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Information Overload

I have a message for the media:  Enough already!  STOP!  Change your focus… please!

I am speaking about media coverage of random acts of violence and terror.  Those terrible events such as the recent shootings in Chattanooga, the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and more…  unfortunately too many to mention here.

There have been two theater shootings in recent years: the first in Colorado and the second in Louisiana.  The Louisiana theater shooting occurred during the trial of James Holmes, the shooter responsible for  the Colorado theater massacre.  His trial has been covered extensively by the media, and featured prominently in the news.

Coincidence or copycat?

The message I’d like to get across is this:  broadcast the events for they are newsworthy.  I need to know what happened, where, and who was affected.   Report the stats about the suspect.  Key information only.  Please do not focus your report on the criminal for days and weeks on end.  Instead, report these events like you report the weather.  What did people do to protect themselves?  How did they ride out the storm?  How are they rebuilding?  And most importantly, how can I help?

You may think that I am sticking my head in the sand…  I’m not.  I am not an ostrich.  Neither am I a judge, responsible for deciding the perpetrator’s fate.   I don’t need to know the minutia of their lives.  That is privileged information that only those directly involved in the case: police, investigators, medical professionals, prosecutors, judges and juries, need to know.  It needs to be entered into medical and legal textbooks, maybe historical tomes.

For me, and most others in the general public, it is information overload.

Personally,  I do not want to know the name of the offender, hear about their childhood, family history, health history, etc.   I don’t care if their families are members of the NRA, republican, democrat, or independent.    I don’t want to know if they’re an upstanding family, well thought of in their community, or if they’re highly dysfunctional.  I don’t need to know their race or religious beliefs and practices.  It’s none of my business.

We are ALL children of God.  Good and evil can be found in every segment of society, regardless of skin color or religious beliefs.  Unfortunately, we hear about the bad things people do far more often than their good deeds.  Judging an entire race or segment of society by the actions of a few doesn’t make sense.  History tells us that Adolph Hitler was German, so was Albert Einstein.

It’s not that I don’t care about someone who fell through the cracks, whose issues weren’t caught in time to prevent a tragedy.  I do care.  My heart goes out to those people and their families and I keep them in my prayers.  I don’t need to know their names in order to pray for them… God is omnipotent.  He knows them, even if they do not know Him.

I believe that the near constant focus of the media on the suspects of horrific acts only serves to glorify the evil-doers.  Take Bonnie and Clyde for instance… no surnames are needed.   Everyone knows who they were and what they did.  Their story has been glorified and romanticized.  Movies have been made about them.

Public safety is paramount.  We need to know if perpetrators are at large;  where they might be, that they are dangerous and desperate people with little left to lose, what we can do to protect ourselves.  We do not need to hear an interview with their second-grade teacher or a former friend or spouse.

Once they are apprehended, we do not need to know where they are locked up.  We do not need a blow-by-blow account of their arraignment, probable cause, court date, and lawyer’s names.  We do not need to know who testified for or against them.  We do not need to see their picture on television for days on end.

Keep it simple.  Tell us who they are, what they did, and what the verdict was.  That’s all we need to know.   Endless reporting of details ad nauseam keeps the focus on the criminal, not the unfortunate people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Instead, respectfully and without invasion of privacy, tell us about the victims and their community.  Don’t hound them unmercifully, but ask their permission (once) to air a brief history and tell me how they and their families are doing.  Tell me how the community is dealing with the tragedy.  Let us know what they are doing to rebuild and move on.  How are they honoring their loved ones?  Most importantly, let me know how I can help.

I worked as a mental health nurse for nineteen years in the Minnesota state run mental health system.  During those nineteen years, I worked with patients who suffered from depression, suicidal ideation, homicidal thoughts, terroristic intention, pyromania, bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, sociopathic personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, chemical dependency, and developmental disablility.

I saw the consequences of violence from both sides.

