Moral Distress IS a Leadership Problem – More Shameful VA Chronicles!

Survived the VAA surprise occurred in this week’s Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports; the Boise VAMC in Idaho performed well in their comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp).  Even though 10 recommendations were left, the VAMC as a whole is performing above average, with no significant complaints found by the VA-OIG.  Congratulations to the Boise VAMC!

VA 3Let me stress something; leadership is the reason why a VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) or VA Medical Center (VAMC) performs well or poorly!  Yet, too often, the leadership IS the root cause of the problems in a VAHCS or VAMC.  The Boise VAMC just proved this point precisely; are any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders in Washington DC paying any attention?

The VA-OIG performed a CHIp in Portland VAHCS and found moral distress in the employees, again!  This means that the Eastern end of the state is receiving better care than the western end of Oregon State!  Yet another VAHCS or VAMC with employees feeling morally distressed by the commands and directives of their leadership in how they treat veteran patients!  The VA-OIG report makes everything sound like rainbows and lollipops at the Portland VAHCS, but if employees feel “morally distressed,” there are problems, just not those included in the CHIp scope!VA 3

Where problems outside the scope of an investigation are concerned, the following is GREAT NEWS!

Robert Seifert, 63, of Utica, New York, pleaded guilty to making telephonic threats to Albany Stratton VA Medical Center employees. Seifert, who has been convicted twice before of threatening VA employees, admitted that on 14 January 2021, he made three calls to employees for no reason other than to harass and threaten them.”

I am going to repeat it, only for emphasis, “Leave the families out of your anger!”  Never, EVER, attack, threaten, or speak against the families.  They are OFF LIMITS!  I become very frustrated with the VA Leadership, but violence is not the answer, and threatening families is repulsive and counterproductive!  Seifert is scheduled for sentencing on 06 October 2021; may the judge throw the book at him, for this is his third conviction for threatening families of VA Employees.VA 3

On the topic of frustrating leadership who need to lose their jobs and reimburse the government for all wages, the following VA-OIG report is the epitome of failed leadership in action!

The VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events (NVSPSE) granted $47 million to organizations with experience in managing adaptive sports programs from fiscal year (FY) 2017 to FY 2020. … The VA-OIG found that the NVSPSE was not effectively managing the program.  The NVSPSE’s director had not established adequate internal controls, including developing standard operating procedures for managing adaptive sports grants.  As a result, the NVSPSE could not effectively evaluate risks from grant recipients, did not reimburse some recipients’ expenses on time, did not always close out grants on time, and did not appropriately authorize extensions for using funds.  By not closing out grants on time, the NVSPSE failed to free up about $346,000 that could have been used for other purposes.  It also improperly allowed recipients to spend $328,000 in FY 2017 appropriations outside the approved period and improperly reimbursed 19 recipients a total of about $247,000.”

The VA-OIG recognizes that these failures to audit and control the adaptive sports program properly potentially violate both the Purpose Statute and the Antideficiency Act, federal laws with direct consequences for Federal Employees.  I am taking bets.  Will anything come out of the director being referred to the lawyers; I doubt any action will ever be taken!  That’s not just my cynicism speaking; that is the experience in watching directors at the VA skate accountability and responsibility better than gold-winning Olympic figure skaters.VA 3

In reporting the following VA-OIG report, do not rationalize that every suicidal person will eventually find a way or means to commit suicide.  I ask you do not think this for two reasons: one, it is a lie lazy people tell themselves to disregard the act; two, helping people with suicide ideation is not cut and dried textbook medicine. Assisting people with suicide ideation takes time, effort, getting to know the person, and a lot of interlocking care from professionals.

“The patient, who was over 70 years old at the time of death, had diagnoses that included post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. After approximately 15 years of care at a California VA facility, the patient transferred care to the Las Vegas facility in summer 2019. The VA-OIG substantiated that the patient died by suicide from a VA resident mental health clinic on the day of dischargeThe emergency department social worker documented an incomplete comprehensive evaluation. The suicide prevention team did not assign the patient a high risk for suicide patient record flag despite the patient’s stressors and history of suicide behaviors. Staff did not adequately assess the patient’s substance use, incorporate relevant history into the treatment plan, or address the patient’s change in demeanor and concerning statements. The discharge safety plan had not been modified for approximately eight months despite significant life changes. Leaders had not established a mental health treatment coordinator (MHTC) policy. Staff assigned the patient an MHTC at the patient’s tenth visit and four MHTCs over nine months. Staff did not coordinate care with a geropsychologist, with whom the patient had nine appointments. Leaders did not effectively address the patient’s expressed complaints. The VA-OIG substantiated that leaders did not conduct an institutional disclosure” [emphasis mine].

