Dangerous Rhetoric

Yesterday, I found myself in an unusual situation in more ways than one. As I couldn't sleep, I went to the gym before work... way too early in the morning and found myself running on a treadmill in front of four television screens. The irony is of course that I haven't owned a television in over a decade and so experiences with one are few and far between... but four! It's a bit like being offered piles of riches that you don't think you need and are confused as to why others think they are valuable. This opportunity gave me an interesting opportunity for reflection and experimentation.

As most everyone in the first world probably knows by now, an airplane manned by pilots employed by Malaysian Air was shot down and crashed near Grabovo, Ukraine. With 298 people on board flight MH370 - all who perished- the only thing that seemed known immediately was that everyone on the plane died and that the plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine along the border to Russia. So as I jogged on the treadmill, I looked up at the screens and over the next few minutes I realized my opportunity- all four televisions were showing news from four different stations; ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC. So for a girl who doesn't watch news, I was able over the course of over a hour to watch all of them at once and really compare their coverage of the situation. And even from a lack of experience as a news hound, what I found wasn't really surprising.

On three of the stations, the story seemed to be covered pretty thoroughly, but also with some caveats. As the news was raw, the situation just unfolding and with very little confirmed information. Only the confirmed facts were given definition and were described in definitive terms – all passengers were dead, the flight, where it went down, etc... After that, the language was was more vague... “Investigations are underway, the black box might be, etc... There were pictures... frankly, terrible and devastating photos and descriptions from eyewitnesses that felt so painful and hard to hear. But not a lot of speculation or opinion. And there would be breaks from this tragedy- each station took time to talk about other events such as wildfires, the situation in Israel and Gaza (just as horrible a problem I might say), the indictment of FedEx over shipping medications illegally and gold found in a shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina. And more such as a court overturning another gay marriage ban, the typhoon headed toward China... The world is a big place with much going on in it.

The same could not be said of FOX news. While they seemed to have the same details, it was pretty astonishing to me with how they used them. Small lettering on the bottom of the screen would say the 'facts', but the people talking didn't give any facts without a lot of supposition and even things that were only opinion.... Most of he time they didn't bother to mention any facts that I was learning from the other stations. I felt the anger of the commentators but I was also impressed by how neatly they could draw me in and if I hadn't been able to see the facts from other sources at the same time, I may never had gotten them. The wording that was used was also extreme and violent in its own right. It is no exaggeration to say that every sentence spoken, every word that was said seemed conveyed to expressed three points and only those three points.

1. That this tragedy was caused by the Russians and ordered by Vladimir Putin himself.

2. That President Obama must 'break' Russia and Putin to show the Russians and the rest of the world that we are the mightiest and must be feared and obeyed. That war, violence, 'blood', all have been caused by the evil that is Russia and we the good must vanquish it.

3. If we as America do not do this, we will all die and only terror will win.... with Russia and Putin as its leaders.

All the rhetoric made me think... and with was terrible. Some of the words still burn in my head over twenty four hours later. “Russia has their fingers printed all over this all ways”.... Really? How do we know? (Don't get me wrong, I suspect that in many ways this comment is true about this situation, but...) And then pictures of John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan would show up on the screen with some of their words in quotes about bringing down Russia, tearing down communism and its evils... and then “The President must, he must... Eye to eye, toe to toe, he must stop them... whatever means are necessary.” “President Obama must show them what happens when Putin sheds the blood of innocents... and perhaps the most ironic quote that sticks in my
mind came from Geraldo Rivera- “I told you yesterday Putin has blood on his hands.” Yup, the same guy that my friends and I used to laugh at in high school who five days a week make the term 'talk show' synonymous with interviewed strippers, skinheads, white supremacists, families who hated each other, etc.... He's now reinvented himself as a political commentator. So I was able to listen to him wax poetic on the evils and wrongs by Putin- many of which must have been exaggerated...something he used to do on his talk show... he was well known for it.

