look for common or consistent themes in the data collected. It used questionnaires to gather answers to specific inquiry, surveys available to desired communities of interest, and unstructured interviews to gain more information on the answers and additional information on periphery connections. These authors used fairly traditional methods in their research, sticking with specific methods of collection that are scientifically recognized and more likely to pull together an accurate conclusion.

The second article chosen was published in 2000 in the journal Gender and Education and is titled “The Other Side of the Gender Gap”. Research for this article was pulled together using first, an intensive study of one selected school, and then branched out to encompass 15 schools that then used surveys/questionnaires completed by year 11 students of both genders. As an addition to this research, both a comparison of pupil and teacher expectations was completed along with analysis of GCSE results, staff interviews, and classroom observations. Using mostly quantitative methods allowed the researchers to gain information that allowed them to make fairly precise comparisons of data throughout the researched group. However, as this study only used one method of data collection, it has the problem of being fairly limited in how the data collected can be used and extrapolated. Also, for very complex subjects, this research method alone usually is not strong enough to accurately explain those issues.

The last article chosen was published in 2007 in the Cambridge Journal of Education and is titled “‘The Bar is Slightly Higher’: the Perception of Racism in Teacher Education”. As this article discusses research conducted as part of a larger study, there are a fewer research methods discussed. The methods used for this portion of the study were mostly interviews; either face to face, by telephone, or in focus group discussions that explored issues that had arisen from the questionnaire survey or issues that were not able to be addresses in the original questionnaire. For the purposes of data collection for this portion of the project, the research method used was unstructured interviews of 29 selected study participants. Some of the strengths of performing unstructured interviews include; participants can answer open ended questions in depth giving researchers a solid foundation of how the interviewee feels about the subject presented, interviewer can ask more questions or ask for clarifications to avoid misunderstandings, and these types of interviews are most flexible, giving researchers a way to change questions or focus if needed due to the answers provided by participants. However, this form of research method in terms of cost, time consumption, and not using enough participants can result in data that is hard to accurately use or provide meaningful results.

A scholar who is studying topics umbrellaed into the subject of education and sociology (or any subject really) needs to recognize the research methods that are used to collect information as well as the strengths and limitations of each one. Only one journal article that I analyzed above used a few methods that consisted of both qualitative and quantitative criteria making that particular study probably the most accurate and actionable of the three. One aspect of study research that I discovered is that searching for subjects by topic or focus will help narrow your search for relevant articles, but may inadvertently feed the researcher many sources using incomplete or inappropriate methods. It can also cause you to leave a prepared list to find ‘something new’ and as your study commences, the researcher may realize they haven’t left the prepared listing at all- I did. It is fairly valuable then to recognize research methods and be able to quickly determine through a brief reading of the abstract what research might be more pertinent to your study as well as how accurate the methods are in use. This felt like a valuable foray into the beginnings of understanding different research methods and their use.

what are your thoughts on how research is performed? What research methods seem the most accurate to you?

2017/10/08

Grief


Someone once told me that grief hurts so much because it is love that has nowhere to go. The love you have that you want to share is trapped inside you and escapes through your tears and the shaking that those tears create in the rest of your body. Most days I am doing well. I have so many wonderful things happening and I have so much to point to with gratitude and joy. But some days, I find it harder to focus on the good things. I found myself sitting with Bug today watching different pieces of the Harry Potter films and thinking about my grandparents. I thought of my grandmother laughing, serving turkey and gravy to everyone with a dishtowel tucked into her apron. I thought of the look she would get when she would look at me- like I was an amazing treasure in her eyes. I thought of my grandfather and how just a few months ago, I was able to sit next to his hospital bed and hold his hand. I could feel the warmth and strength in it... and also the fragility. When I left to return to Maine I cried, because I was worried it was the last time I would see him alive... and it was.

I have spent much of this evening thinking of both of my grandparents who I didn't get to spend enough of my time with and lost so much time with them that I dearly wish I could have now. So sometimes, I find myself sitting quietly in the dark with the tears running so quickly down my face that everything is a blur and my glasses are too coated to afford vision. And while I sit and pray and feel desperately alone in my grief, I hear the small soft sounds of cat paws. And within a few minutes I am no longer alone. I have Mina glued to my side like coconut oil and Minion's comforting weight upon my lap. I listen to Roccu sitting on the top of the couch behind me, purring fit to burst. And for that moment, the darkness seems to ease and I no longer feel alone. No, I didn't have enough time with my grandparents and I regret that very much. But I am also grateful because I was given more time with them than I might have gotten. Grief is a process and I know I will work through it, but for tonight it holds me in its grip and I will embrace it until I am able to feel the peace enter my heart again. I know I will see them both again someday, but for now that feels like 'some day' too long.

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight... Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight - Barenaked Ladies


2017/09/26

To Copy an Artist- My Take on Kenneth Callahan's "Crow"


A few years ago now- I can't believe its been so long- I went up to Washington to visit with a friend. One of the things I really wanted to do was explore a museum- I haven't gone to one in ages and I also needed to pick a piece of artwork to try and imitate or copy. I looked at so many pieces that I loved and took lots of pictures, but I finally settled on a specific piece by Kenneth Callahan. The piece was a simple picture of a crow, but I will admit it captivated me. The first image is my reproduction of his work - not bad, but clearly not as good.