The last sentence is the dead giveaway that the leadership knew there were problems and designed processes intentionally to have an excuse when a patient died!  This veteran was suffering to a great degree, and I hope that with his passing, his family and friends can find peace in the knowledge that the veteran is now pain-free.  But, the VA leadership should be held legally responsible for this death, they failed this patient, and the world is worse for the veteran’s passing.VA 3

Suicides are hard on family, friends, communities; suicides at any age are the ultimate declaration that failure occurred, the pain was missed, and the medical community and support systems failed.  Survivors often feel a great degree of guilt and carry that guilt to their graves.  But, when medical providers go out of their way to hide the problems, refusing to document, and declare, it means that the medical community had written the patient off as too costly to save.  Who speaks for the loss of intelligence and potential of the failed patient; I do!I-Care

I will continue to speak to the failures of the VA to provide the care they promised, and demand leaders are held accountable and responsible.  This was preventable, and the leadership must be held accountable if the system is to be changed!  This veteran did not have to die by his own hand, and the medical community at the VA in Southern Nevada HCS, located in Las Vegas, should be ashamed!

Follow this link if you would like to see a recap, with links, to the shenanigans reported by the VA-OIG in June.  June 2021 has been a month of incredible and horrendous behavior documented by the VA-OIG of the leadership failures at the VA.  The elected leaders of America either need to begin scrutinizing the VA more closely or vacate office.  There is no excuse for the continued irrational and detestable behavior at the VA.VA 3

The last two items are testimony recorded before a Senate and a House of Representatives Committee.  Statement of deputy inspector general David Case Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs before the US Senate Committee on veterans’ affairs hearing on VA electronic health records: modernization and the path ahead 14 July 2021Statement of Leigh Ann Searight deputy assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General before the subcommittee on oversight and investigations committee on Veterans’ Affairs US House of Representatives hearing on modernizing the VA police force: Ensuring accountability 13 July 2021.  Frankly, both statements are pure vanilla because the subcommittees refused to act, which was known before making the statement and the hearings.  Hence, why should the VA-OIG prepare action plans if the Senate and House will not take action?

Knowledge Check!Repeating, only for emphasis, “Until the US Legislative Branch will do their jobs, and scrutinize the Executive Branch with the intent to demand accountability, no single government agency will ever change.”  Want to help veterans?  Contact your elected representatives and send them these articles, demanding they take action in support of legislation and scrutinization, demanding accountability and responsibility of government employees who are currently active in refusing to change!  Want to help veterans?  Share these stories far and wide.  Everyone should know what the VA is doing and realize that every government agency from the city to the President is employing tactics to steal liberty, rob freedom, and murder veterans!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Monk and Mental Health

Tony Shalhoub played the defective detective in the police drama “Monk” from 2002 to 2009.  Monk is obsessive-compulsive and has a list of 312 prioritized fears and phobias.  But, as the main character, everyone is expected to see and find his mental health challenges somewhat humorous.  However, I like the show Monk for another reason, all the other mental health issues swimming around Monk that nobody understands or even recognizes due to Monk’s fears and phobias being so over the top.monk tv show cast - Google Search | Monk tv show, Mr monk

Monk started a mental health conversation in America, reflecting that even those with mental health issues can be productive members of society if given a chance.  For example, Captain Stottlemeyer, for the majority of the show’s run, has anger issues, and yet he is considered capable and competent as a Police Captain.  Lieutenant Disher struggles with his identity as a person and his value to the organization.  The supporting character’s mental health problems create the drama.  Monk provides comedy and allows the supporting characters to be accepted for their mental health issues, which is essential in this discussion.

TV Reviews - TV Liveblogging: Some Episode Of Monk - KittysneezesSharona struggled with being a mother, her boss was driving her crazy, and her mental health issues stemmed from both her boss and her nursing responsibility.  Sharona plays a problematic role; does she provide nursing care for Monk or provide living assistance as a counselor?  Concluding that stress can be a mental health issue when taken to extremes.  Natalie Teager struggled with loneliness and a desire to be her own person outside of her family.  Both mental health challenges that many people struggle with silently.  Other supporting characters had substance abuse issues stemming from mental health concerns and personal choices, thus Monk’s subtlety and genius.

When Sharona, his nurse, leaves the show, Natalie Teager provides a lesson on mental health, the difference between coddling and helping a person with mental health problems.  Sharona, for all her care and concern, never saw Monk as capable without assistance.  Natalie Teager saw Monk as competent but needing some assistance.  The difference is subtle but very real.  Monk’s behaviors and mental health problems lessen when Natalie Teager enters the show, and the story becomes richer.

Perception vs. Reality in Care Support

Image result for monk tv show cast | Monk tv show, Mr monk, Adrian monkAre you weak to admit you have a mental health problem?  Per society, not as much anymore.  Per yourself, who knows.  Perception versus reality is critical in the person with mental health concerns and in the care-providing staff surrounding that person.  Now, I suffer from PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression, as mental health concerns; but, I thank God for my support (spouse) and those characters in my life that provide the drama, while my mental health provides the comedy.  Not a single person who knows of my mental health struggles has ever treated me capable without assistance, and this makes all the difference in how I approach the world.

