Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Soap needed

I was talking to a young woman today who mentioned that her boyfriend liked to come over on certain days of the week.  Coincidentally that seems to be the days that pro-wrestling is on T.V. and that is what he wants to watch.  Makes you wonder if he doesn't have a T.V. or something.  But, hey, let's give him the benefit of the doubt, he may enjoy watching it with her young son.  Her son initially scoffed at all the drama "and too much boring talking" in the pro-wrestling.  Now, however he is starting to enjoy it she says.  She called wrestling a "Men's soap opera". Nice.

That caught my attention.  Being a Manly Man myself (and not a pro-wrestling fan) I wondered what it is that appeals to men about pro-wrestling.  I recalled being a boy and a teenager and watching pro wrestling but I couldn't get into it too much (at least that is how I remember it now).  I Do remember Andre the Giant however who was more famous for his role in The Princess Bride.


The show that most resembled a soap opera that I watched with my mother as a child was Dark Shadows.  I don't remember much about it except that Barnabas Collins was the main character and it was a black and white show, a little scary and about a vampire.  (I guess what comes around goes around, now we are back to vampires in the Twilight Series.)

Many shows have elements of soap operas, some more some less.  Even life has a little bit of soap opera in it.  Sometimes a man's old girlfriend does marry his brother, or you find out you are related to someone you either hate or love or possibly you find that the person you married is really the sister of the woman you loved and you have to work 8 years to marry her too! (Remember that one from the scriptures?)

But most often life isn't a soap opera but is doing normal stuff over and over and working hard and relaxing sometimes and vacations don't come around often enough and ice cream melts too quickly in the summer and most often people are loyal to each other without causing a lot of drama.  Soap operas just take a little part of reality and make it seem like it is the whole of reality, isn't that the definition for exaggeration. 

I'm reminded of a time when Lisa and I were engaged or first married, I can't remember which.  The evening soap opera "Dallas" was popular and Lisa had a shirt that said "I love Dallas" with a heart replacing the word 'love'.  She loved me is what the shirt meant.  We were walking one day and overheard someone who couldn't believe she liked that television show.  They just didn't know me.  In life people do choose to love each other and even though hurts do happen with those whom we love, it most often isn't done on purpose or in such spectacular manner as shown on T.V. 

I don't like it when shows slip into soap opera drama.  I prefer the mystery, the tracking of the bad guys or the emergency room scenes.  But letting your emotions run so rampant that you don't consider the consequences or don't care who you hurt to get what you want... Well it happens but it isn't very much a part of the reality I live.  Maybe that's why I like Elder Maxwell's quote about Soap opera's (click here for whole talk)

"Yet we must not be intimidated or lose our composure even though the once morally unacceptable is becoming acceptable, as if frequency somehow conferred respectability!...Today, lust openly parades as love, license cleverly poses as liberty, and raucous sounds mockingly masquerade as music. Evil even calls itself good and often gets away with it!...We are lathered with soap operas in need of nothing so much as soap—for the scrubbing of themselves! Some seriously maintain that media violence and sleaze leave consumers untouched. But revenue is received from commercials precisely because of their influence. Either we deserve reforms, or sponsors deserve refunds! (Keep in mind this talk was given in 1993.)

Life is not a soap opera, so don't wish it were because life is much gentler and much kinder per minute than soap operas.  And life is much more worthwhile than soap operas.  Let's keep it that way. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Can the law keep up?

The following paper came across my desk at work and gave some information about some new synthetic drugs that I had only heard about.  This gave me a lot more information and I felt like it would be good for people, especially parents to have this information to recognize what is or was a legal drug available in stores.  Read if you want to be able to know what is going on. 
"Spice" is an interesting name that is commonly used for it as it is reminiscent of the novel Dune written by Frank Herbert.  It was made into a movie by the same name.  There were several sequels to the book.  In the book spice was a drug that was used by the people commonly. 

Synthetic Marijuana

Clicking on the picture will take you to a website that will give you additional information.