Some of my patients expressed a desire to commit ‘copycat’ crimes, replicating the actions of someone they saw repeatedly on the news as closely as they could.   Others idolized those perpetrators:  Timothy McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, and others. Bonnie and Clyde.

Still others put voice to intent… stating that they felt invisible, unnoticed, unloved, outcast and unknown.  Once gone, they felt they would not be missed.

What they said next chilled my blood;  if they couldn’t gain recognition for who they were in this life, they wanted to do something to make people stand up and take notice…  something like carrying out a plan to execute innocent people.  It didn’t matter to them if they were killed in the process;  their goal would have been accomplished in the act.  They would be famous;  their names would never be forgotten.  Ever.  Like Bonnie and Clyde.

Now most state hospitals are closed and school counseling positions are being cut as cost saving measures.  The Church is no longer the center of our communities.  More people are falling through the cracks, going undiagnosed, unseen, and overlooked.  They are victims, as well.  Their families have to live with the consequences of their actions, and those families pay a price as well.  Their name is forever besmerched.  Some of them relocate in an effort to make a fresh start.  They may be haunted,  lie awake at night and ask themselves where they went wrong, what clue they missed?  I probably would.

This is a multi-faceted issue.  Each case is unique and there is no one solution.  Gun control is not the answer because first, guns are not the universal weapon of choice, and second, the likelihood of criminals following the rules and submitting to background checks is most likely quite low.  Prohibition of alcohol did not stop people from drinking, so why would outlawing guns stop shootings?  Stripping law abiding citizens of the right to own a gun is not the answer.

I’d like to see us begin by changing the focus of the media from the criminal to the innocent victims, providing better mental health care to everyone;  put counselors back in schools and give them manageable case loads.

Let’s invest in our children and give them the best start possible…  they are the future.  Put physical education, art, and music back into the curriculum and bring back the Pledge of Allegiance.

Allow and encourage prayer in public, especially in our schools.  God has always been in our schools, let’s recognize that fact once again.

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE

Way back in the Fall of ‘14 when the grass was green and lush, I noticed a dripping faucet in the bathroom.  I did what I always do with matters of home maintenance… I told my husband.  He’s somewhat of a jack of all trades and can fix most anything if he puts his mind to it.

“The bathroom faucet is leaking…”  I said.

Jim sighed and grumbled something unintelligible.

A month or so later, we found ourselves in our local Menard’s on a completely unrelated mission.  We passed by the bathroom faucets en route to the check-outs.   (That might have been intentional on my part).

“Oh, look!  Bathroom faucets… c’mon, let’s look…”  I said, infusing my speech with surprise.

“It’s fine.  It’ll last a long time yet.”  Jim  mumbled.

“No, no, no… let’s buy one today so we have it on hand.  Just in case.”

His sigh was accompanied by his trademark unintelligible grumbling.

I steered him down the appropriate aisle and asked “Which one should we get?”

A bigger sigh escaped him.  “I don’t care… maybe that one,”  he opined, gesturing toward any one of a dozen models.

At home, the shiny new faucet took up prominent residence on the kitchen counter.  About a week later it moved to a more central point;  the dining room table.  To get anywhere in our house, you have to walk through the dining room.  Surely he would see it and swap the faucets out, I thought.

Now, I’m not usually one to nag, but I have been known to make the occasional exception… “When are you going to put in that new faucet?  That drip is getting worse.’

“I don’t know… when I get the time, I suppose.”  He said during a commercial break.

Yet another week passed.  The faucet mysteriously appeared on Jim’s recliner.  Within the hour, it moved back to the dining room table, presumably of its own accord.

Some time later, perhaps around Thanksgiving, the faucet was demoted and banished to the dank basement where it was stored in the most logical place… near the home repair tools and plumbing supplies.

I sighed, resigned to the fact that it would not be installed on my timetable.

