So many topics to blog about this week, so little time. Okay, that last bit was a lie. I have all the time in the world.
Christmas? Doesn’t everyone write about that? Thought so. Forget it.
Drug addicts? Sounds good to me. Here goes.
As a quick disclaimer, I’ll probably part the seas with this one. Inevitably, there’s the possibility that people are going to feel very strongly one way or another about my opinion, which is fine. That’s as it should be as far as I’m concerned. Feel free to fire back with how horrible and insensitive you may think I am based on my opinion. Likewise, feel more than obliged to send me a gold star if the feeling should strike you. I like stickers just as much as the next eight year old.
I guess what peeves me the most about the “addict” label in our society is the way that our government wields the definition around like some sort of justification for criminals. It seems that nowadays, if you just so happen to be under the influence of your drug of choice, the courts pity’s your debilitating circumstance and offers you a road to recovery.
I understand that life is a struggle for some. I’ve been through my fare share of woes, and I know that times are often hard, but hear this: People kick the habit everyday. True Addict’s that want to succeed and have a better life often times do, with no support.
Recently, a well written article went into our paper about shock treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration in New York State. A local Judge said that he was persuaded, in effect, after touring one of the facilities and now will send more convicted “drug offenders” to shock rehabilitation vs. incarceration.
I’m not so convinced. Let’s look at the numbers of repeat offenders. After 36 months post release from Shock, 50% of those who successfully graduated are re-incarcerated whereas 55% of candidates rejected from admission to shock (those who just end up in jail) re-offend and are incarcerated . So is Shock really all that successful at rehabilitating the individual? You go ahead and draw your own conclusions, but I’ll maintain that they do not.
You can find these figures in the Department of Justices’ National Institute of Justice Program focus handbook here: www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/shockny.pdf, I promise I’m not making this stuff up.
I guess my point is: the system cannot force an individual into rehabilitation, so why do they even try? Criminals have the system down to a science. Addicts are often very intelligent, albeit manipulative, attention-seeking individuals. Sit in on and open-forum Al-Anon meeting and you’ll be sure to find victims who are past enablers of addicts. They can tell you first hand how addicts identify people like themselves, whom they can control and use them to their advantage and personal gain. Sit in on a sentencing or two in county court, read the headlines… “addicts” (hard drug users) are regularly granted second and third chances while people under the influence of alcohol or marijuana are not granted the same “understanding” or variance.
Calling a criminal and addict and forcing them into a rehabilitation program is a thin veil and is in my opinion overused. We are becoming a society of enablers, and it disgusts me.
Archive for the 'Evening Sun Headlines' Category
So many topics to blog about this week, so little time. Okay, that last bit was a lie. I have all the time in the world.
• Last Friday, fire struck The Storage Center in the Town of Norwich, destroying 40 units and wiping out the belongings of hundreds of people. Among the lost items was nearly $8,000 worth of merchandise for the Chenango County Toys for Tots program. Ironically enough, the support given to Toys for Tots since then has put the organization on the fast track to having the best year its ever had. At the risk of sounding like a jerk (and please don’t misconstrue this as not being happy Toys for Tots has pulled through this challenge), maybe that fire is one of the best things that’s ever happened for the local Toys for Tots. It’s funny the way those kinds of things work out.
• Fantastic job to all the kiddos involved in the tree lighting ceremony in the parks in downtown Norwich on Thursday. It baffles me that there are so few events that mix school and community; so whenever the two come together, I’m there. Additional kudos to the volunteers that decorated the park. It’s not quite Rockefeller Center, but it could very well be the next best thing.
• This week, Amazon, the online retail giant, announced hopes of having packages delivered via drone within the next five years. According to the company, a customer could place and order and have it land in their front yard in as few as 30 minutes. For me, it’s concerning as no one knows exactly who will collect customers’ signatures (my solution is to have another drone fly out with a little clipboard, but we’ll see what Amazon comes up with). There are a lot of mixed feelings about use of drones, but if the technology exists, I say why not use it? As I read in one article, having my package shot out of the sky is a whole lot cooler than having it stolen from my front porch.
• The Christmas season is here which means gift shopping, that holly-jolly sense of the seasonal spirit and a barrage of inflatable stuff on peoples’ front yards. All over, homeowners are tapping into their inner Clark Griswold – some hanging enough lights to land a small aircraft. Personally, while I’m not a fan of any decoration that has be deflated when the wind blows too hard, I look forward to lights hanging from rooftops (even though some have been hanging year round and December just means it’s time to plug them in again). It’s the one thing I’ll miss when the holidays have come and gone.
