Multiculturalism: Some Experiences Last a Lifetime

Some experiences are so powerful and meaningful, you don’t realize it for many years. And some become even more relevant as time goes on.

As a high school student, I was very involved with the youth group at my church. It started in middle school, but really took form in high school.

I got some opportunities through my church life experiences which have had an effect on me, and gave me opportunities as a teen/young adult that have helped me to continuously expand my experiences and world view.

At 17, I was able to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in South Bend, Indiana. We hammered, took down walls, some people painted, and prepped a house to look like new as only high school students led by adults can do. It was demolition work, and probably a better fit for me than building would be.

I learned, as a primarily left-handed, but ambidextrous-ish person, that I can hammer with either hand, but it was very important to match the eye I used with the hand I was hammering with. A couple of good wacks to the thumbs reinforced that, and I think I ultimately decided my right hand was a bit better.

I also learned that turpentine takes off paint, but getting covered in paint due to being a terribly messy person is not really recommended. (The paint war probably didn’t help, but if turpentine gets off paint, wouldn’t that be irrelevant?)

Well, no…it is not meant to be bathed in, and I certainly have not made that decision or mistake with paint again.

At 18, I spent around 2-ish weeks with other high school and college students riding in vans from Indiana to join high school and college students (led by adults) just over the border of México. This event was sponsored by churches, in Indiana and Iowa, and led by Jayna from Indiana and Blake from Iowa.

We spent time at an orphanage, painting murals on walls, pulling weeds, and playing in the pool during the hot summer afternoons with the children who lived there.

We gave the gym, pool building, and general area a facelift, through painting, pulling weeds, and providing emotional support to the children and adults who resided and worked there.

We all tried to work to our personal strengths by remaining aware of the heat, self care, our own talents and skills, and the all important singing and camaraderie during evening devotions and guitar singing.

I’m an undiscovered folk singer, and when I get the opportunity to sing with a group in a key that works for me, I’m going to enjoy myself.

Although my high school French, and my not yet taken college German, were not all that helpful with communicating with the children and adults whose first language was Spanish, we did study important Spanish words and phrases during our drive to Texas to help to communicate in Spanish with the children and adults who worked or lived at the orphanage.

We learned that ‘trabajo’ means ‘work’, and ‘Conta Cuesta Es’ means ‘How much is’…..?

The ‘how much is?’ Question helped for our trip to Monterey where we did a little shopping and bartering for items toward the end of the trip, where we went once we left Reynosa.

We learned that ‘tango hambre’ means ‘to have hunger’ and most importantly to me: ‘donde esta el bano’, or where is the bathroom?. This is a phrase I use in my self talk to this day when looking for a restroom.

We stopped midway in DFW, the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as it is just about the mid-point between Mexico and Tipton, Indiana; as well as a good meet up point with our new friends from Iowa.

During the hot afternoons, we cooled off in the pool. Keep away was a huge favorite of the children who used the pool to cool down from hot summer days, and also a favorite of mine, a trained life guard who also loves to play and have fun.

I learned that ‘a qui’ means ‘here;’. They used it to mean ‘give me the ball’ or ‘I’m open’.

I learned ‘alto!’. Which means ‘stop’. I would yell ‘a key!’ A key!’, which sounds the same, and frequently got me, the object of the keep away, the ball. The children then yelled ‘alto! Alto!’ To tell each other to stop saying ‘a qui’.

I vaguely remember playing where those of us who had traveled in from the US played against the children and those who lived there, but it has been quite a few years. I also have played a lot of alto saxophone in my life, so I probably tuned into that word fairly quickly.

I learned that if I yelled ‘alto!’, sometimes that made the person stop and look.

Lots of fun was had in Reynosa by those of us who spoke English, Spanish, and sometimes a combination of the two.

At age 19, I traveled to France near the border of Switzerland, with my sister to be a part of a multi-cultural experience with 16-21 year olds.

