Monday, November 17, 2014

Power of propaganda, prayers and politics

In response to Sunday Morning Commentary by Steven Levy on CBS Nov. 16, 2014 
(posted at the end of this article)

God is not suppressed in school. Kids can pray whenever they want. We don't promote Christianity in schools because in this country we have freedom of religion. Contrary to the beliefs of many, that does not mean anyone is free to become a Christian. Students in public schools belong to all kinds of faiths - not just Christianity.
In my classrooms I taught kids who believed in Islam, Buddhism, in God, Satan, and Judaism. All of those children were free to silently pray whenever they wanted. Any of them could read religious books during reading time. We celebrated diversity. We respected different religions.

Let's put the blame of out of control kids where it tends to belong-bad parenting skills. Religion in school has nothing to do with it.
  • Parents who don't parent
Children reflect the values of their parents. Violent parents who slap their kids around are producing violent kids who take out aggression on others. You don't have to cause pain for children to act appropriately.

It's called taking time to communicate. Let your kids know what you expect and why. Tell them you're proud when they do something right instead of yelling when they do something wrong. It's called modeling. Give respect to get respect.

My kids were far from perfect but they knew how to treat others, never to bully anyone, never to make fun of those less fortunate or to ever think they were better than people who were different. Lots and lots of former students were already damaged because parents embedded hate and modeled discrimination. Kids are not killing people or spewing hate on the Internet because we don't have 'God in schools'.

It's because too many parents plopped their kids in front of the TV as the main babysitter. 

It's because too many kids see violence at home, see men hitting women and parents hitting kids.
It's because of mental illness, nightmares and fear. And we look the other way.

The father who says his kids respect him because he whipped them with a belt - doubtful. His kids were probably afraid of him. Big difference.
You earn respect. You can't demand it. Kids who get hit learn that hitting is the way to solve problems. They often feel they can't ask about personal problems or confide in parents they fear.

School shooters? Because God is not in school? You must be kidding.

First, most of these kids got guns from parents. People who own guns should be responsible and keep them locked up. If kids don't have access to guns, they can't shoot people. When a gun is used to shoot a room full of students, the gun owner should be charged for allowing a deadly weapon into the hands of an unstable child. If you can afford guns you can afford a gun safe. Lock it.

  • Ronald Reagan picks special interest groups over mentally ill

Second, there is a huge problem with lack of service and insufficient facilities for the mentally ill. The problem exists in schools and in general society. When President Reagan de-institutionalized the mentally ill he pleased special interest groups by saving  money previously spent on shelter for the mentally ill incapable of caring for themselves. While his rich buddies cheered his cutting of  the 'welfare state', they ignored his cutting of the safety net.  

Actions have consequences. One consequence was earning more money for special interests. Another consequence was to literally place vulnerable citizens unable to care for themselves out of the street. 

Reagan's actions caused a huge influx to the homeless population. Mentally ill patients with no family ended up on the streets or in jail.  Many veterans suffering from mental illnesses (caused by fighting for our country) and kids timing out of foster care ended up homeless. Due to taking from the needy and giving tax breaks to the upper end of the tax bracket, groups homes closed down or reduced the number of  available beds due to budget cuts. Reagan's action caused a vast number of our neediest citizens to suffer in the name of saving dollars.

As mental facilities became more scarce, instead of shifting money for treatment or shelter for those who couldn't care for themselves, the wealthy seemed committed to greed and the rest of us looked the other way. Again. 
The deplorable action in dealing with the large number of homeless people in overwhelmed communities seeks out victims to victimize them further.
Private homes, boarding houses, and people unqualified to care for the mentally ill took advantage of them. Many ended up in jail.
Cities made it a a crime to lay on a park bench, sleep on the beach or feed a hungry person. Instead of helping those with mental illness we treated them like unwanted animals or moochers and lazy bums who needed to get a job. 
Most cities dismissed the inhumane treatment. As long as they could rid their towns of these social deviants, it didn't matter what happened to them. Chronically ill patients were handed a week's worth of meds and a one-way bus ticket to another city. Problem solved. Those who survived and were physically able to express themselves probably felt angry and frustrated.  We pretended it was okay and ignored the consequences of such cruelty.
Public schools were short-changed for years. Unable to provide proper testing to get treatment for at risk kids with mental problems, the neediest children tended to get in trouble for acting out. They'd be teased and bullied for their odd behavior. We shook our heads at those 'odd' kids who got bullied. Then the wrath of the consequences of untreated mental illness got too big to ignore. They started shooting.
Once again, the government saved money at the expense of children in desperate need of services. If we actually helped these kids and provided appropriate services in schools, some would have a chance to live a normal life. Many innocent lives could have been saved if kids received professional help. Maybe. Too many long lists of referrals for testing, therapy, counseling- sat on desks or stalled in budget talks. 
The problem just gets worse. Congress continues to cut human services. But, mental illness doesn't go away.  It seems many politicians want public schools to fail. Why? To make money, of course. Privatize. No regulations. More dirty money.
They useless cry for putting God in school has nothing to do with the reality of violence boiling over from raging mental illness. Our choices, our priorities, our willingness to ignore the needs of children-that's what contributed to school violence.

