Bullying and the Schools who Look the Other Way

So this happened:
Bullied boy dies when life support was pulled

I cannot be the only one whose heart breaks when something like this happens. This has become an epidemic. Actually, this has been an epidemic for some time. I can remember a fool on the bus throwing gum in my hair on the day of the science fair. I had no idea what happened until a good friend pulled me aside. She spent the next 40 minutes carefully pulling all the junk out of my hair, in the hopes that we’d be done before the judges got to our aisle.

Kids have always been mean. Odds are, they will always be mean. However, that does not mean that grown-ups (supposed grown-ups) should turn their backs on these kids and expect the problems to solve themselves. They won’t.

My older was being bullied. The school’s solution? Mediation sessions with the kids doing the bullying. Because they expected that to help. A few weeks later, I was called to the school to pick up my kid. He had told his friends that he wanted to kill himself. He’d even thought out ways to do it. How could this have happened? How did I miss it? I don’t know what I could have done to fix it–I’d sent countless emails to the school. I filled out dozens of “bullying/harassment” forms. Nothing. The kid doing most of the bullying? He’d been tormenting other kids all year.

And then my boy just couldn’t take it anymore. Fortunately for us, he reached out to friends who he thought “wouldn’t care” to let someone know. So we spent 8 hours in an emergency room, waiting for the doctors to release him. They originally wanted to admit him to the psych ward at the hospital–a psych ward with both adults and teenagers living in the same spaces. How is that an acceptable option? It’s not. You know what else in unacceptable? Our insurance was not accepted by any of the programs the doctors recommended that we use. Other, local professionals did not have openings for WEEKS. How is this acceptable? Finally, through the magic of coincidence, an acquaintance of ours just happened to know someone who just happened to have had a cancellation that night and could squeeze him in. Thank goodness for the occasional happy coincidence–even if they only sort of accept our insurance.

Now, my boy can get the medical help he needs. How long before the stigma of mental health and support goes away?

My heart goes out to all families who are going through the pain of trying to save a bullied child.


Love for Lucas

Dear Blog Followers,

Sorry it’s been so long. NaNoWriMo and the mortgage companies (Bogman, Inc and M&T Bank) have made this a busy, busy month. (NaNo = good; Mortgage companies = BAD!)

I come to you with a request. Please help my friends, Beth and Luis. A better couple of folks would be hard to find. Their three year old son, Lucas, needs help. He has a serious immune deficiency, and he has been fighting it since birth. Now, they all need to spend six months in North Carolina for Lucas to receive a bone marrow transplant. They live in Jacksonville, FL. This means they will both need to take extended leaves of absence from work, for which they will not get paid. They also have to pay high deductibles and higher insurance premiums.

If it strikes you, please donate for their boy. He needs your help. Even $5 will help. Heck, even $1 would help. Anything.

Love for Lucas

Thank you for your time.

Much love,

When the Mortgage Man Flipped Me the Bird

My mortgage started its sordid little life as $250,000 offer from my real estate agent’s “In House” lender. I laughed and told them they were insane. Later, Provident provided me a mortgage for all of two, maybe three, months. They sold it to Bogman, Inc, about whom I had never heard anything. This month, after many weeks of finagling a loan modification and making the first payment of said loan modification, Bogman sold my loan to M&T Bank. I had been with Bogman for the better part of three years.

The major problem with this? The terms of the modification require me to make my mortgage payment on the first of the month or the modification is declared null and void. The major problem with that? Neither Bogman nor M&T have sight of my loan right now. Well, they can see that I have a loan (so I can’t just up stakes and run away), but neither of them can accept payment on it. Not cute.

An Eye on Health Care (or: Thank goodness for good nurses)

My apologies for being lax in my blog again. That laxity leads directly into today’s blog.

Friday, my grandfather was admitted to a hospital in Florida. His symptoms: severe chest pains that radiated into his left arm, nausea, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. These are the classic symptoms of heart attacks in men. (The symptoms for women can be quite different. Both men and women can also experience extreme fatigue over several days or weeks.) My grandfather is 75 years old. He has an incredible constitution. However, he also has a history of diabetes and frequent bronchitis and pneumonia. He smoked for decades, though he has not smoked in more than twenty years. When he arrived at the hospital, the first responders administered nitroglycerin which eliminated the chest pains.

All of the above should have fast-tracked him into serious care. But no. My grandfather, and therefore my grandmother, mom, uncles, and aunts, have all been trapped in clinical limbo. After running a battery of tests on my grandfather, the doctors failed to call in a cardiologist to examine him. The only cardiologist native to that hospital was away for the weekend. (Yes, doctors need vacation, too, but you’d think the hospital would have more than one cardiac specialist on duty.) The cardiologist on-call (from many miles to the south) didn’t arrive to see my grandfather until 5 o’clock Saturday evening. That’s almost 36 hours after he was admitted.

My granddad is all hooked up to all kinds of monitors and such, so it’s not as though they’ve shunted him off to some closet somewhere, but many of the doctors seem to be just too busy to care for him. And they lose his test results. Now, he has to wait until Monday to see the hospital’s cardiologist to see whether they’ll give him a stress test (designed to push his body to the verge of a heart attack; which seems like an absolutely TERRIBLE idea), or perform a catheterization. The on-call cardiologist who visited my grandfather yesterday recommended a catheterization immediately, but because of the way the hospitals and insurance are set up, she can’t actually do anything. She can only make recommendations.

It’s a miracle anyone even called her. Whoever read my grandfather’s myriad test results got stuck looking at his lung -xrays and decided that they needed a pulmonary specialist. My grandfather does have a history of bronchitis and lung ailments, but that was not the main issue. The main issue was the probable heart problem that got him admitted in the first place. If my grandfather’s nurses hadn’t noticed that no cardiologist had been contacted, Granddad might still be waiting to be seen. …Except that my family has never been known for being quiet, bless them. They would have made some kind of fuss, that’s certain.

Happily, the nurses providing care are brilliant, hard-working, and adept at finding the proper help whenever necessary, no matter whether they might get in trouble for stepping on toes. The nurses explain all the charts and all the equipment. They have been keeping my grandfather–and my grandmother who has been there with him almost the whole time, and their children–as comfortable as one can be while sitting in a hospital, awaiting answers.

Nurses–good ones–provide hope.

A New Writing Brigade

I love to write. I love to write using purple ink pens. Sadly, those nifty purple ink pens tend to be disposable, not reusable. This has inspired much guilt. However, I have recently discovered a way to alleviate this problem, maybe. In lieu of simply tossing away my dinky little pens, I can recycle them!


TerraCycle–an ‘upcycling’ company–partners with Newell Rubbermaid Office Products to re-purpose no-longer-inky pens. (Newell Rubbermaid manufactures the purple pens I have been using as of late. They are the makers of Sharpie, EXPO, and PaperMate products.) Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up at the TerraCycle site to be the leader of the Writing Instrument Brigade (or any of the other Brigades–there are many).

2. Gather empty, unusable pens/markers/etc and partner with a charity/school.

3. Send the writing instruments in to TerraCycle, using the pre-paid shipping labels they provide. TerraCycle then sends $.02 per acceptable writing instrument to the 501(c)(3) organization.

Check out more information, straight from the source:


This is a convenient way to give back. 🙂

My little pen obsession

Yeah, these guys know where they’re going once I’ve run them dry. 😉

Let’s Play the Radical Honesty Game…

I just finished my recent copy of The Week. (It’s one of the best investments that I’ve ever made.) Near the end of the magazine (right before the page of games that is the last page), they run an essay entitled The Last Word. Now, in The Last Word, the editors of The Week have placed some really fun essays–one about a mom who let her kid ride the NYC subway home alone (and yes, the kid turned out fine), one about why folks have trouble with spouses (there have actually been a few of those; must be a recurring problem), etc.  In this last issue, their Last Word essay is all about one man’s quest to understand the concept of Radical Honesty and use it in his life, if possible.

Radical Honesty is a…well…radical concept.  The basis of the idea is a theory posited by Brad Blanton–he doesn’t want us simply not to lie, he wants us to eliminate the “public filter” that we have imposed upon ourselves in polite society. In his eyes, everyone in this world should say everything we think–whether it is hateful or loving, hurtful or healing or neutral.  No matter the immediate cost to ourselves, we should be completely honest with each other because Blanton thinks that only then will we be able to really “contribute” to other people’s beings.

We create little (sometimes big) fictions not just to keep ourselves safe, but to protect those around us as well.  Imagine telling your mother that you think she is horrendously obese. Or telling your dad that you think he is a shiftless moron.  These things hurt people.  Once you have said something, you can never ever really take it back.  It’s always in the air like smog in LA.  Even if you cannot see it all the time, the echoes of those words will not completely fade away.  They will sit there, biding their time, until they catch you unaware–maybe it is a great day for you, otherwise; maybe it has been the worst day of the year–and punch you in the gut. Not only does Radical Honesty have the likelihood of emotionally maiming the people at whom it is aimed, it also contains the potential to harm the one doing the directing.

Yes, honesty is touted as the best policy–and it certainly keeps things simple–but is it truly the best possible option? Always? Granted, telling your best friend that she has gained some weight may coerce her into going to the gym, but being super-blunt about it could wreck the friendship–odds are she already thinks she is fat, anyway, and your telling her this only breaks her heart, so a better option might be to talk to her about going to the gym as your workout buddy or joining you on your evening walk. …On the other hand, honesty can save you a heck of a lot of time. What if you would rather skip the boring meeting about running the copier? (Seriously? Is it that hard?) I told one of my co-workers that I would certainly not like to go to the meeting to “be taught” how to use our brand-new copier. I didn’t have to go to the teaching session, and I still have my job.

Generally, though, I’m only brutally honest about resentments when I am really mad. For instance, I was dating a guy for a while, and I really didn’t like him. (Somehow, I let myself get cajoled into it. That will never happen again. I think I can safely say that I learned my lesson.) After we finally broke up, and he had started “seeing other people”, we hung out every now and then. I started meeting other people. Fun stuff. Then he rained all over my parade with his self-pity and condescension-to-others-who-are-not-him. Not acceptable. Once he realized I was getting really serious in a relationship with someone else, he got very confrontational. I mostly ignored it. What I really should have said was something along the lines of:

“No, you don’t deserve the hottest girl you see–you’re getting grossly obese, you tend to have an inflated sense of self, and you were really mean to “the chubby girl” in your office who had the utter audacity to talk to you like she was an equal. What is wrong with you?”
“Get over yourself.”
“How dare you insult my children and wish them bad things!” (Though, this, I actually did say to him.)
“I resent you for trying to make me feel guilty about breaking up.”
“I resent you for being so overly obnoxious all the time.”
“I resent you for being so hateful to/about my sports teams. Yes, it really does upset me (25 years later) that the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, and that Paul Tagliabue and Jack Kent Cooke seemingly tag-teamed Baltimore out of a football franchise for decades, thus losing us the “Colts” name and the colors. Jerk.”
“I resent you for wearing an Indianapolis jersey to meet my Dad and thinking it was funny. You’re lucky he’s a pacifist. You’re lucky that I mostly am, too.”
“I almost wish I had allowed that angry fan to pummel you when you were being obnoxious. The first time we hung out.”
“I resent you for driving like a maniac in your stupid little car all through the streets of Bethesda and into the parking garage, and then trying to pick a fight with a girl and her boyfriend because she was having a hard time getting her (rather large) vehicle into the teeny-tiny spots in the parking garage. Those spots are almost too small for a motorcycle, no less a full-size vehicle. Seriously, dude: Lose the road rage. And don’t brag about how you can take a punch and then call the cops on the guy. You instigated, and the DC-Metro-area police have better things to do. I wish I had walked the six blocks to the Metro and ridden it to Rachael’s place, instead of consenting to continue listening to you bitch the whole way to the restaurant. At least the food was good.”
“I resent you for wishing bad things on my fiance. You need to learn to grow up and take responsibility for your own actions and inactions.”
“I resent you for ridiculing the candidate that I favored. Politics isn’t that important day-to-day; quit being a schmuck.”
“I resent you for convincing me to like you, even though all signs pointed to ‘No!'”
“I resent you for whining about how much you hate living in this area while refusing to leave.”
“I resent you for whining about pretty much everything in the whole world. That doesn’t make you “punk”–that makes you a malcontent. Nobody likes those.”
“I resent you for being so hateful to tourists and foreigners–they have as much right to ride the mass transit as you do. Also, you weren’t born knowing where to go, so cut them a break.”
“I resent you for hating on overwieght people–you’re not skinny in the least, so not only are you a mean individual, you are also a hypocrite.”
“I resent you for hating on the mass transit system all the time. Lighten up. Enjoy the chance to experience of all kinds of new people. Accept that you do not dictate when the trains and buses arrive. Bring a book.”

You know…now that I think about it, Radical Honesty might be a pretty good idea. At least in moderation.