Corded window blinds kill. Please read and share.

October is “Window Covering Safety Month”. Most people would never know this, because they have no personal connection to the dangers of corded blinds. I didn’t either, until I learned what happened to a high school friend’s son.  In January of 2010, during naptime, Andrea’s son Daniel, who was three years old, strangled in the cords of the window blinds in his bedroom. Reading her story, following her heartache, and seeing photos of this beautiful boy who lost his life has moved me to share her story whenever I can, in hopes of preventing this tragedy for other families.

On  April 16, 2015, journalist Rick Schmitt wrote an in-depth article for fairwarning.org titled “Years of Talking, Kids Still Dying”. He wrote, “According to data compiled by the CPSC, at least 332 children, most of them under the age of two, have been fatally strangled by window cords over the last 30 years.  Another 165 have been injured, including some who suffered permanent brain damage or quadriplegia requiring lifelong care and therapy, according to the nonprofit group Parents for Window Blind Safety.”

To say the stories of these devastated families are heartbreaking doesn’t even scratch the proverbial surface. These families, like most of us, had no idea that a silent killer lurked in the rooms of their innocent babies.  They didn’t realize that these cords can kill in less than one minute. In one article I read, a mom left her 5 and 3 year old children playing in the playroom just long enough to make a bag of microwave popcorn. When she returned, her three year old was dead: strangled with blind cords.

The more I’ve read, the more enraged I become at the big-time window blind companies who are turning a blind eye to the research they are fully aware of. Schmitt’s article discusses the fact that these companies make a fortune selling corded blinds. He writes, “Corded blinds account for an estimated 75% of the industry’s roughly $2 billion in annual U.S. sales.”

Schmitt’s article really pinpoints the issue with the companies who manufacture the blinds when he cites an attorney:

 “They are not going cordless because they want to protect their profit margins,” said James Onder, a St. Louis lawyer who has filed, and settled, more than 50 lawsuits against the industry in 23 states related to children killed or injured by window blinds. “The industry has made a conscious decision that it is cheaper to pay off a lawsuit than it is to save human lives” by eliminating corded blinds, he said. – See more at: http://www.fairwarning.org/2015/04/as-window-blind-cords-strangle-toddlers-reforms-are-left-dangling/#sthash.L0D5hjm0.dpuf

A few years ago, I became a follower of the Facebook page titled “Parents for Window Blind Safety”, a non-profit organization who not only educates consumers, but they also fight for safer industry standards and support families who have lost children to corded blinds. They advocate companies, (Ikea most recently) who have opted to ban sales of corded blinds in their stores. This group raises awareness, supports education, and works to support the removal of corded blinds from store shelves. Parents Magazine, Consumer Reports, Fox News, CNN, The Today Show, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, USA TODAY and many other newspapers have advocated this organization, and helped to spread the important message of the dangers of corded blinds.

While I don’t have young children now, I have many friends who do. Hopefully one day, I will have grandchildren. We must all work together to ensure the future safety of our children. I have shared the danger of these corded blinds with friends, and will continue to share. I remember another chilling thought that I heard from someone, perhaps it was my friend Andrea, Daniel’s mom; the danger may be at a friend’s house, a friend whose family is unaware of the dangers.  The only way to ensure that these corded blinds do not take the lives of any more children is to raise awareness.

My heart truly grieves for the 332 children who have been strangled by corded blinds. None of these families knew the dangers. I certainly didn’t. I am horrified to recall that we had these cords in our kids’ bedrooms when they were little- in fact their cribs were near the windows.  This tragedy could occur in any house that hangs corded blinds. And, as every case indicates, it happens fast and silently.

Please spread the word. Take down corded blinds, and ensure that any house your child visits does the same. Be a life saver.

