History is in how you tell it.

So I ran into an interesting example of how history can have vastly different meaning depending on how you tell it.  Last month on his SciShow Channel, Hank Green talked about human experimentation and used the story of Edward Jenner and the early attempts at a smallpox vaccine as one of his examples.  You can watch it here (it should be queued up to the correct moment, if not, skip to 2:49)



Well, recently Ted-Ed released a video on the same topic.  It came so quickly after the SciShow one, I almost wonder if it was in response.  Anyway, watch below and see if you notice as dramatic a difference as I did.



The blessing to me, that was blessing my daughter.

I read something this morning that pierced my soul when I read it.  It literally caused my heart to race and my hands to begin to tremble.  This emotional reaction came on so suddenly and strongly that my cognitive processes were unable to keep up and I didn’t immediately know why this short paragraph had effected me so dramatically.  To put this feeling into context, it was basically a mini-panic attack.  Now, being a advocate for mindfulness, I recognized that I needed to process this experience and get to the root cause of why I felt so attacked by what I read.  So, here is what I learned about myself through my internal reflection.

I’ll start with what triggered this.  It was a testimonial from a man named Adam on the Ordain Women website that was shared on Facebook.  Here is the link, but I’ll also share Adam’s entire testimonial here:

About three years ago I remember standing in a circle, surrounded by men (some important to me, some not so much). We were about to take part in one of the more significant events of a child’s life. In this instance, that child happened to be my own. I remember looking straight ahead through a gap between my uncle in-law and an old friend of mine, who more or less invited himself into the circle. What I saw was a face that stared back at me with a handful of emotions painted on it. Admiration, appreciation, a sense of parental pride, perhaps. Yet there she was, sitting on a bench, a mere spectator. Some of the men in the circle couldn’t tell you the full name of my infant, let alone did they sacrifice their bodies to keep her alive for 9 months. And they certainly had never spent one sleepless night ensuring the comfort of my little girl, amidst incessant cries. I remember thinking, “Something isn’t right here. She should be the one to do this.”

This is simply a small example among countless others that make it crystal clear to me.

I believe women should be ordained.

Now, in full disclosure I am not a supporter of the Ordain Women movement, but I am not a detractor either.  I do think there are equality issues within the Church and culture that need to be addressed, and I think that this movement is shining a light on areas of inequality.  However, my own personal opinion is to have patience with the Lord’s revelatory process and look at the way the system now works and search for the good that exists because of the current sex-segregated priesthood system while not putting blinders on to any gross inequalities and injustices.

Back to Adam’s story though and my personal reaction to it.  As I came to grips with my immediate emotional response, I began to realize that I reacted so strongly to this story because had my wife blessed our first daughter instead of me, irreparable damage may have happened to my family.  Not some imaginary damage, but real, lasting, devastating damage that may have ended my relationship with my wife and daughter.  The fact that I was able to bless my daughter provided me with a measure of protection from forces that were trying to destroy me shortly after my daughter was born.

One seriously under-reported mental health problem among men is male-postpartum depression and anxiety.  I came down with this very swiftly and severely following my daughter’s birth.  Even though I had been through battles with depression prior to this, this time it hit so quickly and so unexpectedly I couldn’t even consider disclosing what I was going through to anyone.  My internal thoughts and my supposed implications of becoming depressed right after the birth of my first-born were too horrific to let anyone who could have helped me know what was going on in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.  I kept a smiling face publicly, but within myself was a torment too great to put into words.  Too often, the only balm that I felt could have ended my torment was to run, to leave me wife and daughter; after all, if this was how bad I felt simply because my daughter had been born, what good was I to them?

Yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom has decreed that fathers should bless their children.  So, in the midst of being racked in my mind with continual torment, I knew that on an upcoming Sunday I would need to stand before a congregation of fellow members, my family, and my wife and allow myself to be a vessel of the Lord and a conduit for revelation.  I needed to spend time in prayer and fasting so I could be the person who the Lord, my daughter, and my wife needed me to be when that blessing was given, and that’s what happened.  Giving my daughter her blessing connected her to me, it renewed within me a strength and commitment to her and to her mother.  Now it was not a complete fix, I did eventually need both therapy and medication to overcome this challenge, but the act of giving my daughter a blessing was a great protection.  It was the first step of many that saved my family from the brink of destruction.

Let me conclude my remarks by speaking directly to you, Adam.  Do not discount your role in the rearing of your child and the importance of the fact that YOU were the person responsible for his/her blessing.  Yes, your wife sacrificed 9 months and the health of her body to bring this child into the world, and she will continue to sacrifice for the care and well-being of this child, but those 9 months also gave her a 9 month advantage in getting to know your child and his/her personality.  As a father, you need every opportunity given to you to connect to your children and understand them, and still you will never catch up with your wife in being able to sense when something is wrong, when they need help, and how to succor and care for them.  She had 9 months of pregnancy followed my months of breastfeeding and cuddling.  You need your time too to get to know this child, and the blessing is a wonderful opportunity to do so.  It is a few minutes where if you can prepare yourself, you can feel the touch of revelation and see the same potential in this child that Heavenly Father does.  These are revelations your wife has likely already received during her months of pregnancy and her first moments with her newborn.

