With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My son and the DISC Assessment

"Good family life is never an accident but always an achievement by those who share it."- James HS Bossard

I sat my three-year-old down at the kitchen table yesterday and attempted to do a DISC Assessment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment) of his personality and behavior style. My attempt lasted the duration of his snack – approximately four minutes – and was limited to the question: “how well do you work with Mommy?” As he vaulted from his booster seat, spreading a trail of dried cranberries across the floor, he said merely, “you funny, mom.” I can infer from his response and from the myriad of situations we face together each day that our personalities are not - simply put – compatible.

When I was a business professional I took the Myers-Briggs test and learned the same facts about myself that I garnered a few years ago after taking the DISC Assessment. I am a very high D (dominance – as in, I like it), lower I (influence – via interpersonal skills), lower S (steadiness) and high C (conscientious). Before children it was my way or the high way, following my passion and convinced that everyone would just be happier if they adhered to my worldview. Not surprisingly, I often had to revisit my emails to insert personal comments and introductory remarks to soften the blunt and direct request made therein. My fuse was(is?) short, my introversion high, and my adherence to rules and details strong. I have to believe that in my current situation – where three children and a delightfully steady husband participate in running the home – my D has died down and my C has disintegrated at least to the point where I can roll with the daily punches of parenthood.

How delightfully ironic that my third child appears to be an off-the-charts “I” – funny and witty and constantly engaging in conversation and requests (at least with me) and a low C – not overly conscientious about details, rules, or logic. A bright and beautiful star whose smile lights up our home and whose laugh defines “contagious,” my son nonetheless has a personality which hits me in all of my weak spots. Whereas I have worn earplugs to bed for twenty years, craving perfect stillness to fall asleep (though leaping awake at the slightest cough, creak or cry later on), my son seems to have a bullhorn in his voicebox, and a missing “off” button on his conversational flow.

While I can work with all different personality types in committees, classrooms and book clubs, at home I am dealing with a counterpart whose language and logic don’t quite match up to a discussion of how we might best work together; how, for example, he might leave me alone for a few minutes of peace when steam begins to exit my ears and I fail to draw breath for multiple seconds. I get to manage our differences all on my own, asking for help from friends and family, engineering a bit more quiet time in our schedule, and praying for a developmental leap (his or mine) that will bring us back to the bargaining table. Someday we can take one of those personality tests together, laughing heartily at the results, but highlighting the ways that our partnership can yield great results for all concerned.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Art and Injustice

I can only trust the movement that is producing art, whether it’s poetry, or visual art, or dance, or music—it doesn’t make any difference. But there has to be that overflow that says, “We are on the move. We have enough to give and we’re going to give it. We have more than enough and we can give it.” – Daniel Berrigan in Sojourners Magazine March 2010 (www.sojo.net)

Strange how art and music have been cut from public education over the past few decades and how the arts in general perpetually teeter on a budgetary edge, when human joy and passion so often translate from one person to another via music, song, visual arts, poetry. I find that my passion over an issue, over a story, over my children, can emerge positively through writing while – if submerged – erupt in frustration or irritation. Joy and pain find their way through the cracks in our rock façade as trickles that carve a channel through art. As Daniel Berrigan remarks in the current issue of Sojourner’s Magazine, he only trusts the movement (be it peace, justice, etc) that produces art. That movement alone will have enough energy to sustain its efforts and draw others in.

In thinking of such movements I hear the songs arising from the Civil Rights era– so powerful and so contagious. I see the border art on the wall in Nogales, Mexico and hear the music of Los Tigres del Norte and read the amazing literature surrounding the immigration issues of today (The Devil’s Highway by Luis Urrea, Across 100 Mountains by Reyna Grande). These are a few examples of art that springs from an endless source of passion and energy that cannot die while injustices persist.

This weekend I will be thinking of those who march in Washington DC for immigration reform. Those marchers and the people whom they represent who have fled economic hardship only to arrive – after perilous journeys – in a country where they live among the shadows, subject to many forms of injustice and persecution. These individuals now live in a country which holds out a Help Wanted sign in its factories, kitchens, and landscapes while building a wall at the border and detention centers in its cities. Let us move forward in our dialog on this issue and make progress with our legislation.