-HC

Kids need magic…

“Yeah, do you believe in magic?
Yeah, believe in the magic of a young girl’s soul
Believe in the magic of rock and roll
Believe in the magic that can set you free
Oh, talkin’ ’bout magic…” -The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1965

I was thinking about magic the other day, after listening to a bothersome mother denounce the “magical” customs of Christmas as “lies she refused to tell her children.”  This really rattled the inner lobes of my brain. After all, my fondest memories of being a kid involved magical things, like flying reindeer, wishing on dandelions, Mork from Ork, Disney World, and the Yellow Brick Road.  Thinking about these morsels of magic made me think of times spent hanging out in the most magical car. It made me think that what kids really need, in this modern world, is less reality and more magic.

I grew up in Topsham, a small town in Maine. Many weekends in the late 1970s, my aunt Nancy whirled into our driveway,  in her amazing blue American Motor’s car. It had to be a one-of a kind, with its two orange stripes running down the sides, and the Levi jeans seats stitched with “bullet shell” buttons.  I loved that car, and I cherished weekends when she picked me up to go out for adventures. I’d climb into the back and give those denim seats a good bounce.

Before we left the driveway, I’d flop my body over the front seat, where Nancy had a little wooden Buddha glued to the dash. She told me if I rubbed his belly I’d have good luck. I rubbed it, each swirl of my tiny finger anticipating the good fortune that was sure to ensue. When I threw myself back on the rear seat, a silver sparkle always caught my eye. Looking down, under the floor mat in the back seat, I found a pocket full of coins.”Boy, that guy works fast,” I allegedly told my aunt the first time I rubbed the belly and discovered the treasures. In those magic car years, I scooped up a good collection of quarters, nickels, and dimes.

nancys old car

It was magic, and I believed it. When I learned that my aunt planted those coins there, it didn’t shatter me, and I didn’t condemn her as a liar. I just grew up and had fond memories of magical times.

When my own kids were little, the magic car was long gone, but Aunt Nancy still found ways to share the twinkle and anticipation of magic with them. The kids spent summers running along the coastal Maine rocks on Birch Island, a magical summer retreat in itself. They found beautiful, shiny rocks in blues, purples, and reds. They shrieked in glee to find these jewels, contriving spectacular stories to explain how they came to wash up on the shore. They never knew that Aunt Nancy, the magic maker, sprinkled those gems in the nooks and crannies while the tide was out.

Those who create magic are not liars, and to condemn magic is a travesty. Magic gives children hope and excitement and elation. Some of the best books I read as a kid were filled with magic– Where the Wild Things Are, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Puff the Magic Dragon, Taran the Wanderer, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, just to name a few. Magic was spectacular to me!

Kids are forced to grow up and face realities at alarmingly young ages. Why not let them believe in magic wands and wishing on stars? Why not preserve their innocence as long as we can?  Why take away the opportunity for wonder and imagination?

Do you believe in magic?  I do…

-HC

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I have no idea if they will publish my letter, but here is the LETTER TO THE EDITOR that I just sent off to the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the disturbing and utterly insensitive political cartoon that appeared in the Sunday,October 4 issue. The cartoon showed a weather man standing in front of a weather map. The U.S. map showed random smiley sunshine faces, and machine guns appeared in the regions of the recent mass shootings. The caption was truly unthinkable: a reference to the weather being mostly sunny with a chance of mass shootings.

As a veteran journalism and English teacher, and a freelance journalist, I am completely blown away that any journalist would be heartless enough to treat this grave matter with sheer flippancy.

After 9/11, one political cartoonist captured an image of the Statue of Liberty with a tear in her eye. This noted piece was reflective of America’s sadness, America’s despair. This was an image that spoke for the heartbroken millions. This cartoon proved that there is a time and a place for sarcasm; during a time of devastation, we need only compassion.

As the country hears of these devastating mass shootings, no one is smiling. The smiling sunshine faces from Sunday’s cartoon should, at the very least, not be grinning. They should be weeping for these innocent lives that have been taken away.

