Dee's Blog
www.takecourage.org
Tue 06/16/2015
Learning from the Past
Topic: Making Decisions

Tis the season for having lots of fun. For me, that includes going to area festivals and historical sites, hoping to connect with crowds in regard to my latest writing venture. When it's festivals, I have hundreds of brief conversations with 1-3 people at a time.  My favorites, of course, are the older kids--old enough to put some things into perspective. And they do, sometimes better than their parents.

This past Sunday I was at Jesse James Farm and Museum in Kearney, MO, for an hour-long program. It had taken me days to prepare. I was hoping for 25-50, at least.  Instead I got a handful of travelers who just happened to be at the museum and were kind enough to stay and listen.  They knew even less about the Border Wars along the Missouri-Kansas border than local residents. It was fun and fulfilling. They learned a lot and were very receptive.

Disappointing, too, since the program was rather well publicized by the event coordinator.  Really disappointing since it was supposed to be for children with much of it about adult bullies (like James) in the 19th century who created terror with guns, oiled with religious extremist views. Even more disturbing, the facility has hosted several authors the last few Sundays:  all with the same sort of turn-out.

Raises the concern that few Americans seem to share:  How are we going to learn from the past in order to shape a better future if we don't see the need to do so?  That covers a myriad of topics!

http://justfollowingorders.takecourage.org


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:46 AM CDT
Sun 01/11/2015
A REAL Hero
Topic: Making Decisions

 


If I’d known the story of Silas Soule when I was writing

“Just Following Orders,” I would have been sure to include

him among the remarkable true characters I included in

the historical fiction.  Since I didn’t until his story appeared

on the front page of the Lawrence Journal World (Lawrence, KS)

last month, all I can do now is tell you about the courage that

Silas showed, first as a teenager and later as a man in his

20’s.


At 16, he came in 1854 with his family to Lawrence, Kansas,

where I now live.  As one of the courageous families who were

devoted to abolishing slavery, Silas soon found himself playing a

dangerous role, escorting runaway slaves and rescuing captured

abolitionists. Chances are when the massacre occurred here in

Lawrence, Silas was off fighting for the Union so that he escaped

being one of the victims.  Perhaps his heart was so touched by the

news of what happened at Lawrence, when 250 children were

left fatherless in the massacre, that he was extra sensitive to

another tragedy that occurred a year later, this time one that

he was “supposed” to be a part of.  I’m referring to the Sand

Creek Massacre, which you can read about in "Just Following

Orders."  This massacre, like Lawrence, was one of the bloodiest

in U. S. history.  The difference was that it wasn’t carried out by

Confederate sympathizers, but by Union soldiers, under the

command of a Methodist minister, no less!


At 26, Soule was a captain in the U. S. Cavalry when the order to

attack Sand Creek (in Colorado Territory, just across the Kansas

border) was issued.  Soule refused to  obey!  Yet his name isn’t

very well known in history, though it should be.  For what he did

was remarkable!  As a young man of courage and character, he

was willing to stand up against power greater than his own,

because he must have recognized full well that torturing and

killing people was something he could not be a part of, no

matter what the consequences.


On that awful day in late November of 1864, which we can only

pause to notice now and learn from, almost as many citizens of

Sand Creek were slaughtered as in Lawrence. The big difference: 

all of the Sand Creek victims were Native Americans and most

were women and children. 


Less than six months later, Soule was dead.  He was shot because

of his testimony during the hearings that followed when officials

in Washington, D. C. wisely opened an investigation. Despite the

military action being condemned, Chivington, that Methodist

minister,  was never prosecuted.  In fact, he was given a hero’s

burial!


Not sure what kind of burial Soule got.  Yet today his name and

honor have been preserved.  Thankfully, in December, 2014,

there was finally an apology issued to the victimized tribes along

with ceremonies to commemorate Soule’s act of courage.


For more information on “Just Following Orders,” my 2014

historical fiction, plus the 5th and 6th-grade version "Mighty TALL

Orders," see www.justfollowingorders.takecourage.org


 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 2:52 PM CST
Updated: Sun 01/11/2015 3:24 PM CST
Fri 12/28/2012
A Plea for Forgiveness
Topic: Making Decisions

My husband was the recipient of the most memorable gift in our household this year.  A bumper sticker!  It reads:  "Father forgive Congress, for they know not what they doest." 