Here is a photo of the original artwork created by Kenneth Callahan hanging up in the Tacoma Art Museum


2017/09/22

Brief Glimpses into the Lives of Four Women : Dhuoda, Elisabeth of Schonau, Claire of Assisi, and Jacoba Felicie


This week I had the opportunity to read about a few different women from past history. There are very few records of women in history books or documents- the records that do exist give us an insight into the lives of very privileged and/or wealthy women. I have studied history for years and I can spend hours talking about wars, royal genealogies and the stories of women who were European queens... but the lives, choices and stories of the majority of women have rarely been covered or made easily available for study. However, I had the opportunity to read about four particular women this week and I wanted to share a little bit of their stories and talk about some of the differences and similarities in their lives. Many of the comparisons that I make are obviously my opinion as there is very little information to use. Many of my thoughts are guesses and I would love for others to read their stories and tell me what they think of these women and my assessments. I have tried to post links to sites with specific information about these women.

Dhuoda – She is a mother who worries about the world's influence on her son and worries enough that she has written a specific guide hoping that he will carry her words with him as they are no longer together. The name of her 'guide for her son is titled the "Handbook for William". This is the only major text written by a woman to survive from the Carolingian period (generally seen at 750-900 AD.) She expresses a deep love and fear/ belief in a deity and, while she doesn't tell us what religion her beliefs belong to, they are clearly integral to her thoughts and life. She appears to be a strong believer in justice, honor given to your betters (or understanding of hierarchy) as well as chastity.

Elizabeth of Schonau – She was known for her mystical visions and miracles that she performed during her lifetime which is believed to be from 1128-1164. She became a Benedictine nun which tells us that she was a member of the Roman Catholic church and lived in an order that practiced the rules of St. Benedict. She appears to be a woman of some education (although I did discover on doing some research that most of her writing were actually writing down by her brother so I do wonder if she could write…) and she clearly felt very strongly about spiritually calling. She showed a great desire for information from God that could help her in her spiritual journey- she also hoped and prayed for guidance and visions from the Virgin Mary and other saints. She appears to be a strong believer in God, saints, hope, and visionary knowledge.

Claire of Assisi – She was a one of the first followers of St Francis and lived in the church of San Damiano. She created a spiritual community of women and helped write the rules for her created community that followed the ideals of St Francis when it came to finances -absolute poverty was the ideal. This order that was created by her along with the rules she wrote were the first monastic rules that were written by a woman. The ideals and desires of her community to live in absolute poverty was controversial in the church at that time and it took decades for her community to gain papal approval- this approval was only gained two days before she passed away. She lived a devout life and was a strong believer in charity, community, and simpler living.

Jacoba Felicie – She was a women who practiced medicine at a time where women were forbidden to do so. At this time, medical practitioners were trained through informal apprenticeships which were only available for men. As guilds were developed, individuals could be licensed for their medical knowledge which, again, were only available to men. However, Jacoba would examine patients, use herbs and give medicines top patients, and was sometimes paid for her work. (We can’t be sure from the writing that she was paid all the time and I suspect where she wasn’t successful she wasn’t paid.) The documents available suggest that she had been told not to practice medicine before and was being brought up on charges of doing it again… so she was persistent (whether the persistence was from stubbornness, a need for financial stability with no other options, or even a love of her craft we can’t know from the reading.) She was found guilty at the hearing and was excommunicated from the church as well as charged a significant fine. There is no evidence known as to whether she continued to practice after her trial and/ or what the rest of her life was like.

These women had a few things in common. All of them seem to have some sort of religious mindset and lifestyle. Dhouda frequently mentions her spirituality and morals in the letter to her son, Elizabeth is a Benedictine nun which suggests she is a practicing Catholic, Claire of Assisi is a nun in an established order that she helped create under the auspices of the Pope, and Jacoba was known to have said she could heal sick persons if “God is willing.” How they practiced their spiritual and religious lives were different, but each individual clearly felt the mark of deity on her life. Another thing in common was that all four women seems to feel some motivation to help other people- Dhouda wanted to help her son, Elizabeth wanted to share spiritual knowledge to bring people to a belief in the Virgin Mary and Christ, Claire spent her life giving of her time, energy and physical possessions to others, and Jacoba appears to have made healing the pain and illness of other people her life’s work. Each of these women wanted to share something- whether it was love, knowledge or health with someone else. They saw themselves as teachers and mentors to others whether it was by sharing advice, visions, medical care or charity. Each woman was putting herself at risk- whether of punishment or losing respect in the church- for her views and behavior and all managed to do OK in spite of the risks that they took (from what we can tell- Jacoba is a possible exception.)

Some differences seem apparent to me as well although here is where I jump into some real guesswork and the differences that I see may say more about my biases and perspectives than the women I am analyzing. I feel like Dhouda and Elizabeth grew up in different environments and in different ways, but neither individual seemed to have a great deal of confidence in themselves. From reading either their writings or the things written about them, the writings suggest that both were insecure and their self-talk suggests the low esteem they had for themselves. It appears that both Claire and Jacoba felt fairly confident and brave enough to follow their muse. All four women recognized how their gender affected their lives, but Dhouda and Elizabeth needed more encouragement to do the things they wanted to do and felt held back by their sex…. While Claire and Jacoba were clearly also held back in their societies and chosen professions due to being female, but they found ways to accomplish things unacceptable to their sex in spite of the difficulties presented. I am not sure about Jacoba, but the other women made decisions about leaving their pasts aside or the decision was made for them by others. Dhouda had many of her privileges taken away, Claire walked away from her privileged beginnings to recreate her life as she wanted, and Elizabeth left obscurity to become an abbess in a monastery.

