Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Impact and Consequences of Teen Drunk Driving: Guest Post

When Melissa Davey, our guest blogger and writer for St. Jude Retreats, first contacted me, I jumped at the opportunity to discuss the topic of Teen Drunk Driving. A few days later, I read a story about honor student, Erin Cox, who was punished by her school when she went (sober) to pick up a drunk classmate that had called her asking for a ride home. I thought, what kind of mixed messages are we sending our kids? 

I believe that, in addition to talking to our kids frankly about drinking and driving, we also need to make sure that the school officials and the local police are all on the same page. We can't expect our kids to do the "right" thing, when they are afraid that they will get punished for doing it. This just doesn't make sense. 

Melissa shares with us what teens and parents need to know.

The Impact and Consequences of Teen Drunk Driving 

Before a teenager hits the age of 16, we as parents need to begin having conversations regarding the impact and consequences of teen drunk driving. You may think your teen does not want to hear this, but the more frequent the communication the better. The consequences of drunk driving not only impact a teen’s present life, but can greatly impact their future career goals, continued education and freedom if imprisoned or sentenced to an alcohol rehab program

So what do our teens need to know? 

Many teenagers live in the moment and are frankly too immature to realize their actions can impact the lives of others around them. This is an important part of drunk driving prevention education. Help your teen understand that if they drink and drive, they are putting other lives at risk besides their own, which can include elderly people, children, or even their own friends or family. Help them understand that they could cause a tragedy to another family. This should be explained carefully, however, as to not accuse your teenager of doing something they haven’t done yet. Rather than reprimanding them, talk to them calmly and in a non-hysterical manner so they are not so quick to blow you off.

Laws regarding vehicles and alcohol in your state are also important to go over with your teen. If a minor transports a 21 year old to purchase them alcohol, the minor can lose their license in some states. Talk to them about open containers in vehicles and driving with someone that possesses illegal substances. Help your teen understand that if alcohol is found in the car, even though they are completely sober, they can still be fined and charged. 

Many fatal drunk driving tragedies occur among high school students, every day. I personally know at least 7 teenagers, who have died in relation to a drunk driving accident. Many were passengers, who were intoxicated themselves, and the driver, who was also intoxicated, survived. Others were driving alone and ran off the road or struck another vehicle or tree. No matter what the circumstances of these accidents, the impact these deaths made on our community were significant, whether people knew the victims personally or not. One of them, my brother’s best friend, tragically died on my birthday when he was ejected out a vehicle after crashing into a tree. He paid the ultimate price. I will never forget him and to this day, it still brings sadness to me on an otherwise happy day. 

If a young teen has died in your community due to a drunk driving accident, openly talk to your son or daughter about it. Ask them how they feel and if it has put things into perspective for them. If the driver survived, ask them if they think it’s the drivers fault. They may be eager to ask questions or to better understand the situation. Often times, the driver is responsible and often charged with manslaughter. However, it’s important to talk to your teen and make them understand that while it’s very tragic that there were any fatalities at all, those people made a choice to drive with someone drunk, under the influence or not. We must make our teens aware that every choice has consequences.

Reflecting back to my own teen and college years, I made plenty of risky mistakes in regards to drinking. I can honestly say I’ve been in a vehicle operated by a drunk driver and even though I was also intoxicated, I remember having the thought that it was a bad mistake. Since that day, I have made the choice not to get in the car with someone who is intoxicated, whether they had one beer or three. For me, it’s simply not worth it, even if I’m going a mile or two, but it took me awhile to mature and make that decision for myself. Now, entering my 30’s, I still know many friends who sadly still make the choice to drink and drive. 

Not until college did I realize the severe impacts of underage drinking and teen drunk driving. I am not blaming my parents per se, but I never drank in high school and alcohol just was not a present factor in my household. Before then, I really never understood how alcohol could impact my future or my college career. When I was younger, I always went along with the mentality that I am a good kid and as long as I stay under the radar I can’t get into trouble. It wasn’t until 2 months into my freshman year of college that I was busted for drinking in the dorms. I realized if you’re breaking the law, you’re breaking the law. I luckily didn’t get in trouble, but it scared me enough to be smarter about the choices I made and I learned quickly to not drink and drive around a college campus, to be smart about public intoxication and what to do if a friend was severely intoxicated. Unfortunately, these were all lessons I had to learn on my own. I had watched too many friends get arrested or get in serious trouble due to substance use issues because they continued to make bad choices. 