If you feel your wife was a mere spectator during the blessing, take corrective action when your next child is born or during future ordinances.  Be more selective and intentional about who is in the circle beforehand.  Have a family gathering before the service with all invited members of the circle and have your wife offer a prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide your words in the blessing.  In your prayer as a couple the night before, as your wife to say that prayer and ask her to seek for things in that prayer that you ought to include in your blessing the next morning.  Go out of your way to include your wife in this blessing within the Lord’s guidelines as we currently understand them.

I simply want to share that in this specific regard I hope that the Child’s Blessing remains the father’s responsibility.  It was a necessary and protective blessing to me in my family, because if I had witnessed my wife blessing our daughter when I felt so disconnected to this newborn, I may have given in to the horrific thoughts in my mind to take off because clearly my wife wouldn’t have needed me.  She had carried her, she had delivered her, she was now feeding and caring for her.  If she had also blessed her, that what good was I?  I hate to think what I might have done if I can succumbed to such thoughts.  I hope that as we pursue opportunities to increase women’s equality in the Church, we do not eliminate traditions that bring blessings to fathers in our relationships with our children.  This goes so far beyond and deeper than the “women have children; men have the priesthood” platitude, this is about advocating an equality in the father/child and the mother/child relationship.  Something that is vital for both fathers and children.

Academic Advising?

I’m attending the annual conference for NACADA (the National ACademic ADvising Association).  It has thus far been a very educational experience and I’m learning a great deal about how to help the students that I am responsible for.

One interesting aspect of this profession is that it is one that we advisors unexpectedly find our way too.  No elementary or high school kid is likely to say “I wanna be an academic advisor when I grow up,” since they likely don’t know the job exists. Those of us who have found ourselves in this profession stay with it because we love it and find it fulfilling.  However, whenever I get a chance to collaborate and talk to advisors at other schools we all share in the common frustration that few people understand what it is that we do.  Often times our own family members can’t even fully picture what it is that we do all day.  Last night I went out to dinner with 3 other advisors and it was so much fun to just “talk shop” without having anyone at the table tune out because they didn’t understand the nature of what we were talking about.

So, I would like to do an experiment.  Later this week, I’m going to write a blog post on what I think academic advising is, and what it should develop into in the coming decades.  Before I post that I would like to get some feedback.  If you are not an academic advisor, please comment below what you think academic advising is or what it should be.  If you have experience being advising (either good or bad) please share that too.  Lastly, please share this post with others so I can get additional responses.

Once you have written your comment feel free to go to our professional clearinghouse and look through the definitions of academic advising that we are currently debating within the profession.

Thank you for your feedback!

One thing in life I have little tolerance for:

I use the word “hate” sparingly.  I do my best to not hate persons, you know, follow that “love them that despitefully use you” commandment.  Still there are ideas and movements out there that I do hate. I try not to extend those negative feelings to the members of such movements, rather I attempt to understand the life circumstances that got them to be a part of such a group and I try to have compassion for the elements in their lives that were beyond their control that led them there.  Yet still, there are groups and movements that do great evil in this world, and I hate those movements.  Today, I’m going to discuss the one–that while not the most evil or pernicious in modern or historical times–I cross paths with the most, and I grow less tolerant to with each passing year:  The anti-vaccine movement.

To put it bluntly, I believe this movement is evil.  The movement grants its members the right to feel moral superiority over the rest of society while putting society as a whole at great risk for harm and early death.  It’s almost like a form of feudalism where the unvaccinated lords and ladies can look down there noses at the unclean masses while ignoring the atrocities done to the rest of us in there name.  I used to just be able to ignore their collective smugness, like ignoring the sneers from the granolas in Whole Foods who noticed I wasn’t wearing organic-cotton jeans, but as diseases like whooping-cough and measles make comebacks to 1950’s pre-vaccine number the time for tolerance has passed.  This movement is a ticking time-bomb leading to plagues and epidemics.  We ought to treat them with the same level of derision that smokers are treated because I firmly believe that sending my kids to a school where 40% or more of the kids are unvaccinated is more dangerous than sending my kids to a school where all the teachers smoked while lecturing (a norm in the 19th & early 20th centuries).