I am no friend of Vladimir Putin. I do not know him and am aware that living in this country I will not have many opportunities. It has been obvious to me for years that as America and Russia are enemies, the media in this country can never really see anything that has to do with Russia unbiasedly. We as a people are still trying to understand their history and their culture without coloring it through the lenses of our biases and prejudice. And we are doing it poorly. This experiment cemented two things into my head. First of all, I have heard to the polls and studies that show that those who get the majority of their information from Fox news are more ignorant of the reality of the world than people who get their news from anywhere else. But it also explained the constant fear and anger I sense in so many of the people I know who are 'die hard' FOX news fans. How can you not be when you sit and listen to so much anger... and so much falsehood or at least unproven accusations that when they are proved false ... will never be redacted. That language is dangerous for all of us- even those of us who do not hear it. We have to live with the pain and anger it causes in others, many of whom we care about. After over an hour yesterday of interaction and attention, I will avoid giving any of my time to that station again. I only wish that so many others could see it for what it is. There is enough hate and anger in the world as it is without manufacturing more.

Yesterday so many died in a plane crash.... in the conflicts in Gaza, in Africa from malaria, in Syria... everywhere. So many people are frightened and sad and unsure what to do in their lives. In fact, some numbers suggest that 1 in five of the dead in Gaza are children- children may sometimes be called little terrors but very few people would call them terrorists worthy of death. Instead of creating anger, fear and division, couldn't we work together to grieve and to fight it, fight the terror and the pain with an equal amount of love and good will as well as the basic law enforcement stuff? I can only hope.....


Thoughts on Courage- Sacrament talk 7/13/14

So, I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting this morning. For those of you who were unable to attend this morning and are interested this is a basic outline of the talk. Have a wonderful Sabbath day. :)

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. I am not up here very often so I ask that you please bear with me as I struggle to find a way to articulate the ideas that I feel impressed to share today. When I was asked a few weeks ago to speak and was given a topic, I felt many things but my most overwhelming feeling was sadness. I do not feel that I have a good understanding of the topic nor do I believe it is an attribute that I have much of. After prayer and much reflection, I feel a little more able to discuss some aspects of it. As such, I wish to take a few moments of your time to speak about courage.

Courage is defined as the ability and willingness to do something that frightens you. All of us at some point in our lives have had to figuratively reach into the recesses of our soul to find the motivation and strength to confront or act in ways that we perceive and feel inspired are right and just... but are not easy choices and may come with consequences that are not always positive and joyful. It is this quality of heart and mind that may enable us to do the 'hard' things in the face of intimidation, fear and even physical pain and death. One thing that I feel like I have discovered in my reflections on courage is that, at least for me, it is easier to see and recognize courage in other people. The scriptures and history books are fairly riddled with individuals that we describe as courageous and we look up to for their actions... some of which have given a voice and freedoms as well as rights to all of us that we sometimes take for granted and do not always recognize often the pure blessings that we have been given and the pain, sweat and tears that have been sacrificed by others so that we may have fewer obstacles and challenges in our daily lives. To be frank, courage is sometimes being scared to death.... but doing the right thing anyway.

However, it feels important to take some time to recognize courage in its less celebrated and recognized forms... because to do so helps us to see and cherish it in ourselves and others. Brothers and Sisters, please take this opportunity to not only look inward but to look around you and you will not be able to ignore the clear but unspoken signs of courage around you. For some of our members, it takes significant and unmistakeable courage to accept a calling that they fear, to attend church or other social functions. For some of our friends and family, it may take all the hope and strength they possess to do what many of us consider a simple task- the ability to get out of bed in the morning.... the will to eat... the struggle to get through daily tasks that may sometimes appear insurmountable. For many people, courage is not just a byword or a famous name, but an unnamed part of their daily struggle. Lucius Seneca once wrote “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Lauren Raffio is also quoted as saying “ Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one.” I know that I have felt so blessed and have gained strength for myself in my struggles as I have watched the courage of other members and tried to help them in their trials. I remember a talk in general conference a year or so back that discussed how trials are not always meant for the individual but for those around them... to help the community and the family of the afflicted to gain strength, understanding and more love. It comes to mind that we can only gain these things... the knowledge needed for more understanding, the ability to love more, and to find the power and motivation to gain strength if we are willing to use courage and to step into a situation and a pain that frightens us. Only by opening ourselves up can we gain these great blessings.

