Thursday, April 28, 2016

Violence Begets Violence?

I live in a small town and there are many wonderful things about small towns. The downside is, everything and everyone are under a microscope. People usually know what you are doing before you do. It is just the nature of the beast.

One thing that our small town has that it seems every town has, large and a bullying problem. I know I have talked about this before, but since the problem seems to continue, I guess it is worth more than just a mention.

Our school district, like many districts anymore, has a zero tolerance policy on bullying. I believe it goes something like, if you are "caught" bullying, you are suspended and if the act is heinous enough, possibly even expelled. Zero tolerance.'s a wishy washy policy that often times the bullied is the one who ends up suffering the consequences while the bully skates by, free to bully another day. ask?! Because bullies aren't stupid. They know the school policies so they bully under the radar of staff and administration and unless staff and administration actually "see" the act, apparently nothing can be done. There is also the little talked about fact that at times, staff and administration are also the target of bullies and once this happens, well you can imagine. The inmates start running the asylum.

There is a Facebook page in our town where people can discuss town issues. One issue that seems to constantly stay at the forefront of discussion is bullying. It is sadly happening from kindergarten right on up through high school and parents are frustrated that administration is not listening or doing anything about this. We have kids bullied to the point of trying to commit suicide and still the problem remains and ever growing issue. Why? I have my theory, but first I want to discuss the bully vs. the bullied.

The bully is a kid that regardless of how popular, good looking or smart they are, feels insecure and not at all as the world see's them. Because they feel so horrible about themselves, they feel the need to go after others and they get some perverse satisfaction out of making others feel as horrible as they do. The bully is a kid who has everything except what he/she craves the most.....attention. They go after that attention anyway they can with the attitude that any attention is better than no attention at all. Add to that, many of these kids have parents that live by the mantra..."my kid would never" when in reality their kid is not only doing it but is also the ring leader, and you have a kid who knows they can get away with anything. And finally, the bully is a kid who has never been taught that others matter. They are not empathetic in the least and quite probably are one of the most shallow, self involved, narcissistic individuals you will ever meet. They feel entitled to act anyway they choose, they are two faced and hold no relationships close to them. They don't have friends, they have followers and they are cunning enough to know when, where and to whom they can put on the charm, whether it be teachers, parents or anyone else they are trying to manipulate. They lie as easily as they breathe and they have no remorse for their negative actions regardless of who gets hurt or how they hurt them. It is not a pretty picture and I bet as you read this, you know at least one person that has one or more of these qualities. You know a bully.

Now the bullied. The bullied is someone who is viewed as weak. In reality though, the bullied is usually a rule follower who believes that IF they follow the rules, they will be taken care of. In other words, they believe that if someone bullies them, that if they go to their teachers or principal and tell them what is going on, that the issue will be taken care of. They have been brought up to believe that you don't or can't fight back so you must sit back and wait for someone to take care of or save you. When they do tell what is going on and nothing is done, then they are viewed as a "snitch" and usually they become an even bigger target. Eventually they just give up and quit telling.

Sadly, anymore with the internet and social media, bullying is no longer just a school yard issue. Bullying follows kids wherever they go whether it be Facebook, twitter or Instagram and what is said about them is forever out in the internet world. Kids are not emotionally equipped to handle this kind of personal terrorism, so it is no wonder so many kids choose to kill themselves when they are harassed day and night and no one listens.

So with all of this going on in our little town and all across the country, I asked a question on Facebook today. I asked:
"If a kid were bullying another kid and being sneaky about it around adults or authority and the kid kept the bullying you think the bullying would stop if the bullied kid suddenly punched the kid and knocked them to the ground telling them that if it happened again, they would end up on the ground again?"

I wanted to know if people would be honest and if people felt that standing up to a bully might stop at least some of the bullying kids now face. The answer overwhelmingly was YES, kids need to stand up to a bully. Some of the answers came from people who had been bullied themselves and many came from parents who felt that regardless of the consequences, i.e. possible suspension, that their kids needed to stand up and fight if necessary to stop themselves or others from being bullied. Among these answers, there was one who said, "No...violence begets violence."

Honestly, I was surprised that there weren't more that felt this way, but since I was asking for opinions, I respected the fact that among all those that felt the complete opposite she spoke up and said No! And truthfully, I do in a way see where she is coming from. We live in a world where every news cast, every paper and a majority of the headlines that come into our news feed all have to do with violence of some sort. We live in a violent world and I am sure, to her, this sounded like more violence. Unfortunately, sometimes in this world in order to survive, you have to fight fire with fire.

