Friday, December 23, 2005

cross-posted from my personal journal

Dr. Helen: Excuse Me While I go Throw Up

Which brings me back to blogging. There is something refreshing about the ability to post one's thoughts and tout one's wares (such as documentary films, books etc.) over the internet while barely being able to hold a fork to one's mouth before rushing to the bathroom to throw up from some stomach bug you picked up from your kid's school a few days before. I wonder how many other bloggers are out there posting on a regular basis and keeping the world amused because it is one of the few outlets that requires little physical exertion? I could be wrong but it seems to me that if one is vibrant with good health and stamina, they would be out snowboading, skiing or just enjoying the outdoors. I know I would. Anyone else out there blog to distract yourself from feeling bad--whether physical or mental? It would be nice to know I had some company.

Amen, sister.

Seriously, it's the only thing sometimes that keeps me from curling up into a ball and giving up on everything. My dad likes to believe that if I cut back on connecting to people on the Internet that I will suddenly get better and get tons of stuff done. He tried to force his will on this matter when the kids and I still lived with them and you know what - never happened. I will go and do a few things and then I will curl up into bed and not move because I am in so much pain.

Right now, my lower back is pulsating and my head hurts. I did some cleaning in the kitchen and I'm typing up a few things while everything subsides enough to let me do more. If I wasn't sitting here reading other people's stuff, IMing a friend and typing this post, I would be back in bed, losing all track of time, with nothing to show for it.

Yes, my hands are tingling too and my arms are achy, but compare to the back at the moment, those are no big deal. That's the fun part of fibromyalgia - you're almost always in pain, so you kind of learn to ignore some of it. You can't totally ignore it, because it gets you back. Usually by denying you the ability to use your muscles. I sometimes have to curl up and not do anything because I lose my coordination.

To put it all into perspective. I get my B12 shots in the upper arm. I can feel the needle enter my skin and I never flinch. Compared to everything else, it's hardly worth noticing.

Monday, December 12, 2005


I had to join.

You see, when I was barely 18 months old, my mother found a dried-out tree frog in my mouth and freaked. And since that day, I have been connected with frogs in my family. I even had a six-foot long stuffed frog as a kid. I was always receiving frog stuff as a kid, thereby assuring that I would be scarred for the rest of my life for an action I have no memory of, nor could possibly hope to remember.

Now, I shall have my vengence!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Six Core Elements of Character

What do you know? Someone figured this out a long time ago and the following are considered to be universal:

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Respect
  3. Responsibility (self-discipline)
  4. Fairness
  5. Caring (compassion)
  6. Citizenship (obeying the law, staying informed of current affairs, voting, etc.)

Aristotle's Four Classic Values

  1. Fortitude (perserverance)
  2. Temperance (controlling human passions)
  3. Prudence (practical wisdom)
  4. Justice (fairness, lawfulness)

The Catholic Church later added Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Death of a Salesman Summary

Willie Loman based his most of his life on lies. The saddest part is that he actually made the lie that "all you need to succeed is to be liked" part of his core belief system. It appeared to be the only thing he really did believe and all his efforts went to presenting an image he thought other people would like and admire. He even lied regularly to keep his mental world intact.

So strong was this need to be popular and liked, that he broke commitments and promises to gain immediate ego boosts from whoever he was with. He behaved in some ways like an narcissistic personality disorder in that his focus was gaining admiration and maintaining an image of himself that he was in love with and he was willing to protect that image at all costs, even though there was evidence that most people didn't believe in it. His image of the charismatic and successful salesman only hid his insecurities and failings. Deep inside, he knew he wasn't that, but the fear of facing his true self was so great that he couldn't stand to see anything that disproved that image.

Unfortunately, by following a faulty premise, he blinded himself to reality and it caught up to him. It caught up to him as a parent, when the son he put all his dreams on lacked the discipline to even hold down a steady job, because he treated the oldest son as an extension on himself and couldn't stand to be firm with him as a child. He also alienated his eldest son by having an affair, which shattered his son's image of him and led to a desire to hurt his father by not going to college and becoming a football star. Willie's behavior also affected his other son, who in a desperate attempt to get his father's regard, modelled himself after his father's idea of how to succeed and was showing the same lack of results.

It caught up to him as a worker, when he slowly made himself a failure by not paying attention to his mistakes and faulty premises so he could correct them and be effective in his job. He made himself unemployable and because successful businessmen didn't take meager jobs, he refused the only real chance he had of rebuilding his career.

It caught up with him as a person, when he found himself facing truths he didn't have the strength of character to withstand. His only path was suicide and in his death we find that his beliefs failed him so thoroughly that when it was all said in done, the only people who grieved for him was his family and two neighbors who pitied him. The man who spent all his time trying to be liked in the end wasn't liked by anyone.

The only person Willie seemed to not have offended was his wife Linda, who was willing for whatever reason to believe his lies and support his dreams. If she knew about his infidelity, she never let it affect her publicly. She was so emotionally enmeshed with Willie that she never really asked herself if his core beliefs held water. To Willie's credit, he did recognize how important his wife's support was to him, something a true narcissistic personality disorder probably would never admit to himself.

While it is easy to see why Willie chose to value some of the things he did, it's hard to understand why he didn't see his own failure sooner. We all have believed inaccurate "rules" in our lives, yet most of us would re-examine our beliefs when there is evidence that we were in trouble. Wille doesn't do this. He ended his life instead. But he did his best to end in way that it would give his family some benefit. He was still trying to provide for them. For all his failings, he did love his family.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Last module

Some of the discussion questions I did for homework.

Think of how your parents and grandparents view God's relationship with man. Can you see any parallel between that and how they relate to other people? If they don't believe in a Creator, then use their idea of the relationship between natural law and the individual and compare it to how they relate to other people.

I once did an exercise where I was to write down and compare the beliefs of God that my ancestors had to what I believed. After I wrote them down, I realized that the beliefs I recognized in them mirrored how I saw them treat others. Over the years, I've noticed that many people showed this mirroring. A person who believes that God blesses some people more than others for reasons other than earning those blessings, often will play favorites herself. A person who believes that God is harsh and unyielding will treat people the same way. Someone who believes that natural law is where organisms only does what profits them, will only interact with those who are benefit to them. While those who believe that natural law includes supporting the community will seek for more communal integration.

Should character-based instruction be reintroduced to the public schools? Can it be reintroduced after being removed for decades? Can there be agreement as to what is good character among those of differing beliefs?

In an ideal world, character-based instruction would be introduced. However, as things stand, I don't think it will happen just because many people have no idea what character really is and confuse it with beliefs. These people will oppose the introduction of character-based instruction on principle alone. I do believe that if society crumbles enough that character-based instruction could be introduced, but I'm not happy that it would have to take our world coming to the brink of disaster to convince people to do this. I think if we keep it simple, agreement as to what makes up good character can be found in the values similar to all stable cultures.

Is it possible to reach a point where no one is critical of you?

I personally think this is an impossible pipe dream, but I know several people who believe it with all their hearts. They refuse to accept the concept of making peace with the idea that there will always be someone who is willing to tell you you're worthless because of personal agendas or mismatched values systems.

Podcast spot

this is an audio post - click to play

Listen to the first installment of Radio Free Burrito at WWdN: In Exile.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

some news articles of child neglect and abuse

Orphaned Babies Show Hormone Disruption Years after Adoption

Orphans have a hard lot in life, particularly in Eastern Europe, where state institutions sometimes provide care that has been reduced to simple feeding and changing with a minimum of physical contact. That neglect--even without any other abuse--can take a profound emotional and physical toll, potentially deeply affecting a child's neurobiology. New research shows that children adopted from such institutions who have spent as many as three years in their new homes still suffer from depressed levels of hormones that have been linked to bonding, caring, communicating and stress regulation, among other things.

Scars That Won't Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse

In 1994 Boston police were shocked to discover a malnourished four-year-old locked away in a filthy Roxbury apartment, where he lived in dreadfully squalid conditions. Worse, the boy's tiny hands were found to have been horrendously burned. It emerged that his drug-abusing mother had held the child's hands under a steaming-hot faucet to punish him for eating her boyfriend's food, despite her instructions not to do so. The ailing youngster had been given no medical care at all. The disturbing story quickly made national headlines. Later placed in foster care, the boy received skin grafts to help his scarred hands regain their function. But even though the victim's physical wounds were treated, recent research findings indicate that any injuries inflicted to his developing mind may never truly heal.

Though an extreme example, the notorious case is unfortunately not all that uncommon. Every year child welfare agencies in the U.S. receive more than three million allegations of childhood abuse and neglect and collect sufficient evidence to substantiate more than a million instances.

You have to pay to read the last article. I'm just linking to it so if I do a paper later on the subject, I know what keywords to use in the scholarly journal databases for the actual studies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Poster for next week's presentation. Posted by Picasa

Factsheet for my oral report next week

Expressing the Inexpressible
Art in Grief Work - Fact Sheet

Art has been an integral part of grief work since the dawn of time.

“(A)rt forms have been a part of funeral ceremonies since Neanderthal times.“ - Malchiodi, C. (1998). The Art Therapy Sourcebook. (p. 142)

During the Black Plague, art took on a more morbid air, reflecting the fear, anger and sorrow which was universally felt. “Marked by crowded, paranoid compositions, ugly, menacing faces, bright colors and increased violence, Black Death art is unbalanced and uneasy.“ - Art and Death (

In the 19th century, posthumous mourning portraiture and other art became part of the morning process. - Leming, M. & Dickinson, G. (2002). Understanding Dying, Death, and Bereavement. (p 406).

Private bereavement art can take other forms besides drawing and painting.

Masks - Masks can represent “faces” of ourselves. (Allen, P. [1995]. Art is a Way of Knowing. p 81-82, 113-114) Similar to some primitive cultures, making masks of deceased loved ones helps to deal with the grief. (Allen, 127-140) Masks can also help resolve issues with long deceased relatives. (Allen, p165-167)

Collages - Using images from family photos, magazines and other sources can help a client connect and/or explore their personal history and the connections with family and society. (Allen, p 144-145)

Mandalas - Creating circular drawings helps to symbolize “wholeness” or the intention to be whole. It is often a very calming task. (Allen, p. 192) Releases tension and gives a holistic way to examine inner conflicts using Jungian principles. (Fincher, S. [1991]. Creating Mandalas - For Insight, Healing and Self-Expression. p. 24-32) Also allows the client to focus themselves mentally. (Fincher, p. 175)

Heart-shaped Memory Boxes - Heart-shaped boxes decorated usually decorated in collage-style. Allows the client to represent their public and private relationship with the deceased. (Primetime Live, March 7, 2002. “Tender Hearts - Art Helps Children of 9/11 Heal”.)

Quilts make a good community grief project, as in the AIDS Memorial Quilt. (Malchiodi, p 142-143)

Art Therapy is especially effective in grief work.

