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.

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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.

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.

When Wants and Needs Collide

I’ve been catching up on my blog reading this morning.

One of the writers I follow, Fransi Weinstein at Three Hundred Sixty Five, has done a wonderful series on want vs. need and living a simpler life. It really has made me think about the way I spend my money and my time. I am way too free with both, shelling out hard-earned wages for silly things that won’t truly make me happy or improve my life in any conceivable way and wasting time with frivolous pursuits that don’t add much in the way of value. I think there is something to the collective unconscious theory that has people coming to the same conclusion at the same approximate time. We need to scale back to a simpler way of life.

With all the emphasis a few weeks ago on the supposed “end of the world”, I got a wild hair and started watching a survival show called “Man, Woman, Wild”. Loved it. This American ex-special forces guy takes his British wife out into the wilderness to demonstrate survival in various scenarios. She’s a journalist and pretty tough in her own right but a little “girly” when it comes to snakes and spiders. But she tackles each challenge and does remarkably well. This show emphasizes a self-reliant attitude about surviving in an emergency. I think the idea of scaling back, a simpler way of life, and becoming more self-reliant are all tied together and exactly how we need to be thinking at this time in our history. I am by no means self-reliant. If a disaster happened right now, I’d probably not survive. But I want to. I want to be the self-reliant person who can raise a garden and maybe some chickens and goats. I want to be the person who knows how to install solar panels and a wind turbine. I want to be the person who can rub two sticks together and make fire (although I have take Mikal Hawke’s advice seriously and now always carry a lighter). These are “wants” that I believe could help me to achieve a simpler, more balanced life. Thank you Fransi, for directing my thoughts to where they needed to be. I “need” to live up to this challenge.

It’s Hard to Write With “THEM” Around

I made it one of my resolutions to write every day. Even if I have nothing to write about. Today, I was going to whine about the hot water heater. It evidently decided that I was way too comfortable with the luke warm water it supplied and sprung a leak. Just as I accepted that I could deal with that challenge, the toilet overflowed and the shower quit working. So I have a lot to whine about.

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Can they see us?

Except that “they” won’t let me be!  These handsome fellas are Yugi and Wookie, taken by my laptop camera. As you can see they appear to be fascinated by the whole process. I attribute this fascination with the laptop to their experience with the iPad Cat app. Now they think every screen is a new game just for them. Which makes the writing process a little tougher.

Where's my mouse?

Where’s my mouse?

Yugi2

Whatcha doing, Mommy?

In Nursing School, I remember being so intolerant of those students who had children and complained that they couldn’t get their parts of our projects done because the kids wouldn’t let them study. I understand now, guys. I understand completely.

Any suggestions, Cat Guardians?

So It’s Finally Here

I’ve been hearing about the 12-21-12 apocalypse for quite some time now. It’s hard to believe that the day is finally here. I have given some thought to what I’d act like if I really thought there was a chance that the world would end today. Certainly I don’t believe I’d be at work. I think I’d call my folks and say goodbye although I’m not sure I’d want to share my last few hours with anyone. I’ve never lived through an apocalypse but I have to imagine it’s an intensely private experience. I’d like to think I could meet the end with calm dignity but I’m sure I’d be busy regretting all the things that I’d never get to do and the things I never get to say. I’d probably spend my last few minutes trying to do deals with God. There is one school of thought that says we should live each day as though it’s our last. I’d never go to work in that case. I think we have to believe in a future to motivate ourselves to do what’s necessary but live each day to the fullest so that if it’s our last, there won’t be regrets.

I guess the benefit of these doomsday predictions is that they force you to think about the finite. Life isn’t endless. It’s what you do with what you are given that matters. A family friend gave me a magnet when I graduated from nursing school. Printed on it was a poem about Success in Life by Ralph Waldo Emerson. At the time I thought it was a cheap present and that I deserved so much more. But since then, I’ve re-read the poem a multitude of times and seen what a precious gift it really was

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of
intelligent people and affection of children; to learn the
appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of
false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in
others; to leave the world a little bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social
condition; to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

As a nurse, I feel as though I’ve left the world a little better but is that all there is? Surely life is about more than service. What about those folks who make out the long bucket lists full of unique experiences. Those experiences add excitement to life and I’m all for that but a life without any service seems just as empty as a life without experience. I have to believe that a life worth living comes down to balance. Balancing service with experience, work with reward and serious contemplation with bouts of laughter. I don’t believe the world will end today. I would like my take-away from this day to be a new found respect for all that life has to offer. I would like to find the balance between service and experience so that I can live a richer, more abundant life.

Have a happy Not The End of The World day!

I Love Disaster Movies

I love disaster movies. There’s something intrinsically satisfying about watching the world get destroyed from the safety of my couch with the knowledge that no one will get hurt and the world will go on. On this day before the long-predicted end of the world, I thought I’d share my top five favorite disaster movies. These are movies I loved in the theater, went out and bought the DVDs and still faithfully watch whenever they are on TV (despite the fact that I can watch the DVDs whenever I want). In fact, my favorite thing is to bring them out once a year, dust them off, and have myself a disaster-thon.

