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Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

Education Recommendations for Federal and State Agencies

7 May

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FEDERAL AND STATE AGENCIES*
The following list of fifteen recommendations is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for federal and state level governments.  This list is provided to these bureaucracies as they consider future development and implementation of education programs that come packaged with national implications.
Recommendation #1: Transparency. Transparency would have provided the necessary debate and open sharing of costs, benefits, and public concerns.  Changing programs from one thing to something else should never been undertaken without open discussions. Understand that government does not know best, but that an honest and open government that lifts up people to the changes they view as best is a government of the people. Such a government works best.
Recommendation #2: Remain Politically Neutral. Remove the political aspects of agenda from partisanship and political maneuvering. Validate Americans, and not political parties.
Recommendation #3: Focus on Students First. Focus efforts to change education upon students and families, and not the types of jobs required for future corporate employers.
Recommendation #4: Consider the Arts, Music, and Trades. Consider how all the areas not included in Common Core standards can be incorporated.  After all, students in America are not students in Europe or Asia.
Recommendation #5: Place Less Emphasis on International Assessments.  Be wary of utilizing international assessments for the basis of changing entire systems of education in the United States.
Recommendation #6: Avoid a National Curriculum. Steer completely clear of any discussion of a nationalized curriculum, or a one-size-fits-all area of content. The United States is not Europe, and many foreign nations that have national curricula have lower academic performance than America.
Recommendation #7: Develop More Accurate Domestic Assessments.  Understand that assessments are not the picture of whole persons; they are snapshots and moments in time. Reliance on imperfect assessments does not tell the whole story about American education. Continue development of more and better domestic assessments.
Recommendation #8: Empower States to Step Up. Enable states to compete for federal grants to establish exciting and different programs that include trades, technology, and innovative careers geared toward the future.  Empower entrepreneurialism, beginning in elementary school.
Recommendation #9: Do Not Force All Students into a College Mold.  Understand not all students are college bound and that forcing students into a federal blueprint for education is perceived as control and not as freedom to choose.
Recommendation #10: Allow States to Structure Teacher Accountability.  Allow states to hold their own teachers accountable for education. Allow universities and colleges of education to ramp up their requirements to enter programs of teacher training. There should be no federal punishment for teachers struggling to finds ways to educate the masses in inner cities.
Recommendation #11: Provide Block Grants for Trade and Tech School Startups.  Support states with block grants, so high schools can partner with businesses and create jobs for those who wish to work in high school, as they train for a trade, or experiment with business start-ups online.
Recommendation #12: Attract the Best and Brightest to Teaching.  Mount a campaign to attract the best and brightest to colleges and universities to train to become teachers.  Focus on demand, not just supply. Find those called to teach and invest in their lives.
Recommendation #13: Cease Partisan Argumentation. Cease the side-taking and partisan bickering over the direction of education. Allow more local control of decisions on education. Enable states to work together to create regional hubs of excellence, so that regional certification can be added to state certification. In the process, focus attention on impoverished areas and bring communities and families together to brainstorm ways to move forward.
Recommendation #14: Be Proud of Our American Heritage.  No nation is perfect.  Do not be ashamed of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, as it provides a mooring to our purpose as a nation.  Students need a sense of purpose for their existence.  Not everything in American education should be about individuality. Common good should also be in the equation.
Recommendation #15: Recognize School Choice. Recognize that there are models of schools that meet the needs of families throughout the nation.  Support these families for their choices. Whether public schools, private schools, private religious schools, or homeschools, support all of them and encourage all models that parents deem best for their children.

 

*Excerpted from Ernest J. Zarra, III, The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Impact of Common Core on American Education.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, pp. 260-262.

A Christmas Baby

22 Dec

Babies have a way of finding ways into the alcoves of our souls, the very places where things are known only to God.  They crawl right up into those hidden areas and something quite miraculous happens.  Those little ones open us wide to the world, while teaching us a little more each day about God.  Think about it. Who touches us more deeply than a baby?

One baby in a room of adults reduces most of us to mere functional illiterates–and by choice!  We become entranced by the bald-headed, toothless, drooling squirmers, mesmerized by their attempts to make sense of the insensible.

