Things About 104

The other day I got to visit somebody who will be 104 in a few days. 104 years old - in human years, even - and she's got a quick tongue and a sharp wit and sometimes gets those two things confused, which, at 104 is Exactly All Right.

She told me that perhaps it was time for me to consider a new profession because what I do and the means of doing it can be rough on a body. She's not wrong. At 104, you aren't often wrong. She wasn't quite feeling herself, a little disoriented, as so she was in the hospital. She told us that if anything she said made sense that somebody should take note of it. If you're 104 and aware that you might be saying things that don't make sense, I think you're probably doing pretty well.

She said that she never planned on being 104 and wasn't quite sure how it happened. It just flew by, she said, and the closer she got to 104, the faster it seemed to come. Here I stand at 40, thinking it took me positively forever of doing All the Wrong Things to get here, and she says that 2.6 times my years happened so fast she can't account for it.

She said that she wasn't sure why God wanted her to be 104. That she wasn't sure what she was supposed to be doing. As if taking some time to visit the Critical Care Unit at the local hospital wasn't preoccupying her, or even important in the slightest.

At 104, she has plenty of advice to give, and absolutely no reason to not give it. She recommended thinking hard about my future, and how I want it to be, which is something that I tend to avoid because it's Scary. She said that I can do whatever I want. At 104, I guess she would be an expert. Maybe she became an expert from doing things other than what she wanted, or maybe she always did exactly what she wanted. Either way, it's good advice, because I CAN do anything I want.

She thinks being 104 isn't a big deal. It's just something that happens. Granted, it happens to less than .02% of the population in the U.S., but still... I don't think I have ever belonged to a demographic so elite. Other than percentage of Homeschooled U.S. Residents with the Last Name Stecker and Multiple Pet Dachshunds, or something ridiculous like that. Actually, there's probably a lot of us like that, so never mind. 104 is special. It's rare. Although researchers say that by the year 2050, that percentage will have grown nearly tenfold, so in another three decades, our odds of making it to that age improve greatly.

In the meantime, my 104 year old friend is a long term anomaly in a world with a shrinking attention span. She's pragmatic and practical, still sporting a sense of humor and an analytical eye for success and efficiency. She was born in 1914. She's seen this country through a half dozen wars, technological progression, economic depression, recession, and cultural revolution. When she was born, most homes didn't have electricity. Now most INDIVIDUALS have hand held devices that connect them instantly with The Whole World. When she was born, automobiles had only been commercially available in the U.S. for six years. In 1914, planes had barely gotten off the ground. When she was born, white males were the only legal voters.

Compared to the changes that she has witnessed, our own societal and cultural changes seem to be crawling at a snail's pace. It's hard to imagine, but it's easy to understand the black and white worldview that more than a century has given her. Of course I can do anything I want. Look at the last 100 years. Anything is possible. Who knows? I might live to be 104, and I can only hope, still possess a quick tongue and a sharp wit - only occasionally confusing the two.

The view from a 104 year old's home. She's got it figured out. 

Things About That Time of the Year

Call it Spring Fever. Call it Cabin Fever. Call it discontent. It's that time of year again. The time when it's too warm for boots and too cold for flip flops and everything I try to wear is Exactly the Wrong Thing. The weather is having an identity crisis just like I am. The house is too stuffy and the yard is too mucky and the only thing that feels good is being in the car and cruising down the road to anywhere, slightly over the speed limit with loud music and somebody that doesn't annoy me. Or a dog.

Unfortunately it's also that time of year when it seems more important than ever that I remain gainfully employed and so I find myself cruising up the road to places I'd rather not go, slightly under the speed limit behind a chip truck (if you have to ask, then you've never been on HWY 25 to the Canadian border) that has just thrown a rock the size of a golf ball into my already cracked windshield. It's ok, I didn't like that windshield anyway.

Seems like of All the Years that I've been complaining, this one should be the least complain-worthy. I've got a brand new-to-me house, living in the "Big City," and all-in-all, thing are looking mighty upwards for me. And yet, here I am, with complaints to register in spite of it.

I was reminded the other day, while talking to Someone Amazing, that this is part of my cycle, something I go through every. single. year. Like in 2017, and in 2016  and again in 2016 , and in 2014, and a lot of other times in between and before and probably ever afterward. It's just part of my year. Part of appreciating the other seasons when I am happy to be home and snuggled in, waiting anxiously for the first snowfall of the year and getting Christmas Trees. Or escaping the sweltering heat with a cold beer in a shady hammock. Spring is a restless season for me. And that's ok. It makes me re-examine and re-evaluate where I am at and what I am doing. Sometimes I come out knowing I am on the right path, and sometimes I get to re-adjust. Discontent isn't bad if it moves us to the next step, or the next phase, or the next level of commitment to the thing that we have been dragging our feet about, like a retirement plan, or a book to write, or Someone Amazing.

