Category Archives: Homework

Messianic Judaism and Mormonism Parallels

I wrote this piece as an extra credit assignment for my religion course at BYU, August 2014.

Jews believe in ancient text and follow the words written in the Old Testament to a very literal degree. They follow ancient traditions set in place by their forefathers who were deeply connected to G-D (God). Jews practice their sacred rituals in their temples and spend most of their days with a prayer in their hearts as they strive to remember G-D’s example. For the most part, Jews believe that Jesus was a rabbi. At times they will admit that Jesus was a wonderful, living example of G-D’s love on the earth, but it is very rarely you will hear much more than that on the subject of Jesus Christ. However, there is a sect of Judaism where the Jews fully believe that Jesus Christ was more than just a great teacher. These people are called Messianic Jews and I dare say, Mormons.

Mormons are similar to Messianic Jews because:
-Mormons believe that Jesus was the Christ, just as Messianic Jews believe.
-Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints desire to participate in the gathering of Israel and the tribes.
-Many members of the LDS church are descendants or adopted into the tribes of Israel as discovered by patriarchal blessings.
-Mormon church members believe that Lehi, one of the original forefathers, rescued the Torah and other Jewish genealogical records and also worked to preserve the Jewish legacy for future generations.
-Both cultures honor the Sabbath with reverence and have an extremely close connection to our father in heaven.
-Mormons base all of their rituals and ceremonies off of ancient Jewish tradition as received by revelation and through scriptures.
-Both faiths are dedicated to the construction and frequent use of their holy temples.

Mormons are different from Messianic Jews for a few different reasons:
-Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father, Jesus Christ, and many ministering angels.
-Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was given the priesthood keys to minister unto us the same power that Jesus used on the earth in ancient times.
-The LDS faith exercises the true authority when baptizing, blessing, healing, and teaching.
-While Messianic Jews seek to follow the words of G-D in the Old and New Testaments as their versions allow, Mormons study the Old and New Testaments as well as the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as gospel truth.
-Mormons perform temple work for the deceased so the dead can progress in the after-life.

In closing, I’ve discovered some undeniable similarities between the Messianic faiths and Mormonism. I hope that one day Mormon missionaries will have the opportunity to proselyte to members of the Messianic faiths and that they will be receptive to the continued teachings of Jesus Christ. I know that the leap from Messianic Judaism to Mormonism seemed almost natural to me (once I started getting past the culture shock, of course!). I hope that others will be given the opportunity to learn for themselves and make the choice to follow Jesus Christ’s complete and true church.Siarra and TaTa

This is a photograph of my Hebrew graduation in 2009 with my tata (“daddy”). I am in the front row on the left and my tata is center in the back.

This is a photograph of some of my little sisters and I after the holiday of Rosh Hashana in 2010.


Case Analysis: Let’s Move Campaign

                Imagine a world where elementary school teachers are required to take daily breaks from teaching to monitor the students’ glucose levels. Imagine a world where nearly every student in elementary schools suffers from diabetes. This is the world that we are headed towards. According to First Lady Michelle Obama, the founder of the Let’s Move Campaign to reduce obesity rates, nearly 33 percent of American children are overweight or obese. She also explained on her Let’s Move government-funded web page that if Americans don’t change the accepted eating standards, that one-third of all people born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetimes. The Let’s Move Campaign is “dedicated to solving the problems of obesity in a generation” (Learn the Facts)and effectively distributes information to parents, teachers, officials, and youth through interactive government-funded sites, social media, print and televised media, and through White House press releases to increase awareness.

                Obama has been distributing information on the risks of obesity since the launch of her Let’s Move project on Feb. 9 2010 (Learn the Facts). Her campaign’s web page explains that “obesity is defined as excess body fat” and offers a body mass index calculator to determine the percentage of fat within a child’s body (Getting Started). Obama is trying to change the world for the better; however, some people are upset with her healthy lifestyle project.

Many families became outraged when Obama planted a garden with local students and her family on the White House property (Hellmich). Her objectives were to teach young children about healthy habits and to be an example to other families. However, many Americans took her actions as criticisms to their parenting. Those families felt that it was not Obama’s business what they feed their children. They have been reluctant to allow another aspect of the government’s hand in their lives.

                Even if those people believe that it is not Obama’s business whether or not their kids fall in a healthy weight range, those people need to arm themselves with information regarding the health risks of obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children who are obese are more likely to become obese adults and are at an even higher risk for severe complications. Adults who are obese are more susceptible to the development of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. There is more of a chance that people with weight issues will have trouble breathing, joint pain, fatty liver disease, and self-image issues with depression (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). If more people knew about the health risks associated with being overweight, more people would take cautionary steps to ensure that their loved ones become healthy.


                Obama’s objectives are to:

  • “Solve obesity in a generation” (Learn the Facts)
  • Educate adult leaders, such as parents, teachers, policy makers, and doctors, how to become positive exemplars of healthy habits for the youth
  • Empower people to eat healthier portions, become active at least one hour a day, and to avoid sugary drinks
  • Empower consumers to actively read nutrition labels
  • Teach people the “3 Ps” which are plan, purchase, and prepare food that is on a budget (Eat Healthy)

Obama’s objectives effectively work in harmony with the first question in the planning matrix: What do we need to do to meet the challenge or overcome the problem (Wilson)? The problem is obesity and the objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. They are specific because they target adult leaders in the community such as parents, teachers, policy makers, doctors, and everyone who buys food. The objectives could be more specific, more easily measured, and more time-bound by determining a healthy end goal that is number driven with a clear timeline. The end goal, as it stands, is simply to “solve obesity in a generation” (Learn the Facts) but it would better serve the public if the objective was to lower the percentage of Americans who are overweight by 15 percent by 2016. The objectives are achievable because by educating people on the health risks associated with obesity and potential solutions, people will have the knowledge to be responsible. Obama said it best when she explained why her Let’s Move Campaign is achievable and realistic during a USA Today interview:

We don’t have to be 100 percent perfect. My kids eat dessert. My kids

watch TV… I love burgers and fries, and I don’t want to live a life where

I can never have them again… The beauty is we don’t need to be 100

percent of the way there. If we get 20 percent of the way there, we will

change the health status of our kids for a generation (Hellmich).

