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Many times we read an obituary and we wonder about the cause of death. Sometimes the family will request donations to a particular organization. In lieu of flowers. That helps one suss out the cause of death. Well, not always. My father did not die because of food even though we requested donations to the Rhode Island Food Bank. Laugh out loud.

Other times it is just spelled right out for you. There was a recent obituary here in New England. There was absolutely no guessing about why this young fifteen year old died.

His family wrote an obituary that was just heart breaking.

Connor Francis Tronerud, 15, took his own life on Monday, December 4th, after struggling with bullying from peers. 

That was the beginning of an obituary for a child who was loved. This was an obituary that never should have been written. Never.

At home, Connor could most commonly be found “chillaxing” in his room with his iPad, Nintendo, and peanut butter cookies. He enjoyed going on hikes with his father; he looked to his mother for support as a confidant. He didn’t hesitate to ask his brother to borrow his credit card for online shopping. 

There is more, of course. Hard to sum up a person’s life in an obituary. So most folks usually stick to the facts rather than descriptions of personality and accomplishments.

He was an altar boy, had the highest GPA ever earned at his school and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society.

See Connor’s full obituary here.

This obituary captured the essence of Connor. For us. His family was sharing him with us. So we know that he was loved. That he was smart. That he was involved.

That this could happen to anyone. That bullying is real.

It’s not new. Behaviors are never really new. Ask a psychiatrist or a priest and they will tell you that they’ve heard it all. Nothing about human behavior is new.

But social media has opened the floodgates. And made it worse. Because there is no safe place. In order to recover or get assistance.

I read one comment from a man named Matt on the family’s fundraising page.

This saddens and frustrates me. I really don’t get the benefit of social media for teenagers. Most adults can’t even handle it responsibly. Kids like this, who probably already get picked on all day long during school hours, get sucked in to getting slammed on social media instead of discovering who and what in life motivates and fulfills them. No sure what the answer is.

I’m with that guy. I do not know the answer. But Connor’s family is raising money to fund bullying prevention. I sincerely hope that their efforts will assist young people and prevent another death. Maybe find an answer.

I honestly cannot imagine the family’s pain. Cannot. A nightmare of the worst kind.

This is their intro on the fund raising page.

Connor was a dynamic, witty, unforgettable young man. He was also an intensely private person. As he transitioned into adolescence, he struggled with peers invading that privacy in order to provoke a response . He had many spaces in which he felt safe and nurtured; others – including social media – proved overwhelming and harmful.   

No child should suffer marginalization; at the same time, the complexities of a “connected” world and its pathways to poor decisions can be difficult for adults and teens to navigate. As a result, the Tronerud family is committed to directing memorial resources towards funding for bullying prevention and self-harm awareness education in their area. The more we can equip peers, coaches, teachers, mentors, and friends to bolster those who are isolated, the more lives can be saved, and the sooner healing can begin. 

Thank you for offering your support to this worthy cause.

I wish you and your families a safe and secure place. Always continue to encourage kindness, compassion and caring in our children.

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday morning I checked Facebook. Saw that a new friend request was pending.

The name was Veronica Victor.

Hmmmm. I don’t know anyone by that name.

So I hone in on the photo. The profile picture is a lovely shot of my friend’s mother. Whose name is not Veronica Victor. I check the cover photo. Again, a nice picture of my friend’s mother and father with their beautiful grandchildren sitting on a sofa and smiling.

But I am already Facebook friends with her.

Time for a little recon work.

I check the “About” page. Says from Trinidad and Tobago. Okay, that would be correct.

There is also a “Studied at West London School of Dance” or something like that. This could also be correct.

I scroll down the timeline to look for more clues.

This is what I found.

#feeling #myself

If you’re gonna say bad things about about me at my back, come to me and I will tell u more. Living ma life without anybody’s permission. 

Pretty sure that the very proper Judith is not going to be writing this. Ever. I’m also quite certain that seventy-four year old Judith doesn’t know what a hashtag is.