The good news is I get to bust out soon. In a few days I will be on my way to sunshiney and oceany things in Mexico with people that don't annoy me. And then it will be time to get to work. Time to travel and be busy and be homesick and discontent that I don't have endless hour to kill in my stuffy house and mucky yard with somebodies that do annoy me. And dogs.

Things About Poohology

In answer to a flagrantly libelous article that went viral on Ranker, wherein the author made some wild extrapolations in regards to the characters of A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books, I have this response: You are wrong. Cheryl Adams Richkoff, although your list-format blog post was based on the research of neurologists and pediatricians, namely Sarah E. Shea, Kevin Gordon, Ann Hawkins, Janet Kawchuk, and Donna Smith in a study in 2000, I have to question whether any of y'all have ever read even one of Milne's classic books. The assumptions about the psychological disorders that the playmates of the 100 Acre Wood suffer from over-analyze, overreach and overlook the most important theme of Milne's characters: childhood innocence and imagination. From my extensive research into the material, I believe Milne actually stumbled upon childlike versions of what are actually full fledged personality types in the psychological realm. So, Mr/Ms. Richkoff, Shea, Gordon, Hawkins, Kawchuck and Smith, try some Poohology on for size. I'm betting you're a bunch of Owls.

Poohology: a rough breakdown

Christopher Robin: The Reluctant Leader

"Christopher Robin came down from the Forest to the bridge, feeling all sunny and careless, and just as if twice nineteen didn't matter a bit, as it didn't on such a happy afternoon, and he thought that if he stood on the bottom rail of the bridge, and leant over, and watched the river slipping slowly away beneath him, then he would suddenly know everything that there was to be known, and he would be able to tell Pooh, who wasn't quite sure about some of it."

Christopher Robin is a young boy with very little life experience, yet in the eyes of his friends in the 100 Acre Wood, Christopher Robin is an unstoppable force of brilliance and a magnetic director of events. Christopher Robin is unintentionally the guiding voice to people all around him, in all walks of life, old or young, he is a natural, however accidental, leader. People look to him for advice and direction, and unwittingly draw insight from every casual remark. Christopher Robin does not seek followers, nor consider himself much of a leader. He is charismatic but matter of fact. He is pragmatic and black-and-white about issues. He is logical and develops solutions without really trying. Christopher Robin’s weakness is a certain ambivalence to his ignorance. He is the master of fake-it-til-you-make it, and can lead the blind blindly into chaos and mayhem. A wiser and more mature Christopher Robin begins to operate in awareness of his followers and make choices based on the outcome for all. He is confident (externally), curious and occasionally prideful. He can be defensive, or humble, depending on maturity and context. Christopher Robin is a loyal friend unless his aptitude is questioned. He can easily walk away from a person that threatens his self-confidence and perceived position in life. He usually has many casual friends and one or two close confidences. Even with those he is deliberate and guarded in communication. Vulnerability is a rare trait for Christopher Robin, but demonstrates health and maturity. He works well with all of the other characters, but has a special fondness for Pooh (the abstract intellectual) and Piglet (the selfless loyalist). He is a problem solver and an instigator. He is relied upon heavily by all of the other characters. He thrives on taking care of the others and being dependable and trusted. He is a hard worker but can be easily misled or distracted sometimes, this also depends on maturity and humility.

“Always remember... Yo are braver than you believe. Stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Winnie The Pooh: The Abstract Intellectual