Fall turned to Winter.  Winter turned to Spring (2015).  The grass was visible, but sparse and mostly brown.  It was the third week of April, roughly two and a half weeks after Easter.

Jim took a shower one quiet Thursday evening, then grabbed and loaded his toothbrush, opening the spigot with his free hand.

Water pressure propelled the single-handed unit across the room in an upward arc.  Water gushed forth uncontrollably.  Our bathroom faucet was now a geyser!

I was in the living room, concentrating on properly uploading our church newsletter to the website.

The dogs barked.

I looked up, wondering if I’d heard a noise coming from the other room (besides the dogs).  I cocked my head to one side and listened closer.  Was that Jim calling me?

At any rate, the dogs were still barking so I went to investigate.  As I walked through the kitchen and into the dining room, I heard a faint voice calling “Hello…”  with no apparent urgency.  He might have been talking on the phone for all I knew.

I quickened my pace.

The tiny bathroom was a sight to behold:  my rather tall middle-aged husband, clad in red skivvies, was standing in front of the vanity with both hands clamped down on what was left of the faucet.  Water spewed between his clenched fingers, spilling into the nearly full basin below.

I paused to take it all in.

“Hello…”  He said quietly.  “Can you shut the water off?”

I dropped to the floor, scrambled to Ground Zero and yanked supplies from the cupboard, tossing them behind me, hopefully to dry land.

Luckily, the shut-off valves weren’t corroded.  Both hot and cold turned easily and within seconds the flow of water ceased.

“It’s a good thing it didn’t blow when we were in town today,”  Jimbo stated, his words laced with relief.

“Could that have happened?”  I asked.

“Oh, yeah… there’s pressure on the faucet all the time.”  Jim knowingly replied.

“Well, aren’t you glad I was home to help you?”  I teased.

His machismo kicked in.  “I would have just let go & shut the water off myself,  I could have handled it.”

“Then you would have had an even bigger mess to clean up.”  I calmly replied.  “At any rate, I’m really glad it happened to you and not me!”  I exclaimed.  “You should be, too, by the way”  I said, leveling him with ‘the look’ reserved for the most special of occasions.

That shiny new faucet once again claimed a prominent place upon the table where it spent a mere sixteen hours before it was permanently installed.

The installation process went smoothly.  It was uncharacteristically quiet… I heard no foul language (and I was listening).  Every single word Jim uttered could have been spoken aloud in Sunday School.

As I stated before, Jim can fix almost anything…  when he’s in the mood.

INSIDE THE BOX

The big Box caught my eye as I cruised past.  My head swiveled of its own accord and I drew up short, suddenly thankful that I was following my husband instead of leading him.  Had I been in the lead, he would most surely have rear-ended me and we would have tumbled to the floor and landed in a heap, perhaps requiring medical attention ourselves.

Jim and I stood side by side, our mouths agape as we stared in disbelief at the white metal Box.

It was a vending machine alright, that much was certain;  and a very large one at that…

It dispensed prescription medication.  Yes, it dispensed prescription medication.  In my mind, there is something VERY wrong with that concept!

Below is a side view pic of the Mechanized Pharmacist.  Around its front sat several people anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones (hence the side-view of the Box).

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Those folks were staring at the Box, too.

The Pharmacist In The Box boasted that it accepted most major credit cards and once you punched in the proper code, found on your discharge paperwork, it would spit out your drugs in the proper dosage and quantity, of course.

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me a fuddy-duddy.  Call me a stick-in-the-mud.  Just don’t make me buy medication from a vending machine.  Not even one dose!  A person can’t get a decent cup of coffee from a vending machine;  how can anyone expect us to buy medication from one?

I’m all for progress, but some things just should not be done by machines!  I like the personal touch of having a real, live, highly educated person dispense the drugs that my highly educated doctor thinks I need after he or she examines me personally. Sometimes too personally… like when they look at parts of my body I haven’t ever seen.

Like my eardrum.   What were you thinking?