Since I was a little girl, I asked big questions… “Why are we here?” “Where do we come from?” “Is death the end?” “Why is there suffering?” “Why is there evil?” “What is our purpose in life?”
I would often pose these questions to my father. At the time, I thought he knew everything. I admired my father, despite the fact he was abusive. Like a line from one of my favorite movies, “The Crow,” says, “Mother is the name of God on the lips of all children.” When I was a child, my father was my god, he was both my nourisher and destroyer. He did not seem to mind that I asked questions and craved to have them answered. I suppose he understood that he was also that way when he was younger. I was such a sensitive, pensive child. I was a sponge that soaked up feelings and knowledge. I wanted to know and understand everything and heal every hurt.
My father answered many of my questions with religion. He said that we were here because God made us in his own image, for his own pleasure. He said that there was evil because Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden, so he had to cast them out of the perfect world he had created and send them out into a world of suffering as punishment for disobeying him. He said that our purpose in life was to serve and obey God until we died and met with God in heaven. Once in heaven, my father said that we would be happy and without suffering. We would be like the angels, rejoicing in God’s presence.
Now, I have to warn Christians out there who take their faith very seriously, that what I am about to say may offend you, but this is my personal experience. It is not my intention to devalue anything that you deem valuable. I still value certain aspects of the faith I was raised with. In fact, I have a few Christian books on my shelf, scriptures and one of my favorite movies is a Christian movie. I take wisdom in whatever form it may come and embrace it. I also feel sentimental about the story of Jesus, because it was something I cherished and believed in for half my life. So please… no stoning or judging. If you think I have lost my way, then pray for me and let’s agree to disagree.
Anyway, I was not satisfied with my father’s answers. I thought, So God just made us so we could serve and worship him? My view of God was a self-less, loving God, and that just sounded selfish, narcissistic and kind of lame to me. God gave us brains and complexity just to dumb ourselves down and worship him for eternity? Then I thought, we are paying for the disobedience of two people I have never met? And why would God make us curious and then tempt us to do something that he “forbids.” And why was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil forbidden? Why would he forbid knowledge?If God was all-knowing, complex and all-loving and we are as complex as human beings, because we were made in his image, then I could not understand how he would not share that with his “children.” Usually, loving parents want to share everything and give more to their children than they ever had. Then I thought, After all this complexity, struggle and suffering, our reward is to become angels floating around in heaven and “praising” God? Honestly, it sounded extremely boring to me and like a waste of time. Not to mention, a waste of the life on earth that I had spent struggling and learning.
I confronted my dissatisfaction when I was 14 years old. I dared to question the education I received from my father. I came to the conclusion that I don’t know, but I believe there is a God. The only thing is… I don’t really think God is the purpose, I think we are.
I think we are here to learn and evolve. I don’t know if that means reincarnation. I don’t know if this is our one life. I just know that there will only ever be one me, just like there will only ever be one you. And even though we share most of the same DNA, we can have millions of differing genes and thousands of genes that are individually unique to us. I also know that evil exists because good exists and free will exists, and it leaves us open to the most possible good and the most possible evil. If there were no evil, there would be know free will and there would be nothing to challenge us to learn and be better.
I know I am here to be the best, most sincere version of myself, who will constantly be evolving.
You make your meaning in life and define your own purpose.
Do your best to not waste it. Take risks. Do something not for reward but for joy. Enjoy the simple pleasures, but do not cling to the temporary or make a habit that is not productive to you. Everything has its price and its pleasure, and you have to be accountable for the consequences of every choice you make. Embrace them, because moderation in your decisions (not being 100% committed to the choices you make), is living a lukewarm, half-life. Moderation, as in balancing the different needs you have and aspects of yourself, on the other hand, is wisdom.
When we are conflicted and uncertain, it is best to think of the two extreme actions we could take and choose the middle way.
I promise that if you marry your heart (emotions) with your mind (intellect), and you lead them with your spirit (higher consciousness), you will live a meaningful life. When we do not devote ourselves to authenticity, we become bored, depressed and we end up doing things just to please others.
I believe in respect and humility, but I am responsible for myself and my own happiness, no one else is. While I may not have control over everything that happens to me, I have some measure of control over how I respond. When we are self-aware and mindful of our emotions, thoughts and deepest convictions and we find a way to meet each of them, we find fulfillment.
What is my purpose? To overcome my weaknesses that conflict with my personal standards, to have a family/friends and love them unconditionally, to serve others, work a creative job that helps people, to live as freely as I can and free others as much as I am able, to learn as much as humanly possible and enjoy as much simple pleasures and ordinary moments as I allow.