I remember talking to my own children:  “You wan Dada to bwing your baba or bankie?”

I won’t go into all the baby-talk, or nicknames my wife and I had for our children.  Some of them are hilarious, to be sure.  If you are like we are, you might still find the urge to pop open one of these phrases from time-to-time, just for the sake of reaction.

There aren’t too many of us that are able to hold back baby-talk when face-to-face with a little life in our presence.  It is almost expected.  I often wonder if grown adults talk to the aged the same way.  After all, both ends of life’s continuum quite resemble each other.  But that discussion is for another time.

In the presence of babies, we sing and tell stories.  For some, these practices begin while the baby is in utero.  Regardless, we talk to them, and we pray for them.  We teach them nursery rhymes as they grow into toddlers, tell them stories of our childhood (and maybe just a bit embellished), and instruct them in right and wrong, as well as share in affection and closing prayers at bedtime.

Remember those fun days?  I am referring to the fun days before they sat on the sides of their beds and cried for no reasons at all, or got quiet when they realize as teenagers they are held accountable.  Recall the moments when we asked them, “What’s wrong,” only to hear in return, “Nothin”?  I surely remember them!  In fact, there are times I’d like to sit on the side of my own bed and cry a little for myself, these days.  It is sometimes a good thing to feel sorry for ourselves, as adults, at least for fifteen minutes, before someone asks for money, or the cell phone rings.

However, I am left to wonder: Why is it that babies bring out the best in us?

I remember their giggles, tiny dimples, gummy smiles, flailing hands and stubby toes, their splashing arms and legs during baths–capped off by their pudgy, solid, yet wrinkly feet.  All of this serves to remind us of life’s simplicities and basic human needs.  Babies also remind us of the necessity of the protection they need, their fragile states, and complete dependency.  The trust they place in adults is astounding. But they learn quickly.  Once they figure out that we are not really perfect, all things begin to change.

If you are like I am, you are torn by those early years, sometimes longing for them again–but happy also not to have to repeat those long nights, illnesses, doctors’ visits, and the like.  Have you ever wished for your children to stay little forever.  Have you ever wanted that?  Nah!  There are grandchildren for those reasons.  Right?  Babies are signals of life.  Life must move forward.  

Babies are reminders that the future is already in the “present”–and the word-play is intended.  Babies comprise the past through one’s DNA and heritage. They consume the present and they portend the future.  Babies are the miracles that are united from one sperm and one egg–gestating over time–to become the “other” us. With each birth of our children we are reminded that “WE” are with us.  We are connected and that’s that.  Here in this sophisticated new millennium we tend to place things which have the sense of the miraculous, such as child birth, into the realm of the ordinary.  Each conception brings into existence an absolutely unique entity, a person of the most distinct, individual “being.”  The truth is we are all unique and the mold is broken with each one of us. However, we have this little nature thing, with which to contend.  And therein lies the problem!

Imagine for a moment that your teenage daughter comes home one day and tells you that she is impressed in her spirit about something incredibly unique.  What if she tells you that an angel of God had told her that she was specially favored among all other young teenagers of the day?  Assume, then, that sometime later she informs you that she is pregnant, yet maintains that she was still a virgin–untouched by any man sexually.  To make matters more concerning, imagine your single, teenage daughter had been engaged to a man more than twice her age–and that the engagement was going to be broken by the man, once he discovers your daughter is pregnant.  I know, I know . . . I see your faces now.  Yet, I do think you know where I am going with this.

Philosopher Paul C. Vitz asks us to “Consider that Mary was pregnant with Jesus today.” I also ask us to do the same.  What are the chances that some of the parents of this pregnant teenage girl would shuffle her off to the local Planned Parenthood clinic?  What would her friends and contemporaries say?  Speaking as one who was conceived prior to marriage, I kind of identify with that last statement, in terms of its implications.  Know that I mean?  No, I am not claiming divinity, personally–but divinity as a delicacy–that stuff it freakin’ awesome!  (It is approaching Christmas, after all)

The prophet Isaiah (ca 800 BC) stated: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

A miracle baby son, a virgin, and the name translated to mean “God with us” (Immanuel) Hmmmm.