The pattern of admitting the mental health challenges, coping with those challenges, and the consequences of those challenges have been made bearable because my supporters never waiver from the foundation that I am capable but occasionally need assistance.  Monk taught me that it was okay to have mental health issues, to see those issues in others, and a pattern of living and approaching others with mental health issues.  The perceptions of the supporting people become a reality in the mental health challenges of the person suffering.

Monk (S1/F12) im TV Programm: 22:35 - 08.11. - Universal ChannelIt is not easy supporting someone with mental health issues, and while mental health sufferers get the attention, Monk taught the world that the mental health of the family and friends is as important to the cure as well as the problem in mental health patients.  Consider the two different approaches of the psychiatrists on Monk, but never forget two other principles in mental health, change is hard, and change is beneficial.

Change and Mental Health

Monk was stuck in a rut, and a change in the insurance policies spurs Monk to change.  As the show develops, change is witnessed as beneficial and challenging.  When Sharona left, Monk experienced quite a shock; the different care styles provided by nurses spurred complex and healthy changes in Monk. Differences in approaches by the psychiatrists produced more changes and spurred growth in Monk and the other supporting characters.  Hence, as a mental health patient and as a care provider, another pattern is produced: am I looking for changes?  Am I open to helping others engage in change?  Do I embrace both the light and dark of change?

Pin by Smeesmii R on MONK | Monk tv show, Mr monk, Detective monkAdaptation is the only constant in life.  We adapt to the people around us, the social environments, the emotions, and the influences of peers, employers, family, and so much more.  Yet, we often try to control everything to prevent change, even though every new day brings change.  Monk showed he could not handle change, mainly because he and his brother had never been taught to handle change.

Patterns in Family Rearing – Mental Health Challenges

As a kid, I was told that I would never amount to anything since I was raised in poverty and abuse.  I had teachers who made this comment often enough that I got mad!  Nobody was going to curtail my abilities and shoehorn my potential.  Their reasoning was the research that showed those in poverty as children stay in poverty as adults.  That abuse is generational, and that abuse will always influence those raised in abuse to perpetuate abuse to the next generation.

Monk (TV Series 2002-2009) - Posters — The Movie Database (TMDb)Monk showed me differently, proved that individual choices could change preset patterns, and end captivity.  Sure, Jack Junior and Ambrose are typical examples of the generational nature of abuse, leading to mental health issues.  But, Monk overcame, chose, and in choosing and sticking with his choices, he endured and conquered.  Monk overcame even with his mental health challenges, not because of, or as an excuse, but with his mental health challenges as a companion.

While it is true how a child is reared, does dictate how that child will approach the world as an adult.   Individual agency, moral choice, and the choice and consequence cycles also play fundamental roles in that person’s life.  Thus, one cannot, and should not, place blame upon how one was raised for the failures in one’s life; this position negates the agency inherent in each person, and shifting the responsibility of choices is not healthy mental health practices.  More lessons learned from Monk about how to face the world, even if you might not have had the best family environment as a child.

Did you notice that when Jack Junior makes his appearance, Adrian (Monk) has changed enough to know not to gratify and indulge his step-brother in his poor decisions?  Despite the differences in mental health problems, Ambrose, Monk’s other brother, was also not pampered, although he was given special care.  Cementing the theme that people with mental health problems are capable, have potential, and need only the opportunity to show who they are and what they can become, just like everyone else.

I am not my handicap

I have disabilities; disabilities do not have me.  I am not my handicap!  Monk taught me this lesson in spades.  When Monk gets his badge back, he realizes he has learned this lesson as well as learning what his abilities as a disabled person are.  Another subtle theme in Monk worthy of exploration.  Adrian Monk was not “Obsessive-Compulsive, Mentally health challenged, Adrian Monk.”  Adrian Monk was Adrian Monk who lived with obsessive compulsion, fears, and phobias.  The distinction is subtle but essential to living with mental health challenges as a companion, not a ruler!

I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and still being learned from Monk!  I encourage you who read this to ponder the themes herein; change is beneficial and hard, but critical; family and family life is not your life; you are not your handicap or illness.  These themes and more can help open your eyes and mind to new possibilities, freeing you from your captivity of mental health challenges, but only if you choose to open your eyes and mind.

Finally, remember your support staff.  Have you thanked them lately for their support, care, and kindness?  If not, start there, express gratitude to and for the care received from those who live with you, work with you and desire your success.  Never forget, on your bad days, your support staff is still there trying to help, and they need support too.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Absurdity so Repugnant it Takes Your Breath Away – More VA Chronicles

Angry Grizzly BearThe Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG)-released six investigation reports in the last two days.  Each one is mentally breathtaking at the egregious behavior of bureaucrats!  Stupidity that is so repugnant it breaches the laws of morality and leaves the reader stupefied.  Every year, for the last decade-plus, the behavior of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has become more obscene, more outlandish, more detestable, and more openly hostile towards veterans; it sickens me to read the investigation reports, write, and catalog these abuses!