Friends from Ireland; both Catholic and Protestant, who in 1990 did not have a history of peacefully co-existing; England (Bath), Czechoslovakia (now known as the Czech Republic); East Germany, West Germany (who had just joined to be Germany), Norway, and many youth from France attended. The East and West Germans were experiencing very different economic times including costs prior to their merge, and the people from those countries shared first hand the experiences they were having.

They spoke of movie prices, which had been somewhere around $3 in East Germany, compared to $10 in West Germany. When the merge occurred, the country had one price for movies, which was the West German price. Our friends from East Germany related the struggles with the quick inflation and how that had personally affected their families.

I had just taken 2 semesters of German at Indiana University (a 4 credit class, taught by a woman who would later teach me about Women in German History) which for my American ear was easier to hear.

I learned that each of the other countries participating taught English in primary school, when, as our friends taught my sister and me, we are more able to learn it.

Learning a different language after the age of 12 is much more difficult, so my sister and my experience learning Spanish/French (for her), and French/German for me set us far behind our friends in terms of speaking their language (whatever that might be) fluently, and each of them spoke English to an extent that far out-performed our efforts at speaking their first language.

All instructions were stated in German, French, and then English. We had an activity each day, and worked to clear a 5k trail. We had a talent show where I accompanied on piano as my friend from Bath sang ‘The Long and Winding Road’, by the Beatles.

I do not remember my own talent, but do remember a couple of girls playing the recorder, which is not an especially easy instrument to play well.

Sarah, from Bath, incidentally did not like carbonation in her soda. She clarified, each time she made her Coke ‘flat’; that this was not a product of Bath, England. It was her preference, as a resident of Bath.

I learned from one of my Irish friends that when I asked ‘should I wear pants?’, in regard to temperature, that her chuckle came from the fact that those with her Irish dialect called ‘pants’ what my sister and I referred to as ‘underwear’.

It was amusing to me that she had thought I asked such a personal question, and I have referred to those shorts with longer legs as ‘long pants’ ever since.

I also learned, fast forwarding to 2018 when ‘23 and Me’ became popular, that approximately 97% of my genes come from Northern Europe, most specifically from Ireland.

I have olive skin, which is reminiscent of the skin of those with Spanish heritage (among others). My parents have a long history of lovingly arguing about who is more Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

My cousin loves to tell a story about our Great Grandfather, who left Ireland for America due to his parents’ refusal to let him marry his maid.

We don’t know who he married, but he married someone and had children in America. I have always respected this great-grandfather whom I have never met; due to his integrity and tenacity about following his heart and his refusal to follow a class system assigned to him.

My mother’s family, in Ireland, was Irish Catholic; and my dad’s family, in Ireland, was also Irish Catholic. My mom was raised Methodist (Protestant), and my sister, brother and I were also raised Protestant (Methodist, and then Christian: Disciples of Christ). I attended church with my friends during sleepovers throughout school, and in college attended the local Catholic Church full of students and 2 young priests.

Two of my best friends in elementary school were being raised Baha’i, which promotes unity and works peace.

1990, France:

My sister and I described, matter of factly, that our mom is Protestant and our dad is Catholic. Our two friends, who worked at the holiday resort where we ate all three meals of the day, were incredulous that this could occur.

An experience in Belfast had caused quite a bit of trauma in our Irish friend with the pony tail (even then, terrible with names). Our Irish friend with the bob-length hair was less shocked, but did describe how our other friend’s family had urgently gone to the other side of the wall during the unrest in Belfast regarding religion, and not all of her family had survived.

Last week, as I continue to check the genetics as more and more people participate in ancestry testing, I learned that I had a 3% chance of having olive skin.

3. Per Cent.

As I child, once I learned in biology about dominant and recessive genes, I called myself ‘very recessive’ because I did not look like my family.

I have been complimented for my tan skin tone for much of my life, as I say ‘thank you’ and wonder how to avoid the tan lines that appear if I go outside for more than a little bit.