I used to think it was to serve God and bring people to Jesus, but my heart didn’t agree. I just followed what I was taught, and I tried to emulate other people that I thought were popular or did what they were supposed to. I wasn’t free. I spent much of my youth secretly being depressed, because I felt oppressed and coerced. I will never forget the day I walked into high school with my black combat boots and hand-made shirts and jewelry, my hair cut as short as a boy’s. It was the same day I decided to sit with the “nerdy” kids at lunch, because I thought they were interesting. It was liberating, because I spent my entire middle school years trying to fit in, wear name-brand preppy clothes and to be praised by others for my actions. I was popular, but I risked it to find out what I liked and who I was. I was finally moving in the direction of defining my own purpose and doing what made me happy.
I don’t feel the need to be “different.” I just feel the need to be “real.” That can mean following or emulating others, but I only do it if I truly want to.That’s the difference. If you want to be a die hard group member of a religion, organization or cause, then go for it if that’s what you REALLY want, but accept that sometimes you may not agree with that group and that it’s OK.
What is your purpose? How will you make meaning? It is not a job for the faint of heart. It takes devotion, humility and honesty.
Trust in yourself. Everything you need to be happy is inside you. You’ve had the power all along. Don’t do something just because you are told it will make you happy or that it will give you meaning. When it comes to your personal happiness and meaning, there is no authority higher than YOU.
What a weekend for football – except for my beloved Bills, who bungled a loss out of possible victory.
It was rivalry weekend in college football, and although I prefer the pro game, how could one not appreciate the drama that unfolded? The glitter of my night turned to gold in the “Iron Bowl” as Auburn knocked off number one Alabama in one of the most dramatic endings in recent memory. To sum up: Alabama missed a long game-winning field attempt that was retrieved nine yards deep in the endzone by the Tigers’ Chris Davis. Davis made a couple of nice moves – certainly nothing Barry Sanders-like – to avoid the lumbering ‘Bama field goal team, and ran 109 yards for the game-winning points. I bear no allegiance to anything in the state of Alabama, but I joined with the millions watching the with a victory lap around my living room. It got better on Sunday because of the local flavor that aired on Time Warner’s local sports station. Over a year ago, my cable package was realigned based on the the digitizing of certain channels. For my purposes, out went the Golf Channel, and in came TWS. The lineup change was well worth it Sunday afternoon as Time Warner aired the New York State football championship games. Chenango Forks beat Rye Neck in the C final, while Maine-Endwell rallied to beat Schalmont in the B title tilt. On their roads to state title games, Forks and M-E beat local teams in lopsided fashion. One of our area coaches was not entirely impressed by the Blue Devils, although he probably could be persuaded to change that opinion now. In an interesting coincidence, the final determining play was a two-point conversion attempt in the final moments. Chenango Forks stopped Rye Neck’s two-point try to take the lead, while Maine-Endwell – after scoring with four seconds left in the fourth quarter – went for two and the win. The Spartans did everything wrong in the first half except for a key defensive stop or two. Even after failing to capitalize on Schalmont’s fumble to start the third quarter, these Spartans showed remarkable resolve.
M-E senior quarterback Kyle Gallagher drove his team 75 yards for a score in less than 90 seconds, the last a four-yard scoring toss to Jake Sinicki. The Spartans sent out kicker Stephen Pham for the tying extra point, but Schalmont called timeout to ice the kicker. In the pro game, I have yet to see a team try to ice the kicker on an extra point, but hey, this is high school football. Giving an extra minute, the M-E coaching staff reconsidered, and came back out with its regular offense. With everything on the line – an unbeaten season, 37 straight wins, and a possible third straight state title - M-E pulled off the gutsy move when Gallagher found a wide-open Darnell Woolfolk for the two-point toss. I guess Woolfolk was not supposed to run a pass pattern, but after some brief scrambling by Gallagher, drifted to an unattended spot. It was a perfect ending to a third straight perfect season for the Spartans.
If only the Bills could hang on to the ball.
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I read a shared article from the Huffinggton Post recently that made me reflect a bit on the organized madness that has become my life with children.
The gist of the piece touched on that fact that most parents, like myself often feel unworthy of “great parenting” status and oftentimes – through the false guidance of other “perfect” parents – battle the self-criticizing war on being a well balanced parent; with hopes of raising a well balanced child(ren).
The writer, Steve Wiens, explains his biggest pet peeves in simplest form, which I can appreciate: The “Perfects” will say things like “You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!” False. Sometimes, that just isn’t the case.
