Bullying

What is it about the blank page that inspires such fear? How will I fill it? What will this story be about? Will it be any good? Truth be told, I have no idea what I want to write about. I’m promised myself that I would make a greater effort to write every day so I just open a word document and ramble. Not a very promising beginning is it?!

I do have something that’s been weighing on my mind. This current epidemic of bullying that is plaguing our young people. I don’t have children so I don’t see it first-hand. I do, however, hear about it and it worries me. Have children always been this cruel? I don’t think they have. I remember being teased as a teenager. I guess you could call it bullying. While it bothered me, the person who did it was not a part of my social circle and therefore not really a concern. I saw her briefly on the bus. She couldn’t hurt me. The most she could do was make a few cutting remarks. To be honest, I could out-snark her easily. I don’t remember it hurting my feelings overly much. I started driving halfway through the year and stopped riding the bus, not because of her but because, well, I could drive. I knew girls who had a hard time all the way through school. I remember friends of mine encouraging me to make fun of a girl in junior high school. I did once or twice but I could always hear my mom’s voice saying “how would you feel if Jesus suddenly were standing beside you?” She was a Sunday school teacher and that was one of her favorite ways to instill guilt. I was sure Jesus would be very sad about me making fun of this girl. By the same token, I was also sure that Jesus didn’t mind if I hit my brother or called him names. Jesus is cool like that! I told my friends I wasn’t going to make fun of Sarah. My friends decided I wasn’t much fun to hang out with after that. Oh well, I had other friends who were considerably better behaved. Sarah became a good friend. She had a wicked sense of humor and the most amazing artistic ability.

Back to the present day, teens now use social media to bully. How do they get social media? Seems like they should have to be a certain age before they can sign up for an account. I guess not. A coworker told me about an eleven year old girl who killed herself (with a gun) because she was being bullied. I don’t know the whole story. I wondered if her parents had known she was being tormented. Surely if they had, they could have intervened. But what do you say to a child who can’t get away from bullying because it invades her email and texts and Facebook page? If her parents were at all like me, they may not have understood how pervasive and cruel bullying can be. I also wonder if there’s anything you can do to prepare your child? My folks allowed me and my brother to slam each other at will. Mike was six years older so he would have had an advantage. I was quick, though, and maybe a bit smarter than him. Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy it when their little girl could put her big brother in his place with a well-spoken quip. That was probably wrong of them but as it taught me how to think on my feet and not let the odd verbal barb hurt my feelings; I can’t fault them too much. So is that the way to arm your child, teach them to hurl insults and ignore taunts? As I said, I don’t have kids but if I did, I’d want them to be kind, not mean. It took me until my thirties to realize that some of the things I said to people were hurtful. Maybe the reason I wasn’t bullied was because I was the bully? God, I hope not. I was a sarcastic little bitch at times but I don’t think I ever said anything to anyone that would make her want to kill herself.

Maybe the answer is to teach kids to be kind but also teach them to defend themselves, verbally and physically. It wasn’t long ago when child snatching wasn’t a part of our world. After all, when my brother and I were kids, we walked to school. It was about two miles away and we cut through neighborhoods to get there. That was before the Lyon’s sisters went missing in 1975. Wheaton Plaza, the mall the girls had been at that day, was close to where I grew up. After that, I was told to park my 12 year old self at the bus stop with the other kids and not to walk anywhere. It was a terrifying time for our parents but we kids quickly adapted to a life that no longer allowed free ranging through our suburban neighborhood. We learned to run away from strange cars and strange people. I’ve heard friends with children say that they routinely teach their children about strangers, improper touching, drugs, and peer pressure. So now it’s time to add bullying to the list. By prepping our kids, we can give them tools to use with bullies. Physical tools like martial arts and mental tools like de-escalation and negotiation techniques. I do think it’s time that parents take back some of the responsibility for curriculum from the schools. I also think it’s time that authorities be encouraged to confront the parents of bullies. Some sort of trauma causes this behavior. By shining a light on the home life of bullies we could be saving children other than our own.

Digital Download vs Handwritten Copy

This started as a simple rant about the irritating relationship I have with my electronic aids and their frequent failure to get me where I need to be. It has become a warning about allowing electronic devices to think for us. If you don’t hear from me again, you will know that they became aware of my attempted rebellion and squashed it!

I’m wondering if anyone else has this problem? I can type a meeting into my calendar or enter it into my phone but it doesn’t help me keep the appointment. Even setting an alarm doesn’t help me remember the meeting in time to actually prepare or arrive on time. The act of manually writing the meeting in a paper calendar; however, keeps it at the forefront of my mind and I not only remember to prepare for it but arrive early. As a result I am calm and remain relaxed throughout. Why is this? It seems like the method of entry wouldn’t matter. It should be the act of entering the information itself that keeps the appointment fresh.

I look at my calendar multiple times a day, everyday at work. I carry my phone with me at all times. It isn’t that this information is not readily accessible. In fact my leather planner, while accompanying me to meetings, just sits out on my desk. It doesn’t beep or flash but somehow I remember what’s in there and forget the appointment that just popped up on my screen saying I had 15 minutes to get over to the main hospital building.

I have a theory about this. During my formative years, I had to rely on paper planners. That’s all there were. I could write things down but I had to have a process of remembering to look everyday and then remembering what was on that day’s schedule. I think that the computer calendar and the phone apps have allowed our brains to become lazy. How many people can’t remember phone numbers anymore? As a teenager, before the advent of the cell phone, I had an entire list of phone numbers in my head. In fact, I still remember my old phone number. I don’t know my current office number. It’s on my business card but I rarely look at that information and I don’t call myself. I don’t remember a fraction of the numbers on my contact list. They are in my phone. If my phone dies, I might know who to call but I won’t remember his number.

I have taken to entering information into a paper planner, not only as a backup, but to help retrain my brain to process and retrieve information. I thing the computer and the phone are wonderful tools if we use them correctly. I fear, though, that too many are turning off important mental processes and relying on electronic aids to do the busy work. I don’t believe that computers will eventually become our masters here on Earth (well, except in the sense that I must have the newest model) but I wonder if we are doing our future selves a disservice in terms of preventing neurological disorders. Could it be that memory work could help delay Alzheimer’s? For me, I think I’m going to start working a bit harder on my memory. I hate to think that I didn’t do everything possible to avoid the ultimate brain dump.

Well-Meaning People

I went to a friend’s exercise studio last week. To do Zumba. I knew it was a bad idea. I have a torn meniscus in one knee and am prone to severe knee inflammation and pain. My orthopedist has told me “NO HIGH IMPACT ACTIVITY”. While I listened, I just wanted to do something fun and high energy. I’ve been very sedentary with this injury and I’ve gained weight and I don’t like it. I need to get moving and lose the weight. I kept up with the group for about five minutes and then started doing modified steps because the pain had started and was steadily growing in intensity. After about 25 minutes, I’d had enough. I was ready to climb in my truck and drive home but my friend insisted that I get on the recumbent bike and pedal to keep my muscles from stiffening up. It was good advice but I expect that from her. She’s a nurse and like me has been in the business for 20 years.

One of the ladies in the class, decided to make me feel welcome and introduced herself. She gave me some helpful tips about the dance steps. Concentrate on the footwork she said. Don’t worry so much about the arms yet. It was also good advice. After I got on the bike she stopped by to see how I was doing. I didn’t share my injury with her. I don’t really know her. Not only that but most people aren’t really interested in how I injured my knee. So I just said I’d gotten tired and was now riding the bike, keeping lose, stretching muscles.

This week, I chose not to come to the studio. I’ve had enough pain for the month of July and think I will at least wait until August before intentionally trying to aggravate the injury. Besides, I had just adopted a new kitten and was spending quality time with her in the isolation room (she had a bad case of fleas and needed to be treated and kept separated from the rest of the feline population). When my phone rang and I saw my friend’s name pop up I eagerly answered as, in addition to being the exercise and health  guru, she is also the cat whisperer. Before I could tell her my news she told me that she had someone who wanted to speak to me and this woman from the studio came on the line. She proceeded to tell me that she really wanted to see me at the studio the next week and that we would just start with the arm part of the Zumba steps while I stood in one spot. I wanted her off the phone. I wanted to get back to my kitten. I wanted to talk to my friend about my kitten. I did not want to talk to this nosy woman. So I said, sure, I’ll try that. See you next week. Then I proceeded to put it out of my mind.

However, this morning I started thinking about that conversation. This woman doesn’t know me from Adam’s housecat and yet she has the audacity to offer me advice about my exercise capacity. She offers it like she is a healthcare professional but it’s bad advice. My orthopedic doctor specifically said, bike riding is one of the best activities for a knee injury. It does not put strain on the joint. This woman told me that pedaling was a repetitive motion and was bad for the knee. Patients undergoing knee replacement spend hours in something called a CPM machine (continuous positive motion, repetitive motion!) to keep the joint from seizing up. It also strengthens the muscles that surround the joint. Standing in one spot on a hard surface causes the joint to bear down with the force of body weight. It’s much worse than just walking or shifting from side to side.

I’m sure this woman was just trying to help. She is a well-meaning individual. I appreciate her attempt. However, if I wasn’t a nurse, if I hadn’t already gotten the advice of health professionals, if I didn’t have a strong smattering of common sense, I might have listened to this woman. I could have returned to the studio, standing there while my joints ground together, waving my arms around like a loon. I could have taken handfuls of ibuprofen trying to reduce the swelling that always accompanies foolish behavior. What a great world if well-meaning individuals were required to provide references from peer-reviewed journals for the advice they gave? I’m not saying they shouldn’t offer help or advice. I’m just saying they should put a little effort into it instead of just offering their uneducated opinions.