Perceived as less threatening than many traditional interventions. (Kahn, B. [1999]. “Art therapy with adolescents: Making it work for school counselors.“ ¶ 2)

It's flexible enough to be used with more than one approach and can be very client-centered, giving a safe outlet for disturbing themes. (Kahn, ¶ 5)

“(A)rt seems to appear spontaneously when confronted with a significant loss...“ (Malchiodi, p 144)

Art can be particularly helpful to those whose trauma is so severe that they can't find words for it. (Malchiodi, p 149)

“Color unlocks emotion...” (Fincher, p 172)

Damaging a piece of one's own artwork is an act of damaging the self, without actually harming the artist physically. It is a better release for self-directed anger. (Fincher, p 174)

A puzzling piece of art

Elonka's Kryptos Page

Kryptos is a sculpture located on the grounds of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Installed in 1990, its thousands of characters contain encrypted messages, of which three have been solved (so far). There is still a fourth section at the bottom consisting of 97 or 98 characters which remains uncracked. This webpage contains some information about the sculpture, including some photos collected from around the web, some rubbings of the sculpture taken by your intrepid webmistress, links to other articles and Kryptos discussion groups here and there, and information about other encrypted sculptures which have been created by the sculptor, James Sanborn.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Chapter Eleven Short Essay - The Business of Dying

Before the Victorian age, funerals were times of public mourning and long sermons in most of the United States. Most people were buried wherever it was convenient. The Puritans eschewed the displays of grief and buried the dead near churches, but still gave elegies and long sermons on the fate of the living, because in their minds the dead had already had their fate sealed.

With the introduction of industrialization, the need for a third party to handle funerals and burial became great enough that people began to make a living taking care of dead. But while industrialization created a livelihood, the funeral industry made sure they shaped public expectations to make work easier for them, by convincing people to focus more on comforting the survivors than facing the death and loss. Funeral directors talked the clergy into giving shorter and more uplifting sermons. They began removing the morbid and scary images from monuments and memorials. They beautified and preserved the corpse to give them a more peaceful look. They substituted the ominous coffin for the stately casket and decorated the interior to look like a bed. In short, they worked to make it more pleasant to have a “professional” do the funeral, than to adhere to older traditions.

Even in the twentieth century, funeral homes and cemeteries influenced burial traditions. The introduction of “lawn cemeteries” appeared. While they may argue that this is a far more peaceful atmosphere for grieving people, the ease of caring for a lawn cemetery is obviously a savings for whomever maintains them. As is the push to standardize grave markers and minimalize the amount of personalization of them. While the industry calls it aesthetics and making it more economical for the consumer, there is no doubt the main beneficiary is the industry itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chapter Ten Short Essay - Death Rituals

As varied as death rituals are around the world, like other rites of passage, they all consist of three parts. The first is the separation of the bereaved from the non-bereaved. In most cultures, this is not actually a physical separation as it is identifying the affected people through marking them as mourners. This can be accomplished through a change of clothing and adornment and/or actions that are not commonly used during normal life. Sometimes the bereaved do separate themselves physically from others to be alone with their grief. They withdraw themselves from work and other social activities. Depending on the culture, the mourners can be extremely quiet and stoic about their loss or everyone may take the opportunity to wail and release their sorrow in a physically intense manner. In general, women are expected to take longer at this than men. Many cultures allow men to remarry sooner than women after the death of a spouse without social reprisals.

The second part is the transition from being a part of the society to being accepted as dead. With some cultures this is a relatively short part, taking only as long as it does to bury the body (or send it to professionals to do it) and getting the paperwork done to take care of the estate and notify the government. In other cultures, it can take up to three years and even a few reburials.

Once the deceased has been ritualistically declared no longer a living part of society, the reintegration of the mourners into society occurs. This is done usually through a large meal or party, where people can begin to shed their more visible mourning behavior and return to a normal daily routine.

Chapter Nine Short Essay - Suicide

In general, suicides occur in the context of social connectivity. The people most likely to commit suicide either have too few social ties (troubled adolescents) or too many (high stressed occupations). Changes in social ties like deaths, divorces, unemployment, retirement and relocation, also increases the likelihood of suicide.

Child suicides are more prevalent in homes where family ties are disrupted and/or other members have committed suicide. Adolescent suicides have the same risk factors as child ones, with the extra dimension of poor peer relations. Adolescents are also more likely to commit copycat suicides. Adult suicides are more influenced by personal losses, though parents are less likely to commit suicide than non-parents.

Elderly suicide is most likely to be a rational suicide where the older person decides to end their life in an effort to make life easier for those around them. Another cause of elderly suicide is an inability to adjust to retirement or widowhood. While other age groups are prone to suicide gestures, the elderly are far more likely to be successful with their suicides. They approach suicide with a great deal of forethought and planning. In most cases, they give no warning to their friends and family. However, they usually make sure that their other affairs are in order and try to leave a minimal amount of mess to clean up.

Social driven suicides, or honorable suicides, only occur in cultures where they are accepted. Even in some cultures that abhor suicides, certain reasons for killing one's self are considered acceptable if they are done to support a higher moral principle. Some cultures will change their acceptance of suicides when it begins to impact society.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My Funeral Home Field Trip Summary

Visit to Mercer-Adams Funeral Home
November 7, 2005

I was very impressed with our tour of the Mercer-Adams Funeral Home. The atmosphere there was warm and soothing. Funeral Director Amy Brown was extremely knowledgeable and easy to talk to. I appreciated her ability to give details, such as how a body is handled if the medical examiner finds something suspicious and what legalities are involved when transporting a body over state lines.

It was very interesting to hear how the funeral home accommodated different types of funeral services. Especially the Taiwanese funerals that take about three days to do. I found her observation of how the Taiwanese are more attached to the body interesting, since I did not expect that from the Westerner interpretation of Buddism I have been exposed to. I was always given the impression that the body was merely an impediment to spiritual perfection. However, this is probably an example of how traditions and ideas do not always translate fully into other cultures. It also is probably more of a reflection of how many Eastern cultures are more death-accepting than Western ones.

Ms. Brown also explained how the industry is regulated for quality. The state commission does surprised inspections and not only checks the facilities, but also how the paperwork is handled. She did not mention anything about needing to have their procedures written down, but if so, then the industry is practically ISO compliant. The funeral home also was careful when choosing a crematorium to work with, selecting one that kept track of the remains through a fire-proof tagging system. Mercer-Adams dedication to their deceased clients is obvious in the fact that they still hold on to unclaimed ashes even after several years, just in case someone of the family decides to retrieve them.

Funeral directors must interact with the family while the grief is still numbing. As Ms. Brown said, the shock is a bit of the blessing, since it helps the family to deal with the many arrangements that must be taken care of right after the death. Within two and a half hours, Ms. Brown leads the family through a whole lists of decisions and helps them by not only taking care of things like contacting the cemetery and florist, but also giving them a list of things the family had to take care of, like deciding on pall bearers and the type of funeral.

It is interesting that many features of caskets are more reflective of the fears of the living than the needs of the dead. For instance, unless someone is sending a body to another country, which must be hermetically sealed, there really is not a reason to have a sealed casket except for the fear of being eaten by insects and mold. Because of their beliefs, Orthodox Jews are buried in special wooden caskets that do not have any metal in their construction. After seeing the elaborate adult caskets, it was a bit disturbing to find that child caskets are often consist of a plastic shell and closed with a sealant. I can only assume it is because parents of young children often do not have the money for more elaborate caskets.

I found the embalming room very clean and strongly smelled of bleach. It was interesting to know just how non-intrusive most embalmings are. Just one cut into the skin and then opening a vein and injecting the fluid into a major artery. The fluid is custom mixed for each body and the pump does all the work. When there is problems with circulation, other small incisions are made, but since it is the circulatory system that does the delivery, it is to the embalmer's benefit to keep it as intact as possible. It is after the blood has been replace and the body has set a while that the abdominal fluid is replaced with a thicker solution to kill off the internal bacteria.

It was good to know that Ms. Brown took the time and effort to keep herself from burning out. From exercise to missionary trips to Honduras, it is obvious that she does her best to balance her life. I suspect that the care she takes for her own well-being helps a great deal when she is working with grieving families.

Death and Dying discussion questions

Chapter Five Questions

2. Would you prefer to live with a person who is terminally ill or a person who is chemically dependent? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

It would depend on the specifics of the disease and the dependency, but in general I would prefer to live with a terminally ill person. With a terminally ill person, I would be more likely to have meaningful communications with them and succeed in some way in making the end of their life better by making sure that they don't die alone. True, there would be a lot of physical caretaking and little sleep, but at least there would be an end, even if it didn't feel that way sometimes. A chemically dependent person on the other hand, would be more mobile and possibly more destructive. I would also have to stay one step ahead of them for their sake and my own sanity, especially since I would be trying to help them to get over their addiction. A chemically dependent person usually loses more of their ability to temper their emotional outbursts than a terminally ill person.

7. Discuss Glasser and Strauss's four awareness contexts. Which do you think more often exists in a medical setting with a dying patient?

Closed Awareness - Patient is not told the truth about their condition or was “told” and refused to hear it. This is an unstable context of awareness since most patients are able to pick up on death-related situational and spatial clues. According to one study, nurses prefer to work in this context more often.

Suspicion Awareness - Patient suspects the truth, but receives no verification from the medical staff. This requires the medical staff to be united on not telling the patient. It is possible that it is an unspoken agreement, justified by excuses as in they just haven't found the right time to tell the patient yet. Legislation has reduced context over the years as patients are given more of a right to know the truth about their health.

Mutual Pretense - Everyone, including the patient, knows that the patient's condition is terminal, but all are pretending that the patient is going to beat the odds and live anyway. Considering the weight American doctors and others place on surviving as a measure of success and competency of a medical professional, this is probably the most frequent occurring context in a medical setting in the United States.

Open Awareness - Everyone knows the patient is going to die and are working towards a “proper” death for the patient. A study in England showed that most of the doctors there preferred this context. Unfortunately, the dying patient usually has no clue what a “proper” death is supposed to be like and often receives less care when they don't act as the medical staff expects them to.

Chapter Six Questions

1) What is hospice care? How does it differ from the treatment given by most acute-care hospitals? Identify the major functions of a hospice program.

Hospice is a form a palliative care, where the main goal is to “care” for the patient and family,while most acute-care hospitals focus almost exclusively on “curing” the patient. Not only are the physical needs considered, but also the psychological, social, financial and spiritual needs. The three primary concerns of hospice care are symptom and pain control, the apprehension caused by having others in control of one's life, and the anxiety about being alone at the time of death.

4) Pain control is not a goal of all dying patients. Discuss the cultural ramifications of controlling pain.

While there really isn't any reason for most dying patients to be in pain with the pain-killing medicines we have available, there are many reasons why some patients would rather deal with the pain than the drugs. One is the worry that the medicine will dull their mental capacity and the patient won't be able to interact with other on a meaningful level because of being sedated. Cultural reasons include beliefs about avoiding drugs, showing strength in the face of the final adversity, and the idea in some cultures that dying in pain means an honorable death. Enduring pain may be considered more natural and acceptable by some patients.

Chapter Seven Questions

2) How does “labeling theory” tend to make one a “deviant“?

It creates a set of accepted “norms” through labeling what is expected and what is not. Anything that cannot be given a normal label, becomes deviant and an area of insecurity for those indoctrinated with the labels.

5) Why do you think the medical schools have traditionally offered very little death education?