I am gravely disappointed in the editor’s decision to run this cartoon. It is untimely, insensitive, and shows a complete lack of humanity.

Sincerely,

Heidi Campbell

Here is a copy of said cartoon:

bad political cartoon GDP

That makes me cringe

Originally published on Tumblr, September 2013. This one met with a great deal of criticism. Apparently I sounded too preachy, and I didn’t utilize the proper term for the “gauges”… (I purposely named them with my own lingo). So, this one is for folks age 30 and up I suppose…

I have been teaching for a while. I have seen loads of fads over the last 20+ years in American High Schools. I have seen the pale girls sporting black lipstick, I have appreciated all hues in hair color, lots of shaved heads & Mohawks, and I have seen boys who wear their pants at their knees. I have seen kids who pierce their tongues, and kids who wear pajamas. These mavericks are expressing themselves. I get it and I appreciate it.

Eventually “Paula the Punker” and Mr. Baggy Pants will mature and realize that they no longer want to look like caricatures. When this epiphany strikes, it will be easy for these kids- they can simply change. They can realize the party is over, throw away their costumes, and become civilians. The blue hair follicles will welcome the chestnut brown hair dye. The size 78 pants can easily be replaced with a 36 for the “sagger”.
No big deal. These fads are ephemeral.

I cringed this week to see the upsurge in a different fad. A fad that is impossible to “drop” without surgery. A fad that permanently disfigures these young, foolish kids. The fad is the practice of upsizing “ear bracelets”. I call them this because I do not know their proper name. I used to see them on only the most radical of kids, but this “practice” is honing in on the mainstream. For those who still don’t know what this is, I will try to describe this odd and scary practice.

It begins innocently enough, from what my students have told me. A kid has a thick earring stud crammed into their existing earring hole. After enough time has passed, the kid has the thick stud replaced with a tiny circular ring. The ring is pushed, flush, into the hole to expand the hole. The earlobe stretches to fit around this tiny disk. The earlobe has now welcomed a new shape- a perfect circle that a pinky finger could poke through.

This disc, after a bit more time, is what seems to become the challenge. These kids begin to salivate and dream of a bigger disc. They want an upgrade. In a society where bigger is better, a society where kids smoke banana peals to get high- these kids want more.

And they give in to their desires. They upgrade. As soon as “Floppy- ears Magee” knows his circle is ready to stretch, he goes back to the piercing gurus for a bigger circle. The tiny little discs eventually become bracelet size, and the once petite earlobe becomes an extra ping ping paddle. There is no escape from this permanent disfigurement.

As I watch the “toddlers” of this trade pass me in the halls I cringe. I know where they are headed. They have dime sized holes now, but by the year’s end, they will have a set of handcuffs hanging off their noggins. It is a new addiction and they just can’t get enough.

I feel embarrassed for these kids, especially when I think about their day of epiphany… the day they decide they don’t want to stand out anymore. They can take out the bracelets but they won’t be able to hide their rebellion of yore. They are stuck with flappy Dumbo ears until they have the cash to hire a plastic surgeon.

I wonder what will be next? An implant that will grow a third arm? Hmmm… I might try that…

-H.C.

Is anybody alive in there?

Originally published on Tumblr, October 2013.

I was at the grocery store tonight and I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Everywhere I turned, there were people talking on their cell phones. These were not teeny-boppers with their OMGs and LOLs. These were not teenagers who were talking to their heartthrobs. These cell phone junkies were middle aged folks like me. They were products of the 70s and 80s who weren’t RAISED with the cell phone appendage! These people tonight were so disconnected with their environments that they had no idea what was going on around them. The cell phone zombification has struck my generation…

One woman had me blocked in behind the apples. I gently said, “Excuse me!”