I like to see my pharmacist’s credentials on the wall just the same as I like to see my doctor’s credentials in the exam room at the clinic.

I simply do not want to read a little metal placard that tells me where and when my pharmacist was manufactured and by whom.

Size Matters

Women, as a general rule, want to be smaller… not shorter you understand, most of us are already short enough!  Many of us claim not to be overweight, but under-tall or perhaps vertically challenged.  For most of us, buying clothes in a smaller size would be cause for delight… maybe even a little celebration with just the tiniest dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, a dab of whipped cream and a cherry on top.  Double fudge brownie on the side is optional, of course.

Personally, I made it all the way up to five foot two and I still tower over my eight year old granddaughter… my feet are still a fraction of an inch bigger than hers, as well.

Her older sister is another story indeed.  That girl, now twelve and a half, has had bigger feet than me for the past four or five years, and now she’s passed me up in height.

I’ve got her on circumference, though.  I have more curves.  Right now, if that pre-pubescent child stands sideways and sticks out her tongue, she looks like a zipper.

I, on the other hand, do not.

It’s not that I’m fat…  in fact recently, a doctor told me that I am not overweight.

I love that man.  I recommend him to all my friends.

I used to carry around another sixty pounds, but then, when I hit my mid-fifties, I discovered water aerobics… it’s an exercise program that I really enjoy and I’ve made many new friends in the process.  It’s truly a win-win proposition.

I come from a long line of exercise-avoiders, so ten years ago, if you would have told me I’d ever look forward to exercising, I would have called you a liar to your face.

Now I teach class one day each week and if I miss class, I slip into B-drive in the blink of an eye.  There are a few people (mostly men) who can and will agree, but I see no reason for them to speak up now.  I’m trustworthy.

What’s B-drive, you ask?  Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you:  it’s b**ch mode…  and I don’t like it any more than those sweet unnamed men, bless their hearts.

Water aerobics has led to changes in my diet and the extra pounds have disappeared. I even have muscle definition.  My muscles are quite well-defined and I know how to spell their names, too!

My skin is another matter entirely.  It’s holding a grudge and insists on staying a size sixteen.

So now I have a size eight body inside a size sixteen skin suit.  It isn’t all that pretty but I’m healthier in both mind and body;  and I’m stuck with it.

You know what they say;  keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Busted

We climbed into the car after leaving our Western-themed Christmas party, buckled up and skillfully executed a perfect U-turn before making a left onto Main Street and heading home.

Three blocks later, Jim abruptly pulled to the right and eased the car to a stop to allow the squad car behind us ample room to pass as it responded to the emergency it was surely called to… a car accident maybe, or a robbery. Could be a domestic abuse call or possibly a fire.

I said a quick prayer for all those involved, including the cop.

We expected the shriek of a siren followed by flashing lights from an ambulance or fire truck as it roared past while we sat on the side of the street beneath the ‘No Parking’ sign.

The cop, however, had other ideas. He neglected to pass, even though we’d left him space aplenty.

Seconds dragged onward.

Silently.

The blue and red lights atop the squad car reflected from one side mirror of our little Prius to the other, then bounced menacingly off the rear view mirror and into our eyes as the city cop came to a halt directly behind us.

We sat in the front seat, wearing our coordinating cowboy outfits, as we nervously waited to be informed of our crime.

“What did you do?” I asked my beloved.

“Nothing!” Jim grumbled as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

“Leave that ON! You don’t want to get a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt TOO, do you?”

Even in the dim light cast by the streetlight, I could see that little muscle in the side of Jim’s jaw begin to twitch like it does when he’s angry.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling nervous or stressed, I seem to lose the ability to filter my speech. My words just seem to flow with abandon…

Jim sputtered, “I have to get my driver’s license out… HE’S going to want to see IT, for sure!”

“How fast were you going?” I asked, perhaps with a tinge of accusation in my voice.

“I. WASN’T. Speeding.”

