Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Bullying”

An Important Clarification And Distinction


It is hard to believe that we are more than a year and a half out, and we are still completely split in opinion, support, and action when it comes to dealing with the Covid19 pandemic. While this is literally a global issue, in the United States, we have the ability, the knowledge, the skills, to at least get a grip, to confine it, to control it, yet we cannot.

The problem is not a new one. But between special interests, social and right wing media, the efforts could not have been made more difficult and confusing. It began so badly, that even political positioning took a priority over one’s health.

It is July, 2021, over a year and a half into the Covid19 pandemic, over half a year now, our best effort to deal with the Corona virus, several vaccines available, and we still cannot see the end of this pandemic as numbers of cases begin to rise again. Science stated, “do these things, wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and we can get this under control.” But the response by too many was after expecting people to do the right thing, “nope, I am free to do what I want and I won’t do those things.”

Factor in the anti-vax movement, which admittedly, has been around seemingly forever, just during Covid19, has gotten extremely loud and visible. The problem with the anti-vax movement is that they are all or nothing. Yes, every medicine, every vaccine comes with its risks. HEEEELLLLOOOO… I made the choice to be treated for cancer, by experimental treatments and I am here thirty-one years later, but I do have issues from those treatments. I could have been anti-treatment, but then you know what I would be? DEAD!

And that is the problem that I have with the anti-vax movement, right wing media, and all of these other special interest groups. Just the other day, on one of the extreme right news channels, one of the commentators actually stated, “maybe nature meant to create things that wipe out entire civilizations, and we are interfering with that.” Seriously? This person believes that we should just let Covid19 rip through the globe and the world resets? I should not be surprised as it was a similar mentality in living during the beginning stages of the AIDS crisis back in the 1980’s.

So, let me get set. My position has always been, that I support the vaccine. At the same time, because of my health history, I know that my vulnerability to Covid19 is extreme, but I also know that I will have issues with the effectiveness of the vaccine. And sure, there is a part of me, though no longer a dominant thought, that I was uncomfortable with the process of the discovery and development of the vaccines that are currently available.

To be clear, my opinion is my own. I do not learn important details about dealing with Covid19 from media resources, the details come from my own doctors who I trust completely, more on that in a minute. But I do have pillars that support the decisions that I make, and that does include facts reported by reputable news sources (typically central in political lean), science, and common sense.

For instance, did you know the actual discovery process for the Corona virus was actually started around ninety years ago? To grasp this concept, and put as simple as possible, just as the flu, and other diseases, it is only the strains that change over the years, but the foundations of the base virus itself are still the same. So, even though we are dealing with Covid19, named after its discovery in the year 2019, according to USA today (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2021/01/21/fact-check-covid-19-vaccine-nearly-20-years-making/3873247001/), the Corona virus has been around since 1930. And even more familiar to our memories, the prior most famous Corona virus, was SARS, back in 2003. This one stands out to me in my memory, because it was in less than a year, I would travel to adopt my daughter. So yes, the development of a vaccine does take a long time, but science did not just start working on this vaccine in 2020. It was started almost two decades ago. So when the president created “Operation Warp Speed,” it was definitely meant to make the process go faster, but the truth is, the discovery part of the process was already there, it was just the research of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, which cannot be sped up because clinical trials take time to occur, but also the bureaucratic process that really takes time.

Fortunately, studies were showing that the vaccines that were being developed worked, and were safe, and that was based on healthy patients, with no comorbidities (that is how clinical trials work, you have to be otherwise healthy). Statistically, scientists do not expect 100% results and when it comes to vaccines, a success range of 65-75% is considered good. Two of the top contenders against Covid19 have success of well over 95%. Historically, this is unheard of.

But that will not stop someone from protesting the success of the Covid19 vaccine, instead with a reference to “VAERS”, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, established by our own government. Those that use this website as the backbone of their arguments against the vaccine make it awfully convenient that they forget one major issue, rather a disclaimer (https://vaers.hhs.gov/data.html). You see, anyone can file a claim on VAERS, it does not have to be the doctor or administrator of the vaccine, it could be a patient. The fact is, there is no verification of any claim. There is no proof provided. Just taking someone’s uninvestigated and unproven word for it. VAERS states, “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind.” Using VAERS as a reason to not get the vaccine, is definitely flawed.