Beginning in Queen’s, New York, we find another dead veteran that should never have died the way they did.  Improper feeding by a registered nurse (RN) at the New York Harbor Health Care System’s Community Living Center (CLC) contributed to the death of a patient.  Let that sink in for a moment, for the rest of the report only goes downhill from this point.  My time in medical training was replete with the following aphorism, “If it is not written down, it NEVER happened.”  The nursing staff failed to document meals properly. The electronic health record (EHR) was inaccurate and flawed, hindering resuscitation, which was poorly documented, and institutional disclosure acted more like CYA than a medical file.  People should have been fired and up on trial for this type of scandalous behavior, especially since a veteran died from this abuse and neglect.  But the VA-OIG made their recommendations, the leadership accepted the recommendations, and nothing else will happen.  Nobody but the family cares the veteran died needlessly and at the hands of the medical professionals.VA 3

Adjectives elude me.  The behavior in Queen’s is appalling, even for the VA.  Unfortunately, the list of ineptitude only gets worse!

VA SealNext, we travel to Austin, Texas, and discover yet another office of information technology (OIT) failing to work, secure data correctly, and protect veterans’ information, as demanded by legislation!  The VA-OIG and the local OIT used the same tools, and the local OIT only identified 150 problems, whereas the VA-OIG OIT inspectors found 246.  Improper sanitization of media was a pronounced issue, where patient load is upward of 300,000 annually.  Inventory practices were noticeable and apparent.  Worse, patch and vulnerability programs were practically non-existent if I understand this report correctly.VA 3

If you have read any of these VA Chronicles, you will know that the VA has not passed a Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) audit, ever!  The head of IT was recently in front of Congress to testify why, and the explanations were milk toast adequate at best!  But, the elected officials bought the excuse, hook, line, and sinker, as always, and the president wants to spend more money on the VA.  What a cathartic example of why elections matter!

Next, we travel to Detroit, Michigan, where a “comprehensive healthcare inspection (CHIp)” was performed at the John D. Dingell VAMC.  Before I even read the report, I knew it would say; opportunities exist to improve employee and patient experience.  Knowing veterans who are “served” at this VAMC, this was an obvious guess!  Again, we find “moral distress” in the workforce, signifying that the employees feel pressured to do everything but what is ethical, legal, moral, and appropriate for the patient at this VAMC.  Yet, the leadership team was rated as stable and doing a good job!  Quoting Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H here, “HORSE HOCKEY!”VA 3

I will be explicitly clear if a single employee feels “moral distress,” there is a leadership problem, and the leadership is criminally negligent in their duties to oversee staff leaders, supervisors, team leads, and training personnel!  This is not the first time “moral distress” was a point of discussion in a CHIp; but, the fact that this problem remains widespread and apparent does mean the problems are originating at a level higher than the VISN, and all the VA and VHA leadership should be losing their jobs!  Enough is enough, and the elected officials need to be scrutinizing the government before they lose their next election!

Survived the VAHaving been an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs, working in the Emergency Department of the Albuquerque, NM., VAMC, this next story is exceptionally aggravating and extremely distressing.  The VA-OIG determined that the entire Veterans Health Administration (VHA) needs to better monitor, record, and document the timeliness of care and patient flow in the emergency department.  Having waited for more than 14 hours in a VA Emergency Department while waiting for care, I know first hand the problems of the Emergency Departments, and I know a lot of the reasons why the documentation is fouled and the flow of patients is amateurish, at best!

Raymmond G. MurphyI worked the shift where a regular, homeless veteran, wheelchair-bound, had fallen and broken his leg.  He waited with his broken leg swelling, stuck at an odd angle, and in obvious distress for more than 6-hours because the head nurse that day had a personal grudge against the veteran!  I saw how the charts were “adjusted” for timeliness of care, and I reported the problems up the chain to no avail!  I had witnessed nurses harangue patients, gossip about them, chart surf in violation of HIPAA, and never was anything done by leadership when it was reported.  A patient sat in an expedited treatment room for four hours, listening to the nurse’s gossip and joke, awaiting stitches for a bleeding wound, and never was treated.  All because the day shift was getting off and didn’t want to be bothered to treat the patient.  The patient’s family reported this behavior to me as they were leaving for a better hospital.  I reported the whole incident, included the family’s description, added my observations.  The leadership shook the whole incident off as a disgruntled employee (blaming me) making a less than desirable situation worse.VA 3