What exactly would be the point of “savoring the moment” your prepubescent daughter immobilizes herself in a tantrum because she dislikes the flavor of her toothpaste, all of which you know is just a ploy to extend the pre-bedtime routine? I dare you to explain to me how this moment will be worth thinking back on and reminiscing over in twenty years. Not every single moment of our child’s life was meant to be relished in the first place. Just trust me.
Now, I’m sure many of you will conclude that I am some sort of horrid excuse of a guardian based on that though, and many more will claim to romanticize every waking nanosecond you child spends breathing; but let’s be realistic. You’re not fooling anyone.
Much like Weins, I’d like to take these folks (The “Perfects”, NOT the children) and hold them under water… just for a minute; just until they start to panic a little bit. Maybe then the “Perfects”will understand the gravity of having 7 arguing children under one roof at once. Maybe then they’ll understand why the first 3 minutes of dinner – when they’re all stuffing their little faces – is my favorite part of the day; maybe then, they’ll know or remember what it feels like to not be able to “take it anymore.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining, friends. It’s a very rare occasion when we’re all actually at the table at once. The majority of the time the size of the table seems exaggerated. I have two ex-spouses and we share our children, which is still a relatively new concept for me. Usually about five minutes after my children return to the care of their mother; the silence sets in and I can tell you with all certainty that I’d rather have them there arguing with me about how much they “don’t like corn” or talking back like a Disney diva than not at all.
Everyone’s heard the adage “with age comes wisdom,” or the like. I am slowly learning how to let things that I used to be so adamant about slide for the sake of my children’s autonomy, and for the sake of peace. I’ve come to understand that each of them need to be dealt individually and not as an army brigade. The dialogue in our house is ever changing and I swear I’m doing my best. I DO cherish most of the precious little time I spend with my kids out of default, so please don’t try and drive the point home by cramming it down my throat. Not every second of parenthood was meant to be framed on a wall.
I want to talk to you about politics, morality and society as a whole. I want to talk to you about your well-being and quality of life. I care about your happiness, because I care about my own happiness. I believe they are intertwined. I do not care that it’s considered intense or unpopular to dig deep. I only care to solve the problems that have several names but are truly a central problem without a name.
You know what I am talking about. It is the insecurity that maybe you are not enough or you do not have enough. It is the uncertainty about who you are. It is the unknown about your purpose or the meaning of life. It is the feeling you are unworthy of acceptance or love. It is the doubt that there is anything true or sacred. It is the lack of a sense of belonging. It is the fear that your voice won’t be heard, and that even if you had the chance to speak, you would not know what to say or that it would not be understood.
I want to explain a subject to you that is often misunderstood, so that we are on the same page. In order to do that, I have to give you some more personal background.
Like I have mentioned in previous blogs, I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home full of extremism, hypocrisy and abuse. My parents were conservative extremists because of their religious beliefs. My household was an authoritarian household. I was not allowed to have my own opinions, feelings or beliefs. If I tried to exercise my autonomy, I was made to feel guilty, told I was wrong or punished. I understand that parents want to guide their child in what they believe is the right direction. But when this is done at the expense of your child’s individuality and personal liberty, deep wounds are inevitable. And when you abuse your children because of your own insecurities, inadequacies or mental instability, the results are devastating.
My father is a sociopath and my mother is mentally ill (but she has since asked for forgiveness for the abuse and we now have a good relationship despite her struggles). They were ill-equipped to raise a child. Abuse was the outcome. The thing is… this is not just my personal problem. This is a social problem that runs rampant in society.
When are we going to admit that there is something deeply wrong with the way we live as a society?
You see, I did not realize this until I took my first sociology class. Sociology is the subject that many people do not know much about. Sociological viewpoints are not common knowledge, because they are contrary to our common sense. Psychology is the popular social science, pop psychology is common knowledge and psycho-babble is the common language. Although I think psychology is important, it is also important that we examine the human mind and individual human behavior within the context of the larger society. You cannot have one without the other, they are interrelated.
People believe they are much freer than they truly are. People believe they are more unique and individualistic than they really are. People think they are more different from others than they are similar. These beliefs are just not reality. We are not free in many ways. We are easily influenced by society. We are more similar to other people than we are different, and we share similar experiences.
I had these beliefs growing up. I believed I was alone in my experiences. I thought if people knew that I was being abused, they would think I was a freak or bad. I thought I was being punished or somehow unworthy of peace, love and happiness.