Because it runs counter to the overwhelming cultural belief of doctors being able to cure everything and therefore a very uncomfortable subject for many to deal with. After all, doctors help people live. If a doctor helped people die, it might be considered murder. The concept of care versus cure does not exist in most medical schools, so the idea of caring for someone who is dying creates confusion when compared to the rest of the medical education.

Chapter Eight Questions

1) Compare and contrast passive and active euthanasia. What difficulties does implementing each of these approaches have for current social policy dealing with health care for the terminally ill?

Passive euthanasia is allowing someone to die by not implementing measures that could prolong their life. It is legal in most of the technological countries of the world. While many people consider it acceptable and even preferable, there are some who see it as immoral not to do everything possible to sustain life, especially people who place the sanctity of life over the quality of life.

Active euthanasia is when the patient and/or doctor does something to accelerate the dying process. This is illegal in most countries and comparable to suicide or murder. Many fear that taking this path will lead to the slippery slope of a society choosing to euthanize non-terminal people who are not considered useful to that society.

Interestingly, quality of life is more of a concern for those in well-to-do segments of society. People who have had experienced more suffering and discomfort due to living in lower social economic levels tend to care more for the sanctity of life, since for them pain and misery is a common part of life and not a reason to end it.

6) Discuss your reaction to Dr. Timothy Quill's assisting his patient with leukemia, “Diane,” with her death.
Though I probably wouldn't have told her of the Hemlock Society, I'm not exactly appalled at him for giving her medication to do what she did. First off, he gave her directions for how to use the medicine in a non-life threatening way, before telling her the toxic doses. That gave her the chance to use the medicine in another, more acceptable, way. With that education, she could make her own decision. It was also obvious that he would have prefer she tried to stay alive and I believe that was obvious to her too, since she waited several months before finally doing it. And by making her tell him before she did, he made her more accountable for her actions because she couldn't just sneak in her suicide, she had to actually face the reality that she was ending her life.

Though I am a religious person and believe that suicide is wrong, I also believe that how accountable a person is for taking there own life depends on their knowledge and understanding of what they are doing. I also believe that I cannot know for sure how accountable they are and it's not my place to make that decision anyway. I don't condemn the doctor because while he did give her the means, he also gave her a clear knowledge of what she was considering. The was a very good chance that had he not educated her, she would have found another way to overdose herself.

Friday, October 28, 2005

My Obituary

If I could have my preference, I would want my obituary written by the staff of the New York Times. Seriously, these people write great obituaries. However, my textbook suggests that I should try writing my own obituary as a ways to accept my own mortality. Looking at my syllabus, it's not going to be a class assignment, but I am going to write the obituary I wish could be published, though I suspect my surviving relatives would have a fit if it was used. Of course, "Cosmic Siren" would be replaced with my real name and the specific information filled in.

Cosmic Siren Dead at Last

After ___ years of surviving many things through sheer luck and stubborness, _________ resident Cosmic Siren finally died on ____________ at ____ from ___________________.

A very serious and responsible child, Cosmic didn't find her true path in life until her late thirties. At which time, the very proper and quiet persona she had up until then presented to the rest of humanity was unceremoniously peeled away and replaced with an eccentric intensity and a determination to bring the healing of art to those who would otherwise overlook it.

Her achievements include raising two wonderful children, archetypal symbolism research, books on a range of subjects, and various other things.

In addition to her children, she is survived by ____ siblings and unnumbered minions. She will be missed, if only because she made life just a little more interesting by her presence.

Death, Grief and Bereavement homework.

Yes, I am back in school again. My Death, Grief and Bereavement module starts October 31st. Here's my first essay for the class.

Obituary Content Comparisons

When I started this assignment, I had the preconceived notion that the likelihood of an obituary being death denying would be less for a larger metropolis than it would for smaller urban areas. I was quite surprised to find out I was wrong. I was also wrong in my assumption that staff-written obituaries would be more death accepting than those written by someone who knew the deceased person personally. I compared six different newspaper sites and it is my suspicion that the degree of death accepting language depends more on regional culture than anything else.

The first two newspapers I compared were the NY and LA Times. The NY Times obituaries ( were obviously staff written. The short obituaries were focused on the factual statistic information in death accepting language with a title giving identifying phrase (either occupation or a defining achievement) of deceased linked to a longer, more detailed summary of their achievements while alive. They were the type of obituaries I expected see from an internationally read newspaper. The LA Times obituaries ( were probably staff written and while factual about death and time of it, they were somewhat death denying in that they avoided using the words death and died in titles, which were often preceded by the euphemism “passings“. The longer description were shorter than the NY Times full obituaries. Exceptions were made for military deaths, where the word “killed” and “dies” did make it into the obituary titles. Apparently military deaths are supposed to be accepted bluntly, while civilian deaths are to be handled carefully.

The next two newspapers I compared were The Oklahoman and The Dallas Morning News. The Oklahoman obituaries ( were usually written by someone who personally knew the deceased and sent to the paper. Most of these obituaries gave vital statistics, genealogical (parents, surviving family) and memorial service information. Occassionally some personal information of the decease was printed. Almost all of them were death accepting in their language, perhaps due to their brevity. In stark contrast, the staff written obituaries of The Dallas Morning News ( were definitely death denying in that they focused more on the human interest element. Readers were presented with the wonderful qualities of the deceased person, with the information about the actual death worked into either the middle or the end.

The last two newspapers I compared were from smaller cities: Norman, Oklahoma, and San Marcos, Texas. Both papers used non-staff written obituaries and unlike the obituaries in the Oklahoman, there did not appear to be a size limit to the obituaries submitted. The information presented varied by individual obituary. Some were just the date and time of death and city of residence of the decease. Others were short life histories. However, the obituaries of The Norman Transcript ( were more death accepting than those of The San Marcos Daily Record (, which were mostly death denying or acceptance soften with soothing adjectives.

The content of the staff written obituaries were probably dictated by either the newspaper's or editor's philosophies philosophies. Whether or not they accurately depict the general cultural approach to death is not clear. However, the submitted obituaries, especially those that were not limited in length showed more of a cultural angle in how the information was presented.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Schizophrenics Better at Discerning Illusions

Schizophrenics Better at Discerning Illusions

Optical illusions that fool most people don't seem to trick those who suffer from schizophrenia, concludes a study published in the latest issue of Current Biology. The success may actually be linked to a weakness in a brain mechanism called contextual processing, which is responsible for picking out relevant sensory information from the barrage of stimuli a person constantly experiences. If that's the case, it may explain why some schizophrenics misunderstand other people's actions in the context of a situation or feel paranoia or persecution.

In other news, I start going back to school October 31st.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Change a setting

You'll now have to do the "type the letters in the box to verify" thing.

Been getting spambots. Ironically, the first entry they hit was one on scams.

Fruit Bowls

Margaret Dorfman

Margaret Dorfman makes her delicate parchment bowls by hand from over 35 different types of fresh fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are cured for several days and then pressed, dried and aged into paper-thin, translucent vessels. She calls her pieces Fruit and Vegetable Parchment because their texture and translucency call to mind the skin parchments of medieval Europe. As each bowl is carefully hand-shaped and formed, so each is unique.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Finally had the surgery

Was released from the hospital last night. Quick summary here.

Found out the possible source of my extreme weakness and illness of the past few months. My hemoglobin count before the surgery was around 6.9. I had to be given two pints of blood before I could be operated on. I was given another two units during the surgery, even though I hardly lost any blood. At 2 am the morning after, my hemoglobin count was around 9.8. Just having the transfusions helped me feel better.

The chief anesthesiologist was very worried about how my levels got so low. Asked about if my bone marrow had any problems, but I wasn't anemic three months ago. However, I did lose a lot of blood back then - enough to make me so weak that I had stay with my parents for two weeks. The scary thing is that my body did not replace the blood by now. I have lost 3 pints before and recovered my strength a couple of weeks later.

Anyway, between that and having some breathing problems near the end of the surgery, they decided to make it only a partial hysterectomy, but they said my ovaries looked healthy and it wasn't worth the risk to go after them too.

I am doing well now. Even with the normal surgery pain, I actually can walk farther now, than I could before the surgery. So despite everything, I consider it a success.

Anyway, I forgot to mention that after all that trouble to get the kids to cook before my surgery, and making all those frozen entries - Thursday night instead of defrosting what we already made, my children actually went ahead a cooked a fresh meal for themselves. Apparently, it's easier to think straighter about food when Mom's not around than it is when she's around and sick.

My cat George kept looking for me while I was gone. He kept finding clothing with my scent on to sleep on. We're all at my parents right now, me, the kids and the cats. The kitties have seen how miserable I am and know that I don't liked being laid on. They have beeen very considerate of my wishes so far.

The nurses loved me. They would come and chat with me after they had a rough patien to deal with and I would tell them to take care of themselves, like I was perfectly okay and they were the ones needing the sympathy. But they sort did need it more. My next door neighbor was a very childlike and most of the time she was just cute carrying around her baby doll and chittering. But yesterday, she kept throwing crying fits when they had to take blood for test updates. They also had a patient die yesterday morning and another one who had to be restrained a bit. I don't know what his problem was, but he sounded like he was coming down from something.

I found it amusing that in recovery, the women were laying there quietly as they woke up from anesthesia, but the two male patients were moaning and groaning and making all sorts of horrible noises, but it was the fear noises, not real agony ones. If you've ever raised a toddler, you will know what I"m talking about. The nurses (male and female) finally got both men to realize that they were okay and the surgery was done. But really, I guess it would be really scary to the unconscious to be in a position of weekness as an adult, when you're used to having "control" most of the time.

My children, pets and I are currently with my parents.

Well, it keeps my blood pressure up. Seriously. I was showing a blood pressure of 68/65 about 20 minutes ago. Mom started to tell me I was doing it wrong - like I haven't used this unit several times in the past 3 years. By the time we finished, my reading was 128/67 and my pulse went from 63 to 84 beats per minute.

So far, she's griped about all her doctors, recited imagined crimes of her elementary classmates - "I was too naive to know then, but now I know more and they were actually going to do (some horrible crime that makes no sense without a motive) to me." *rolls eyes*

BTW, the classmate thing came out because she's trying to prove that they got DDT poisoning during their school years.

Also have been treated to a diatribe about my dad and some socioeconomic rant - and I have been here just over 12 hours.

I'm going to go back to sleep. My painkillers are starting to hit me hard.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A constitutional republic

I was sent an article from a major publication recently and it occurred to me for the umpteen hundredth time that most people slept through their US Government classes.

If you check out the US entry in the CIA World Factbook, you will see that we are listed as a Constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition.

Federal republic - a state in which the powers of the central government are restricted and in which the component parts (states, colonies, or provinces) retain a degree of self-government; ultimate sovereign power rests with the voters who chose their governmental representatives.

Now, when this country was first created, it had thirteen former colonies that had very different cultures and ideals. None of these newly declared states wanted to totally give up their rights of self-government to a central government. They wanted to be able to decide certain things themselves. If those people on the other side of the state line wanted something different - more power to them.

But there were worries that a strong federal government might override the states' sovereignty by using the excuse of an emergency to come in and take control. And actually, JFK sort of did this in 1963 against Gov. George Wallace, ordering the governor's own National Guard to turn against him and forcibly integrate the University of Alabama. Of course that was to uphold a federal mandate. In the case of looters, who are breaking no evident federal law, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 explicitly forbids using the military (unless a governor uses her National Guard under "state status") in a domestic police function.