     I was recently asked to help advise a subcommittee of the Virginia Senate for a new bill they are planning on passing to make it illegal to possess and distribute the new synthetic cannabis products.  These artificial marijuana products go by the names of "Spice" and "K2".  They are sold quite legally because they contain chemicals that have not yet been made illegal.  I had to do quite a lot of research to be able to advise the panel.  Here is some of the information I found out about the new synthetic marijuana products:
  • These products are being widely used, especially by young people.  Many of my patients report either that they have used them or they know people who do.
  • There are coffee shops and other places that are openly allowing these products to be used; some are even supplying the smoking paraphernalia like pipes and hookahs.
  • The products are very available to purchase online and in local head shops and even tobacco shops.
  • They are sometimes being used instead of natural marijuana because they will not usually cause a positive drug test.  Some new drug tests are being developed to test for these new products.
  • No one really knows what is in each product.  Each manufacturer puts in whatever they believe will sell more of their product.  There is no quality control.  Each batch is different.
  • Many consumers seem to believe they are buying and using a ”natural” product. Some companies even claim that these products are natural and therefore they are healthy and good for you.
  • The main ingredients are not “herbal products” at all, but chemicals sprayed onto a variety of plant materials.
  • The chemicals used have names like cannabicyclohexanol, JWH-018, JWH-073, and HU-210.  Most were synthesized in the lab as experimental drugs for research. They were never intended to be used in an unsupervised way. The safety margins between a safe dose and a toxic dose have not been established.
  • These drugs attach to the brain’s cannabis receptors. Some are reported to be more than 500 times as potent as THC.
  • While they do work on the cannabis receptors in the brain, most of the chemicals also work on other parts of the brain and we don’t yet know anything about these other effects.
  • There are a number of adverse effects reported from these drugs. Emergency rooms are reporting a large increase in visits for patients with toxic effects.  At low doses, they seem to cause an increase in heart rate, anxiety, and aggression.  At higher doses, there are reports of overdose, confusion, seizures, psychosis, and suicidality.
  • Some therapists are reporting that clients are relapsing using these products.  Some of the clients believe that they haven’t relapsed because these are natural products and are not against the law.
  • There is no way for consumers to tell what drugs are actually in the products they are smoking.
     So the question is: what should be done about these new synthetic marijuana products?  When it comes to the legal issues associated with substances of abuse, there are a number of points of view and a number of factors to be considered.  On the one, hand it is true that criminalizing marijuana and other drugs has not led to dramatic reductions in their use.  It is certainly true that the criminal element does get involved with the whole drug business and this has its own set of serious problems.  It is also true that people who want to use drugs are very resourceful and will usually find ways around most of the barriers that society puts up to stop them. On the other hand, these are new chemicals and we have no realistic idea just how they work, what are their adverse effects, or what are their toxic doses. They may easily cause permanent brain damage or have other serious long-term consequences.

     So, from a legal standpoint, there are only a couple of options. We could allow them to be legal and have them be controlled by some kind of state agency.  But this is simply not realistic at this point.  We don’t know enough about the chemicals themselves, and if one of these products was later found to have serious adverse effects, it would be disastrous.  We could look the other way and allow these products to be used in the way that they are currently being used.  But this option suffers from the same problems as legalization.  We just don’t know enough.  We are also in danger of sending a powerful unhealthy message – not just that we can’t control drug use, but that we have given up trying and that we don’t care.

     The only real option at this point in time, in my opinion, is to make these products illegal.  We need to accept that our attempts to make them illegal will be met with counter measures from the drug manufacturers and the users themselves.  It is an ongoing cat and mouse game that will never end, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  As a society, we need to stand for the fact that there are products out there that are not good for us.  We should definitely study these products.  The more we learn about them, the more we will understand about drugs of abuse and the whole process of addiction.  We may even find that some of these products are quite safe and some may have therapeutic benefits that far outweigh their risks.

Peter R. Coleman, M.D. 
Posted by The Coleman Institute (Click here for more information about the institute)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guest Blog: Thanksgiving in March

I must confess I've been pretty stressed out lately, in several different areas of my life.  Stress--as I learned years ago while still an undergraduate studying psychology--can even come from positive events.  I find that lately, this is definitely proving true for me.

