Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Product of a Saturday Spent at the Coffee Shop

In a matter of two days, I was able to write another short story for my final workshop. Typically, I like to spend several days crafting a story, but time is limited as the semester draws to a close and I had only a week to begin with. As a result, this story is very simple, kind of short, but I’m relatively happy with the outcome.

As always, I’d appreciate any and all feedback concerning the story.

Proof That Deer Aren’t Vampires

Now, a shout out to my sponsors*:

This story is brought to you by the awesome music of my friend Christian Yoder. I’ve spent the past weekend listening to his newest songs on repeat, and you should do the same. Check it:

*By which I mean music that facilitated my writing. I’m not cool enough to be paid for blogging. Yet.

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Come Meet the Face of Poverty

Disclaimer: Yes, I recognize the potential ad misericordiam below. Hope you’re in for the long haul; WhatDougRants may better fit this post. 

[If you follow me on Twitter (@WhatDougSays), you may be familiar with this introduction already.]

For a class, this week is devoted to a poverty simulation. Each student is allowed to live on 3 dollars a day. A meal in the student cafeteria is equivalent to $1.25 (with the understanding we wont eat more than an average meal, despite the buffet style of the cafeteria). Any snacks/drinks we consume, any gas spent, any activities requiring money, are all to be recorded and kept under 3 dollars a day, with special exceptions allowed—but only if the proper paperwork is filed. We’re not supposed to benefit from the “charity” of our friends. (How many individuals in poverty have family and friends provide such charity?)

If you’ve done the math, we are allowed 2 meals a day with 50¢ left over each day. At a glance, this seems crazy, unhealthy, and maybe impossible. Welcome to poverty. A place where all the money is dedicated to food—there’s no money for anything else. While my university’s cafeteria food is nothing to brag about, I’m certain most in poverty would view it a feast.  Obviously, this simulation doesn’t take into account many other things. It’s only meant as a small insight into the experience of impoverished individuals.

It hasn’t been 12 hours since I was handed the assignment, and I have experienced a series of disturbing and intriguing reactions.

First:  Several friends have counseled me on ways I could scam this simulation. Most involve smuggling food from the cafeteria. While I recognize the intended joke, I find it intriguing many people at my conservative Christian university bemoan welfare recipients scamming the government, then encourage me to do the same thing in order to live a bit more comfortably these next few days. Just something to think about.

Second, and the most infuriating: “Go buy a TV! That’s what welfare people do!” Again, I recognize this individual may have been joking, but this is only the most recent of a series of statements I’ve heard or read that reflect the same underlying premise found throughout much of the conservative society: those in poverty and/or on welfare are  lazy, deceitful, alcohol/drug addicts, immoral, baby making for more benefits, at fault for their situation, and a drag on our economy.

Most of these accusations are made people so far from poverty, their salary could be cut in half and they still wouldn’t be close. How some one making millions could point fingers at welfare recipients, call for cutting back welfare, and then turn around and complain about the government raising their taxes, is beyond me.

In fact, if you’re reading this (myself included), I doubt you have ever had much encounter with poverty. Maybe some of you have, and I would love to hear from you about your experiences—leave a comment below. However, I doubt those in poverty have much time or access to internet. But I heard this blog’s layout looks great on the new 900 dollar iPad.

But, like many of you, I haven’t experienced poverty either. And I wouldn’t pretend to presume I understand their experiences in a way that I could properly present them to you. Thankfully, I don’t need to. The link below is an essay titled “What is Poverty?” written by Jo Goodwin Parker. This “was published in America’s Other Children: Public Schools Outside Suburbs, by George Henderson in 1971 by the University of Oklahoma Press.”

As the old cliché goes, I have always firmly believed it is wrong to judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. This is only an inch. Stop judging, and come meet the face of poverty:

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Witness the Power of Music

If you have followed this blog, you already know the emphasis I place on music. (For those unfamiliar and curious, here’s a link.) I have always recognized music as a powerful medium for which individuals channel their humanity. Music is a constant found through time and across cultures. Music has been a vital part of my life; I couldn’t picture my life without it.

With that said, I stumbled across a video a few days ago that demonstrates the power of music. Recently, the idea of giving individuals in nursing homes (those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other mentally disorders) iPod’s with their favorite music has developed as a way to improve the well-being of these individuals. This project, Music&Memory, is attempting to raise awareness of the tremendous effect an 80 dollar iPod can have on the life and well being of our elderly. Soon, PBS will be featuring a documentary, “Alive Inside,” which beautifully shows the benefit of music. These videos summarize and show this change better in a more eloquent way than I would ever dare.

Here is the original, rough cut, of the documentary currently in progress:

A more recent official trailer for the documentary:

And, here’s Music&Memory’s website for those curious: They have other, similar videos on their site.

As a social work student, I find this new project an inspiring, beautiful discovery that will benefit millions of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and the families of those individuals. People often write off those with Alzheimer’s and other mental disorders, and I cannot begin to imagine the emotional difficulty those suffering from these diseases and their families. But, through music, the identities of these individuals can be restored.

I’m not sure I have ever witnessed a more amazing demonstration of the power of music. We live in a world plagued with so much darkness. But maybe, just maybe, if we paused—just for a moment—and listened to the music around us, we could shine a bit of light in that darkness.

Interviewer: “What does music do to you?”
Henry: “It gives me the feeling of love.”

As Henry said, “I figure right now the world needs to come into music.”

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The Principles of Leave No Trace

If I was more proactive with my life, I would have used tools available on this amazing blogging site and written a blog yesterday, then programmed it to post today with the uploaded story I turned in today.Which is what I did last time. But, I didn’t.

Anyway, I would appreciate any and all feedback you can provide on this story. This is the second of three for this semester and, I hope some amount of improvement will be evident from the first to the last.

Ladies and gentleman, here you are: Principles of Leave No Trace


Too Many Cups of Tea

I sincerely apologize for the neglect of this blog. I may not manage to resume a rhythm before the semester’s end, but, if that is the case, this summer will certainly see a revival of my dedication to this experiment. Hold me to that guarantee.

I have another short story due Tuesday, and I think this one is better than the last. Too my disappointment, I realized the previous one suffered from numerous flaws. I’m eventually going to find the courage to re-write it. Maybe this summer.

With that said, I’ve managed to overcome my eyes (some horrid mix of allergies/dryness/something stuck in one) with tea and music. And it has allowed me to conclude this second story. It needs some editing, but I will upload it to this blog like I did the last one. I would appreciate any and all feedback.

Let me leave you with this: Smile.

One thing I learned early in my adolescents was the power of a smile. I spent many days in school wrestling with depression and self-loathing. Yet, time and time again, my day was reversed—even if just for a moment—by a passing smile. It doesn’t take an intrusive “Hi, how ya doin’,” a smile is often enough.

So, smile. You never the affect you could have.

P.S. Because I feel guilty about not posting, here’s a bonus song for you to enjoy.

Modern Age by: Eric Hutchinson

Here’s the lyrics:

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