College Resources Added

The Suicide Prevention Resource Page now includes a section specific to high school and college. I’m happy to be able to share some excellent material developed by the JED Foundation.  As noted on their website, “Transitioning into adulthood can bring big changes and intense challenges. The Jed Foundation (JED) empowers teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into healthy, thriving adults.”

I particularly like their “positive prevention” outlook. These resources are truly empowering–they are not designed only for kids in crisis.

While I continue to teach and support the Suicide Awareness and Prevention Workshop in conjunction with NAMI, I have been considering developing a workshop/program that looks the slightly different and perhaps bigger picture of emotional health and hygiene. Stay tuned!

More Brains Have Been Ordered!

My “back to school” shopping list includes brains! When I checked my supply I realized I had to reorder again this year.

Perhaps I should explain.

Dealing with test and quiz anxiety is typically a challenge for some adult learners. A few years ago I learned that using stress balls (sometimes called “squeezies”) can help restless children focus… the constant motion seems to release energy and allow the child to focus. So, I thought. “Why wouldn’t this work with adults taking quizzes and tests?”

My first experiment with the theory included a young man who was self-proclaimed “A.D.H.D.” and quite worried about taking quizzes and tests. He actually broke the stress ball I provided and encouraged him to use. But he also got a pretty good grade and thought having it helped. So I ordered some different ones that wouldn’t break and now offer them to all students prior to a quiz or test.

This could be your brain!

I was quite pleased to find “squeezies” in the shape of a brain. How much more appropriate could things be? Take a test–squeeze your brain! You might be surprised to discover what comes out!

They’ve proven quite popular with students. I’m also told they are quite popular with cats because they are fairly easy to bat around. And, of course, the jokes never get old–nor do the strange looks from the U.P.S. driver when I grab the box from him and announce, “My brains came! My brains came!”

For those who’ve been wondering…

By way of an update, after several emails I submitted the complaint in its entirety. Following some telephone tag, American Airlines offered an apology and compensation equal to about 25% of our ticket and expenses (over $2,000) due to the delay. They also indicated they were forwarding copies of my correspondence to the “appropriate management personnel.” While I still have my doubts that action will be taken against the offending employee, it’s a moral victory.  Lesson learned: when you are abused, complain–calmly but forcefully.  If possible, hit ’em in the pocketbook. Their hearts and minds may follow.


Several who have heard portions of the story have asked for details and posting here seems like a reasonable approach.  I like to think I’m a reasonable person. Travel is tough–particularly air travel in today’s environment. Mistakes happen, things get messed up. I’m a former “road warrior” and experienced traveler.   It takes a healthy dose of patience and perseverance to travel by air–especially these days. The emergency recent trip Janice and I made served as a great reminder of that. I have summarized a recent experience with the observation that security was not the issue.

Our recent return flights from Louisiana tested my patience for a number of different reasons–including the fact we returned home a day and a half later than scheduled. When I was traveling full-time you learned not only patience but problem-solving skills. Things were tolerable because airline employees were for the most part sympathetic and willing to treat travelers like customers.

Well, that’s changed. In the forty plus years I’ve traveled I met the rudest and most arrogant airline employee ever in Washington D.C.’s Reagan Airport.  Her attitude would be unacceptable and unbelievable if she was a gate agent. I nearly fell over when she informed me she was a supervisor. I tried to write up the encounter only to discover that American Airlines only allows comments with less than 2000 characters. I’m posting the full version for those who are interested in the story. I’m reasonably certain American Airlines won’t be. If I’m wrong, I’ll let you know! (The portions in italics had to be left out of the American Airlines version.)


By way of brief background, we had missed a connection in DFW on Sunday, July 30. Special Services there booked us on AA3590 and AA4693 for Monday, giving us boarding passes with seat assignments and assurance that we were “confirmed.” When we arrived the following morning those boarding passes “didn’t work” and we were issued new ones. The ones from DCA to BGR did not show a seat assignment and the gate agent told us to “get them in DCA.”

Upon arrival in DCA, I attempted to do as instructed. The gate agent said the flight was oversold and asked if we would give up our seats for a $500 voucher each. We explained we needed to get to BGR. He said he was “working on seat assignments.” Knowing the flight was oversold, I checked with him several times while waiting and got the same answer.

When the flight was boarding it became clear we had not been given seats and were being treated as standby passengers. At one point, we were invited to board, only to learn that one seat had been assigned twice. Since we had to travel together, we exited the plane. That was my first encounter with the primary reason for this complaint. I did not know who she was until later when I discovered that in addition to being a supervisor she is the rudest and most arrogant airline employee I have encountered in over forty years of travel. She was standing in the jetway screaming at the woman who took the last seat available, “RUN! You have to run if you want to be on this flight.”

When we returned to the gate desk, the agent was clearly totally lost. He was still trying to find a seat for another passenger! I assured her she was not going to make the flight. I said to the gate agent, “I would like an explanation of how we became standby passengers and how you plan to get us on a flight.”

Your supervisor said, “Sir, we do know what we’re going.” I replied, “Obviously you don’t or we’d be on this flight and you wouldn’t be telling another passenger she might get on.”

The supervisor said, “You need to go to Special Services.” I replied that I would need evidence of my ticket (laying on the desk). She said, “We can’t give you those.” When I asked how I would prove my ticket, she replied she’d meet me there.

At Special Services the agent said I needed both boarding passes. As I approached to the gate, the supervisor yelled at me, “I told you to go to special services and I would meet you there.” I replied that was obviously not true based on where she was standing (and doing nothing). I asked to speak to a supervisor and she told me “I AM the supervisor.” I attempted to see her name tag explaining, “Then I need a manager. What is your name?” She said, “I’ll give you my business card.” When I put my hand out for it, she said, “I’m not giving it to you now, we are trying to close out this flight.”

I reminded her that I am a customer and that in the amount of time she was spending arguing with me she could have given me both. She replied, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

I believe her name is either XXXX or XXXX. Your Special Services Agent quickly resolved the problem without the boarding passes or any assistance from your so-called supervisor. She also assisted me with meeting a manager who was quite gracious, but also insistent that she would “look into it” because “she is one of our best supervisors” and “we spend a lot of money on customer service training.”

Well, I’m a retired organizational consultant with a good crap detector. This is not a training issue—this is an employee with an attitude. I also observed her refusing to help an employee doing a wheelchair assist, sending her to special services. This is a short version since I’m only allowed 2000 characters.


So in the span of a few minutes, we went from being offered $1,000 to give up our seats to being treated like crap.  That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, don’t you think? And–for those who enjoy irony–when I booked our original flights, on one leg there were only “more desirable” seats available so I was charged extra! 

Love and Wonder

The following post is from the blog Not Otherwise Specified, an ongoing story of recovery from addiction. The blog is written by the daughter of a friend. The blog’s “About” page explains, “Today I have over eight years of recovery in my program of choice. By writing about my experience, I hope to reach others struggling with all types of addiction.” I admire much about her, including her ability to share her insights. This piece on “Love and Wonder” strikes so many chords with me, I simply must share it, along with the suggestion you visit her site and consider subscribing.


I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the Achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!