I am a middle school guidance counselor.  Among my other responsibilities, I am our school testing coordinator for those ofttimes irksome benchmark tests all states are required to administer to their students.  This spring, we will be administering all our state tests online for the first time.  It will save a lot of headaches during testing, and a ton of work afterward, but there's a lot of extra work for me to do and new information for me to organize and manage up front.  I'm also responsible for scheduling, which includes crafting the master schedule as well as scheduling students.  Just a month or so ago, our school board voted to operate our middle and high schools on a block schedule beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.  I think it's a good decision, but it also means I have a lot of new things to learn and implement in order to be ready for school opening this fall.

At church, I'm accustomed to holding multiple callings simultaneously.  Until recently, I held four callings at once: first counselor in our ward primary presidency, choir accompanist, ward music chairman, and sacrament meeting organist.  But my new calling--stake Young Women president--keeps me busier than the four callings I held a few short months ago combined!  Part of it is probably the learning curve I'm facing, but I can see that this is a calling that will continue to be demanding, even after I get the nuts and bolts down. 

I also have concern about my parents' health.  My dad is still in the hospital following a head injury sustained in a fall on Thanksgiving Day last year.  He's made some slow progress in his recovery, but nothing at the light speed I sometimes wish for.  Since my dad was her full-time caregiver, his fall has left my mom in circumstances even more challenging than those she's grown accustomed to since multiple sclerosis left her a quadriplegic several years ago.  I'm not close enough geographically to be much help to my parents or to my two sisters, who shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of making sure my parents have the care they need, and of juggling their resources.

One day recently, I pulled my van into the driveway after a long and tiring day at work overseeing the administration of those pesky Standards of Learning tests.  As I walked into the house I could see the message light on the phone was blinking, indicating that somebody somewhere wanted something from me.  I had a big stake youth activity looming on the weekend, and knew I'd have to go back out later that evening and do all the shopping for it.  I plodded into the house, feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained as I trudged up the stairs to the living room.

All of a sudden, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of gratitude wash over me.  I felt gratitude that I have a house to come home to.  I felt gratitude that I am able to actually walk into my home on my own two feet, under my own power.  I felt gratitude to know that people I love and care about live here with me, and others who no longer live here still think of it as home.  I fell to my knees at the top of the stairs and sobbed out my thanks to my Father in Heaven.

So my job is stressful--but I have a job!  And it's a job I enjoy; one that comes with a good schedule, a short commute, and an opportunity to help other people.  My church calling is stressful too.  But I don't have to fulfill it alone.  I have a wonderful counselor and secretary, a phenomenal stake camp director, and best of all, a Heavenly Father who wants to help me carry out my responsibilities and learn to love his daughters so that they can be blessed.  And I've been privileged to recognize many tender mercies in my parents' current circumstances which have reminded me that God remains mindful of them, as He does each of us.

So it looks like I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving at least twice this year.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Song of Simplicity by Elijah Bossenbroek

Many years ago I used to work in a psychiatric hospital where one of the things that we did was provide some relaxation therapy for people.  I started paying attention to music that had the ability to catch a person who was in a moderate to high state of tension and anxiety and to bring them down to a calmer and peaceful state.  I no longer do that but I thought that this song would be one that could produce that effect.

The Song of Simplicity by Elijah Bossenbroek:
 Warning--this song shows a husband kissing his wife's bare pregnant stomach if that bothers you go to the next video.  

The video that goes along with this seems to give additional meaning to the song.  As if life is a circle a simple circle where we are born then live our life and come to a point where we do our life's work.  But ultimately as we fall in love, marry and then have a child it begins that process over again for a new generation.

Here's a version of the song with just a picture, no video.

Enjoy the song. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teach or Protect

I was reading Hilary's blog entitled Help a Brother Out (click to go to it) and it occurred to me that of the parents she had mentioned, one had taught their child and the other had protected their child.

Protecting your child:  As parents that is one of our mandates is to protect our children.  But there are times and ages when protecting them is not healthy and doesn't prepare them for the future or better equip them for life.  As a matter of fact protecting them from consequences of their actions is often enabling them to continue with bad habits or poor choices.  When we protect them, not only allows them to continue without consequences, but gives them the message that it is acceptable or even preferable to avoid them or find others to take responsibility for their actions.  What follows is blame.  "It's my parents fault, It's my spouses fault, it's anybodys fault except mine."