Most interesting.  The disciple Matthew Levi (1st century AD), the tax gatherer wrote:

“And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.  But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’  Now all this took place that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet shall be fulfilled . . .” (Matthew 1:19-24)

The Christmas holiday (derived from “holy-day”) is about the advent of Jesus, the baby, and the beginning of His earthly pilgrimage.  The birth occurred more than likely during the summer months and there was no snow.  That reminds me, what happens in Australia and Africa, during December in the Southern Hemisphere? I hope Santa’s varicosities aren’t too apparent with those pasty legs of his, filling out those speedo-like shorts.

John 1 speaks also to this event:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1; 1, 14).

This baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on reminding us of our flesh and mortality.  The baby reminds us of our beginning and the blessings we are to others.  But why do we keep Him in a manger?  Why is Christmas about Jesus as a baby only?  Is it because there is no room in the “inn of our hearts?” Maybe it reflects the reality that babies are no threat.  Babies do not challenge the way we live.

Babies are the miracle gifts in-and-of-themselves. But babies do grow up into young adults and then enter mature adulthood.  Apparently King Herod had serious fears of the baby Jesus, for he had all male children slaughtered, age-two and under.  This infanticide occurred in Bethlehem and its surrounding environs (Matthew 2:16). Herod feared all of this talk about the birth of a king, a Messiah, would diminish his sovereignty over the land. So the child Jesus and His parents went to Egypt until King Herod had died. Afterwards, they returned to their homeland.  One interesting piece of trivia from the Hebrew language is quite telling. The name “Beth-lehem,” actually means “House of Bread.” Later Jesus was given the title “Bread of life,” and communion would be taken at “the Last Supper,” to symbolize His crucified and broken body.

Part of the communion remembrance today using crackers or bread illustrates the “broken bread” of life. Who would have ever thought that the bread of life would have been born in a house of bread?  All of this is derived from the Christmas story?  Yes indeed! Another point of interest was that when the wise men came to visit Jesus, He was already a toddler. The Magi were the ones who tipped off Herod, and this was the reason for the age-2 on down slaughter of the innocents.

So, yes we celebrate the baby Jesus. But we really should be celebrating the toddler, at least in my mind.  But no toddler I know would stay in a crib.  I know my own kids did not. As far as my kids were concerned, they kept jumping out, falling on their heads, or something along those lines.  Come to think of it, that might explain a few things. Now my father’s statements to me in my youth ring more clearly.  He would ask rhetorically, “What is the matter with you?  Did you play too many football games without a helmet?” I never figured out “how many” was too many. But back to Jesus.

Some 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, his infancy still impacts the world.  While some wanted to make Him an Earthly Excellency, believers see Him as their All-Sufficiency, beginning with infancy.  The commemoration of Jesus’ birth is the real reason we celebrate the giving of “gifts” to each other.  Jesus is the ultimate gift to the world.  The reason for the season is ultimately for His pleasin’.

A second gift was given to us by the resurrected Jesus, just prior to His ascension.  Luke, the physician, records in Acts 1:3:

“. . . He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things to come . . .

He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised . . .

” Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).

The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.

During this festive season of holidays, may we Christians celebrate like never before.  We live and love like never before.  The baby has grown, lived, and He has changed the world through his death, resurrection and ascension.  Don’t you think it is time to be Christ-like in ways that show we also have left our own “Christian cribs?” My apologies to the hip-hop community.

Dear believer, let us celebrate the holiday as He is NOW in our lives. May we look back to the past, while living in the present–knowing that we have a future with Him.  May our baby-talk grow into a mature, contagious conversation, coupled with a powerful Christian walk.  May this walk evidence movement in the right direction, joined by the fruit of the Spirit.  No, I did not say fruitcake.  Unlike divinity, THAT stuff is so nasty, and is the evil twin of the yule log.

Thank you for reading! OK, where’s my egg-nog?

Feliz Navidad!

Rozhdyestvom Christovom

Buon Natale

Merry Christmas

Attention Educators!