Thus, when I read this particular VA-OIG report about the inadequacies of the VA Emergency Departments across the entire VHA, it infuriates me into a mindless stupor!  Want more data on the failures of the VA Emergency Department; read the rest of the VA Chronicles.  I describe my experiences in detail and have logged other veterans who have had the same or worse problems at the VA Emergency Department!  I have witnessed doctors treat patients in a dissimilar manner based upon the political clothing the veterans wore into the Emergency Department!  So, no, I am not surprised at the record inadequacies of the VHA; if anything, I expect the problem is a lot worse than the VA-OIG was willing to report!VA 3

The VA-OIG collected data on an issue of grave significance from 58 VHA outpatient clinics’ regarding emergency preparedness for the delivery of telemental health care as of November 1, 2019. The review focused on clinic-specific emergency procedures, emergency procedure roles and responsibilities, emergency contact information of staff, and patient safety reporting methods.  Not included in the scope of the review was the quality and quantity of telehealth appointments.  I mention this oversight as the technical problems in receiving telehealth appointments are sub-par, at best, which would have seriously skewed the data.

The VA-OIG sent out 333 questionnaires, receiving a total of 187 responses, from the 58 identified clinics, and identified the following:

      1. Missing telehealth emergency plans and procedures.
      2. Emergency procedures are not specific to telehealthcare or the patient-clinic location.
      3. Lack of a process for annual updates to telehealth emergency procedures.
      4. Undefined emergency procedure roles and responsibilities for telehealth staff
      5. Missing or insufficient emergency contact information.
      6. Lack of a process to verify and communicate emergency contact information
      7. Lack of a consistent process to designate the telehealth setting in patient safety reporting methods.VA 3

Consider for a moment; you are a family member of a veteran needing telehealth mental support.  Now, how do you feel to know there are no written processes or procedures to support the telehealth provider if your family member gets into a mental health emergency.  Time is critical in mental health emergencies; I know this from personal experience as both a provider and a patient, and for these plans, procedures, and processes to be missing is the height of malpractice!  Would someone please tell me why elected officials and the media are not screaming mad at this particular report?  Especially since the proposed budget from the president wants to double suicide prevention spending at the VA.  I read this report and see that the VA-OIG made five recommendations.  Are you freaking kidding me?!?!?

Finally, we go to Hawaii and confront the most detestable, outside of the dead veteran, issue possible, failure of the National Cemeteries Administration (NCA) to properly care for the remains of veterans, qualified spouses, and dependents.  The NCA awards grants to states to build cemeteries where a veteran, qualifying spouse, and dependents can be laid to rest outside a national cemetery.  From the VA-OIG report, we find the following, emphasis mine:

Grants may be used to establish, expand, or improve veterans cemeteries. The VA-OIG audited the program to assess NCA’s governance and oversight. The audit team also assessed whether critical non-compliance issues at two cemeteries in Hawaii were addressed. The VA-OIG found grants program staff did not rank and award some cemetery grants as regulations required. After grants were awarded, program staff generally ensured cemeteries used grants for their intended purpose. However, NCA did not ensure cemeteries with grants met all national shrine standards for installing permanent markers, maintenance, and safety. The audit team observed non-compliance issues at eight state cemeteries, including critical issues in Hawaii’s Hilo and Makawao cemeteries. As a result, NCA lacks assurance that veterans and family members buried in state veterans cemeteries have been appropriately honored with timely and accurate grave markings, burial locations, and maintenance.VA 3

NCA, you have one job, ensure the remains of veterans and qualifying spouses and dependents are adequately remembered, safely entombed, and marked appropriately.  Yet, you fail at even this simple and easy job; how utterly disgraceful, disgusting, and detestable!  How many cemeteries in the Philippines are being adequately cared for?  At the last report, none of them were adequately maintained and respected.  Even here in the US, you refuse to do your jobs with competency, dignity, and professional pride.

Knowledge Check!The VA is one sick organization, where the mission is being denied, the veterans abused before and after death, and none of the elected representatives can find enough time in their day to even offer a mild rebuke or maintain sufficient interest to scrutinize.  America, we have gotten better as a culture in remembering and honoring those who serve and have served, and I, for one, am very grateful for your change of heart.  We, the voting citizens of America, need to demand the same culture change from the politicians representing us!  As a country, we have come a long way since Vietnam in honoring the military.  But those same people who spat and urinated on our troops in Vietnam are now in the Halls of Congress, and their attitudes have not changed in the interim!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Thought and Character – A Discussion

WhyIn Proverbs, Old Testament, we find an oft-quoted aphorism, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.”  If we first accept this aphorism as truth, then the following from James Allen, from “As a Man Thinketh (1903)” can also be presumed truthful.  “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.  As the plants springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.”  Bringing into sharp reflection the connection between how a person thinks and their character.