As long as we are striving to become better and healthier, we are growing and actually becoming better as a result. And by becoming better and healthier, Americans are encompassing the body of the American Dream and helping with the solution to the obesity epidemic.

Key Publics:

  1. Parents (as leaders and consumers)
  • Can be from any nationality and are usually between the ages of 24-45
  • Society’s definition of parents allows for broad ranges in gender, marital status, parenting styles, and other categories so the need for tactfulness is important so a particular group is not offended
  • Utah County is primarily Latter-Day Saint (88 percent of residents) and therefore most homes have two parents, one male and one female, who usually have many children with little time on their hands
  • The opinion leaders of the home because they make the money for the family and decide which groceries to buy (as consumers)
  • Interested in their family, saving money and time, health, and fostering good habits for their posterity
  • The current relationship between parents/ consumers and healthy habits is disconnected for the most part because parents need easily accessible information
  • When parents are educated, they can educated the youth in their care
  • Key opinion leaders are: The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Utah County), Michelle Obama, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and Dr. Oz

Parents are important people to spread the message of healthy habits with because they influence their kids. I feel that it’s important to reach out to parents using certain channels that will be discussed in the messages and strategies/ tactics portion.

  1. Community leaders, doctors, and elected officials
  • Usually 40-70 years old, white, and male
  • Utah County is primarily Latter-Day Saint and thus the community leaders, doctors, and elected officials are mainly connected to the church
  • Interests include making money, good public image, and health
  • The church is connected to healthy habits because the Word of Wisdom decree that encourages members to be healthy; doctors’ jobs are to promote health; elected officials encourage people to vote for them and want people to believe they have the public’s best interest at heart
  • Leaders promote the need to become educated and can encourage the public to take heed
  • Influentials include: The First Presidency, family doctors, Dr. Oz, and President Barack Obama

It’s important to spread the message of healthy habits with community leaders, whom I would consider to be youth counselors, program coordinators, and church authorities, and with doctors and elected officials because they can use their influence to educate the public in their respective areas.

  1. Teachers and school personnel
  • Many are over-worked and under-paid
  • Usually 28-50 years old; can be any race or gender
  • Usually have very small school budgets that must be complied with
  • Motivated by lesson plans are easy to produce and execute that are cost effective
  • The relationship with public school staff and healthy habits is better than most because schools teach health classes and serve food that is regulated by the FDA
  • Key opinion leaders include: Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, principals, school board
  • School staff can persuade children to eat properly by eliminating sugary snacks and by promoting exercise during gym and at recess

Teachers and school staff monitor exercise time for kids and have the opportunity to empower kids to move. Kids are at school about seven hours a day and are greatly influenced by school.

  1. Kids
  • Interested in whatever their parents or peers tell them is cool and fun
  • Start understanding around age 5 and are considered youth until age 17
  • Motivated by friendships, popularity, easy accessibility, and fun
  • The relationship of youth and healthy habits is nearly nonexistent; youth watch tv and don’t exercise much unless prompted or forced to do so
  • Key influentials include: popular celebrities like Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, Michelle Obama, their parents, teachers, doctors

Kids have the final say in what they do or eat so it’s important to create messages just for them.

                Obama did an amazing job in terms of answering the second question from the planning matrix: Who do we need to reach and motivate to accomplish [our goals] (Wilson)? She listed her main key publics on her web page and added tips for each public (5 Simple Steps to Success). The only way to enhance her method is to distribute the information more effectively for each specific public.


Obama created a web page for each public with five steps for healthier living. “Five Simple Steps for Parents” lists 1. Keeping fruit readily available for quick snacks 2. Taking a family walk after dinner 3. Planning meals in advance and getting the children to help with preparation 4. Turning the tv off during meal time and focusing on the family 5. Meeting with the school principal and helping to coordinate a school health team (5 Simple Steps to Success). Something I would change would be step number five because parents usually are really busy and the idea of signing up to manage a food council is daunting. A less daunting task would be to encourage an hour of play a day, even if it’s simply putting on dance music and allowing the kids to jump around inside after school.

I also think that she should use the influence of family doctors more. Her tips for doctors are 1. Join Let’s Move 2. Measure everyone’s body mass index 3. Advocate breast feeding 4. Write prescriptions for parents that encourage them to make activity a priority 5. Lead in the community (5 Simple Steps to Success). Having the occasional doctor write the occasional prescription for parents, who may or may not heed the advice, is not very effective. I propose that Obama require doctors to give magnets with health tips to families. I also think that doctors should have posters up with health tips in every hallway and room.

Obama’s messages for schools are 1. Create a health council 2. Join the Let’s Move school challenge 3. Set good examples 4. Incorporate healthy living into the school curriculum 5. Plant a garden with the youth (5 Simple Steps to Success). With doctors and school leaders, Obama has requested the publics to become intertwined with her campaign (Shaw). It seems as if Obama is using her project of promoting healthy lifestyles to push her hidden agenda of Vote Obama into public spotlight. If I were to run this campaign, I would make the hidden agendas less blatant by not always using messages from the Obamas to advocate health. If each state were to have its own health challenge, I think that would be more fitting. It seems that if every school was participating in the Obama’s Let’s Move school challenge, then the youth would learn more about party politics than health education.

