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Image  —  Posted: June 6, 2019 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
                                                                                                                           ~Dr Seuss

 

The sturdy passenger was not hard to identify. She was beneath the tarp with several of the striking supermarket employees. No doubt it was a pep talk. This woman in a wheelchair refused to cross the line. Forget that it was the most convenient place for her to do her shopping. And forget that she’s been without a van for months and months and months. They are her people. Just as the residents up in New Horizons Village – ALL – “her people.”

She’s been referred to as the mayor and laughed when I spoke of it. She looks out for people. She fights their battles because sometimes those with handicaps are easier to tuck away into a corner of the neighborhood. They don’t ask for much unless it’s absolutely needed.

That’s simply not enough for Carmen. Her mind is always on the move even if it takes a little longer for her body to catch up. Her eyes never rest. She notices everyone. She knows their stories, their wants, their needs, and their hopes and dreams. She’s piled them onto her shoulders and takes aim at each obstruction that blocks the wellness and advancement of her people.

Saturday’s weather was spectacular and my wife, granddaughter, and I were lucky enough to be sitting on the side of McDonald’s enjoying a post ride ice cream cone. She noticed me from across the lot. A huge smile turned into bigger hugs when she got to us.

Carmen knows me mostly from Facebook and seeing her around town. She remembered many of my Facebook posts from the past year or so. She told me she did not feel particularly comfortable that I rode my bike at night. Wanting to keep others safe comes naturally to this angel on wheels.

I graduated high school with her late husband, Rob, a quadraplegic for more than half his life. Their love was one of true inspiration and commitment. She keeps his memory alive by carrying on his bowling tournament. Mostly though, it’s kept alive by her acts of kindness towards others. He told her to continue on that path when he was gone.

Carmen proudly shares her story with a sense of humor and thoughtfulness that would tie your guts into knots if not for the accompanying smile. She laments over the loss of freedom that comes when you no longer have a vehicle. She’s bothered more by the feeling that she’s letting her people down, especially those who counted on her to run errands or take them to appointments. She knows her purpose on this Earth is to help others – she’s always known.

About a year ago, she collected some money through online donations. It’s not nearly enough but she hasn’t given up on reaching her goal.

It was time for us to part as Granddaughter was anxious to pedal some more. As we both rolled away in opposite directions, I wondered if she’d ever get her van. All leaders should have the proper equipment to help their people. A mayor like this one doesn’t pass through very often.

Image  —  Posted: April 17, 2019 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Note: I’m cleaning up some files this morning and came across this article. I’m not sure where it was ultimately posted as it’s no longer online. It was written on August 28, 2013. I’m sad to say it ended with Part One.

Part One of a Series

 The Sports

 Honest to God, it wasn’t until late into my first stay that I realized that I’d grown up in low-income housing. Kids in school never brought it up. My parents never mentioned it to us. And our friends who lived in houses down the street never treated us any differently.

We were just the kids from The Carabettas or The Apartments. They were the brick buildings on the corner of Emmett Street and Surrey Drive. Or if you came in the other way, you were on Bianca Road.

They’re still there. Except now I think they’re labeled as subsidized housing. Someone must’ve let the secret out.

I made the mistake of asking Facebook friends for stories to include in this piece. I say mistake because I’ve now collected enough memories to keep me writing for the next ten years. I’ll save most of them for future installments.

Today’s column will be a remembrance of The Apartments through my own experiences. I spent my entire childhood there. And then went back again for a while as a father of three before moving to Unionville.

The three activities that defined my time growing up there in the 70’s was playing sports, riding bikes, and building forts.

We became the home of the Parking Lot Football League (PFL). We were lucky during those years to have an entire parking lot that we were able to use for various sports. The PFL evolved as we got older. Bobby D. (who lived down the street and was a fabulous artist), painted a logo at midfield. We painted yard markers on the curbs and lines to designate the end zones.

But the coolest thing about the PFL were the football cards that Bobby made for each of us. They looked like the real thing – with our picture drawn on the front and our stats and bio on the back. I came across mine about ten years ago and darn if I can’t remember where I stashed it.

The parking lot was a multi-use sports facility so we played softball there as well. Because it was pavement, we used rubber coated softballs. I painted bases and foul lines. We also had a Wiffle ball field at the other end. I broke my arm during a game against my brother during the summer of my sophomore year. I needed a metal plate and five screws to fix it.

