Saturday, September 6, 2014

Crayons to Ka-Booms

Photo credit: The Antelope Valley Times

We hear it on the news all too frequently, a bomb threat has been issued and entirely too often it’s at a school. It’s usually in some faraway place and we empathize with the families that are impacted by the scare. Then there’s that one time that it’s in our own backyard.

That one time happened in our community three – yes, you read that right, THREE – times in the span of only TWO days. We live in what is generally considered a quiet, almost sleepy, middle class city where there’s a fairly low crime rate. Obviously that doesn’t make our community exempt from incidents, threats, and crimes, but the idea of three school bomb threats in two days certainly makes you stop and wonder what’s going on.

One of those threats was in a middle school and the other two were in the same elementary school, one on each of the two days. Think about that for a second – an ELEMENTARY school. In our school district, elementary schools are grades K – 5 and middle school is 6 – 8.
Here’s the really alarming part of these threats, at least for me. The news broadcasts about the elementary school threats stated that the second threat was written on a bathroom wall in a “different color crayon” than the first. Crayon….can you even imagine seeing something like this scrawled in crayon?
Photo credit:

What does that say about our kids? Do they not understand the seriousness of this kind of event? Are they hurting so badly they have to scream out for help in such dramatic fashion? Teenagers are almost always tortured souls, but these kids are between the ages of 5 and 10. What is our society doing to them that they display or imitate this kind of action?

Wow…that was my only reaction when I heard that line about the threats being written in crayon. It made my heart hurt for our kids and our society in general.

Thankfully, none of the threats were real. Officials searched the schools each time and found nothing, but the terror each parent had to feel when they got the call or heard it on the radio was tangible. The trepidation and fear that each student felt was shaking.

To say the entire scenario is alarming is an understatement. These kinds of antics are seeping into kids at younger and younger age levels every day. I don’t profess to have answers, but we do need to do something. Kids deserve a chance to be kids and shouldn’t be subjected to these kinds of events. I realize a threat doesn’t hold a candle to what the kids in the Middle East face daily and my heart bleeds for those young lives, but change starts at home. Maybe if we all think before we speak or act in front of kids, we all might help make a difference.

UPDATE: The local police department has identified and arrested an 8 YEAR OLD for inducing panic. This child is now facing charges in county juvenile court. My heart just breaks for this child! What is going on to push him/her this far?!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

Let’s face it, life can be rough. Sometimes we all need a little boost to help “fix” our attitude and get us through another day. Oddly enough, these little tidbits are usually found when you least expect them and in the most unlikely of places.

You know what I mean, you come around a corner and there it is, right there on a billboard – or what seems like a billboard to you at that moment – some little clip that just makes everything right with your spirit, even when you’re struggling hard in the battle of the day. Maybe you’re flipping through a magazine and a phrase leaps from the page and directly into your consciousness to soothe the weary soul. Regardless of where you find it, it’s never when you’re looking for it. 

Not long ago, I ran face first, almost literally, into my inspiration, but you’ll never guess where - the ladies’ room. Yep, THE most unlikely place. No, it wasn’t some witty jingle scrawled on a stall wall with black Sharpie. It was this lovely formatted decal with foil words and golden feathers floating around it to enhance the ethereal ambiance….yes, I was still in the ladies’ room, which is never a place I would have considered ethereal before that moment. 

My family and I had just visited my mother in a nursing facility where she was moved about a month and a half after a severe stroke. On our way home, we stopped at a restaurant that had close family ties, but was now under new management and was sporting a spiffy, new renovation. It was one of those days where I was overjoyed that my mother was doing well, all things considered, but was heartbroken by her condition and how far removed she was from her recent vitality. My spirit needed a boost and my attitude needed some serious adjusting. Before heading back out to the car to begin our 90-minute trek home, I stopped in the restroom. As I opened the door and stepped in, there it was – you could almost hear the angels signing when it stopped me dead in my tracks. 

