Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is the Workplace an Extension of the School Playground?

Are workplaces just an extension of the playground at the elementary or middle school? Evil HR Lady (it is hard for me to call her this--although it is her blog name--for she seems more charming and witty than evil) has an interesting post on workplace bullies that looks into this question and wonders if abusive co-workers could be dealt with by peers just as bullying kids can sometimes be stopped by the intervention of other kids. I think the answer is yes, sometimes.

In my experience in working with violent and threatening workers in businesses, the bullying co-worker has often gotten off scot-free from both management and other co-workers for quite some time before a blow-up that cannot be ignored occurs and results in a referral for a violent risk assessment. It certainly seems better to nip abusive behavior in the bud ASAP at work before it escalates--both for the abusive employee and for other co-workers, but many people are afraid of confrontation in our society, having been taught to bite their tongue and allow themselves to be screamed at, scorned, and threatened.

I have never understood this--why would one allow themselves to be treated this way? It is amazing what a calm cool voice using direct eye contact while conveying to the co-worker that one will not tolerate their nasty behavior will do--and it is even more helpful if other co-workers stick together and back up the messenger with a similar message. People need to learn to control their emotions at work, but those who feel entitled, will continue to hurl abuse at co-workers if they think they can get away with it without any repercussions such as the embarrassment of being called out on the carpet for their tacky and unprofessional conduct.

Did you ever have a workplace bully? What did you do, stay and stand your ground or turn tail and run or say nothing?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Kidnapped boy found

I was just at the hospital visiting my mother who broke her foot yesterday and happened to catch a segment of CNN describing an Amber alert. A thirteen year old boy in Florida was kidnapped at gunpoint at a bus stop with around 14 other kids present:

According Bristow, the kidnapper came out with a gun, and Clay happened to be the closest student to him. He ordered Clay to go with him. Other students starting running, screaming, hysterical and the kidnapper was able to get Clay into the truck.

Students at the scene say that Clay said “Sir, I don’t know you.”

One child described a heart-breaking scene:

“Everyone said when he got in the car, he was bawling his eyes out,” said Jonathan Fletcher, a friend and classmate of Clay's.

Bristow said it was probably the scariest situation the children had ever encountered.

Luckily, the suspect let the boy go, although he is still at large. However, I cannot imagine how relieved the boy's family must be that he was found alive.

Club Sandwich

Are you in your thirties or forties and desperate? I am--and no, it's not what you think, get your head out of the gutter. I have found myself lately part of the Sandwich Generation, more specifically, a Club Sandwich, defined as "those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents" (thanks to several readers who emailed me to ask me to post on this topic). I do not have any grandparents left and my father died over four years ago at 68, but I am now trying to help my mother, who has health problems and is in her late sixties--and I have a middle schooler who is dealing with well, all of those middle school issues. Add this to trying to work, take care of a house, etc. and it's no wonder so many of us--both men and women-- feel exhausted.

Brian Williams on the Nightly News recently had a series on caring for aging parents and had viewers write in with their personal stories that range the spectrum from heartbreaking and caring to resentful at having to deal with parents, to wistful that their parents died early and they did not get to see them into old age. I think it is a privilege that we get to care for our parents as they get older but that does not mean that it is easy. So many health problems, emergencies (my own mother fell and fractured her foot in the middle of trying to move her to an independent care facility yesterday) and the day to day chores that need to get done are difficult at times, but in the end, all that matters is that we care for each other the best way that we can. Do you have a parent or parents that you care for? If so, how are you coping or not with the situation?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"High school kids, unsupervised, are the most feral little beasts on the planet"

Kim du Toit discusses the socialization and homeschooling question:

When we talk to people about homeschooling our kids, and are asked what we did about “socialization”, our answer is dismissive. Here’s the gist of it.

We were never interested in having our kids learning to socialize from a group of peers who were as clueless about the process as they themselves were. High school kids, unsupervised, are the most feral little beasts on the planet, and we saw no reason why we should subject our kids to that ordeal. The most common response to that statement was usually, “It makes them tougher” or “They learn how to cope with a hostile environment, like they may encounter in the adult world”......

Another response is that the kids “miss out on so much”. Yeah, Daughter really misses that experience of perpetual teasing about her weight, and the physical bullying that went along with it, coupled with sadistic gym teachers who forced her to run a mile during PE class, in the hot sun.

I'm waiting for Mr. and Mrs. du Toit's book on the subject.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Would You Like Fries with that Ice?