C.S. Lewis once wrote “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point which means at the point of highest reality.” When we look at courage through this lens, we can more easily recognize its presence in our hearts, our minds and in many of the choices we make. So it is important to stop and recognize why Heavenly Father has given his children the ability of courage to begin with. When human beings are presented with a different perspective, we usually initially react with either fear or love. These two powerful emotions are contradictory to each other and fear is part of our human experience...a trial that courage can help us to deal with.

2 Timothy 1:7 reads – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

I believe that we have been given the ability of courage to help each and everyone of us to struggle forward against the strong forces of fear that are invasive in our lives. One way to remove fear from our lives is given to us in....

1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.

To increase the amount of compassion and love we have for ourselves and others also takes courage as well as hard work. We can not increase our courage or love without actively working to do so. Prayer, introspection, study... all are needed for this difficult task. For those who believe that love and empathy towards others is a form of weakness I would ask you to please take a moment to examine that idea. Yes, allowing yourself to love leaves you more vulnerable to pain, uncertainty and despair. However, to have true love and compassion in this world of cruelty, judgment and fear... a person is also showing courage. And by doing so, we also open ourselves up for higher amounts of joy and happiness in our lives. Brothers and Sisters, weakness is not a sin no matter how often we tell ourselves it is. In an epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:10) Paul writes: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Which brings us back to the idea that courage is a virtue to be found at every testing point and it becomes easier to see how necessary it is in our lives. So knowing and understanding how important the virtue of courage is.... understanding that it actually makes all the other virtues possible... how can we help ourselves develop this virtue and become a more courageous person? And how can we help others to grow and do the same? From the scriptures I read, it seems clear that love is a big part of how we develop and use courage. Another scripture:

Psalm 31:24 says– 'Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.'

When I read this scripture I felt like what it was saying that another way to develop courage is to develop our faith and on this foundation, we are able to release the grip on some of the fear that binds to our minds. Another way to develop faith as a foundation for courage is to strengthen our spirits... to do things that allow you to keep the Holy Ghost with you consistently and to feel his presence and the sense of peace he brings. It is hard for fear to bind to your mind when the holy spirit is cradling your soul to him feeding it peace and assurance. It is hard for fear to grab any hold on us for long periods of time when we are consistently acting against it.

Another thing that we can do is to truly look into our hearts and acknowledge where we are weak and fearful. I am not suggesting that anyone takes the time to sit and mentally berate themselves for their weaknesses or their infirmities. For anyone to understand where they are weak, they must also take the opportunity to recognize the areas that they are strong. So please, take the opportunity when being introspective to think positively and recognize you and what you are in its whole spectrum of being. And where you discover things that you want to change or recognize are weaknesses, start the process of trying to change it. Because when it comes to changing fear, there is only one surefire way that I know to truly get past it and extinguish it. When it comes to fear, the only way out is to go through it- to force yourself to face what you are afraid of. The more you do it, the more your mind and body lower the fear response until it becomes a barely recognizable murmur in the background... easily ignored. Practice courageous acts! Pray for the strength and courage to make those small steps forward.

