Standing Up to Bullies

In 1990, my wife and I were stationed in Germany with our daughters, Becka and Rachel, who were 5 and 3 years old respectively. Our two girls would play in the back yard behind our apartment, but every once in a while, the little boy across the street would come over and yell at Rachel to make her cry. Whenever my wife or I would run outside to see what was happening, the little boy would be trotting gleefully back across the street to his parents, who would pick him up and look at my wife and me with a shrug of their shoulders and a patronizing half-smile as if to say, "Boys will be boys." Their son was an only child, and he was quite clearly a spoiled brat.

I sat Rachel down one day when she was crying after the little boy's last attack, and I explained that the boy was a bully. I told Rachel that when he came over the next time, she needed to jump up and scream in his face as loudly as possible before he had a chance to do anything. Sure enough, a few days later we heard Rachel screaming at the top of her lungs, and we ran outside to see the little boy crying and running home to his parents, who were eyeing Kathleen and me with a look of horror on their faces. I gave them a sarcastic half-smile and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, "Girls will be girls."

But the best part was Rachel's reaction; as she watched that bawling brat run home to safety, her face was aglow with a combination of shocked surprise and total elation. She turned to look at me and said, "I did it! I yelled at him and he ran away!" At that moment, I realized that my daughter would never fall victim to a bully ever again. I may have taught her how to stand up to our neighbor's bratty kid, but she had won this battle entirely on her own. She was empowered.


POSTSCRIPT:

I should add, however, that the spoiled, little brat briefly paused in his withdrawal to look back at Rachel, who made her point undeniably by unleashing another round of high-powered war cries, and the sniveling little coward made good on his retreat and vanished into the safety of his home. He never bothered Rachel again.

The Fastest Manmade Object

I just read the following article: The Fastest Speed Ever Reached by a Manmade Object?, and I have to disagree with their assessment.

The fastest speed ever reached by a manmade object was the back of my mom's hand, which broke the sound barrier several times over while spinning around from the front seat of a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda when I tried backtalking from the rear seat...

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Dealing with Bullies

I hear a lot about bullies in today's schools, and I wish that we lived in a world where kids would never have to face a bully. But that being said, bullies are a sad reality, and I don't think that we'll ever find a way to fully prevent them from doing harm to others. Today's bullies are often hiding across the Internet and posting terrible things about their peers from the safety of their smartphones and PCs, but that wasn't an issue in my youth. When I was in grade school, I had to face my bullies every day.

When I was the sixth grade, there was some punk kid who tormented me every day, and I was tired of it. One day, this schmuck was walking over to me, but before he had a chance to say or do anything to me, I preemptively landed two blows to the stomach with my right and my left, and as he started to double over forward in pain, I landed a perfectly executed uppercut to his jaw that sent him reeling backwards into the dirt. As I stood over the out-of-breath mass of bleeding and blubbering shock that was lying on the ground, I told him emphatically, "Don't EVER mess with me again."

Several things happened that day:

First of all, this did wonders for my self-esteem. I learned that I could fight my own battles. I didn't need to be a victim, and I didn't need someone to fix my problems for me.

Next, NO ONE messed with me at school after that; this entire showdown had happened while everyone was out of class, so I had a huge audience watching as I obliterated my foe.

And last - the schmuck never bullied anyone again, and we eventually became friends. It may seem surprising, but boys are like that; they want to establish the pecking order, and once that's out of the way, they know who they are and they can move on.

This generation goes out of its way to shield children in bubble wrap from the rest of the planet, but fails to realize that it will NEVER stop bullying. Sometimes what a bully needs is a mouth full of fist to knock them into reality; trying to give bullies a lecture and "time out" will only teach them not to get caught. On the other hand, when bullies have the @#$% kicked out of them, that will teach them how to become better people.

Sometimes It's Better Not to Chase Your Dreams

A friend of mine recently posted the following quotation from G. K. Chesterton, which caused me to step back for a moment and reflect on some recent discussions about how my life turned out...

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Just a brief bit of honesty - I played guitar for several bands in my younger days, and I was particularly obsessed with "making it" as far as that industry was concerned. I focused on performance, songwriting, technical skill, etc., and I had a STRICT no drugs/alcohol policy; those things ruined musicianship and relationships, and unless you could be totally sold out for music, then you didn't belong. In short, anyone who wasn't as 110% passionate about being a success got booted from my band. I abandoned that form of obsessive pursuit when I became a Christian, and I briefly played in couple Christian bands before I eventually gave it all up and joined the Army.