So now my theory. I know you were sitting on the edge of your seat just waiting for it. theory is this:

We have become a world where we expect "someone" from our parents, to our teachers, to our government to take care of us....regardless of our age or circumstances. We have become a weak society and because of this, we forget that we actually hold a great deal of power.

When I was growing up, my parents taught me that if someone bullies you, you have every right to fight back. Teachers and principals used to live by this standard too. I remember telling a teacher one time when I was about first grade that a boy had pinched me. She looked at me and said...."Go pinch him back." The boy was standing right there and I did pinch him, right in front of her. You know what? He never pinched me again. You know why? Because he knew that I would pinch him back and most bullies will not mess with someone that fights back. They prey on the weak.

I think if more parents empowered their children and taught them to first use their words to fight back (I have talked myself out of a few bullying situations) and then if that doesn't work, to literally fight fire with fire, there would be a whole lot less bullying. That empowerment and confidence then stays with them their entire life, and that is so important because we all know that there are going to be bullies all throughout our lives whether it be bosses, spouses or just abusive people in our world who see us as a weak and easy target. We have to teach our kids that the world is not going to protect them, it is up to them to stand up for themselves and yes......sometimes fight.

Bullying in our society has gotten way out of hand and a zero tolerance policy is only as good as the people who enforce it. I say, teach your kids to stand up for themselves. Will this get them suspended? Possibly, but the likelihood of them getting bullied by that kid again when they get back in school became much less.

Words hold a lot of power and sometimes they are all that is necessary to get you out of a bad situation. Other times though, a bully needs to be shown that you are not afraid and that they hold no power over you. If that takes a punch in the nose, then so be it. It is not the end of the world and more than one punch in the nose has been the start of a long and lasting friendship.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Darkness and Devastation April 26, 1991

                                                             Photo Courtesy of Jon Davies

Tis' the season....tornado season that is. Today the national weather channel along with all our local meteorologists are telling us that tornadoes and at the very least severe storms and giant hail are likely. They didn't have to tell me. My migraine was way ahead of them as it hit me about 1 a.m. More than that though, David had a seizure yesterday followed by a long night of no sleep. Our bodies are telling us that there is a definite change in the atmosphere.

I am a Kansas girl and I have been watching and dodging tornadoes since the beginning. I know the feel, the smell and how the change affects kids, animals and the attitudes of adults. If you live anywhere in Tornado Alley, then you know what I am talking about.

Blessedly, while I have seen tornado's form (many times) and just as often seen the destructive aftermath of these uncharitable beasts, I have never actually been in one and pray that I never am. However, I have unknowingly followed one and pulled up literally moments after it had destroyed most of a town. This was April 26, 1991, the day Tornado Alley had an outbreak of 55 tornadoes, killing 22 and nearly destroying Andover, KS.

As I get older, some memories fade, but that day is ingrained in my memory forever.

I was young and things like weather had little affect on me. Life was busy and I was always in a rush, but from the moment I stepped outside that day, it felt weird. I went to work and the air felt heavy and still. The sun was  barely shining through what almost felt like an overcast mist. It was the high moisture content in the air causing astronomical humidity and an unstable atmosphere. I worked half a day that day and went to the beauty salon to get my early 90's girl perm. My hair was long and it took forever. Even inside of the air conditioned building, the cool air was no match for the high humidity and heavy air. I sat drenched in sweat as did everyone else in the place. It was uncomfortable and I remember feeling irritable and just wanting to jump up and leave, perm rods in my hair and all.

Once done with my hair, I remember walking to my car and feeling like the air was overwhelming and that I really couldn't catch my breath. Being an asthmatic I reached for my inhaler. It really didn't help.

I headed to my then boyfriends house as we were to meet there when he got off work. As I walked in, he handed me the phone. My mother was calling me and telling me that she had picked my son up from school (she was babysitting that night) and that I needed to keep an eye on the weather. Our local meteorologist Mike Smith (he has national fame now), had said we were really in for some bad storms. I half listened as any 20 something, who thinks they are invincible does and felt confident that I was fine and that IF there were storms, my son was safe in my moms basement.