In my line of work I see lots of parents who enable their children and protect them from things that they think their children do not deserve or cannot handle.  It is of key importance to note that when we protect our children (sometimes even if that is the right choice) they will often see it or feel it as an admission by the parent that they are incapable of learning the lesson, accepting the consequences or that they are not good enough.  After all if the parent needs to step in to protect or excuse them then they must not be good enough to get it.  That can lead to a feeling of entitlement or "I shouldn't have to be held responsible or accountable for my actions".  Conversely when we let them reap as they have sown we show trust that they are capable of learning, have adequate maturity to learn the hard lessons and that they are growing up. 


The other option as a parent is to teach them with tools that they can use and adapt to future experiences that prepares them for the rest of their life.  This reminds me of the quote by Joseph Smith "Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." As parents we need to teach them lasting principles that will have application throughout their lives rather than limited application principles that weaken them and ill-prepare them for the future.  Naturally the timing of "letting them govern themselves" is important as well.

So the difficulty for the parent then is determining what is the best solution to the current situation. Teaching lasting principles, quite frankly, is usually more difficult.  As a small example for little children, teaching them to pick up their own toys rather than just do it ourselves can be a difficult choice.

As parents we need to look to the day when we are out of business as a parent and train/prepare our children to parent themselves with that goal in mind.  I realize that making that statement as a man sounds like I can hardly wait to have the children out of the home.  Not the case.  But because of the current ages of my children I do find it comforting and joyful to see some of the lessons I have tried to teach come to fruition in their lives as they carry on without my daily ministrations or even advice.  I don't stop being their parent but my role changes drastically from days gone by. 

As a near empty nest parent myself, it can begin to feel lonely but fulfilling as I look back on my "body of work" as a parent and especially when some fruit of that work starts to appear.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gender Identification

I am a father of four daughters and am inexperienced boys or young men.  Nevertheless I found myself in a situation with a thirteen year old boy on a 45 minute trip twice today. 

I imagined that we would be talking about things like what is important in his life, religion and so forth.  After some brief discussion of those type of things I quickly found him with his beloved android cell phone in his hand and his recounting how he got the phone and all the "apps" that his phone had.  His phone looked something like this:

So he started telling me about his apps.  Initially he decided that he would get his brownie points and showed me that he had the scriptures available on his phone.  Then he wanted me to know he had a GPS on his phone so we would be sure to get where we were going.  "You do know how to get there don't you" he asked?  Next he mentioned that he had a variety of apps that made loud noises including the "exploding phone" app and, "most annoying" he said and then played his emergency sounding apps.  He was proud of the noise app that only made noise when he tilted it so he could start and stop the noise at will.  Then he had the "cracked phone" app and the "sneezed on phone" app and then he had to show me the "fart app".  No joke, it made a variety of gastrointestinal noises.  I said, "I'm surprised your mother lets you have that app" and he said "my mother doesn't know about that one".

Due to my lack of time with young boys I had forgotten how much they enjoy a variety of sounds and the best I could think to say to him after he demonstrated all those apps was, "One day all those sounds will not be so enjoyable to you".  To which he laughed as if he couldn't imagine such a thing. 

So I realize as I write this that women do a great service to society.  Actually they do several but the one I'm thinking of right now is that because boys develope an interest in women they began to change their interests and elevate their likes and behaviors.  Consequently the world is a much better place.  Ladies, I thank you, and the world thanks you for your existence and service of civalizing the boys. 

Later I was talking to my married daughter and telling her about this experience.  She recalled an experience when she was a young girl and some friend's children were visiting.  The oldest was a boy and he was playing with a doll house that our girls had at the time.  He especially enjoyed the van that went along with it so the dolls could drive around. 

Little Tikes Dollhouse red van mom dad girl boy

The young man was making screeching noises and crashing the van into things.  My daughter said that his play with their toys was so strange to she and her sisters that they all stopped what they were doing to watch his play.  "I had never even thought to play like that with our toys" was her comment. 
What would we men do without the civilizing effects of the ladies? 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Manly Man Training #4: Self-evaluation

In our quest to be better men there comes a time, hopefully early on, when we need to make a self assessment.  We must honestly look at ourselves and ask some important questions to determine what our emphasis needs to be for the future.  In short we need to set goals about what we see we need to be and then what we are going to do to get there.  In my mind the goal includes 1) a recognition of areas we are weak or not as strong as we want to be, 2) a philosophical or spiritual place we want to get to and 3) actual concrete things we can do to move toward that goal.

