Monthly Archives: February 2013

Help Us Stop Domestic Violence – Read and Vote

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Today’s post is a shameless request!  I am asking everyone who reads this to please go to the Huffington Post’s Mayors Challenge (HPMC) page and vote for my hometown, High Point, NC as the Fan Favorite.  Voting ends March 6 and you can only vote one time.  Then share this request with others.

Why should you?  Because the Fan Favorite winner gets $50,000 to put towards its program.  That would be a terrific contribution to the work we are doing.  And I’m asking nicely (see the word “please” above).

And the work we are doing?  It’s a novel approach to stopping domestic violence.  There’s a short video about our work (and the work of all the other finalists) on the HPMC page.  However, there is so much more to say.  And even if we don’t win the Fan Favorite contest or the Mayors Challenge, I want you to know about this approach because it might work in your hometown as well.  That’s one of our goals.

Our program is called the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative.  It’s patterned after a violence reduction program we created and have been using for over ten years, which has reduced our violence and homicide rates significantly.  It is a collaborative effort between the law enforcement agencies (local, state, national agencies as well as probation/parole offices) and the community (residents, volunteers, service agency representatives, business owners, etc.).  Law enforcement identifies 4 levels of domestic violence offenders – individuals who are showing initial signs of abuse patterns to those who have a record of abuse – the worst of the worst.  Those showing initial signs receive warning letters as well as visits from law enforcement officers to explain why this behavior is wrong and what will happen to the offender if it happens again.  A repeat offense moves that individual up the ladder of levels and results in other consequences.

Those with established patterns of abuse are asked to come to a meeting.  We call them “notifications” or “call ins”.  This is a highly structured event, hosted by a local non-profit organization, High Point Community Against Violence (HPCAV), and the High Point Police Department.  Members of HPCAV address the individuals first, explaining that their past behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.  We are very purposeful with our words and what is said is based on research done in the area of domestic violence offenders.  Following this part, representatives from a multitude of law enforcement agencies as well as the state and federal court system make their comments.  The heart of the message is that domestic violence – abuse of intimate partners – will not be tolerated by our community or our law enforcement.  Any repeat offenses will result in immediate and severe consequences.  These include moving that person to the top of the list for a court appearance, a look at how to get that person the most jail time possible and a promise that the community will show up in court to let the judge know that a warning was issued but ignored.  The meeting closes with an offer from HPCAV:  if you are willing to change what you are doing, we are willing to help you make that change.  We stay to have conversations with any of the individuals who want to talk.  We explain how we can help them connect with established programs or services that can help them control their anger or resolve some of the challenges that may lead to violent behavior.  Our director is available to listen, to guide, to support.

This particular initiative started almost one year ago and is based on careful research and data gathering.  Domestic violence victims and service agencies have been a part of the research and planning.  Our six month data looked very promising in terms of a lower number of repeat offenses.  We are excited and hopeful that the first year’s results will be as good or better.

Imagine what our communities and our country would be like if we could stop domestic violence.  Imagine what it would mean for women and men, girls and boys.  What it would mean for children.

This is a very shortened explanation of a complex and well-conceived program; it’s what is being considered for the Mayors Challenge.  While winning would be an incredible gift to our city, what we really hope for is results, real results.  We want a real decrease in the number of domestic violence incidents, this year, next year, and 10 years from now.  We want a program that you or anyone else could replicate in your city or town with confidence, because it has been successful in our city and because we have the research to prove it.  We want every home to be the safe haven it should be, for all of us.

I hope you’ll vote for us and I hope you’ll keep this effort in your thoughts and prayers.  Thank you!

Brain Sucking Parking Decks

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What is it about a parking deck that causes people to become, as my dad might have said, “dumb as a sack of hammers”?parking deck

I park in a deck adjacent to my office every day and have for almost 19 years.  I’ll be the first to say the directional signage is terrible, as is the lighting.  I cannot remember how many people I have had to help enter, park, and exit over the years.