We are so lucky to have opportunity to read the writings and thoughts of women from so many centuries ago- doubly so because we have so few surviving records of any women during this time period. Looking at the challenges they faced, I see some similarities between the burdens they worked to overcome and some of the same burdens facing women today. Each of these women tried to be a positive influence towards those they loved and interacted with, but they also worked to survive and thrive within the world they lived in. No matter what gender we each are, that is what each of us is trying to do too : )



2017/09/21

Self Reflection Collage

Here is two views of my finished product:


So here is a copy of my final art project. My silhouette is completed with more emphasis the disparate parts within the body- even though I think that most of the separation is really in my mind and attitude. My body has very little color because while I am not goth, I tend to where only dark colors no matter how often good friends have tried to get me to do otherwise. My hair is stringy and full of curls and craziness because that is the way my hair tends to be which is why it is always tied back and away from my face and skin- because my hair is so crazy I pretty much used gesture to create it while it is pretty obvious in other areas I was more careful with my line drawing. However, I feel more beautiful when it is down, hence, why I tried to leave it down in this work. My hands are folded to not only hold people and things back from me but to hold a book which is my favorite thing to do..... after cats. I am an animal fanatic and I have eight cats, five ferrets, and a hamster- all rescues with the exception of Desdemona the hamster. My son, cats, and reading are the highlights of my world... with an occasional eggnog for a treat. :)

2017/09/20

Short Definitions of Color


Sir Isaac Newton discovered that color is a “direct function of light + that whole light is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow and named that idea/ process ‘the spectrum’. So even when we do not see color I light it is there and is what creates the colors we see- neither exists without the other. When we organize the visible spectrum of color into a circle, we get an image of the conventional color wheel.

There are three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. These colors are colors in their own right… in a sense pure, because you do not have to mix colors to come up with them. There are three secondary colors: orange, green, and violet… which are created with a mixing of two of the primary colors together to create the secondary shade. Intermediate colors are created when we mix primary colors as well as a secondary color that neighbors the primary on the color wheel.

The subtractive process of color mixing happens when we mix colors together from a light color to an end result of black due to the mixing of so many colors- black is the absence of discernible color. In this sense, light seems to also be absent as it cannot radiate any of the colors once they have been mixed to black.

Color saturation refers to the intensity or visible sensation of purity of color. It can also refer to how different a color is from white and the ‘strength’ of its visual ‘pull.’

A complementary color scheme is use in works that use hues of color that lie opposite of each other across the color wheel which helps to make both looks look more intense and to complement each other. When an artist uses this effect, it is called simultaneous contrast due to how the human eye registers and recognizes color and how our brain interprets it. As the retina can only respond to one color at a time, our perceptions of each color seems to be stronger and more highly focused. Analogous color scheme are works that are created using colors that are next to each other on the color wheel… These colors can tend to appear to blend into each other and even bring other views of each color out with the way the light around the work hits and amplifies the images. Analogous colors usually are sorted according to temperature, while complimentary colors tend to be brought out by opposition.

Color can be ‘sorted’ by temperature which is a way of describing the light measured in degrees of Kelvin. An easier way to look at color temperature is to recognize that this is a way to describe the characteristic of light in term for temperature- either warm or cold… or variations of those descriptions.

2017/09/18

Mina Snuggles


I rarely sleep on the couch for many reasons. It is fairly uncomfortable, I tend to feel cold, and as the couch is a major cat stampeding ground I can find myself waking up feeling like a soft mountain being pummeled by the rush of feet and purring... the sound of the pounding of the feet echoing in my ears for minutes afterwards mainly because the stamping tends to continue. The full extent of the stampede tends to start in the kitchen then up the counter onto the stove, then the kitchen table, then the island... then down to the floor and onto the couch, then down the couch and onto the television and a leap to the top of the treadmill with a last drop to the plant table... and then back to the kitchen to start the circuit again. As you can imagine, that kind of behavior is not conducive to sleep. Actually, it is not conducive to doing homework either when you are trying to type as Salem leaps up onto the table leading the others running right over my keyboard. Sometimes their toes rip off keys and my colorful language after some of these episodes is loud and contains lots of sighs and stomping.

But last night I had friends over and, as I had loaned them my bed, the couch had my name on it. And as I settled in, Mina jumped up and squashed herself in between me and the back of the couch. She is a funny cat. She is very hesitant and reticent during the day- many of my good friends who come over often have rarely caught even a glimpse of her. But as soon as the sun is low enough in the sky that dusk has settled she allows herself to wander within eyesight and fairly close to me. And when it is dark and only vampires are up and moving, Mina is at her ease and ready to cuddle, play and purr. She doesn't like to hang out on the bed much though as there are already a few cats stretched out on it every evening. So it felt wonderful to have her come up and squeeze herself in such a small space and quite touching that she would reach out a paw if I started to move or adjust myself to communicate that keeping me close was her fondest wish. That was wonderful and it was with a light heart that I was able to try and fall asleep again after every stampede... for she would reach over and push me down reminding me that my job was to sleep and hold her. A small gift last night. :)

2017/09/13

Light and Dark in Art


As part of my art class, I needed to define a few terms and create an image of the different positions of light and dark with the shading that occurs based on where the light is positioned. Here are some brief definitions or explainations along with the light and shade project.

The difference between the terms tint and shade is how they are used to change color. To change a color’s tint, an artist adds some white to the basic hue. To change a color’s shade, an artist adds black to the basic hue. The tint and shade change depending on how much white or black is added creating a huge variance in colors and their appearance.

