Monday, December 17, 2012

Fallen Angels.......

Like many of you, the tragic event this past Friday, has been upper most in my mind.  Wondering how does any human being take the life of another.....wondering how do you look in the face of an innocent child and shoot them.  I doubt that I will ever be able to reconcile these thoughts to any great degree......deferring to my God, who will someday reconcile my thoughts to His.

The news media, the politicians, the "experts" all seemed focused on "better & more comprehensive" gun control. Their reasoning is it will make our world safer.  However, no matter how many guns they take away, there will always be the individual who finds one and kills someone else.  There will always be the individual who finds a way, even without a gun, to harm others.  What the news media and politicians have yet to address is the woefully inadequate mental health system that exists today.  

In an article by Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI Minnesota, the truth was exposed about the current status of our mental health system.(

"In 1957 across the nation, there were about 565,000 people with mental illnesses in psychiatric hospitals or institutions. It’s important to acknowledge that institutions themselves are not a mental health system. For the most part, institutions were closing at that time because of lack of treatment and substandard conditions.
Today, the number of people with mental illnesses living in hospitals or institutions is well under 40,000. This significant reduction reflects the change in the way our society generally views mental illnesses and other disabilities; that people belong in communities and not institutions. 
The community movement began in 1946 with the passage of the National Mental Health Act which created the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and charged the organization with three broad functions:
  • Provide funding to states in order to develop programs to address mental illness and thus reduce the need for institutional care;
  • Develop and promote training for mental health professionals; and
  • Promote and conduct mental health research
During the 1950’s antipsychotic medications were introduced which also offered hope for recovery and a life in the community. This was followed by passage of several pieces of legislation, including one in 1963 that created Community Mental Health Centers. President Kennedy held out the promise for a life in the community in a 1963 speech stating that “If we launch a broad new mental health program now, it will be possible within a decade or two to reduce the number of patients under custodial care…reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolation will be supplanted by the open warmth of community concern and capability.”

Years ago, I was working on a degree in mental health.  Although life took me in a much different direction in the end, I had the opportunity to learn things that have stayed with me.  My practicum was spent in a psychiatric ward as an intern.  My job while there, was taking histories from the patients, learning to diagnose, and then learning how to counsel these patients.  The most startling aspect of this experience, was how many times each of the individuals had been admitted into the "system".  Every few weeks, or months, these individuals were Baker Acted back into the psychiatric ward.  Most stayed the mandatory 72-hours.  Their current history was added to the volumes of notes already taken from previous stays, a team would put together a voluntary treatment plan; if there was a family involved they would be brought in and the plan explained to them; drugs were prescribed; and then at the end of those 3-days, they were released.

What dawned on me was that nearly everyone of these patients could be standing next to me in the grocery store line on any given day, and if I didn't know who they were, I'd have no idea they'd just done another stint in a psych ward.  What was even more disconcerting was that some of these people had really violent thoughts, and as the laws are written today, until they do harm, there is nothing anyone can do.  One such example was a gentleman I interviewed.  He was the brother of a mass murder who at the time was on a death row.  I don't remember the reason this man had been admitted, but I do remember the interview vividly.  He had explained to me that he lived near a school, and that in the morning and afternoons, when the children were walking to and from school, their laughter and chatter was so upsetting to him that he wanted to hurt them to make them be quiet.  His solution at the time was to shut himself in a closet so he couldn't hear them.  I sat there expressionless taking my notes, all the while wanting to run out of the room and tell someone this man was a potential time bomb.  I did go to my supervisor and informed them what I had learned and that's when I was told that until he did something, there was nothing anyone could do.

Now, I totally understand, you can't institutionalize everyone who has a crazy thought "just because"......but, where there is an individual who has a life history of mental illness, it seems there should be more that we as a society can do.  Unfortunately, our government has set these very individuals in a position to do harm, and left the rest of us to clean up in the aftermath, all the while shaking our heads declaring we should have stricter whatever kind of laws to make sure this doesn't happen again.