But before the goals must come the self-evaluation. Self-evaluation shouldn't be a stranger to us in the church.  We have often been encouraged to evaluate our standing with the Lord while we partake of the Sacrament.  In addition many of us work in jobs that require a yearly evaluation.  At least in some of them, as I am, we are asked by our bosses to evaluate ourselves to a degree and determine what areas we need to improve in as well as what areas we are strong in.  Many of us served missions that had "companionship inventories".  If you did these correctly you learned to evaluate and encourage--just what is needed here.

Man looking at his reflection.

I have enjoyed reading a book by Robbert L. Millet, click here to read more about him.  He has written a book entitled Men of Valor: The Powerful Impact of a Righteous Man.  This book was given to me by a great friend and has come to be one of my favorite books and should be in every man's library and referred to often. 

In this book he suggests three questions to ask ourselves to evaluate where we are and where we need to be as a "Manly Man".  They are:

1)  What kind of a man am I?

As a Manly Man, which of course implies in my usage that we want to be a better, righteous, Priesthood Man, we need to be able to look at ourselves honestly and see what is truly good, and then to be willing to look at what is lacking or weak.  I think it is important to see both.  Of course an assessment to have a starting point to become better tends to look for what needs work and what we are doing poorly in, but we also need to give ourselves credit for the good that we are doing.  In my mind the Lord has given us weaknesses so that we can make them strengths.  But we derive confidence and strength to make our weaknesses strong from those things we are already strong in and have developed well.

So when you ask yourself what kind of man am I, you must not have a critical eye but rather a faithful, honest and true eye.  An eye that sees correctly and reports honestly.  This is not a time to be concerned with ego or humility but to be 'spot on'.

2)  What kind of man do I  want to be?

The questions don't get any easier do they?  What kind of man do you really want to be?  Are you willing to take what you got and call it quits?  "I'm good enough--no changes needed here!"  (Which of course brings up the question of what is enough--for another time.)  What do you want from yourself, what do you expect of yourself and then of course how does this differ from where you are currently.

Sometimes it does us good when we ask this question to remember a time when we had great hopes and dreams and wanted to be a great man who impacted family and others for good.  When was that time for you?  Maybe when you were just receiving the Aaronic Priesthood as a young man?  Maybe when you put in your papers to go on a mission or possibly the week before you left or just after you returned home from your mission?  Possibly as you humbled yourself and asked a young woman to marry you and you wanted to be the man that she deserves?  Remember those times and regardless of where you are at now, you can recapture those dreams and let them energize you toward being the kind of man you want to be.

The final question is harder still, because it requires letting go of a portion of yourself -- the selfish portion perhaps-- and seeing yourself from another point of view.

3)  What kind of a man does my Heavenly Father and my Savior need me to be? 

Ahh, now we have reached the crux of the matter.  What is the will of our Savior for me.  Not only what kind of man do they want me to be, but what kind of man do they need me to be?  So our efforts are not small in scope here because what They want will undoubtedly be connected to what my potential is.  Not just our ultimate eternal potential but right now they need me to do and to be something which suggests this just isn't for myself and likely not just for my family (although that impact from us is huge and will effect hundreds for centuries).  God needs us to be and do things right now for a variety of reasons and in His economy many will be influenced for good if and when we make the effort to improve ourselves.

So, now my question to you is are you Man enough or "Manly" enough to really ask yourselves the questions.  Not just read them and think they are nice but to really ask and then answer the questions.  Maybe you will want to write down your answers.  And if you are really ready to grow you will ask them of your wife and hear, without defense, her answers and consider them honestly in combination with your own evaluation.  I know it is scary, but hey, we are not trying to build "wimpy men" here (I have a separate training for that--Ha!).  We are building a "Manly Man".  As President Hinckley said "This, my beloved friends, is what the gospel is all about—to make bad men good and good men better..." (October 1976)

Start now by asking yourself these three questions: What kind of a man am I? What kind of man do I  want to be? What kind of a man does my Heavenly Father and my Savior need me to be? Those three questions will undoubtedly open your mind to this question:  What kind of man does my family--including yourself--need me to be?  You can do it, but start now.
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