One day I was on my way to my car to leave and noticed a woman in her 30’s kind of wandering around, clearly looking for something.  We have our share of “check your car door” thieves and drug addicts moseying through (it’s not a great area of town) so we’re all aware of our surroundings.  However, she looked somewhat distraught and not overtly dangerous, so I stopped to ask if she needed help.  “I can’t find my car,” she said.  “Do you remember what level you parked on?”  I asked.  Clearly I have a bright future in interrogation methods.  The deck has 3 levels, each with a different way of exiting – ramp, steps down or steps up.  I thought that might help her identify where she had parked.  “No,” she replied.  Of course not, I thought.  Who could remember that kind of detail – ramp, up or down?parking deck steps

After asking her a few more questions, it was clear we were not making any progress.  So, I invited her to get in my car and I drove her through the deck until we found her car.  She was on the “steps up” level.  As I shared this with my husband that night, he was not impressed with my decision to give her a ride.

Yesterday morning, I pulled up to enter the deck and noticed the van in front of me was not moving, because the car in front of it had stopped.  It appeared the driver and passenger were reading the very large sign about parking rates.  The backup lights appeared, so I waited to see if the car was going to back up and leave the entryway.  That happens sometimes.  But no, the car moved forward…all the way to the gate.  The driver never even glanced at the machine to the left that spits out the ticket.  There the car sat, waiting.

Now, there is a booth there for an attendant, but there is no attendant in that booth.  It’s clear, so anyone with reasonable vision can see there is no one in there.  I don’t believe she ever glanced at the booth.  Finally, I got out of my car, walked up and said, “Excuse me.”  The driver’s side window was down and I was able to tell there was a woman driving.  I didn’t want to scare her.  She looked at me.  “You have to pull the ticket, ma’am,” I said, “or you’ll be here all day.”  (I couldn’t stop myself.)

I suspected then that I had come across a local version of Minnie Pearl.  She apologized and shared that she had no idea what to do, she’d never been here before.  The gate went up and she drove in.  The van then entered and I got back in my car and entered.  As I made the turn to get into the area where I always park, I noticed her car a bit further down, making a circle.  Bless her.  Finding a spot in the mostly empty deck was not going well.

I parked my car and got out, waiting.  As she came back up towards me, I waved at her and the passenger.  I asked her if I could help her in some way.  “Where are you going?” I asked.  “The courthouse,” she replied.  I suggested she drive to the top of the deck, park and then use the ramp to make her way to the courthouse.  This way she didn’t have to take the steps.  “I don’t even know how to get up there,” she said.  “Can’t I just park right here?”  I realized then they stood a better chance of actually getting where they were going on foot.  “Certainly you can park here and I’ll help you get to the courthouse,” I volunteered.

When they got out of their car, the Minnie Pearl suspicion was confirmed, minus the hat and price tag.  Her male companion was a bit younger, perhaps her son, but I don’t believe he had any teeth.  And he was wearing some pretty thick glasses.  That may explain why she was driving.  She had the parking ticket in her hand.

“Be careful with that ma’am,” I said.  “You will need that when you leave.  You have to pay to park here.”  “Pay to park?”  She sounded like she had never heard of such.  “I don’t have any money.  Do you?” She looked at her companion.  “Ay-yep” came the response.

For a minute there I thought I was in the middle of the Hee Haw cornfield.  I went on to remind her that she was parked on the bottom level of the deck and she would need to come back down the steps to get to her car.

About that time I saw a woman I know who works in the courthouse.  “Debbie,” I called.  “Are you going to your office?”  When she responded that she was, I promptly handed off Minnie and her son.  Debbie is a much nicer person than I; I knew she would treat them well.  As we got to the steps, I took a sharp right down the sidewalk to my building entry and Debbie was chatting away with Minnie.  I need to ask her if the son ever said a word. I doubt it.

When 5 p.m. finally rolled around, I headed for my car.  Minnie’s car was gone, so I can only assume they found their way back and out.  I stood for a minute, looking for my car.  It wasn’t in the usual area.  I did a slow 360, wondering aloud where in the heck I had parked after lunch.  Just about the time I could feel my anxiety level rise, it dawned on me.  I had not driven my car; I had driven my husband’s car.

