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A Campus Threat, Part II

If you missed out on the first part of this saga, you can get caught up by reading this post

There have been more developments in the situation my college-aged son is facing with a student I've dubbed PK (Problem Kid).  In yesterday's post, I conveyed my frustration with university administrators who seem slow to respond to the threats made by a mentally unstable student against my son.  The Dean assured me the student, in his opinion, would not carry though on his threats and was just "seeking attention."

WRONG Dean!

On Wednesday night PK's erratic behavior became even more bizarre.  He began rambling about imaginary conversations he was having with Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook).  PK was, literally, hearing voices and completely delusional.

Later that evening, PK's roommate returned from studying at the library to find he was locked out of his own room.  When he knocked, PK refused to open the door and kept calling out, "Go away, xxxx."  (xxxx being my son's name).  The roommate said, repeatedly, "PK it's me, not xxxx – open the door!"  PK refused.  An RA was called to unlock the door so the roommate could sleep in his own room.

Why the students didn't call for help at that point, is beyond me.  I suppose they were confused and didn't know how to handle the situation.  If you've never seen mental illness up close before, I suppose it's very confusing.  (Let's be honest, it's very confusing and scary even when you do understand what's happening.)

At 3 a.m. on Thursday morning PK decided he needed to see Pretty, my son's friend.  He began texting her nonstop.  Her boyfriend was with her, in town, visiting.  Pretty's boyfriend texted PK and told him to stop communicating with Pretty NOW. 

PK didn't like that at all.

PK headed over to Pretty's dorm.  PK got into the dorm.  (No one is sure HOW yet, because it's locked after midnight.)  He sent a text to Pretty stating he was in the dorm and on his way to her room.  Pretty's boyfriend went to head him off before he got to Pretty.  A fight occurred.  Campus police were called.

The campus police, of course, were completely up to date on PK as a potential danger.  They commented to Pretty and her boyfriend they didn't understand why the school was moving so slowly on the PK "situation."

PK is now being held off campus as an in-patient in a psych ward.  His family is flying in from Brazil and will be arriving today.  They'll be meeting with school officials this afternoon.

The Dean tells me they're meeting to discuss "options."

Options?

In my opinion, the only option at this point is for PK to leave the university permanently and get the mental health care he needs.  He's only 20 years old.  I sincerely hope, with anti-psychotic medication and a lot of therapy, he's able to go on to lead a healthy, productive, SAFE life.  I don't think it's a good idea for him to be in the United States when his entire family is in South America.  I think he should go home, be treated, and receive the support of his family.

By the way, my heart does break for PK and his family.  I can't imagine what they're going through.  But, the safety of everyone else must come first.

I sent an email to the Dean which said:

Dean XXXXXX,
xxxx contacted me this morning with details of last night.
Clearly, PK presents an imminent threat of violence to my son and others.
My understanding is that he has been temporarily removed from campus.

I'm requesting to be notified if he is allowed back on campus.
We will need to remove our son from [University] either temporarily or permanently if he is permitted back.

The Dean has informed me that my son, Pretty, and a few other targeted individuals have been offered post-traumatic counseling if they wish to accept it.  (I'm wondering if they would offer this service to the parents of the targeted kids also?)  

Pretty and my son were the two primary "targets" for PK.

In a convoluted way, the attempted attack on Pretty is a good thing.  PK is somewhere where he can't hurt anyone now.  He is, hopefully, getting the treatment he needs.

I'm still amazed and frustrated at how slowly the university addressed this situation.  Apparently, the wheels of campus bureaucracy are not equipped to handle a campus threat swiftly unless there's a gun present.  (Or perhaps, at all until a violent act is committed?)