In high school, the football and wrestling coaches played mind games to help us players think and become winners. Then, we went through drills to practice thinking and planning moves, so our most important muscle, the mind, was prepared to act when challenged physically.  Likewise, as a firefighter, I know the value of mentally walking through situations to prepare my mind and my fire teams’ minds before being challenged physically to respond to a threat or incident.

Ziggy on Political WeatherI once met a professional soccer player; we shared a bus trip from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, as he traveled to catch a plane in Denver, Colorado.  While I do not envy him, his travel scheduler, we had a very interesting conversation on how thinking builds character.  Professional sports players have similar mental walk-throughs as a regular part of their daily exercises.  Here I had always been under the impression this was for non-professional sports players and was pleasantly surprised to hear his experiences.

James Allen insists that “Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”  In the US Army, while serving as a Chaplain’s Assistant, I was wandering through the line company barracks and stumbled across a tank crew having “Sergeant’s Time” in the hallway.  There I met the most interesting character; he held a doctorate from MIT, he was utterly brilliant, and he was a specialist who drove tanks for a living.  When asked why driving tanks and not working in his field of study, he stated, “I do not like my field of study.”  Through education, this soldier had made himself tools for building a career he detested in a field he was bored with, and in seeking adventure, he joined the US Army as an enlisted man and found something he preferred.

ToolsThe tools of education became the chains of bondage and weapons that left him without passion.  His thoughts had turned his desires in his chosen field into a trap, where he thought his only way out was doing something radical and “out of character.”  Except for those who knew him, his character was always bent towards being a soldier, but he had not thought thru this character aspect himself.  His thoughts had already revealed his character, but he had not become cognizant of this aspect of himself.  How many times has this happened to you?

President Thomas S. Monson, a previous leader of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints, was quoted as saying, “Decisions Do Determine Destiny” [emphasis in original]. Likewise, James Allen maintains, “… Man is the master of thought, the molder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.”  Think of how vital thought is to the grand scheme of a person, and you will find the power to be and do anything!  “Man is always the master, even in his weakest and most abandoned state … [as a conscious master] man can only thus become by discovering within himself the laws of thought; which discovery is totally a matter of application, self-analysis, and experience.”  Doesn’t this assertion fill you with the hope that the chains of bondage in your mind are only there until you allow yourself to change how you think?

LaughterHow did I finally kick the cigarette habit, so the mental addiction could no longer tempt me to smoke; I change my thinking.  Instead of allowing myself to find second-hand smoke delightful, I began seeing it as something to avoid.  As I changed my thinking, my body stopped reacting in a manner to claim a need for the cigarettes.  It was not easy, but I had physically quit smoking 10-years before my mental processes, and mental addictions were finally conquered.  The power to correct my body’s behavior towards cigarettes was always mine to claim and apply, but first, I had to change how I think about cigarettes, then my mental needs changed, and then I was free of the mental addiction.  Changing thoughts and time, experience, was required, and slowly my body obeyed.

I have seen the same occur in reverse.  A female friend of mine claims she needs chocolate during her menstrual cycle to maintain mental health.  When she discovered that chocolate was the main factor in her deteriorating health and obesity, she still maintained that chocolate was healthy and blamed everything but chocolate for the problems.  When she went through menopause, she discovered that chocolate had no power over her body and was left without her mental crutch and excuses.  What could have been a life-altering discovery did not change behavior because the thoughts never changed.  I moved and lost contact before her story ended, but the failure to change thinking has always left me wondering what thoughts I need to change to avoid a similar fate.

Bait & SwitchThe New Testament records, “He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  To which James Allen has added, “… for only by patience, practice, and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the Door of the Temple of Knowledge.”  I remember reading about a famous diamond mine in Africa, the largest diamond mine in the world, and how even with technology, the mining process continues to be one of patiently gathering, carefully digging, and unending repetition to haul diamonds from the dirt.  In L. Ron Hubbard’s book, “Battlefield Earth,” one finds the same pattern in digging for gold.  Patience, careful gathering, unending repetition, and still the results are teaspoons of gold for the tons of rock and dirt shifted.

The mind is the same.  Changing thoughts requires time, patience with yourself, and care in selecting new thoughts to plant.  Care in how old thoughts are removed so as not to damage those thoughts being cultivated, and unending repetition to remove the seeds of thoughts that would be the weeds in your mental garden.  But, with the pattern comes the promise; those who put forward the work will reap a garden of benefits.  What are those benefits of changing our thoughts, “As a being of power, intelligence, and love, [being the] lord [and master] of his thoughts, a man holds the key to every situation and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he can make himself what he wills.”