What this means is that according to the law, the STATES are given the chance to solve the problem themselves FIRST. The federal government is not allowed to step in without the governor's permission. After all, the governor is supposed to have a better idea of what the citizens of his state are in need of than the feds in Washington D.C. Only when the state government cannot handle a crisis that the feds have the right to step in. Theorhetically, a president could get impeached for infringing on a state's sovereignty - that would indeed be seen as a move towards dictatorship.

This part of the reason I get so disgusted with the ignorant people make comments about any president having dictator-like powers. The state governors have powers that keeps this from happening. But if we keep insisting that the federal government fix everything immediately, then we weaken that check and balance. Of course, there is something in place when the governor does screw up and the president should step in then, but we shouldn't be so surprised when they don't step in immediately. Presidents who have done so in the past always get flack for doing it, no matter what their political party.

I'm not saying that everything worked like it should recently. In fact, I think there were major screw-ups on all levels and Brown deserved to be removed. I just don't want us to forget why we let the states ask for help from the feds, instead of the feds just moving in like an overbearing parent and making everything right. It's not supposed to be a parent/child relationship between the federal government and the state governments. They are supposed to be more of less equals. If you are a competant adult, you don't want someone else barging in when you have a problem unless it's an emergency you can't handle. That's true for the states too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Someone should do a study on this.

Someone should see how many people commit suicide while trying to get medical care when they don't have insurance and are going through the red tape to get the medical help they need so they can hold a job again.

Actually, just study how many people commit suicide because they have to deal with healthcare bureaucrats who don't seem to realize that they are literally screwing with someone else's life.

Nice tactic there. Let's either drive them to take their own lives because they can't take being sick anymore or string things out until their illness takes them. Heck of a way to save government money by killing off past tax payers, who with proper treatment could pay taxes again. Ironically, it appears easier to get help if you have something incureable or if you've never worked.

Talk about fostering codependency.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

MIT Blog Survey

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

How some of the data looks so far:

Male - 6216
Female - 8513

Year Born
Chart is hard to read, but I'm on the older tail - about 1.5 or 2 standard deviations away from the mean, I would guess.

Year Started Blogging
Most people started their blogs in 2003. I actually had an online journal in 1998.

Top 3 Reasons for Blog
1) To journal life - 10153
2) Keep in touch - 9515
3) Editorials - 7344

% of buddy list is family
>10% - 7771
10% - 1414
20% - 724
30% - 334
And I can't read the other numbers...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

There is no blue or red - only green...

High court OKs personal property seizures

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Let's see. This is happening in Connecticut, which I thought was a Democratic party state. Several citizens are being forced off of their personal property "for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue."

That's right, people. If a major corporation decides they want to build on your land, they just need to convince your city government that it will generate revenue. Most of my Liberal friends are fond of telling me that it is the Republicans who care for corporate America more than the citizen. If so, the following doesn't make much sense:

Sandra Day O'Connor - Republican nominated by Ronald Reagan
William H. Rehnquist - Republican nominated by Reagan
Antonin Scalia - Republican nominated by Reagan
Clarence Thomas - Republican nominated by George H. Bush

Stephen G. Breyer - Democrat nominated by Clinton
Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Democrat nominated by Clinton
David H. Souter - Republican nominated by George H. Bush
Anthony Kennedy - Republican nominated by Ronald Reagan
John Paul Stevens - Republican nominated by Gerald Ford

Maybe it's 45% of Republicans who are in Corporate America's pockets, but how do you explain all the Democrats voting "yes" and the fact it's happening in a primarily Democratic region?

We need to send Zapp! books to the Supreme Court Justices and government officials in Connecticut. Or some of Deming's books. Crap like this is a short term gain that leads to a long term loss.

My Management Summary Paper

Introduction to Management & Administration
Summary Paper

There are four main functions of management: planning; organizing; motivating; and controlling. Planning includes duties such as setting goals and objectives, providing corporate vision, strategy, resource and budget considerations. Organizing functions include procedures, hiring and firing, chains of command, job specifications, matters of design and physical location. Motivating deals with benefits, communication in both directions, rewards, salaries and leadership. Controlling does not mean getting complete and total compliance from employees. Controlling actually refers to directing, checks and balances, quality assurance, audits, and assessments.

Many people enter management positions with only a vague idea of what a manager actually does. Some think that it means that they can do whatever they want to those underneath them, basically a slave-master relationship. Many of these people have what Douglas McGregor called a Theory X view of workers: people only work because they are forced to. I have worked under a few Theory X managers and I think that there are three main varieties of Theory X managers: the true Theory X believers, the control freaks, and the control freak true believer. The attitude that seems to identify a Theory X true believer is one of resignation or duty-bound. These are the type of supervisors who think they have to goad people to work, but do not get any pleasure from it. They also will only do what upper management tells them and get very nervous when there are not set guidelines to follow. The control freaks, on the other hand, are ruled by the belief that they are not doing their jobs unless they have total control of their employee's actions. These people will change things constantly to prove to themselves that they are in control, sometimes with absolutely no consideration of how those changes will affect work production. “Because I am your boss,” is a justification often given for these changes. Whether or not someone will do their job without being prodded is inconsequential to them. If anything, they do realize that some people will work without supervision and see this as a threat to their “power”. Such mavericks might take their jobs and must be brought to the same level of broken spirit as the other workers. At the same time, these managers pay little to no attention to upper management, feeling that they know better than anyone else what is best for the department. The control freak true believer is a little easier to deal with. This type of manager, at least, pays attention to the demands of management and is less erratic than the pure control freak. However, they have the uncanny ability to make the most empowering upper management initiative into another means of micromanaging and will even go as far as trying to force creativity and feedback from their workers, often without giving the workers a chance to think on the matter. Most Theory X managers use what Situational Management theory calls a telling management style, with an occasional foray into the selling management style.

According to McGregor, Theory Y managers believe that people will work willingly if they enjoy their jobs. I do not have as much experience with Theory Y managers. The ones I have worked with though, seem to fall into two categories: the cheerleader and the hands-off manager. The cheerleader interacts frequently with their workers, asks questions, gives pep-talks and “atta-girls”. They sometimes resemble a whirling dervish as they come through the workplace. In situational management, they are considered to be using either the selling or participating management styles. The hands-off manager sits the employee down, explains what is needed, asks if there is anything the employee needs for the task and then dismisses the employee to go do the work with a reminder to let the manager know if a problem comes up. This type of manager is far more likely to use the delegating style of situational management, using the participating style when necessary. I did have one Theory Y manager who did the cheerleader and the hands-off method. He started off as the cheerleader and as the employee showed their abilities, he would use whichever version was more productive with them. Actually, there was one employee that he did do Theory X managing with. She was mentally unable to do tasks without step by step instructions. However once she was trained, then she could be left alone as long as the procedures were not changed. If one was changed, then she had to be closely supervised for months or she would revert back to the previous procedure. One time she was so flustered by a series of changes in our workplace that she reverted back to the original procedures she had been taught over ten years before, which were very obsolete and incompatible with the newer equipment. Our manager became very frustrated with her and ended up giving another employee the task of supervising her work.

According to Fredrick Herzberg, people have two main needs at work. The first most Americans think of is motivation, but there is another just as important, if not more. Getting the best from workers requires a manager to consider not only how they motivate people, but the conditions of the workplace. These conditions, or hygiene factors, include policies and administration, supervision, working conditions, interpersonal relations, money, status and security. These factors rarely motivate workers to work harder, but their absence or poor condition of will make workers less productive. Motivation actually comes from achievement, recognition for accomplishment, challenging work, increased responsibility, growth and development, but without the workplace hygiene needs being met, these motivating factors are severely compromised.

But what type of managing gives the highest productivity and payoff? If one wants true success, then we need to examine the theories of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The younger generations may not remember that at one time “Made in Japan” had the same reputation as “Made in China” does today - that is “cheap and of low quality”. In fact, most people now see “Made in Japan” as an indication of very high quality workmanship. What caused this change was Deming's theories and research. So successful was his approach to management, that Japan's highest award for quality is named after him.

Dr. Deming was a statistician with degrees in engineering, physics and mathematics. He analyze productivity and quality methods and determined what was most successful in improving both. His results were first rejected by American industrialists, who could not see that their dominance in the world industrial theater was due more to their technological edge than actual management practices. Post War World II Japan, however, welcomed him when they needed to rebuild their industry and realized it was going to take more than just mass producing cheap stuff to do it.

Deming put together a list of the 14 Points for Management, which lead to the Five Deadly Diseases that Can Destroy an Organization:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose. People have no idea of the organization's main purpose for existing. There is no planning for the future.

  2. Emphasis on the short term profit. Bottom line focus causes sacrifice of long term growth in a drive to show a profit now.

  3. Performance Reviews/Merit Systems. Ruins teamwork by bringing destructive influences and competition into the department. Ends up more as a lottery, where the rewards are often arbitrary and unjust. Destroys motivation and encourages fear.

  4. Mobility of Management. People in management positions move around too frequently. Promoted from the outside, these managers don't have any real roots in the organization and often lack understanding of certain problems. Also makes it able for one manager to succeed using destructive short term methods and leave before the problems inherent to those methods come to light.

  5. Use of visible figures only. The mistaken belief that any quantity that cannot be accurately measured can be safely ignored. These quantities include things like customer satisfaction and long term payoffs. Leads to creative accounting practices and putting the stock holders interests before anything else.

While only five deadly diseases were addressed in the video shown in class, a search on the Internet provided two more: 6) Excessive medical costs and 7) Excessive costs of warranty, fueled by lawyers that work on contingency. Though one can argue that these two are actually part of the invisible figures not considered in the fifth disease. It is possible that these are listed separately in many workshops to give them proper attention.

American companies are still slow to adapt to Deming's theories, but there have been successes by companies whose management have echoed his ideas. Tom Peters cover some stunning examples in his videos and workshops. Two of the most memorable are Harley Davidson's amazing comeback from bankruptcy to being a leader in motorcycle quality in a span of a few years; and Ralph Stayer's revolutionary management of Johnsonville foods, taking an already successful business and spurring it into greater heights by empowering and trusting his employees.

Deming's influence can also be seen in the Zapp! series by William Byham, where people are encouraged to empower each other by avoiding the seeds of the Five Diseases by being quality focused and replacing arbitrary reward systems with personal satisfaction and growth. This shift towards Deming's ideas and the push towards empowerment comes from American industry's need to evolve. Like people, Maslow's hierarchy of needs are present in societies too. Long past are the days when people worked only to survive and have security. Social interaction is also a need that has been satisfied. We as a society are yearning for self-actuation and any company that wishes to tap into the power of their workers needs to adjust their culture to meet that need. These methods do not remove quality control, they internalize it.