During all those years of playing football and hockey on that back lot, I broke my arm running after a Wiffle ball.

He and I also played a game we called Home Run Derby where we’d hit the ball out of our hands while the other person played the field. Hitting it over Emmett Street was a grand slam. Hitting the car that some moron parked in our way was a foul ball.

In the early ‘80s, we also played a lot of street hockey. We called ourselves the Redstone Rangers and played the Lillian Roadrunners a few times but mostly we just divided up the kids we had into two teams.

Our parking lot leagues had evolved from earlier games played on the grass in various locations of the apartment spread. When we were chased from one location, we’d head to the next and like a people without a homeland, we’d stay until we were discovered by the Superintendent or one of his confidants. (Note: In all fairness the Superintendent was a sweetheart of a man who often ignored our presence long enough for us to finish a game.)

The Superintendent before him was Wally P. Wally lived up the street in a house. So whenever we saw him leave we knew we had at least an hour or so to play. My dad took many trips to his house to trade beers for my confiscated footballs.

Football is not much of a threat to anything more than the condition of the grass. Baseball though – well – baseball games always seemed to end with the ball contacting something a little less fragile. Like a car, a window, the plastic façade, Billy’s little sister, or the old lady hanging clothes on the line.

The best part about those very early baseball years were our uniforms. Each kid would take a white tee and permanent magic markers and make their own jersey of their favorite team. Back then those plastic team helmets were popular so he all had one of those too.

Having a dad as steady QB was like having Billy Kilmer or Norm Snead in the huddle except we got to make up our own plays. Mostly I remember my own dad and Billy F’s dad coming out to play – sometimes both at once. Billy and I both had younger brothers about the same age so that made the rivalry all the sweeter.

Those early games included Vin and Phil C., and Keith and Kurt K. Richie G. was a regular too. Some games where played in adverse conditions where snow-covered pine trees and clotheslines were our only sense of boundaries. The problem with so many brothers was that each time a mom yelled that it was time for supper, we’d lose two more kids.

It’s amazing how many stages and groups of kids cycled through the neighborhood from the late 60’s through 1982 when I graduated high school. It’s tough keeping them straight because on any given day there were often more “outsiders” playing with us than kids who actually lived in the complex.

In the early years there was an older “kid” named Brad J. We all looked up to him. I’m not sure if he saw the need to introduce a game that involved a ball that did not smash windows or what, but Puffball was born and it became the hit of at least a couple of summers.

Puffball was Brad’s name for a home run derby type of Nerf baseball game. The ball was about the size of a softball and we used Wiffle bats. The apartments had several brick rectangle structures that stood about four feet high. They were used to hold trash cans and then later as sandboxes for us to play inside of. They did not have roofs. The one near Brad’s house became the home run wall for his home field.

Eventually, we all had a home field not far from our front porches. Puffball games were being played everywhere. Its only enemy was wind or rain. We kept stats and records. But along with too many pitches came a lot of dead arms. It was like throwing air.

I look at kids today and wonder if they keep stats during a season of Wiffle ball. I wonder if they’ve ever sat in a basement and “invented” Electric Hockey like Dave R. and I did one winter using an old Electric Football game. I wonder if they’d ever think to get a group of kids in the neighborhood together and play groups of kids from other neighborhoods. I wonder if they’d come up with Surrey Seahawks or Redstone Rangers or the PFL.

Sometimes I wonder how we all made it home alive after a summer day of no contact with our parents except to check in at lunchtime to grab a Fluffernutter, apple, and cup of cold milk.

I miss the structure that we were able to create and map out inside of our own heads. We made the plans. We called the kids to see if they could play. We pulled the sports equipment from our basements and set it up. Teams were chosen by us and we coached and refereed as a unit. The fights were amongst us – not adults who needed to run everything.

A kid growing up like that now would never make the 10U or 13U teams. There’s no time to waste with unsupervised activities anymore. There’s no more choosing-up teams and then trading one if the teams are uneven.

I wonder how a kid would react now if he got a busy signal and had to pedal to Casey Field to see if Curt W., or Billy and Jeff F. had already started a game.

I wonder if they’ve been cheated or are better off today. And I wonder how WE – the kids who loved that simpler time – went on to create this… this system for our own children.

And now I’m left to wonder if there’s anything left to salvage from that past.

Image  —  Posted: January 9, 2019 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

gagging-2014040109525548I saw a Facebook post last week that still bothers me. Actually, the post did not bother me at all – rather, it was some of the comments.