                Kids are this nation’s future and Obama believes that by sharing her messages with them, then the world will be better for it. She advocates 1. Daily exercise 2. Trying fruits and veggies 3. Drinking water 4. Jumping around on tv commercial breaks 5. Helping make dinner (5 Simple Steps to Success). I think that these messages for children are spot on. I love that she makes the messages age-specific and completely realistic. I would also add upbeat songs on her web page for children to dance to on their tv commercial breaks.

                I believe that Obama’s messages are mostly right on target and she does a decent job of answering the third question from the planning matrix: What messages do we need to send [the key publics] to obtain their cooperation (Wilson)? Her plan of sending tips for each leader is exactly what I would do as well. She just needs to adjust her methods of delivering the messages.

Strategies/ Tactics:

                The strategies to send the Let’s Move messages to parents, community leaders, policy makers, doctors, and teachers included a White House press release urging adults to work together toward healthy living (Office of the First Lady), government-funded web pages with meal plans and tips, and announcements from the president of the United States on health (Let’s Move). Obama utilized her power via the internet, tv, and the president to get her messages across. She also created laws and federal acts to motivate action.

                I feel like using the president to motivate people to become healthier isn’t ethical. There are many families who are uncomfortable with the Obamas’ politics all ready, and with the Obamas using tactics to motivate their kids, regardless of the message, some parents are up in arms. To get Obama’s messages across, she should utilize other, less controversial tactics such as humorous youtube videos promoting health without the president instead of new laws.

                The strategies to motivate children to become healthier included a humorous children’s focus group with Will Ferrell that is famous on youtube, commercials on Nickelodeon with catchy songs, and an interactive web page with meal and exercise ideas (Let’s Move). Obama utilized the internet, children’s tv programming, and humorous stories to get her messages across.

                I feel like her messages were better received when she stopped attempting to force others to participate in her project. When Obama provides helpful education instead of creating laws that demand attention, people appreciate her efforts and seem to take heed to her encouragement. I would suggest more celebrity involvement, aside from political leaders, and catchy songs to promote healthy lifestyles. I would also suggest removing herself as the main face of the campaign because that endorsement sends a message to everyone: Vote Obama.

Many people use social media and according to, there are active Twitter and Facebook sites to promote the Let’s Move Campaign. However, the sites are rarely updated by the project leaders itself and the majority of posts are from regular people using the hashtag #LetsMove in rebellion. I know that if Obama were to plug the agenda of healthy lifestyles on Twitter and Facebook more frequently, she would have a huge following. I would recommend that the Let’s Move Campaign gets a new face to introduce the redesign launch of the social media aspect of the Let’s Move Campaign.

If the Let’s Move Campaign were to follow my advice, I feel that the fourth question from the planning matrix would be solved: How do we most effectively send those messages so the public chooses to perceive them and act upon them (Wilson)? We all know that people of all ages love the internet. If the campaign wants to thrive, they will utilize resources that don’t upset their key publics.

If the Let’s Move Campaign were to launch their redesign using the new objectives, messages, and strategies that I created in this case analysis, along with their original key publics and plans, I feel that America would become a healthier nation. The world in which daily breaks are a necessity to schools would be nothing more than the daydream of a child.




Works Cited

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

Hellmich, Nanci, & Hall, Mimi. (2010, Feb. 9). Michelle Obama Aims to End Child Obesity in a Generation. USA Today. Retrieved from

Obama, Michelle. (2013). Eat Healthy. Retrieved from

Obama, Michelle. (2011). Learn the Facts. Retrieved from learn-facts/epidemic-childhood-obesity

Obama, Michelle. (2014). Let’s Move. Retrieved from

Obama, Michelle. (2010). Getting Started: What is Obesity?. Retrieved from

Obama, Michelle. (2014). 5 Simple Steps to Success. Retrieved from

Office of the First Lady. (2010). First Lady Michelle Obama Launches Let’s Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids (White House press release). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Shaw, Gina, & Chang, Louise. (2014). Michelle Obama Takes on Childhood Obesity. WebMD, Health and Parenting. Retrieved from

Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. (2010, Feb. 9). Childhood Obesity Battle is Taken Up by First Lady. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Wilson, Laurie J., & Ogden, Joseph D. (2008). A Matrix Approach to Public Relations and Marketing (3rd ed.). United States: University Press, Brigham Young University.

Blog #6: Revisions by a MESHUGGINA

We’ve been focusing on revision of our ten page papers in class this week.

I’ve asked myself 4 important questions during this process.

1. “Why does this topic matter?”

2. “Is my voice shining through? How’s the balance of my voice and my sources’?”

3. “Have I used enough gesture words in paper?”

4. “Have I used any tired phrases?”

I’ve adjusted my paper to reflect the answer to “Why does this topic matter?” At first when I attempted to answer the question, I used the word “cherish” five times in a matter of three sentences! My editor, Ashley, noticed my attachment to the word and advised me to cut it down to using the word twice. This is what my paper reflects: “As marriage mentor and author Ramona Zabriskie writes, every American woman needs a person to “cherish” unceasingly. She explains that such a “priceless gift” is not for simply anyone; not for the random person on the street nor even for a close family member.  Zabriskie explains that to fully “experience the closeness of cherish,” a lady must chose a life partner. It’s “the real why” women get married. Likewise, Zabriskie argues that every man wants to find his “quest” to “conquer” and prove his manhood. She maintains that a man’s “quest… is utterly tied to his identity.” He needs that “damsel” (34-42). So it’s not as if marriage has lost its appeal, because statistics show that 90% of all Americans get married at least once in their lifetime (Wolfinger 2).

In addressing the second question of “Is my voice shining through? How’s the balance of my voice and my sources’?” I was very proud with my first rough draft. However, there was room for improvement and I have worked on fixing my paper to “shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!” It’s even complete with musical references and popular culture hints. Two sections that I feel really exemplify my voice would be,

1. The lead, “On one of the most important days of Kris’ life, his friends and family gathered around him to celebrate. As they looked over photographs from his wedding day, they smiled. Kim was very beautiful and had been a gorgeous bride. Kris held up his glass of wine and made a toast. While his wine sloshed in his glass, his dad gave him a pat on the back as a gesture of encouragement. Kris recounted how, 72 days earlier, he had married one of the most beautiful women in the world, and how at that very moment he knew he had made the right decision. That right decision was not marrying Kim but coaxing her into signing a prenuptial agreement before they tied the knot.