Yet, perhaps that is a narrow view of these concepts, for Japan was far from “self-actualization” when Deming introduced his ideas. His work and the works of others have shown that it is possible to introduce these concepts to workers who are initially not ready for delegated responsibilities, as long as there is a training and practice period as presented by William Byham's Zapp! philosophy. Ideally, there is no need for a company to stumble and crawl up the mountain of success, when with some training and faith the company can fly to the summit and beyond.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Single parenthood

Once Upon A Time,
We Too Were Legitimate

Several years ago at a woman’s conference I heard an older woman say, “Oh my gosh! I forgot that women come with children.” I smiled when she said this, for I felt for that brief second that I had found a golden nugget to the problem that separates women from women. Women do come with children, but only if there is a husband attached to the structure are they legitimized as mothers. When the “husband” is removed, we fall silent. We become an invisible part of the world of the working poor, or we are denigrated as the cause of every imaginable social ill. We have now entered into the category of the sacred hoydens of American society.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A pioneer in health care

Gesundheit! Institute
The official website of Patch Adams, MD.

You might remember Robin Williams playing him in the movie Patch Adams.

Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams was criticized in his official medical school record for "excessive happiness" and was once told by a faculty advisor, "If you want to be a clown, join the circus."

Patch did, in fact, want to be a clown. But he also wanted to be a physician. Combining vastly different sides of his personality, he became both. Patch’s remarkable story, which includes having been a patient
and a doctor at a mental institute, celebrates the triumph of spirited individualism and the unending pursuit of idealism.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

In case I haven't mentioned it...

This blog does have a Live Journal feed.

Incestual Rape

Taken from Mexigogue's Blog:

A married couple is charged with raping their thirteen year old grandaughter. Arthur Y. Pena, 58, was charged with rape and his wife Lydia was charged with allowing the assault. From the article:

"When the victim exited the bedroom, the (grandmother) laughed at her and told her she got what she deserves," Tom Green County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Sanders wrote in criminal complaint documents filed in state district court.

There are women out there (not many, thank God) who are willing to let their female offspring be violated and some even help.

Usually it's because they, themselves, have been abused severely by the molester/rapist and they've been beatened down to the level of self-perservation (with a few marbles lost). Therefore, it becomes a matter of "better them than me".

This is one reason why even marital rape is wrong, because it undermines the normal natural instincts that protect children. If Mama is operating at the lowest level of Maslow's heirarchy, she isn't exactly in any position to protect her children.

Though, in Maslow's heirarchy, mothers usually protect their children at even the lowest level. I still think that raping one's own kin and/or allowing them to be raped is nothing short of complete evil. Just because you understand why it happens, doesn't make it any less disgusting.

All rape is evil, but incestual rape is the worst form.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The stained glass window I created for the front door of my parents' house. Posted by Hello

Stained Glass Art Life Learning Paper

Receives top marks for this one too! The evaluating professor really enjoy it.

Art Appreciation - Stained Glass

I. Concrete Experience

My mother is a very artistic person who made sure her children learned about art and aesthetics. As a child, I was taught painting, drawing, ceramics and various textile arts. My father was more into computers and science, but he, too, had an artistic side which he expressed through the lens of a camera. He also taught us candle-making and leather work. We were encouraged to explore art as well as science and my father liked to show his children how lens and filters affected light and color.

Being a family that appreciated the arts and the sciences, we did make a point of visiting places like the Denver Art Museum and the nearby Natural History Museum, as well as several historical sites when we lived in Aurora, Colorado. My parents usually made sure that one of them was a parent chaperone when our classes went on field trips to a museum. This instilled a respect for art, science and history that exist in my siblings and I even to this day.

Throughout my exposure to art, my greatest fascination has always been glass. In high school, I tried to do a science project on the affects of lead on the properties of glass. Unfortunately at that time, I did not know enough about glass manufacturers to find the samples I needed for my project, so I ended up purifying water instead. When I entered college, I studied chemically engineering because none of the universities within the geographical boundaries my parents had set for me offered ceramic engineering, which would have allowed me to specialize in glass.

It was not until I was married and had taught my exhusband how to do ceramics that I began to actually work in stained glass myself. We taught ourselves with the help of a PBS program and some pointers from a local hobby merchant. We made many projects. The front door of my parents' house in Norman, Oklahoma, has a window I specifically made for my mother. My siblings all have three dimensional works from me, from stained glass bass fiddle statuettes to houses that are light by votive candles. Most of the stained glass technique books and the good equipment we had back then stayed with my exhusband. I do have a few books, mostly on soldering and glass bead making, in storage. It has only been in the last few years that I have been able to purchase the supplies I need to pursue this art form again. Sadly, the limitations of time and space have kept me from actually doing any large pieces, but I have taught my children how to do stained glass and my daughter has a natural skill for it.

II. Observations and Reflections

My first hands on experience with stained glass design would have to be during eighth grade in my English classroom. My English teacher, Ms. Perry taught me one very important thing in her class - it doesn't matter what scores you make on an IQ test, if you don't evaluate your own thoughts and actions, you will make some really stupid decisions. I had already formulated this conclusion when she gave me detention for not getting my homework done on time. The detention wasn't the problem. I had been having problems getting the work done because my mother had been sick and as the oldest child, I was taking care of my siblings. I don't remember if I told her why I wasn't getting my homework done, but I might not have. I was very quiet back then and she was an aggressive person who has already ignored my complaint about being seated at the very back of the class, behind a large guy who I couldn't see around. She insisted on alphabetical order seating and with the surname of “Barncord”, I had to sit behind Alan Armstrong. Luckily, Alan and I worked a system out between us so I could see the chalkboard. Still, I was more than a little disgusted when she kept me after school and then would not let me work on my homework so I wouldn't be late with it too. I sat there for several minutes thinking about everything I had to do when I got home and how I now had even less time to do everything in, when Ms. Perry asked me if I would do an art project for her. She wanted stained glass-like effect covering the florescent light fixtures above her desk and since I had shown so much creativity in my poetry and other writings, she thought I could do that for her. So I took the tissue paper and black construction paper and create an abstract design using what I learned from my parents about color combinations and visual balance. I was so pleased with the results that I was able to swallow my resentment towards Ms. Perry, though I still thought she was too wrapped up in her own vision of the world to actually see what was going on around her. I received detention the next week for the same reason and did another light for her.

Mom got better and I didn't serve any further detentions for Ms. Perry. So I had the time to join an after school art club, but nothing to do with stained glass or similar art. It is strange that for the life of me, I cannot remember the names of any of my art teachers. I can remember their faces and many of the things I learned in their classes, but I can't remember their names. I do remember one high school world history teacher when I was living in Texas, Sylvia Butler, who used the development of art to show us how the events of history shaped the way people made things and expressed themselves. She had travelled the world and taken the most wonderful photographs of art, which she would show slides of in class. It was in her class I was first exposed to some of the basics of glass working and stained glass. I wonder if my art teachers had done something more stained glass-like, if perhaps I would have stronger memories of them. Physical science, chemistry and physics classes enticed me further into the world of glass and light. I do remember the names of all my science teachers who taught about light, crystals and glass, but none of my life science teachers' names. I never realized I had such a focused interest in light until now. I suppose it should come as no surprise that my childhood hero was Thomas Alva Edison.

I tried to have my own collection of glass art, but between younger siblings and my own lack of coordination as a teen, most of it ended up broken. But that didn't deter me, even if Mom thought it should. I wanted to work with glass. I decided I wanted to be a ceramic engineer, because not only would I be working with glass, I would actually be able to make my own glass. However, due to my braces, my parents restricted the range of colleges I could attend and none of those offered ceramic engineering. So I went to Texas Tech University and studied chemical engineering.

Because of finances, I quit college and got a job as a flexible packaging quality assurance lab technician with Frito-Lay's National Quality Lab. Polymers are not exactly glass, but I did enjoy working with the materials and because of my art knowledge, I was put in charge of a color correlation project, which allowed me to learn more about the science of color. I learned how light affected colors and the perception of them. My main task was to compare to different types of color spectrometers and see which was more accurate and easier to use. The Hunter Laboratory unit won out because it was designed to test printed materials, while the Pacific Scientific unit was designed to test automobile paint. Because the Pacific Scientific machine used fiber optics instead of a direct light source to illuminate the product, the ultraviolet end of the spectrum was missing, which lead to some inaccurate readings since there are several fluorescing inks used in the packaging industry. Due of the differing light sources, we had a metamerization effect, a difference in color due to illumination, where there shouldn't have been one.

Somewhere along the way, I decided that color science and flexible packaging were the closest I was going to get to my dream of working with glass. I dealt with color, light and varying degrees of opacity, translucence and transparency. And I didn't have to worry about breaking anything. It wasn't quite as exciting or inspiring as working with actual glass, but we can't have everything, right? I decided to be content and focus on more pressing needs and concerns. When the urge to work with glass raised its head, I sedated it by making some jewelry with fancy beads I bought from a nearby jewelry wholesaler. A pair of earrings, a few necklaces and I could go on with life. Even sold some of my creations to my fellow lab technicians.

The approach served me well for several years. I got married, had a child and became a stay at home mom. My exhusband and I started to take ceramic classes together. We even went as far as getting our own kiln and pouring our own greenware by the time we had our second child. Our family and friends loved our creations. My sister Geneva, who is always very picky about what she displays in her house, still has some of my pieces in her living room. One day, my exhusband and I were watching our regular PBS shows, when a show on stained glass came on. I sighed and said I had always wanted to work with stained glass. He said that he didn't see any reason why we couldn't do it. We had just starting slumping glass in our kiln. Why not expand to doing stained glass?

We did some searching in the phone book and found a hobby shop that specialized in coin collections and stained glass. Strange combination, but the owner was a wealth of information. Not only did we find out that Hobby Lobby had glass and some of the basic tools, but we also found out about a professional glass shop just outside of the town we were living in, which also carried stained glass supplies. This shop was wonderful. They not only carried the brass accessory kits and beveled accents, but they also had a large selection of stained glass, including some very fancy glass, to choose from. They also had available a free monthly stained glass newsletter from another company that was full of ideas and tips.

We made several stained glass pieces for gifts for our large extended family over the years. Though we both tried our hands at several projects, my exhusband preferred doing windows and suncatchers, while I enjoyed doing three dimensional houses and sculptures. We did get some lead came, but I never made pieces large enough to make using came practical. I stuck with copper foil. Working with stained glass was more than a dream come true. It was and still is a spiritual experience. I cannot think of many things that can compare to the sight of light interacting with one of my projects. Especially when the unexpected happens.

When I chose the glass for my first stained glass house, I reasoned that using translucent and very dark transparent glass would give me the best results from a lighted candle inside. Excited with the finished piece, I put a lit votive candle inside and turned off the lights. All you could see was the candle, a vague hint of color and the solder/foil skeleton of the house. Surprisingly, my sister Geneva has this piece on display in her kitchen. Having a “ghost house” amuses her, though she rarely lights a candle inside it. I still feel a little sheepish about the experience, because had I thought about it, I would have realized that Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright probably used a predominance opaque glass in their lampshades for a very good reason. To date, I personally have only come across one glass sample that was so opaque that no light would shine through it.

When it comes to the interaction of light and glass, probably one of my most interesting piece of stained glass is the window I created for my parents' house in Norman, Oklahoma. Because of my mother's love of irises, I designed a piece with three irises in arranged in the Japanese “Earth-Man-Heaven” motif and made each iris out of glass with differing transparencies. Depending on the time of day and the direction of the light, one of the irises will seem to disappear into the background. Front lit directly, the dark transparent purple iris becomes difficult to see. Back lit directly, the pink opaque iris becomes so dark that it is out shown by the other two. But at dawn and twilight, when there is soft light coming from both directions, it's the semi-transparent iris that takes a back seat. At first, my mother told me I had made a mistake with my glass choices, but now she loves the fact its appearance changes throughout day.

