Sunday, April 30, 2017

Perseverance despite adversity

It was my turn to speak in church this week. Here are the notes from the talk I gave, plus the bits that I didn't share because I ran out of time, and the references for both quotes and scriptures I shared. I fleshed out the notes (because I never can read a talk; I always speak from notes) so they make sense, but this is NOT every word I said, and there are words here I didn't say.


Perseverance despite adversity, talk for April 30, 2017 for Mountain View Ward, Longmont Stake

Right at this moment, we are surrounded by people suffering from adversity.
Loss, poverty, betrayal, mental illness, the burdens of caregiving, family structures that are not what you planned for, death of dreams, physical and emotional pains of all kinds. This room is full of suffering, some of it is of the “I had a bad week” variety and some intensely, soul-crushingly, faith-shatteringly difficult.

No details or I’ll cry, but my family has been suffering wave upon wave of adversity, without almost any rest, for 13 years now. I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the years about persevering despite adversity.

For one thing, it helps to understand why we need adversity.

Why adversity? There’s not just one reason

  1. God loves us. He wants us to have the tools we need to succeed at life, and we get those through adversity.
D& C 95: 1: “Whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—”

2. Protection
Caleb as a baby was always trying to fling himself backward for fun. When I stopped him from hitting his head on a pew at church, he was furious and thought I was persecuting him. But what was adversity to him was protection from my perspective. God does this for us. And we sometimes get mad.

But it’s like vaccination. Vaccination is mean. But it’s less mean than measles, or letting kids go deaf from mumps. We do mean things to kids like make them go to bed, or vaccination, because we’re protecting them from worse things. Adversity does this for us, too.

3. Learning
Elder Christofferson said he learned more than he could have otherwise.
In the article “Recognizing God’s Hand in our Daily Blessings,” Elder Christofferson talks about the good that came from an extended period of adversity for him. He says, after recounting an extended period of suffering, “Though I suffered then, I am grateful now that there was not a quick solution to my problem. The fact that I was forced to turn to God for help almost daily over an extended period of years taught me how to truly pray and get answers to prayer and taught me in a practical way to have faith in God. I came to know my Savior and my Heavenly Father in a way and to a degree that might not have happened otherwise or that might have taken me much longer.” Adversity teaches us.

4. Becoming.
That’s the point of life. Lets God form us into something new and beautiful if we submit--and that’s what we came for. Like caterpillars to butterflies, we are meant to grow and change into something beautiful if we let God do that. Gems must be polished and shaped, gold must be refined and the impurities burned from it.

5. Getting to where we really want to be
Winds and storms of Jaredites blew them to the promised land. They couldn’t steer.
Ether 6: 8, 10-12: “And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind...And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water. And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water. And they did land upon the shore of the promised land.” So it is with us. The things that we try to escape and avoid are sometimes the things that are driving us to where we actually want to be.

I asked Tim just the other day, “How often do we cry and fight against the very thing that will lead us where we want to be? We fight the process that gives us what we actually want because we don’t like the path to get there?

How do we persevere well?

1. Know that you will get through
I learned on my mission that the choice is to get through or die. Since dying isn’t our prerogative, we obviously are going to get through. The question is how well.

2 . Know your limits and work with them instead of fighting them.
Spoons analogy--
We all have limited spoons, and when life gets difficult, you do less. When persevering through adversity, don’t waste your spoons. Use them wisely and carefully.

Elder Uchtdorf, in the talk “Of Things that Matter Most,”  said: “What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.
Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.”

We are weak and powerless, but that is okay because God is not.
Ether 12: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
People always say, “You won’t be given anything you can’t handle.” Forget that. It’s wrong. You absolutely will be given things you can’t handle. You will be crushed to death and your heart shattered. And that is the very point because then Jesus can make us into a new person. Remember that WE are His work. We are God’s work. You really can’t do it, but that’s okay because God can and He wants to help us with His power. He can’t infringe on our agency. He can’t force us to accept His power and His help, but he Lets us use his power if we ask.
Our weakness in the face of adversity is actually strength IF we use it to turn us to God. The power is His. And He wants to share His power with us, but not under our conditions. Under His conditions. He is there. He does love us. He will help us. We just have to hold on and keep focused on him, even when we can’t keep putting one foot in front of the other.
We are supposed to use God’s power to solve our problems. This is using the priesthood. Sisters can do this, too. WE don’t have the ordination, but we can pray and get revelation and have access to God’s power to solve our problems.
My mom used to tell me that God won’t always help us keep our heads above water, but it’s okay because He can make it so we can breathe under water.