Prenuptial agreements, also called prenups, are very common nowadays. They serve as contracts to divide property ahead of marriage, as a plan for divorce. As described in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, prenups can be as common as wedding cake (“Divorce,” St. James).”

2. A fragment from the “Changes in Society” section that reads, “As women felt compelled to act on their rights for independence, the sudden outbreak of AIDs tamed the divorce rate back down in the early 1980s (“Divorce,” St. James). While yes, it would be wonderful to tame the divorce rate again, I’m not a fan of the AIDs method.

Americans wanted monogamous relationships again to diffuse the rampant disease. And just as fast as divorce had lost its “stigma,” marriage found it and claimed the “stigma” (Wolfinger 2) as its own. While couples were still pairing off, a societal standard had drastically changed. Instead of marrying their partner, Americans decided that they needed to test drive their loved one first; to test for compatibility, if you will.”

When I was hunting for gesture words, I found five specific places (on the one page I was searching alone) where I needed to include better hints to my readers. I know that I need to include gesture words because they show the reader that my paper is part of a bigger conversation.

Now, I have these phrases in my paper to show that my topic is part of a larger conversation… “Most Americans tend to…” and “However, I would argue…” and “Some people would argue …” and “As the popular belief …” and “Many researchers…”

Lindsay, our teacher, asked us to chose a random page in our paper to check for tired phrases. The very first sentence on the page that I checked read, “The fact that there are thousands of books on coping with divorce is a sign that divorce is prevalent in today’s society.” I had two tired phrases in one sentence! I revised the sentence to read, “There are thousands of books on coping with divorce which is a sign that divorce is currently prevalent.” My goal with changing this sentence is to eliminate tired phrases from my paper!

Happy editing folks,

❤ Siarra

Blog #5: Leads that Light

Today in class we were asked to write three possible leads to our ten page paper. Our rough draft for this paper is due by Tuesday, the 14th, and I have not even begun to think about such a daunting task. And as the wise Julie Andrews said in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” So as I began trying to figure out where to start, I flipped to a dogeared page in my English 102 textbook, The Curious Researcher, that gave me some wonderful ideas. Ballenger disclosed “Openings to your paper might sound hard, but consider all the ways to begin:









-Announcement” (163-164).

Also divulged in The Curious Researcher is the concept that, “Leads… are flashlights that shine down into the story” (Mcphee qtd in Ballenger 161). What is meant by that quote, is that our introduction needs to be captivating and give our readers an insight as to what the rest of the paper will be on.

Here go my quick attempts as I sit in class for a few more minutes:

Anecdote attempt 1:

When I was in high school I met a girl named Kathy and we were fast friends. She was very warm and inviting with a huge smile. What I remember most about Kathy was that she always had a boy named Eric on her arm. They would kiss in the halls and frequently pass notes between each other. Kathy would proudly read the love notes from her man to us during lulls in our choir class. All of the girls in our class who had the privilege of reading the love notes felt special.

And the day after their graduation, Eric asked Kathy to marry him. She was so excited! And we were all excited for them too.

A few years back, I ran in to Kathy while we were both visiting our old school. I asked her about her husband, as they had tied the knot the year prior. Kathy got a solemn look on her face and confessed that she and Eric had split. They were getting divorced and she was currently single.

Scene attempt 1:

The Blue House. Those words haunt me even to this day. As a child, I was raised in a fairly large, split level 2 story house with my mother, 3 siblings, and her husband and his 4 kids. The Blue House. Imagine yelling, food throwing, tears. The Blue House. Every nightmare that I have starts within those 4 walls or the cracked gray concrete walkway that leads to the front door. And even as I aged and all of my siblings moved out, I remained. A lonely child with a mother and a stranger daddy.

Now, the scene that I’ve just described is not uncommon. Most children today are raised by adults who are not their birth parents.

Quote attempt 1:

Nicholas H. Wolfinger discussed the abomination that is the divorce cycle when he explained, “Many families have more than 1 child; having grown up in divorced families, these children will be more likely to end their own marriages. Thus, divorce can affect many future marriages. The transmission of divorce between generations, in short, can be thought of as a cascade. Ending a marriage starts a cycle that threatens to affect increasing numbers of people over time, a sobering thought in an era when half of all new marriages fail” (4-5). Wolfinger is the Assistant Professor of the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah. He is also the Assistant Professor of Sociology at the U of U who has spent his entire career researching the “intergenerational transmission of divorce.”

I’m not really a fan of any of these leads and I will work on finalizing a beginning with the few remaining days that I have left. I really liked the example by Ballenger’s student, Ashley, on page 265 of The Curious Researcher that started the story with a scene lead. Ashley brought to life the characters in the pub and how the bartender’s face paled at sad news. I was thoroughly captivated by her writing on a subject that I wouldn’t usually have been interested in.

Scene leads seem to be a great way to pull readers in who may not initially feel connected to your topic. I imagine that if I were to start my essay from the scene of a broken home, maybe that would spark a memory for my reader. Or maybe if I were to start my essay with a scene of a wholesome family, that might spark a sense of desire for my reader. That sense of desire is why I am writing my essay! I what my readers to spread the word that divorce should not be a norm anymore!

I think I will focus my energy on writing a better scene lead.

Happy writing!

❤ Siarra

Blog #4: Startling Divorce Notes

While reading The Curious Researcher by Bruce Ballenger two weeks ago, I came across a section that I rather liked. Absently, I dogeared the page with every intention of going back to it.

Let me tell you, that I entirely forgot that I dogeared page 127 of TCR until yesterday, August 1st. I didn’t go back to the page on the “Double- Entry Journal Method” until we were assigned to select a note taking method from the book and write a blog on our favorite style. Lindsay said, “Open your books to page 127 and let’s discuss the note taking styles that Ballenger shares with us.”

And once I opened the book, I was pleasantly reminded that I had already chosen a favorite style of note taking methods.

The different styles of note taking that Ballenger presents in TCR from page 127 to page 136 are:

-The Double- Entry Journal Method: in which the researcher creates two columns in her notebook. In the left column, the researcher paraphrases, summaries, or quotes the source. Then on the right side, the researcher does a quick fast write about she learned from the source (Ballenger 127).

-The Research Log: in which the researcher creates categories for notes. In the “What Strikes Me Most?” section, the researcher produces “a fast write that is an open- ended response [to the question]” (Ballenger 131). In the “Source Notes” section, the researcher pencils in (or types) interesting quotes, paraphrases, or summaries. And lastly, in the “The Source Reconsidered” section, the researcher takes another look at the source and fast writes new thoughts using previous notes for guidance (Ballenger 134).

-Narrative Note Taking: in which the researcher formulates fast writes to several prompts. The first prompt is, “What I understand this to be saying is _____” (Ballenger 134). The second is, “When I first began reading this, I thought ________, and now I think _____” (Ballenger 135). And the last step is to repeat the prompts for different points brought up in the source the researcher is reading (Ballenger 136).

I find that I rather like the double columns method because I learned a similar practice in 9th grade. My 9th grade math teacher forced the class to use “Cornell Notes” as the only acceptable form of note taking. Because I felt like the two columned notes were very easy to follow, I’ve maintained the style for the past 6 years.

Now, because I still need another 450 words to complete my blog (and I’m trying to use up as many words as I can by writing these fillers right now!) I’m going to share with you, my readers, some of my “in the middle notes” I took while reading my most recent source, Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages by Nicholas  H. Wolfinger.

-I found it interesting that 90% of Americans get married at some point in their lives and that 1 in 2 marriages fail (Wolfinger 2). In a country with over 316 million residents (according to the webpage), the population that experiences divorces (sometimes multiple times!) is incomprehensible!!!

-A quote that I especially found intriguing (albeit HILARIOUS) featured in Wolfinger’s book, originally published in  “Newsweek Magazine”, was, “Past age 40, American women are more likely to be killed by terrorists than they are to get married” (Wolfinger 2). What a sad reality (and it seems impossible to honestly believe)! And what a confounding thought to even contemplate…

-Some reasons why we have high divorce rates (which is important seeing as THAT is what my paper is on!!!) are, as Wolfinger states, “Soaring rates of cohabitation… Publicized ‘fatherless’ pregnancies of Madonna, Jodie Foster, and other celebrities… Americans acceptance (or at least tolerance) of divorce has increased to the point that generally it is no longer construed as a moral failing… Marriages do not bear the stigma they once did… Divorced characters are common place in today’s movies, literature, and television shows… Self help books covering all aspects of marital dissolution fill our bookstores… Children of divorce are disproportionately likely to end their own marriages… by at least 50%… [and the] no- fault divorce law in 1970 making it far easier [to get divorced] (Wolfinger 2- 3, 5, 106).

-“Two tiered divorce systems” exist in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona which can make it more difficult for couples to get divorces. If a couple chooses to get a “covenant marriage,” divorce is less easy to obtain as opposed to a regular union, in which divorce is the same as every other state. One of my original theoretical solutions to fixing high divorce rates was to change divorce laws so they would be more difficult to obtain. I find it terribly disappointing that only 2% of married Louisiana residents “opted” for the “covenant marriages.” I believe the reason only 2% of married Louisiana couples wanted the option that would make divorce harder, was because they didn’t expect a marriage that would last forever. Marriage that lasts forever is no longer common, in my opinion (Wolfinger 5).

And now, finally!!!, I’ve hit over 800 words and I can publish this blog.

❤ Siarra

Lessons from an Older Woman

The other day I met an older lady who opened my mind to brand new possibilities, that I can honestly tell you, had never crossed my mind.

Now, before I tell you any more about my experiences with Roxanne, I should probably tell you that

One, Roxanne is the librarian at Clark College; and

Two, I’m writing a research paper for my English 102 class and I needed her expertise.

For my English 102 class we were assigned to visit the library and speak with a librarian on our topic to gain some insight. I walked into the Connell Library on the Clark College campus and met Roxanne. She promptly showed me all about the search engines that Clark already pays for so we can use them for free.

First we looked up Proquest and searched for scholarly articles on divorce. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any especially useful articles. Then we searched on the Gale Virtual Reference Encyclopedia site. I quickly decided that the Gale Virtual Reference Encyclopedia site was my favorite! I found fantastic articles on divorce from:

-The Encyclopedia of Sociology

-The Encyclopedia of Gender and Society

-The Encyclopedia of Mathematics and Society

-The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

I learned that The Encyclopedia of Gender and Society has an entire chapter on divorce that shares ideas that very similarly mimic my ideas. When we did the “Listening In, Speaking Up” assignment in class, I based my notes and work on information I found in that chapter. The chapter touched on the many potential causes and effects of divorce. Lewandowski, the author of The Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, describes that the economy and society, as well as “preexisting” presumptions about marriage, contribute to the high divorce rate. He also describes that children suffer from divorce because their quality of life declines; women suffer financially from divorce and men take on less ideal role changes.

I also learned that I was right to look at divorce from a sociological perspective and I believe that my Sociology 101 textbook will be a big help with my 10 page paper. I would like to interview my Sociology 101 teacher on the trends that marriage has recently taken on, but I’m a bit put off by her. She’s not as approachable as Roxanne or Lindsay (my English 102 teacher).

The next thing that Roxanne taught me was how to search the school library database. We ended up finding a nice print source that was in our library that I could check out and use as a source. I checked out a book called Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages by Nicholas H. Wolfinger. I feel like this book will be a beneficial source because it is written by the Assistant Professor of the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah. Wolfinger is also the Assistant Professor of Sociology at the U of U who has spent his entire career researching the “intergenerational transmission of divorce.”

Roxanne also taught me that there is an library loan system between the Connell Library at Clark College and hundreds of other libraries in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. We did a search on the Summit system (the loan system) only to discover that our initial search for books on divorce gave us a list of realistic fiction children’s books. Instead of continuing on that site, we decided to focus on a more difficult task.

Together Roxanne and I worked to narrow my topic question down. I approached her with the question of, “What does it mean that 50% of marriages end in divorce?” and she said that I should think about narrowing my question down to a specific population. She also suggested that I phrase my question a little differently. She offered the question of, “Why are there so many divorces in the United States?” and I have contemplated giving that inquiry question a shot.

My plan of action is to search for more information on divorce and its causes, and then decipher a good inquiry question using the two questions that I currently have as a base.

Once we agreed that I would think about rephrasing my question, I thanked her and then left to browse more books on divorce. I found my first book, Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages, in the upstairs “H” section (I learned that the “H” actually stands for “Social Sciences” in the Library of Congress style of book sorting that Clark College uses) so I decided to peruse the section again for more good books on divorce. Sadly, I didn’t find any more useful books on divorce so I spend a little bit of time studying before heading off to my English 102 class.

When I hit my English 102 class, I felt ready to learn. My mind was awake and I found myself grateful for my encounter with Roxanne who taught me so much about efficient studying.

If you need any studying help, I definitely recommend talking with a knowledgeable librarian.

Happy studying,

❤ Siarra

Blog #3: What Does it Mean that 50% of Marriages End in Divorce?

I’ve been struggling with creating my research question for my ten page paper. I felt very blessed when Lindsay, our new English 102 teacher, helped me to create a new Interpretation Question the other night:

What does it mean that 50% of marriages end in divorce?

DISCLAIMER: With this blog as my sounding board, I’m going to rant.

It means that many people have been unhappy with their marriages. It means that lots of folks become turned off to the idea of marriage and that the concept of marriage is now changing. It means that people are changing the entire ideology of marriage and with the change, marriage is becoming something that can be thrown away, fixed, made better somehow in theory.

And even worse, society is teaching our children the new version of marriage. Society is teaching our children that step-parents are common and single parent homes are normal.

I, for one, want my children to know what marriage really is. Marriage is ordained of God between a man and a woman. They are meant to work together as a combined force to make things better than if it was just an individual. Marriage is about synergy and love. Marriage is about taking your spouse by the hand and walking through life to share in life’s joys, sadness, and to help your family during the healing process. Marriage is knowing someone will be there to support you when hard times come. Marriage is about creating a tightly knit family unit to hold on to so you can all withstand wordly evils together. Marriage is about holding strong. Marriage is having another person to care about more than yourself. Marriage is about doing what needs to be done to ensure your loved one is being all that they can be.

Marriage in it’s basic form is beautiful.

So why is the world trying to shave off pieces of marriage and then patchwork other concepts on to it- and in to it- to make it something different?

My husband says that people are looking for the easy way out. People work hard in their jobs and all they want is entertainment once they’re off the clock. Marriage is too much work for a lot of people and they don’t want more work on top of all the work that they already have.

To extend on that idea, I feel like people spend way too much time watching movies and participating on social media sites; there is far too much stimuli for people to simply be content anymore. But in reality, being content is part of God’s plan that people oh so often lose sight over… God wants us to find contentment and happiness. How can we every be truly happy if we are always fighting for the next best thing? And how will we know if we’ve found “the best thing?” With “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality, no one can ever know peace. And sadly, the whole ordeal is cyclical.

We want the next best thing and we try to manipulate what we do have… All the while, what we have changes and pushes us farther into the darkness. And on top of all this turmoil, we have loads of confused advocates calling the darkness “the light.”

So how do we find our way out of the darkness? We hold to basic truths. Solid truths. We look for answers from those who have lived and learned. In the old days, marriages weren’t like Kim Kardashian’s or Brittney Spears’. Marriages are supposed to last not only a lifetime, but beyond that. Think Johnny and June Carter- Cash.

Kim Kardashian is, for who knows what reason, a role model to youth nowadays. Every young person knows her name, knows her body and face, knows most details about her life because of all the reality tv shows that she stars in. Kim Kardashian married an NBA player, Kris Humphries, for 72 days. Their divorce was glamorized and a mockery was made of marriage.

Because of Kim and Kris’ marriage sham, people don’t understand what marriage is supposed to be anymore. The whole idea of marriage is contorted and disfigured now because of the way the media presents it.

And how many famous couples cheat on each other?! We see it time and time again. And then their spouse takes them back. An example for the rest of us, right? Thank you to good old Bill and Hill.

But one of the worst reasons that has a solid grip on so many of us would have to be seductive magazines like Cosmo. Now, I’m not gonna lie. I read Cosmo all the time. I have every new issue before it hits stores. I love to read about the latest fashion tips and sex scandals. But Cosmo and the like glamorizes casual sex. Articles like “Hooking up 101” in the August 2013 issue teaches girls tips like carrying a “Shack Bag.” Which, by definition, means “A purse that contains essentials for spending the night with a guy who is not your boyfriend. May include some or all of the following: toothbrush, eye concealer, fresh underwear, condom” (page 154 by Jessica Knoll).

I mean HELLO PEOPLE! What are we teaching our children?!

Thank you, that is all for now.

❤ Siarra

Research Proposal: Stay at Home Mothers

My Inquiry Question for my Research Proposal is:

What is the popular opinion regarding stay at home moms in this modern day?

My primary purpose for my Research Proposal is to EXPLORE. Some additional questions that interest me would be:

  • What do the majority of men think, in this modern day, of women staying at home to raise babies?
  • What was the popular opinion regarding stay at home moms 50 years ago?
  • 100 years ago?
  • 500 years ago?
  • Are there any groups that are anti stay at home moms?
  • Are there any groups that advocate for stay at home moms?
  • What are some professions where women are essentially stay at home moms but still make money?
  • Do children suffer if they don’t have a stay at home parent?
  • What are some alternatives to having a stay at home parent?
  • Will gay marriage affect stay at home parenting?
  • Has the number of mr. mom’s increased since the rise of feminism and the right for women in the workplace?
  • Do women really make less than men in the workplace for the same job (with the same education level)?
  • What is the popular opinion, in this modern day, of women regarding women in the workplace?
  • What are the duties of a stay at home mom?
  • Do kids prefer a stay at home parent vs a workaholic parent?
  • How can couples, especially couples with kids!, survive with only one parent working?
  • What are transferrable skills the average home maker has that may transfer well to the workplace?
  • What is the definition of a stay at home mom?
  • Are there any specific people who fight for women’s rights so they don’t have to be home makers?
  • Are there any specific people who fight against women leaving the home for the workplace?
  • What was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s position on home making?
  • What was Susan B. Anthony’s position on home making?

Some prior beliefs I have that might bias my research would be the fact that I’m religious. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my religion loves the idea of stay at home moms when possible.

I was also raised in a home with a stay at home mother. Even on my father’s side, my step mother stayed at home while we were young and ran a day care program. I always had a mother who was home to monitor my siblings and me.

Before I begin my “working knowledge,” my take on home makers is that they are extremely necessary because kids need guidance. If they didn’t, the world wouldn’t need families. Families are the most fundamental units of society.

We have a letter framed near our dining room table that reads, “We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan. Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another… and be law abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations…

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners… Other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation…”

The letter is called “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and it was written by the LDS church’s First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles in 1995.

I definitely agree that parents have a responsibility to nurture and take care of their children; they also need to make sure their children are law abiding citizens. I can’t tell you how many adults I know who say, “I’ve done what I could. They are who they are,” when asked about their children. We all know that most of those parents spend 40 hours a week at work and don’t spend time each day with their kids.

Sadly, I think my opinion is not the popular opinion. I really am interested to see what people of other cultures, religions, and backgrounds have to say on the subject.

One source I’ve looked in to reads, “Women who take time out of the workforce… pay a big career penalty. Only 74 percent of professional women will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, and only 40 percent will return to full-time jobs. Those who do rejoin will often see their earnings decrease dramatically.” This was said by Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In earlier this year. Sandberg was quoted in an article called Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom written by Ashley Nelson of The Nation Magazine.

Another negative Nancy, named Linda Hirshman, who wrote a book called Get to Work says, “Why would a congressman listen to someone whose life so resembles that of a toddler’s?” I enjoy the response from Nelson who forcefully commented in return, “Because I can vote!”

I look forward to researching more on the topic of stay at home mothers.

❤ Siarra

Blog #2: Marriage Proposals

I’m the youngest married person I know.

My boyfriend proposed to me when I was just 17 years old. Two months later, we tied the knot and began our life together in wedded bliss. I was 18 and he was 21 years old.

In three short weeks, one year will have passed since the day we said “I do.”

With our one year anniversary in view, I have a question on my brain regarding proposals…

But first, for the Siarra and Jesse Nielsen Proposal Story.

Jesse found a coupon on Groupon (say that 3 times fast!) for discounted movie tickets at a rinky- dinky little theater in Lake Oswego, OR. We live pretty far from Lake O, but the tickets were so dirt cheap (with popcorn included!) we couldn’t refuse the adventure.

We anticipated an hour drive and we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Twin Lakes Cinema early. We took a lovely stroll and admired privately owned shops and boutiques. We even found a little park and ran around for a while to let off some energy!

When the hour of Batman hit, we rushed back to the theater to claim our seats- and POPCORN! The movie was great! We have always been huge super hero fans.

As the movie ended, the crowd was pushed to the back exit. The small exit led to a cute wooden deck overlooking a lake. To our right was the beautiful park we had run around in just hours before. After coming out of the dark theater, we drank in the breathtaking scenery. Then we both noticed a small bench on the deck at the same time. We silently sat down to admire the sunset over the lake. We saw birds on the water and watched them for a long time. There were families on their speedboats and a lady lounging by her pool on the lakeside. I remember feeling jealous of all those people; wanting to have nice things like them.

As Jesse and I sat together, we shared our thoughts and replayed the movie in detail. Jesse had been holding my hand the entire time; but after a while, he started fiddling with my promise ring. And then, in the midst of all our smiles and giggles, he got down on one knee in front of me.

He said, “Siarra Conlin Edmondson, I love you. Will you please marry me? But only if we can name our first child Robin, like in Batman.”

I must say, yes, it was a very personalized proposal. But shouldn’t a proposal include inside jokes so it can be intimate? What could be more intimate than spending the rest of your life with someone?

The moments following were so surreal! I loved him so much, even more now, and it took my breath away to think that we would be together forever. I said yes right away! And I remember thinking that those families on the boats and that lady with the expensive pool had nothing compared to what I have.

Which brings me to the question I’ve been contemplating…

Why is it custom for a person to get on one knee to propose marriage?

I started out by asking a few of my family and friends for their opinions. And I can’t wait to share these gold nuggets of knowledge with you, my readers!…

My husband, Jesse Nielsen, said, “The reason men get down on one knee is because the woman is in charge. Don’t forget that. The woman is in charge. But you won’t. She won’t let you forget.” And to that I say, “Yes. You are so right.”