When my exhusband and I divorced, he kept all the good equipment and a lot of the nice glass. I was annoyed, but it wasn't worth fighting over. I finally bought my own set of good tools a couple of years back and last year I taught my teenage children how to do stained glass too. I do miss working with it, but I just can't dedicate the time to it right now.

III. Abstract Concepts and Generalizations

When deciding on stained glass for a project, one should keep in mind how light is going to enter the piece. What type of light will be illuminating it? Where is the light source? How far will it be from the glass? In most cases, the answers to these questions are very easy to determine. If the piece is dependent on outside natural light, like a suncatcher or a window, then transparent and translucent glass pieces are the best to use, since opaque glass won't show its color as readily. If the piece is going to be lit by an internal light source, like a lamp shade or stained glass house, then opaque and slightly translucent glass pieces work much better, as they will show color without showing the light source itself. However, one can use more transparent or even clear glass as accents, such as windows in a house, where seeing the light source actually gives more depth to the piece. It is always a good idea when choosing glass to hold it up towards a light source to get some idea of its actual light transmitting properties. In pieces that will only be front illuminated, like statuettes, opaque glass and streaked glass are good choices.

For most designs to be effective on a visible level, there should be some contrast for the eye. This can be achieved in several ways in stained glass pieces. The easiest way is by choosing colors that vary in lightness and darkness. A clear glass background in windows and suncatchers allows most designs to be recognizable. Another way is using textured or iridescent glass and there is always using glass of different transparencies. No matter the way contrast is achieved, it is important to have some balance in the piece - places that interest the eye and other places that allows the eye to rest.

A good way to transfer a pattern to the glass is to make several paper copies of the pattern. Cut the pieces out of one copy and use a glue stick to fix to the glass. Special scissors can be used to cut enough off the pattern parts to compensate for the foil or came joints, unless it is a professional pattern which has already been altered. The other copies are used to during the assembling of the pieces later. Paint pens can also be used, but the paint may come off during the grinding process and this technique can be hard to do with some opaque glass. It is essential to keep track of which pieces are which to ensure proper assembly.

Cutting glass is a misleading term. What actually is being done is a controlled breaking of the glass. First, the glass is scored with with a glass cutter. A pistol grip glass cutter is the easiest type to use. Not only does it have a reservoir for mineral oil to lubricate the scoring part, but its design allows a steadier and more even scoring of the glass. When using a simple glass cutter, the craftsperson has to keep the scoring wheel coated with mineral oil and be more careful of how they hold the cutter. Even with good scoring of the glass, there is a limit to how much of a curve that can be cut at one scoring. Arcs over ninety degrees are just asking for trouble. Internal curves are especially difficult. It is a good idea to design the pieces to have shallow curves. If a inside curve must be done, then chipping away the glass with grozier pliers or using a diamond dust embedded grinder or band saw must be used. Corners are done by more than one cut. When glass is cut, the break must continue to the edge. This fact must be considered when laying out pattern pieces.

Even pressure must be applied when scoring the glass. Slow, smooth and steady are the keys to good scoring. This is achieved best by scoring while standing at a table and holding the glass cutter firmer. One can either score away from one's self (pushing) or towards one's self (pulling). While sometimes the scoring line is nearly invisible, often the break line becomes very easy to see. A visible line is a good sign of a clean scoring. Chipping the glass while scoring is not good, because the internal stress line of the glass may no longer be following the score line. Glass is actually a super-cooled liquid and as such, behaves differently than most materials. When cutting from the edge of the glass sheet, it might be necessary to rescore at the very edge. Once the scoring has been been done, then the glass is snapped using either running pliers or a broad fulcrum.

Speciality glasses should usually be scored on the smoothest or untreated side. It is a good idea to do a few practice pieces to find out how the glass will react. Some speciality glass is prone to flaking and other annoying tendencies while cutting. While is it always a good idea to buy more glass than might be needed, it is doubly so for specialty glass, even if they cost a great deal more. Better to plan ahead for mishaps, than to lose an investment in fine glass. Not all speciality glass is more expensive, however. Clear glue-chip glass is usually cheaper than even most plain stained glass. Leftover glass pieces can be used in other pieces or to make cement stepping stones using molds found several hobby stores. In fact, some hobby stores with sell packages of glass broken in the store at a greatly reduced price to customers.

Once the glass has been cut, it should be ground to remove any rough spots and give a slightly textured surface on the edges. Though there are stones one can use for hand-grinding the edges, a motorized grinder is the best tool for the job. The actual grinding is done by diamond dust embedded cylinders. The surface of the grinder is a plastic grid in a shallow tray of water. A sponge behind the grinding cylinder keeps water supplied to the grinding surfaces, making things run smoother. Because of the rough edges on the glass, care should be take not to cut the fingers. Rubber thumbs and finger tips from any office supply store will not only protect, but also give much greater control and are much easier to use than the plastic guards often sold for the purpose. Unless one is trying to create an inside curve, the glass should never stay in one place against the cylinder while grinding. Grinding should be done in a steady back and forth, horizontal motion. The pressure against the cylinder should be firm, but not too hard. A light touch is better than a hard one, though it may require more time to remove the necessary glass. It is still possible to chip and crack the glass at this stage. While a good idea during glass cutting too, eye protection is especially important during grinding, as glass dust is sprayed everywhere. After use, the grinder should be cleaned of glass dust build up and dried off.

Another consideration during constructing a work of stained glass is the size of the total piece. Lead or non-lead cames, channeled metal used for joining glass sections, are for large pieces that need more strength and stability within the piece. In very large pieces, it may be necessary to add wire or rods going through the height of the piece to give it structural integrity. Small pieces are better done with the copper foil method, because came can be hard to fit around tiny sections of glass. It some cases, the came will obscure a tiny piece completely. Some stained glass artists will used both methods in the same piece of work. When using the copper foil method, it is important to make sure the edges of the pieces have been ground down evenly and washed clean of dust or the adhesive on the foil will not stick well. The adhesive is not what holds the piece together in the end, but it makes the fitting and smoothing down of the copper using the fid, a plastic tool used for smoothing foil and clearing out came channels, much easier to do. If done right, the wrinkles in the copper foil will be worked into the metal and appear to be fused onto the glass. Then liquid flux is applied to the foil and the pieces are soldered together. When putting together copper foiled pieces, it is recommended that the pieces be pinned into place on cork board, using small horse nails to hold them into place while soldering. Three dimensional pieces can be held in place with metal or wooden blocks. For pieces like Tiffany lamp recreations, there are special forms that can be bought and used to help solder the pieces into place.

There are several types of copper foil, in differing widths. While the width of the copper foil often depends on the width of the glass being used, sometimes it is advisable to use a thinner width for tiny pieces to give them more exposed area. In general, though, there should be about an eighth inch overlap on the front and back of the glass piece or larger ones will fall out of the finished work. Normal copper foil is adequate for most projects, but when using transparent and clear glass, one should think ahead and consider the color of the solder in the final piece. If it is not going to be stained with a copper patina, then a silver-backed or black-backed copper foil should be used to keep the copper color along the inside edges of the glass from spoiling the finished piece.

Came construction is a bit different. First, lead came must be stretched before it is used. It isn't necessary to have the edges completely smoothed, but it is still a good idea from a safety standpoint. With came, one must notch and work the metal around one piece of glass and then the adjoining pieces are set in the channel and encircled with more came. Only the joints of the came need to be fluxed and soldered. After the soldering is done, the piece is usually cemented and waterproofed.

In both methods, one can treat the piece with a patina to stain the metal through an oxidation reaction. Black is a common patina, though copper, brass and green patinas are also available. Some liquid dish detergent may be needed to remove any excess flux on the glass and metal before applying the patina with a clean flux brush. Because of its toxicity, patinas should be handled with care and the finished work should be washed thoroughly. It is possible to add some interest by applying patina to only parts of the metal joints. In any case, it should be remembered that the lead and solder will oxidizing on their own as time goes by, even if a patina is not applied.

When soldering glass pieces together, it takes a soldering iron that generates more heat and is sturdier than the irons used for electronics. Most people use a rheostat with their soldering irons to control the temperature. However, it is possible to control the iron temperature with a wet sponge and a light touch, but it takes practice to master this technique. Far easier to use the iron with a rheostat, which also allows one to create special designs with the solder, like beads and stippling.

Beveled pieces, glass stones and brass adornments can add a great deal to a piece. Beveled glass can be used in came pieces, but stones and brass are usually used in copper foil pieces. In the foiling method, beveled glass and glass stones are treated like normal glass pieces. Brass ornaments are soldered on top of the foiled pieces. One can make their own brass accents using filigrees or cutting from a sheet of brass or copper. Care must be taken to avoid being burned during the soldering process. Very interesting three dimensional flowers can be created by heating already cut pieces in a kiln to slump them before assembling them on top of brass rods. Non-lead solders and cames are available for those who wish to avoid lead or are making a piece that will be touched by human or animal on a regular basis. Many stained glass birdhouse designs specify using non-lead solder and aluminum came for their construction for the health of the birds that may use them.

While this paper presents several tips for improving the final result, it is important to remember that stained glass as a medium is delight to view even with a few flaws. The average hobbyist can find a great deal of satisfaction even without being careful about the design. There are few things as awe-inspiring as showing a piece of stained glass made by one's own hands.

IV. Applications to New Situations

I have every intention of getting back into creating stained glass arts as soon as my resources allow it. I wish to create pieces that bring a spark of awe and joy to the soul and display them in my home and future office when I become and art therapist. I also want to finish that stained glass village my sister Serena wants, as well as continue to create unusual pieces for my sister Geneva. I might even build that stained glass model train module I envisioned once many years ago. I hope to continue to teach my children the art of stained glass. Someday, I may expand into making my own glass beads and other forms of glass art. I will probably never learn to blow glass and create art like Dale Chihuly, but I plan to someday live in Wimberley, Texas, near the Wimberley Glassworks, where I can still enjoy the beauty of blown glass whenever I desire.

Stress management Life Learning Paper

I received the highest scores possible on this paper and the professor who evaluated it said it was one of the best papers they had read on the subject.

Psychology - Stress Reduction Techniques

I. Concrete Experience

As the oldest child of five children with a mother who was often ill, I have experienced stress from a young age. During grade school, I found release in reading and poetry writing. When I graduated from high school, I took up cross-stitch and needlework as a way to deal with stress, in addition to my poetry writing. As a freshman in college, I took a class on communication confidence, where I learned behavioral techniques of stress reduction. While working at (major corporation), I experienced the stress of a department reorganization due to the misconduct of my manager. My previous stress techniques failed and I resorted to other crafts and listening to music in the dark.

When I was a young mother, I suffered clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder and a stress-reaction skin rash. Medication was prescribed, but the side effects were sometimes worse than the stress reactions. I turned more to creative writing, ceramics and stained glass. I also educated myself on more sophisticated needlework techniques. In combination with the desensitizing techniques found in ANXIETY, PHOBIAS AND PANIC: Taking Charge and Conquering Fear by Reneau Z. Pearifoy MA, MFCC, I became able to manage my generalized anxiety disorder without medication.