Brothers and Sisters, I want to apologize. I have had several times in the past that I have struggled with compassion for some of you. I still struggle with anger for past hurts and injustices that I feel keenly in my heart. I can testify to you that what has helped the most in my healing process is to pray to know better those who I feel have not understood me and to do things that are really hard and frighten me. It I am going to be honest though.... I think most everything frightens me. :) I tend to worry that since I am imperfect I will cause harm and pain to others and that fear can sometime make it hard to do most anything with others. I am very grateful for your understanding and compassion towards me even with my faults and my many, many mistakes. If I have offended or hurt any of you, I beg for your forgiveness. I feel so sad at the idea that any of you might struggle with pain that I have caused. I hope that as we go to our meetings today and as we leave to continue the daily grind so to speak.... Well, I hope that each of you will take a moment to recognize the good and strong spirit that you have, to take the opportunity to look inward and recognize the things in your life and about yourself that you fear.... and to make your first steps towards using your courage to confront and change them. If you need help, ask! Our leaders are able to help us and to get inspiration on your behalf. Listen and pray as much as you need to. And when the fear gets to be too much, recognize it, rest and gain the strength and courage to fight it some more. I pray that we can all do better. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


2014 Poetry Corner # : "Catnip Pillows"

The cats are potted; all is chaos
paper ripped and flying in the breeze
created by running, stampeding cats
A small square pillow flies through the air
and is caught by another
and the pace becomes even more frantic
For an hour, all is in disarray
and then....

We all sleep- laughter and peace in our hearts
I love you and bow to your power
the green, the strong.... catnip!


Journey Forth #6 : The Accidental Relationship between Gluten and Casein

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease and started to research the disorder but also the foods that were available, I ran across many people who started pushing me towards a gluten free-casein free diet not only for myself but for Bug as well- we both have the disease and I think he can thank my genes for that ;) I was skeptical and I am still a bit questioning about some theories behind the diet. This particular diet is recommended for many people with celiac disease and other food allergies and it has become one of the diets of choice for individuals with autism and other developmental disorders and is sometimes recommended for people with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. So I'll cover the basics of both. (Can I stress that I am wading into territory that is not firmly entrenched in science or statistics yet.)

The basics of this diet are that the individual not only avoids gluten but also all foods that contain the dairy protein. Some need to do this due to a true allergy and some people report that they have reactions that are similar to gluten intolerance when consuming the dairy protein. This protein can be found in butter, cheese, cream and milk, as well as yogurt and countless other products including chocolate, lunch meat or other prepared meat products and other non-dairy products. Symptoms of a true milk allergy are very similar to gluten intolerance as well as wheat allergy and celiac disease so trying to separate out the allergies and sensitivities can be pretty rough and time consuming. The most common symptoms may include; multiple skin reactions, anaphylaxis, multiple digestive complaints (including diarrhea, vomiting, and pain), multiple reactions in the lungs (coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath or wheezing), migraines, irritability, hyperactivity and other personality changes, insomnia, fatigue, depression and anxiety... to start the list. ;) If the challenge of eliminating gluten from the diet seems to be formidable, adding the need for casein removal can make the challenge seem like a herculean task.

There are a few reasons put forward for the similarities in symptoms and the immune reactions in the body between ingestion of gluten and casein. All three have been and are currently under study by researchers.

Casein is one of the most common food allergies and some studies suggest that as much as thirty percent of the general population have elevated amounts of the antibodies in their blood.

Casein has a similar molecular structure to gluten and they both create similar metabolic byproducts from their breakdown and digestion.

The enzyme that is needed to digest dairy is found in the brush borders and the tips of the villi in the small intestine... which is the first area that is damaged in gluten consumption for those individuals who are susceptible. With the necessary enzymes being in low numbers or decimated, the digestive process fails until healing and enzyme re-population has commenced... in some cases, a year after a gluten exposure.

For many parents of children with mental health disorders or developmental delays such as autism, this diet is not seen as a “diet” per se, but as a necessity and way of life. The changes in both behavior as well as mentation have been pretty well documented in self reporting and other unofficial forums. From personal experience, I feel a lot more in 'control' of my mind when I haven't had gluten- celiac aside. These experiences as well as watching and learning from friends and parents who have navigated these particular waters, I have found a great deal of confirmation in my mind that there is a great deal of positive evidence for recommendation of this particular diet for people with specific diagnoses or conditions. So even as I stress that the scientific evidence isn't there yet, I feel like I would be remiss if I hadn’t taken the time to discuss it. Whether the problems are due to the body's confusion of the proteins, lack or appropriate digestive enzymes or even another allergy... the problems are very real and need to be dealt with by individual sufferers on a daily basis.