On top of the health risks to society as a whole, the most frustrating thing about this group is how unsound their arguments are, while somehow being effective to recruit more followers!  It baffles my mind.  Here are some of the arguments that drive me the most crazy:

  • The False Dichotomy:  (There’s a few of these, I’ll cover 2) (a) “If people were just healthier and ate better then they wouldn’t need vaccines.”  So vaccines are treated as an either/or thing, something to compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle.  Nothing is further from the truth, vaccines are simply one tool towards achieving a healthy lifestyle.  They offer very specific protections, and those protections are enhanced by exercise and eating healthy. (b) “Everything alternative is great, all mainstream medicine is bad”  Look, there’s value to researching alternatives to find new treatments, but once an efficacy study has been done and replicated, let’s trust it!  Remember, everything that is “mainstream” now was once “alternative.”  Alternatives can lead to innovation, but mainstream or alternative, if the treatment doesn’t bear fruit, let’s abandon it.  No alternative to vaccines is bearing fruit right now, and all these alternatives are starting to actually cause problems, not fix them.
  • The appeal for tolerance, while offering none:  Often I see something like “Respect my choice not to vaccinate my kids, while I share an article that disrespects your choice to vaccinate.”  Doing that is not an appeal for tolerance, it is advocacy, it is propaganda.   It is a manifestation of the false moral superiority that the anti-vaccine movement fosters in its members
  • Not respecting the historical devastation of these diseases: Too often there is some comment about how “back in the day” once one kid in the neighborhood would get sick everyone would send their kids over to get sick too, and all the kids would wind up fine.  Okay, clarify something for me, why is inoculating someone through disease preferable to getting inoculated without getting sick?  Also, our great-grandparents didn’t do that to our grandparents with all diseases, yes, maybe measles and mumps, but not polio, small pox, or whooping cough, those cases were quarantined. Also, they were strategic about it; they wouldn’t send their kids over if the child with the disease was having an extreme case, they would wait until someone in the neighborhood had a mild case indicating that it was a more mild strain.
  • The misappropriation of vaccine research: I don’t know how intentional this is, or if it comes from a place of ignorance, but often anti-vaccine people take published studies on vaccine research and write an article on it that comes to the complete opposite conclusion of the researchers themselves.  This is often done by misinterpreting the data; they grab one number in the study, and then ignore the statistical meaning of that number, and further ignore the rest of the analysis in the process.
  • They are stubbornly rigid when proven wrong:  this autism/vaccine lie has been proven to be a myth, started by a greedy trial lawyer and an unscrupulous medical professional to try and make a quick buck.  This lie has diverted funds for legitimate research into autism and vaccines for over 15 years now, and time and time again has shown no correlation or cause between the two.  Yet still the myth is perpetuated and regurgitated in different forms: the last straw, the trigger, the whatever else that still can’t be proven.  And the lie lives on.
  • Playing the “greed” card: So often anti-vaccine people argue that greed is driving the vaccine companies and the medical establishment.  I know no doctor that wants to see patients regularly because they are ill and can’t get better.  One thing I’ve learned as a counselor is that often the negative qualities we label others with are the ones we ourselves have personal vulnerabilities about.  So for these people to constantly claim that pro-vaccine people are greedy, how much must greed be a personal demon in their lives?
  • Not understanding the nature of inoculation  I once read a anti-vaccine piece where the author talked about vaccines being 90% effective, he then asked why the medical establishment isn’t doing anything for the 10% that aren’t inoculated after getting vaccinated, and that they were no different than his kids that weren’t vaccinated in the first place.  That is such a horrible misread of the 90% efficacy rate.  Vaccines provide a level of coverage that varies depending on the strength of the vaccine and the strength of the immune system of the vaccinated person.  If the vaccinated person has a weakened immune system do to an immune system or genetic disorder, an unhealthy lifestyle, or a different disease (like a cold or influenza) then the overall efficacy of the vaccine is lower, and exposure to another person who hasn’t been vaccinated can trigger the disease in the vaccinated person.  If you’re in your 30’s or older, think back to your own childhood when chicken-pox wasn’t included in the vaccine schedule.  You might remember some unlucky kid who had already had chicken-pox when it went around one year, but then caught it again the next time it went around because he or she was unlucky enough to catch the flu right before the chicken-pox started spreading again.  It’s the same thing with inoculation via vaccine.

These are just my top 7 annoyances with the anti-vaccine movement.  A movement that collectively has set the clock back 50 years in disease health of the American public.  As I said, I used to be able to ignore those few I knew who were part of this group, but now that we are paying the price for their lies and misinformation I can’t be silent any more.  If you haven’t vaccinated your children, please talk to your doctors and get some real facts.  The internet is full of a lot of stuff, but it is often hard to distinguish real facts from lies and misinformation in this environment.

If trying to encourage all of you to get educated doesn’t work, the only next step I can think of is shame.  It’s been our predominant social engineering tool for the past 30 years to get people to quit smoking, perhaps it might start working on some of you anti-vaccine folks.  I hope we don’t have to get there, I’m not a fan of shame, but I’ll use whatever tools are at my disposal to keep my family safe.