My divorce brought new levels of stress. I turned to computer graphic art, using The Mythic Path written by David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner. Most of this art made its way onto an anonymous online journal that I created under the pseudonym “Lady Fribble”. Because I found so much peace in art making, I joined an Art Therapy mailing list to learn more about the field of Art Therapy. Through that list, I became acquainted with Roberta Shoemaker-Beal, a clinical art therapist with over thirty years of experience at institutions such as Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, and has served on the Executive Board of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). Through our friendship, she introduced me to the art of drawing mandalas as a means to combating my stress. The successfulness of mandala drawing led me to read more about them in Creating Mandalas: For Insight, Healing, and Self-Expression by Susanna F. Fincher and Mandalas: Luminous Symbols for Healing by Judith Cornell. Judith Cornell's book inspired me to purchased a black paper journal, small enough to carry in my purse, and a set of colored pencils to draw mandalas at work and other places. Later, another art therapist, Joan Phillips introduced me to Art is a Way of Knowing by Pat B. Allen.

II. Observations and Reflections

My first attempts at relieving stress were written self-expressions through poetry. My own mother used to read poems to her children when she was stressed out and I developed a love for poetry as a preschooler. This love was my main impetus for wanting to learn to read. In second grade, our teacher Miss Adams demonstrated how simple poetry was written through a class exercise. I was mesmerized by the idea that I could write my own poems. My first individually written poem was on the death of the class hamster. While I still use poetry even now to expressions my feelings, there are other aspects of poetry writing that help me deal with stress. First, a sense of accomplishment to combat the feelings of complete helplessness. Second, by playing around with words even in poems that were not emotionally driven, I was able to clear my mind of nagging worries. Third, poems can be really fun to write. And lastly, poetry gives me a way to receive praise and encouragement from others.

Not all stress can be solved through self-expression, a sense of accomplishment and minor distraction. Sometimes the mind needs to be seriously distracted before it can let go of stress. The occasional escape into a good fiction book is still one of the best ways to deal with stress I have found. Not only does reading provide an escape, it also helps me to envision concepts and experience point of views I would normally never come across. Which in turn, gives me more ideas for solving problems that can cause stress. I no longer read fiction on a consistent basis, preferring to spend more time on non-fiction works. However, to maintain a good mental balance, I find I still need to read two or three fiction novels a year. Due to my time constraints, I am careful to choose books I know will keep my attention and enchant me. Among my favorite authors are J. R. R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Robert Aspirin, Mercedes Lackey and J. K. Rowlings because of the depth and scope of their writings.

The stress relief of writing poetry and reading can only grant me a short-term reprieve. As I became older, I needed time to actually solve some of the problems that caused my stress. To this end, I began to do cross-stitching. I even labelled my cross-stitch case “Mandy's Therapy” to my mother's chagrin. Cross-stitching and other needlework gave me something to keep my hands busy, while I meditated on my life and the problems in it. Like poetry, needlework gave me a sense of accomplishment and a source of admiration from others. It also for a time gave me a source of extra money during college, as I did commissioned needlework pieces for friends to give as gifts to their families. I switched from cross-stitch to openwork techniques like Hardanger when I became a mother. Most openwork patterns require you to keep count of less stitches in a row than cross-stitching. This meant I could set my work down faster when one of my children needed my attention, without losing my place. I rarely do needlework now, because of the space it takes to do it properly and comfortably is not always available to me.

I did learn some cognitive behavioral techniques for managing stress during my freshman year at Texas Tech University, in an one credit hour course designed to help shy people by desensitizing them to situations they feel stress in. To be honest, it helped me concentrate more while bowling than it did with interacting with other people. What helped me the most in college to get over my anxiety of dealing with others was to have a position of some kind. My jobs during school and my callings at church gave me a secure platform that allowed me to interact with others with a sense of purpose.

This security of position helped me in my professional life to some extent, but not when I had work-place politics to deal with. Though the pride of doing a job I was suited for well was a blessing while I was at (major company), the uncertainty that occurred after my manager was asked to leave the company for misconduct was debilitating. In addition to one panic attack and self-destructive thoughts, I had severe headaches that went from the middle of my forehead over the top of my head and down my entire spine. I could not engage myself in my previous stress-reducing measures. I needed something more. To combat the panic and self-destructive thoughts, I changed some of my methods of doing things and rearranged items in my apartment to reduce the opportunities that triggered these reactions. I would spend an hour before I went to sleep, laying on my living room floor in the dark, listening to soft music.

I also created flower baskets and refrigerator baskets with inspirational sayings to give people. This forced me to focus on something else besides my work. By this time, my work became such a driving force in my life, that I would actually dream constantly about my projects and duties there. It was the actual creation of these craft items that helped me the most. I searched for several quotes about life, which helped me regain a perspective of my life, as did reading the scriptures. While giving these pieces of artwork to others did provide some praise, that praise had little affect on my stress levels, probably because I was receiving more praise for what I was doing at work. For a time, it seemed the more I did at work and the better I did it, the more double-meaning messages I received. I was seen as my former manager's favorite employee and while I was never accused of anything, a higher manager wanted to erase all connections to my former boss. At first, he even hinted that I was expendable. Later, he said I was too necessary and we needed to spread my duties out more for the good of the department. Perhaps the praise I received for my crafts reminded me too much of work, because after a while, I began to either give the basket and magnets anonymously or find excuses to quickly end conversations when people thanked me.

I transferred to (another location) a few months later, in a move that proved to be a classic case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” However, since I went to college in (the other city), I had a greater social support group there, which made the stress easier to take. I compounded the stress with marriage and pregnancies. I relieved some of it by quitting (my job) to be a stay-at-home mother.

A month after my daughter was born, an infant niece of mine was murdered. Not only did I have to deal with postpartum hormones, but I also had to deal with the parallels to my own child and pressure from some family members for me to step in as the eldest and make everything all right. However, their idea of making everything right would have endangered my own children, so I refused and had to deal with the implied insults that I did not care about what happened to my nephews.

This drove me to clinical depression and I developed a psychosomatic skin condition. At the time of my initial diagnosis, it was uncertain whether my anxiety caused the depression, or if the depression caused the anxiety. After the depression was cured, it became obvious that the anxiety was a constant problem for me. It was also then when the medication I was being prescribed no longer kept me calm. In fact, I can no longer take this medication because I now become hostile on it. Other medications were prescribed, but only Xanax did any good and my doctor refused to put me on it for more than a few days because of its addictive nature.

I decided that I needed a better way to deal with my anxiety. I began to check out books and search online for possible solutions. In a bookstore, I came across the workbook, ANXIETY, PHOBIAS AND PANIC: Taking Charge and Conquering Fear by Reneau Z. Pearifoy MA, MFCC. Though it mostly dealt with cognitive behavioral techniques, it was many times more effective than the course I had as a college freshman. However, I remembered how quickly I forgot those earlier techniques and knew I would need some sort of reinforcement to keep things on track. I joined a mailing list for people who suffered from anxiety and panic disorders. While on this list, an older woman had an ingenious idea. Several of us through the Internet chat program ICQ, would add each other to our contact lists. Then when someone needed to be talked through a panic attack or a flare up of anxiety, then hopefully one of us would be online to say the correct things to help them through it. Ironically, the only time I actually needed someone through ICQ for an anxiety attack, no one was logged on. I finally was able to call a good friend who was educated on anxiety. Still by helping others through their intense moments over ICQ, I was able to more firmly reinforce the techniques in my own mind. I still avoid taking anxiety medications when I can, but I could stand some retraining in the techniques, since it appears that I can only retain my training for about five years. While it keeps things under control during periods of intense stress, I find it inadequate for managing my long-term stresses.

Several times I returned to my crafts for relaxation and release. I enjoy the challenge of learning new techniques. Ceramics was something I first learned from my mother and later taught my exhusband, who then got us into more advance ceramic classes and our own kiln. We also branched into stained glass, something I had always wanted to do. At first, these crafts helped our marriage because we did them together. But that effect lessened as we both developed expertise in different aspects of the crafts. As we began to specialize, we grew apart and an aspect of competition entered the relationship.

I felt I had to find another way to be creative that wouldn't cause conflict and yet at the same time, achieve one of my childhood dreams. So, I focused on creative writing, while also attending local Society for Creative Anachronism events with a neighbor. At first the events were excellent at relieving my stress, giving me a much needed chance to play. But then they became a hassle as my neighbor tried to get me to take them as seriously as she did and engage in the politics of the group. I quit going with her and she took it as a betrayal, even though I pointed out that she was the one that was subverting the reason I originally agreed to go with her. She was the one who told me I needed a place to play. I never agreed to take on everyone else in a bid for recognition and pride.

During this time, I worked on writing fiction stories. I had dabbled with creative prose before, but I was determined to make a more serious effort in that area. One piece in particular was very special to me. I had feedback from other people - knowledgeable people - who told me it was good. So months after the reconciliation between my neighbor and I, having assumed that we had put that in the past, I foolishly let her read it. I even made a point of saying I did not need it proofread at that time. She ignored my comments and trashed it with pure vindictiveness. Much of her criticism was not only unfounded, but just plain ridiculous.

It angered me greatly. I was upset with myself for being so stupid as to give someone I knew to be petty and immature such an opportunity to attack me. For eight months, I could not write a single word on my prized story. I vowed to myself that I would not let this person stop me from being a writer. However, I needed something to break through that rage and get me writing again. I choose to write about a character I had used for role-playing years before, because she was already a well-developed. Though up until that time I was dead set against using another author's work, I decided that by using Roger Zelanzy's Amber universe, I could concentrated more on developing my character and story. And by writing a novel that I had no intention of publishing, I freed myself from many of the worries I usually have when writing. My writing became smoother, and surprisingly more polished as I went. I learned how to use a loose plot outline, how writing about a main character's early years can give them more depth, and how to totally drop whole sections of my writing without going into deep despair. I also learned that if I had to cut out a section I was very fond of for a current story, often it would come back to me while writing another story and fit into that plot better than it did the one I originally wrote it for.

When I started writing the first version of Paradox of Arden, it literally possessed me. I worked on it almost every day. To avoid conflict with the original series, I purposely made sure I kept my character off to the side of Zelazny's stories. I realized near the end of the first version that some of my own issues had crept into my story, even though I had deliberately made my character different from me in several respects. Not only did these issues creep in, but some very good advice about them also surfaced in the dialog. When I finally finished it to more or less my satisfaction, I let my friends read it and went back to writing in my own universes.

One of my friends mentioned that she had hoped my character would be more in the middle of the intrigues that pervade Zelazny's original work. At that time I just shrugged. I had done what I had set out to do with the story and I was happy enough with it. But a demon was born in my subconscious, and I started to write this alternate version. In it, I came up with more plausible reasons for some of the events of my character's life. I also plunged my poor, beloved, heroic character right into the middle of everything, without conflicting with any of Zelazny's known plots. Even now, when I read this version, I find many useful messages to myself. I have since branched out and written many more original stories and each one has given me more insight into the things tormenting and worrying me.