Let's dream of the day when they will wake up and ask seriously for genuine forgiveness from the people being harmed by their lack of moral intelligence in the face of so much suffering!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:06 PM CST
Sat 11/24/2012
Heads CAN Change
Topic: Making Decisions

Neuroplasticity is a big word that describes the ability of the brain to change, actually increasing the volume of sections that are activated and exercised over the course of a lifetime of learning.  Fifty years ago this was only the stuff of science fiction!

What exciting applications are being made as we understand just why practice really does make progress.  Not just with musicians, chess players, and scientists. 

Practice makes progress when it comes to making sound decisions, too!  As long as we don't rush the process.

I hope you caught what I just said because I believe it's the most important and most difficult thing that any musician must learn.  Speed kills--not just with driving.

Speed, which can be equated with impulsivity when it comes to learning any new skill, is counter-productive.  Here's why:  Human beings VERY quickly learn to memorize mistakes.  Speed often keeps us from even SEEING mistakes!  So we make the mistake over and over, rushing through our "practice" (better known as life when it comes to making very important decisions). 

Sometimes it's impossible for me to get a student to slow down, even when I'm standing right there.  I have to get very cranky if I succeed with most students.  That's because they want to just "play the piano" rather than practice something first.  Eighty percent of students--yes 80%--have to learn the hard way that when they have played a section of music as few as five times, making the same error, they have already memorized the mistake!!  It will then take five times as long to un-learn and re-program the brain so that the result will be what the music calls for!  What's more:  the student will get so used to the sound of the error that the teacher will be hard pressed to convince the student that there IS an error!!!!!

Same goes for learning to make good, moral decisions.  Both music and good decisions can be made almost without thinking; but not before one has done so persistently over a long period of time.

Practice DOES make progress, even if it never makes perfection in any individual or institution.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:34 PM CST
Fri 11/23/2012
Making Progress
Topic: Making Decisions

"Practice does NOT make perfect," I often tell my piano students.  Before adding:  "It DOES make progress, though--always."

There are NO perfect pianists.  There are just pianists who learn well to cover their mistakes.  The pro's even do so by incorporating their mistakes into something more beautiful!

Of course, that's music.  And one of the beauties of music is that it's not a matter of life nor death. 

Ironically, the same thinking process that leads to progress in musicians goes into making progress when it comes to making solid, wise, moral decisions. 

To be continued......


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:40 AM CST
Sun 02/19/2012
My Calling
Topic: Making Decisions

My divine calling is to stand up for what I believe.  As I understand it, this is the divine calling for everyone.  This is what requires me to sometimes sacrifice my time or money.   That's what I was taught, ironically in the Southern Baptist Convention, which ultimately became what I was required to stand against.  They taught me!!

Even when it went against what an institution insisted was "God's will" for me--controlling what I say--the calling, as I understood it, was one that I had to exercise.

Another vital belief--the priesthood of every believer--mixed with it to make my difficult decision to leave the work I loved, the work into which I had poured my very soul, knowing that somehow my true soul would survive.

The pain of being a "living sacrifice" sometimes continues.  I still miss old friends I lost when I stayed true to the calling that ranked higher than going somewhere far away in service to God and humanity. 

This week, my 9-year-old granddaughter couldn't sleep, so I got out the old photo albums of her dad's growing up years in the strange land where she has never been (but someday will likely go to visit with him).  Some of those pictures, as always, tug at my heart when I see the smiling faces of people with whom I'd shared so much, people I no longer would even recognize nor be able to relate with the deepest integrity I once did.

My granddaughter asked:  "Why did you ever go to Africa in the first place?"  I was able to put it in simple, 9-year-old terms.  And I think I successfully communicated what she could understand.  Someday, when the time is right, she will understand just as well what brought us home. 

A chunk of my life was cut out in 1988.  The cutting really began in 1986, when my co-workers abandoned their own calling and betrayed a lot more people than just my family and I!  In it's place, within me, is something amazing that could not have been sewn into the fabric of my soul had I remained "comfortable" with the patriarchs replacing God for me.  It includes friends--some of you I've known for longer than I ever knew my missionary co-workers.  It's new friends I would never have found, for I would not likely have ended up in this place, where new friends often receive my entire story and affirm it.