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

Nobody quite knows where Pooh comes up with his brilliant ideas, but somehow, they always make sense. Getting from point A to point B is usually a profoundly complex route through Pooh’s stuffed-with-fluff head, but he gets there, and usually right on time. Pooh is predictable, dependable, logical in his own strange way, and a steady emotional anchor. A mature and healthy Pooh provides an atmosphere of safety and reliability to all of the characters, all though they lose patience with his round-about reasoning. He is not usually very industrious, but will pitch in when asked, and promptly get distracted. He is usually not a multitasker. Winnie the Pooh is somewhat of a mystery to many of the other characters. He is usually well liked, but often held at arms length. He works best with Piglet, who serves as his interpreter to concrete thinkers like Rabbit and Tigger and Kanga. Pooh is quite intelligent, but not always in a practical way. His solutions are not always implementable, but his thought processes provoke some fascinating insights. Characters like Piglet and Roo, and occasionally Tigger, are drawn to his rambling intelligence and can be followers. Pooh is usually somewhat unaware of the other characters and their needs. He can be somewhat introspective and be blissfully unaware of crises around him. When these problems are pointed out to them, he is eager to help, and sometimes happens to land on a stroke of appropriate genius. He is a giver, but he is also mildly greedy. He cares deeply for people but an immature Pooh does not communicate this very well. He can come across as self-focused and uncaring. Pooh likes everyone but does not feel the need to seek out or pursue relationships, other than with Christopher Robin. Most friendships come find him, and if they go away, he won’t necessarily notice.

Piglet: The Selfless Loyalist

"And then Piglet did a Noble Thing... 'Yes, it's just the house for Owl,' he said grandly. 'And I hope he'll be very happy in it.' And then he gulped twice, because he had been very happy in it himself."

Piglet is an odd little man. He is fiercely loyal, to the death, of his friends and perhaps even total
strangers – when it comes to the protection of someone else, he is fearless and proactive. His self image is usually frail enough that he can’t see the same course of action in his own defense and is often taken advantage of by characters who prey on his loyalty. Piglet is intelligent and very logical. He is successful in most endeavors and unfortunately, much of his success is usurped either intentionally by unhealthy individuals or unintentionally by unaware characters like Pooh and Owl. Piglet will be the last one to state his own needs, but he is a homebody and is very particular about his own lifestyle. He is expressive in his own comfort zone, but does not feel the need to broadcast his individuality. He would very much rather not ever be the center of attention, and when he springs to someone else’s defense, his only holdback is the realization that he is drawing attention to himself. Usually a price he is willing to pay. Piglet can ultimately develop hard feelings and become cynical, but he compartmentalizes these feelings and tries to pare out bad relationships. He is a one-friend kind of guy usually. He gets along with most characters but will only invest heavily in one or two characters at a time. He likes Pooh because Pooh needs an advocate, and Piglet is just the man. He and Rabbit identify in certain areas, as well as Kanga, but Tigger overwhelms and annoys Piglet usually, unless Pooh is there to run interference. Piglet avoids conflict and is a peacemaker, usually at his own expense. He is also a little bit prideful, and easily embarrassed (refer to center of attention discussion before). He doesn’t handle attention very well, negative or positive, and would rather just not be noticed.

"Piglet lay there, wondering what had happened. At first he thought that the whole world had blown up; and then he thought that perhaps only the forest part of it had; and then he thought that perhaps only he had, and he was now alone in the moon or somewhere, and he would never see Christopher Robin or Pooh or Eeyore again. And then he thought, 'Well, even if I'm in the moon, I needn't be face downwards all the time,' so he got cautiously up and looked about him."

Eeyore: The Emotional Realist

“We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”

Thanks to Walt Disney, everybody has got Eeyore pegged all wrong. Eeyore is a realist. He sees things the way they are, in black and white. He has good days and bad days and expresses them very openly and emotionally. While everyone else can make the most of a bad situation Eeyore will patiently face the negative and hope for better luck next time. Eeyore is intelligent and thoughtful, aware of others and their needs to a fault. Eeyore can be depressive or exuberantly joyful. He is creative whether he is talented and artistic or not. He is a plodder. He keeps going, a slow and steady pace, regardless of the situation. He is a great friend for those that can tolerate the emotions he wears on his sleeve. He’s somewhat competitive and enjoys a good friendly debate. He doesn’t like conflict but he does enjoy negotiation. He has utmost respect for Christopher Robin for his creativity, but can see CR’s haphazard underqualifications. Eeyore acknowledges Rabbit as the leader he is but loses patience with Rabbit’s disconnected emotions. Eeyore and Tigger have a love hate relationship because they are the most emotionally expressive characters, and often find themselves in direct opposition, i.e. the thing that makes Tigger exuberant is often Eeyore’s bain, and vise-versa. He is good friends with Piglet and one of the only characters intuitive enough to not abuse Piglets’s selflessness. He is one of Piglet’s only defenders. Eeyore has little use for rambling philosophies or bloviating. Pooh and Owl often annoy him, as he can be somewhat selfish and doesn’t like to waste time or energy on things that seem vain or useless to him. He does not like to be mothered or bossed around but he can establish a good rapport with Kanga and Rabbit. Surprisingly, Eeyore gets along well with Roo, and can tolerate immature characters better than most, perhaps because they also wear their emotions honestly and unabashedly.