I'm hoping we hear soon that PK has returned to his home in South America.  I know he's in a secure facility right now, but honestly …

I don't think I'll feel one hundred percent better until I know he's far away from my son.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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A Parent’s Perspective on a Campus Threat

If you've read my recent tweets and/or posts you know our family has been going through a nightmare situation.  A mentally unstable student at my son's college has been sending him email and text threats, including death threats.  It's a situation you never expect to find your kid in when you send him off to college.

My son is attending college on the other side of the country, over 3,000 miles from home, which makes everything about this situation more difficult.

Here's a little background:

•  My son and Problem Kid (PK) live on different floors in the same dorm.

•  PK is a foreign student from South America.  He has no family here, or nearby.

•  The threats to my son were unprovoked.  That's not just my (mom) perspective, but also what's been determined by the university.

•  PK has a history of psychiatric problems and erratic behavior.

•  PK has a substance abuse problem.

•  PK is currently on probation for threats he made against a teacher and administrator last semester.  This is not the first time he's exhibited this type of behavior.

•  My son has been staying off campus, with a friend, in an effort to stay safe.

•  PK posted a sign on his door that said "Don't RIP xxxx"  (xxxx being my son's name).  I wanted to vomit when I heard.

•  Shortly after posting the sign, PK had a Bible delivered to my son.  I got chills when I found out.  He's also alternated threatening my son with violence and inviting him to church.  Clearly, PK needs help NOW.

•  As a result of his recent behavior, PK is being ostracized by everyone in the dorm.  I don't imagine feeling isolated helps his mental state.

•  All emails/text messages, etc. from PK to my son have been forwarded to the Dean.

•  The Dean has informed university staff, teachers, and police of a potential threat/problem with PK.

•  It took three phone calls and two days for me to hear back from the Dean at the school.  For that, I give the school a big fat "F" on their parent report card.  (In fact, I didn't get a call back until I left a message mentioning we were considering transfering our son to another university.)

The Dean informed me they're working on moving PK to different housing on campus within the next 24 hours.  It didn't happen by last night as expected.  It will hopefully happen today.  I agree with the Dean, moving PK is an important first step.  It would be nice if my son could get back to his own room/environment as quickly as possible.  

The Dean also told me PK is being evaluated by both a substance abuse counselor and a psychiatrist over the course of the next two days.

The psychiatrist evaluating PK this week is the same one who evaluated him in prior incidents.  Maybe he/she will do a better job this time?

Once the substance abuse counselor and the psychiatrist have written their reports, the university "Threat Assessment Team" will make a decision as to what, if anything, the university is going to do about PK.

In the meantime, PK has been given a "No Contact Order" from the university which states he's not allowed to have any contact, whatsoever, with my son.  He didn't follow police orders over the weekend to stay away from him, leaving me unconvinced he'll follow the No Contact Order.

My son has been given the phone number of campus police to call "if anything happens."  

Somehow, that isn't very comforting.

The Dean told me he doesn't *think* PK will actually carry out his violent threats, but admitted he's not a psychiatrist and "no one can be sure."  He told me they're taking the threats "very seriously," but from my perspective – they're not taking them seriously enough.  The Dean has dealt with PK before due to prior incidents and said he believes PK "thrives on drama" and "creates situations so he can get a lot of attention."

He seems to believe that translates into violent threats but not violent action.

However, if PK wants drama and a lot of attention, wouldn't a violent act on campus give PK exactly what he wants?

How can anyone assume violent threats won't be backed up with violence?

Basically, it comes down to this:

PK is mentally unstable (everyone seems in agreement on this point) and has made threats to teachers, administrators and students on campus over the course of this school year.  The university feels the best way to deal with this is to keep evaluating him every time a new incident comes up.  The university doesn't, at this time, appear to be considering removing him from campus.  Apparently they want to wait until he actually physically harms/kills someone to take action.

Do they need PK's tuition that badly?  

I ask that question in all seriousness because I think tuition money for the university is one of the factors here.

Color me cynical.

I was surprised to hear the Dean had not yet talked to PK's parents.  He said he planned to call them within 24 hours.  "I've talked to them before, over other incidents" he said nonchalantly.