The boyfriend and I had been dating a while now and he had decided that he wanted to introduce me to some of his close friends. So soon we were on our Andover. Now mind you, in one had cell phones. There was no instant information. Unless you were listening to the radio or watching tv, you didn't really know what was going on. However, the sky was beginning to look a bit ominous as we left and lightening flashes along with big claps of thunder were happening all around us. Heading east, we ran through a heavy down pour and then as we pulled out of it, we saw a huge wall of dust and debris that looked as if it was from sky to ground. It almost looked like smoke and as we drove and I watched it, I asked boyfriend what it was. The wind had picked up and he figured that is what it was. I decided to turn on the radio to our local station with the best weather, which was KFDI. The KFDI weather alert warning was going off and Dan Dillon said Sedgwick county was under a TORNADO WARNING! My heart nearly stopped as we both realized we were driving right next to the tornado!

Suddenly you could see cars stopped all along the side of the road. Boyfriend decided that we better do the same. We watched as the tornado continued on for several minutes and then was gone. He suddenly looked pale and shaky as he realized that the tornado had just made a path right where we were headed. We jumped into the car and began driving straight into the debris path that the tornado had left behind.

I sat there speechless as I saw trees uprooted, power lines down and debris of every kind scattered and strewn across the landscape. Then I saw something that literally gave me chills. There was a powder blue baby blanket that had been forced through the trunk of what was left of a tree. It was hanging out either side and I felt my whole body shudder.

As we continued to drive we were on the outskirts of Andover in a mostly farming area. The dirt had been drilled through, trees were stripped of bark, leaves and branches. Barns had no roofs. Cattle and horses were standing dazed or running crazed. It was beyond surreal. It was like nothing I had ever seen...even in a nightmare. Little did I know, the nightmare was just beginning.

We finally drove up to his friends house, they were just emerging from an outside, in ground storm shelter. They lived in a decades old farm house that looked to be untouched by the tornado. The yard was full of fencing, posts, kids toys and debris from goodness knows where, but the house was fine. However, their property had two out buildings. One was an old dilapidated barn which they were planning to take down. The other was a brand new Morton building which had just been put up to replace the old barn. Left standing was the old barn. The Morton building was twisted like a soda can. If only we had had cell phone camera's back then. It was literally unbelievable.

Immediately boy friend and I began picking up debris, feeling helpless as the family, still shaken from what they had just endured, tried to take in what their previously immaculate yard now looked like. As we worked, rumbles of thunder began to be heard in the distance. Then from out of nowhere, a strike of lightening came from the sky and hit somewhere very close by. There was a pop and sizzle and you could see sparks flying. Then within seconds the sky opened up. It was a down pour. In the time it took us to run 100 feet to the house, we were all soaked.

Through it all, they had not lost power.....even with the last lightening strike. We turned on tv and sat and watched as we saw what had hit Andover and McConnell Airforce Base. Again, there was no cellphones or instant pictures, so news crews were flying to the hit areas and grabbing up any pictures or video that bystanders might have. As the pictures slowly came in, the realization of what boyfriend and I had been driving right next to hit me. I called my mom to make sure that she and my son were okay. She was frantic wondering if I was okay. She begged me not to go anywhere until the storms were over and she reassured me that the storm had completely bypassed them. I was relieved that they were safe, but I was also in a state of bewilderment at all that was going on.

The storm raged on and suddenly the phone rang. The friends answered, hung up and immediately began rushing around.  Apparently they were a part of an emergency volunteer team in case something like this unthinkable disaster happened. They asked for a ride to the school bus barn as their cars had been in the Morton building We all jumped into the car and headed towards town.

As we got closer, it became pitch black. There were no lights. All landmarks had been uprooted or destroyed by the tornado, so we had to drive slowly with only our vehicle lights to guide us. The rain continued to come down in sheets and everyone's nerves were on edge, praying we didn't come across electric lines or worse.

Finally we saw the big spot lights that had been set up in town. Search and rescue was on and traffic was at a stand still. News crews were everywhere, along with police, fire and rescue. The police were stopping cars as they were only allowing volunteers and rescue personnel into the town. The friend knew the cop and we were immediately directed to what used to be a parking lot. Now all that was left was rubble and debris. What the stores and shops once were, were no longer even remotely recognizable.

The friend and his wife jumped out saying a hasty good bye as they jumped in another vehicle that was taking them to where they needed to go. Boyfriend and I got out and just stood there looking around and wondering what to do from this point. It was crazy dark with spooky shadows from what little light there was. The rain was beginning to ease up and as the sound of the storm faded, another sound became more apparent. It was the sound of people crying out. It was the sound of suffering.