My first sociology class changed this. Knowledge had been my savior. I loved to learn new things and my appetite for information and general curiosity were never satiated. I went to college even though everyone told me that I shouldn’t. They said I could be making money and it was a waste of time. They said I had barely graduated high school due to lack of attendance (because of emotional problems related to family traumas). They said I shouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t get into the “good schools” I applied to. I didn’t care. I just wanted to learn.
That is when I learned about the “sociological imagination.” C. Wright Mills, a sociologist who coined the term, said it was the “ability to connect personal troubles to public issues.” Wikepedia elaborates on the meaning and sums it up well: “The sociological imagination is the ability to see things socially and how they interact and influence each other. To have a sociological imagination, a person must be able to pull away from the situation and think from an alternative point of view. It requires us to ‘think ourselves away from our daily routines and look at them anew’. To acquire knowledge, it is important to break free from the immediacy of personal circumstances and put things into a wider context, rather than following a routine. The actions of people are much more important than the acts themselves.”
I had always been pattern-seeking. I looked for the interconnectedness of things in life. Despite this predisposition, I had never considered that my personal problems were not my fault, but were the result of a sick society. I did not understand that the bad behavior of my parents had just been passed down from generation to generation since the beginning of human civilization. I began to look at the big picture. The world was ridden with violence, molestation, rape, abuse, political indoctrination, religious indoctrination, authoritarianism, prejudice, unrealistic expectations, etc.
Sociology is the study of society. It looks at groups of individuals and subjects that have to do with groups of individuals to understand the relation of all things: the human family, government, religious institutions, political parties, economics, the scientific community, the healthcare system, history, different countries, race, gender, sexuality, biology, psychology, genetics, etc. When people are put in a similar set of circumstances, more likely than not, their behavior can be predicted and will be similar.
For example, there is an unemployment, drug and alcohol and crime problem in Norwich. In fact, there are unemployment, drug and crime problems in rural areas across the country (of course there are in city areas too but that is a whole other topic—unemployment is actually worse rural areas though). A psychologist or the common consensus might be that it’s a problem with individuals and how they are raising their kids. While there may be some truth to this, let’s look at the bigger picture.
Big businesses that create jobs prefer central locations and outsourcing to other countries, because it helps their profits, so historically they move out of rural areas. People get laid off, get depressed, start using drugs and alcohol to distract themselves from their money troubles and self-worth issues and when they run out of drugs because they become addicted and are still unemployed, they commit crimes. Not to mention, they are more likely to engage in domestic violence or other violent acts because of money troubles, legal problems due to crimes they commit and the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Sociological studies have shown that the more egalitarian, free, and economically prosperous a community is, the less crime, drugs, and family problems there are. You still think it’s more of a personality, moral or individual problem? If you can think of an exception, I can show you the rule.
We should care about others’ well-being and personal liberty because we care about ourselves. When someone else’s rights are taken from them, or they face a personal crisis, your liberties and opportunities for happiness are at stake. It all trickles down from the top, but change is from the bottom up.
This reminds me of a quote:
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But it, too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.”
Many of my sociology professors believed that policy or a change in government would be the way to solve the world’s problems. I believe in a different approach. I think free, educated individuals that are socially aware and conscientious of others change the world. Think back to all the great minds throughout history and you will see that they often spoke out against the majority and questioned common knowledge with boldness.
So I ask you… how will you change yourself? Now that you know a little bit more about the subject that is not common knowledge, what will you do with what you have learned? Will you see your personal problems through your “sociological imagination”? Will you have more compassion for yourself and others now you that you know that it was because of social influences that were forced upon you and you had no control over, that you struggled to overcome obstacles that caused you suffering? Will you be more likely to reach out for help now that you know someone else just might understand? Will you offer service to those that reach out for your help because you now better understand?
Question everything, even your own convictions. No one ever changed the world by being dishonest or blind to the truth. Seek truth and love. Be bold and do not lose courage. It is others individuality that makes you an individual, but never forget that we are all human, trying to live, be free and pursue happiness. These are the natural rights of mankind and will never change as long as mankind exists.
“All men are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” –The Declaration of Independence
Copy and paste the following links into your search (browser) bar:
More about the study of sociology:
More about the “sociological imagination”:
More information about unemployment in rural areas: http://www.joe.org/joe/1984september/a5.php
More information about how unemployment puts people at risk for drug and alcohol abuse: http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/george-joseph-lcdc/unemployment-and-addiction-dangerous-mix
More information on how drugs and alcohol influence criminal behavior: http://www.ncadd.org/index.php/for-youth/drugs-and-crime/230-alcohol-drugs-and-crime
Gullup Poll’s information on how to increase your well-being:
Dave Kelly was coaching varsity high school football two years before I was born. The second winningest coach in Section IV history announced his retirement this week, according to a Daily Star report. Kelly has patrolled the Delhi sidelines for nearly five decades, and of his 272 career wins, dozens have come against Chenango County football brethren. Kelly stepping down brings me back to my first memories of Delhi football.