After leaving my exhusband, I decided I needed to be more straightforward with myself. I used The Mythic Path to help me. This book was particularly helpful to me because it combined many of my interests - myths, creative writing, introspection and art. I began to create beautiful images with computer graphics. I recorded my progress in an anonymous online journal I started while in marriage counseling. On that site, I put up my “Women of Renewal” collection, as well as other art I created during those years.

I became intrigued by the power the art had for me. While I was rather articulate and could write well, the art gave voice to things I couldn't quite put into words. That was when I began to research art therapy and became friends with Roberta Shoemaker-Beal. Roberta enjoyed my creative works from the start and in addition to encouraging me in the creative endeavors I was already engaged in, she patiently suggested for several months that I try my hand at drawing mandalas. I resisted her promptings for a long time, because I could see why the other therapies helped people, but I couldn't see what a mandala really accomplished that normal scribbling wouldn't.

One night I was so tense that I didn't know what to do with myself and there wasn't anyone I could talk to right then. Something in the back of my mind reminded me that I had promised my friend I would try to draw a mandala about a month earlier. Since I didn't have anything better to do in the state of stress I was in, I went ahead and drew a circle and began drawing a scene in it. The relief I felt was curious enough that I went ahead and drew two more and gave them all titles. I told Roberta that it was like I put my frustration in a clear Tupperware® bowl and then sealed it with the picture title, where I could examine it without it affecting me. When I looked at my pictures, I suddenly realized a few things about my current situation that helped me to get beyond the frustration and actually made me euphoric with relief.

Later, I bought books to educate myself on mandala drawing and I began drawing them during my breaks at work at (a smallish company). Unlike my job at (the major company), my duties at (the other company) did not give me much satisfaction and my supervisor was incompetent at managing people. Before I began drawing the mandalas, I would break out in hives during work from the stress. I thought at first I was allergic to something, but through careful observation I realized that my hives would be gone by the time I returned home and they almost never occurred when I worked on the weekends. Upper management encouraged me to seek release in drawing, however, I was harassed by my supervisor's favorite employee for drawing them to the point that after a year, I hardly drew them at all. I tried other ways to deal with the stress, but these too were either regulated away from me or became a source of contention, even if I did them during my normal break time. Using Pat Allen's Art as a Way of Knowing provided some relief at home, but the exercises in the book could not help me during work. I tried enlisting the help of the human resources department, but their warnings were often ignored by those harassing me as the HR representative and upper management often did not follow through on their threats. This caused my stress to build up and I injured my arm through repetitive motion, which caused a landslide of more harassment and frustration. I finally just quit. My health and ability to deal with these people had deteriorated to the point that I could no longer function there. Stress reducing techniques cannot work if you cannot do them.

I turned to my family, friends and church for help and support. While I felt discourage from my inability to deal with the stress at that job, those who truly cared for me pointed out that I did do all I could in that situation and that I cannot blame myself for failing. As frustrating as it may be, I cannot expect to succeed in everything. Failure in one area of my life does not mean that I have completely failed as a person. There are some situations you cannot win or even break even in and the only solution is to walk away and do something more productive with your life.

III. Abstract Concepts and Generalizations

The foundation of all stress relief is taking care of one's physical needs. Plenty of sleep, a proper diet and exercise does a lot to keep stress under control. However, these are often the first things neglected when someone is under stressed, which leads to physical problems that interfere with these very needs. Breathing properly also goes a long way in helping the body release the chemicals needed for efficient coping. For anxiety sufferers especially, breathing can make the difference between a clear mind and a confused one. Hyperventilation is a common problem during moments of stress and anxiety. Proper deep breathing requires one to stand or sit up straight, take a deep breath, hold it and then slowly release it. Usually a few deep breaths are enough to do the job. Something a few anxiety sufferers do to help their breathing is to blow soap bubbles. It gives them a rhythm for breathing, a visual indication of how they are actually breathing, and the relaxing experience of watching a bubble float through the air.

The clear expression of needs and expectations to one's self and other also reduces the opportunity for stressful situations. A problem not clearly defined, cannot be correctly solved. Many times people create more stress for themselves because of a distortion of needs and expectations. It is also essential that a person develops an accurate understanding of themselves and the situation around them through introspection. Then they need to come to a consensus with the perceptions of others to gain cooperation and hopefully a better understanding of the problem.

However, even when someone works to reduce the likelihood of stress in their life, it is going to happen. Playing and engaging in creative activities helps the mind and the soul, giving them more physical, mental and spiritual energy to invest towards the cause of the stress. Meditation, reading, drawing and other introspective pursuits allows a person to learn, supplement and process information which can lead to better ways of coping. Just being able to clear the mind can help one deal with some of the rough spots of life. It allows us to think out our actions and become responders and not reactors.

When one is experiencing anxiety or panic, it is sometimes necessary to physical ground one's self. This can be done with touch anchors. Many people will touch their fingertips together or lightly pinch the web between their thumb and forefinger. Others will carry around something that makes them feel secure when they touch it, like their purse or wallet, a favorite jacket or piece of jewelry, or even a “worry” stone. Touch anchors can be created if there is not something the person is already grounded to. This is done through behavioral conditioning. Once or twice a day, a person will go through a relaxation ritual using the physical touch anchor they have chosen. After this has been done for several days, touching the anchor will start to trigger a relaxation response in the individual. Done for several months or years and touching the anchor will produce even a stronger sense of peace and relaxation.

Another means of reducing anxiety is for the person to make themselves familiar with their surroundings. People taking a test in an unfamiliar setting perform much better if they get to the testing site early and study the room and its contents. When visiting a girlfriend's or boyfriend's family for a long visit, it is a good idea to ask to use the bathroom and then memorize how it looks. This will make the room feel familiar and give a safe spot to retreat to when the anxiety becomes too much. If the visit is over several days, then the room the person is going to sleep in is usually a better choice for a location anchor.

Listening to music helps because of its rhythms and ability to distract the mind from too much information and confusion, though depending on preference it can also cause an increase in stress and confusion. Tapping does the same thing, but can be annoying to those around the tapper. Many nervous habits occur because they reduce stress within the person doing them. The trick is to develop grounding habits that do not cause more problems. Sometimes it is only necessary to modify a nervous habit to make it socially acceptable, such as making sure to tap on soft surfaces or wearing soft sole shoes if one taps with their foot. Chewing gum can occasionally replace cigarette smoking and hair chewing in some settings.

Mediation exercises often combine proper breathing with relaxation and visualization techniques. Meditation can be either done by itself or in conjunction with writing or artwork to help some access their deeper consciousness and retrieve the inner wisdom found there. Sometimes the answers to a person's stresses are already inside them, but they are too busy to see those answers. There is a reason why most wise people are depicted as sitting somewhere quiet and being still. The mind cannot give up its deeper reasonings when one is being frantic.

Crafts are good for reducing stress because they engage the hands as well as the mind. Dancing and other physical activities have the extra benefit of increasing endorphins through exercise. Writing can help to organize thoughts and give insight. Most artwork has similar benefits to crafts, with the added benefits of writing because the use of imagery in art is closer to the mental processing of creative writing. The quickest way to reduce stress using art is to draw a mandala. Mandalas are nothing more than images done in a circle. The circular boundary of mandala brings to mind wholeness or the intention to be whole. It allows a person to focus on themselves mentally, releases tension and gives a holistic way to examine inner conflicts using Jungian principles, if a person is so inclined. Even without in-depth interpretation, just drawing a mandala will quickly bring a sense of peace. However, it is a good idea to look at the mandala from different angles and decide where its true top is and mark that. After a person does that, it can further help to give the mandala a title or name, even if it is only writing down the first word or phrase that comes to mind.

When extreme stress occurs, it is a good idea to go in for a medical check-up. Physical problems will compound the stress felt in any given situation. Also stress can kill a person, so it is important not to neglect the physical component of stress. High blood pressure, indigestion, hives, ulcers, strained muscles, heart palpitations, intestinal problems and headaches are only a few of the physical symptoms of stress. Insomnia is another frequent symptom. If not dealt with early enough, these physical problems will interfere with the body's ability to get the basic needs for coping with stress, placing the person experiencing the stress in an even more stressful situation.

Some signs of extreme anxiety levels are an inappropriate increase in volume and pitch of the voice, talking fast, disjointed sentences and thoughts, hyperventilation, rapid movements, chest pains and tingling in the extremities. It is important when these signs appear to treat them properly and not try to suppress them. Suppression can cause other symptoms to appear or increase the intensity of other signs. By this time, the body is often full of adrenaline that needs to be used in a way that will not create more or counteracted with medication.

It is good to bring these signs to the attention to someone experiencing them, but a very bad idea to expect them to just stop the symptoms. When helping a person through an episode of anxiety or panic, remember that most people realize on some level that their worry or fear does not make much sense and that is part of the stress they are feeling - the fear that they are losing their sanity. Telling them not to think that way or that they are being illogical is not going to accomplish much good. The key is to get them to breathe slowly and deeply and center themselves. Once this occurs, most of the illogical fears and thoughts will correct themselves. Any illogical thoughts that do not go away after the person has calmed down are better handled by a professional counselor, possibly with the help of a medical doctor.

Having social support from a group of people is essential for coping with stress, but one must be careful when choosing the members of this group. They should be educated on any specific problem that they may need to help the person with. This does not have to be an exhaustive formal education of the problem, as much as them knowing what to do and not to do in an emergency. It is a good idea for a person to share with close friends and family anything that could help them help the person in a time of crisis, be it medical or anxiety related. These people also need to have a realistic view of stress and its causes. It is perfectly normal for someone to be “freaked out” after just rescuing a child or frazzled after finding out the pipes have burst, flooding the house and causing them to spend the afternoon sweeping out water. Anyone who makes fun of the person's mental state when they have obviously reacted in a responsible and proper manner to a crisis is not a good source of support and probably not much of a friend. A social support system needs to operate on the principles of acceptance and reality to be effective. Possibly the best relief one can get from stress is a sign of affection from someone who truly cares.

Two other methods of stress reduction not yet mentioned are owning a pet and keeping a person journal. Pets provide not only another focus from the chaos of life, but often a source of unconditional love. In the short term, journal writing helps to organize thoughts and to let the mind release some nagging thoughts, by assuring the person that they will not be lost, thus freeing up part of the consciousness for clearer reasoning. In the long term, rereading a journal every so often gives a person valuable data to help them recognize useful and harmful patterns in their lives, as well as let them see how they have grown and changed. One does not have to write in a journal daily, just regularly. And in this day and age, people can often achieve the same thing by archiving the emails they send friends and family about the events of their lives. True, journal writing is more effective when there is more personal thoughts being recorded, but even a record of normal events can give insights to help reduce stress or at the very least, the comfort of knowing that there is documentation if something is brought to court.

IV. Applications to New Situations

I realize that there is still a lot more I need to learn about dealing with stress on a personal as well as a general level. I also need to work harder at taking care of myself and not let things pile up on me. I hope that in the future I will be able to better apply what I have learned about stress management in my life and the lives of others too, especially my children. I feel that I still limit myself a great deal because of stresses I impose on myself. I am hoping that with age and practice I will gain more knowledge and wisdom, which will allow me to achieve my dreams for a better life for myself and those I care about.