Nor would I have come full circle, arriving "at home" within a circle of Quakers today.  Maybe I was kidnapped before birth.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:33 AM CST
Updated: Mon 11/19/2012 10:44 AM CST
Thu 01/26/2012
Needing More than Facts
Topic: Making Decisions

People who think very concretely--and this seems to be an awful lot of professionals in positions of power--define truth as a set of facts that can be taken into a courtroom to prove how a case should be settled.

Truth is far more than a set of facts.  Anyone who has ever watched Law and Order should be able to see this.  Yes, we need the facts.  Beyond that, though, we must understand the deeper principles that determine what we do with the facts, once we have them.

We need to hold certain truths as self-evident.  Do we really believe that everyone on this earth is created equal?  Do we believe that everyone deserves to be treated in such a way that they are able to continue pursuing happiness?  If so, we will not support institutions or organizations who act as if these things do not matter.  If institutions are acting ethically in some ways and not others, we will address the short-comings as we speak up for ourselves or others in order to improve life for everyone.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:43 PM CST
Fri 10/24/2008
The Carefree Atmosphere of My Voting Place
Topic: Making Decisions

What delighted me most about the experience of early voting was the carefree atmosphere.  Unlike the usual poling places where I've gone in the past, often managed by aged people who tend to be stiffled, extremely serious and deliberate,  the auditor's office was open and friendly, with younger people who seemed delighted I was there.  Also delighted with the large number of children who were learning at some level about the process as they sat by their parents or just played nearby.  Children who will, hopefully, will never believe like the apathetic woman who is throwing away her vote this year.  

Just being among these young parents and children gave me a spirit of optimism!

These are the children we must inspire and teach in all that we do, even as protect them and their freedoms in every way we possibly can.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 10/22/2008
Contrasting our Rights with Those of Others
Topic: Making Decisions

 In my opinion, the woman I met, who refuses to vote, needs to spend at least a year in a country where she has none of our blessed freedoms. She needs to be in a place where the government hands down decisions with a heavy hand, behaving as if it is God instead of the tyrant that such governments really are.

I've lived in a country where freedom of speech and freedom of press and freedom of choice were not a privilege.   Neither was the freedom of religion.   Of course, the lady also has the freedom not to vote.  Thereby, relinquishing her right to have a part in one of the most important elections in the history of our nation.  She has the right to be apathetic. 

The first commandment is one I'd like to see as a universal one, even though it comes from a religious text that happens to be Judeo-Christian.  No government, no institution, and no religion--in fact, no religious text--should be God.  When we allow it to be, we make the "god" a tyrant.  And that's power abuse.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tue 10/21/2008 8:15 AM CDT
Tue 10/07/2008
Difficulty in Protecting Children in Nebraska
Topic: Making Decisions

Even with the best of intentions, lawmakers and social service agencies can find it difficult to protect vulnerable children.  Those of us who live near the Omaha-Lincoln, Nebraska metro have gotten a stark reminder in the last couple of weeks.

Not long ago NE lawmakers passed a law to protect infants who might be abandoned by their birth mothers.  At least, that was the intent.  Apparently, some had fears that the law would be misused by distraught parents of older children.  The wording technically allowed children up the age of 19 to be dropped off at any hospital with parents not being held responsible for abandoning their children.  There would be no questions asked, according to the plan.

In the past two weeks, almost 20 children have been dropped off--9 in one family, when their overwhelmed father decided he was unable to cope with the children after their mother died a year or two ago.  Then, heaven forbid, the courts and the Dept. of Human Services couldn't agree on where the kids should live.  Sleeping two to a bed, even in a loving relative's home, the courts said, wasn't good for the kids--even if it was a temporary arrangement and even if the home had been approved by DHS.  So the kids, already in grief from losing a mother, were footballs.  All because we haven't learned how to be a "village" who cares for our children emotionally. 

It will take time, but people are working on the problem.  Somehow trying to keep children (and, in this case, a father) from being left out, unaware that there are safe places they can go when life throws them a curve they cannot manage.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:08 AM CDT

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