My friend asks me to report it to Facebook if I know how. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what a hashtag is either.

I give Judith a heads up and I reported that it was a fake.

Facebook gets back to me thanking me for reporting it.

But sort of creepy when you think about it. Someone stealing a photo of your family and using it on their profile and background cover.

Wait, the friend request is still pending. The account is still active. The person has changed the profile photo (no longer Judith-thank goodness) and has updated their information. Single and lives in Ogun, Nigeria.

I texted my friend.

“Do you think it would be alright if I call your mom Veronica Victor from now on……?”

She said, “Sure!”

LOL

Have a great day everyone! And watch out for the fake friends.

Me?

I’m just gonna be living ma life without anybody’s permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have a birthday coming up soon.

Don’t mind the birthdays so much. Maybe because I really hardly ever know old I am.

Been known to say to one of my brothers, “How old are you?”

And then I do the laborious math.

I know the difference of years between us.

What do I mind about getting older?

Wrinkles? Forgetfulness? Weight gain?

No, the thing I really do mind is my eyesight not being as keen as it once was.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad. I was a young girl and I was threading a needle.

My Dad said, “I remember when I was a boy in Ireland threading a needle for my Granny.”

Oh my gosh.

I’m now the Granny.

I’ve worn the “cheaters” for years. Pushing them back on my head when I didn’t need them to see fine print. Hair had a permanent imprint from the glasses.

Finally succumbed to multi-focal glasses. Wasn’t easy getting used to them.

I’d be climbing down stairs and escalators making sure I didn’t kill myself due to a misstep while looking out the distance lens when I should have been looking a little closer to home.

I appeared, on more than one occasion, to be really challenged.

Now I am wearing them all the freaking time!

I remember a few years back, while we were taking a family photo, saying to Mom, “Do you want to take your glasses off for the photo?”

She said, “Why would I want to take them off? I wear them all the time.”

Ummm, okay.

See, I’m not there yet.

I have nothing against glasses. Some of my best friends wear glasses. LOL

I just realize it’s not so easy.

How do you put makeup on each day? You need your glasses to see but how can you apply eye makeup with the glasses perched on your nose?

The other day I was in a hotel room. Before I hopped in the shower I lined up the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in order of use.

Because I don’t wear glasses in the shower.

So, I’m like Mr. Magoo in a steam filled cubicle.

I’m not sure what I should do.

I could be chasing the botox people down, hiring a trainer to tone this fifty something year old body and furiously doing crossword puzzles to help my memory.

But what I am thinking about is laser surgery. If I am a candidate.

Not just because of the makeup or because I might put shower gel in my hair. Or gargle with astringent. Or brush my teeth with facial hair remover.

But because I want to see everything. Without assistance.

Like I did when I was young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in November. So, of course, I get to thinking about “that day” so many years ago.

It was a very small wedding. Maybe sixty guests. If that.

Many are no longer with us. My next door neighbors, Dot and Eddie and Mr. and Mrs. Thomson. My Auntie Elaine, my Uncle Pat, family friends Danny and Phyllis O’Hara, Frank P., my aunt’s in-laws Jargu and Gram, my beloved Nana, and my best friend’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Amerantes.

All gone.

And my Dad.

I posted this photo on my husband’s Facebook page with the caption, “Papa. Probably thinking, She’s all yours now. Good luck!”

wedding

So after I posted this photo one of my daughters asked me, “Do you still miss Papa?”

I said, “Yes, every day. Today I just wanted to ask him something.”

She asked, “What did you want to ask him?”

I replied, “Something about the family history. He loved that and always had time for me.”

But there are so, so many times when I just want to ask him something.

 

 

 

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Right

I was at a friend’s party today.

Someone was asking me about my older daughter and I said that she was in her first year of law school at Berkeley.

The person said something about Berkeley but then followed up with, “Great school.”

I said, “Yes, it is.”

Then, of course, there was talk about Left and Right.

I laughingly said, “I’m right.”

Friend’s husband said, “Ummm, no.”

I said, “Okay, no, I lean to the Left but I mean that I’m right.”

He said, “Lean??????” LOL

I said, “Okay, I’m totally Left but I’m totally right!”

And yes, this was the best conversation about politics because it was filled with laughter. Nothing more. Welcome change.

 

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It’s the end of the school year. A busy time of year.

Still have one more year with my youngest. But it sort of hit me this last month or so. Only one more year before she leaves.

I am sure it will be difficult. Especially if I am still overseas and she attends college back home.

One of my friends is now teaching her daughter how to prepare certain meals.

That’s practical.

Me, on the other hand, literally forced my daughter to watch “Rocky.” She had never seen it.

I have a list in my head of things she needs to read, see and learn before we send her off next year.

Because we will have to let her go. That is a fact.

I remember when our eldest was taking the car out on her own for the very first time. She was heading to her job at a strawberry farm. Couple of towns away.

Beautiful weather so rain wouldn’t be a problem. Lovely roads so that also wouldn’t be a cause for concern.

Her Dad and I were still a bit nervous once she left the house.

Finally, he says, “I’m going to follow her to make sure she’s okay.”

I was like, “Yes, please do!”

Half an hour later he comes back. I asked him how it went.

He smiled and said, “Great! And she was so glad to see me. She was waving at me.”

We both felt so relieved.

When she arrived home later in the day I asked her about the driving. Also mentioned that she was waving at her father.

She told me she was actually waving him away. That she was doing perfectly fine on her own.

I laughed out loud.

That’s a very good thing. She was prepared to drive on her own. We had ensured that this was the case.

Sure, we still worried.

But the best thing we can do for our children is to make sure that they are ready to go.

Then we will know that we have done our job properly.

Even if it hurts. Even if we worry.

 

 

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What’s Old Is New

That’s a phrase my friend, Mary Ann, used frequently.

It is so true.

When I lived in Rhode Island I read the Providence Journal. I especially enjoyed reading Mark Patinkin’s column in the newspaper each day. He would write about real things, ordinary moments, raising kids, current events, etc. You could totally relate.

I remember one story in particular. It stuck with me over the years.

Because when I finished reading it I was like, “Dang!” and “Wow!”

Made me think about how things can play out and how situations really do have two sides.

Sort of like when I read Mary Lavin’s short story, “The Widow’s Son.”

Okay, I’m a Libra so I am usually lobbing stuff back and forth anyway.

I’ve thought about this article many times over the years. It’s a “What if?” piece. And it is relevant today.

I searched for the column and could never find it anywhere.

So, I sent Mark a message asking about this story and letting him know it was probably written more than twenty years ago.

He promptly replied, “Found it!”

Apparently he has folders.

It was published on April 3rd, 1985. More than thirty years ago. When I was twenty-one years old.

After he sent it to me I read it. And again thought, “Dang!” and “Wow!”

I had some of the details wrong in my head. But not the heart of the story.

 

A man who has felt the power of fear is glad he had no gun

Mark Patinkin

April 3, 1985

 

He went to sleep around 11. His wife was with him, and his daughter in the next room.

 

A noise woke him. It was downstairs. He listened for a time, but there was nothing, so he shut his eyes, and then he heard it again. Someone was working the back door.

 

He called to tell me this story yesterday. His name is Jim Murphy. He lives in Cranston and is vice president of an industrial distributing company.

 

“I’m still shaking from it,” he said. He listened closely, until he was sure. Someone was at the back door. He looked at the clock; it was a quarter to four.

 

He walked to the top of his stairway. Standing there, he heard the noise again. Then he didn’t hear anything at all. He told himself it might have been the wind.

 

He stayed and listened anyway. Still nothing, and then it was the front door. This time, it was not the wind. Someone was opening the screen door. The doorknob moved.

 

EARLIER THAT DAY, he’d spent time putting up pictures in his daughter’s room. He’d left two screwdrivers in there. He walked in and got them, then came back to the stairs.

 

He wondered whether there was more than one person. He had always been a family man, of family outlook, but violence, now, was his only thought. If anyone came up, he told himself, he would use both screwdrivers. His wife and daughter were behind him, asleep.

 

The doorknob turned again, and then he saw the door push open. A moment later, a man walked inside. From where he was standing, he was only able to see waist-high.

 

“It hit me,” he would say later. “My God, they’re in my house. It’s happening. I’m a statistic. They’re in my house.”

 

He could tell by the legs it was a large man. What if there were two? He could not let this happen.

 

He began to yell. He screamed as loud as he’d ever screamed. He made his voice as full of threat as he could. “Everyone in their life fears this kind of thing,” he would say later. “You never know what’s in you until it happens.”

 

HE TOLD HIMSELF that if anyone came close, he would do whatever harm he could. And as he waited, he would continue to yell. And he did.

 

Then, from downstairs, there was an answer. “Dad, Dad, it’s me.”

 

He stopped and listened.

 

“It’s me, Dad.”

 

“Jimmy?” he said.

 

A figure stepped into the light. His son.

 

That night, he’d driven up from his home in New York to see a hockey game at his alma mater, Yale. Afterward, he’d decided that since he was halfway here, he’d spend the weekend in Rhode Island.

 

THE FATHER did not sleep that night. The next evening, he took his family to a basketball game at the Civic Center. There, he ran into an old friend. The friend was a policeman. Murphy told him the story.

 

“Jim,” the policeman said afterward, “do you have a gun in the house?”

 

“I don’t,” said Murphy.

 

“If you did have one,” asked the friend, “where would it have been?”

 

“I guarantee you,” said Murphy, “it would have been in my hand.”

 

“Would you have shot?”

 

He said he did not know.

 

“From looking at you now,” said the friend, ” your veins are still showing. I think you’d have shot him.”

 

HE TOLD ME that is why he called me.

 

“He’s right,” he said to me. “There’s no question in my mind. I was in fear of my life.”

 

I told him there could be another lesson to this story. He now knows what it is to be vulnerable. I asked if that might make him think about a gun, for a next time, when it may not be his son.

 

“I guess I’d have to say no,” he said. “It’s the presence of a gun that can do it, even if you don’t realize it. I know what I would have done.”

 

It is a complicated issue. I have spoken with enough crime victims to know the importance of keeping evil souls from violating decent lives. But now I have spoken with the other side of this. And it is something to make you think.

 

He told me he will never forget the sight of those two feet. He told me he will never forget the sound of his son’s voice.

 

The strange thing is that I sent Mark my message before I read about a woman who fatally shot her daughter in Florida thinking it was an intruder.

Can anyone imagine what that mother has to live with for the rest of her waking moments?

There is only one difference between Jim Murphy and the woman in Florida.

About six years ago, in Southern California, I woke up one morning and thought I heard noises in the kitchen. Since it was only me in the house, at that time, I thought it was very strange. Heart starting to race, I slowly crept down the stairs.

Only to see someone rattling around the kitchen sink. I jumped a mile. Heart pounding.

It was Rory. Home from Berkeley for the weekend.

We had no idea she was coming home. She wanted to surprise us.

Our friend/neighbor was in on the secret and picked Rory up at the airport in the wee hours of the morning. Dropped her at the door. She snuck in the house without us having a clue.

I was so delighted. After my heart slowed down a bit.

As I am sure Mr. Murphy was delighted to see his son. After the shock.

As I am sure the woman in Florida would have been delighted to see her daughter.

I don’t own a gun. Never appealed to me. Quite frankly, they scare me.

But what if I did? Would I have the ability to scream? Would I be rooted in the spot? Would I pull the trigger if I had a gun in my hands that day in the kitchen?

As Mr. Murphy stated, “Everyone in their life fears this kind of thing. You never know what’s in you until it happens.”

It’s an old story. But what’s old is new.

 

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