From all different directions you could hear cries of, "Help" and people yelling  "Over here". Sirens were blaring in the distance as people were being triaged and then rushed to the emergency rooms. People were rushing everywhere and I felt helpless. Then someone came up to us and asked if we were there to help. We both said "Yes," without thinking. He told us to go to the school where they were taking people who were now without homes. We headed over, again.....carefully making our way through the darkness and destruction.

Boyfriend and I ended up spending several hours there, talking to people, grabbing blankets and trying to reassure people that things would be okay. How do you reassure someone of that, when you yourself are not sure?

As the sun began to peak through the horizon, we were told we could leave. The light shown a sight that the darkness had hid. Andover was no longer a town. It was a pile of rubble and as rescue workers were still digging through pile after pile of bricks, mortar and glass, there was an eery early morning silence.

Boyfriend and I began the drive home. Neither of us spoke. There was simply nothing to say. What we had seen was what nightmares are made of.....but this was real. People lost homes, possessions and worst of all.....their lives. It had been a force of nature that no man could stop and at the time, the warnings of this impending storm were not sufficient.

Boyfriend and I never spoke of that night again. I never told my mom about the events of that night and only in the last few years have I really been able to think about it.

So yes, the Weather Channel has us on high alert for another possible tornado outbreak, I think of that day 25 years ago, I remember and I pray that I never see anything like that again.

Be safe!


Monday, April 25, 2016


Do you ever get inspired? No…..I mean really inspired? Inspired to the point that you want to be better, do better or make a change? These last few days, inspiration has run a muck with me. I have been inspired by several different people and believe it or not, I even inspired myself….(but that is a story for another time and another blog.)

To be quite honest, I am usually so busy that I don’t look up long enough to be inspired. That, and I don’t get out much. My life, although never without a dull moment, is usually status quo and one track and some days, I hit the floor at 6 a.m. and before I have a chance to blink, it is time for bed. There is little time for thought or inspiration on those days. But I digress…..

So my first act of inspiration happened when I talked to a couple of longtime friend a few days ago. We were discussing another person’s current needs and suddenly my friends spoke up and said, “We will help!” It was just that simple. It was followed up with them saying, “If you can help, you should help!” These people and those words inspired me more than anyone can ever know.

The conversation got me to thinking and made me realize that in most situations, there is almost always something each of us can do to help another person. We all have our own skill set and our God given abilities that we bring to the table, so why do we not use them every chance we get? Now truthfully, there are times when my only skill set or immediate ability is prayer, and sometimes…….that actually trumps everything else. However,there are those times and situations when I can speak out, call around, pass information along, write a blog or just listen…… and each of those things depending on the situation can be very important and maybe even life changing.  I know that and most of the time I do try.

So as I said, I was inspired and I told another friend about it. I said that I felt that I needed to step up my own game and do more because quite honestly…..If I can help, I should help. She took this as me counting myself short, pointing out that I do try to help. Yes, I do at times, but I know me and I know that I can do more.  Now….I am inspired to do so. So in the future, if I can, I will.

Then there was the other event. Again, longtime friends whom I haven’t sat down and actually talked to (except of course on Facebook), came and saw me today. They are both exceptional women, whom I have known for close to forty years. They actually came seeking my help for a project they are about to embark on. Sadly, my skills fell short of what they needed, but the project they shared with me, well it is brilliant and yes…..inspirational. 

It is something that made me realize just how amazing these two women are and how they can potentially inspire not only me, but women as far as the blogosphere can reach. It also made me realize that once again, I was falling short and their inspiration has made me want to once again… better.

How I am going to do better with the skills I have and the world I have been handed? I haven’t as yet completely decided, but trust me…..something is coming.

As for these two women, their project will soon be taking flight and when it does, I know you will be as inspired as I am. While I will not spoil their surprise as of yet, trust me when I say that I am already their biggest fan and you will be hearing a lot from me about them.

So yeah.....inspiration. It is everywhere if you have the time to look for it, but if you’re like me, every once in a while, it just hits you like a brick, wakes you up and starts in you a spark, that with the proper thought and dedication, may just fan into a full-fledged fire.

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Christianity and Cake

My what a petty, self-indulgent country we have become. We are all about the First Amendment, only if it favors us. The rest of the world be damned. It frustrates me, especially in the world of Christianity and the gay community.