The post was of a political nature and written by someone who regularly contributes his opinions regarding those in office at the national level.

A few of his Facebook followers were relentless in their criticism and strongly suggested that he write about other subjects not pertaining to the political landscape. It had nothing to do with his perspective whatsoever – only the choice of topic.

When I last checked my Facebook settings, I recall seeing user options to stop following or to outright block an unwanted person on my friends list.

Facebook is a hundred different things to a hundred different people. During and immediately following the Presidential elections, I wrote frequently about politics. If one did not want my opinions – one could have skipped past them or stopped following me. Click. End of story. If you are tired of seeing my comments regarding bicycle advocacy, my grandkids, of whatever else I choose to post – click – problem solved.

As the owner of your opinions and priorities, you can do whatever you would like with them. Obviously, there are certain lines that we need to stay between and if our crayon strays outside of them, there may be consequences. However, for the most part, Facebook is an open forum.

As far as topics, that is not for the reader to dictate. Verbal bullying is not an acceptable response. As an example, some of the intense arguments regarding sports teams make political discussions seem like a game of patty cake. I have yet to see complaints calling for the stoppage of those debates.

Many of the most respected and intelligent people I know discuss politics here daily. Sometimes I will read and perhaps comment. Other times I will scroll past – barely seeing the blur of their name.

For many, social media has become a platform to remind people that if they want change, they need to stay involved and motivated. I tell people every day to keep an eye out for bicyclists. I often repeat my same demands for safer roadways and for what I believe to be the best route to make those changes happen. I lobby for the same signage – the same road markings – the same call to action. As far as I know, not a single person has suggested that I move on to another topic.

No one is shoving your Facebook feed down your throat. Stop gagging.

Image  —  Posted: October 29, 2018 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Facebook, Politics

Dying to Play the Choking Game.

Image  —  Posted: March 17, 2014 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Alex_1BURLINGTON CT – Alex took his last natural breath on October 12, 2013. It was a Saturday night, just before shower time, when the 14-year-old made a critical miscalculation. His mom, Brandi, can painfully recall how she found her son in his bedroom at their home in Burlington, CT: his positioning on the floor; how he must have thought that he would have control; the way he was slouched against his dresser; and the tension of the belt.

It did not immediately seem clear, but it all falls into place now. The signs were there. Alex died while playing the Choking Game, a dangerous practice of tweens and teens in which they self-strangulate in order to achieve a brief high. It is often referred to as the Good Kids’ High.

TYPICAL PROFILE (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Unlike other risk-taking behaviors, self-choking often occurs across the spectrum of adolescents. 9-16 is the most common age and it is predominantly male participants who are the fatal victims, although younger and older adolescents along with females are involved.

When you lose a child, hindsight can be as vicious as a recurring nightmare. Alex’s mom can remember a mark on his neck that resembled a hickey. “It almost looked like it could have been a scrape caused by the heel of a shoe,” Brandi remembers.”

Alex was an active kid. He played in wooded areas. He played with others on trampolines. Kids collide. Kids get scrapes and bruises. “I did see signs, but I didn’t know they were signs until I read more about this. Then it all made sense… the mark on his neck.” Brandi cannot hold back the tears. “If I had known of these signs, maybe I could have intervened.”

FACTS OF THE CHOKING GAME (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Youth who might participate range in age from 7-21 and it is especially common in middle school-aged children. Survey data indicate boys and girls are equally likely to participate in groups but boys are more likely to attempt it alone. The goal is a desired ‘floaty’, ‘tingling’, ‘high’ sensation. However, not all participants are seeking a ‘high’; some participate as a pastime, out of curiosity, or because of peer pressure. Many do not perceive a risk when engaging in this practice.

Brandi thinks about the shape of the mark on his neck: Could it have looked like a belt buckle? She thinks about the increased requests for Ibuprofen: Why so many headaches? He was sometimes irritable and crabby: But aren’t most teens? “This was not the first time he had done it,” she says.

Brandi remembers a time when she called Alex from his room for some help. She now believes that she interrupted him in the middle of it. “He came out… and he must have just begun getting that rush to his head because he seemed woozy and dazed. If I had known about this (the Choking Game) back then – even if I didn’t think he was doing it – I could have talked to him about it.”