“'Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!' said Piglet, feeling him. Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.” 

Tigger: The Well Intentioned Blunderer

'“Oh Tigger, where are your manners?”
“I don’t know, but I bet they’re having more fun than I am.”'

Tigger is a whirlwind of emotion and energy and spastic motivation. He is intelligent but so often distracted that his thoughts don’t ever connect. Tigger likes almost every one immensely, but his chief concern is being known for who he really is,“the only one”. Tigger is compelled to feel unique. He becomes intolerable when his uniqueness is threatened or the attention is not fully on him. Tigger is highly opinionated but lacks the pride that causes conflict in this area. He is overwhelmingly curious and opposing opinions trigger more questions in his mind, which he will pursue until he gets distracted. Tigger rarely follows something through to absolute completion. He is full of big ideas and great beginning energy, but finds it hard to stay on target until the end. Most of the other characters enjoy the entertainment that Tigger provides, and calculate the loss that Tigger’s unintentional clumsiness may cost as well worth the friendship. Tigger is the character that will make everyone else late for an event, or invite too many people, or commit social faux paus without even knowing there are lines to be crossed. He creates a headache for Rabbit who truly admires his wanton joy, but feels compelled to complain about it. They are a surprisingly strong relationship, though both will protest. Tigger can also become depressed, and his saddest moments make Eeyore look like a clown. He gets along with Pooh and Owl but is easily bored with their rambling. He and Piglet often end up toe to toe because Tigger has carelessly offended another character, a wrong which Piglet feels compelled to right. Tigger is brave and will try anything. He responds to dares and bets and sometimes he talks bigger than he can follow through on, which again results in conflict between characters. Tigger loves to take care of others, but can’t usually think outside of his own tastes and preferences, and has difficulty providing needs that aren’t similar to his. His energy is infectious and for all of the damage he inflicts accidentally, he is usually a welcome part of anything going on in the woods. Tigger can also be a work-horse, and is far from lazy. He can be a good multitasker when he is healthy and mature.

“Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.” 

Rabbit: The Effective Perfectionist

"'Rabbit's clever,' said Pooh thoughtfully.
'Yes,' said Piglet, 'Rabbit's clever.'
'And he has Brain.'
'Yes,' said Piglet, 'Rabbit has Brain.'
There was a long silence.
'I suppose,' said Pooh, 'that that's why he never understands anything.'"

While it’s true that Rabbit is somewhat of a worrier, no other character in the hundred acre wood is as productive and logical. Rabbit is one of the only characters that makes things happen. Rabbit is also one of the few characters that can save the others from the brink of disaster and recover from most catastrophes. Rabbit thinks ahead. He sees logical solutions very clearly, and operates mostly in black and white. He is usually extroverted, an excellent multi-tasker, and gets along well with most characters. Tigger tries his patience to no end, but also give him a perpetual project. An unhealthy Rabbit can become very manipulative, and with his keen tongue and intellect, can easily accomplish his goals at the expense of others. A healthy Rabbit reaches these goals by using cynergistic and cooperative methods. Rabbit is the only character that can really pull the whole crew together to make an absolute success. He is detail oriented and very observant. He cares for others and will bend over backwards to provide for them according to very formulaic and logical needs. He can be very good at controlling his emotions, but he feels things very strongly and is good at expressing himself. He is vociferous and very much a take-charge type. While he doesn’t care about being the center of attention, he is very much concerned with being effective and productive, and will dominate the group to make things happen. He can be smart almost to the point of manipulation in getting the ear of Christopher Robin to coordinate plans. Rabbit has a very tender side that is nurturing and selfless. But for Rabbit, everything must be done in the right way, the correct order, and meet all of the rigid standards he has set for himself and everyone else. Rabbit goes through occasional burn out, but always bounces back to keep the group functioning. Kanga is one of his biggest supports, but they often disagree on implementation tactics. 

"'Ah!' said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went and fetched them."

Owl: The Meandering Reasoner

“Owl explained about the Necessary Dorsal Muscles. He had explained this to Pooh and Christopher Robin once before and had been waiting for a chance to do it again, because it is a thing you can easily explain twice before anybody knows what you are talking about.”