Then there is the misconception about what the vaccine is really for. While the vaccine definitely shows that it can prevent contracting Covid19, it definitely shows the benefit of lessening the severity such as requiring hospitalization or death. And that alone should be a pretty strong motivator. The science is still out if it will prevent carrying Covid19 asymptomatic. And there are known cases of still contracting Covid19 after the vaccine, though either with few or no symptoms. One thing is for certain, deaths attributed to Covid19 in recent weeks, average well over 97%, all were unvaccinated. That is a damning statistic.

But here is what the vaccine does not do (all addressed by the CDC). It does not make you magnetic. It is safe to get pregnant. It will not alter your DNA. It will not cause you to get Covid19 (if you contract it, you got it from someone or somewhere else, that is the only way).

Alright Paul, a lot of info here, so what does that have to do with your concerns and not getting the vaccine… yet? As I have previously mentioned, as a result of having had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and one of the procedures used to diagnose me, left me without my spleen, I am what is referred to as “immuno-compromised.” Simply put, I have a hard time fighting illnesses or avoiding them. But as I also found out many years ago, my body does not make antibodies for vaccines without boosters or additional vaccine. In my childhood, I was given the usual vaccines that were considered lifetime. During my Hodgkin’s days, in preparation for diagnosing, staging, and treatment, I was given additional vaccines for other illnesses, they too were supposed to be lifetime.

Surprise! They were not lifetime, at least, they were not any longer. Worse, once discovered that I no longer had protection, I would need multiple doses, of what at one time was supposed to be one and done forever, to get immunity. And that is where I am at right now with the Covid19 vaccine. There is no schedule for more than just the two shots. There are no plans for boosters, though there at least is discussion and studies now being conducted on additional dosing.

The position I have taken, is that for me to take the two doses, and the likelihood of them being ineffective, do nothing for me physically or mentally. I would not be able to resume non-mitigation life with the false sense of security provided. And with no plan or approval for additional doses if needed, when the option would eventually come out, would the process still be viable, or would I have to start all over.

There are two confusing issues right now concerning this. One, the talk over boosters. Pfizer, one of the vaccine makers says it wants Emergency Use Authorization for boosters. Of course, our government wants the concentration on getting more people originally vaccinated before concentrating on boosters. Then of course there is the cynicism of Pfizer’s perceived financial benefits of booster approval being a priority.

The other confusing thing, not lost in all of this, the vaccines are not “approved” yet. Sure it is just a formality until all the red tape is completed, but with hundreds of millions of doses administered, and hardly any adverse or serious confirmed reactions, these vaccines will do what they are supposed to. In other words, we need those vaccines officially approved, and that will take away yet another argument by those hesitating or refusing to get the vaccine.

As I said, I am for the vaccine. Logic, science, and common sense are guiding me when I will finally get it. But as our nation sees an extreme and quick uptick in new cases due to the more dangerous strain, I may have to alter my thinking a bit. Because, while I have been able to “live” among Covid19 for this long and not face a Covid19 diagnosis, the odds are closing in on me, especially as I live in an area that is notorious for denial of not just the vaccine, but even the virus itself, and the politics of the individuals. While I respect people’s rights to have their opinions, the reasons behind their choices in this situation are completely misguided, delusional, and dangerous.

The last time we dealt with something so catastrophic like this, was polio. And do you know why we do not have an issue with polio and have not had an issue with polio for decades? Because we had a vaccine. We did not have a country whose citizens decided that it was acceptable for millions of people to die from something preventable to avoid a vaccine.

Just this morning, I saw an interview with Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director. The question was put to him, specifically about boosters for people like me, whether battling cancer, history of cancer, or compromised immune systems. He replied that there needs to be an understanding, there is a difference between a booster, and a schedule of a third shot. A booster is used when the coverage from the vaccine is waning. But what is being studied is the “schedule” of what it takes to get to that level of immunity. When and should a third dose, or possibly a fourth dose be given? And would it be safe? While I have been stating this concern for a long time, this is the first that I have finally heard it mentioned. And I am glad that they are now looking into this.

I have two resources that I rely heavily on for when I make this decision, both personal doctors of mine. One, anxiously waits for me to go ahead and do it, because he definitely feels I need it, and I do not disagree. But my other doctor agrees with how cautious I am being. But when these two doctors align, that will be my time. Not the media. Not opinions. Facts. Science.

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!


“FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”

Think back to your school days, and chances are at least one time, you heard that particular chant. Depending on your age, decades ago, you either gathered around, crowding around the two combatants, or, like today, you become a cinematographer to post the fight on line.