20 Apr

Front Cover

Front Cover

We have a national epidemic on our hands!

http://www.amazon.com/Teacher-Student-Relationships-Crossing-Emotional-Physical/dp/1475802366/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1366476640&sr=8-1″ title=”Teacher-Student Relationships: Crossing Into the Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Realms” target=”_blank”>

Interesting Times: 2013

17 Feb

These are interesting times.  Two-thousand-thirteen has been quite eventful, thus far.  Somewhere between the words “interesting” and “eventful” lies the reality that affects us all:  Nothing in this world stays the same.

Friends retire from their lifelong vocations and press into their permanent vacations.  Others have medical issues arise and leave work, and full-time ministry.  Personal and moral issues drive a certain number into involuntary retirement way too soon.  Still others switch jobs and look for additional excitement.  Whether work or ministry, such revelations seem the pointers that guide each sunrise during the early days of this current year.

The possibility exists that many of the changes I write about are age-related, and that this is the season for change for those in question.  However, most are changing by choice, and doing so for a variety of reasons.  For example, I have lost colleagues and co-workers, pastors and friends, and sports buddies to change.  Some of these changes are conscious and weighed, others compelled by circumstances.  Even sickness and death have reared their ugly heads in 2013.  In fact, far too many of my family and friends are now ill and battling with one dreadful thing, or another.

In the midst of all of this change, so many wonderful opportunities have emerged for so many–even for many of those I reference above.  We could easily find ourselves mired in the negative aspects of life’s shortcomings.  That would be understandable.  However, in so doing, we would miss the blessings of each moment we are granted.  I use the word “granted,” for none of us are guaranteed any breaths or heartbeats.

Focusing on despair means sometimes missing out on the joys emerging, from within whatever struggles we face.  We will have them, and most of us will endure.  Those of us who are older are realizing the blessings of new family members, grandchildren, job-changes, ministry opportunities, writing ventures, and the  joy of realizing we have affected many lives for good, along the way.  I thank God for the people in my life.  Specifically, for example, I am grateful for people who decide to overlook what I do, in favor of whom I am.  Aligning these two, indeed, takes more than a life time, and is accomplished best by the Almighty.  This year the losses might be great, but we are all dispensable in this world.

I was reflecting on this very truth this past week.  My wife and I arrive at work very early each morning.  One day this week I commented, “imagine putting a sign up on your classroom door that read, ‘Mrs. Z’s classes will not meet this week.  See you next week.'”  She smiled and then laughed.  We both understand that laugh.  I then said, “You know, within 24 hours of your last day on this job, the system will continue like you never existed.  Things will change and the new students and teachers will have no idea of your life’s work.”  In her wisdom, my wife replied, “I know.  But hopefully what I do will live on in the lives  I affected.”  She is absolutely correct!

I share this brief conversation to say that we are products of the many people who left us long ago.  We are also living proof of those who left us recently, as well as emerging souls by the efforts of our contemporaries, including family and friends.  In change, and in God, there are always remnants–seeds planted–that germinate and flower through the efforts of others, later in life.  We owe much to those who gave their lives–only to be left along the trail of dusty memories.  Soon we will all be in that class, as we are mere passengers on this planet, transients, and this is not our home.  

At the sunset of one phase of our lives, where will we stand?  In the words of John the Baptist, when asked about his followers, directed all of his affection toward the Lord:  “He must increase, I must decrease.”  Therein lies the beauty of a life-in-focus, and priorities-in-line.  Life is not about my presence.  Life is about His presence in me.

The tabulation of the bottom-line for 2013 has begun.  No one knows what lies out there for any one of us.  However, I can assure you that making choices to thwart the status quo, and comfort, is what drives my passion for life.  Care to join me in the possibilities?

Open the door, God, if only for a moment . . . Walking by faith and not by sight, should get easier with age and diminished eye sight.  [smile]

The Lead-Filled Laptop

10 Feb

Hello reader.  Just a warning before you scroll through the following blog post.

No doubt you have seen the video, where a supposed father reads his daughter’s Facebook post to the camera.  You know the one, where he and his teenage offspring are battling with words, after which the father uses her Facebook page to slam her. Why does this happen?  Supposedly the answer is in her first swearing about her parents and calling them names on her private Facebook page, all because they expect her to do unfair chores.

