Archive for February, 2015

Supper at school

Monday, February 16th, 2015

An article appeared in the paper a couple of weeks ago that continues to roll around in my mind and whenever I think about it, it really makes me feel sad.

I can hear someone saying, “Really?! There’s just the one article that left you depressed?”  No…and taken in the context of the truly horrible stuff that is reported in the papers, this article seems downright benign. But I found it disturbing nonetheless.

So what was the article? It was: “More students are being served dinner at school nationwide.” According to the article In the 2014 fiscal year, 104 million suppers were served to students, up from about 19 million in 2009.

The fact that elementary age students – many of whom also eat breakfast at school – are now eating all of their meals at school really tugs at my heart for several reasons.

There is something about a family coming together at the end of the day that is sacred. It’s not about mom cooking and serving meatloaf and mashed potatoes dressed in her pearls and shirtwaist dress ala June Cleaver. But it is about every member of the family sitting together, putting down their cell phones or video games, and looking one another in the eye – even if it’s just for 15 minutes and “dinner” is a bowl of Mini-Wheats.

And once again, schools have stepped in to meet a need that ideally should be provided by parents. Aren’t the basic necessities of life such as providing food and shelter for kids, the responsibility of their parents?

But I can also see the other side of the argument. What choice do many parents have except to rely on the school? No one would argue that even if a school has very nurturing after-school child care workers, a school environment is a very poor substitute for being home with parents and siblings. But if the parents work long hours and aren’t able to pick up their students by “dinnertime,” it’s better that the kids receive some nourishment rather than end the day famished.

I think the reason this topic depresses me is because it paints a very bleak picture of the way that family life looks for so many families. A 6 year-old spends 10 hours at school, eats some chicken nuggets in the multi-use room before being picked up by an exhausted mom or dad who once they arrive home, only has enough energy to zone out in front of the TV. The child retreats to their bedroom to play video games until they fall asleep.

How to bring families back together to strengthen the family structure and instill values and attitudes? I don’t know – it’s a huge question. But I don’t think serving dinner at school will help.

In case of emergency

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

So I was at the gym on Saturday morning, working up a sweat on the elliptical machine with my headphones on. I was totally in the zone, keeping tempo to One Republic’s “Love Runs Out” on Spotify on my phone and watching a Food Network chef make Mexican lasagna on the little TV screen in front of me. My brain was a million miles away from what was going on around me when I suddenly become aware that someone was shouting.

I looked over and saw a couple leaning against the railing. To me, it looked like they were over the railing into the racquetball court below. The thought that entered my mind was “Wow, that must be a really exciting match to be shouting at the players like that.”

I turned back to the TV to see if they had finished sprinkling the cheese on top of the casserole when I realized that the shouting around me was still going on. This time, I turned my head to see the woman looking right at me. The words she was shouting started to penetrate my consciousness, “GET HELP!”

I probably heard her repeat this four or five times before my brain unscrambled enough to understand that the man whose back was towards me was suffering a medical event. Because he was leaning on the railing, he had not collapsed to the ground.

I pride myself on being fit and light on my feet. So, did I leap into action to get help, flying down the stairs to the front desk to have them call 911? Or since I my phone was within arm’s reach, did I fire through my list of Contacts until I got the Petaluma Police Deparment’s non-emergency number? I knew I it saved somewhere on my phone. My thinking was that since the gym is only a half mile away from the Police Station, calling them directly could bring emergency help more quickly.

Nope. I did neither of those things. The sad truth is that it didn’t even cross my mind to run to the front desk.  Instead, I spent at least a couple of minutes of precious time bumbling with my phone, being frustrated at not being able to fine the Police phone number in my contacts. Thankfully by the time I got to the screen to dial 911, other club members had responded and I heard that help was on the way.

Emergency help arrived and within a few minutes it looked like this gentleman would be fine; he was lucid and talking with them. But the experience left me shaken with the realization of how unprepared I am to react to an emergency situation. I felt pretty pathetic that under the stress of the moment, I couldn’t even make my phone work.

As Steve and I talked about it later, he reminded me how people who have to deal with emergency situations rehearse these scenarios over and over again so their reactions become automatic. It’s unrealistic of me to think that I could be fast on my feet – metaphorically speaking – in reacting to an emergency when I haven’t had any training.

So I decided to get more prepared in a very simple way so if this situation ever happens again, I can take action. I’ve spent a few minutes calmly rehearsing finding 911 and the Petaluma Police Department on my phone. It’s a baby step in being truly prepared for an emergency situation. But you never know when it could be an important one.