This behavior, often dismissed as a “phase” all kids go through, translation… “we aren’t going to do anything about it”, referring to the often start of the melees, bullying. I am fifty-five years old, and I can confirm this has been going on for five decades. I was involved in the process, but usually on the losing end, a victim of the bullies.

Why was I such an easy target? Besides the fact that I was short, and age-wise, I was much younger than the majority of my classmates, I was an easy target. I was raised “to turn the other cheek.” In other words, walk away from a fight. All that resulted from that, was I would get hit in the back of the head. And for anyone looking to finally break into the spotlight of being a tough guy, I was an easy mark for them to begin their journey.

There was one problem with that thinking, on both of our parts. One day, I would finally have enough, and snap. Back before the days of Columbine and Parkland and Newtown, and so many others, in other words, before the internet, that meant with my hands. And I finally fought back. It caught everyone off guard, including the recipient of the first punch.

I did not feel good about doing that, because that is not who I was, nor how I was raised. But I had enough. And there are long term effects from this behavior. Kids who bully in school, often become bullies as adults. According to the website bullyingeducation.org , adults who were bullies often inflict their “power” on others in adulthood. Many, will have involvement with the law, and statistics are only for those that have gotten caught. But according to Olweus(an anti-bullying program) in 1993, stated that one in four students identified as bullies by the age of eight have ended up with at least one conviction by the age of 30.

And what happens to the victims. Before I get to the personal story, here are the facts. According to Medical News Today, “victims of childhood bullying are at risk of poorer outcomes in adulthood, not only for psychological health, but also physical health, cognitive functioning and quality of life.” The act and results of bullying is not a phase. It is intentionally causing developmental harm to the futures of both victim and the bully.

One of the main issues that I struggle with as a result of my frequent beatings and harassment in my youth, as an adult, I fight EVERY battle. Have you ever heard the expression “choose your battles”? I don’t. Every fight to me, no matter if it is even a minor one, I see as an opportunity for someone to try and get an edge over me. To me, the little things lead to the big things. And I cannot let it happen again.

I try to look at the bright side of this attitude. This mental toughness that I developed has helped in some aspects of my life, most noticeably, in the fight for my health. I am tenacious. I do not give up. There is no quit. By the same token, I have lost friendships because I have not been able to let some things go. Co-worker relationships were ruined because I could not walk away from a supervisor acting like a bully, only to have the supervisor ramp up their efforts to crack down on my co-workers.

The point is, the effects of bullying are not a “phase.” The effects have major and permanent impacts on the future of a child, no matter the victim or the bully. So, why does society still continue to allow this “tradition?”

So two weeks ago, an incident happened in a local high school, and a portion of a cell phone recording, was released publicly. The claim, along with what was reported to news sources, was that two Caucasian girls jumped a girl identified as Muslim. It was also reported that there was a vocal exchange prior to the assault by the two girls, indicating that this likely should be considered a hate crime. While the entire incident lasted more than half of a minute, only nineteen seconds of the fight has been seen publicly (this was all that was recorded on the cell phone, school surveillance has not been released of the fight).

All that can really be seen of the fight, is security rushing in to break the fight, separating the three girls, only to have one of the combatants break free from her the burly grip of the guard and lunge at one of the two other girls. This student was on “fire.” Who could blame her? Especially if she was attacked by two others at the same time as reported. You can actually hear her yell at the two girls, “you think you’re a bad ass bitch? You think you’re a bad ass bitch?”

Now this is where it gets a little more complicated. During the fight, the Muslim girl’s hijab had been pulled from her head. While that might be a “normal” occurrence, similar to pulling hair, it was security’s actions that made things a bit more difficult. As the girls were separated and led away, the Muslim girl’s hijab was not returned to her as she was escorted out of the cafeteria. Anyone familiar with the tradition of the hijab, knows how important this article is to those who wear it. If you are not, then you may not understand the level of upset created. As the student spoke during an interview, she had felt “naked” that boys were able to see her without the hijab, something discouraged in the Muslim faith.

To their credit, the district and high school admitted the lack of awareness and in denying the restoration of the hijab to the girl. The school and district is also going to be moving forward with other cultural educational and informational programs so that more are aware of the concerns of certain populations, and the respect deserved.

Again, we are limited by a 19 second video, as opposed to the full 32 second video of the school. Understanding the girl was upset by the fight, and I feel justified in supporting her defending herself as she should have, I do have a problem with what we did hear. And I feel this way no matter what faith you practice. And I am not saying you can’t have a foul mouth if you are religious and in the middle of a heated fight. Absolutely, it is part of the fight if you throw out an F bomb or two or three. And I don’t care if you are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Lutheran, Budhist, whatever, “bad ass bitch” is not a phrase mentioned in the hallowed temples of any faith. It is used in any number of pop culture media such as songs by Tyga with Drake, or most recently the song “Peaches” by Justin Bieber.