Owl’s strength is his knowledge retention and perpetual quest for information. While he may lack self and others awareness, he can usually make up for it by providing necessary information to the people in his life. Often detached from the bigger picture, Owl gets somewhat preoccupied with his own interests and forgets that everyone around him doesn’t share this preoccupation. Many Owls become specialists in a specific field because they are keenly interested in something, although some become general knowledge hounds and might be drawn to teaching or other information-based work. Whole Owl is very intelligent, common sense and basic things like spelling sometimes escape him. He is more brilliant than practical, in many cases.
  Owl’s concern for others is manifest in helpful ideas and suggestions usually rather than actions. He often provides direction (which may or may not be practical and useful) and instruction for the doers around him. He can be an effective leader, but won’t generally be a great follower or employee. Owl has a sensitive ego that needs to be stroked, but is also fairly good at self-generated confidence, based on his objective knowledge of his own skill level or useful contribution. Owl is not highly emotional or easily swayed but misfortune of his own or that of others. He’s fairly pragmatic and practical, if he’s not too much in his own head.

“‘Well,’ said Owl, “the customary procedure in such cases is as follows.’”
“Owl, wise though he was in many ways, able to read and write and spell his own name WOL, yet somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like MEASLES and BUTTERED TOAST”

Kanga: the Intuitive Caretaker

“'I don't know if you are interested in Poetry at all?'" 'Hardly at all,' said Kanga"
Kanga is everybody’s mother. Always in tune with the needs of the people around her, she can also project forward and anticipate future needs. She’s meticulous and thorough in her administration, but organizationally she operates according to a very personalized system. Kanga is a planner and does not like to stray from the designated pathway. She is reticent to relinquish control or follow blindly without explicit understanding. Kanga is usually a homebody - not adverse to socializing, but not seeking it out. She cares deeply for the ones closest to her. More in tune to the needs of those around her, whether they agree or not, Kanga is more empathetic than Rabbit, with whom she has quite a bit in common. Fastidious and something of a worrier at times, she is happiest in a world that she feels in control of. Extremely focused and not easily distracted, it takes quite a bit to get Kanga to engage in frivolous behaviour except very occasionally.

"She knew at once that, however big Tigger seemed to be, he wanted as much kindness as Roo."

“Now it happened that Kanga felt rather motherly that morning, and Wanting to Count Things—like Roo's vests, and how many pieces of soap there were left.”

Authors note: The Roo personality is a questionable standalone. Originally, I considered Roo the representation of childhood, a follower-type persona (see Stage One of Mark Manson’s four life stages) that we all eventually grow out of. That being said, I am re-examining the Roo character and am including him in the lineup for the time being.
Roo: the Effervescent Follower

Roo is the one you want on your team. Perpetually enthusiastic and courageous, his curiosity about life is contagious. What he lacks in organizational skills he makes up for in zeal and willing participation. Arguably the universal embodiment of childlikeness, some Roos never grow up. He might make a great employee, but is dangerous in a leadership position a he is usually not in tune with the bigger picture or very good and thinking or planning ahead.

Things About Thoughts

The thing about the human mind is it's a closed loop. I mean, things get in. Lots of things, all the time - we are introducing new information into the little speed track in our head. But once something is in there, it never leaves. Even when you think it does. Even when you can't remember and you want to... it's still in there. Even the things you want to get out of your brain, they circle around and around and around. Like that time you saw your great uncle in his maroon underwear. Or that Selena Gomez song. It's there for keeps. Sure, you can practice real hard at filing those undesirables away and make a habit of repressing them. You might even be successful at forgetting most of the lyrics, but it will ALWAYS be there, somewhere.

I am not a bible thumper, usually, but there are a couple verses that I memorized as a kid that still surface in my thoughts at semi-useful times. One of them is the verse from Second Corinthians (yes, that's a real book in the bible, you heathen) that talks about taking every thought captive. Sure, it goes on to talk about obedience, blah blah, and in context it's about vain thoughts that are irreverent, which might be the thing in the world that I am best at, but the practice it refers to is a useful one.

"...Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..." 
2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV - because I may be a rebel, but I am an orthodox rebel)

This is one of my antidotes to anxiety. To grab the thoughts swirling inside my head, sit them down and try to filter them through an objective lens. It doesn't always work, but sometimes just the exercise of it gets my mind into a different rut than the panicked frenzy that it was prior to the attempt. And when you think about it, it's pretty much a rephrasing of what the great stoic philosopher Seneca said, that we suffer more often in our imagination than in reality.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality”


If I had a nickel for every time some random thought crept into my mind without any real basis and wrought havoc on my soul, I'd be a zillionaire. We all do it. At least I think we do. Or maybe I am just fucked up beyond all recognition. Thoughts like "nobody even likes me." Or "I'm such a dog," (welcome back, 1988). Or "the way he said goodbye - he was so happy to leave me..." or "my kids can't even stand me" - that's a good one. Where do these thoughts come from? If I knew, I would have the thought generator fired. But I can't, so there they are, forever in my mind. I can grab them one at a time and have a Reasonable Conversation with myself about the fact that they are erroneous. I might even be able to convince myself, but after awhile, a new wave of trauma, real or imagined, will wash them all out of the places where I have them neatly filed and they will slam into the walls of my mind with new ferocity.