The term chiaroscuro is used to describe the effects of light and dark when used to create images. It refers to how the artist balances both light and dark in their creation and how they use this idea to skillfully create the views and ideas that they want the audience to see and comprehend in their work. Using chiaroscuro helps an artist create mood, emotions… even reality and dimension. It can provoke desire and need or even grief, revulsion, or fear. It can be used to emphasize certain aspects in the artwork and hide other areas. Used by a skillful artist, it can create a breathtaking, compelling work of art that draws the audience into the emotions and reality it creates.

Modeling
is the term used to describe the use of chiaroscuro to represent light falling against a curved surface. It is a term that describes the different ways light moves across a round object and how the light hits the object and changes the shadows and the way light makes the object look. The basic ways of modeling includes highlighting, the shadow and core shadow, reflected light and the cast shadow.

Tenebrism is a technique of lighting that makes use of large areas of dark and murky picture contrasted with smaller highly illuminated areas in the work. It is different from chiaroscuro in that the light in tenebrism is used to emphasize objects and create emotion in the work while the use of light in chiaroscuro is used to make the object emphasized more lifelike and natural. Each technique creates the reality and emotion of the art in different ways and help the audience create a different perspective to the work.

Hatching is a technique that uses closely spaced parallel lines in an area to create depth and shadow in an image. The hatching creates dimension in a flat image bring a sense of dimension and reality to the image. Cross hatching is a technique where one set of hatches is crossed at an angle to create darker and ‘deeper’ images and shadow.


2017/09/11

1857 / 2001


Every once in a while, I find that I feel sort of uneasy about church history. It's the feeling that I see something that nobody else recognizes and the wall of silence that it seems to build up around me and others can be a bit uncomfortable. And on this day every year, so many American church members will fill their Facebook walls with images meant to instill patriotism and righteous anger. For some reason this year, it feels harder to watch in silence.

The build up to this day of remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 is pretty big every year. Whether you knew anyone who died in that attack or not, it was a powerful statement and injury on our consciousness. The understanding, motivations, deaths, heroes, and compassion that almost always arise in force during times of great trial was burned into us and whether we agreed with some of the motivating factors or not, we still thought about them, chewed on them, and swallowed the bitter pain of the waste and irrationality of it all.

This day is a tough day for many and an anniversary of trauma and pain. However, for me today is a day of pain not only for the events in 2011, but also the events of the same day in 1857 when the Mountain Meadows massacre was committed.

This date should be imprinted on the soul of every active Mormon member, not for the above mentioned event, but for a massacre perpetuated by our ancestors. This day should be remembered every year for so many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is that to be a member of the LDS church... to embrace the gospel and church history as a strong part of our faith and our testimonies... the stories that we tell ourselves about our faith that are positive, strengthening and heroic.... we cannot be true to ourselves as a religious community if we push our failures under the rug. Take a poll in every ward or branch you attend and you will find the majority of members have heard of the Hauns Mill massacre, but very few have heard of Mountain Meadows. The difference between the two is simple; Hauns Mill was a terrorist act towards members of the LDS faith by outsiders while Mountain Meadows was a terrorist act committed by Mormons towards others. It is one of our community's -and I say 'our' including myself- big embarrassments, an act in itself of terrorism, and an act that no matter how rationalized or justified... is a shame and a sore on the skin of the gospel and the church.

Some people believe that we should not talk of these things and there are many reasonable reasons to not speak. But in our silence, it can cause more difficulty for members and non members alike when they discover this information for themselves and then become part of the festering mass of confusion, anger, shame and betrayal that is found when attempting to reconcile this painful information with their positive experiences with their faith. Some argue that, like reparations for slavery, it is in the past and so it is no longer relevant. For those who say this, may I ask a question?  Look deep into your heart and your memory and think of the sins that you have 'quietly' repented of... or the sins that you have kept to yourself and have hidden from the light... Do you feel that they are now all better?  Do you feel that repentance absolves you of any responsibility to try and fix the harm you have inadvertently caused?  In my mind, repentance is much like a u-turn: when you realize that you are going the wrong way, you repent and turn around.... but that doesn't stop you from having to recover the ground you have traveled. True repentance is a journey, not a magic spell that will apparate you back to where you began when you lost your way. (Although living in the world of Harry Potter would make a few things a tiny bit easier- imagine your few second trip from Maine to Paris for a romantic dinner and then home for work the next day.  :)

While none of us living have primary responsibility for these crimes in the past, I firmly believe that we all have a responsibility to try and continue the process of healing- for the family members, for the ancestors on both sides of the tragedy, and for the continued healing of our present community. I hope that next year, maybe a few more people will remember this date for more than just the attack in New York. I hope that more people will pray and remember Mountain Meadows and that even good, kind and godly people can make a mistake in ignorance, anger and fear. Remember that all of us are capable of horrible things in the grip of many negative emotions such as anger and fear. May we spend the day in remembrance and good works. Today is an important day....

2017/09/10

My Copy of a Master: Leonardo Davinci

I tried to copy a plant from Leonardo Davinci's plant series:


Here is my attempt in light pencil:


Sorry its a little difficult to see....

Here's another try at clarity

2017/09/09

Gesture/ Figure Drawing

I need some good critique because I do not feel like I have this idea down at all. I ended up moving to newspaper for more practice with charcoal because I was going through charcoal and paper like tap water. So I feel like I have practice but i do not feel like I really have the full idea of gesture at all. I think that part of it is that I do not feel able to ignore all detail. Even when I think that I am, I look at the finished product and realize I have added detail. I used one of my pets sitting in a chair as a model as well as the figure and gesture site attached to the homework site. I only used charcoal and I picked what i thought was the 'best' of the dozens I completed.






