Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One of those days....

Deadlines collided this morning, which left me with two papers to write....which led to me getting 3.5 hours of sleep. I bribed myself to leave the house with the promise of oatmeal at a favorite coffeeshop, and made it to class about 15 minutes late. Met with a research participant, met with my boss, brainstormed ideas for FINDING more participants, shuttled+walked home, dropped some stuff off at post office, currently prepping for a guest lecture tomorrow.

Somewhere in the sleep deprived state, it clicked: I'm grateful. Grateful to be a research study coordinator- this is a pretty small study, but I'm good at this and it excites me. Grateful that I can teach, and I love it. Today I got to talk about ovulation, cervical fluid, and sperm....tomorrow I get to lecture about infant mortality. Three writing projects are in various degrees of progress right now- one about fighting HIV/AIDS through promoting gender equitable beliefs, one about promoting low-technology cervical cancer screening in developing countries, and one on gender expectations and contraceptive use. Yeah, everything's pretty scattered...but I'm learning, I'm growing, and I'm happy.

No, I didn't plan to be 27 and still up at all hours with school assignments. I know I'll feel that more tomorrow.But even though life can suck, I love it. And that's all I really want to say.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Greg Mortenson, Take 3

As this piece points out, it's been 10 months since the news of Greg Mortenson's alleged fraud broke. I've written about this, here and here. It's a hard thing.

At the end of the day, it matters, and why and how matter. I don't think Greg Mortenson intentionally set out to get rich off of schools in Pakistan. If so, that's an entirely different matter, and downright criminal.

But. What he did was irresponsible, dangerous, and thus, completely inexcusable. He built an organization around his story- not the stories of people who's lives he was trying to change. I'm sure Mortenson thought no one knew the community he was working with (or his mission or his contacts, or whatever) as well as he did. All of us think that way, and Mortenson had more reason than most. But still....this is pride, pride at its worst. I can't think of a more dramatic example of how our sin can affect others. And it lives in us all.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote about this in A Circle of Quiet...she writes about a quotation from G.A. Young a student brought to one of her workshops: "The compulsion for me to get my cotton-pickin' fingers on my fellow man is the natural result of my belief that I have the word. If I do have the word and feel surrounded by unmolded clay, I have no choice but to mold. When I do this, I begin playing God, and as a result usually raise the devil." L'engle responded with a quotation from George MacDonald: "Am I going to do a good deed? Then of all times,-Father, into thy hands: lest the enemy should have me now."

L'engle, with her characteristic clarity, identifies the difference between the two statements: "George MacDonald implies that as long as we put ourselves into God's hands, then maybe something good can happen, not because of us, but because he helps." Being a lifelong Anglican, she continues"I've just remembered another quotation: this one's from the Psalms. Whenever I'm going to teach a class or give a speech, I always think of it, and hold onto it: Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give the praise; for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

This is where hope lies. We each, like Mortenson, have the ability to destroy the good we set out to do...we can devastate our own compassion. But there is grace, there is Christ, and therefore, we don't have to. Greg Mortenson is neither monster nor hero, but a man made in the image of God, a man who needs forgiveness.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's worth saying again.

This is why I'm getting my doctorate: .

Incidentally, it's also why I support Planned Parenthood.

I've done a good bit of writing this semester in support of low-technology cervical cancer screening, and given the realities of the developing world, I don't know why more people aren't on board.

And I should say something snarky about Republican shenanigans related to women's health, but I'm too sad and angry to manage words anymore.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bokashi compost and apartment gardening

We had a big day here in our little household today. It was time to empty our bokashi bucket! To backtrack quite a mother's people grow things. Her grandparents retired to a tiny farm in Colorado they deemed the Pea Patch, and hosted giant celebrations in their barn. My grandmother still lives there, and up til a couple years ago, she and my grandfather were still filling a freezer each winter with veggies from the garden. When my mom was in high school, she and her dad experimented growing chrysanthemums under fluorescent lights in the winter, and when my mother moved to Peru, she brought zinnia seeds. I can't not grow things- it's just in my blood somehow. Unfortunately, graduate school doesn't lend itself well to acquiring plots of land, and I'm limited to what I can fit on a porch. In addition to the gardening and tea drinking bugs I've inherited from my grandparents, I also can't stand to throw things out, particularly when I know they could be useful. For years, I've been longing for an affordable house to rent that will let me have a flower bed, a vegetable garden, a clothes line, and a compost pile. This year, I learned about bokashi composting, and I don't have to wait for my compost pile. Being the odd creature that I am, I asked for a bokashi compost system for Christmas. My sweet husband complied, (though he also got me something small and sparkly- dear man!). The system was fairly simple to master...chop food into small pieces, sprinkle the bokashi mix (special wheat bran treated with microbes that promote fermentation) over the food, close up the bin, and drain off the "tea" every couple days. Our bin has mostly been vegetable scraps,tea bags,and leftovers that have started smelling funky, although a few other things have been added also (a compostable takeout counter,the round pieces of cardboard that come with frozen pizzas, and Scotchbrite scrub sponges). The bokashi system pretty much eliminated the smelliness and drippiness of our garbage. It also reduced the amount of garbage we threw out (and after emptying that bucket, I'm tremendously impressed at how much stuff was compacted into it!). The kale, lettuce, and mint on the porch seem to thrive off of diluted bokashi "tea." While some people rave about bokashi "tea" as a drain cleaner, I didn't notice much difference in drain function, though drains definitely smell better (our apartment is old enough that there's still lead paint in the building, so this might just be an issue with our plumbing). 012

 We filled our bokashi bin almost two weeks ago. Since filling the bin, I've been draining off MUCH more liquid. Seriously, at the beginning, I could drain off the "tea" once a week and only get a few teaspoons of liquid. I've probably drained off at least half a cup each day the past week.This is the bokashi bin contents today, when I opened it up to empty them. They were not terribly smelly. "Fermented" or "pickled" sure, but not the smell of death that rotten food waste develops. A prior tenant at my previous apartment had left a 5 gallon cat litter bucket in the outdoor closet. I kept it when I moved, because buckets come in handy. I put potting soil in the bottom of the bucket, then attempted to tip in the bin's contents. This was rather messy, wet, crumbly and sloppy, but I managed. The kitchen definitely needs mopping. Then I threw the bin in the bathtub and ran hot water over it . Added a bit more potting soil to the top, and then closed up the lid. 013
 I imagine that this will need some more dry stuff added to it the next couple weeks (we've got several more frozen pizza cardboard bases sitting around), and I anticipate opening it up in a week or so to be sure the soil and the food scraps are well mixed. And hopefully, about the time the tomato seedlings are ready to go outside, the bokashi mix will have turned into beautiful soil for them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saul Alinsky, Frances Butterfoss, and Advocacy for Christians, I

I never like to be too specific here...because the last thing I need is for a potential committee member or employer to stumble across my attempts to explain the universe, faith, sickness,hope, and change to myself. In this particular conversation, there are things I'm trying to leaving out, because they would make me too identifiable, and if these musings are a bit more scattered than usual, that's probably why.

I'm a Dr.P.H. student. In theory, a Dr.P.H. is different from a Ph.D. Bluntly put,a Dr.P.H. is not supposed to lead to jobs in academia. The accrediting agency for schools of public health has been tweaking the requirements for the two degrees, so that they're more different. Parts of these changes have resulted in a number of schools of public health (including mine) launching courses in public health advocacy, in order to better prepare Dr.P.H. graduates for community work.

Conversations about change, advocacy and leadership, in public health (at this university, at least) seem to end up almost always including two people: Saul Alinsky and Frances Butterfoss. These are two very opposite approaches, and they've both yielded major positive impacts. Alinsky's work has been around longer, and he's inspired people like Barack Obama, Hilary Rodham Clinton, the Tea Party, and the Occupy Movements (Though, I think Obama's work also expresses some of Butterfoss's approaches...which probably means the two are not as mutually exclusive as I feel).

I think the recent Fluke-Limbaugh interactions have provided a decent example of some of the  differences between  consensus-based organizing (Butterfoss) and  conflict-based organizing (Alinsky) .

This is even more interesting to me, because both identify as Christians- specifically, as Methodists. It's an election year, and it's fascinating to see how our civil discourse seems to have become more and more "Alinskian" (based on threats, ridicule, fear, and personal attacks) in the almost ten years I've maneuvered this country as a voting adult. When I see people who openly identify as Christians operating in an Alinsky-dominated  framework (e.g. focused on negative messages about opponents, and "ends justify the means") to accomplish change, it hurts me. Personally, the vast majority of my Christian  acquaintances supporting these approaches are Conservative, Evangelical, Tea Party identified - this probably is just a reflection of living in the Southeastern United States. One of these friends once remarked "I don't care if someone votes against Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon (or Hillary Clinton because she's a woman), because they're doing the right thing, and the reason doesn't matter if the end result is a better candidate being elected....." I found myself floored, because in my world, it matters a heck of a lot if people are voting out of prejudice. I have a dear friend who is a conservative Mormon - if people are not voting for Romney because of his religion, well, that tells me that my incredibly smart, talented, compassionate friend is going to face this same discrimination throughout her career. Likewise, ( I (like many of my friends) am a woman who is part of an ongoing fight for justice around the world- if Hillary Clinton is disregarded because of her second X chromosome, this shapes my life. Because of this context,  I want to carve out some time to explore my own thoughts around conflict vs consensus based organizing and advocacy, particularly in light of the Gospels.