Knowledge Check!What benefit could be grander, to will something into existence through the power of thought!  How amazing a world we could make when all people realize this power and claim this power by changing how we think.  There is a benefit to cause and effect; that benefit is realization, wisdom, and eventually power to will into being that which is powered by our thoughts. So choose to consider changing how you think and watch how the world shifts around you.  You can change yourself by changing your thinking!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: School Thy Feelings

Calvin & Hobbes - Irony HurtsI know what you’re thinking, not another article on controlling emotions and feelings – well, yes.  However, I wanted to approach this subject from a different tack.  I discuss this topic so often because of the dearth witnessed in choosing proper emotional responses or not choosing an emotional response to the improvement of the environmental conditions in a situation.  Across the globe, we find daily, even hourly, instances where emotional diatribes are ruling common sense, destroying logic, and creating hordes of emotionally charged people hell-bent on destroying.  If I can help just one person understand this cycle of emotional abuse and then choose to correct their behavior, even if that person is only me, I consider these articles successful

Emtional Investment CycleToday’s title comes from Charles W. Penrose (n.d.), who penned the following poem, which has been set to music; the poem is based upon Proverbs 16:32, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

School Thy Feelings

School thy feelings, O my brother,
Train thy warm, impulsive soul,
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings, there is power
In the cool, collected mind;
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.

School thy feelings; condemnation_
Never pass on friend or foe,
Tho’ the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.

Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial,
Half its bitterness hath fled
Art thou falsely, basely slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard;
Keep thy rising anger down.

Rest thyself on this assurance:
Time’s a friend to innocense,
And the patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings,
Quiv’ring strings a breath can move,
And the Gospel’s sweet revealings,
Tune them with the key of love.

Hearts so sensitively molded,
Strongly fortified should be,
Train’d to firmness and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother,
Train them in the path of right.

Knowledge Check!Consider with me these words for a moment.  Controlling emotion is hard, I understand completely.  However, how often do we try to control emotion?  I have been driving, stuck in restricted traffic, and becoming a raving lunatic through choice because of how someone else drove.  My feelings caused them no harm but embarrassed me.  I witnessed road rage, where a 30-car pileup at 45 mph was narrowly avoided.  These two gentlemen would speed up, get around the other, then brake check, hindering and hampering the smooth flow of traffic due to selfish emotional choices.

Besides traffic, where else do we frequently witness unchecked emotional interactions?  Politics, the news, sports arenas, the supermarket, but worst of all is social media, and especially in the emotional controls social media companies exert upon those wishing to use the service.  Consider LinkedIn, they have policies in place to police thought, and curb conversation between professionals, solely because another person complained.  Facebook banned President Trump, using false pretenses and sophistry when the reality is that the media giant always wanted to exert control and thwart free and open communication.Foghorn Leghorn - Medication

Speaking of President Trump, what about the behaviors excused under the banner, “Trump Derangement Syndrome?”  The behaviors of these adults, acting worse than a spoiled toddler, was beyond deplorable, detestable, and needed public shaming.  Instead, their behavior got excused, tolerated, and America is worse for having emotional behavior justified in this manner.

Semper GumbyAs a kid, if my parents did not like another child’s behavior, I was refused the opportunity to play with that child for fear the child’s emotional behaviors would rub off on me, and I would begin to act like a nincompoop!  Yet, as an adult, I can witness rampant emotionally charged conduct, and I have to tolerate nonsense due to helicopter parents, political choices, and the media; I think not!  I firmly support Robert Solomon’s claim that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct.  In supporting this line of reasoning, I affirm I am not perfect in choosing better emotions, choosing the proper emotion, or even judging social situations properly to emote at all.  However, now that I have been made aware, I am actively striving to emote less and know the why behind my emotions to empower better decision-making down the road.

There is a piece of golden advice given to commanders in the military, choose when to become angry as a method of commanding performance improvement.  I had a commander who understood this principle well and many an officer who had no clue.  I met non-commissioned officers who understood this principle well and others who had been promoted above their level of incompetence, who chose not to understand the value of controlling emotional outbursts.  I have worked with managers across America in a myriad of positions who could learn this lesson, and I have met some amazing people who know this lesson all too well and apply it perfectly.Plato 2

Consider well the words from Charles Penrose, and believe you can choose to emote or not to emote, when to emote, where, and how to emote, as tools for improving communication, performance in yourself and others, and in making better decisions.  Runaway emotions hinder, not help, performance.  Emotional hyperbole thwarts and hurts everyone, everything, and everywhere it is found.  How embarrassing to you is it when you witness emotional meltdowns?  Be it a toddler, teenager, or adult; the sight is truly embarrassing when emotions run away.

Image - Eagle & FlagThus, on this Memorial Weekend, let us firmly recommit to living life with more controlled emotions where we are choosing our emotional states more precisely.  Selecting our emotions more carefully and allowing the emotions of others to have less hold upon our minds and bodies.  As I continue to make strides in not allowing myself to be hooked into other people’s emotions, I do not lose anything, and the control gained improves how I feel mentally and physically.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: More Insanity from Elected Officials

LinkedIn ImageAnother day, another slew of insipid elected officials clogging my inbox with pet projects instead of doing their respective jobs.  To the elected representatives in the US House and US Senate, please remember you have only two jobs, write laws that make sense for the country and scrutinize the executive branch to protect the US Citizen from abuse at the hands of bureaucrats and yourselves, the elected officials.  Frankly, regardless of the political party affiliation, all of you need a firm reminder of the roles you were elected to fill.