She didn’t turn around or even flinch. She was completely involved in her conversation. Before I said it louder, I looked her over. She was tall and thin. She appeared to be older than me- perhaps mid-50s. Her attire was dated, like an 80s business lady. I again said, a bit louder, “Excuse me?”  I saw a guy to my right chuckle. Still nothing. I was feeling trapped and anxious.  I leaned around my buggy and swung my arm in the air- right where she should have seen it, and she still didn’t move. I had no choice but to bump her ever so slightly with my shopping cart. I instantly felt guilty, and thought to myself, “Maybe she’s deaf?” But then I remembered, she was talking on the cell phone.  She finally turned, after my bumper cart nailed her softly on the behind. She looked irritated and inched over… just barely. I squeaked past her and she kept talking.

Now, I have to add that I am on a pretty strong steroid inhaler for some wheezy bronchial stuff today, so I am a bit jittery. But as I left the veggie talker and moved toward the meats, I passed another mobile phone talker who was in an angry conversation with his significant someone. He was so embittered by his exchange that I honestly don’t think that he remembered where he was. I heard him say, “I can’t believe you are saying that to me. You don’t even LISTEN! No!  I am SICK of this!”

He was holding his cell phone on his shoulder as he spoke loudly in to it, holding his cart with one hand, and roughly rifling through the pork chop packages with his other hand. He looked to be about 45. His clothes spoke a different message than his phone voice- his clothes were laid back, tan shorts, a white, well-washed, Nike t-shirt, and uncombed hair. This was a misnomer. He was not laid back. He was mad. I veered away from the meats, as I suddenly realized he could totally lose it. He could start throwing ribs. I had kids to raise. We would just have to go without meat this week. It was probably healthier anyway.

As I turned up the next aisle, a huge man in all black was leaning against the Little Debbie shelf updating his Facebook status. A mother further down was pushing her buggy down the aisle. Her two kids were yelling, and trying to climb out of the buggy. She bopped them on the heads with a package of rice cakes and shushed them. She told the person on the other line how terrible her kids were acting. In the freezer section a 30-something woman was complaining into the phone about how cold it was. She was wearing a slinky tank top and cut offs. In her buggy she had a 12 pack of Molsen Golden and a box of corn dogs.

I have never had such an overwhelming sense of cell phone overload. Ever. And I teach high school kids. I see them on their phones. Regularly. For some reason it seems normal for the teenagers to be consumed with their phones. They are like pacifiers for them. But I realized tonight, that adults who are tuned out to the world and on their phones in public causes me a different stress. If the kids aren’t paying attention, and now their parents aren’t paying attention… is ANYONE paying attention to the world anymore?

-H.C.

Too cruel to be kind

Originally published on Tumblr, December 2013.

The tone shocked me. It was a giant ball of rude, condescending, mean, and totalitarian all wound tightly and thrown at a kid. This was not the student’s father, his prison guard, nor was it his boss- this was his teacher.

He yelled so loudly I had to step out of my room. When I saw the owner of the voice another shock zapped me: this was a teacher I had heard GOOD things about.

I recall another mad man yelled a few years back. He yelled with such force I imagined blood vessels bursting in his violet cheeks. He was so out of control I contemplated calling for paramedics.

There are many jobs in the world where a cold, angry, uncaring nature would be completely acceptable. There are plenty of jobs where a daily show of power might come in handy, and antipathy for kids would not matter. Teaching, however, is not one of those jobs.

Kids deserve better. Kids deserve a pool of teachers who care about kids.

I’m forming a list. A list of folks who need to find a new career. Until they do, I’ve incorporated a few helpful coping mechanisms into my days…

I have infused my own passive-aggressive techniques for dealing with these meanies. I may or may not put extra junk mail, found in the recycling bin, into their mailboxes. I may or may not walk past them and chuckle to myself just to make them wonder. I may or may not slide articles about kindness under their classroom doors. I may or may not take the last cookie when I see them behind me in the lunch line.

I’m not moving mountains, but sometimes staging your own mini-protests against things can do wonders for the soul.

-H.C.