So here are my five favs, from least to most:

Number 5 – Twister (1996)

Twister

Not really a “disaster” movie unless you consider the people affected by the twisters the storm chasers were documenting. However, I couldn’t help but be drawn into the relationship between Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. They play Bill and Jo Harding, the soon-to-be-divorced scientists that met chasing storms. Bill shows up to get Jo to sign the divorce papers (along with his fiance, Melissa) and soon real and metaphoric storm clouds are rolling in. This movie is a thrill ride and never fails to suck me in (pun intended, love you Dusty!!). The supporting characters are fantastic, almost as interesting as Bill and Jo. I love Jo Harding’s Aunt Meg and Bill Harding’s fiance Melissa. For the longest time after seeing this movie, I craved pan fried steak and mashed potatoes covered with gravy. And who can forget Jami Gertz saying “we’ve got cows”. This movie made me want to get off of the couch and go chase tornadoes.

Number 4 – Volcano (1997)

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I admit it, I love Tommy Lee Jones. He stars as the director of the city’s emergency management department, Mike Roark. He’s no nonsense all the way. He butts heads with seismologist Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) who believes that all the ominous signs in the city are pointing to the development of a volcano under the La Brea Tar Pits. Considering that I live in South Carolina, the disappearance of Los Angeles wouldn’t affect me geographically but I still cheered when the managed to divert the lava and avoid the worst. Well, who wouldn’t? Also I cry every single time that poor man jumps off the subway car and gets burned up by the lava. Again, who wouldn’t?

Number 3 – The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The Day After Tomorrow

Dennis Quaid tried to warn us. He really tried. A new ice age was coming and coming fast. This was a great movie to make you happy you lived in a very warm state. Although, in the movie’s forecasts, even sunny South Carolina was buried in snow. If it happened for real, I don’t believe we’d be above the frost line. It’s just too warm here. Even in the winter. Seriously, it’s December 20 and about 50 degrees outside. It would be warmer if it weren’t raining. Anyway, back to the movie. It really made me angry when Mexico closed her borders to the northern refugees. The nerve! Then I saw the irony and started laughing. I thought it was so sad that the British researcher who’s wife had just had a baby had to die but at least he was able to send his new family south to safety. I guess the only thing that really bothers me about this movie is the speed with which Dennis and his team got to New York from DC. I lived in DC. New York was a considerable distance. Especially if you were traveling on foot through the snow. Did that seem a bit unrealistic to anyone else?

Number 2 – Dante’s Peak (1997)

Dante's Peak

Yup, another volcano movie. What can I say, I like volcano movies. I thought this one rated higher than Volcano because I really liked everyone in this movie (except for Linda Hamilton’s mother-in-law). The irony was delicious. the day after this quaint little town gets an award for being the nicest place to live, their volcano erupts. Karma is such a stinker. It wasn’t even like they were really bragging. They had to have the celebration for the magazine. The kids’ grandmother really made me want to scream but I loved the fact that Linda Hamilton and the kids wouldn’t write her off no matter what. They went and got her (and got themselves in even more hot water – no pun intended). I don’t know that I would have done it. Old lady wanted to stay on her mountain, so be it. I would have packed up and hit the bricks. Which is why characters with my personality traits never appear in disaster movies. They are the people who were paying attention earlier and left town.

Number 1 – Deep Impact (1998)

Deep Impact

Who didn’t love Morgan Freeman as the president? Seriously who? I want your address so I can come shake some sense into you. When that man puts on his roll collar sweater and prays for the people of the United States, I just bawled. Of course, the entire last 15-20 minutes of this movie is pretty much a tear-fest. From the astronauts talking to their families to Tea Leoni and her dad reuniting on the beach as the big wave comes in. Not to mention the parents who call Elijah Wood back and force their daughter and new baby to get on the bike with him and ride to safety. There’s a lot of self-sacrifice and heroism in this movie and it’s gut-wrenching and very cathartic. I watch it with a large box of Puff Plus.

Honorable Mention – The Day After (1983)

The Day After

While this doesn’t make my top five list, it deserves honorable mention as the movie that scared the crap out of me. Anyone remember this one? It’s a TV movie, starring Jason Robirds as a doctor whose oldest daughter is getting married. Overshadowing their excitement is the military buildup of the Soviet Union as they prepare to invade West Germany. One thing leads to another and boom, nuclear war. The family, in a small town in Kansas, sees two missile strikes in their state. The movie focuses more on the futility of survival as millions die outright and more succumb each day to radiation, starvation and disease. This movie was out and out scary. I remember there were warnings all week long encouraging parents to watch with older children. They even aired a panel discussion after the movie. I think Carl Sagan was one of the panelists but I don’t remember that part very clearly. I was so messed up after this movie that I had to speak with our pastor about death and dying. I even learned a special bible verse that helped to calm me when I got agitated about the possibility of nuclear war. It’s John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” This isn’t one of the movies I watch over and over. There’s no hopeful ending to this flick. Just death and destruction. But it certainly makes you stop and think.

Well, that’s it for my list. I hope you all have a fabulous End of the World. If we survive, let me know what some of your favorite disaster movies are.

 

Writer’s Block

Before I attempted to blog every day, I had a ton of ideas. I’d see something funny at work or at the store or at home and immediately have a great idea for an article. Now that I’ve made this commitment to myself to write an entry everyday; nothing! Augh! So, today’s entry is going to be about the mental illness that is plaguing me. I’ve heard it called Writer’s Block but I believe it is something far worse (and possibly fatal). I’m currently doing some research (in other words, googling) on the location of creativity in the brain. According to the Livestrong website, creativity may be due to a strong connection between the hemispheres of the brain. Dear God, at some point I’ve had a lobotomy!

No wait, as I read further (probably should have read the whole thing before I started typing this) creativity is also linked to a reduction of Norepinephrine and suppression of critical thinking skills. Huh! Well, that explains some of the things that happen here at the hospital.

Okay, so I probably haven’t had a lobotomy. My Norepinephrine is well-regulated and critical thinking is part of my job so perhaps that’s my problem. I’ll have to concede that this bout of Writer’s Block won’t kill me. It is frustrating, though. I’d like to know what you authors out there do when Writer’s Block hits? Any suggestions?

Wookie

I was sitting at my desk scrolling through my phone and saw a picture that never fails to make me smile.

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Wookie and Kit sharing some couch time.

Yes, if you couldn’t tell from my Gravatar, I’m a “cat person”. Technically, a “dog and cat person” (I have a husky mix named Aeryn). But I think I identify more with the cats. They have such a sense of their own place in the world. It’s what I haven’t managed to achieve for myself and yet what I truly aspire to.

Wookie personifies this ability to own his space. He wandered into my life one night, thru my backyard; which at that time contained Aeryn, a lab named Daisey and a pit bull named Jooli. Despite the sweet names, these were not the sweetest of girls. I heard them barking and went to see what had caused the uproar. They were surrounding this little puff of fur and looking very much like they were going to pounce. I could hear his breathing over their barking. It didn’t look or sound very good for this little guy. But he was standing his ground, staring down three large and unfriendly (to cats, at least) dogs. His little plumed tale was held high. He wasn’t hissing or cowering. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen. I scooped him up and brought him inside. He had a bad upper respiratory condition, ringworm and fleas. And the strangest habit of looking at the ceiling which led me to believe he had a guardian angel hovering just out of sight. I didn’t think the little guy would last the night but he proved to be much tougher than he looked. It took a month to kick the URI and a lot of bathing to fend off the ringworm but the Wook triumphed over all of it. He even made friends with the girls in the backyard. He walks through life like one who knows he supposed to be here. He doesn’t slink or scurry or swagger. Wookie owns! He owns the floor, he owns the couch, he owns me, he owns the dog, he owns the other cats. As he jumped up and laid down on Kit, the older gray cat, I said “Wook” in an exasperated tone. He looked back over his shoulder as if to say “mine”. And that was that!

If only I could learn to do that!

Wookie still stares up at the ceiling as though watching his own personal guardian angel. He’s really a beautiful cat, I can’t blame her for wanting to stay with him.

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Not Quite Right

Do you ever have those days when nothing feels right? Not that anything is bad in my life or that I’m having a bad day but something is OFF and I don’t know what. I was sick last week but am better now and back to work. I didn’t leave anything on at the house. I know I locked the doors and put the garage door down and even remembered to take out the trash. So why do I feel that there is something important that I’m forgetting or not acknowledging?

Even more disturbing, I feel like the OFF-NESS is associated with my new job. I’m a nurse who works in Organizational Development at a local hospital. I was in clinical informatics until September of this year but left after getting my masters degree to pursue my goal of being a nursing educator. Clinical IT was a little too corporate for me. I felt completely cut off from nursing. I saw this job as perfect, incorporating aspects of clinical education with curricula design and program evaluation. Truth is, I feel more removed from nursing now than ever. My boss tells me not to worry, that it can take up to six months to get up and running with my own projects and feel involved and relevant. That was before she cancelled meetings on one of my projects. Before I saw the futility of offering any opinion that differed from hers. Don’t get me wrong, she’s nice and a fair boss (at least that’s what I thought) but I’m wondering if I just traded a frying pan for a fire.

Am I just making too much out of a decision she had good reason to make? I don’t know. She’s off on a cruise this week. I don’t want to think that I made a mistake in coming here. But there’s this OFF-NESS that makes me wonder. Maybe it’s just the strange grey pall that seems to be covering everything? Maybe it’s the result of the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday? Maybe it’s the knowledge that the world is predicted to end this week? Maybe I just need to take a few deep breaths, relax and wait to speak with my boss when she returns (or the world ends). Either way, I hope I know more by the end of the week!

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