2017/09/08

Melancholy


Today I feel very tired. I feel a bit burned out, exhausted, and just 'blah.' I enjoyed listening to some films tonight while making crayons for my son for his sleepover tomorrow. He has been so excited for me to make them so I am pretty pleased to be able to give him some tomorrow. I have been so busy with school and work and everything else that I haven't made any in months and it was wonderful to watch the wax melt and turn into pools of thick, lush liquid. When I poured it into the molds, I watched them fill up and thought about how they would look when they were done. And then I rested and here I sit, drinking chamomile tea and listening to the sounds of birds outside and purring from the cats sitting beside me inside. I am so tired and have so much to do... but I am thankful for an early night and peaceful thoughts. Even if the rest of my body is tired, I have so much to think about and be grateful for. I know that the exhaustion and the melancholy will pass... So for tonight, I have enough.

2017/09/04

20 2x2 Squares Created with Pencil, Sharpie (Fine and Ultra Fine), Charcoal and X-Acto Knife

I took an art class a little while ago and I had quite a bit of fun with it. For the next week or so, I'll try to post my work in this class for criticism and comment. This was one of my very first assignments that I was given which was to explore the differences and capabilities of the different materials that had been required for the class. So here is my completed assignment. I liked it so much that I still have it and it is displayed on my wall. It felt a little scary and exciting to try and create something like this and I am grateful for the class which forced me to try. That way I had to push myself past my feelings of intimidation and fear if I wanted to try and pass the class. It ended up being quite a bit of fun overall. :)

2017/08/21

Today's Brain Gunk


It's funny how life drags you into the minutia of living and you can allow yourself to be distracted by it all. Classes, health and recent events have left me feeling strained and weak. I feel powerless to change the political direction that my country appears to be firmly headed toward- fascism is an horrific, ugly form of authoritarian nationalism and racial hatred that should appall each of us... yet for many, this form of government seems to be desired. Up here in New England where there is less diversity, there appears to be less conflict. Yet, I still see some of my neighbors who fly a Confederate flag and post images of the flag on their Facebook wall. In a discussion on how to celebrate Black history month next year with a few friends, the issue of possible conflict due to celebrating it was brought up and I am so sad about that. The reasons that I feel sorrow are two-fold. I can't believe I live in a world where celebrating Black history is controversial, but also that I found myself trying to find a way to celebrate such a wonderful part of our American cultural heritage without celebrating it so openly that someone might be offended. I sit here a bit ashamed of myself for my fear and lack of energy to advocate better for friends and people other than myself and my major desire when I pray these days is that I can find the strength to be a better advocate for others, but also to find a way to advocate that I can do over an extended period of time- rather than just a one time protest. I pray for the strength and will to participate in the long fight that is clearly before us.

Today I cleaned, completed homework, and did all sorts of necessary minutia and needful things while going out during the afternoon to try and see the eclipse. I am so far north and out of the path that I really didn't see anything. I could feel the temperature lower and the shadows during the day deepen, but the sun never seemed to change shape. The pictures that people are posting on social media sites are simply phenomenal though. I think there is another eclipse in 2024... maybe I will be better placed then.

The summer semester is drawing to a close and the fall semester is getting ready to commence. As I get ready to close on semester and embark on another, I have many thoughts. One of which is that I need to start writing again because I get so much enjoyment out of it. Currently, I feel like my life can be described in one word- exhaustion. I'd like to keep working to change that. So I think I need to add a little more fun time in my life. I have enjoyed reading, creating art, and other hobbies in the past and I have let most of that fall aside with the daily demands of other priorities. I think its time to create more time to enjoy things within my daily 'to do' list. So watch out - I may start boring the world with more cat pictures. :)

2017/03/25

Habit Energy


If you are anything like me and have anxiety, sometimes I find myself doing things over and over for the comfort and the release from the anxiety that follows me everywhere. I clean, spend time on the treadmill, clean some more, homework, then clean some more... you can probably sense the pattern fairly quickly. I find the most relief when I am cleaning, on the treadmill or sleeping... and that's about it. Weekends are spent working on schoolwork or teaching classes and so I am sitting continuing to work on book analysis, lesson plans, and climate change discussions...... and I came upon this quote.

Trying to change our habits is hard...
Pick one thing to start...
Then do one more thing.


I have read this quote a few times in the last few weeks and I always find myself pondering it and really thinking about how I can apply in in my life. I have been trying to make small financial changes as well as conservation changes for the earth as well, but I would like to take this advice to try and change some of my personal compulsions.

When you read this quote, what comes immediately to your mind? What would you like to change? Where would you start?

2017/03/16

The Redwall Series- by Brian Jacques

Brian Jacques is a fairly prolific author and has written over twenty books in his 'Redwall' series. Bug and I have been reading them together and a world that is encompassed by animals and run by them is loads of fun. I can be challenging- this word contains the same problems or human world does and is filled with war, treachery, poverty, etc... On a positive notes, it contains all the positives that we also enjoy: love, family, friendship, bravery and more. This post will start by listing his titles in the Redwall series.


1. Redwall
2. Mossflower
3. Mattimeo
4. Mariel of Redwall
5. Salamandastron
6. Martin the Warrior
7. The Bellmaker
8. Outcast of Redwall
9. Pearls of Lutra
10. The Long Patrol
11. Marlfox
12. The Legend of Luke
13. Lord Brocktree
14. Taggerung
15. Triss
16. Loamhedge
17. Rakkety Tam
18. High Rhulain
19. Eulalia
20. Doomwyte
21. The Sable Queen
22. The Great Redwall Feast
23. A Redwall Winter’s tale
24. The Redwall Cookbook
25. Redwall: The Graphic Novel
26. The Legend of Redwall Abbey
27. Songs of Redwall

He also has a few other books that are members of smaller series or are stand alone novels. Here they are:

1. Castaways of the Flying Dutchman
2. The Angel’s Command
3. Voyage of Slaves

1. The Tale of Urso Brunov
2. Urso Brunov and the White Emperor

Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales
The Ribbajack

What are your thoughts?


pictures from: http://redwall.wikia.com/wiki/Brian_Jacques, https://books.google.com/books?id=x_7D6k-224EC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false, https://books.google.com/books/about/Redwall.html?id=vKGPDAAAQBAJ&source=kp_cover&hl=en, http://www.somagames.com/redwall-and-some-ground-rules/

2017/03/14

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Review



Our protagonist, Christopher John Francis Boone, is our eyes and ears in this heart-rending tale of mystery, deceit and disability. Written in journal form, this novel tells the reader about Christopher as he attempts to solve a mysterious death of a dog and, through those investigations, discovers more about himself and the people in his life than he ever imagined.

This book begins with Christopher’s discovery of his neighbor’s poodle, who has been murdered; he discovers the dog bleeding on the ground with a pitchfork through its body. The reader then learns that Christopher lives alone with his father, that his mother is dead, that one of his neighbors has gone missing as well, and that he attends a special school where he does very well at math and is hoping to take A levels at some point. Determined to discover who killed his neighbor’s dog, he starts a journal to write down the clues he finds and to keep better track of the things he is thinking. While he is casually questioning the neighbors, one neighbor admits that Christopher’s mother had an affair with someone else from the neighborhood and, as Christopher continues to investigate, he learns that his father has lied to him- his father not only killed the dog, but he learns that his mother is actually still alive and is living in London with the missing neighbor. These discoveries are so hard on him that he runs away after a confrontation with his father and manages, with much luck and difficulty, to make it to his mother’s apartment. The story ends with Christopher’s father trying to regain lost trust and his mother single again with all parties trying to figure out how to live with and understand each other.

This novel is steeped in the challenges inherent in the lives of individuals with high functioning autism and/or Asperger’s syndrome: A pervasive developmental disorder in which the affected individual displays unusual nonverbal communication, difficulties with empathy and understanding the emotions of others, and other mental and physical symptoms. This particular book has many potential uses for a general education teacher. A teacher can use the texts to discuss different ways of thinking in general and autism in particular. Discussion of emotions, how they are expressed, and how we as individuals ‘read’ people’s emotions is also possible. As the protagonist writes the ‘story’ in journal form, creative writing about the students’ own lives could be encouraged as well. (One assignment could be for the student to write about how they would end the story after only reading the first two chapters. Another option could be writing about what metaphors are and why they can be confusing to someone with a logical mind.) Discussions of math and maps would also be relevant and assignments meant to enhance a student’s knowledge of these subjects would be worthwhile.

Giving this novel an overall rating is a bit challenging, but I finally settled on four stars. This book does several things very well: the protagonist is rather sweet and engaging and the reader finds themselves anxious to follow him through his life. We genuinely worry about him even though Christopher probably wouldn’t be able to acknowledge our concerns. The novel’s prose manages to let the characters express their emotions clearly even though the anger, fear, sadness, and frustration are never explicitly articulated. Through the actions and journal entries shared by Christopher, the reader is able to casually absorb information about Asperger’s syndrome and some of the challenges it can cause for individuals who live with this particular disability. The novel is well- written and the plot feels fairly flawless and begs us to understand and be patient with our protagonist as he navigates his challenges. However, while the written and sometimes strong language brings about positive reflection and understanding of the story, it also can turn off a reader and make it more challenging for some individuals to be willing to complete the book. The adult themes are appropriate- Christopher is 15 years old, after all- but these themes can also offend the reader or invite censorship. While this book is meant for young adults, its themes and plotline can be quite challenging for any reader including adults. This book has won awards for its storytelling including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, Costa Book of the Year, the Boeke Prize, and the Waverton Good Read Award. I highly recommend this well-written novel by Mark Haddon for mature young adults and older students for an entertaining and educational read.


pictures from: http://www.benjaminmadeira.com/2014/09/analysis-haddon-mark.html, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/heads-up-the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time-7856401.html, https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/reading-guides/2016/nov/23/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time-mark-haddon/

2017/03/04

The Three Investigator Series - In Order


I loved this series when I was a young girl and I have been re-reading it as an adult for fun and still enjoy them today... even if they 'feel' more simplistic and formulaic to me. I recommend them for children ages 9-13. The series has been written by few different authors; the most prolific are Robert Arthur, William Arden and M.V. Carey. This series had a great appeal when it was originally being written and was translated into several languages and countries. These stories feature three male teenagers who form a club to investigate mysteries they discover in their communities. The boys- Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw each have different strengths and knowledge which compliment each other as they work together on the 'puzzles' they discover- their motto is "We Investigate Anything.". Alfred Hitchcock, the famous movie director was also a character in the books as a mentor to the boys in the first two dozen titles, but never actually have much to do with the books- he was simply paid to have his name and image put on them. However, I will admit that I love reading his dialogue with the boys... even if it really isn't his words at all. :)