“Live every minute with love in your heart, grace in your step, and gratitude in your soul.”

How can you argue with that? It says it all with such simplicity that it’s awe inspiring. I was dumbstruck by the elegance. So much so that I did something one should never do….pulled out a camera in the bathroom (GASP). Before I go on, let me just tell you how much I abhor the bathroom selfies, but this was NOT a selfie moment (thankfully!). 

The phrase graced the wall adjacent to the ladies’ room door with no other embellishment. It was given its own space, which would have been stark if it weren’t so poignant. The decal’s location made taking the photo less distasteful. Even though it goes against my grain - bathroom photos, I mean – I’m glad I did it. To this day, I will dig through my phone’s photo gallery to re-read that phrase when I need a little uplifting. 

Since I can’t credit an individual for the quote, I will simply say thank you to Willie & Red’s in Hagerstown, Indiana for enhancing their ladies’ room and subsequently my day/life with this lovely sentiment. 

Saying Goodbye to the Guy Next Door - Robin Williams

Photo credit:

About three weeks ago, the world was shocked by the news that Robin Williams had chosen to end his life. Countless messages of sorrow and disbelief flooded the airwaves and cyber space. The sudden and unexpected loss of this man rocked the entertainment industry and the world as a whole.

Several big names passed away this year. Bob Hoskins, Ralph Waite, Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Mickey Rooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Maya Angelou, and Casey Kasem, just to name a few in no particular order. For some reason, the passing of Robin Williams eclipsed the loss of every one of them. Why is one human and his death so much more mesmerizing than the loss of these other big names?

Of course, there is the loss of his monumental talent, his wit, and his well-earned celebrity. He was a comic genius, but his intelligence spanned far beyond making people laugh. It’s simply not logical to think an individual with average intelligence could be so quick and on target with his improvisations and so poignant in both humor and drama at the same time. He was obviously an amazing intellect that was equally in tune with the human condition.

That brings into focus the other side of Robin Williams. His compassion for his fellow human beings was broad. Brian Lord posted a blog soon after the news was announced detailing Robin Williams’ contract requirements. One of those requirements was that a certain number of homeless people were put to work for his show. After speaking before Congress in 1990 about homelessness and being instrumental in Comic Relief to help the homeless, it isn’t a surprise that he would require this kind of action. His dedication to our troops was also impressive. The stories of his trips overseas and the time he would spend with the soldiers before and after his time on stage were reminiscent of Bob Hope. It takes a special performer to be so inclusive of all the troops, especially the ones unable to attend the stage performance because of duty assignments. Finally, his drive to help those that are ill and unable to help themselves was remarkable. Whether it was the humility of absorbing medical bills for fellow celebrity and friend, Christopher Reeve, or to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the children suffering from cancer, Robin Williams was there.
He was honest and genuine about his conditions, his thoughts, and his own personal reality. He struggled with many things, including addiction, depression, and health issues, but he was never afraid to share that part of his life with the world. He wasn’t ashamed of being human and many were awestruck by this honesty. They connected with him through his battle with depression and his addictions. 

Those attributes just touch the surface of all the things that made Robin Williams seem like a "normal" person. He was the guy next door, not necessarily a celebrity. He wasn't an eclectic mix of eccentricities as many iconic celebrities are or were. He didn't seem to flaunt his status or wealth or celebrity. He was exceedingly humble about all of it and used it for the betterment of everyone, especially those most in need.

Robin Williams is dearly missed. He is missed by volumes of people for equally as many reasons, but the loss of his humanity is the cornerstone of the world’s sense of loss. Bidding a final farewell to Robin Williams is like saying goodbye at the passing of a dear neighbor and close friend. He touched so many lives in so many ways, many without even knowing it. Of all the sentiments and statements regarding Robin Williams’ passing, probably the most poignant and honest was that presented at the 2014 PrimetimeEmmy Awards by Billy Crystal, so as a final thought here it is. Goodbye, Robin, you will always be loved.