So, while the argument over the removal, and not allowing the recovery of the hijab is legit, someone who is as literate in current cultural verbage not used in religious tenets, loses a bit of credibility when leaning on religion as an excuse to fight back.

As a school board candidate, bullying was one of my main platforms. And I still feel as strongly about it today as I did back in 2011 and 2013. When I spoke to voters, who expressed their disappointment that seemingly forever, nothing gets done about bullying in schools, and it doesn’t, I offered this solution, make it a criminal act. If the school or district does not want to deal with it or correct it, then change it from a civil situation to a criminal situation. Assault and harassment are crimes, no matter what age. If the family of a bully really wants their child to have a criminal record by allowing the behavior to continue, according to statistics, the will see the law eventually anyway.

In the above mentioned scenario, police were called for this fight. And currently, the investigation is ongoing, now two weeks later. Rumors an innuendo abound, that while the two Caucasian girls said something racially insensitive, the Muslim girl responded in kind. This was before the fight began. So again, I am not begrudging someone of faith from cursing their head off in the heat of battle, but before a blow is thrown, a cooler and stronger faith head should have prevailed.

The district and school did their part. We are waiting for an official release from the police and the media. Then again, enough time may pass, that we are expected to “forget about it” happening. The thing is, if any or all of the participants did in fact, make this a racially involved fight, that must be dealt with. Ignoring or forgetting it does not make the hatred go away.

A Birthday Blunder


I recently celebrated the birthdays of both of my daughters. And as I am prone to do, now that they are older, I look for cards that will express my feelings for them.

I came across this card, and I was immediately drawn to it. Its message was simple, watching your daughter have opportunities, growing up with her many talents, and of course supporting the daughter every step of the way. Perfect! A homerun card. This card hit every point that I tell my daughters in person every opportunity that I get.

But… as I am prone to do, in my excitement, I may miss something, such as the further inside of the card. Sure, I saw the words “Happy Birthday.” That was all I saw.

As you can see from the photo, I had to make an edit to the card. Originally, the card did say “mom”, but obviously the card was coming from me, and I really liked the message on the card. And when I went shopping for the card, looking at all the slots, there was no tab saying “from mom” or “from Dad.” But this card was specifically written for a mom to give it.

I have a problem with this. Why could the card not have been given from a Dad? As I said, I say these things to my daughters frequently. And in all honesty, the words can apply from either parent.

This took me back to an incident all the way back to the beginning, when I adopted both of my daughters, in fact, each time.

I changed the diapers of both of my daughters. I fed both daughters. I held and rocked both daughters. I played with and comforted both daughters. I had done all that I not only knew I would do as a Dad, but wanted to do. And I was good at it.

Being adopted, unlike a biological child adapting to its parents right away, there are potential developmental concerns with attachment. I was aware of this as it was explained to me during adoption classes. Fortunately, my employer had offered a type of “maternity” leave, that would allow either parent to remain home, in effort to help acclimate the baby to its new family. It was six months, though unpaid. Because of the unique situation that my then wife and I had, working for the same company, we were told that we could not both take the six months, but, we could split the time, even taking it simultaneously.

So we agreed, that I would take one month, their mother would take the other five months. Besides being severely jetlagged, we felt that even that month, would provide the necessary bonding opportunities between all of us.

Some in the family did not agree with this. I was called selfish, that the mother should have had the full six months to bond with the baby. That it was more important for the mother to bond with a daughter.

Now, I know darn well, if I had made any kind of sexist comment like that, I would hear a chorus of “oinks” for being a male chauvinist pig if I had made a reference to a parenting task only a father was capable of. And it did not sit well with me. Anyone making comments about our adoption process, had no idea the trauma that our daughters had experienced already at such a young age. To make matters worse, to say that one parent was more important than the other, had more value than the other, that just irritated me.

As my daughters have grown, they will both say how important it has been to have both of their parents in their lives, even with them being divorced. Their mother and I are their role models, their examples, their influences.

As happy as I was to have seemingly found the perfect birthday card, once I got home and prepared to sign the card, I had seen what the card maker had done. And it took me back to seventeen years ago when I heard that it was more important, not as important, that the mother bond with the daughters more than the father.

After all of these years, I would strongly disagree, and so would my daughters.

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