A lot of time has passed since then, and my wife was recently commenting that it's too bad that I didn't have "my chance" when I was younger, for I am admittedly far too old to be packing up a guitar and headed out on career-starting tour. I countered her condolences with the following self-observation...

No, it's a great thing that I didn't chase my "dream." The entertainment industry ruins people, as Hunter S. Thompson once observed, "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

I have no misconceptions that I would have failed miserably as a human being the closer I got to "success" in worldly terms. Sure, I may have continued to avoid drugs and alcohol, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have succumbed to other vices - perhaps something seemingly acceptable as materialism. (e.g. I still own 20+ guitars.)

But the pursuit of success - at least in the way that my brain was wired to pursue it - was a form of idolatry, and I have no misconceptions about that. Even in the Christian music business, most people get destroyed by the industry. So I have no illusions about missing "my chance" when I was younger. I became a husband, and a dad, and more importantly a decent human being; those are far better legacies in my estimation. Don't get me wrong, there are a handful of people who can balance "success" and basic human decency, but tens of thousands of people cannot do so, and I'm one of them.

Anti-Vaxxers are Still Idiots

Earlier today, an addlebrained anti-vaxxer posted a link to this bogus article on a social media website: FDA Announced That Vaccines Are Causing Autism. That article was, of course, immediately debunked by other people through a myriad of fact-check articles, such as Debunking False Vaccine Claim, Is Autism Now Disclosed as a DTaP Vaccine Side Effect?, etc. But even if that claim had been true for that single vaccine, that would still not apply to the hundreds of other vaccines for which there is incontrovertible proof that they do not cause autism.

The link between vaccines and autism has long been debunked, and people need to stop repeating this very harmful lie. Here is the scoop straight from the FDA: "Scientific evidence does not support a link between vaccination and autism or other developmental disorders." (See the CDC article Vaccines for Children - A Guide for Parents and Caregivers for more information.)

That being said, another gullible village idiot felt that it was necessary to ignore both scientific research and reasonable discussion and repost the following alarmist image as an attempted response:

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The numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that those affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are less than 15 per 1,000, and any increase between current the numbers and the 1960s is attributed to heightened awareness of the disease, better diagnostic procedures, and the classifications of new ailments within ASD like Asperger Syndrome. (See the CDC pages like Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research, etc.) What is more, research conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has shown that autism begins in the womb, and is thereby unaffected by childhood vaccinations. (See Autism Spectrum Disorder: Progress Toward Earlier Diagnosis, Autism Risk Unrelated to Total Vaccine Exposure in Early Childhood, etc.)

That being said, the so-called link between autism and vaccines was based on a single research paper that was later unequivocally proved as a fraud, formally retracted from publication, and the doctor who published the paper lost his medical accreditation due to multiple conflicts of interest, unethical behavior, and manufacturing the data in his report. (Basically, this one doctor published a fraudulent study in order to make money. See MMR Doctor 'Planned to Make Millions,' Journal Claims, Antivaccine hero Andrew Wakefield: Scientific fraud?, and hundreds of other articles published about this scandal.)

In the wake of this controversy, the FDA, the CDC and the NIH have spent millions of USA taxpayer dollars on research that has categorically proven that there is no link between vaccines and autism. (See Vaccine Safety: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism, Vaccine Safety & Availability: Thimerosal and Vaccines, and dozens of other pages on both the FDA, CDC, and NIH websites.)

However, this hoax refuses to die because people who are unaware of the actual research keep reposting bogus images and articles like those shown above, and dangerous diseases which we had almost eradicated from the planet are making a comeback. In the USA, this is especially prevalent due to the lack of daily suffering that is seen in underdeveloped countries; this false sense of security was paradoxically caused by the success of our vaccination programs. (See Vaccine Safety Questions and Answers.) As a result, more children in the USA are growing up with a greater risk of contracting an unnecessary disease than they are of autism.