I saw two memes on Facebook today and I found them both to be relevant. One said, "If you think it's a sin....then for is probably a sin." Notice the meme said, "for you." It didn't say for the rest of the world, only you. I take this to mean that if you feel something is sinful and it falls outside of the Ten Commandments, then for you and your probably is a sin.

The other meme said, "Jesus ate regularly with thieves, whores and sinners, but you can't make a cake for someone who is gay?" Hmmmm. If we believe it is not our place to judge and only God's, maybe this holds some merit.

So now that I have people scratching their heads and wondering where I am going with this.......

There are two sides to every situation. In most cases, both sides believe the way they do for a reason and both sides should at the very least be listened to. So lets look at this. I am a Christian and I believe in the Bible and the Ten Commandments. The thing to remember though is that while the Bible is the word of God (old testament especially), it is man who is discerning the word of God. Did Jesus truly eat with with thieves, whores and sinners of all kinds but find homosexuals, to be especially heinous? As for the Ten Commandments....those were written by the finger of God and I judge my own sins by the commandments. The sins listed within them do not list homosexuality, so I don't really see being gay as a sin. I also don't really see it as being a choice. I have known way too many gay people and it really never was their choice. All of this being said, many Christians do believe that homosexuality is wrong.

I know many kind and loving Christians who feel that you love the person but hate the sin. Yes, they see homosexuality as a sin. Perhaps this perception comes from those who represent their sexuality in the face of everyone. Most of us really don't care what you do behind closed doors, but many in the gay community like to take it to the streets, half naked and throwing their sexuality in the face of all present. Of course, that is their First Amendment right under freedom of speech and as an American, I know that I would not be willing to take it away from them. If I don't like it or don't want to see it, I simply don't attend a gay pride event. I will not take their rights or their beliefs away from them just because I don't agree with how they are presenting themselves. After all....this is America....right?

So what about the Christians, who do feel that homosexuality is a sin? What about those that feel that participating in an event or supporting homosexuality in any way is a sin? We are not talking about those who belligerently demoralize, hate and harm gays. We are talking about people who love the person but see the gay lifestyle as a sin. We are talking about someone who owns a bakery, flower shop or venue and because of their beliefs and under their First Amendment right for Freedom of Religion along with the age old American tradition, that as the owner of a business you have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, declines making a cake, doing flowers or renting a room for a gay wedding or event. Should their rights and freedoms also not be respected?

The flip side to this was when a gay run bakery in California was asked to make a cake for a group that was known to be unsupportive of the gay community. The baker refused. No one lost their business or their livelihood and the bakery were touted as heroes in their community. How is this okay? How is this fair? How is this anything close to what Americans should act like?

And here is a question for you? If you went to a bakery and they did not want to make your cake for whatever reason, why would you demand they do? Why would you want to put your special day or event in the hands of someone who didn't support you? Is it at this point that it then becomes the principle of the thing? Are you demanding them to respect your right to believe as you do, but you do not respect their right to believe as they do?

Now I know many gay people who would just simply say, "You don't want to make my cake? Fine! I will go to someone who does." End of story. They don't expect everyone in the world to agree with them, like them or even accept them. They know however, that there are those that do and they will take their business and their money to them. They don't try to destroy a business, a livelihood or a family.....just because someone didn't want to make a cake. You know what this is called? Respect for others beliefs!

So many lines get crossed when people demand respect without giving it. You can't try and take peoples rights away and expect yours to continue to stay in tact. People are losing their businesses, livelihoods, reputations, etc....because we only want the First Amendment if it serves us and only those who agree with us. We are slowly imploding in on ourselves and I am not sure we are even aware of it.

In this country, you can be gay. In many states, you can be gay and get married. In this country, you can also be Christian. You can believe that being gay is a sin. In this country, you can own a business and refuse service to anyone for any reason. You can speak up about what you believe in and what you don't believe in. In this country, all Americans have the right to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of belief. This does not mean we have to agree, but it does mean we have to respect each others rights. Individually it is fair and in a democracy with a majority vote, it is the fairest form of government. Taking rights away because we disagree leaves us all at risk.

I say if you are Christian business owner and don't believe in supporting a gay event....don't. If you are gay business owner and don't want to support and anti-gay event, by all means....don't. If you are gay and want an amazing wedding or event, then go to a business that will support you and make your event all you want it to be. If you are Christian and don't agree with gay weddings and gay events.....don't go. Both sides have the right to believe as they do and both sides should respect that. After all, it would be a shame to lose our freedoms and rights over......cake.