As a 51 year old, I checked my ancestory results again and saw that 3% chance of being olive skinned, as more and more people of my descent are getting their ancestry results to understand our origins.

As you think about your culture, and different life experiences that have helped you to form your own systems of values and beliefs, what are some ways you have been affected that help you to be open and non-judgemental of those who may speak a different language, have different values and life experiences, or may have different skin tones or hair textures from you and the people in your life?

What are ways that you would like to promote peacefulness during a time where there has been so much unrest?

What is a goal you have, that you can do within the next few days, or month, or even season to help your life feel more peaceful?

Is your goal to make a goal?

I’m excited to be having some different life experiences than I had planned for, and was very reticent to experience.

I hope your day goes as well as it can, and that you have some positive interactions with yourself and others this week

To read an article I posted on ‘Thrive Global’, Click below. That article discusses my trip to France to promote World Peace, where I learned about culture, met some great friends, and recognized some of my privilege.

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/culture-shock-france-in-the-90s/

Covid Recovery: COVID19; Varients, Trauma Effects, and Recovery

(Late summer, 2021)

I’ve been working on this post for awhile.

First, I began the post a couple of month ago, when vaccines first became available.

The next time I began writing this article, variants of the virus had begun to appear. As of today, I’ve started and stopped a few times with edits.

This pandemic is frustrating.

So, as I once again work to push through and write as I work to track this pandemic and some of the effects it has, I notice a couple more things.

In good frustration fashion, I started and stopped this computer 3-4 times, and the blog is continuing to want to open as if I am viewing it instead of working on it.

Now, as I begin to write, I realize the wordpress.com app has an update so I did that and waited.

(that was a very short time, so I’m able to continue to write)

I participate in trauma recovery daily. I work in trauma as a mental health therapist who listens to stories about trauma.

I am trained and informed to be a trainer in Trauma Informed Care (TIC); and I am trained and practice Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral therapy (TF-CBT).

In March 2021, I completed Lane Peterson’s course and exam for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through PESI.

and

I am also living in, through, and working together with those who are trauma affected by the pandemic we are currently experiencing. This pandemic is fairly traumatic, so I’m using the word frequently.

As the pandemic began to show more effects in March of 2019, the effects we are all experiencing were quite unclear to me.

My grandmother lived through the Flu (frequently referred to as the Spanish Flu) in 1919 and talked to me about it, a little bit, when I was a kid and I would ask her.

‘Grandma??’ I would say, with a question in my voice to show I wanted her to answer and was pretty curious…’

…..’yessss……’, she would say, again, with pleasure in her voice because she talked like that.

‘How come you were born in 1910, but graduated in 1929, but you didn’t repeat a year in school?’

That last quesiton was because those of us born in the first year of the decade (ends in ‘0’) tend to remember our birth year and others’; and, like I said, I was pretty darn curious.

She would then answer me with a little bit of laughter in her voice, a little bit of frustration, and would then again be a little bit misleading; her experience with the pandemic in 1919 was really not my busines, nor did I need to know the answer, but eventually she told me.

‘I was ill one year, or actually; I was ill later in the year. The schools closed for the first half of the year, and then I got sick.’

So she missed a year of school, which was true; did not repeat a grade, which was also true. And I, the granddaughter of Eva and a child with lots of curiosity and questions, had my answer.

So, I moved on to different questions, different thoughts, and different experiences as I grew up to be just right about 50 years old.

2020 is also a decade year, or ends in zero. And I, as a 50 year old rising, was busy getting ready for things like creating income as a mental health therapist; my children graduating from college; and preparing to make income during the time that was just prior to COVID at the group practice I am contracted with, Blank Slate Therapy. (March 2020)

Emerging and Gathering in Crowds/Groups of People

So, as we begin to get together into bigger groups, the COVID 19 virus is mutating into a form that is more contagious and possibly less deadly.