My first year on the job,1995, Delhi was the cream of the crop among Class C teams in Section IV. The opening weekend of my first season – 1995 – Delhi began with a 53-0 thumping of B-G/Afton. Three weeks later, in the annual grudge match with Walton, Delhi blasted the Warriors, 40-0. At that time, I didn’t know a heck of a lot about Section IV football outside of Norwich, but I was quite familiar with Walton’s winning tradition. In fact, Walton was coming off a Class C state championship just one year earlier. That blowout was an eye-opener for everyone around Section IV.
Delhi was still unbeaten when I saw the Dave Kelly-led Bulldogs visit Greene for the Trojans’ season finale. It was a mauling from the outset as Delhi cruised into the postseason blasting Greene, 52-0. I surmised, at the time, that it would take a great team to top Delhi. Turns out, there were multiple teams out there as good or better than Delhi.
Following the completion of the football season – for area teams, at least – I went to my first state tournament playoff game riding along with the late Tom Schwan. First, we watched Deposit beat Weedsport in the Class D quarterfinal with the Class C game – Delhi versus Dolgeville – to follow. It was a slugfest, one that was decided by one point as Dolgeville handed the Bulldogs their lone loss of the season, 7-6. Dolgeville ended up losing a week later to eventual state champion Leroy. After watching Delhi rip through what I thought was a decent Greene team, it was my belief that Delhi was a state title contender. However, I wound up learning an important lesson: There are different levels of “good.”
Two Norwich girls sports teams had brushes with greatness this past fall sports season. The NHS soccer team lost to Oneonta in convincing fashion, and the volleyball squad was toppled by Owego. At last weekend’s state championships, Oneonta captured the Class B state title. Likewise, Owego won a state title. The latter club I was fortunate to see in a late-season Norwich home game. I missed the opening game, one in which the Indians captured the set, 25-6. With Owego subbing liberally in the next two games, Norwich closed the gap significantly, but was still swept in all three sets. I suppose the set not seen was the best determinant of the Indians’ abilities, one predicated on fine passing and a dominant net game led by 6-foot-3 middle hitter Rachel Merrill. Norwich fans will get another look at Merrill this winter when Owego’s basketball team visits the Tornado.
Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat
I’m not going to lie. This week has been hectic and is only going to get busier.
I know a lot of folks get impatient, but a lot goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see. It’s great to get a call from a reader who wants to chat for 20 minutes, but that puts me behind with responding to emails, updating the community calendar, planning upcoming special sections, holding staff meetings, updating “30 Seconds,” and most importantly – building the next day’s paper. During that phone call, three others tried to call so now there are voicemails to listen and respond to.
In no way is any of this a complaint, it’s a terrific gig and lots of fun. Plus, those random calls turn out to be pretty interesting and enjoyable.
I’ve finally figured out what it boils down to, and I’m in denial about it.
I need to start making lists.
I’ve always been “anti-to-do list,” but the time has come to suck it up and deal with it.
We’ll see how it goes, and how long it actually lasts. (My money is on seven days).
Anyway, a while back I wrote a blog and I think I titled it, “Who will I debate with now?” It’s what I wrote when former Staff Writer Kevin Doonan left to have adventures in Baltimore. Kevin, Shawn and I were the writers at the time, and we’d spend parts of our days debating about almost anything you could think of. The role of government, good music, Breaking Bad, social issues, economics … and, well … anything. Kevin and I knew each other from years back, and he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on plenty of issues. It made working in the office with him fantastically entertaining. And Shawn is always a riot.
I’m super happy to report that even though Kevin is “no longer with us,” (note to self: that was a poor choice of words when he first moved, many people offered condolences and thought he unfortunately passed away), I have new people to share ideas with.
There was the one month period when Shawn and I rocked the news portion of the paper on our own, and when we’d feel like talking about whatever, I would make my way to the corner in Kevin’s old spot and discuss (heatedly) my views on taxation, road maintenance, the justice system, and The White Stripes. Those were the days … right, Shawn?
Matt and Brittany, the newest additions to the editorial staff, bring their own history, experiences and opinions to the table, so there is no lack of excitement when someone brings up a topic. It’s great.