There are no easy answers, but after witnessing the things I've seen I truly believe we have to step back as a society and re-evaluate how we treat mental health issues.  We need a more comprehensive treatment system.  We need to have the capacity to deal with these individuals before they do harm to others.  We need a system that supports the families who have an individual in it with mental health issues.  As it stands now, our government is a system of "reactions" versus "preventions".  What the government calls prevention is in realty penalties for the majority for the actions of a few--instead of dealing with the issues that culminate in these horrific events.

My heart aches for everyone directly impacted by the tragedy in Sandy Hook.  My heart aches for every parent that sends their child to school, and now worries it could happen again.  My heart aches for the children who go to school in fear they might be next.  They say life isn't fair........but this is one issue no one should have to grapple with. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Goodies!

As you know, one of the fun extras of the winter holidays are the goodies  that everyone seems to love to make and share.  When I was a teacher, it was a daily treat to visit the teacher workroom and see what the mother's had left for us.......of course it came at a price......serious dieting in January!  I remember too, growing up, the wonderful smells coming from my mother's kitchen.  She didn't bake much during the rest of the year, but during Christmas.......oh my!

With that being said, I thought I'd share some pictures and recipes I've seen online lately.  I look for things that don't have a lot of exotic ingredients, or take special skills (I'm not much of a baker myself), so I hope you find something you'll enjoy making for your family during this special season.

 Holiday Tree Brownies

  How cute are these?  I found this recipe on the Betty Crocker website.  The ingredients are really simple:

  • 1box (1 lb 2.4 oz) Betty Crocker® Original Supreme Premium brownie mix Water, vegetable oil and egg called for on brownie mix box
  • 2 or 3 drops green food color
  • 2/3 cup Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting (from 16 oz container)
  • Betty Crocker® Decorating Decors red and green candy sprinkles or miniature candy-coated chocolate baking bits
  • Miniature candy canes (2 inch), unwrapped 
  •  -->The easy!!


    I'm not sure where this recipe originated, but I saw it on a post by Tommy Bunce who has an incredible shop on Etsy, called TJBDesigns.  It's not only adorable, but actually good for you!

    1 lb large strawberries
    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    3-4 Tablespoons powdered sugar (or sugar substitute - to taste)

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1. Rinse strawberries and cut around the top of the strawberry. Remove the top, (enough for a hat). Clean out the whole strawberry with a paring knife, if necessary (some of them are hollow already. Prep all of the strawberries and set aside.
    2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or Ziploc with the corner snipped off. Fill the strawberries with cheesecake mixture.
    3. Once strawberries are filled, top with the 'hats.' Decorate according to photo.
    4. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving.

    Christmas Pinwheel Cookies

    I found this recipe on .  I love the fact that it makes so many, and you can see by the ingredients is pretty simple to make.  It was handed down through one family, so no doubt these are good!

    Original recipe makes 72 servings 
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon
    baking powder 
    1/4 teaspoon
    baking soda 
    1 teaspoon
    1 1/3 cups
    1 cup
    packed brown sugar 
    2/3 cup
    white sugar 
    eggs, beaten 
    1 1/2 teaspoons
    vanilla extract 
    1 drop
    red food coloring, or as needed  
    1 drop green food coloring, or as needed

    Here's the link to the page for the recipe  --  these would be great for a party, or maybe your children are having a little celebration in their classroom!

    Holiday Shortbread Cookies 

    I would be remiss to not include something from Martha Stewart.....the Diva of holiday entertaining.  I decided to use her Holiday Shortbread Cookie Recipe because it is probably one of the most favorite types of cookies that nearly everyone loves.  You'll be amazed how simple these are to make....and what great gifts they would make!

    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
    • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
    • 1/3 cup coarse or sanding sugar (optional), for decorating


    1. In a food processor, combine butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt; process until smooth. Add flour and pulse just until combined. Form dough into an 8-inch-long round or square log; wrap tightly in plastic and freeze until firm, 30 minutes (or up to 1 month).
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Dip edges in sugar if desired and transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

      Cook's Note
      To store cookies, wrap them tightly with plastic and keep at room temperature, up to 1 week.
      I hope something here inspires you to make something special for your family, friends, and/or co-workers!  Bon Apetite!