NOTE: Another reliable and respected source of information is the Mayo Clinic, which states the following in its Autism Spectrum Disorder article:

No link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder

One of the greatest controversies in autism spectrum disorder centers on whether a link exists between the disorder and childhood vaccines. Despite extensive research, no reliable study has shown a link between autism spectrum disorder and any vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted due to poor design and questionable research methods.

Avoiding childhood vaccinations can place your child and others in danger of catching and spreading serious diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis), measles or mumps.

In other words - if you are a parent, do not fall victim to the misguided anti-vaxxer paranoia that is infesting social media and other fake news outlets with disinformation; do the world a favor and vaccinate your children. Attempts to demonize our successful and scientifically-verified vaccination programs is ridiculously naïve, and future generations will look back on our present-day anti-vaxxer hysteria with the same level of contempt and disgust that we have for the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s.

Adventures with the Easter Vampire

A few years ago I wrote a blog titled "Adventures with the Tooth Werewolf", where I wrote about how I rose my children with a belief in the Tooth Werewolf instead of the Tooth Fairy. In that same blog I also briefly mentioned that I had come up with the Easter Vampire instead of the Easter Bunny. (I'll bet you wish your parents had been this cool, right?)

That being said, one of my daughters sent me the following video, which she appropriately-labeled, "The Easter Vampire?"

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Painful Childhood Memories

Okay, I have a confession to make - when I was very young, and by that I mean several months younger than the age of two, I was traumatized by the letter "Z."

Now I know what you're thinking; and it sounds ridiculous, right? But I knew that the letter "Z" was out to get me - and I had proof.

First of all, I was convinced that the letter "Z" was a real, live animal. And I knew this for a fact because I had learned that on Sesame Street. Here is living proof:

You can see my point, can't you? The letter "Z" obviously had a mind of its own; it had an attitude, it was reckless and passive aggressive, and it seemed to bring out the worst in Kermit the Frog. There was no mistake about it in my mind: the letter "Z" was a nasty character, and it was something which I wanted nothing to do with.

And yet, the letter "Z" had somehow followed me home, and it was living in my backyard. I saw it there - every day - lurking just outside the sliding glass door, and watching my every move.

But what was even more unsettling for me was the fact that my parents, who were supposed to love me, would plop me down in my high chair and turn it so that I was facing outside. And there I would sit, staring at my nemesis, who wouldn't move an inch. The letter "Z" was sizing me up, and I knew that it was waiting to see if I would fall asleep in my high chair... and then it would attack. So I kept my eyes open, and I never took naps in that house. Oh sure, that meant that I was cranky toddler, but that wasn't my fault; I was a victim of my circumstances, and my parents needed to pay for their transgressions.

Thankfully, I no longer live in that house. Our family moved, and the letter "Z" did not appear to have followed us. But I remember vividly what that terrifying scene looked like every day, and here is my feeble attempt at an artist's rendition...

Stalked-by-the-Letter-Z

You can say what you want, but I'm telling you the truth - that letter "Z" was out there; and somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm sure that it still is.

Too Cool for School

I just re-discovered this story: my son was a senior in high school when he flew to San Francisco on a choir trip. And even though his flight was leaving Seattle around the same time as a flight which I was taking somewhere else, he didn't want to ride to the airport with me. His exact words were, "I'd rather go with people that I can talk to." (This is a teenage way of saying that I was just not cool enough to be part of his entourage.)

However, after I had arrived at the airport and was calmly waiting for my flight to depart, my wife called to tell me that our son realized when he arrived at the airport that he had left his boarding pass and all of his money for the trip at home. I called my son, who informed me that he had already picked up a new boarding pass from the airline, but he didn't have a way to get the money from home. Feeling sorry for him and ignoring his earlier diss about the ride, I agreed to drop by an ATM and pick up some cash to give my son at his gate, which was in a different terminal of the SEATAC airport.

After finding the nearest ATM and withdrawing the requisite funds, I headed off to catch the airport tram to the terminal where my son was waiting for me. I was already en-route to his location when a thought suddenly dawned on me: why in the world was I hand-carrying the cash all the way to his gate, when he was the one who had forgotten everything?

Once that notion had registered completely in my mind, I called my son and told him to walk to the tram station in his terminal and meet me there. As the tram pulled into the stop near his gate, I saw my son and one of his friends waiting patiently for me to arrive. I hopped off the tram, gave my son the cash, took a quick photo of him, and then hopped back on the tram before the doors were able to close - mission accomplished.

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In the end I may have saved the day, but I still wasn't cool enough to give my son a ride to the airport.

The Most-terrifying Moment In My Life

I will admit, I have done a lot of crazy things in my life. It's pretty amazing that I haven't earned a Darwin Award by now. I drove cars way too fast when I was young; and I lost control on more than one occasion. (Once I spun the car so many times that gravel had managed to embed itself through the bead on the tires; when the tire was flat the next day, we found a bunch pebbles inside the tires.) During my tenure in the Army, I did some pretty foolish things, too. Before the end of the Cold War, I snuck across the border into East Germany - and I did so on more than one occasion. Oh sure, everybody in my unit had done that at one time or other... but still, sneaking undetected into Communist territory just for the rush of trying not to get caught is kind of... stupid. All told, I've avoided more vehicular catastrophes than I can remember: I've gone free climbing at night, I've rappelled from helicopters, I've been scuba diving with sharks, I've jumped over rattlesnakes in the desert, and I've survived a host of other reckless, ill-advised, and/or dim-witted decisions with regard to my personal safety.

But what has scared me the most in my life is when my first daughter was born. I know a lot of people make jokes about how becoming a parent is terrifying, but that's not what I mean.

My wife and I married very young - just out of high school to be exact - and we became parents when we were still quite young. In fact, I was a few months short of my 20th birthday when our daughter was born. I only mention my age because it made everything harder; I had no real life experience to judge the seriousness of any situation. So when we arrived at the hospital prior to the birth of our daughter, everything was new to us.

Thankfully my wife's good friend was there; she was a pediatric ICU nurse, and she helped keep things running smoothly for us. (And of course, by "us" I mean "me.") After my wife had been in labor for several hours, she apparently still had several hours ahead of her. With that in mind, my wife's friend told me that she and I were pretty worthless hanging around the delivery room, so she said that she and I should head to dinner.

However, when we got back from dinner, complete chaos had erupted in my wife's hospital room. Medical personnel were running all over the place, my wife was wired up to all sorts of equipment, and everyone's face had an expression of dire seriousness. When a nearby nurse finally had a moment to describe what was going on, she explained that our daughter's heart rate had dropped in half - from 140bpm to 70bpm. If the doctors didn't operate immediately, our daughter would die. So before I really knew what was happening, I found myself decked out in surgical scrubs and being quickly escorted down the hall and into a densely-packed operating room.

Watching a cesarean section was... well... it's hard to explain; I experienced a range of emotions. Under other circumstances watching surgery would be fascinating, but there was something that was really unnerving about watching someone cut open my wife with a scalpel. Added to that was the knowledge that both my wife's and my daughter's lives were at stake. And that part was especially terrifying.

There's a scene in the movie She's Having A Baby where Elizabeth McGovern's character is having a cesarean section while Kevin Bacon's character is nervously waiting outside the operating room with both sets of their parents. It's a heart-wrenching moment in the movie, but even more so for me because I more or less lived through that same experience.

The end of my story is that the surgery was a success; both mother and daughter recovered from their ordeals. Thirty years have come and gone since that fateful day, but I have never forgotten what if felt like to realize that I might lose everything that was important to me. I have never felt more helpless. Or more petrified.

Living with Adult Children

There was a brief period when all three of our adult children were living with my wife and me in Seattle. Our youngest was starting college, our middlest had just returned from a year living in Peru, and our oldest had relocated from Texas to Washington following her graduation from college.

Things are different now; our children have all left home, married, and started lives of their own.

However, when I was recently going through several folders on my computer with collections of old files, I discovered a Word document with a note that I had typed up for my children during that short boomerang season when they were living with my wife and me as adults.

Notice to Everyone in this Household:

  • You will wash your own dishes immediately after you are done with them.
  • If you have friends over, you will wash their dishes immediately after they are done with them.
  • You will carry any dishes from your room (or your car, or wherever) back to the kitchen immediately after you are done with them.
  • If the dishes in the dishwasher have not been run, you will put your own dishes in the dishwasher.

Contrary to Popular Belief:

  • It will not hurt you to periodically empty the dishwasher as a favor for the dish person.
  • It will not hurt you to periodically cook dinner.

Do you think this note this made any difference in their behavior?

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