But that’s just my uneducated opinion!

My Happy Place

When things are at their most hectic, I force myself to remember my happy place. I only experienced it for a few brief minutes but the feeling I had was so transcendent that it has stayed with me throughout the years. It was the summer of 1984 and I was on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park. I’d just come out of the North Administration building where I had added a much needed class for my senior year.

North Administration Building, University of Maryland, College Park

North Administration

I was relieved and exhilarated at the same time and I sat on the steps of the building to enjoy my victory. Drop/add days at the University of Maryland were always tense and frustrating. On more than one occasion I had ended up with a class that was not only not my first choice but not my second, third, or fourth. On this day, however, I was victorious. I remember looking across the mall at McKelden Library with its Greek columns and noticing how incredibly blue the sky was against the white of the building. On either side were these old growth trees that added that a cool touch of green. In that moment, I was perfectly happy. I stayed there for almost thirty minutes, just taking in that picture and enjoying my contentment.

McKeldin Library from the mall

The view of McKeldin from the fountain

My happy place

Imagine this view without a cloud in the sky.

For some reason, I didn’t take a lot of pictures of my college years. That was before the digital phenomenon, of course. Pictures didn’t do much for us in those days. Most of the time they just sat around in an album or worse, in the development envelope they came in. So, I Googled the campus to see if I could recapture the image of McKeldin against a pristine sky with those magnificent green trees. The campus has changed quite a bit in the nearly 30 years I’ve been away from it. McKeldin’s still there but it looks so different. In fact, it took me awhile to recognize my old haunts (at least on Google images). Perhaps it’s time to update my happy place.

Day Seven: No Caffeine

It’s almost been a full week since I gave up caffeine. The headaches are over (I hope) and I’m starting to feel almost normal. I still miss it! Although food is tasting normal, it just doesn’t have the same draw that food with a diet Coke or diet Pepsi had. My office mate walked in this morning with two diet cokes and I actually started salivating. One note; my father had promised me that if I stopped the caffeine I would stop grinding my teeth. This is false. Don’t believe people when they tell you this. Caffeine does not make you grind your teeth. Or if it does, once the grinding becomes a habit, stopping the caffeine will not stop the grinding. So much for saving on the dental bills.

Day Four; No Caffeine

The headache is diminishing, thank goodness! I have to say that life without caffeine (and aspartame) sucks. I miss my diet sodas. Now that it’s just water, I don’t want to eat. Which is great for my waistline. Maybe I’ll get it back this way. 

Day two: no caffeine

It hurts!

Bond, James Bond

So I was watching “Skyfall”, which is the first of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies that I’ve seen, trying to decide which of the James Bonds I liked better. Daniel Craig is certainly easy on the eye. So was Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and Sean Connery. I never really cared for Roger Moore. Not that he wasn’t a good actor. I just thought his Bond seemed, well, prissy. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond came awfully close to prissy but redeemed himself with some nice action sequences. Craig came the closest to Connery, I think. In fact, he may have out Connery’d Connery, although I’m not sure that’s possible. Is it anti-feminist to say that I was troubled by a female “M”? Whether it is or not, I was. She just didn’t seem to like Bond at all. Was it because of the womanizing? He’s the best assassin she has and always seems to get the job done albeit with a lot of accompanying property damage. So I’m not sure what the deal is. I think I could overlook the womanizing and the property damage as long as he got the job done. I found the Craig movie to be more serious. Brosnan’s movies always had that bit of comedy relief that seemed a bit out of place for a spy movie. Moore’s movies always just seemed silly. 

I’ve always wondered how James Bond would stack up against Jennifer Garner’s Alias character or Peta Wilson’s Nikita. It would be fun to see some woman kick his ass and walk away from that legendary Bond charm. Ha ha. I wouldn’t be able to. Either kick his ass or walk away.  I identify strongly with the Miss Moneypenny character. Fascinated with the man but knowing deep down inside that I could never hope to hold on to  someone like that. And in spite of it all, wishing I had the courage to try. Yeah, I’m not exactly sure what the plot of “Skyfall” was. Spent too much time thinking about all these other things. Maybe that’s way the James Bond movies appeal to men more than women. Women are more likely to want to know why he is the way he it. What about his childhood? What does he do on his days off? Does he eat pizza, drink beer and watch the game?  He’s so good at figuring out how to kill people and use weapons and escape places but I wonder if he’d know how to fix a dripping faucet. 

So who is your favorite Bond?