What are your thoughts? Do you personally have experiences with this diet and individuals who use it? Please share if you are willing to...! :)


Journey Forth #5 : Causes of Poorly Responsive Celiac Disease

For the majority of individuals with celiac disease on a strict gluten free diet, their intestines will, over time, heal and they will not feel pain or have to deal with many of the challenges that can be caused by the disorder. However, there is a small percentage of individuals with the disorder in whom the body and its ability to heal is either blunted or unable to function. This is sometimes known as poorly responsive celiac disease. There are a few situations that can continue to either cause the damage, keep the body from healing in a timely or appropriate matter, or even continuing some of the symptoms due to other physical malfunctions. The known reasons for these continued difficulties are:

1. Continuing gluten ingestion – In case many people haven't noticed, gluten seems to be in everything! So it can be very challenging to make sure that everything consumed is gluten free. To make that more challenging, affected individuals must be introspective and know themselves and their habits well. So, for those who wear lip gloss, lipstick, etc...that must also be gluten free. If you tend to suck on the ends of your hair... it might be a good idea to now what is in your shampoo. Eye drops and other medications can have systemic interactions and therefore can cause damage... even if it was just one drop into an eye. Hands contaminated with gluten and then used to chew nails, etc... can also cause a small exposure. And as mentioned in an earlier post, any exposure no matter how small is dangerous and can cause damage.

2. Refractory celiac disease (refractory sprue) – Approximately 5% of patients can end up with this diagnosis and it reflects the body's inability to heal from the damage caused by the past gluten ingestion. Any future exposure will continue to cause damage while past damage remains... leaving the individuals digestive system crippled and unable to perform its necessary duties with any efficiency at all. More energy is used to digest and important nutrients are less able to be digested even with the expense of the added energy. These individuals tend to struggle for the rest of their lives trying to improve their digestion and health and may take supplements and medicine to try and help the body not only digest but continue to function in a positive way by providing missing needed nutrients.

3. Pancreatic insufficiency - For some patients, their ability to appropriately digest food can be hampered due to the lack of needed enzymes.

4. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth - This is actually a fairly common problem that can happen alongside the damage in the intestines, but doesn't necessarily repair itself when the intestinal walls themselves are starting to recover. In this instance, the bacterial balance in the small intestine changes in two ways -first, the bacteria in the small intestine changes form and becomes more like the bacteria in the colon (which is pretty different.) Secondly, this abnormal bacteria tends to grow faster in the small intestine so that there is simply too much of it around.

5. Undiagnosed sister disease – some patients do not get better very quickly for the simple reason that celiac disease wasn't the whole answer. So many patients as they begin the gluten free diet and continue to have symptomology and difficulty after several months discover that they also have a concurring digestive disorder. The most common of these are microscopic colitis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

6. Casein ingestion – Some people find that their symptoms do not clear up until they stop consuming Casein as well. Casein is the protein found in almost all dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, etc... even breast milk. This reaction is not well studied or proven and is listed here because it is being studied and discussed among researchers, doctors, and patients. I have found for myself that, because the gluten protein is similarly built to the casein protein, I do have more problems for the first few months after a gluten exposure if I continue to eat dairy in large quantities... Bug has found the same thing. That is just my experience however. I'll discuss the theory more in another post. :)

In my case, I have been told that I do probably have refractory sprue. I have not been healing well and even a small exposure can really mess me up for months. Even without exposures, my digestion is not improving a lot. I can have what appears to be random pain that comes and goes and is fairly consistent over months. I have discolored patches of skin causes by the digestion issues in a few areas. As soon as I have insurance, my physician is planning on another upper endoscopy with biopsies to check on the healing process.... or lack there of. I won't deny I am not looking forward to it.

What are your thoughts? Experiences... please share. :)