The four of us mesh like … well … I have no idea. Basically we’re just four vastly different human beings who spend all day working together and sharing ideas, sometimes loudly.
By the way, Kevin, if you read this, you should stop back and we’ll all go out to lunch.
Now I know I started this out by commenting about how busy things have been, but I will never let myself become too busy to enjoy every single day. Part of enjoying my days involves interactions with folks and the sharing of opinions. Not only am I super opinionated, I love to listen to other viewpoints. Enjoying my days involves blasting reggae music before anyone gets there for the day and after everyone leaves.
And interestingly enough, enjoying my day also involves building you folks a newspaper.
Rehabilitation has been a theme in both my work and personal life lately. Rehabilitation has to do with the belief that a habitual human being can make a change in their life. They can break the mold of their past: genes, family, friends, vices, culture, etc.
In case you didn’t know, we can literally change our genes. A simple example of this is… let’s say you are born with the gene that gives you lung cancer but you choose not to smoke, you can turn off that gene or keep it from turning on with your decision not to smoke (one of several decisions that could affect this gene). We not only have our own unique genetic code, we also have switches for each set of genes. We can switch our genes on and off depending on our choices and experiences.
The whole nature vs. nurture debate is dumped on its head when we consider this. Not that we can magically have a gene we were never born with, but we can reinvent ourselves by our actions and experiences. This is why I believe that scientists have found that genes have a lot more to do with criminal behavior than culture or upbringing. What they may be failing to recognize is that our experiences can change our genes, switching them on or off. We can also rewire our brains by breaking and reconnecting neurons based on our experiences and how we choose to respond to them.
This is why some children that are victims of molestation can become child molesters in adulthood, while others become fearful of sexual intimacy and/or sexualizing a child. This is why some boys who are exposed to violence during their upbringing can become violent when dealing with difficult situations, while others become passive or depressed when confronted with a conflict. These are just two extreme responses one can have to those traumatic experiences.
Imagine the trillions of sets of genes on the planet that make up each individual and the multitude of experiences and reactions those individuals can have… The possibilities are endless.
But there are patterns, because we are social creatures with many similarities. We are also creatures of habit. We are pattern seeking as well. That is why we have the social sciences to try to better understand the confusion we have about human behavior.
There is a lot of misinformation about this topic. It is not easy to “change our genes” or to “rewire our brains.” I know from personal experience and from reading sociological journals – where study after study discusses the complexity of social problems and how we can fix them – that it is an internal battle with external obstacles.
Where is our compassion for the human condition? It is easy to be on the outside looking in. It is easy to say what you would do in a situation if you have not experienced it. It is even easier to assume that you would know how the individual felt in that situation if you did experience it.
I have been to many counselors. Many of them would say, “Wow, you have experienced a lot. You had two parents that were physically abusive. A father you watched physically and verbally abuse your mother. You were molested. You were indoctrinated. You were psychologically and verbally abused. You moved all over the country. You taught yourself at times, because your mother was too depressed to homeschool you. You were in private schools, public schools. New schools every year. You were bullied in elementary school for being different and being the new girl. You were sexually harassed by boys from middle school into adulthood. Your mom was an alcoholic when you were 12 years old, after years of being severely depressed. Your mom left without saying good-bye at age 14 years old. You had to leave your father’s house because he neglected you by staying out all hours with different women and stalking your mother. He also became more physically abusive to you after your mother left. You moved in with your grandmother who was also psychologically and verbally abusive. You moved out at age 17 and struggled financially. You were raped by a close friend when you were 20 years old. Etc… You have done so well and have such a good head on your shoulders, in spite of it all.”
What most people do not understand is that I struggled every day as a child to keep my sanity. I still struggle. I am scarred by my experiences. It takes me reaching inside and outside of myself for help every day to move forward. I had many opportunities to make the wrong decisions and sometimes I did. I broke the law. I drank too much. I acted out. During a period of time, I stopped being responsible. I skipped school in high school. I ran away. I changed my hair, my identity and sometimes even my personality to get away from the pain.
I was born lucky though. I was given a strong-will, an unconditional love for people, the ability to forgive, a survivor instinct, the ability to learn and adapt easily, verbal and written communication skills and an intellect that could see things objectively. Most of all, I was given hope and the ability to visualize what could be, instead of focusing on what was. I did not earn these. They were gifts I was given. I was suicidal at times, and I almost gave up many times. But my will to live and have my life mean something always won. I had good friends and mentors. I had access to knowledge that encouraged me. While there was abuse in my family, there was a lot of intelligence and resources. I had faith in something beyond myself.