Today’s poorly worded emotional bloviation comes from Rep. Deb Haaland (NM; D).  The same representative, who after being contacted multiple times, refused to take action when veterans in her district were actively being abused, insulted, denied service, and treated horribly by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  All because she was more interested in pandering to every left-leaning liberal group.

Today’s topic, “Gun Abuse.”  What does “Gun Abuse” mean?  Honest question; while reading the email from Rep. Haaland, we find “Gun Abuse” means “Black Americans and communities of color bear the brunt of this violence, with Black Americans experiencing 10 times the rate of gun homicides compared to their white counterparts. These numbers aren’t just statistics – they reflect the true scale of this public health crisis and its shattering impact on communities of color.”  “Gun Abuse” means a “Public health crisis” comparable to COVID-19, another government issue, blown out of proportion for personal and political gain.

LookConveniently, not mentioned in the “statistics” offered by Rep. Haaland, are the number of black-on-black shootings or other minority-on-minority shootings.  Are these shootings not considered “Gun Abuse,” or maybe, they are not considered a “Public health crisis” even though toddlers and innocent bystanders regularly make up the dead in cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York, etc.?  Better still, what about minority-on-majority shootings, stabbings, and other acts of violence, are these insufficient to raise the good representative’s attention because those are just crimes?

Next, “common-sense gun laws” are mentioned.  What are “common-sense gun laws?”  Are those the laws that further restrict the honest and law-abiding from having weapons to deter crime and avoid being a statistic?  Or, are these “common-sense” gun laws the same totalitarian laws the liberals all want because, as the University of Colorado claims, rape victims can pee and puke on their attacker to deter being raped, so these women do not need guns or other weapons of self-defense.

Boris & NatashaThe absolute best .50-caliber gunner I ever met was a female sergeant in the US Army.  She could handle that weapon like a pro, shot master level in all shooting qualifications offered her, M-16, 9mm, .50, and more.   I never saw anything like it; she advocated for all females to be armed and know how to use weapons to defend themselves.  But, the liberals would see her disarmed because criminals use guns to affect violence on unarmed populations.  Where exactly is the logic in this “common-sense” “Gun Abuse” topic?

The simple fact is that every time a person selects a weapon to cause harm to a population, they are already committing a crime.  Look at every school shooting in America, and you will find the perpetrator/s first crime was not shooting someone but removing a gun from the possession of a legal and lawful gun owner.  Hence, guns are not the problems; immoral, criminal, and nefarious people are the problem.  Giving mind-altering drugs to children in K-12 education is the problem in a majority of the school shootings that occur.  When will you, and your elected comrades in the US House and US Senate, outlaw teachers forcing Ritalin and other mind-altering substances on students in the name of reducing school shootings?

Detective 2Better still, when will you and your elected comrades in the US House and US Senate scrutinize the executive branch sufficiently to enforce the laws already on the books to reduce crime?  Where are the marketing tools bragging about work in committees on reducing crime through harsher sentencing, education requirements to increase literacy among criminals, and using time in prison productively to clean up cities through community service, in distinctive clothing, and reduce the “pleasures” of being in jail?  Free cable, weight-lifting, time, rent-free housing, free medical and dental care, free food including special diets desired, and so much more has turned the prison into anything but a deterrent for the criminal class.  All paid for by the taxpayer who can barely afford food, housing, and necessities.

The email concludes with an emotional plea to “honor the lives of those lost.”  Okay; let’s honor the lives of those lost.  Let’s adjust the criminal justice system to punish criminal offenders. Teaching criminal offenders literacy so they understand the freedoms and rights they have forever lost by choosing to take lives.  Let’s use criminals to clean streets, pull weeds, build shelters for homeless people, and other community service acts. Let’s honor those lives lost through scrutinizing the government to help the mentally diseased population, instead of criminalizing this population and filling up jail space with people who need psychiatric help.  Representative Haaland, do you know how many of the homeless population in Albuquerque, NM, are suffering mental disease and have zero resources?  Do you even know how big the homeless population is in your city?

The Duty of AmericansI agree; let’s honor lives lost.  But, let’s honor those lives with action, dedicated to fixing problems, not pandering to small populations that keep getting you re-elected!  Let’s honor the victims instead of coddling the criminals!  Let’s honor the taxpayer’s sacrifices by doing the two jobs we elected you to perform.  Write laws that work, and scrutinize government to end bureaucratic, and criminal abuse of taxpayers!

Do you think you could, you know, possibly do those two jobs you were elected to perform, instead of perverting the US Constitution?

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.