Guess I’ll need a sack for those hammers.

What’s Your Name? Who’s Your Daddy?

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Raise your hand if you read the obituaries…in print or on line.

If you don’t, you really should.  While most of them are similar in terms of the information provided, every now and then you’ll come across one that leaves you wondering what in the world the writer was thinking!  I skim them, looking for anyone I might know, but I’m also on the lookout for unusual names.  When I see an unusual last name, I look for where this person was born.  But it’s the first name that’s most interesting to me.

Southerners have a thing for names – first names, middle names and how those names connect you to someone else.  I can’t remember how many times I heard my grandmother ask, “And who are his parents?” We want to know:  who are your people?

Add to that the fact that Southerners are a quirky group.   The way we name our children proves it.

My family is big on the “family” name.  Go to one of our family gatherings, yell “Blair, toss me that tennis ball!” and you’re liable to get a barrage of balls coming your way.   We have a lot of Blairs.  We have had 4 generations of Robert Alexander; no wonder Southerners use nicknames.  I was named after my mom – Cornelia.  It’s not a bad name, but just not one you want as a child.  The classroom teacher would always pause before attempting to call my name aloud in class.  Without fail, the other kids would giggle as I would replied, “I go by Connie.”  My cousin was named after her mom – Erdmuth Dorothea.  My aunt is called Erd (Erd Bird being the family nickname); my cousin managed to come out with the name Dottie.  Older family members, like my great-uncle John Fries Blair (there’s that name again) always used our “full” names.  Fortunately, our parents didn’t.

My good friend Robin has a nice name – short, easy to pronounce and spell.  I’ve never asked her if she feels fortunate, but considering other names in the family, she might.  Her mom’s name is Lodell.  Aunts and uncles include:  Creola, Mundale, Vendale and Lonie.  Then there’s General Delton, General Dolan and John Target.  And yes, you use both names every time.

Another friend, Dennis, tells great stories about a family in his hometown that had 6 kids – 5 girls and a boy.  The girls’ names trip off his tongue with ease, like some kind of poem:  Irene, Ilene, Imogene, Fayrene and Dordene.  Then, bless him, comes Arvil.  Add that name to the end of the line above and the rhythm comes to screeching halt.  Arvil.  Dennis’ father renamed him Tangerine.  Now say it:  Irene, Ilene, Imogene, Fayrene, Dordene and Tangerine; harmony restored!

Some Southerners just keep it simple with what I call the “interchangeable first letter formula”.  One family’s example:  Lonnie, Donnie, and Connie.  Growing up, we had neighbors who took the opposite approach:  all the kids have a name that starts with the same letter.  Imagine…6 kids, all of whom had names that started with the letter T.  With 6 kids running around, I think “Hey you” and a pointing finger probably worked just as well.

We like our Biblical names too.  This week in the paper I found an Obadiah (now deceased) and a Messiah, alive and well at 4 years old.

There are names I have never seen attached to a person.  This week’s entry:  Clorine.  And yes, she had a nickname – Clo.

Then there are names that should never be combined.  One of the 7th grade teachers in my junior high was Mrs. Cain.  Care to guess what she named her first daughter?  All together now!  Candy.  What in the world were her parents thinking? or smoking? or drinking?

Finally, there are those names I call unfortunate.  I see a lot of these in the obituaries.  They seem to be older names that have fallen out of common use – a good thing as far as I’m concerned.  A name makes the “unfortunate” list if it gives me a less than pleasant visual.  One of them is Fanny.  My maternal grandmother’s oldest sister was named Fanny.  I grew up hearing that same word used to indicate one’s backside.  Sure to unleash waves of giggling in the early elementary school classroom.  I’m sure great-Aunt Fanny was a lovely woman, but that name.  Unfortunate.  Bertha; that one makes my list too.

I have never lived outside of the South, so I would love to hear from some of you how your family or your area of the country names its children.  There are bound to be more interesting (and unfortunate) traditions out there.

Extra credit points to anyone who can guess the source of this post’s title.