1. The Secret of Terror Castle
2. The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
3. The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy
4. The Mystery of the Green Ghost
5. The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure
6. The Secret of Skeleton Island
7. The Mystery of the Fiery Eye
8. The Mystery of the Silver Spider
9. The Mystery of the Screaming Clock
10. The Mystery of the Moaning Cave
11. The Mystery of the Talking Skull
12. The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow
13. The Secret of the Crooked Cat
14. The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon
15. The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints
16. The Mystery of the Nervous Lion
17. The Mystery of the Singing Serpent
18 The Mystery of the Shrinking House
19. The Secret of Phantom Lake
20. The Mystery of Monster Mountain
21. The Secret of the Haunted Mirror
22. The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle
23. The Mystery of the Invisible Dog
24. The Mystery of Death Trap Mine
25. The Mystery of the Dancing Devil
26. The Mystery of the Headless Horse
27. The Mystery of the Magic Circle
28. The Mystery of the Deadly Double
29. The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow
30. The Secret of Shark Reef
31. The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar
32. The Mystery of the Blazing Cliffs
33. The Mystery of the Purple Pirate
34. The Mystery of the Wandering Cave Man
35. The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale
36. The Mystery of the Missing Mermaid
37. The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon
38. The Mystery of the Smashing Glass
39. The Mystery of the Trail of Terror
40. The Mystery of the Rogues' Reunion
41. The Mystery of the Creep-Show Crooks
42. The Mystery of Wreckers' Rock
43. The Mystery of the Cranky Collector
Extra : The Three Investigators' Book of Mystery Puzzle

If you have also enjoyed this series, which book was your favorite? Any particular critique? I have started to collect the books again and have been introducing them to Bug and hoping he will start to explore them as well... he may not as they do not tend to have enough animals in them. So I'll have to enjoy them on my own. :)





pictures from: http://www.threeinvestigatorsbooks.com/index.html, http://www.threeinvestigatorsbooks.com/Greenghost.html


2017/02/27

Sabbath Musings...


Yesterday was the Sabbath and I found myself once again thinking about the different ways that I worship on the Sabbath in comparison to how so many of my spiritual friends do. I found myself thinking about why I have chosen to worship and study this in this manner and found myself wondering how the different choices and things that have happened to come about in my life have caused this breach... so that I have a very different environment but emotionally similar experience to those who formally attend I have come to recognize the stereotypes by which I am judged by my spiritual family- I can recognize and even acknowledge that some of the stereotypes are potentially true if looked at through a very rigid black and white lens. For other stereotypes, I cannot recognize how they fit in my life or experience and so I find myself forced to either ignore or combat them in conversation and every day life. In the way they frame myself my house so recognizes stereotypes it or not true and yet I'm must live them because I am judged by them whether they are true or not. For in the end, I will not stereotype myself but it is beyond my control how people form opinions. So I find myself rethinking and reliving and re-analyzing conversations over the last few years... conversations online or by phone in which I have used the words that sometimes "church is unsafe" and I am immediately and simply told that 'you are offended' and I should chose not to be... How can anyone adequately respond to this accusation to anyone who can confuse the ideas of safety and offense to be one and the same? If you haven't even explained what made the area unsafe to you, what can you say at that point... for the die is cast and the judgment is there and nothing you can say will change the mind of the other. It will simply become more evidence for the case of offense. In essence, the conversation is over with both sides feeling unheard and for the 'offended', the trust to try and engage in the conversation again with anyone may be gone as well.

For many of us, the definition of safety is clear. If you are in an unsafe place, you must leave. If you find yourself standing in the middle of a busy highway, you shouldn't stay. If you are in a place where you are being hit or knocked down, emotionally abused or neglected... well, this is unacceptable. You must leave, you must try to find a way to leave if it is possible. And if it is possible you must 'MUST' try to take others with you if the situation is unsafe for them. You having a moral imperative... you owe your Heavenly parents and your spiritual siblings that much... to try not to leave them in the same situation. How many mothers who are experiencing partner abuse and then find a way to leave do not take their children with them (very few). And in the legal sense, taking their children with them when they run can cause courts to give custody over to the abusive parent (even with clear evidence that the parent is abusive) under the excuse of 'parental alienation'... the word alienation seems appropos to this conversation as well.

As I lay awake this morning, I found myself thinking about a discussion I had almost a year ago about safety and offense. The conversation was initiated by me and was clearly focused on safety... that I didn't necessarily feel safe at church. Within seconds, I noticed that, instead of trying to find out why I felt that way, the conversations very quickly boiled down the idea that I was offended. Only when I suggested that it was 'interesting' that safety and offense were being confused as having the same meanings did the individual step back and then ask the important question- "What is happening, going on that makes you feel unsafe?" By time the conversation moved to that point and due to the forum it was in I didn't answer that question even though the answer sat on the tip of my tongue begging to be spilled out and hopeful of being comforted and even having the situation changed. Over the last year, I have listened to many others talk about the same situations in their lives and watched how only in safe areas they are able to talk and feel comfort, to get suggestions on change and to feel validated and recognized as a person of value. Outside of these safe places, I have rarely seen that- not in my life or in the lives of others that I can participate in. Safety is immediately equated with offense and the cycle of pain continues. I have even seen family members encourage other family members to stay in abusive situations because of this exact problem and only the release of fairly damning and devastating pictures of the physical abuse has been able to change their minds. If you are unable or unwilling to 'blast' these pictures into the world, you are stuck in this impasse in which so many forms of abuse can still continue unchecked. Over the last year, only one thing has become more focuses and clear- that the general unreligious population that surrounds me as well as some other religious populations do not immediately equate safety and offense. What I have seen is that only Mormons and evangelicals too. It goes without saying that this is not a formal study- simply an observation... but it has made me curious. Like a child with a scab half removed, I find myself aching to rip it off and discover why this is so... what is happening under the rough surface and why. I wish I had a quick answer but I am still chewing on this thought and would love more imput on it. What I did discover as I thought of this is that there is some initial evidence that LDS leaders can confuse the two terms as well... or at least use them in the same conversation which can confuse the issue. A three minute search turned up these quotes:

Elder Bednar - "When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else."