WARNING:  THIS IS NOT GOING TO APPEASE THOSE WHO THINK THE FATHER IS A HERO! 

Right up front, I think the daughter is a mess and the father is a jackass, and the whole lot is beyond dysfunction.  They are all rebellious and acting juvenile.

Now that that is out-of-the-way, let me move on.

In this blog I intend to address issues which include parenting, bullying, violence and vices, and the differences between teenagers acting like punks and adults acting like teenagers.

I have seen the video in question several times now.  I have read many comments posted by viewers.  Side-takers abound.  The video has gone viral and some are calling the man a hero, and even “father of the year.”  If he is father of the year, then Alec Baldwin is Shirley Temple.

So, with all of this, I thought I would toss my comments into the ring, given the fact that I work with teenagers every day in my profession.  So, here goes.

PARENTING

It does not take a rocket scientist to draw the conclusion that there is major conflict in the home of the teenager in question.  I contend that the biological father’s divorce from the daughter’s mother caused a rift some time ago.  But I cannot be certain about this.  I do know that whomever is supposed to be rearing the teenage girl is sorely missing the mark.  There is no respect for either the stepmother or the father, and there is no respect toward the daughter by them, in return.  What has apparently gone on is the purchasing of things to spoil even further a teenager with no respect for the gift-givers.  So, taking violently extreme measures as a parent was felt as the last resort.  This is not heroic.  This is “dangerous.”

The father earns an “F” grade as protector of the family.

OVERKILL

Destroying property, when the Internet was the issue was overkill.  Shooting and “killing” a computer as a point to be made is overkill.  A normal person would have seen a long time ago that taking away the Internet–and the cell phone–and keeping them away–would have been the solution.  Hey dad, who bought the computer for the “spoiled” brat daughter?  You did, dad.  Who was it that allowed a teenager to have a Facebook account in your house?  You did, dad.  Who gave her a smart phone?  You did, dad.

No real parent takes his gun and shoots up the very technology he spent $150 on just a day before.  This action was not the action of a balanced father.  Of course, it is clear the father was acting in anger.  If he is to be believed, then he had threatened to use the gun before and shoot up the computer, t least on another occasion.  Only God knows what else he threatened to destroy with his weapon.

There are good chances that the father is an overkill kind of man, seeking revenge and payback–and all of this upon a teenage girl.  Umm, dad, I have news for you.  Your daughter has friends and you cannot go around shooting up all of their computers now that they have labeled you a sicko!  Anyone can use a weapon, but it takes a man–a REAL man, to admit to his teenager that he is wrong and wants to work things out with her.

PROFANITY

Language being one of your major concerns, pops, I see where your daughter gets her profanity.  You do not strike me as a man who intends to live by what he says.  Rather, you seem to be the “Do as I say, not as I do,” kind of person.  You posted your video critiquing her letter, with both your own profanity and hers, yet you claim she is in the wrong for all of her cursing.  Hey dad, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Maybe if you put down the cigarette instead of your daughter, once-in-a-while, and have your second wife be a bit more relational and understanding in love, then something might be accomplished in your home.  Stop taking sides and show some love, pops!

Your behavior as an adult and your lack of parenting skills leave me no alternative that to give you the grade of an “F” as the father. 

BULLYING

So, let me get this straight.  The father invades the privacy of his daughter online, just because he was stealthily able to gain access.  Wouldn’t it have been better to sit with her and look her in the eye, while viewing Facebook together?  It seems he was just looking for an opportunity to go nuclear over an issue online, with the full support of the second wife.  Next, the father discovers the posting, prints it out, and reads it on in a video recording.  How did he first come to know that the posting existed on her private page, without invading her online privacy?

Next in the sequence, he takes out a gun and proceeds to pump someone’s computer full of lead.  We really do not know yet whether that was her computer, or a dummy.  But let’s assume it was her computer.  I can see the daughter’s face when she gets a text alert via her cell phone Facebook application.  When she sees the video posted by her father, she goes ballistic.  I bet her friends can’t wait for the next sleepover.  I would like to be a fly on the way in the school principal’s office, the homes of the girl’s friends, and at the police station, once all these entities gain the knowledge and see for themselves how wacko the father truly is.

The daughter can easily post from her friends’ pages, access her homepage from a friend’s computer, or even from her phone.  She can open a new page and continue the disrespect.

  • So, what is the father trying to accomplish?
  • Why shoot the computer?
  • Why the threats earlier about shooting the computer?
  • And what as the reason to act like a 15-year-old and post the video on his daughter’s Facebook page?

I contend the father is a bully and he is a power-monger, which is precisely part of the reason the daughter lashed out online to begin with.  If the father was angry about her lashing out before, just wait until the hormones line up on this new line of exasperation.

At 15, I’d be afraid if my parent shot something given to me, posted it on the Internet for all to see–including ANYONE on my homepage.  I’d be fearful about going home.  Such extreme actions are meant as overkill and an in-your-face act as payback.  Adults who resort to such actions have lost control of themselves and take it out on their rebellious teenagers.

For the act of shooting a computer to make a violent point, and posting his violent act on his teenager’s page–the father is a bully and earns an “F” grade.

USE OF VIOLENCE WITH PROFANITY

I do hope someone checks on the ordinances in the father’s locale to determine whether he violated the law by discharging a weapon.  If he did, it is a crime.  If he has no license for the weapon, then that also is a crime.  Let me ask the reader, what crime did the teenager commit?  None that I can see.  The father was embarrassed, so he played big-man and shoots a computer.  That’s just plain childish.  And he empties all the rounds into the computer, all while making certain to “give one for the mom?”  Juvenile father rearing a teenager is what I see.

For his use of violence and profanity the father earns an “F.”

VICES

Did anyone check to see whether the father had been drinking prior to his immature and dangerous behaviors?  It is obvious that he has at least one vice.  He was so nervous that his buddy, the cigarette, was gripped tightly by his fingers on his right hand.  I would not be surprised if daddy-o has some beer on a table somewhere nearby.  I would also like to know if he has a problem with any other substances, aside from tobacco.  If so, this makes his gun usage ever more concerning.  All I know is that if I was a neighbor and saw a man shooting something in the neighborhood backyard, I’d call the police.  The typical family with teenagers deal with rebellion and disregard of family rules all the time.  I would not be surprised if the daughter smokes, drinks, does some types of drugs, as teens sometimes do.

Given the modeling and poor parenting seen in this video, the father has to accept some of the blame for the way his daughter is turning out, much as I accept some of the blame for the ways my kids turn out.  Parents actually do accept responsibility.

TEENAGERS

I have been working with teenagers for over 25 years.  I won’t provide my resume to bore you.  Suffice to say, my wife and I reared two of our own, each with unique struggles and concerns of their own.  We exacerbated some issues and behaviors, and our teenagers made their own choices to do the same.  All that being said, “relationships” with teens in rebellion are not based in heavy-handedness.  That only pushes them away farther.  Raising teenagers is a real challenge, made even a greater concern by parents just giving their kids things and not modeling he behaviors they expect from them.

Teenagers must respect themselves, their families, and the goods they are given as part of the family.  The old adage is true:  “You really do not appreciate things you are given, unless you have worked for them.”  The daughter is a spoiled brat and does not work.  But how many 15-year-olds work?  She does not do her chores.  So, as an impulse, she decides to overkill on Facebook.  I wonder where she learned to do that?  Although I cannot prove it, I do this is not the first time the father has resorted to extreme measures to try to corral his daughter.  Over time, the truth will come out.

All in all, the father took what the daughter did–and she was wrong in what she did–and made it worse by stepping down to her level.   The teenager acted like a punk and the father acted like a teenager.

This raises a lot of other issues beside family and parenting.  Because of this, I am pleading with the father to put down the cigarettes, take off the cowboy hat, lock up the weapons, and get off his high horse.  You all need serious counseling.  Bring the mother and step-mother with you, if they can stop fighting long enough to see the needs of the teenager.  Heaven help them if there are more teenagers to follow.  I just hope this family does no become a statistic, all while side-taking people applaud the father and encourage the daughter.

Help! I Smell Like An Old Person

26 May

HELP!  I SMELL LIKE AN OLD PERSON!

© 2009, Ernie Zarra

My sisters and I refer to the smell as “old person’s smell.”  The odor in the house of my slender, gray-haired 75-year-old grandmother never seems to disappear.  With the windows open, or with them closed, the smell is always there.  Some days the smell is so strong that I am able to taste it.

The “old person’s smell” in Grandma Maggie’s house is actually a combination of several strong scents–at least I think so.  It is so strong that my friends always make fun of me after I return home from visiting.  As a 12-year-old, I hate that.  But my friends and I all share the same problem:  our grandparents houses smell like old people.

           Grandma Maggie has the most wonderful crushed-velour sofa.  Every time I visit, I pounce on the left side with my bottom, and slid into a well-worn corner.  This is grandma’s favorite corner of the sofa.  I stand up in the center of the sofa, when grandma is not watching, and jump up and down, as if on a trampoline.  The springs are so lively that I hear their baritone “boi-yoing” sound, at times, when I jump really high. 

           The gross part of the sofa is that with each plop onto the sofa, my nose catches a scent that is forever part of the pillows.  Grandma’s pillows smell like an old person.   So, when my face touches any of them, I wrinkle my nose and try not to breathe too deeply.  The pillows smell like a combination of moth balls, lilac toilet water, chicken soup, and hand cold cream from the super market.  Old people have funny smells.

           Like her house, my Irish grandmother seems to have a scent that hovers over her all day long.  It is like an invisible cloud of scents.  Every time she walks by, or every time she grabs me for a kiss on the cheek, there is that smell—the old person’s smell!  Now, the smell is nothing terrible, and she is my grandmother.  But sometimes, I am afraid to let her kiss me.  Even her breath has a funny smell.

           Grandma Maggie washes clothes by hand in the large, black, stone wash-basin in her downstairs utility room.  In order to fill the basin, she must turn on the valves for the hot and cold water.  The water from her Artesian well always rumbles and screeches through the shaky, old metal old pipes as it fills the water heater.  The water heater makes popping and snapping sounds inside, as the water begins to heat.

After a few minutes, grandma squeaks and tweaks another valve, and then turns the old galvanized metallic faucet knobs to just where she wants them.  The hot and cold water faucets begin exhaling air.  The water begins to come out, mixed with air, first with a sputter.  Then, it is followed by a loud spurt or air and a forceful flow follows.  Eventually there is a steady stream. 

Sometimes the water looks brown and rusty, so grandma has to let the water run and run to become clear.  Rusty water tastes like metal and has a dirty smell all its own.  Ewww, more old people stuff.

           One late October weekend, while the fall leaves are quickly dropping from their trees, my parents drop me off for a weekend visit with Grandma Maggie.  She lives in the country, where the temperature is always cooler, and the air always fresher. 

Grandma is in the bathroom fixing her hair when I arrive, so I head to the sofa to make my presence known.  I have a routine to follow, you know!  So, I enjoy a few private minutes of sofa jumping.  While jumping, I can actually feel the gusty drafts coming from the window that is directly behind the sofa.

           Before Grandma comes out of the bathroom, I get bored and run outside to enjoy the wind and to play “catch the leaves.”  It’s fun to catch falling leaves and crinkle them into small pieces, by rubbing them between the palms of my hands.  As the wind gusts, leaves fall quickly to the ground, in large numbers. 

I enjoy standing under the large, twisted branches of a 30-foot tall oak tree, which is 50 yards from grandma’s house.  This tree is my favorite tree to climb in and pretend I am a bat, by hanging upside down by my legs.

           The branches of the oak tree are so long that they shade the ground for over 30 feet.  But its branches are also very creepy.  They are shaped like the arms of monsters, with long, gangly, claw-like features. 

           This oak tree is the kind of tree where the roots are like octopus tentacles, reaching out of the ground, searching for whom to latch onto.  At night I am afraid to go near this tree.  But during the day the tree is fun. 

While standing on several of its bulging roots, I try wrapping my arms around the tree trunk, but my arms are far too short.  My arms are always too short.  Old people don’t have this problem.