FACTS OF THE CHOKING GAME (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) The object of the ‘game’ is asphyxiation, to apply pressure restricting oxygen and/or blood flow to the brain. This is accomplished via several methods. Diminishing oxygen to the brain produces a sensation or ‘high’ and the beginning of permanent cell death. When the victim is rendered unconscious, the pressure is released and the secondary ‘high’ of the oxygen/blood rushing to the brain is achieved. If the victim is alone,  there is no one to release the pressure upon unconsciousness and the victim’s own body weight continues to tighten the ligature usually resulting in death.

“We talked to Alex about drugs, sex, and alcohol. He didn’t take crazy risks. He was afraid of getting into trouble. He was more risky about being sneaky with things that wouldn’t hurt him, like playing video games andunnamedrbg staying out past curfew,” Brandi adds.”

“We had an awesome family dinner. We were laughing and talking about an upcoming Halloween party. He was a funny kid, always making people laugh. He was a good student looking forward to studying Electrical at Oliver Wolcott Tech. He loved to fish and couldn’t wait to move to our new house on the lake.” As she talks, her tears are so heavy that they sometimes miss her face, landing directly on her sweatshirt or the floor. “Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday, and in another sense it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen or heard my sweet Alex.”

METHODS (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Bear-hug Chest Compression (group), Palms to Chest Compression (group) , Choke-hold neck Compression (group), Hyperventilation combined with any of the previously mentioned (group), Palms to Carotid Neck Compression (group and solo), Hyperventilation with Thumb Blow (solo), Thumb Blow (solo), Ligature (solo).

Brandi has learned a lot about the “Choking Game” since that horrific night five months ago. She has heard from other kids in the area who have also “played” the “game” – some of them knew Alex – and they thank her for talking openly about his death. It has caused some of them to stop. She is sure that there are others in his peer groups who are also taking the same dangerous risks. “A lot of parents I’ve met online – who have lost children from the choking game – had children 13 or 14 (years-old). Many of the circumstances are eerily similar. Many of their death certificates are improperly recorded.”

“I love my son and I miss him so much. I can’t imagine anyone else having to go through this. I’ve met many parents who have lost kids. I belong to a group of a great bunch of mom’s who are unfortunately on the same journey. You don’t realize how many people are living and going through the pain of losing a child… until you are there. Don’t take things for granted. Take in every moment you can with your kids. Just talk to them. They don’t understand consequences. They need to be afraid. They don’t think anything is going to happen to them.”

CONSEQUENCES (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Unconsciousness can occur in a matter of seconds. Within three minutes of continued strangulation, basic functions such as memory, balance, and the central nervous system start to fail. Death occurs shortly after. Other consequences include bruises and concussions, broken bones, seizures, brain damage, memory loss, retinal hemorrhaging, and stroke.

Brandi hopes that other parents will have conversations with their children about the dangers of the Choking Game. She documents some of her thoughts about life without Alex on her Facebook page: meetings and discussions with other grieving parents; incidences of her one-year-old son kissing and holding pictures of his older brother; and remembrances of her ‘Sweet Angel.”

Brandi delays her tears, “I can picture Alex… saying, ‘Crap, what did I just do? Oh my God, what did I just do? Mom, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do this. I should have listened to you when you told me to think before I do something.’”

“Do you know what I mean? I could ‘feel’ him saying that to me,” She continues, tears forming again, voice quivering, “‘I’m sorry Mom, I didn’t know.’”

“Your kids may already know about the game and could be talking about it. It’s too late for me, but not for you. I urge parents to educate themselves and know the signs. This is not a game and children need to know the risks. If it can happen to Alex, it can happen to them.”

The Internet has many resources for those wanting more information about the Choking Game. The following links are a good starting point. Please take the time to explore them.

Set up by families of Choking Game victims, G.A.S.P. is a global nonprofit campaign that fights the “game” through education.

The Choking Game: Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play is G.A.S.P.’s short film that parents and children should watch together.

Operation: PARENTS Turn on the Lights – Choking Game is a video that is disturbing, informative, and shocking. The clips are pulled directly from the web and may be too graphic for minors. The final segment shows a teen explaining how the Choking Game is played.

The DB Foundation Inc, also provides valuable information.

Hi Friends.

My new home for Conversation Youth Sports (formerly A Sporting Dad’s View) is:

The Central Connecticut Post

Besides youth sports, I’ll be writing about the little bits and pieces of life that are sometimes overlooked or quickly forgotten.

I hope that you’ll share my column with your friends and family.

Thanks!

Ron

Image  —  Posted: March 28, 2013 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah