anonymous letters, awareness

Crazy Train

Whoot! Whoot!

The crazy train has arrived. 

This special little train has arrived in your community. Who is on the train? Who is talking about this? Who isn’t talking about it?

Is this scenario real or is it fake news? This story simulates a real life drama you see on television but you are starring in the grand show. What on earth am I about to share with you? I am talking about a helicopter parent dropping her bat shit craziness literally on your door step. Yes this happens more than people want to admit. I don’t have any idea why either nor do I want to speculate.

My story is based on events this week in a suburb of a major metropolitan city. A mom literally lost her marbles and went rogue when her child didn’t win a coveted county athletic award. I kid you not, she lost her ability to see how silly her actions were and how her negative behavior could scar those connected to her, including her child. 

I was in shock. I was awe struck. My mouth might have been left wide open at one point. A helicopter parent actually created a fictitious award for her high school athlete who did NOT earn her own award. That’s right folks. A parent created a phony award. The woman went to the highest extent to recognize and celebrate her child in the most bizarre fashion. Colored graphics, high resolution photos, prior coach recommendations, prior teammate validation from across town, fancy words describing her athletic prowess, good sportsmanship, and so on. So much effort was put into this award that wasn’t earned. The award was a parental masterpiece in their mind. A mere joke to others. Of course I can’t post the actual award as it would be insensitive to the child.

The helicopter mom even went as far as posting online on the day peers received awards at an actual banquet where athletes received their own merit award as voted upon by other area coaches. The helicopter parent posted this self-proclaimed award on social media for the community to see. For the entire community to see her overshadow those who actually won an award fair and square. And if that wasn’t enough she blamed the coach for overlooking her child publicly. The helicopter parent didn’t care who’s reputation she tarnished.

This was funny since it’s other coaches who vote, not the actual coach of the home team the kid plays on. Can anyone say meddling helicopter parent? Have you ever encountered this kind of crazy train in your local community? I wish I could go back to my childhood and see if such behavior ever existed around me. I don’t recall.

In the good old days, I played sports for fun. I spent many hours a day outside playing. I spent my summers at the park learning fundamentals in many sports as part of the youth recreation program. We had pick up games. We won and lost but nobody ever complained. Never once would a parent pick a fight with a kid or cause a ruckus over child’s play. It simply wasn’t important.

High school athletics is more competitive. It was then and it is now. Parents were proud back in the day but they didn’t fight their kids’ battles. College athletics is the same as well. It’s the athletes that put in work not the birth givers. Therefore it’s the athletes that earn their spot on the field or their play time and of course their award. It’s their name on the plaque not the birth givers. No parent should have the ability to influence their child’s place on a team in a competitive sport when one reaches high school. It’s absurd. It’s not fair. It doesn’t teach the athlete to compete. It teaches them how to complain to win. It’s bullying.

Let’s dial back to mental health for a moment. What benefit can a parent receive from their child receiving a coveted award that is not earned? Does it fulfill a void from their childhood? Does it win loyal friendships for their child? Does it gain confidence among coaches and peer athletes? I seriously doubt it. 

What I don’t doubt is that it will create a backlash. A derailed train. The child becomes at risk. Said child can be made fun of. Said child can become depressed and withdrawn. Said child can be angry and retaliate as they learned such a skill from their parent, all of which leads to challenges that may not be able to be reversed. This could also create scars that are not physically visible. This could lead the child to suffer in silence. Was the mock award worth it? I doubt it.

As a parent we need to just do better. Kids today are already under pressure due to today’s social norms. These kids don’t need parents adding strain to their already stressful life that is pretty much available 24/7/365 online.

Twitter, Instagram, facebook, group chats, instant messengers, etc are all outlets young adults use to share information. If you don’t want your story on the front page of the news, don’t post it online. It’s that simple.

I know when I post on this blog site not everyone will like what I post. It is okay. There may be some that benefit from my rants. I unfortunately can’t share the outcome of this crazy train as it makes frequent stops in the general community I may or may not call home or homebase. One day it may be your house. Another day it may be a friend’s house. Next week it’s the newbie’s house. Sooner or later the crazy train runs out of stops.

At that point the train parks itself or fixates itself on one poor soul. The train is set for the long haul. Behaviors escalate and those around get scared. What’s next.  A shooting? A fist fight? A shift to private school from public? I don’t have the answers.

What I can say is hard work pays off. Those who fail should work hard to get noticed the next time around. They should ask a coach what should they do in the off season to see success in the future. Display resilience. Be eager to show one’s worth. Don’t run to a birth giver and ask for recognition. An athlete has to be mentally and physically tough. They need to have the ability to push through the hard stuff. Sometimes the hard stuff comes daily.

If one was in the NFL and made a mistake there is a consequence. You get fired, fined or relocated. Your birth giver wouldn’t be able to fight your battles. I could write a whole book on the subject of parents and entitlements. Kids today need to learn to problem solve on their own.

A teacher isn’t going to change the kid’s report card if they fail their class. That’s unheard of. The same principal should apply for awards. If you fail in a season a coach can’t be expected to give an award for less than stellar performance. 

Helicopter parents need to get a hobby. Take up knitting. Buy a coloring book. Find a way to entertain yourself that doesn’t involve living in your kids shoes. It will never work out well for you or your kid. PSA #404.

I would also refer back to “Lessons” post from back in May. It’s one worth rereading a couple times a year.

challenges

The Murder Next Door

It was a sunny Thursday afternoon. I had dinner with some friends to talk about our daughters’ upcoming graduation party. I made it home about 6:10 pm…not bad, I thought. Not bad, until I crested the hill and saw the long line of blue lights leading up to my neighborhood. They weren’t letting people turn in. Had there been an accident? I inched up to the front of the line of cars waiting to turn in. I rolled down my window, telling the policeman directing traffic that I lived in this neighborhood. Can I turn in?

No, he said, with almost a little laugh. This is an active crime scene. There’s been a shooting. Keep moving.

I’m sure my jaw hung open as I slowly rolled forward, past my seemingly quiet suburban neighborhood. I spied the yellow crime scene tape stretched across the road. What do I do now? Where do I go?

I called home to see if anyone was there. They were, and had no idea what was going on. They went outside to see a cop car right in front of our house. Someone was in the back seat.

I ended up parking down the road at a brand new parking lot for a park. Other neighbors were already gathered there, waiting. We saw a helicopter circling.

Details came from all directions. Fragments of a story trickling in. Neighbors who were in the subdivision called with reports of what they saw. One crime scene turned into two. Texted photos of a young man’s body laying in a yard, being cradled by a woman, screaming.

Then the second crime scene developed…astonishingly, the house next door. The older couple. The ones out playing Motown on the weekends as they tended to their lawn and their grandchildren. Grandkids playing basketball in the driveway, waves from their car as it pulled in.

He shot her. Killed his wife. In the basement.

IN. THE. HOUSE. NEXT. DOOR.

And then, he killed his son-in-law, presumably when they came over to the house and found her. They tried to get away, but he killed him at the end of the street.

My jaw still hangs open when I stop to think about it.

(Did I mention this was in the house next door?)

I will never understand…. why? She was friendly and kind. Frankly, the killer was too. I didn’t know the son in law. Rumor has it he was mentally impaired. The man who murdered him could sometimes be seen walking the young man up and down the street for exercise. And now, one of those men is dead. The other sits in jail. I will never understand.

The neighborhood stayed roped off most of the night. Once the helicopter had gone and people were roaming freely in the neighborhood (except for getting in or out), I decided to take a path home through the woods. It was an eerie feeling that night. Like you were living next to a stranger. Who could do such a thing? Fresh eyes of a sort. Cast with sadness.

Since then, the house next door sits empty. The children of the dead woman and murderer come over to clean it out. I cannot imagine their sorrowful work. The heaviness. The heartbreak.

What will happen to the house next door? I would assume someone will move in, eventually. For now, it is just dark and quiet.

And for now, I just feel sadness. For the lives lost. For the family that lost a mother, a grandmother, a father, a son, a friend. None of it could ever possibly make sense.

I walked by the mailbox today. It hung open. So many letters and catalogs piled up. A hanging basket the family moved off the screen porch laid on its side in the front yard. Life goes on and things pile up, topple over, are left undone but left nonetheless.

You never know what is happening behind closed doors. What someone might be capable of. Even the neighbors you wave at, smile at, could be hiding something dark and sinister. Is the message to be kind? Is the message to be wary? Yes and yes.

challenges, change

Bravery and Courage

She is a brave girl.

She is a smart girl.

She is lost without her male role models.

She lost one to death. 

She lost one to a girl.

She lost one to the military.

Each taken without warning.

Each situation left a scar.

A pandemic hit and a new loneliness surfaced. A quiet and new normal that included loneliness and suffering no one ever could have prepared you for. Fear. Anxiety. Depression. Rules. Masks. It all came at once. Then death hit. Then separation of a new kind. And then the final take away. All strong male figures in her life. Uprooted. Gone. Without notice. Taken from her. She wants to know why!

She shows bravery and courage every day she tackles the world around her. Making strides while battling her own why me? She is a warrior in my eyes. A diamond among us all. We should all be so blessed to know her and her strength.

She has to fight in order to shine bright on her own. Such a young age to learn such life lessons. Taken. Gone. Stolen.

How can I ever fill the void of these three men? In honor of of International Women’s Day I tip my hat to all of the strong females fighting for themselves each and every day. 

awareness, challenges

Jail Time Revisited

Recently I had the opportunity to experience a county jail with an added twist. I’ve written about visiting the jail before as a contractor recounting an inside view. I visited the exterior as part of a jail run a few years back that included running the officer obstacle training course (so much fun) and the campus which bordered the barbed wire fences and guard towers. Both experiences were memorable and offered different views of the same place.

Over the past week I had yet another view. An unexpected view. I needed to try to visit an inmate. What started out as a simple endeavor ended up extremely complex. So many things I didn’t know, didn’t expect or just couldn’t wrap my arms around.
The first big blow is no in-person visitors which is the exact opposite of the county website, which states visitation Mon-Fri and Sat/Sun for under 18. I guess they are still under COVID protocols even though most other places are not. This was funny in itself as you don’t  need a mask to enter the jail but you can’t visit. The next option is a fee-based video visit, but figuring this option out almost requires an IT degree and a lot of patience.

That’s right. Get the app. Download the app. Set up a user ID. Add funds. Upload identification documents to prove who you are. Now wait. Wait until somebody in an office somewhere approves you. This took three days in my case. Once you have access, you can schedule a call. I almost forgot you need to deposit more money for the call and pay more service fees. Just when you think you are at the finish line you have to be patient again. It seems the schedule is not the same day. That means you wait longer and the person inside has no idea how hard you are trying to make contact. Big sigh.

What’s the other option? Send a letter. I was told happy mail is very uplifting. Okay, what’s the address? Well the address you mail to is far away. It has to be sorted to make sure there is no contraband. Well over the holiday, mail delays, etc. would lead me to believe this would be another dead end.

How about a phone call? Can the person make a call? Only if they have money they tell me. How do they get money? Glad you asked. There is a jail ATM. Never seen one of those before. You have to upload your picture, your social security number, address and so much more. Then you can pay money and exorbitant fees. Again, it’s not instant. It takes a day to process and the funds need to be deposited by 8am. That means if you put money in the ATM on Sunday at 4pm the inmate won’t see it until Tuesday after 8am. Delays galore.

Four days it takes to get any form of contact. This provides so much insight into what folks deal with when they are immersed in the jail system. I can’t even imagine if my parent was in jail, how a young adult could handle all the chaos associated with saying hi to somebody who probably needs some extra support during their incarceration.
This experience has taught me I for sure don’t ever want to spend time in jail. I also don’t want to have to visit anyone I know in jail. I like my freedom too much. I like to choose what I do and when I do it. I thought visiting somebody in an assisted living facility was hard in the heart of the pandemic however I would definitely say visiting a jail is 1000x harder current day. 

With mental health issues challenging society today, it is bothersome to me that inmates lose not only their freedom but their ability to get compassionate care. I define compassion to include communication with willing visitors vs. starving them of hope and friendly faces.

in summary, I’d always tell somebody think carefully about actions or inactions that can land one in jail. It’s not a place I’d recommend at all.

challenges, perspective

Sleepless Shit List

Do you ever have a sleepless night? I do. Sometimes I’m worrying about a kid. Sometimes I’m thinking about a deadline. Sometimes I’m mad. I could even be excited for an upcoming trip. Anxious for a doctor appointment. Any number of reasons.

Today’s reason was just the normal bullshit that built up over the week. Anger would be the feeling or distraction. Wrestling with my kids to find solutions. Planing ahead.

Thinking about rainy day scenarios. Covid blah. Sort of like playing a game of chess with yourself inside your brain. Sounds fun right? Not exactly.

If I don’t sleep good my workout sucks in the morning. If my workout doesn’t flow my morning usually blows. From there the day goes down hill. Add in the crazy of a normal day and everything magnifies.

I am sure there are people in worse situations and that’s why I hit the reset rainbow button in the morning. Training my mind to see the rainbows and sunshine in the day vs focusing on life’s blunders.

Some days this works better than others. Today I decided to make a shit list in my head. Hopefully to tire myself out. Ironically I fueled it. Like gasoline on a fire. Poof. The shit list went from in my head to paper to the white board.

Who is on it? What did they do? How does one get off it? Is it even possible to get off the shit list? So many questions. The point is I have a shit list currently. Funny how my sleepless night turned into a shit list.

I tried to soothe my mind as the weekend approached. I put the AirPods in for a cardio session at the gym. I eased the anger a bit it not enough. I spent time with a loved one. It took the edge off but not enough. I mowed acres of grass. The fresh cut smell of grass was soothing. I found an escape even if temporary.

I circled back to my environment and the shit list was still there. Each of the top three independently made selfish decisions yet again confirming their status on the shit list. How funny to be awake and realizing what I dreamed in my sleep was factual.

So crazy. The shit list remains. Those on it know. Now it’s up to them to get off it. But will they?