  • Expecting filet mignon at hot dog prices

When I started teaching 25 years ago we didn't have the same kind of problems we have in today's schools. We also didn't have 'God' in public school. What we did have was parental support, parents involved in their kid's lives, a reasonable number of students in each class, sufficient planning time and the tools needed to do our job. We focused on teaching instead of jumping through hoops, wasting time giving worthless tests, following ridiculous impossible mandates like No Child Left Behind.

When I left teaching a few years ago, I had so many students in each class I'd decide each week which class I'd babysit instead of teach. They got rote drills, worksheets and worthless material or a film related to content. It's the way I handled too many students. Every week I'd rotate a class to simply exist so I could do lesson planning, correct papers, give kids feedback and work one on one. Like many teachers, I still worked 2-3 hours on school work when I got home.
The pay didn't keep up with inflation and expenses got higher. Again, like many others, I've paid my share of school lunches, purchased food to send home with kids who had none, drove homeless students to food pantries, paid for bus fares, got second hand coats- all the 'extras' many teachers do to help kids survive. 
When you care about kids you deal with the reality that too many go without basic needs. Too many are neglected. The saddest part is knowing there are so many needy children who don't get any help. I'm pretty sure that 'God in schools' isn't going to provide housing, clothes and food for needy children. Again, these kids suffer because of adult choices. We make the decisions not to fund vital services or to cut nutrition programs. Children suffer the consequences of that greed.
If only the 'OMG teachers are so overpaid and get summers off' complainers would step in front of 35 high school kids and successfully run the class - as in keep discipline under control, get kids to participate and interact and be engaged in learning and see the relevance in content, THEN those anti-teacher people can talk about how 'easy' teaching is. (Repeat that class 7 times a day for 3-4 different preps). 
When I left teaching I worked with about 225 kids each day. God in school or not, trying to reach 225 children each day, correct their work, provide feedback, give individual instruction, and keep all of them on task? Umm, no.

As I recall in 25 years I think I had 2 summers off. I either had to work another job or take classes to renew certification to meet other requirements.  Yet, the same people who preach about our 'out of control kids' are often the ones who support cutting funds for education, refuse to pay teachers what they deserve and send their kids to parochial school or home school.  There are some great teachers in public schools but they aren't miracle workers or magicians.
Sure, there is much more to the problems with youth in society than the few I mentioned. But, guess what? Trying to blame the problems in society on not having God in schools is just another way to misuse religion. It is an excuse. It's like citing a Bible verse as proof when you can find another verse supporting the opposite view. The Bible is not literal. Unless we still stone women for adultery or force widowed wives to serve their husband's brother, or any number of archaic messages, we need to realize times have changed.
By the way, I am a Christian. No one has EVER pushed me around for believing in God. Instead of blaming issues on others, we should realize our personal choices play a big role in consequences.
This particular rant reflects my frustration with those who try to simplify a complex issue, place blame on others or hide behind religion.
Violating the rules of logic and simply spewing out information with no objective facts is the trademark of the Fox News brand. The Sunday Morning Commentary sounds like the propaganda churned out by Fox News. It is an effective technique. If you use all the key words to appeal to emotion, you can get readers all riled up before they have the chance to realize there is no substance in the claims.
Yes, commentary is opinion. But, it still should make sense. This is crazy talk! IMO, instead of harping on the empty plan of putting God back in schools - whatever that means, let's start using some common sense.  There are many reasons for all the evil in society, the old God in schools claim is not one of them.
Oh hell. We all know who is to blame.  Thanks, Obama.

The following was written by Steven Levy and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:
 I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat...
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
In light of recent events... Terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school... The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Steven Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about.. And we said okay..
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.--end of commentary

What a pile of illogical nonsense filled with emotional key words. Sure, when someone said 'you better not read the Bible, all Christians ran and hid their Bibles, right? NOT. I don't know anyone like these 'people' to whom you refer. Whatever anyone was told to do they responded with okay?!
Our kids have no conscience because we didn't slap them around? That makes as much sense as Pat Robertson's claims that feminism turns women into lesbians who leave their husbands and kill their children - or something that cray-cray. Crazy talk.
What ever happened to common sense? You know what happened: Like, Charles Manson said go and kill your classmates and strangers so we said 'okay'. And stuff. Unbelievable crap all shoved in a sack with a cross glued on top.

"We believe what the newspapers say but question what the Bible says." WTH are you talking about? And who? I believe some of what I read by credentialed journalists because their work is based on research and fact. I don't believe fake news shows like Fox News because it is propaganda more than news (fact checks show over half is not true).

Question the Bible? I would hope anything a person reads causes thinking and questioning. Otherwise we're a flock of sheep with no minds of our own. The Bible was literally written by the hand of men. It was roughly translated from difficult to understand archaic languages. Words and syllables were misinterpreted. Every translation caused more input from man.
IMO, the Bible is a piece of work paraphrased from stories of God. It certainly isn't literal. Yet, too many use it as an excuse to beat children, hate certain social groups while they completely ignore the model Jesus gave us.
Feed the hungry, help those in need, give to the poor, money is evil. Sure. Evidently the extremists who cherry pick Bible verses must have skipped over those pages. And, the ones about killing those who participate in sex outside of marriage. So ridiculous.

From a logical standpoint, your essay is filled with mistakes. As most people learned in junior high, when the fallacies or reasoning and flaws in logic are used in arguments, the speaker is usually emotional and not being fair. Look up a few definitions like begging the question, circular reasoning, false analogy, slippery slope, and the others. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kardashians, Mirrors, Fakers . . . Tick Me Off

Jim Bessey, the founder of  SoWriters Writing Group, suggested members respond to a Monday Madness prompt:  What's ticking you off?  In his defense, maybe he didn't know the time and space it could take to keep track of what's ticking me off. But, here's a teeny weeny start.

Top Ten Things Ticking Me Off Today

  1. HOUSEWORK should be ignored until you run out of clean unders. But, this theory has its flaws. Like waking up early Monday morning, opening dishwasher, fetching favorite cup, placing it on coffeemaker to see slimy spaghetti sauce floaties bobbing in my coffee. Crap. Who didn't start the dishwasher? Then, taking a shower, reaching for a clean towel  . . . Whoops!  Someone didn't do laundry. Does this mean I am supposed to help my husband more with housework? I take time to write 'dust me' on the end table heading back to the office where I still have a straight path to my desk.
  2. WRITERS with overblown egos who need constant attention by forcing their imaginary, self-professed, life-changing stories and/or mediocre accomplishments on to a mostly give-a-crap audience.  Reminds me of potty training.  Look! I went pee-pee in my potty!  Well, good for you.   That is something no one has ever done!   Oh, junior, you're unbelievably gifted!       Live in a fairy tale or face reality. Your choice. Here's the deal:  Back in the day I learned the hard way you can't please everyone. Stop trying. My philosophy pretty much works. Your friends and relatives accept you and love you, the rest of the world? F'em if they can't take a joke.  For real. As far as writing is concerned, any writer can improve, every writer who wants to improve should consider suggestions and feedback, writers who cannot handle constructive criticism need to grow up or end up selling their books to a following of relatives. No, I am no better than any other writer-just older and wiserJ.  Don't be the high school kid who takes it personally when he gets his essay back.  OMG Ms. E, all these red marks might as well be my blood dripping on the paper!  No, criticism is not personal.  So don't take it personally. Or you could seem a bit insecure, immature and such.
    Constantly in the spotlight, it is a puzzle why these people
    are newsworthy. Courtney, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner. (Getty Images) 

  3. KARDASHIANS. Especially Kim and the one who used to be married to that basketball guy. No, not Kim's former husband basketball guy. That other basketball guy.  And Kayne West fits into my #8 things that tick me off.
  4. CLUELESS PARENTS who drag their little kids to Walmart at midnight then scream and threaten to hit them for fussing and crying.  Maybe there should be an IQ or common sense test in order to reproduce.
  5. NFL, PRESS, FANS, RAY RICE.  Really? We all knew the details. He knocks out girl, drags her from elevator. Gets hands slapped.  Meh. THEN the video surfaces and he finally gets punished. Why is it NOW and not THEN people got so outraged? Did they think he accidentally bumped into her head with his fist? Use your imagination. Put the words together with a mental image. Viola! That's what domestic abuse looks like.  Stop the ignorance.  Once you become an adult, you shouldn't need pictures to understand words.
  6. OPEN CARRY. I'm all for gun rights for hunters and protecting your home BUT the 'right' to carry rifles into grocery stores or playgrounds is too crazy. Reading about protests from open carry supporters who need to show people they have big guns, I'm thinkin' they should leave Kroger's and head for a city like Oakland, CA. Stroll around in the flat lands. See how quickly some of these jokers change their minds about open carry 'rights' when it applies to large groups of minorities in an urban setting instead of hillbillies in the middle of nowhere.
    Obviously, these Open Carry Texas members hope the
    big guns make up for their shortcomings.:-) They need
    these weapons at Chipotle because you never know when
    a rabid rhino could storm into the restaurant. (photo courtesy of
    Open Carry Texas)
  7. POLITICIANS lurking in every corner is the price to pay for living in Iowa, some politician's mug continuously shows up on local TV ads, in the news, on the street, in my nightmares (big-headed politicians act like flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz swooping in to take a PBJ sammich out of a toddler's hands, while his sister throws more coal into the old stove).  STOP!  How about we quit cowering to wealthy bullies? Maybe ban political ads? Fact checks for each candidate? Electric shocks? Lie detector tests?  Nose grows longer every time they lie?
  8. AN ASS IS AN ASS IS AN ASS. Wasn't it Will Shakespeare who once wrote 'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet'? Or Gertrude Stein who penned, 'A rose is a rose is a rose.'  Still true.  It does not matter if someone is a movie star, a famous athlete, a well-known politician, a beauty queen or a cashier. A profession is not an excuse to be a jerk.  Money doesn't make you better than anyone else.  A rotten disposition, a big ego, ugliness-none of it makes it okay to mistreat, bully, tease, put down, or be a jerk to any person minding her own business.  Bullies often pick on smaller, vulnerable, innocent victims because they lack the kahunas to take on anyone else.  Meanies.  Jerks.  Bullies.  The lowlife who dumped urine on the autistic kid.  Ray Rice.  Bill O'ReillyMark Driscoll. Call them what you wish but the fact remains.  An ass is an ass.
  9. MIRRORS.  It's difficult to use the restroom and wash hands without seeing that strange reflection in the mirror.  Who the hell is that?  Strange that I think I am younger, skinnier and better looking than the gray hair and saggy eyes staring back at me.  Of course, that's when I might seek the comfort of eating something fattening.
  10. FAKERS. Not the faking orgasm kind (probably N/A) but the fakers like fake Christians who promote hate, can't get their hands on enough money, judge others instead of looking in 
  11. the mirror, consider women second class citizens, and mostly ignore the words of Jesus-yes, even those who talk to God through seashells on the beach or on their iPhones or Rick Perry and his direct hot line to God.   Especially those.  It's like the old cliché .  It's easy to talk the talk but when it is time to walk the walk, fakers run and hide in the closet. (pun intended) Thus, the word 'hypocrite' was invented.
Blame Jim. Or Blame Obama. Seems to be the thing to do for every problem in the universe.

. . . 11. People who complain just because I signed them up for FB groups and stuff.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another Classic Baking Show - Anna Makes Treats & Kool Aid

In typical Anna style (with a few miscues), she shows viewers how to make crispy rice treats and Kool Aid. First, the drink tastes like water, then it is too strong. Once again, she is tempted to 'taste test' her recipe (AKA double dipping the spoon).  Combining over-the-top drama with her out-going personality, this Gaga and Anna's Bakery scene demonstrates Anna's natural ability to communicate in the spotlight.
If you comment on your favorite treat, Anna will mention you in her next show.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Death of Robin Williams Opportunity to Focus on Mental Illness

Hearing about the death of a famous person like Robin Williams brings up an issue many people would rather dismiss.  Mental illness. When a wealthy, talented man with access to the best doctors and the best care is so depressed he hangs himself, imagine the plight of those who have limited or no access to mental health services.
Think about it. A man with connections, fame and a long list of family, friends, and fans could not escape the darkness of depression. While some laugh about people seeing a "shrink" and doubters claim mental illnesses don't exist, it causes suffering as authentic as physical injuries.  

Something good is slowly happening as a result of Williams' tragic experience. More advocates are exposing the urgent need to improve services for mental illness.  Those in charge of providing funds for the mentally ill living in poverty need to look at the human suffering caused by government decisions to reduce the budget and cut services.  Politicians need to start doing what's right to relieve the suffering of with mental illnesses instead of doing what's cheapest. Ignoring unnecessary suffering is inhumane. 
                                                                        Overlooking Commitment to Mentally Ill Veterans

As a comedienne Robin Williams entertained the American troops on USO tours in 13 different countries.  As a philanthropist his contributions aided soldiers needing help with the hidden wounds of war.  Williams said he was humbled by the troops and what they experienced. 

Since his death the US Army has released footage of Williams entertaining the troops.  Lt. Col. Arnold Strong said Williams connected with the troops through his comedy but many identify with his struggle with depression.

He said many veterans understand what Williams experienced. "Depression doesn't discriminate. It targets the best in us and it also brings out the worst in us," Strong said.

William's connection with veterans suffering from mental health issues, combined with his own personal struggle, should draw attention to veterans living with mental illness. The government trains soldier and sends them off to war promising benefits for their family and support when they return. As too many veteran are discovering, politicians would rather play political games and stay loyal to their party while turning their backs on soldiers deserving to be honored. Instead, they are ignored. Congress keeps veteran's bills from passing just to one up a political adversary. It's a sad statement about the greatest country in the world. We can afford to spend $3 trillion in wars but there is nothing left to take care of those sacrificing the most.
More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day. The majority either cannot get help or the help is ineffective. Instead of treating the men and women who risk their lives for us and giving them promised benefits, politicians play their games while vets wait for months for an appointment.

Here's one example: A soldier returned from combat in Afghanistan struggling to fit in. He suffered with nightmares and post traumatic stress. A buddy finally convinced him to go to the Veteran's Administration to get help. He walked into the building, went to psychiatry and explained his situation.  He walked out of the building, went to a nearby park and shot himself.  His appointment was in 3 weeks. Politicians gladly snatch up young people - especially those without jobs or living in poverty, to ship them over and do our dirty work. Then, after seeing and doing unimaginable traumatic deeds, he comes home, but the VA is done with him. He's no longer useful.
M                                                                                   any veterans return from war broken in need of help.  Yet, soldiers willing to die for our country return home to find the government was more interested in sending them to war than helping them deal with the consequences of war.  Left untreated, many veterans struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress and related illnesses struggled with broken relationships, unemployment, alcoholism or drug use, discovered government services were inadequate or nonexistent.  
Our country is shamefully negligent in serving the mentally ill.  The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates over half of all homeless people suffer from mental illness.  About the same percentage of the homeless are veterans.  The US Department of Veteran's Affairs found that homeless veterans fought in several different wars but 47% served in Viet Nam. The Coalition study results show that 45% of homeless veterans suffer from untreated mental illness. There is no excuse for the government ignoring veterans in need of mental health services.

We Need to See It to Believe It

It seems easier to empathize with visible ailments. When patients recover from broken bones or suffer extensive burns, their pain is obvious.  That doesn't mean hidden pain is any less hurtful.  Back in the old days family members advised depressed relatives to Suck it up or Get over it. It's not that easy. It is not a choice.  Much like diabetes or asthma, depression is invisible taking over your body without your permission.

One Patient's Story of Depression
(as told by Deb M)

As a long-time patient of depression, my illness has surfaced in different ways.  I've stayed in the house for weeks at a time spending most of those days in bed staring at the walls or walking around in a lethargic daze with no purpose.  When I already feel worthless with no sense of purpose and feel like I'm completely lost in my own life, wasting more days just makes it all worse.

                                                       Following are some of Deb's dark stories (told in first person)

Depression settles over me like a dark veil; it's so heavy I can't breathe, so dark I can't see through it, and somehow it won't come off- even if I try to peel it away.  It's suffocating me. If I could tear it off I'd feel naked and exposed. I should close my eyes and go to sleep and maybe no one will look.
I can't find anything to cover my body.  Friends walk by laughing and pointing and teasing me carrying their piles of blankets.  I close my eyes and wonder if this is how victims felt when they were locked in the stocks at Salem. They were trapped.  

Humiliation gives in to scorching pain radiating from my white hot desert sand bed.  My dry lips are stuck shut like a broken zipper, my tongue seems too big to fit, and I feel like I am going to choke to death. Then I see the hazy outline of a person standing above me.  I feel relieved thinking about tasting water and no longer burning in the sun.
The voice sounds familiar. Someone I've always trusted. Someone in my life.  Another gruff but jovial voice helps lift my burnt ugly body out of the hotness.  The scorching sun and swirling sand won't let my eyes see who is helping me. Just blurry outlines with voices. 

Wild laughter breaks through my daze.  I feel liquid dribbling on my bleeding lips.  I choke on the vile taste of urine. Then terror takes over. I know it's the same nasty man.

When the rough hands let go of my throbbing wrists I feel like I am falling through air. I close my eyes hoping to disappear or instantly sleep- like the sleep after taking too many sleeping pills. Then when I wake up, no one can hurt me. I'll be safe.
When I make my eyes open my body turns into heavy stone. I never ever needed help so much, ever. The hissing noise slithering over my arm makes me squeeze my eyes tight.  I just keep thinking 'this isn’t real'. I squeeze my eyes tighter, trying to make my mind go away.  
When a burning sting breaks through the side of my neck, my eyes squint open as the burning gets hotter like a drill-a screwdriver digging into my scorched neck.  In that second I glimpse several shapes huddled around the top of the pit. A familiar voice asks if I can talk. But, my lips cannot open. My head cannot move.  That's when I know they won't quit. As long as I suffer they won't quit.

 I think the woman's voice says, "Here. This should help you!" I hear more squeals and laughter. Then she tips over a big box, shaking it as its terrified cargo hisses in the air. As each snake splats on top of me, I try to reach up. I try to say, 'Help!'  Then the voices of my fake friends drift further away.  In a second of courage I concentrate on making my legs or arms move.  I want it to be over . . .
That's the short version of a familiar nightmare. That's part of the reason I don't go to sleep.  I am afraid of the stories from the past leaking from my brain.  Versions of the same snake nightmare happened four times. Each time a family member has died the next day.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of demon controls me. Or does the evil live inside me and comes out when I am afraid? Sometimes I can't tell if I'm in the dream or in the world. 

                                                                                     Depression Looks Different for Each Person

The consequences and treatment for depression are not the same for everyone.  And, some victims of depression can hide it well. They are good actors.  It isn't that uncommon to have friends and family unaware of the disease.  Symptoms can be similar. A few are common.

I often start weeping for no apparent reason.  Watching TV, driving or doing laundry, there's no way to predict the onset of a crying jag.  It feels like a little despair, a little emptiness, a little sadness all wrapped up and covered in a sense of doom.  Then when it's over, nothing has changed.  There's no sense of resolution, no relief-just more of existing without a purpose.
Another piece of depression is lack of joy. There is no joy in activities that were once enjoyable.  Camping, boating, ball games, fairs-all kind of 'things' I  liked to do, no longer motivate me enough to leave the house.  Then, the few things remotely enjoyable aren't possible because of money.  My funds don't support travel, concerts, theater, shopping, or a good bottle of wine for that matter.
So, I do soak up a pity party on occasion.  Karma has returned to bite my ass. Not sure why.  But, I worked my whole life to end up with buckets of time.  Time to stare at the ceiling. To go to sleep crying. To wake up in tears.
When I have a minute or two of inspiration, I can start a project but it never gets finished. Even a simple household task, watching a movie or reading a book, I don't allow myself to move out of the chair except to use the bathroom.
I have big problems with concentration and memory.  I make appointments and don't go to them.  Partly because I don't care. Partly because I don't have the energy to change clothes.  I go for days with one or two hours of sleep and then sleep for 24 hours. If I fall asleep for a 'normal' amount of time I have familiar nightmares. The kind where you wake up and think it's real. And scream. During nightmares I often yell and kick and talk and wake up crying and scared.

Getting cleaned up takes too much energy.  Greasy hair or smelling underpants doesn't bother me. I have no shower Sundays that stretch into five days without bathing. It's no big deal.  When I am miserable, I feel like I deserve suffering.  I feel guilt but I'm not sure why. Except I know any problem, illness or difficult time for my children is my fault. I think about 'what ifs' and imagine different endings. 
                                                                                                       Stand Up and Make a Difference

Statistics on depression suggests over 120 million people worldwide suffer from a form of depression. It (the ones we know about) causes over 850,000 deaths a year.  Statistics show more patients need treatment due to this serious disease.  Due to political choices, necessary services for depression and other mental illness are being cut while the numbers of those in need continue to increase.

Cutting away the social safety net by reducing money for basic services has a ripple effect throughout society.  Unfortunately, it often takes an overwhelming tragedy to remind citizens of the desperate need for mental health funds.  When Gabby Gifford was shot by a mentally ill person, people took notice.  Society is shocked when children die at the hands of mentally ill shooters. Without needed treatment, dangerous mentally ill patients end up homeless living on the streets.
Most forms of depression can be treated with therapy, drugs or a combination.  Chronic depression often requires more extensive treatment.  The following statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the extent of depression in our society.
  • Nearly 10% of the population experiences depression in some form
  • Those with chronic depression (major depressive order) is about 3%
  • Chronic depression is the leading cause of disability for the 15-44 age group
  • Over 15% of people  with depression commit suicide
  • Undetected depression among alcohol and drug users is estimated to be 30%
  • Restricting mental health services overloads emergency rooms and jails.

There are many ways Americans can advocate for better mental health services.  You can become a member of the National Institute of Mental Health (nimh) to be an advocate. Click here for more information. Write or call your Congressmen requesting funds for basic mental health services. Share info on social media and with personal contacts.
Donate or volunteer to groups helping veterans with mental health disorders.  Share your story and get involved.  Most importantly,  help keep the topic in the spotlight.  Society needs to realize the consequences of mental illness.  It shouldn't require a national tragedy to recognize basic needs of the mentally ill.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sex Education: 21st Century Kids with Parents Living in the Past

Imagine you are a health and wellness educator.  It's up to your department to choose appropriate resources to teach sex education as part of the curriculum.  After the tedious process of sifting through recommendations and samples, reviewing research and statistics and considering needs of the students, your team selects a textbook.  The district endorses the unanimous choice of the educators, Your Health Today. The school board approves and the book is ordered and distributed to Fremont, California's six high schools. 
Then naive or ignorant or uninformed or extremist or overly-protective parents got involved.  After a few angry parents browsed through the book, you'd think the students, the school and the entire Fremont School District were headed straight to hell. After 2000 signatures, the book was shelved while the school worked with the publisher to change some of the 'controversial' references.  A few of these 'controversies' included: 

·         Anatomically correct drawing of reproductive organs
·         Discussion about unwanted pregnancies
·         Inappropriate topics like sex toys or sharing your sexual history with your partner because How does that relate to my 14-year-old kid?
·         Showing graphic pictures and explaining how to put on a condom is pornography

     Obviously, educators were aware of 
     the information in the book considering it a vital resource to keep kids informed and safe. The superintendent's statement echoed the instructional team's philosophy. Your Health Today  “provides current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health.”  
If accurate sex education gets the 'controversial' stamp in California, imagine the reaction of parents in the Bible Belt.  Hence, the conundrum: to serve the needs of students while satisfying unrealistic demands from parents.  Someone is out of touch with the real lives of 14-year-olds. Let's just say it is not the educators.

Why does teaching comprehensive sex education to sexually active students cause such a bru-ha-ha in the United States? For the same reasons it was controversial in the 1980's, the 1900's, the 2000's and any time the topic arises. It's all about our messed up perceptions of the human body and its natural functions.

 Your Body Is Not a Wonderland - It's Evil

In American society we seemed to inherit parts of the Puritan code regarding sex. We've learned to be ashamed of naked bodies, embarrassed about the natural process of the body parts-like breast feeding in public, associate being bad/naughty/evil with masturbation or any sex act not needed for reproduction. Instead of being comfortable with natural human urges, we are expected to suppress them.

In case you need an example supporting this anal attitude in American society, think Janet Jackson.   The Janet Jackson Superbowl wardrobe malfunction fiasco - (when [gasp] part of one breast flashed the crowd) was not a proud moment in our history. Unlike real news like house fires killing kids or the discovery of an antidote for influenza, a couple inches of exposed skin made all the headlines for weeks. Reporters, viewers, and large numbers of wanna-be drama queens discussed ways to save America's children from a lifetime of nightmares and how to erase such an ugly chapter in our country's history. They speculated on conspiracy theories trying to make sense of the heinous act. 

To summarize: Unlike more progressive countries where people think nakedness is natural-that humans were not born clothed, an incident like the breast exposure fiasco would probably go unnoticed.  Or, it'd be like, "Hey Sven, did you see her perky breastie?" Then Sven (rolling his eyes) responds with, "Are you in kindergarten, dumbass? It's just another titty." Or something like that.

                                                                 Parents Just Want the Sex Talk Thing to Go Away

Many parents say sex education belongs at home. Great.  The problem?  Many prefer not to discuss such a sensitive topic with their kids. Others are too uncomfortable to bring up little details like how it's possible to get pregnant or get a nasty infection w/o penetration and many other enlightening scenarios.  Instead of sharing accurate information about sex in an ongoing conversation, some parents just want to get it over with, have 'The Talk" in 20 minutes or less and be done with it. Then there are always those parents who don't know that much about sexual health, proper sexual etiquette, the existence of oral sex and such.  

Then there are the old-school parents who go with the excuse, Kids learn all that stuff from other kids. That's the way it's always been. That's how I learned about sex and I turned out okay.  Sure.  In other words let's keep doing what we've been doing just because we've been doing it.  In any case, sexual health is more effective when taught by an objective person more in touch with teen sexual activity.

                                                 Just Close Your Eyes and Look the Other Way, AKA Denial

Sure, your kid has never experienced a natural body reaction when surrounded by hotties.  Yup, you're right. It's the neighbor's kid across the street or kids with no parents at home, or kids who do not go to church.  They turn into bad girls and bad boys. THOSE are the kids who have sex. Your princess would never think of such inappropriate acts. She goes to church every Sunday.  And, yes, we're so proud of junior. He is waiting for marriage (Junior makes crude gestures snickering in background). Oh, my. Freshmen in high school are too young to learn about sex. That will expose them to inappropriate material for their age. Or not.
That's part of the problem; many kids don't get accurate information about sex until after they're sexually active.  In reality, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says sex education should start with 10 year olds.  In order to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, children need to learn facts about sexual health before they become sexually active.

Sex Education Causes the Moral Decay of Our Youth

Several organizations including The Society for Adolescent Medicine cite studies showing comprehensive sex education programs do not cause an increase in sexual activity. Sex education does not lower the age of first sex and does not increase the frequency of sex.  On the other hand, research proves the abstinence only programs funded by the US government do not work.   Columbia University research proved 'virginity pledges' and other programs convincing students to wait until marriage did not work. While many students waited longer to have first sex, 88% of the abstinence-only students initiated sex prior to marriage. 

While the US government spent over a billion dollars funding abstinence only programs proven to be ineffective, the government has spent zero dollars on funding comprehensive sexual education programs proven to be effective.  Due to accurate information about contraceptives and safety, the comprehensive programs were successful at reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Tell the Truth and Nothing but the Truth

One of the most troubling statistics on federally funded abstinence only programs is the distribution of inaccurate and misleading information about reproductive health.  Those resources, proven to be ineffective and misleading, were also dangerous. The material prepared by the US Department of Health and Human Services contained false information about the effectiveness of contraceptives, the risks of abortions, stereotyping gender roles, and claimed religious beliefs as scientific facts.

Twenty First Century Kids with Parents Living in the Past

Many parents still believe abstinence only programs work. Research continually proves them wrong.  The parents who refuse to accept scientific facts are harming children in the long run.  By keeping accurate sexual health information from students, parents are exposing their children to unsafe practices often leading to unwanted pregnancy.
Not much has changed in attitudes toward teaching sex education.  Many parents realize a high percentage of secondary students are sexually active. They promote providing accurate information about reproduction, birth control and other areas of sexual health with the intention of keeping children safe.  Parents who refuse to accept facts and choose to rely on ineffective programs like abstinence only, are setting kids up for serious problems.

As long as so many people insist on using religious beliefs as scientific facts, too many sexually active kids won't have access to accurate information about contraceptives, safe sex and other aspects of comprehensive sex education.  It seems strange that those putting kids in danger by hiding behind the morality excuse are the same parents responsible for their well being.
C'mon folks. It doesn't require a college degree to resolve the supposed controversy of teaching sex education in schools. It simply takes common sense. It's a choice between doing what's best for students or appeasing out-of-touch parents. 

*UPDATE On August 14 the Fremont School Board voted 3-2 to return the new sex education books to the publisher. They opted to continue using the 10-year-old books filled with misinformation. So much for doing what's best for kids.


Ten Myths about Sex and Pregnancy  (according to Web MD)

  • If you have sex while standing, you can't get pregnant. Wrong. Stand up, lay down, run, sleep-whatever. It has absolutely no impact on sperm hooking up with an egg.
  • If it's your first time, you can't get pregnant. Wrong again. It can be the hundredth time or the first time you have sex. It is still all about eggs/sperm.
  • If you do jumping jacks right after sex, you can't get pregnant. Ummm. No. Jumping up and down or other exercise doesn't have a thing to do with the sperm/egg courtship.
  • If you are having your period or you are in the water, you can't get pregnant. Again, not true. It might be messier but that's not gonna stop the swimmers.
  • If you douche with Coke right away after sex, you won't get pregnant. Wrong. When the egg and sperm join they haven't traveled to the vagina you are douching.
  • As long as the female doesn't have an orgasm, pregnancy won't happen. No, no, no! Multiple orgasms or no climax at all might be a factor in your relationship. But, after conception the fertilized  forms a zygot-a 100-150 cells that differentiate after two weeks to become an embryo.
  • If a male does not ejaculate inside the vagina, there's no chance of pregnancy. Very, very wrong. Fluids are discharged before the penis is even inserted  Prior to the big moment more fluids leak out, semen can be in this fluid.  If you are physically touching sexual organs, sperm and eggs can sneak into a fertile place. So, if a guy 'pulls out' prior to ejaculation, your baby makers do not care.
  •  Many other myths exist. Instead of believing another inexperienced person, ask an adult (counselor, nurse, guidance, teacher, nurse, doctor). Don't be embarrassed. Ask for more information as needed. Do some research and use common sense.