Essentially, we can only educate our children so much and prepare them with the knowledge to make the right decisions. Knowing the consequences of drunk driving, well in advance, may just help a teen consider their future before they make the hasty decision to drive drunk or get in the car with an intoxicated friend. Even if your teen still decides to experiment with alcohol, they may make a safer choice because they knew the consequences beforehand. Encourage them to always call you if they are in an uncomfortable situation or need a ride home, it just may save many lives, including their own. 

About Melissa Davey: 
Melissa currently writes for St. Jude Retreats, a non 12-step alternative to traditional alcohol and drug rehab. She has worked extensively with non-profits in the past to create drug free work zones, and has experience with teen drunk driving prevention. As of the moment, she leads the content development for St. Jude Retreats. Along with experience as a manager in her former work, she has a Journalism Degree from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and has studied sociology as well. In addition to writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa enjoys blogging about health, relationships and advice. 

About St. Jude Retreats: 

In 1988 a career researcher, Mr. Gerald Brown, sought to determine the actual success rates for conventional alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation, as well as 12-step support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. As he was conducting his research, he met the man who would become his research assistant, Mr. Mark Scheeren. After three years of intensive research, together they created the first social/educational model to help people to overcome drug and alcohol problems. Thus, the St. Jude Program was born (1992), providing a solution to the ever-increasing substance use problem in the United States. 
Today, the St. Jude Team has grown to more than 60 dedicated individuals, who have brought new hope and renewed lives to thousands of people struggling with substance use issues. As researchers, educators, and the original creators of the non-disease, non 12-step model, St. Jude continues to lead the way for the drug treatment industry as our program is continuously updated with the newest research. Our goal is to provide the most effective program and we build effectiveness into every aspect of our cognitive, behavioral, education process.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Autumnal Splendor, Frost and Poetry

There has always been something about the autumn season that has lent itself to poetry for me.  I am not sure if it was because it seemed to be the time when poetry was introduced in the school, or because my mother would recite lines of Robert Frost poems as the days grew shorter, trees change color and nights became colder.

We'd take a walk down the beach, the trees all red and gold. I would walk along to top of the seawall, as Mom would quote, "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,/And to whom I was like to give offense." (Mending Wall)

Or, "Heaven gives it glimpses only to those/Not in position to look too close," (Passing Glimpse) would be recited when I called for her to come and see what treasure I had found.

Poetry and autumn, for me, go hand in hand even more these days.  I will be taking the 30 Poems in November challenge to raise much needed funds for the Center for New Americans, a local non-profit organization that helps bring resources to immigrants and refugees in our community.  I love that we promote literacy by participating in a literacy rich event.

In preparation for the challenge, I have been getting my creative juices flowing by taking pictures of the foliage.  As I have told my students, sometimes, we can create a poem with pictures instead of words.  Here is an example:

The bottom picture inspired me to remember the lines from Road Not Taken, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I.../I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference."

I am taking the road not taken by many...the path of the poet.  I will write 30 or more poems next month.  Perhaps end up with a new book to publish, or perhaps simply enjoy the mental exercise of writing.

If you want to support my efforts, you can visit my page for the challenge and pledge what you can. Amazingly, $5 can make a world of difference to someone who has just come to this country. Every little bit helps! If you are interested, my page is found at: 

Thanks in advance for your support and thanks to all those who have already supported this most worthy effort.

Together, we make a difference!  Namasté!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Caught in the Crossfire: Children and War

Kathleen Fearing is a writer extraordinaire!  Her latest book, Caught in the Crossfire, an anthology of poems about children living with war, is a hauntingly insightful look at the suffering forced on the innocent who have no way of understanding what is happening to their world or why it is that way.

I had the honor to interview Kathleen about her book this week.  
Welcome, Kathleen!  I am so excited to have you as a guest on the blog.  So, let's begin - what inspires you to write poetry? 

First of all, I want to thank you, Linda, for agreeing to be a part of my latest book of poems, Caught in the Crossfire – Poems of Children in War. It was such a creative and rewarding project and I’m thrilled with the results. 

As far as my inspiration, I don’t know if I can put my finger on it, but years ago, I was reading a book that was written in verse for young people. My imagination went through the roof because it was so different and beautiful and thought provoking. I decided then and there to try something like it on my own. The result of that inspiration was my first book written in verse “Adisa’s Basket,” the story of a young African girl in 1700 Nigeria who, along with her sisters, is captured by slavers.

After that, I read poetry quite often and fell in love with the poems of Mary Oliver, along with others. Now I have shelves full of wonderful poets and poems. 

When did you first start writing, what made you feel the need to express yourself in this way? 