Making a commitment

Well, I think it’s time to formalize my commitment to regaining my health. I have decided to officially give up my diet drinks. This is hard for me. I don’t drink coffee. My Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke (I’m not particular) is important to me. It’s the way I wake up in the morning. It’s the spice I add to otherwise boring meals (salad). It takes pizza or tacos or burgers to a new level and makes them truly extraordinary. I’m worried, however, about the use of Aspartame. I have been experiencing some Lupus-like symptoms and as Aspartame has been linked indirectly to Lupus (in multiple conspiracy theories) I feel like I need to give it up. I’m just having a little trouble convincing my subconscious. I unofficially gave it up two days ago. This is my desk today.

coke on the desk

I’m weak!

I told myself that I would stop drinking them this weekend, when the caffeine withdrawal won’t be so detrimental. But I have a whole refrigerator full of Diet Coke and I wonder how strong I will be when I hear them calling my name. It’s just that plain old ordinary water is just that. Plain, old, ordinary and does absolutely nothing for a meal.  I realize caffeine is highly addictive and not very good for you. It just helps so much, especially during meetings. I’m afraid I may go into shock without my diet soda. Then the emergency responders will have to hook me up to a Cola IV. I wonder if my veins will like diet soda as much as my mouth does?

diet coke iv

Mmmmm refreshing!

I taught a medical terminology class this year and had to re-familiarize myself with facts about the human body that I hadn’t considered since nursing school. One of the more interesting is that the body, much like our planet, is composed of nearly 75% water. Diet soda is not a good substitute for water. Cells deprived of water tend not to function normally. Organs and body systems deprived of water can shut down completely. Humans usually don’t fare well when an organ or body system shuts down. Hypovolemia (severe dehydration) is one of the leading causes of stroke and cardiac arrest according to the American Heart Association (ACLS). Yet, I would willingly ignore the warnings about Caffeine and Aspartame if I could just shake the feeling that they might actually be true.

The age-old choice

The age-old choice

Are there any other diehard diet soda fans out there? Which would you choose?

Is being single still an indictment in 2013?

I just read an interesting post on “Confederacy of Spinsters”. (Sorry, still learning how to use this site and haven’t figured out how to link back to other posts). I believe the gist of the post was that a single woman admitting to wanting marriage is scorned and pitied by society. I don’t know why I was surprised by this. I believe most people look at the persistently single woman as some sort of oddity. If she doesn’t fit into the hole society has allocated for her, it doesn’t know what to do with her. I’ve had people ask me some bizarre and oddly personal questions as they struggle to figure out what I’m about. Did I not want to get married? Could I not find a man? Am I a lesbian? Was I abused as a child? Did I have a bad experience in the past? I don’t consider this to be anyone’s business but it’s no secret. I never wanted to be married. I’ve never met anyone who made me consider otherwise. My childhood was happy. My parents provided a solid example of married life (60 years together this year). I’m a heterosexual and proud of it.

I’m concerned, though, that apparently it’s still considered an unfortunate state to be single. I’m an educated professional. I have a good job, a nice house, and nice things. I do have quite a few cats, so perhaps that part of the stereotype is true. However, I also have a huge dog that may or may not be part wolf. I have a fascination with firearms (recent development) and an insatiable love of learning. I don’t feel like I’ve “missed my chance” or that I’m “on the shelf”. I’m an individual worthy of being known despite my lack of a man. I would have thought, by this time, it would be considered a normal variation for a woman to choose to be on her own. Most of my friends are married. They appear to be happy, although I sometimes wonder by the way they talk to and about their spouses (but that’s a post for another time). I enjoy hearing about their adventures or misadventures with hubbies and kids. Sometimes I do envy them the position or respect that they are given because of their marriages. I have asked myself a hundred times if I wouldn’t have been better off if I’d taken that path. Each time, I remind myself that I’d probably be divorced (or in prison). Some people should not be married or have the responsibility of children and they should be applauded for making appropriate life choices. I believe that I should command societal respect and position because I am a functioning society member who contributes to the benefit of the whole.

A few years ago, I had a bout of severe clinical depression. As a healthcare professional, I believe depression to be an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. I believe that depression can be exacerbated by situational events but if brain chemistry is in balance, life events can be handled without sliding into a pit of despair. When I sought professional help from my colleagues in the medical community, the first question I was asked was if I thought I was depressed because I wasn’t married and was childless. To me, this illustrates the view that most people continue to hold. Single is sad. Thankfully, I was able to convince my colleague that being single and childless was not the reason for my despair. I received a prescription and have since rebounded from that illness. I can’t imagine what my “treatment” would have been if I had thought the depression had been caused by my life choices. One husband daily x lifetime with unlimited refills? 

Perhaps society hasn’t progressed as far as I would like to think. Maybe it will take another twenty years before a single woman can be a respected and valued member of society. What are your thoughts? 

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