3. Turn to Jesus
Carest thou not that we perish?
Mark 4: 37-40: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

Elder Holland--credit for trying, but ask Jesus for help
In “Tomorrow the Lord will do Wonders Among You,” Elder Holland said, “Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, “O Jesus, … have mercy on me.”7 He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek.” What is the secret to persevering through adversity? He gave it to us right here: The Savior is there to help you keep going. Truly you might reach places in your life where you cannot go another step, where things actually are too hard, and you are actually not capable of persevering.

Let Jesus carry your burdens. Lay them down at His feet. This is sometimes perplexing, but it works.

4. Choose faith.
Take the time to build a relationship with God and Jesus and then exercise faith. CHOOSE faith. Trust. Focus on Jesus. Do what He asks. Cry out for Mercy. Faith is not believing God exists. It’s trusting Him and believing him and choosing actively to rely on Him.

But what if you can’t feel it and can’t find it? What if things are just so hard that faith is out of reach?
Nephi and Lehi in prison, and Aminadab saying praying until you can believe. Helaman 5: 40-43: “And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you. And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed. And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.” This work. I know it works. It worked for me and it will work for you.

5. Prepare ahead
When we had a really traumatic time, I was prompted almost a year ahead to prepare, and when it came right down to it, in the end I wished I had studied the scriptures more.

6. Communicate with God--pray and listen
Ask God to teach you how to pray
Elder Nelson said, in “The Price of Priesthood Power,” “We need to pray from our hearts. Polite recitations of past and upcoming activities, punctuated with some requests for blessings, cannot constitute the kind of communing with God that brings enduring power. Are you willing to pray to know how to pray for more power? The Lord will teach you.”
Changed my life to take his advice. I highly, highly recommend it.

Don’t predetermine how the answers and help will come, or you might not see it. Elder Christofferson again: “There were times when I had exhausted all my resources, when I had nowhere and no one to turn to for help to meet the exigency before me. With no other recourse, more than once I fell down before my Heavenly Father, begging in tears for His help. And He did help. Sometimes it was nothing more than a sense of peace, a feeling of assurance that things would work out. I might not see how or what the path would be, but He gave me to know that, directly or indirectly, He would open a way. Circumstances might change, a new and helpful idea might come to mind, some unanticipated income or other resource might appear at just the right time. Somehow there was a resolution.”
Praying for patience works better than praying for release. Just because you can’t see the path doesn’t mean there isn’t a path.

7. Look for the good--not pollyanna, but look for God and look for the help He sends (not always easy to see).
Look for the love every day because it’s there. This was life changing for me. It’s sometimes perplexing, and sometimes you have to pray to see it, but God does show us love every day. We just have to be watching for it. And express gratitude. Gratitude helps us fit in our place in the universe, and helps us use our faith, and helps us persevere when things get awful. There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is just that you don’t have that other guy’s trials, too.

Sometimes this is perplexing, when you pray for a job and get a pair of shoes, but it’s there. Sometimes it’s very, very hard to see, but pray for it and look for it. There is evidence every day of God’s love. Find it.

He suffered adversity so severe he begged that He could not have to, just like we do, and God withdrew--he was distant, like He sometimes is from us--but He sent Angel. And He sends angels for us and asks us to be angels for others. Look for them. Be them.

8. Consider the covenants.
Everything in the church points to the temple, but everything in the temple points us back to our homes, to help us make good choices that will move us closer to God.  So think about those covenants. They are there to help us make the kinds of choices that help us persevere through adversity.
By considering the covenants, we can learn things we need to know to help us persevere. For example, let’s consider baptism.

Trust God. This is the point of baptism. We let him bring us to death (under the water) and let Him pull us out a new person. You WILL be tested more than you can bear. You will be crushed and broken by life. And Jesus will bring you through and make all things turn out for your good if you love God and let him. Submit and be molded

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jack says,

"Mom, dogs and cats can't talk. Dogs say, 'barf barf' and cats say 'meow meow.'"


Emmy Says

"The Duck says quack quack and the frog says frog frog!"

Emmy today



2 yo spent the whole day throwing massive fit after massive fit because I was doing it wrong and she wanted to do it better but I wouldn't let her.

What was "it"?

Choosing a pen to write with (I wanted red, she said I had to write with pink)

Making a math answer key for 8th grade pre-algebra

Loading the dishwasher

Changing her diaper

Plugging in a laptop to its charger She insisted Jack stole her charger and therefore she couldn't use her laptop. He didn't.)