Praying with our feet,

Use words only when needed.

Trample injustice.

-Laura Dravenstott

Monday, March 15, 2010

Flossing

“If I can floss, I can do anything.”

My good friend uttered these profound words a week or two ago when we gathered over coffee to ponder our talents and wonder where our future career paths might lie. We had talent assessments, course brochures, and deep, spiritual books covering the table, but my takeaway from our conversation was the newfound zeal she had for flossing. Indeed, I saw her passion echoed in headlines from this weekend which trumpeted studies that found correlations between heart health and gum health. Those with gum disease were much more likely to have heart disease (http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health). Could the secret to long life and health be written on a simple strand of floss?

I held on to the slender weave and warp of this idea over the past several days when all career ambitions fled before the energy of my children and the emergent tornado of my frustration at my ineffectiveness as a parent. Coursework and earned income seem years away as I struggle to keep the house clean (OK, just passable), hold my temper through bedtime, modify the sharp words that leap to my tongue, and struggle to find gluten and dairy-free alternatives for every meal. I have not found time to pray or meditate and be thankful for our good health, good friends, and loving family. I was on the bow end of the Titanic last week, sinking fast, but every so often the thought came to me, “if I could just start flossing, I could do anything!”

For of course, I don’t floss regularly. For a long time I did not believe that anyone flossed – that it was a grand scheme laid up by dentists and the Catholic Church to make us feel powerfully guilty. I did not grow up flossing and had no real interest in adding it to my bedtime routine (though periodic visits to the dentist are a powerful incentive). My friend urged me to start, saying that she had never flossed until recently and that once it became a habit she could not imagine going to bed unless she had cleaned every crevice. Apparently overcoming the hurdle of flossing was enough to power her ambitions for the future and restore faith in her abilities. The flossing attitude appears to be just what I need to make it through the last few weeks of winter.

As flossing might be a simple preventive measure to restoring heart health, requiring only dedication and an inexpensive length of floss, a short period of prayer and gratitude might help my evening energy and restore some balance. I vow right here, on this keyboard and page, that I will start to floss each night, and moreover that I will use that time to say at least one prayer of gratitude or reflect on one action of the day while I clean my gums. The key to mental, physical and spiritual health contained in one act? You may be dubious but I hold to my new mantra, “if I can floss, I can do anything.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Glenn Beck Afraid of Social Justice

"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" (http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/03/08/glenn-beck-urges-listeners-to-leave-churches-that-preach-social/)

This morning I reported myself to Glenn Beck as a social justice Christian. I was outed through the Sojourners website, where Jim Wallis has asked all members of diverse Christian faith traditions to admit their justice tendencies and let Mr. Beck know that we have no intention of running screaming from our churches (http://go.sojo.net/campaign/glennbeck_socialjustice). If we report to him en masse it is quite possible that he will run screaming from the newsroom, a not unpleasant thought.

What is Mr. Beck afraid of? Christ and his social justice workers as Robin Hood riding in with bows and poison-tipped arrows to steal from the wealthy and give to the poor? The New Testament does not speak to such a change. Rather, the Gospel seems to call for a change of heart, a willingness and desire for us to protect the fragile among us and restore a modicum of justice to an unjust world. We all fear the wrath promised to nations and individuals who put property and individual status above others . . . I understand if Mr. Beck fears that kind of judgment promised by the Old Testament. But the new teachings from the New Testament ask for conversion, do not promise wrath but blessings in this life for those who try to follow and restore justice.

In case Mr. Beck missed notable passages from both the old and new testaments, our Christian faith text is replete with encouragements to stand for justice. I listed my favorites at the end of the blog. Poetic verses hold the truth that our work as Christians should focus on this world and not on the hereafter. Enough changed hearts working together can change the internal structures of governance to protect the fragile among us, to bring a small modicum of justice to an unjust world.

"Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That's what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: 'social justice.' (http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/03/08/glenn-beck-urges-listeners-to-leave-churches-that-preach-social/)

I freely admit to not understanding this at all. I would welcome a follow-up to explain how working for the widow, the orphan, the imprisoned, the immigrant equates to Nazism or Communism. I ask again, what are you afraid of? Where would you have us run, if we run screaming from our churches? Such a path of logic as he uses should lead us to an interesting locale . . . a casino, a stock exchange, or quiet cave, perhaps? I hope that educated Christians and religious and moral folk of all persuasions see right through this terror-based rhetoric and quietly continue to pursue the ways of justice as best they can.

Verses

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Matthew 25: 31 – 36 New International Version

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24 New International Version

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed . . . “ Luke 4:18 New International Version

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Night at the Detention Center

The other night we joined Coloradans for Immigrant Rights and the American Friends Service Committee at a vigil for immigration reform at 30th and Peoria in Aurora. This busy street corner stands a short distance from the** GEO –run detention center that will hold 1,200 individuals when the new annex is completed. The majority (if not all) of the residents of the detention center are immigrants who were arrested for not having the appropriate papers. Mind you, entering the country without documentation is a misdemeanor clerical offense along the lines of driving without a proper license. The individuals in the detention center are held without access to legal counsel and often without the ability to communicate with their families. Because GEO is a private company which operates in relative secrecy (under their government contract), abuses are more likely. Taxpayers pay $133 per night per inmate to support their incarceration.

The vigils for reform are held on the first Monday of each month, and this month’s vigil was sponsored by the Denver chapter of No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes (http://www.nomoredeaths.org/), which sees parallels between the dire situation of immigrants crossing the desert (facing severe illness and even death) and the inhumane treatment of inmates in US detention centers. We opened by discussing No More Deaths’ role here in Denver, followed by an introduction of the AFSC Campaign called Dignity, Not Detention, which will attempt to persuade the Obama administration to reform the detention system. Then Jerry Herships, a pastor at St. Andrew UMC in Highlands Ranch, read a prayer, an excerpt of which follows:

“ Leader/Líder: Remind us God that you are a just God. Remind us that you believe in everyone having their day to tell their story and that a system that is not fair for all is not fair for any. Help us be your hands and feet and voice that fight for everyone to feel the process of justice.
Recuérdanos Dios que eres un Dios justo. Recuérdanos que tú crees que todos deben tener su día de contar su historia y que cualquier sistema que no es justo para todos no es justo para nadie. Ayúdanos a ser tus manos y pies y voz para que todos sientan el proceso de justicia.

All/Todos: EL DEBIDO PROCESO PARA TODOS /DUE PROCESS FOR ALL”

After the prayer we sang “We Shall Overcome” in the frosty outside air. I could not escape the irony of singing four verses passionately in complete freedom, then glancing at my watch to make sure I would not be late getting home to the babysitter, while the detention center inmates languished without connection to the outside. How many women inside the detention center cannot get out to see their children – can not even call to see if they are safe? Life’s sharp contrasts and injustices brought me a tinge of despair greater than the reality of the internment center itself.

As we sang and chanted, men’s hands plastered against the frosted windows like so many starfish splayed against an aquarium. The windows, above shoulder height, framed their reaching arms and frantic faces; their expressions desperate bids for attention and connection. We flashed peace signs, raised fists, and promised to close the detention center. Other alternatives exist; certain municipalities have experimented with monitoring individuals through bracelets or by simply having them call in to a volunteer organization (such as a church). A vast majority of the individuals monitored appeared at their court date. The charge for a program like this is far less than $130/person/day. Let us hope we have the strength to improve the system, even as the people inside have the strength to last their sentences.

** The GEO Group, Inc. ("GEO") is a world leader in the delivery of correctional, detention, and residential treatment services to federal, state, and local government agencies around the globe. GEO offers a turnkey approach that includes design, construction, financing, and operations. GEO represents government clients in the United States, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. GEO's worldwide operations include the management and/or ownership of 62 correctional and residential treatment facilities with a total design capacity of approximately 60,000 beds, including projects under development.