And the waves never stop coming. Sometimes it's a tsunami after a break-up, or the death of a loved one, or when Hannah Montana quit being available on Netflix. Sometimes it's the gentle persistent lap of repeated hurts over time that erode the banks where we have stored those useless, baseless thoughts. Sometimes it's a hurricane of stress and life changes that leave everything in your mind topsy turvy and disheveled. Sometimes there are just SO MANY THINGS on your mind that it begins to pile up like an episode of hoarders and the bad thoughts are all mixed in with the good ones and the necessary ones and the memories and they begin to tarnish everything. 

How do we keep that shit cleaned up? I guess it's one thought at a time, just like a recovering hoarder, or after a hurricane. One by one, taking them captive, looking at them, putting them back where they belong. I guess trying to be prepared for the waves, trying to catch them when they're falling out of the vault, before they impact the serenity and stability of your day, of your imagination. Before they become worry and anxiety. Lock that shit up. It will never be completely gone, but you can see it for what it is and file it away and keep an eye on it so it will have a harder time escaping next time. 

There's no perfectly beautiful solution, because there is no perfectly beautiful mind - except Russel Crowe's, of course. But there are steps, there is a pathway to being less crazy. I've been walking it for awhile, in my own meandering and imperfect fashion. The bible talked about it to the Corinthians. Seneca said it before Jesus was an itch in the Holy Spirit's toga. It's a thing. 

Human minds have been inventing fear and trouble with their minds since they've began using them. Check out the wild imaginations of the earliest cave artists if you don't believe me. Our minds are the monsters that haunt us. Our mission is to conquer them. 

Things About Spilled Milk

Today I am teaching high school. Today, some jackoff in the high school thought it would be funny to put a bag of rotten milk (yes, our milk comes in bags here) in another kid's locker for him to discover. I don't know how, and I don't know why, but the milk, WELL past it's prime, was discovered and aerosolized somewhere in or around the school and the smell has persisted for HOURS. The sickly-sweet-sour smell of rotten, solidified milk. Smashed into the carpet, thrown out on the sidewalk, tracked by dozens of careless feet through every classroom, rotten milk.

This is EXACTLY how bullying works. You think you're picking on one dumb kid. You think it's funny. Then you find yourself staring down the barrel of inescapable stench that YOU CAUSED. Think about this. Every practical joke you played. Every blind eye you turned on the other kids that were being unkind... guess who gets to enjoy the aftermath? We all do.

We teach our kids to be kind to others. We model this behavior. We call them right down on the carpet if we catch them not being kind. Cause if we don't, the next thing you know they're shoving rotten milk in That One Kid's locker and then when That One Kid comes back in two years and shoots everybody in his class, everybody will say, "but why?"

Milk. That's why. The rotten stench of milk. For days. Lingering. Milk on top of all the other practical jokes and mean names and unkind words and just plain heartless behavior. There's always milk behind the why. Just because the smell isn't always there doesn't mean the repercussions won't be.

Even if there's real mental illness, which there might be. Even if they have good parents, which they usually don't. Even if they're smart, or dumb or ugly, or weird... look back in the lives of all of these murderers who are taking innocent lives and you will find milk. Some people find inspiration in the milk and go on to create beautiful things. Lucky for us, only a few of them come back with their rifles. Lucky only a few just kill themselves. But it's a few too many.

Just because it's not your locker. Just because you didn't put the milk there. Just because you weren't involved... you're still smelling the milk. You can't get away from it. Your friends can't. They'll wear the stench home on their clothing.

Actions have consequences. Spilled rotten milk is worth crying over when it's used as a weapon. When it's used to communicate rejection and hate. It's not funny. It's not kind. It's deadly.

We have to see the milk for what it really is, the first symptom of a lethal condition.

Kids will always be kids. That's why we're here, to remind them, to chastise them, not to make excuses for their behavior or justify their poor choices. We're here to help them learn from the spilled milk before it becomes spilled blood.

After all, we're all in this together.

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