Am I special because I am not a high school dropout? Because I could have been… Am I special because I did not go to prison? Because I could have… Am I special because I never became an addict? Because I could have… Am I special because I never got violent? Because I could have…
I almost married a Mormon when I was younger, and I converted for him. I had known him since I was 14 years old, and he supported me during the trials in my youth. I did not make a great Mormon, so we parted ways. But there is a Mormon scripture that has stuck with me since that time in my life, which I think applies to what I am writing here:
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have…” (Mosiah 4:19)
Early in the scripture it talks about loving one another and giving to those in need. It says that we should not withhold from those in need because they are at fault for the condition they are in. According to the scripture, it is a sin to judge others and not help them because we think they deserve what they are going through or that it is justice. We are supposed to help them anyway.
Whether or not you believe in God or have a religion or spirituality is not important. Sometimes nature, experiences or other people can be god to us. We are not always responsible for the punishments or rewards we receive. We are not always in control of what happens to us. We are not always in control of our brains or our genes and how they react to what life throws us. We can do our best to use the resources we were given to overcome our challenges, but at some point in our lives, we all need help.
I am not saying you should help others to the detriment of yourself. I am saying that you should help others, because you were or will be helped. Whether you were born with good genes, had a teacher that inspired you, a loving parent or friend, a God that gave you comfort in prayer, a brain that wouldn’t quit, a heart that persevered, etc. You overcame because of what you were given. I am not saying it did not take an effort on your part or that it was not difficult. But you could not have done it without the gifts that were given to you.
In my mind, rehabilitation depends on how much help you have, inside you and outside of you, in spite of the obstacles that get in your way. You have no control over what you are given. You can only work with what you have. Control is the only thing we never have. We can only act to the best of our abilities within the context we are bound by.
Next time you think… “He won’t ever change. I went through that or my friend went through that and they never acted like him.” The next time you think… “She is getting what she deserves. She doesn’t deserve sympathy or a second chance.” The next time you think… “I would have never done what they did.” Think about what you have and what they have. Think about the times you failed because of the lack of internal skill or external support.
Think of what you would give, because are we not all beggars? I believe we can change by being grateful for what we are given and giving what we have. Rehabilitation is difficult, but possible, and it takes a society willing to love and help one another to make it real.
Evil exists. But it’s love that prevails.
In spite of the surprise speed bump that slowed us down the last couple months, we are steadily restoring order in The Evening Sun newsroom. After losing two reporter positions and an editor in September, I think we’re close to getting all four wheels back on the ground. Our two newest reporters, Matt White and Brittany Grove, have adjusted their chair to the way they like it and are still learning rules of the reporting gig. Meanwhile, I’m settling back into my old beat: county government, Norwich City government, the Norwich City School District and a few not for profits in the area. It’s a slow return to normalcy after having covered everything – or at least, desperately trying to cover everything – during that month long stint when I was the only reporter on staff. As for Ashley, she’s growing the thick skin needed to take the public ridicule that comes with the ever so coveted job of newspaper editor. It’s amazing what she’s put up with so far, even though she is getting $90 an hour and a company car to do it…
Admittedly, our hometown daily has taken a hit in recent weeks. News stories have been slow to get out and there’s been more than few errors made along the way. Readers are becoming frustrated as are some local voices who feel their newsworthy tips are being underplayed or simply ignored altogether. In the broad scheme of things, it’s a feeling that’s warranted. After all, the bulk of our readership pays for local news and it’s certainly not unreasonable to want what’s paid for. County residents have a right to know how their taxes are being spent. They have a right to know how, or even if, elected officials are working in the best interest of the community. They have a right to know what’s happening in their hometown, the positive and the negative that can effect them both directly and indirectly. They have the right to know how their own decisions might themselves and others. They have the right to know and we here at The Evening Sun are obligated to serve as a viable source of information.
But at the same time (and at the risk of sounding cliché) Rome wasn’t built in a day. We are in the rebuilding process at The Evening Sun. I believe we finally have a good team of reporters on board, one that’s up to the challenge of learning the intricate details of every story from every approachable angle. We each carry with us a unique perspective while at the same time, doing our best to view each story objectively. And if there’s something we have missed, I believe we each share the same commitment to make it right because like I said, readers have the right to know.
The only thing I ask in return is a little bit of indulgence. We may be up to full staff but that’s a far cry from making us perfect. We will continue to improve but in the meantime, I’m asking for just the slightest conveyance of patience and understanding for me, for our new editor, and for our two new reporters. We’ll get there.