My friend who recently has been talking with my husband and I about marriage, Zach Collier, explained, “People probably get on one knee because in certain cultures you have specific things you do. Getting on one knee heightens the significance or value of a proposal.”

One of my bridesmaids from my wedding, Kenzy Stupfel, claimed, “Men usually look down on women; it’s a societal thing. When a man asks a woman to marry him on his knees, he’s relinquishing control and throwing a lot out there. When a man gives a ring, which is the symbol of marriage, he’s starting the act of meeting half way. He’s showing vulnerability to the woman.”

I really love these answers. Thank you to my friends (and Jesse, lol) for sharing your thoughts.

But, as it turns out, there are no concrete reasons why one might get down on one knee to specifically ask for another’s hand. But upon further research, I located some possible theories.

According to Cheryl Cirelli, author of an article entitled “Marriage Proposal on Bended Knee” from Love to Know: Advice You Can Trust, the gesture of the bended knee bears resemblance to many ceremonial situations, including:

Royalty: As kings would award honors, a knight would kneel on bended knee before him.

Religion: We pray to our God on bended knees to show respect and to humble ourselves.

Surrender: One might bow to a victorious enemy for surrender in times past, again, to show respect.

But my FAVORITE answer would have to be from the article “How to Propose to your Girlfriend” found in Men’s Fitness.

Meredith Bodgas says that men need to get down on one knee to propose because,“It adds to the humility of the proposition—could I, some jackass on the floor, possibly deserve you as my wife?—and it’s a romantic gesture to which women are entitled only once(-ish) in a lifetime. If getting down and dirty means, well, getting dirty, at least take her hand while you ask your question.”

So there you have it folks! Right from the expert’s mouths (well, web pages).

❤ Siarra

 Jesse, the ladies man. Kenzy is on his left. (Yes, this was MY wedding.)

 Jesse and I right after our wedding last August. ❤

Blog #1: A Life with Nerves

For my first English 102 blog, I’d like to write about something that is rather personal.

About 6 hours ago, I left the operating room feeling like an entirely different person and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it! I just had a life changing procedure done and I feel like learning more about my procedure by researching and writing about it!

But first, for a little background…

For the past 19 years of my life I have lived with a chronic pain in my left shoulder blade. This chronic pain has, sadly, become part of me and has caused daily migraines and complications throughout my entire life. 5 years ago, I started having seizures and I lost mobility of my arms and legs for a long time. I felt completely overwhelmed by my pain and  I was void of any hope that I might ever lead a normal life.

I spent my first few years of high school attempting to attend 3 days a week. Some weeks I didn’t go to school at all. And eventually, I started a home school program through Seattle Children’s Hospital. I lived in the Seattle Children’s Hospital for a month for comprehensive treatment. I learned that I had very severe CHRONIC REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME WITH SEIZURES caused by a nerve plexus in my left shoulder blade. I was forced to complete over 8 hours a day of rigorous physical “boot camp” in attempt to override my nerve pain signals. In reality, all that happened was that I became very, very ill.

After years of inpatient and outpatient hospital treatments for my daily pain, in 2011, my seizures stopped when I found the right medication mix. I had tried 43 different medication combinations over those 3 years. Unfortunately, my left shoulder blade nerve pain did not cease its relentless torment.

After 2 years of using the medication that helped my seizures, I’ve found that I can live a reasonably happy life. However, I still can’t be around any bright lights, flashing lights, beeping noises, or have anything NEAR my left shoulder because of the terrible pain. I also have to close my eyes and count to mentally prepare for any shifts in sensory intake because I’m always nauseous. And aside from all that, my new husband and I can’t start a family while this toxic drug continues to control my body because it creates an unsafe environment for a fetus.

In other words, the medicine was a place holder while I became stable enough to have procedures done.

Today, I had a STELLATE GANGLION NERVE BLOCK procedure done through my neck.

I’ve been contemplating having a Stellate Ganglion Nerve Block put in for many years now. But my mother always complained over the complications. My mother has always felt that medications offer a comfort blanket of sorts.

And to be honest, in some ways she’s right. Upon my research, I’ve learned that the risks associated with Stellate Ganglion Nerve Blocks include spinal block, epidural block, and possible injection of anesthetic and medication into blood vessels and surrounding organs (according to Also, my doctor, who performed the procedure, alerted me that often times people experience temporary paralysis of their vocal chords and befall Horner’s Syndrome. Horner’s Syndrome causes your eyelids and other facial features to droop.

But there are benefits too. When you experience pain in your Sympathetic Nervous System that plays on a loop, like mine does, a nerve block can be a God send. “A Stellate Ganglion Nerve Block is an injection of local anesthetic in the ‘sympathetic nerve tissue’ – the nerves which are a part of the Sympathetic Nervous System. The nerves are located on either side of the voice box, in the neck” ( When the anesthetic calms your angry nerves, you get a moment of rest from the pain.

Because this is my first time having an injection done, the doctor started off small with only anesthetic. My nerves were calmed for several hours. Next week, when the doctor does another nerve block for me, she will add some stronger medication; every block from now on will have a little bit more medication than the last time. Eventually, I will only need injections every 3 months!

Right after having the anesthetic injected into my nerves, I felt pain free for the first time EVER. Even a few hours after the procedure I felt pretty darn good. Sadly, now that we are 8 hours after my procedure, I’m experiencing pain again. I can’t wait to have another LONGER LASTING INJECTION!

It takes courage trying something new. I know that everyone has that one thing that they’re AFRAID to try. Maybe someone told you it wouldn’t work, or maybe you’re just too scared.

But maybe, just maybe your situation turns out like mine. Where you get to experience life nerve pain free for the first time.

I know it’s risky, but finding a pain free life, for me, is worth the risk.’s a picture of my battle scars from my procedure today! is my husband supporting me today after my procedure.