           The wind is now blowing strongly enough to shake the large branches.  Even three bushy-tailed, gray squirrels are bobbing their furry heads as they cling to the dark-brown, bark-covered branches with their tiny claws.  One gust of wind blows a smaller squirrel right off its branch and it falls several feet onto the ground.   Off it scampers, unhurt. 

           After playing with the falling oak leaves for a several minutes I am bored again.  So, off I run toward grandma’s house.  I decide to enter through the utility room screen door.  I grab the handle and quickly fling open the door.  I step into the soap-smell-filled utility room and immediately the wind slams the door closed, behind me.  I am afraid of that screen door.  I jump forward.  That door always seems to scare me. 

Grandma is leaning over the wash basin in the utility room when I enter.  Her feet are firmly planted on the freshly painted “battleship gray” color floor.  She shrieks and squeezes a bar of soap extra tightly in her hands.  The screen door always seems to scare Grandma Maggie too!

As she squeezes, the bar instantly fires across the room like a rocket, hits the nearest wall, and drops to the floor with a soapy thud.  But that does not matter. 

Grandma picks up the soap and giggles with a high-pitch sound, which almost sounds like her old tea kettle spout as it begins to release steam through its nozzle.  She just shakes her head.  I am watching as Grandma scrapes her dirt-covered overalls across the ribs of her well-worn washboard.  Brown lye soap is being brushed into the stains with a boars’-hair bristle brush.  The clothes are sloshing around in the basin, as grandma dips them in and out of the water. 

Grandma is forcefully rubbing each piece of clothing across the ribbing of the washboard.  I watch her arms move back-and-forth quickly.  Then my eyes open wide.  Grandma’s upper arms have lots of loose skin, and the skin flaps side-to-side, in unison with the back-and-forth strokes of the bristle brush.  Grandma switches hands and her arms really get a workout.  Grandma Maggie sure has old person’s arms and her hands smell like soap—brown, lye soap.

Wanting to get a closer look, I jump up onto a three-step stool and politely ask grandma if I could help her.  She smiles and nods her head.  When she nods, the wrinkles of her neck have a way of bunching up right under her chin.  When she smiles, the wrinkles seem to stretch and disappear.  Grandma Maggie has old person’s wrinkly neck.

           As I stand on the three-step stool, I lean over into the wash-basin to begin my work.  Grandma hands me the bar of slippery, smelly brown soap.  Then she hands me the washboard and her bristle brush.  I rub some soap into the firm bristles of the brush, dip the brush in the basin water and begin to brush away a stain on one of grandma’s kitchen towels. 

           I am so confident that I could easily handle this chore that I rise up onto my toes, grab the washboard with my left hand, and slap the towel onto the ribs with my right hand.

           I begin a rhythmic-like stroke, up-and-down, dragging the brush bristles over the washboard ribs, with only a towel separating the two.  I bear down and, as I do, slip my tongue out of my mouth, to wet my upper lip.  With one strong down-stroke of my right hand, my body weight shifts and I slide off the stool and land head-first into the half-filled wash basin.  I thought I was going to drown.  I was gurgling soapy water and it tasted awful.  I even hit my head on the bottom of the stone basin.  I am afraid of that stool.

           Grandma Maggie lifts me up by my shirt collar.  I am dripping wet and coughing very loudly.  I look over at grandma and she is laughing and smiling, which means the wrinkles on her neck are gone.

           Besides being wet, I quickly realize that I now smell like an old person.  I smell like Grandma Maggie’s house and hands more than ever.  I smell like her!  I am afraid at what my friends going to say about this?  Oh well!  I accomplish one thing by falling into the basin.  I won’t need for a bath at the end of the day. 

Grandma Maggie hugged me later that evening and said I smelled really good.  I asked myself, how can an “old person smell” be good?  Then it hit me.  I was busy wasting far too much time on what I did not want to smell like that I missed something very important.  If being old, and smelling like an old person, was good enough for “my” grandmother, then it was good enough for me.

I am trying to remember to ask Grandma Maggie one question before bedtime.  “What is Fels Naptha, anyway?

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