Washing her bottle

Filling her bottle

Putting the lid on her bottle (yes, three fits)


I hope this is a very, very short phase. Even if it's to a toddler, it wears you out to have to constantly justify every single thing you do, and then to have your justification and explanations flat-out rejected. Violently. 

Sheesh.

It's also worth noting that sometimes her nickname is "Myself" because it's the most common word that comes out of her mouth some days. I can't do anything for her anymore without hearing, "NO! Myself!" She will go down the stairs and start over if I carried her. Or walk back across a parking lot and start over if I picked her up. Get back out of the van and in again. Throw her whatever-toy-or-dish back on the floor and pick it up again. Yell at me if I start singing along when she sings and start the song over where I interrupted. Death to me if I'm in a hurry and try to help out to get things moving--I have to breathe slowly and remind myself that if I interfere, she'll throw it all apart (whatever it is) and start again, which is slower than just letting her get through it herself the first time, no matter how much a hurry we are in. 

I thought I had strong willed kids before. This little gal puts them all to shame.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Emmy Says....

Emmy came in chomping on a pink peep (marshmallow chick variety) yesterday.

"What are you eating?" I asked.

"Wormsies," she said.  "There's more in the kitchen."


Hahaha! They do look a little like worms....

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Is fibro/CFS caused by a breakdown in the coenzyme-A synthesis system in the body? I want to know.

So here's my latest discovery on the whole fish oil and fibromyalgia thing. Turns out it's all related.

Remember I had concluded I had top-end of acceptable aceytlcholine levels (based on symptoms), and the fish oil pushed it over the top to the unhealthy levels, and going off fish oil cured it? For those of you not on my facebook, here's the comment I posted this discovery on:
"So far, digging through studies and anecdotal information, I've learned that people with fibro can have unbalanced (high-normal to high) acetylcholine levels. ACh is a neurotransmitter that deals with muscle and brain function.  
"High-normal acetylcholine is associated (anecdotally) with being a good friend and attentive parent, having sensitive senses and a quick mind, and being highly creative.
"Fish oil, it is theorized, increases acetylcholine levels. This lifts depression and anxiety in people who have low ACh levels naturally or because of a disorder. This is the case for almost everyone who takes it--they have low or low-normal (or even middling) ACh levels, so fish oil makes them feel really good. 
"But if you already have high levels, it can tip you over the edge into anxiety, dark intrusive thoughts, and increased myofascial pain. Symptoms of too high ACh include feeling anxious, having dark thoughts, blurry vision, upper respiratory gunk, headache, sleep disturbance (if you wake up, you can't get back to sleep), muscle and myofascial pain (feeling achy and bruised for no reason), decreased motivation, brain fog, mental fatigue and confusion, feeling sleepy all the time, stomach pain, nausea, tooth and jaw pain, muscle weakness, cough, cold hands, increased introversion, and vivid dreams, among other things. (All of these are symptoms I've had since starting fish oil). 
"My suspicion: I have genetically high acetylcholine levels, possibly because of fibro or possibly part of the cause of fibro. Regardless, increasing those levels is apparently very bad for me.

So how to increase healthy cholesterol without fish oil?!"

What I learned this week:

Coenzyme-A is a little-recognized but vital part of the energy system in the body. In the presence of sugar, it breaks down carbs for energy. In the absence of sugar, it breaks down fats for energy. It's a carrier molecule that carries things out of the mitochondria. When there is a lack of fatty acids in the body, it makes them. Fatty acids are super important components of things like cell walls. Coenzyme-a is one of the few substances that easily crosses the barrier into the brain and is vital for energy for the brain. Coenzyme-a is also a significantly important part of building the myelin sheath on nerves (mostly made up of fatty acids), and if the myelin sheath is weak, the nerves don't send signals correctly. It's involved in the synthesis of hormones (out of balance in fibro), and co-Q10 (some people use to treat fibro), and Vitamin D. Many of the metabolic enzymes apparently rely on Coenzyme-A to function. It also helps in the cortisol processing systems in the body, and it triggers to Krebs Cycle, which produces energy for the body.

Also, coenzyme-a happens to be one of the main building blocks of acetylcholine, which is that neurotransmitter I had determined I'd boosted to the maximum healthy level somehow. I thought it was genetic, but it's not. I'm getting to that.