Elder Morrison - "Unfortunately, racism—the abhorrent and morally destructive theory that claims superiority of one person over another by reason of race, color, ethnicity, or cultural background—remains one of the abiding sins of societies the world over. The cause of much of the strife and conflict in the world, racism is an offense against God and a tool in the devil’s hands. In common with other Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regret the actions and statements of individuals who have been insensitive to the pain suffered by the victims of racism and ask God’s forgiveness for those guilty of this grievous sin. The sin of racism will be eliminated only when every human being treats all others with the dignity and respect each deserves as a beloved child of our Heavenly Father."

LDS.org - "Abuse is the treatment of others or self in a way that causes injury or offense. It harms the mind and the spirit and often injures the body as well. It can cause confusion, doubt, mistrust, and fear. It is a violation of the laws of society and is in total opposition to the teachings of the Savior. The Lord condemns abusive behavior in any form—physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional. Abusive behavior may lead to Church discipline."

Matthew 18:6 - "But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

President Joseph F. Smith - "We hold that sexual sin is second only to the shedding of innocent blood in the category of personal crimes. … We proclaim as the word of the Lord: “Thou shalt not commit adultery."....It is a deplorable fact that society persists in holding women to stricter account than men in the matter of sexual offense. What shadow of excuse, not to speak of justification, can be found for this outrageous and cowardly discrimination?"

Elder Packer - "But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiled someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back. There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to."

D&C 54:5 - "And woe to him by whom this offense cometh, for it had been better for him that he had been drowned in the depth of the sea."

Vaughn Featherstone - "The teacher or leader must not only be first in knowledge, in prophecy, and in understanding the mysteries, but he must also be first in performance. I believe that it is not only an offense to the people but also an offense to God when priesthood leaders, teachers, and members of the Church never really get down and serve the people, do not do their duty, do not magnify their callings, and do not fill their stewardships. We ought to bend our backs in our callings in such a way that our words and teachings are always racing to keep up with our acts. In this way we will never become what the Savior referred to as “whited sepulchers”."

President Heber J. Grant - “We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that murder, treason, robbery, theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed; and for the public peace and tranquility, all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment."

Sarah Miller - "Forgiveness is often difficult because offenders may deny their behavior or avoid acknowledging it. Regardless of how the offender responds—even if the perpetrator does not admit responsibility—the person who has been abused can choose to forgive. It is important to note that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting the offense, trusting the offender, or even associating with him or her. However, it does mean letting go of self-destructive anger."

LDS.org - “No man who abuses his wife or children is worthy to hold the priesthood of God. No man who abuses his wife or children is worthy to be a member in good standing in this Church. The abuse of one’s spouse and children is a most serious offense before God, and any who indulge in it may expect to be disciplined by the Church”

I intentionally did not pick and choose- rather, I choose these quotes as they cropped up. Some suggest a definition of the word offense which feels more typical, while others do use the word in to describe behavior in situations that are clearly unsafe. In my mind, racism in many forms makes a congregation unsafe for people of color... and homophobic language and behavior can cause our congregations to be unsafe for it's LGBTQI members. Abuse is a safety issue to me... anything that causes real injury is a safety issue and if we admit that behavior has happened in which we 'cannot mend what has been broken', I think it is safe to say that isn't general offense in any use of the word. So, maybe I am splitting hairs or being too particular about how I think about these things, but this is how I think about things. I found out a while ago about a ward that had a convicted pedophile attending and it was decided to not tell anyone outside of a few people in the ward so that he wouldn't be 'judged'... but these same men who kept it quiet allowed other people to let this man spend time alone with their children... yet quickly removed their children from these situations. IS this a safety issue... Well, if you feel the need to remove your own children, but ignore the potential for other children... then yes it is a safety issue and you as the authority holder are complicit in any harm caused.

If you get physical sick going into a building almost every time, it is a safety issue and not offense.

If you are targeted by a member of the church who intentionally over a significant period of time does thinks to cause physical harm to you and your family, who will not quit when confronted and you are then told you need to forgive... while the same bullying behavior is being repeated and condoned... that is a safety issue- period.

If you have authority and use your authority to harm others even when shown evidence of the harm you are causing, that is a safety issue.

What this exercise has given me is a few thoughts. I am able to recognize that some things I am holding onto are because the 'offense' was pretty painful, but not necessarily a safety issue... in that sense, I will admit to being offended. However, in the end, safety is a priority and there is simply too much at risk for me at this point. I may be seen as offended... so I guess I will accept that. I will admit that this new realization brings no joy with it. More thought and prayer will be added to the equation, but I see no change ahead. Maybe that is a good thing as people who say they are friends also judge and disappear. The people who have been the most loyal to me in this life have rarely been found in spiritual communities, but have been found in the living of my daily life... through a stopped car on the road, a co-worker who is friendly, a letter from a distance challenged friend speaking of love and encouragement.... these are the friends and community best nurtured and kept close. Maybe spiritually is best kept between you and the Lord, with study and prayer and revelation... where safety is easily found and offense can be more appropriately wrestled with as a key to understanding yourself and not a judgement made in dismissal. Maybe...