I began writing at a very young age. I’m sometimes amazed at how long it takes a writer to write well. At least for me it took years of study and refinement. Now, I find that poetry is the ultimate truth in written form. Poets – good poets – can, in a very short space, put the most private thoughts on to a page and make the reader weep without chapters and chapters of description. And, let me also say that some prose are very much like poetry. I’m thinking of Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.” It is all a matter of how a writer chooses to paint his or her story – Ernest Hemmingway had his blunt, straightforward method, Ondaatje has a more poetic approach. The poetic approach fulfills me more as a writer than any other form. 

Why did you write - Caught in the Crossfire? What led you to write it? 

It is sad that I felt compelled to write it in the first place. Over the course of years of watching the never-ending wars on my TV screen, and the effects of those wars on innocent children, I wrote my feelings down in poems. This continued until I had a rather large collection of them. One night, after seeing a dead child, who looked no more than four years of age, being carried out of the rubble of yet another bombing, the line from singing group The Carpenters came to mind: “Bless the beasts and the children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice.” It was then that I formulated the idea of a book. I’m very proud of it, yet I wish there were more I could do. 

How did you find the other poets that contributed to the book? 

I’m blessed to know several very good poets - you, for one, Linda and your incredible poem, “Rocket’s Red Glare.” And your recommendation of Andrea Heiberg and her poem, “The Grass is Green” was such a wonderful addition to the book. My husband Ed contributed along with a friend here in Tennessee. I’m grateful that all of these remarkable people agreed to be a part of my book. 

Well, I am blessed to have dear friends, like you, to collaborate with on projects such as this.  Speaking of other contributions, the cover photography is haunting. Where did the photo for the cover come from? 

My husband found that photo on line. It is actually one from WWII. He is a talented researcher and can find almost anything on line given enough time. I thank him for devoting so much time to a project that was and is so dear to my heart. 

What do you hope people will take away from Caught in the Crossfire?

My whole purpose in putting together the poems in my book is so that adults will stop for a moment and remember that children are our future, our hope for a better world. If they are scarred by war, they grow up to be scarred adults. Some children, understandably, grow up full of hate toward the people who shattered their childhood. It seems to be a never-ending cycle that we are powerless to stop. Yet, I know in my heart that that is not true. We do have the power if we could only recognize that we do. “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” (John Lennon). If you can imagine it, it can be accomplished. If only we had the courage to stop wars. 

When you write about such difficult subjects, what keeps you centered?

Staying focused is difficult for me. I could put a label on it – ADHD, or something else, just grab an initial – but in this case, all I needed was to hear or see another story about children being blown apart by adults’ bombs that set my course. 

Like many poets, you write in other genres as well. Could you tell us a little about what else you have written? 

I write for young people. I write stories that let them see that life is difficult, but it is doable…that they are okay if they just recognize who they are, and who they are, is good. I try to help them see that adults are not perfect, that they are not perfect, yet we all have such potential to be better. My books include “Champ,” about a young boy who thinks he’s responsible for his father’s death; “My Friend, the Werewolf,” about two boys who find out by accident that their friend is a werewolf, and “Voyage of Dreams,” about a young girl growing up in 1903 Ireland who has an unexpected chance to go to America and follow her dreams. 

Who are some of your favorite poets? 

I mentioned Mary Oliver, but I have also been inspired by, believe it or not, Jack Kerouac, and a not-so-well-known poet, Denise Levertov and also Louise Erdrich and Adrienne Rich, May Sarton. I’m also a fan of Robert Frost. 

What advice do you have for aspiring poets? 

To aspiring poets and writers alike, read, read, read. Read the great writers and poets. Decide, if this is what you want to do, to lose yourself in your writing; let it make you cry; let it make you laugh; let it change your life. Ray Bradbury said, “Be certain of this: when honest love speaks, when admiration begins, when excitement rises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime.” 

What else would you like to share with the readers about Caught in the Crossfire? 

Caught in the Crossfire can be found at 

Kathleen Fearing writes books for young people and poetry for adults. She is a member of the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc. SCBWI, and the Authors Guild of Tennessee. Kathleen’s book, “Voyage of Dreams, An Irish Memory,” has been published by Celtic Cat Publishers of Knoxville and a number of her stories for young children have been published on line. She has self-published seven other books, including three stories for young people and four books of poetry. Kathleen has a doctorate in education and taught children’s literature, as well as other courses at various colleges in western Massachusetts, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She reviewed newly published children’s books for local newspapers and radio stations in western Massachusetts for many years. As a radio producer, Kathleen’s children’s radio programs won first and second place awards from the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association. She lives in Norris, Tennessee with her true love, her husband Ed.