Coenzyme-a deficiency leads to fatigue and muscle soreness, they say. Other symptoms of low coenzyme-a include: "depression, anxiety, an impaired sense of balance, irritability, fatigue, an abnormal need for sleep and a deterioration of the immune system." (http://www.livestrong.com/article/111719-benefits-coenzyme/). Sound familiar?

So we need coenzyme-A. And a lot of the symptoms of fibromyalgia (the genetic kind, not the side effect of RA kind) are in body systems that break down without coenzyme-a: brain, nerves, and energy.

How does the body make coenzyme-a? Cysteine, Pantotheic Acid, and ATP.

Follow me here for a minute: A couple of years ago, my mom and sister bought me a bottle of ribose and said, "Try this; it helps with fibro." It was in my house so I tried it, and it does help with fibro. I did some research and concluded it works for fibro because it's an essential building block of ATP and with fibro, the ATP synthesis system is broken and doesn't recycle the pieces of used up ATP to make new ATP well. (http://beccajones.blogspot.com/2013/05/ribose-and-fibromyalgia.html and http://beccajones.blogspot.com/2014/01/fibro-theories-some-more.html)

Then around the end of last year, I concluded that I needed to lose weight, and I was drawn to anecdotal evidence that pantothenic acid helps people lose weight. Always wary of weight loss drugs, I prayed about it and felt strongly I should get some pantothenic acid, which is vitamin B-5. I added it to my vitamin regimen with the ribose, D, and potassium I take for unrelated issues. Significantly, at the time I started taking it, I had run out of calcium and was not taking that. (This is significant because when I bought calcium again later and added it back in, it negated the effects, even if I took it 12 hours offset from the B-5.). Anyway, started on a relatively low dose of 500 mg of B-5 twice a day, and it changed my life. I'm not exaggerating. I felt like an almost normal person again.

So where am I going with this? I unintentionally boosted the levels of two of the primary building blocks of coenzyme-a in my body, and my fibro is significantly better--better on the emotional side, the energy side, even the pain is less (but still there). It cured the energy issues of fibro, even if it didn't cure the overactive nerves/pain or the bad body temperature regulation parts. Still, I can live with those if the energy is cured.

Since coenzyme-a helps control acetylcholine levels, I also boosted those. That's why the fish oil gave me an overdose of acetylcholine. I'd already boosted that to the top that my body needed.

So I'm thinking that perhaps fibromyalgia is, at least in part, a result of a breakdown in the coenzyme-A system in the body. Boost that, and maybe we have a treatment? Or a cure? Especially given that we know that the neurotransmitter and hormone levels in people with fibro are "off" normal, and co-A works for that, too.

I can find no research on coenzyme-A and fibromyalgia. We need some. If you find some, please let me know where it is so I can read it.

Edit: There is a single company that makes coenzyme-A supplements. They claim you can't just take pantothenic acid (B-5) and have it work, but I beg to differ. You just have to take it with ribose. Anyway, the co-A people have co-A and a bunch of other stuff in their supplement that they say you have to have for co-A to work. What did they put in? All the stuff that people tell you to take if you have fibro, like magnesium, pantothenic acid, etc.

Also, I learned that some people take CoQ10 to treat fibro. Guess what's a precursor to CoQ10? Yup. Coenzyme-A.

So it seems to me that instead of taking magnesium, coQ10, etc etc etc, just take the B-5 and ribose and your body will take care of all those other things just fine. We should find a way to find out.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Did I just read that?

"More babies are surviving premature births, though, not without various complications, and some moms aren't able to establish breast milk production upon the birth of the baby, as premature delivery interrupts the pregnancy process. "

It's a good article. Here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865674898/Utah-mother-graciously-donates-breast-milk-intended-for-her-deceased-son.html

But that sentence!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How the NEA Benefits Us

Trump has resurrected an old plan the GOP has tried a few times before to eliminate the National Endowments for Arts and Humanities.

So I dug into the NEA archives and have been studying the NEA Grant list covering the last 10 years.

Here are things the NEA has helped fund in the last 10 years in the form of 42,485 grants, large and small:

Helped fund 319 Arts Apprenticeship programs across the nation, mostly for underserved (youth, minority, etc) teens, helping them get skills to preserve culture or get careers (or both).

Gave over 4000 grants to organizations to provide arts instruction free to poor kids and teens.

Gave over 7100 grants to help artists create their artworks, usually in the form of grants for artists residencies that connected professional artists with poor or disadvantaged youth for free lessons and workshops, brought artists to schools, or that provided entertainment for communities that couldn't otherwise have art because it's too expensive (plays, music performances, etc).


Gave 115 grants to organizations that give free tickets to kids to see professional shows.

Gave over 1100 grants to help produce radio and TV shows and audio recordings--mostly ones you see on PBS, but also ones that preserve our musical, folklife, and artistic history and present them to us.


Gave over 30 grants to organizations to expose Americans to the arts of the world, including groups that give free tickets and transportation to inner city kids and families to go to arts festivals and see all the shows free.

Gave over 1500 grants to make the arts accessible to the public (think arts weeks in schools, concerts, theater performances, museum exhibits, etc. Any time you saw art in your community, there's a good chance one of these grants was involved).

Gave over 10,000 grants to help support performances for the public. Even the highest calibre theater productions need help. It costs a fortune to put on any performance of anything any time, and the cost is prohibitive without grants. Without these grants, only the very wealthy would be able to go to performances, and most professional art in the nation would end. This would be a massive loss to the artistic community (nearly all artists would be out of jobs, as would theater staff, costume designers, tech guys, etc), as well as to our communities (because you couldn't afford to go to shows anymore, if there were any outside of NY and LA).

Gave 285 grants to help schools and organizations develop curriculum to teach kids and teachers about art. I use these materials all the time, and they're fantastic. It would be a great loss to the education and culture of our future if our students could never learn about art.


Gave 180 grants to organizations that provide art, movies, books, museum catalogs, CDs, etc to libraries and museums. 

Gave 5 grants to help theaters get necessary equipment--mostly computers and software to help modernize old theaters.

Gave over 2800 grants to museums and cities to display art.

Gave 3 small grants to help build museums in communities.

Gave over 2600 grants to help fund arts festivals.

Gave nearly 1100 grants to fund fellowships in the arts, keeping the arts in our colleges as well.

Gave over 500 grants to help organizations digitize and preserve their art collections. 

Gave 24 grants to help fund community arts programs, lectures, and classes, which often benefit disadvantaged children and the elderly.

Gave over 170 grants to help artistic journals stay afloat and to help communities promote their arts festivals.

Gave 519 grants to hard-to-categorize projects, most of which either brought art to poor children or helped preserve art and folklife and make it accessible to educators.

Gave almost 1200 grants to keep state arts councils alive.

Gave over 1800 grants to help theater and musical organizations bring their performances to areas that don't have theater or musical performances being produced locally (things like Shakespeare in the Park, or arts tours to rural, poor communities).

Gave over 1400 grants to help professional artists pass their skills on to the next generation and preserve dying arts.

Gave over 560 grants to help support arts organizations staff.

Gave over 1100 grants to help professional arts groups (theater companies, groups that bring art classes to inner city teens, etc) bring art to poor areas and to survive the economic crash of 2008.

Gave over 1300 grants to publications on the arts, especially magazines that help new writers get published and showcased.

Gave over 120 grants to organizations that give grants on a local level to artists, music, education programs, etc, that were likely going out of business due to decline in donations after the economic crash of 2008.

Gave over 580 grants to conserve existing art.

Gave over 1300 grants to help community planning to include the arts, organizational planning to help organizations like Ballet West stay in business, and research on how the arts can help people.

Gave nearly 500 grants to support arts conferences (like writer's conferences, arts alliance conferences, booking conferences, etc).

Helped fund 107 endowments in the arts.

Gave over 240 grants to train arts organizations or their employees (or both) how to do their jobs.

Funded the translation of over 220 works of literature into English.

Gave over 300 grants for the development and maintenance of websites on the arts.

Gave over 100 grants to support writing about art (journalism, books, etc).

Most of the grants they give are not very big for them, but are huge to the recipients. Without those grants, they would not likely stay in business. Or at least their services/tickets would become so prohibitively expensive that the arts would become the playground of only the very wealthy.

All of these projects the NEA funded or helped fund in the last 10 years had tangible, local, community influence. These are all things that touched individual and local community lives. In fact, if you did anything that involved any of the arts in the last 10 years on a community level (arts festivals, live performances, community performances, museums, arts education, libraries, etc.), you personally benefited personally from the work of the NEA.

The data shows that in the last 10 years alone, every single congressional district in the entire country plus all the commonwealths and territories have benefited from the work the NEA does at least 3 times (and all but one benefited four or more times). And that's just counting the grants. That's not counting other work they do, projects they run themselves, all the educational materials they produce themselves.

The obvious question is "Why would the government have any business funding these kinds of things?"