Have you seen this case about a woman who in a fit of road rage threw a cup of McDonald's ice into another car and was sentenced to two years in prison?

No one was injured, but the cup launcher, Jessica Hall, 25, of Jacksonville, N.C., was charged and convicted by a Stafford County jury of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle, a felony in Virginia. The instructions given to the jury said that "any physical object can be considered a missile. A missile can be propelled by any force, including throwing."

Hall, a mother of three young children whose husband is serving his third tour in Iraq, has spent more than a month in jail.

The jury sentenced her to two years in prison, the minimum, and a judge will formally impose a sentence Wednesday. Under state law, the judge can only decrease the jury's sentence.

"We didn't think it would go this far," Hall said in an interview at the Rappahannock Regional Jail. "Two years! What did I do?"

Two years in prison seems excessive for throwing ice; I have seen offenders get less time for actually doing serious damage to people with their stupidity. Was McMissile mom's act of road rage reasonable? Of course not, but neither was a jury's decision to put her in jail for two years. What do you think?

Update: "The 25-year-old military wife convicted of throwing a cup of ice into a car that cut her off on Interstate 95 in Virginia has been sentenced to probation.

Jessica Hall of Jacksonville, North Carolina has been in jail for more than a month since her bond was revoked by a Stafford County judge. A jury had recommended that Hall serve two years in prison, but the judge noted Wednesday that Hall has no criminal record and placed her on probation for the felony conviction." Thanks to Bender for the information.

Interview with Authors Claire and Mischa Berlinski

We've got a brother-sister act, with blogosphere fave Claire Berlinski and her brother, Mischa Berlinski. Both of them have new novels out, which happened to be published on the same day. Claire, the author of Loose Lips and Menace in Europe discusses her new book, Lion Eyes, and Mischa has an intriguing psychological mystery called Fieldwork. They talk about romance and dating on the internet and why internet dating often goes wrong, Iranian history and missionaries in the hills of Thailand.

You can listen directly -- no downloads needed -- by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. Or you can download the file and listen at your leisure by clicking right here. You can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup by going here and selecting "lo-fi." And you can always subscribe via iTunes.

This podcast is sponsored by Volvo automobiles at


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Invasion of the Fur Children

Do you ever read news stories about the Baby Boomers that make you wonder if they have lost their minds, or maybe just their common sense? Many of the tales about the Boomers are just a marketing ploy, of course, as the cohort spans almost 20 years and seems to include just about everyone, even those of us born in the 1960's who really have little in common with those born just after the war. Anyway, I caught this story on MSN about how the Boomers are now spending more on their snooty dogs than they are on children:

Who's your baby? If she's got a wet nose, nasty breath and canines that make confetti of your new pair of Manolo Blahniks, you're in excellent company: Spending on children is plummeting in the U.S. as we lavish ever-larger amounts on the other little beasts at home.

Take Pepper, a 5-year-old wire-haired dachsund who "fell into a tub of butter" when owners Maurice and Valerie Teich brought him home. Maurice buys and sells steel internationally; Valerie is a banker. Pepper leads a good life on Manhattan's Park Avenue and vacations in the fashionable Hamptons. He joins the Teichs each morning at the breakfast table for oranges, yogurt and toast before donning his leash and jacket. (Should he wear the shearling? The red Burberry with brass buttons? The Ralph Lauren?)

The other day, I was at a local public relations meeting and one of the women there told me she worked for the DIY network; we laughed about a show they have on called Barkitechture where owners learn to build doghouses for their pets; there is even a book out entitled, Doggie Homes (DIY): Barkitecture for Your Best Friend. The PR person told me that the one predictor of who watches the show is if the person has a yearly birthday party for their dog. When I howled at that, she sheepishly admitted that she hosted a dog B-day every year, "Look, I don't have any kids, my dogs are my kids," she explained.

"Uhh, they are? Really, dogs are kids?" I thought -- but no, I was not rude enough to say this out loud. Apparently, many Americans feel this way, referring to their animals as their "Fur children."

So maybe one can let the Baby Boomers off the hook if they have already had children and now because of an empty nest are looking to their fur children to lavish their attention on, although I have to ask, what happened to spending time with the real, live human grandkids? And if people are having fur children instead of real children, what will happen to the human race? And what about retirement, long after your fur children are dead, will you end up in the doghouse because you blew a wad of cash on a dog instead of planning for retirement etc. Just a few questions for those who can't tell the difference between an animal and a human being.