“Did you run a red light?” I inquired in what I hoped was my best problem-solving tone.

“NO!”

I was beginning to entertain the notion of keeping my mouth shut when the man in blue appeared outside Jim’s door and shone his standard issue police flashlight inside our car.

First, he swept the beam across our laps, then with a flick of his wrist, he shifted the light behind us and quickly scanned the back seat.

The officer explained, quite politely, that he pulled us over because our passenger side taillight was out. “But your brake lights and blinker are working properly,” he said encouragingly. “And, would you happen to have your 2014 tabs with you?”

Jim cringed as I opened my mouth to speak…

“I think they’re due in March, and I’m sure we put them on…” I said confidently.

“Let me check again,” the officer replied. He returned shortly and confirmed that our plates were current, but that the current tab was partially obscured by the license plate bracket.

Whew.

Then he asked to see the aforementioned driver’s license, explaining that he had to ‘run the license’ before he could cut us loose..

Once he was out of earshot we glanced at each other saying, “Wow! It’s a darn good thing we don’t drink!”

Jim’s license came back ‘clean’ and we were permitted to go on our merry way after promising to drive carefully and get the taillight fixed ASAP.

Dirty Little Secret

Jim was in Duluth working the spaghetti feed, so I was all alone when it hit…

That beast came out of nowhere and knocked me flat. I was dazed and felt like I was sprawled on the floor. I simply did not know what hit me! I hadn’t been wrestling with my demons, or even thinking about them. Perhaps that’s why I was easy pickings.

I gathered my wits and when I could once again string a couple of words together to form a complete thought, I recognized my foe. I stared it down… This was not our first battle.

It was a KILLER craving. The kind of craving that would have me contemplating a trip to Duluth (twenty-four miles) barefoot to satisfy. I hadn’t had a craving like that for a long time… possibly years.

This craving Would. Not. Be. Denied.

I began to rummage through the house in search of a fix… and was inexplicably drawn to the basement.

I could hear it calling my name… faintly, but distinctly.

Once downstairs, I opened a door. And there it was, sitting in its own little corner, back-lit by white light; it was radiant… and it was calling me, beckoning me closer. Inviting me… Tempting me…

I fixed my eyes upon it; I became transfixed. It pleaded, “It’s gooood… C’mon, try a little…”

My hand reached out of its own accord and touched it. A little electric tingle passed between us. I just knew we were meant for each other… and I was home alone. No one would ever know. My fist closed tightly around it and carefully extracted it from its berth.

I cradled it in my arms as I ascended to the kitchen.

It wasn’t exactly what I was craving, but it would make a good base. I could add an ingredient or two and it would suffice.

I laid claim to it, dug in the cupboard, chose a vessel, transferred it from its container to mine.

It. Was. Mine.

I went in search of the other ingredients… opening the bottom left door, slowly sliding my baking supply drawer open, reaching in and closing my fingers around the brown plastic rectangular cover of the Hershey’s cocoa can.

The cocoa sang to me, pitch perfect, of course.

I clapped my eyes on the dish of vanilla ice cream on the counter. My craving DEMANDED chocolate. It did not ask politely, or even suggest… it made its demand and I raised the white flag of defeat.

I would mix a little cocoa into the ice cream and make do.

Mesmerized by the cold confection, I removed the cocoa from the baking drawer by rote, lifting it straight up, then shifting to a horizontal motion to clear the cupboard, then up and over to set the can on the counter. It was kind of a complicated series of movements but I wasn’t worried… I’d done it hundreds of times before.

My thought process, however, was a nanosecond ahead of my arm movement… or maybe the cocoa can was taller than I remembered…

The bottom edge of the cocoa can clipped the upper lip of the drawer. I was left holding only the lid. My right leg was covered with a thick layer of cocoa powder, from mid-thigh clear down to the floor. My new white shoe was coated brown as well. Baking cocoa covered the cupboard shelves, both top and bottom, and spilled out on to the hardwood floor.