Here are my thoughts:

There are things that benefit our culture and our country as a whole that we value and that make life worthwhile for individuals and communities. There are things that keep people alive, and then there are things that make life worth living, that make people happy, that give families edifying and bonding experiences, that make our communities wonderful places to live.

Unfortunately, a lot of those enriching things are expensive to pay for, especially on a local community level. Most of the arts are prohibitively expensive. One of the functions of the federal government is to bolster communities in their efforts to make life worthwhile, to educate children, and to keep communities safe and happy. When something is expensive and not likely to return the investment to money-makers, but is worthwhile and valuable for making America wonderful, the government steps in to help. That's how we have infrastructure like bridges. That's how we have public education. That's how we have public universities. That's how we have national parks. And, even though the arts stuff is produced on the local level or in the schools, that's how we have arts in our communities, too.

I don't think people are aware how much the arts cost (and that's not funding them well at all--artists and arts organizations are usually starving!), but people appreciate the existence of arts in schools and in their communities. And I'm sure that most people are not aware that the federal government is quietly playing a role in helping all the arts and arts organizations to not collapse and disappear.

Historically speaking, communities have established and advertised their value and sophistication by providing arts for their members. Even in the old west, towns would prove they were established, civilized, and great places to live by funding town brass bands, theaters, and opera houses. They held festivals and parties and dances that featured live music. They put on shows. They paid for statues or commemorative paintings. They brought in travelling exhibitions and touring music ensembles. Even in the old west! This is not a new thing. The arts make life wonderful. The arts are so important that even in frontier Utah, Brigham Young made sure artists were getting top-notch training in Europe so they could come back and produce art for the frontiersmen. People need art. People need literature. People need music and dance and theater. Their bodies might not die without it, but their souls and their communities do.

The work of the NEA touches every one of our lives, and it would be a massive blow to arts in the United States, to our quality of life, and to our art communities (who would not exist without the help of the government--especially in the digital age where people believe that their art and music should be free). Without the support of things like residencies, state arts councils, arts tours, and community fairs and festivals, concert series, etc, I don't know of any artists that would survive, since individual consumers largely refuse to pay for their arts anymore. The entirety of arts would suffer because nobody wants to fund something that benefits people but does not bring any return on the investment in terms of dollars and cents. You won't get rich bankrolling the arts, so nobody wants to do it.

That's why, if we want or need any of the arts where we can touch them--in our homes, in our schools, in our communities, we need the NEA. This isn't some far-off program that only touches professional artists in New York and LA. This is a program that brings art to all of us, to enrich all of our lives.

Yes, there are philanthropists who donate huge amounts to the arts. But it takes them and the NEA to keep things going, and to keep arts in our communities. Philanthropists don't have the reach or the resources the government has. And, judging by the NEA rolls, the philanthropy drops off just when the people need arts the most: when the economy crashes and life gets hard.

What I'm trying to say is I dug through their data, which is freely available on their site, and it is clear if you look at what they actually do that our whole country would suffer a great loss if the NEA were erased. It would cause economic loss in every community that uses NEA funds (lost jobs, lost tourist dollars, lost arts dollars, lost "ripple" dollar). It would damage our educational systems. It would hurt our museums and libraries. It would make our lives more bleak. It would remove access to the arts from all the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and thousands upon thousands of communities that function fine but can't necessarily afford a theater or don't have enough dancers for a dance company or singers for a choir. Everything would be more expensive and less available. Our country would be a sadder, grayer, more unhappy, less healthy place.

A quick google search can show you (as it did me) that there are hundreds of research papers discussing the value of arts in our communities, for our youth especially, and in our schools. (This, for example, discusses the difficulties of discussing the issue at all, but covers a lot of different kinds of benefits the arts have for all of us: http://www.mvgeorgia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/art-and-community.pdf.)

I know the regular conservative "line" is that the government has no business funding the arts. But the government does have business funding things that improve our lives that the free market won't fund because it's not cost-effective. Like roads. Charity health clinics. Public schools. Libraries. Museums. National Parks. And community arts.

And, quite frankly, I don't want to live in a world without the arts, and without the NEA, we who are poor are destined to just that.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Emmy says....

Em, just a week shy of 2 years old, just excitedly brought me a DVD and said, "It has clues clues on it!" (her name for Blues Clues).

No, but it did have the movie "Clue" on it.

I guess she recognized the word? As in, she read it by memorizing the shape of that word? She can't even reliably name the letters yet (last she told me, the alphabet was, "A, B, Moon, Emmeline, Daniel...."), but I guess she can read that one word.