For those who have chosen to be vaccinated, the effects appear to be less deadly. There also tend to be some health conditions which makes the COVID experience quite a bit longer lasting, which has been termed ‘long haul COVID’. Those with autoimmune struggles seem to be some of the ones more affected by the virus, as far as we can tell so far.

Many hospitals are filling with people with a diagnosis of COVID. Many of those with hospital admittance are not vaccinated, from research I am informally conducting through health providers I know.

I’m fairly certain that the cold virus has been mutating and changing like this ever since people began to work to create a vaccination for it.

I see larger crowds, as a resident of Texas, a little more often than some people in some other states do.

My son who lives in Wisconsin has had a very different COVID experience than my husband or me, since Wisconsin’s mandates related to the virus have been quite different than ones we experience in Texas.

My son who lives and goes to school in Indianapolis has had a different experience as well. On-line courses were the norm for some of his classes last year, and professors and students in his school continue to adjust and change as they work to provide structure to the courses to provide a safe learning environment. Or at least as safely as they can, while promoting that the students learn.

Indiana is a different experience as well.

The urban county (Marion) has very different rules and structures from the local surrounding counties and farm communities which have their own cultures around how wearing masks, being vaccinated, and responding to the pandemic are addressed and responded to by people who live there.

When I see a crowd of people on television, I am not as surprised as some other people may be. Those who live in an area of fewer people or who have different perceptions about the germs and their feelings about vaccinations have some different reactions to seeing crowds. Someone who lives in a crowded area may not react as strongly as someone who sees very few people.

I haven’t been watching much television for several months due to how often the warning voices of the newscasters get my attention. I prefer an upbeat tone, with optimism in it.

Some National newscasters, or perhaps those who guide and write for them, have determined that if you use a very scary, deadly voice people will listen. I do listen, but the fear that the voice induces in me is not pleasurable

I’m noticing that working to adjust and synching back and forth from COVID is as difficult for some people as synching into it was for others.

I would guess that many of the same people struggle with synching back and forth, which is a sensitivity, and also affected by the pandemic, routine shifts, and change.

Highly Sensitive People, (HSP) and Highly Sensitive Children, coined by Elaine Aron, are more sensitive than others and tend to be more affected by routine changes, as well as smells, fabrics, medications and anything else that can be classified as a sensitivity.

Reading Elaine Aron’s books about ‘Highly Sensitive People‘ and her book about ‘Highly Sensitive Children‘ helps with understanding how sensitivities can affect parenting and ourselves.

An Example

I have gmail accounts for different purposes; and this is a complication that can be frustrating to me.

That’s a frustration that I’ve been having at times, but not quite as often as I was, during the quarantining and trauma we’re experiencing during and through this pandemic.

If I log out of my gmail that is logged into one account, I have to take some steps to show gmail that ‘I’m really me’. This causes me to experience an amount of frustration.

The computer that I’m using is particularly impacting my level of frustration, regarding Google Suites and how it affects my MacBook Pro.

What Can You Do?

We are all living through this pandemic and have had some changes in our experiences in some ways.

As we work to stay healthy, emerge to experience those all important social connections, and continue to work, parent, and exist, there are some important things to remember.

Remember that we do not all have the same values, upbringings, or set of beliefs about health; whether that be mental, physical, or how we act during and post-pandemic.

It’s important to show respect to each other, and to recognize that each of us needs a level of respect as well.

If you ask an introvert who does not enjoy seeing people in person or interacting with others all that much what they have thought of the pandemic, you may get a very different answer than from someone who is quite social and enjoys moving around and changing their scenery.

As always, we remember the value of children and their own experiences which have been affected by the pandemic; what kind of changes that have been and are still being made to their daily lives and patterns; and their own tendencies to want to be around people or to leave their homes for activities.

I hope you, your family, and your loved ones work to recover from the changes we are continuing to experience, and I hope that you stay as healthy as you are able.

%d bloggers like this: