July 26, 2011

Disability Doesn’t Mean Disabled: Two Role Models




     After becoming legally blind, Janice Greer worked for a time as a typesetter and later sewed costumes for her children’s high school plays, according to her daughter Aimee Coleman and son Thomas Greer. Although both will miss their mother, who died from cancer on April 12, 2011, they will cherish the memories of her being a role model.*

     Reading this Janice Greer’s obituary reminded me of two important people I’ve known on this journey called life.


     One result of my parent’s divorce was that I was separated from my father’s family. I didn’t meet my paternal aunt, Nyllis Gardner, until I was well into adulthood. When I met her, was wheelchair bound and bedridden, and her hands were grossly distorted from arthritis. Yet she managed to hand stitch Barbie doll clothes for her church bizarre. She also made needlework items on plastic canvas. 

Nyllis Gardner's hand-stitched Barbie Doll clothes

     Watching her work made me realize what a struggle it was for her to create the many (more…)

April 4, 2011

The Church Role in Child Abuse Issues



With The Rev. Monte W. Holland

     The trend of modern times is toward specialization in dealing with life issues. If there is a physical ailment, go to the health care professional, and further, to a specialist in the specific type of ailment that is exhibited. If there is a spiritual problem, go to a pastor or pastoral counselor. If there is a family problem, go to a family counselor or therapist.

     This has its advantages in many cases, because the expert has a deeper knowledge of in a very small issue. Yet there are disadvantages. Many physical and relationship problems cannot be boxed into a narrow category. What ails one segment either emanates from or affects another segment. It can take a well-rounded, multi-knowledgeable person to see the interconnections and resolve the issues. Secondly, persons are often reluctant, or financially unable, to go to the specialized person for help—at least over the long term. Thus, the generalist has a strong role to play in resolving many family issues.

     The first line of encounter with family problems is the lay person—a friend and/or a neighbor. The church’s first role in dealing with a troubled family or individual is one of preparing (more…)

April 2, 2011

A Theological Perspective on Child Abuse



With The Rev. Monte W. Holland

     Some important questions arise when speaking of theology and violence, abuse of children, spouses, family and friends. Below is an attempt to answer some of them.

  • Children must be MADE to OBEY (their parents, their caretakers), right?

Obedience IS important. Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21 instruct children to be obedient. But this directive does not stop there. It goes on to instruct PARENTS not to PROVOKE their children (to wrath). Implied is a mutual RESPECT: respect that begets respect. “Nobody ever hates his own flesh, but rather nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does for the church…” (Ephesians 5:29) Our children are born out of our love, part of a continuation of our flesh. We should not treat them with hate or hateful actions.

  • Does not the Bible state that to spare the rod is to spoil the child? (Proverbs 13:24)

     Nowhere in the New Testament—the “new law”—is abuse justified. Rather, the opposite is expected, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12) The Great Commandment directs us You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) Our family members—our spouse, our children, and sometimes our parents—are our (more…)

March 28, 2011

While Doing Adopton Home Studies: Part 2



To read the first part of this story, click on While Doing Adoption Home Studies: Part 1.


     What does the color orange signify, I asked myself.

     I had just toured the home of a couple hoping to adopt a child from the agency where I held a part time job doing home studies. What impressed me was their use of the color orange—splashed throughout their modest home—the deep shade of pumpkin skin to the soft shade taken from an evening sunset. Orange on walls, furniture, carpets, window hangings, accents. Not unattractive, but a statement about this family.

     So what does the color orange signify? I researched the subject, and learned orange is the color of warmth. And, interestingly enough, the couple I had interviewed were warm people.

     Working for an adoption agency during the time my husband, Monte, and I were undergoing the adoption process, was a rewarding experience. I  recall several of my experiences.


     One couple, I’ll call them Roger and Diane, were so petrified of the home study that I couldn’t get them to talk with me. I understood—after all, I was going through the same process. We viewed home study interviewers as (more…)

March 26, 2011

While Doing Adoption Home Studies: Part 1



 Part I

     My input on three adoption home studies was influential.

     My husband Monte and I had had to withdraw our application for adoption from an agency in the city where we lived because we were relocating to a new jobsite.  About a month after moving to our new community Monte and I submitted our application to a local adoption agency.

     At the same time, I responded to a classified ad seeking part-time help at an agency that needed to catch up on their adoption home studies. The job was located in an adjacent county.

     During the interview with Sonya, the agency director, I stated two conditions. First, I gave notice—when a baby was placed in our home (which could be three days or three years), I’d have to leave the position immediately, without warning. Second, I emphatically stated that I would recluse myself from (more…)

March 21, 2011

“Beyond Dumb” Parenting



If you leave my driveway the police will be notified immediately.

     The young man’s wife and two children, ages two and four, were leaving our home after spending several months with us. He brought a small rented van to transport their belongings. There was only room in the front for two persons. The upshot was that the man, over forty years old, was going to travel six hours to his home with the boys and their mother in the back of the packed van.

     That’s when I made the threat to contact the state police if the van left my driveway.


     This type of parenting apparently isn’t unique. A thirty-five year old Fall River (Massachusetts) man was accused of locking his two sons, ages three and six, in the trunk of his car while he ran an errand at a sailing shop. He told investigators the boys like to play in the trunk. (November 2009)

  •      I passed a man parked in an alley. On his lap was a two or three year old boy. “He likes to drive the truck,” the father told me proudly. “He sits on my lap and drives it down the mountain into town.”
  •      A twenty-nine year old Southwest Greensburg woman took her three week-old infant to a party where she allegedly became “severely intoxicated,” got into a fight, after which she (more…)

February 21, 2011

To Reclaim a Family Farm—Or Not


Feb. 22, 2011—3:22 a. m.:

Carolyn clicked  the 90,000th hit

on Carolyn’s Compositions!


     After moving to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, I learned that one branch of my ancestors were from Hempfield Township, and that one of their sons, Michael Rugh (married Elizabeth Raymer/Reamer) and moved to Blacklick Township in Indiana County (same state) (see link in ADDITIONAL READING below: You Mean This New Englander is a Westsylvanian?).

     It wasn’t long before I arranged, with the current owners, to visit the farm where Michael and Elizabeth were raising their eight children.

     The current day farm is merely a piece of the original property. It was obvious that modernization had taken hold. As I stood in the front yard, overlooking Rte. 119, with the cars zipping by, I could see the towers of the (more…)

February 17, 2011

What Vitamins & Medications Do You Unknowingly Take?




     About two out of five adolescents have tooth streaking or spottiness because of too much fluoride, a surprising government study found recently. In some extreme cases, teeth can even be pitted by the mineral — though many cases are so mild that only dentists notice it…(the condition) fluorosis—is unexpectedly common in children twelve to fifteen years old. And it appears to have become much more common since the 1980s… The problem is generally considered cosmetic.*

     Only cosmetic? The article later points out that A scientific report five years ago said people who consume a lifetime of too much fluoride — an amount over EPA’s limit of 4 milligrams — can develop crippling bone abnormalities and brittleness.

     Although I don’t take fluoride supplements, as many people do—nor do I use store-bought toothpaste , as most people do, I’ve often wondered just how much fluoride has been added to my diet through the use of store-bought foods. I also wonder how much unknown vitamins, minerals and medications I’m taking simply by eating these store-bought foods and drinking from the community water supply.  

     Peruse the labels of items you purchase from the grocery shelves and you will notice (more…)

February 11, 2011

My Mother’s Secret: An Adoption Story


MY MOTHER’S SECRET: An Adoption Story

I’m certain my mother would have strongly opposed SB335 as it progressed through the New Hampshire Senate and House in 2004. The Bill, which became law effective January 1, 2005, concerned access to records available to adult adoptees who were born and adopted in New Hampshire. These adoptees now can gain access to their own original, pre-adoption birth certificates…

 Why would she have opposed this law?

Because she had a secret.

Her secret was revealed to her family on January 19, 2011. (more…)

January 10, 2011

When Children’s Service Agencies Won’t Respond to Complaints



     It happened again. Another child, fifteen months old, dead, their parents in jail, accused of the infant’s murder.

     While Madison lay on a floor in a filthy home, dying, her mother was smoking crack cocaine and sleeping it off at a friend’s house…she said she didn’t plan on being gone long…Madison was been left with seven of her siblings, ages 3 to 16…the father told police he came home that evening, rigged up a replacement for Madison’s feeding tube, placed her on the living room floor, and went to bed.**

     It happened in Fayette County, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where I lived for eight years.

  • State police at Uniontown charged Robert David Dodson, 55, and Tammy Jo Bohon, 35, of 601 Morgantown St., Point Marion, with criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of children in the death of Madison Violet Dodson…Trooper Scott Kroftcheck said the child was found dead at home. District Attorney Jack Heneks Jr. said he supported filing of charges based on preliminary autopsy findings and preliminary state police investigations… Heneks said preliminary findings indicate Madison died from a combination of dehydration and malnutrition, with secondary causes that he did not explain…Heneks said homicide charges can include intentional, knowingly reckless or an unintentional cause of death. “We believe their conduct led to the death of Madison,” Heneks said.*
  • Lead investigator Trooper Timothy Kirsch said police found the residence “unkempt, with clothing throughout and cats coming in and out of the kitchen cabinets. There were animal and human feces and dirty diapers in the residence. There were no trash cans, only trash bags. Some of them had burst open. One room was full of dirty clothes. The beds were only box springs and mattresses, no linens. The toilets and showers were unclean.”*

     Is this the lifestyle of residents of Fayette County? I wonder…

     Looking back, I remember a woman (I’ll call her Alice) with an eight year old daughter I’ll call Bonnie. The two often visited us—Alice sought counsel and education. She was ill, and often had to leave Bonnie in someone’s care while she was in the hospital. Most of the time, the Bonnie stayed with us.

     Alice and Bonnie lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. Her shower was filled with plastic bags of clothes and trash. Dirty dishes were strewn all over. Cat feces was never cleaned up. Cigarette butts were spread all over. I could continue, but I suspect you get the idea…

     Alice invited another woman to stay in the apartment with her and Bonnie, which meant Bonnie was displaced to the couch in the living room while their “guest” used the bedroom.

     Bonnie and Alice always smelled so bad I wanted to shove them into the shower before we visited. Their “perfume” was powerful—combined cigarette smoke and animal feces smelled so strong it covered (more…)

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