My three little dogs quickly gathered ‘round, eager to help with the clean-up.

“NO! SIT!” I commanded. “STAY!!!”

I slipped my foot out of my shoe and hustled over to the closet to retrieve the vacuum, sternly commanding the dogs to keep their distance from the mess. Amazingly, the canines obeyed.

I quickly connected the vacuum hose attachment and sucked up as much cocoa as I possibly could, then wiped down the shelves and floor with a damp rag. I thought I’d put the vacuum away before I indulged in my ice cream. As I coiled the hose, I saw that its inner surface was coated with cocoa; I giggled as I took it outside and sprayed it down with the water hose, then hung it in the shower to dry and made a mental note to put it away before Jim came home… I could imagine the questions he’d ask, but would have to work on a suitable response.

I changed clothes and returned to the scene of the accident.

By that time, I had a lovely cold chocolate soup… It was delicious!

Thankfully, I remembered to take the vacuum hose out of the shower. I felt like I’d dodged a bullet!

Jim came home; he was none the wiser.

The next day I vacuumed the living room carpet as he ate his lunch at the counter.

Since I’m frugal by nature, I only change vacuum bags when they’re full… and those HEPA filter vacuum bags for a Kirby are expensive! I turned the machine on and went to work. Soon the house was scented with cocoa! I worked furiously, keeping my back to my husband lest he notice me struggling not to laugh.

In the end, he kept his mouth shut and so did I.

Body of Evidence, Part II

It’s not every day that I find a dead body in the church… or anywhere for that matter, so naturally, when I do, it quickly weaves itself into my daily conversation…
 
Like this morning…
 
I was in the pool, visiting with a few friends when Lonnie, our self-appointed class clown, arrived.  
 
Lonnie is well known for acting like a seventh grade boy;  he splashes some of us, teases others, and Heaven forbid someone should leave class early!  “Ahhh….” He calls out loudly, “This class goes from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m… Why are YOU leaving early?”
 
Most of us take his antics with a grain of salt; some give it right back to him, while others try to ignore him as best they can.
 
“Hey, how ‘ya doin’?  Anything new?”  He asked.
 
DeeDee and I exchanged a knowing glance;  both of us thinking that perhaps it was time we had a bit of fun at Lonnie’s expense…
 
“Well…” I said nonchalantly.  “I found a dead body in the church yesterday…”  
 
Really?”  He asked.
 
I silently prayed, “God help me, I just can’t resist!”  Then confirmed my statement with a nod.
 
“Wow!  Was it the pastor?”
 
“No,”  I replied, “it wasn’t big enough…”
 
He wanted to know more.  “Was it male or female?”  He asked.
 
“I don’t know… I couldn’t tell… the body was laying belly down.”  I explained.
 
Lonnie continued to question me… “Well…  was it old?”
 
“I don’t know,”  I answered, “Wait a minute… it did have gray hair…”
 
I saw DeeDee smile as she quickly turned away to talk to someone else.
 
Lonnie ran his fingers through his hair;  “Oh God… oh, Jesus…”  He muttered.
 
The poor man was buying it;  hook, line, and sinker…  
 
“Lonnie!”  I spoke loudly.  “Lonnie!”
 
Finally, he looked at me.  
 
“It was a mouse.”  I said.
 
You can imagine Lonnie’s response when he realized I’d been toying with him… I’ll not repeat his exact turn of phrase.  Use your imagination.
 
Lonnie quickly recovered. He soon began talking about his favorite ways to rid himself of a mouse problem.
 
I’d opened my conversation with most of the women in the pool in the same way I had with Lonnie, stating that I’d found a dead body in the church yesterday…  
 
The ladies reacted differently… every one of them looked me in the eye and asked, “Was it a mouse?”  

For some reason, Lonnie behaved better than usual for the entire class this morning…  go figure.
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