???

One thing is clear, the university is incapable of moving quickly.  Also, the university appears unable to act decisively until/unless someone is physically hurt or PK has a gun in his hands.

I've told my son he can come home until this is resolved.  I've told him he has our support if he wants to transfer to another school.  He's afraid for his safety, but at the same time he wants to stay where he is.  He doesn't want to "lose" a semester by quitting or transferring.  His friends and social life are there; he doesn't want to give up the college life and good friends he's established.

Shouldn't the student making threats to others be removed?  Isn't it totally backwards that the student receiving the threats must consider leaving for his own personal safety?

What's wrong with our universities?

And yes, I would love to hear from you if you work for a college and can shed some light on this for me.

My son told me he's concerned PK will come back and attack him at some point in the future.  "What happens if I think this has been resolved, and he comes after me a few months down the road?"

I think that's a very good question for the Dean, don't you?

* You can read what happened next in this saga by clicking here. *

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Mother Nature’s Show

* I know a lot of you are interested in getting an update on yesterday's post.  I appreciate all the information, advice, and kindness you've extended.  As of right now, the situation is still bad.  Maybe worse.  It's also in flux.  I will try to have an update for you tomorrow.  *

I haven't been able to get enough of the beach, the warm weather, or our spectacular sunrises and sunsets lately.  Mother Nature has been in all her glory.  I've taken over 1,000 photos in the last week.  I won't, obviously, bore you with all of them.  (Your welcome!)

There are a few I thought you'd enjoy though.

Sunrise over "my" mountain (taken from my patio):

SRise1w
The above photo sold the morning I took it.  I sent it out on Twitter via TwitPic and someone promptly ordered it.

The golden hour, just prior to sunset, in Newport Beach:

GoldW

Fishing at sunset:

FishW

Sometimes the sun does funky things at the end of the day.  

I love it ….!

YLWww

Surfers headed home after a day of surfing:

Surfers2w

And last, another exceptionally beautiful sunset.  We've had so many the last few weeks.  It has truly been incredible.

NBsunsetW

© Twenty Four At Heart

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When A Threat Is Made

There are certain calls a parent never wants to get.

A few days ago, I got a call from one of my college-aged kids.  It left me feeling physically ill and sent my world into a tailspin.

In an effort to be a little bit vague (in the name of safety), I'm going to refer to this child simply as "Kiddo" for today's post.  I'm also going to refer to Kiddo as a "he" for the sake of this writing – but that doesn't necessarily mean Kiddo is a he.

Kiddo called with a shaking voice and fear in his every word.  Kiddo is receiving threats (some of them death threats) from another student at his campus.  Let's call the kid who is doing the threatening Scary.  

Scary was almost kicked out of school last semester.  Scary was caught cheating and when he was caught he "lost it."  He made threats against a teacher and administrator, and sent them emails mentioning Hitler, destruction, and other ramblings which made no sense. 

Scary is mentally unstable, violent, and also very, very angry.  

The school required Scary to see a school psychiatrist a few times, but then ended up allowing Scary to stay on campus as a student.  I've been told Scary is a master at smooth talking his way out of any situation.

Scary has developed a crush on a girl I'll call Pretty.  Pretty has a boyfriend and has no interest in Scary.  In fact, Pretty finds Scary … downright scary.  Pretty is also a good friend of Kiddo's.  

A few days ago Scary began sending threatening, text messages and emails to both Pretty and Kiddo.  Scary lives very close to Kiddo so Scary is hard to avoid.  Since they live close to each other, Kiddo is taking the brunt of Scary's anger and violent threats.  Pretty lives further away and is in semi-hiding.

The campus police were notified of Scary's threats and went to talk to him.  Scary stayed calm, turned on the charm, and convinced the officers there was some type of misunderstanding.  He was warned to stay away from Pretty and Kiddo.  The police left and Scary promptly threatened Kiddo with violence again.  

The new threat, after the police left, was promptly reported to campus police and they returned.  The police informed Scary they have a "three strike" policy.  They also told him threats are a serious matter, and that he would be "taken in" if there was another incident directed at Pretty or Kiddo.  

Since then, Scary has sent text and email messages to students in Kiddo's group of friends.  The messages are threatening, rambling, and a bit incoherent.  As of this writing, he hasn't sent a message to Kiddo during the last 12 hours.  He has, however, referred to plans for violence against Kiddo when rambling to other people.

Kiddo is afraid of Scary and he's not the only one.  Pretty and a lot of their friends are also afraid of him.

It was a three day, holiday, weekend here when most of this was going on.  That means the school offices were closed and we were unable to get in touch with campus administrators.

I have instructed Kiddo:

•  Not to be alone for a minute until this is resolved.

•  To keep doors/windows locked at all times.

•  To forward all threatening emails and text messages to the dean of the university.

•  To do everything possible to avoid running into Scary on campus.

•  To try and make arrangements to stay with a friend for a few days.

Briefcase and/or I will be calling the dean to discuss the matter this morning.  I'm afraid of what Scary will do in anger if he gets expelled.  I'm afraid of what Scary will do if he's allowed to remain on campus.  I've seen the text messages and emails from Scary and they make no sense.  It's clear Scary has a serious mental health issue.

I'd feel so much better if this was just about an argument between rational thinking students, but it's not.  I'd feel so much better if this wasn't taking place 3,000 miles away from me, but it is.

The most frustrating thing is waiting for the wheels to turn so this matter can be resolved.  Expulsion, suspension, restraining orders – whatever, all take time.  Also, Scary has already ignored police warnings to stay away from Kiddo.  I have no faith that he'll take a restraining order, or action by campus administrators, seriously.   

I'm trying to stay calm and not to overreact, but it's almost impossible.

Someone is making violent threats against my child.

An angry, mentally unstable, person is targeting my kid.

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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Newport Beach

I've been in heaven with our weather lately.  I'm not trying to make you feel bad if you're surrounded by snow right now, I just can't help enjoying how nice it has been here.

I spent a lot of time at the beach this weekend.  There weren't many people there – at least, not in the late, late, afternoon when I like to be there.

CCoveW
The above photo was taken at Crystal Cove in Newport Beach.  You can see the little "river" heading out to the ocean with the run-off from recent storms.

It was in the 80's here this weekend.  (27+C)

I could have spent every waking second at the beach if real life didn't include responsibilities and boring grown-up stuff.

I did see a couple tourists walk by.  Tourists are often very easy to spot.

TouristsW

I was so happy to be at the beach after a couple weeks filled with a lot of negativity.  I was ecstatic to have my camera in my hands.  When you've had no little use of your arm for several years you really appreciate the small things.

After a bit of a climb, I sat on some very pointy, sharp, rocks for a long time waiting to get some nice sunset shots.

FeetW
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

(I want you to know my butt really hurt sitting on those rocks.)

The waiting paid off though.  It was one of the most vivid, beautiful sunsets I've seen in a long time.

I know you're going to think I photoshopped the hell out of these next two photos, but I didn't.  They didn't need it – the sky was spectacular all on its own.

Suns1w

That's Catalina Island you see the sun dropping behind in the distance.  I have a lot of childhood, summertime, memories of Catalina.  It holds a special spot in my heart.

After the sun dropped, the sky continued to put on a beautiful light show for quite some time.

Paddle1w

So beautiful!

And that's why I love Orange County ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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House In The Fog

I took this photo while out for a walk with my daughter over the holidays.

Fog1w

The simplicity of the house charmed me.  It looked so cozy sitting right there by the ocean with the fog surrounding it. 

© Twenty Four At Heart

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It’s Winter, Isn’t It?

We've had beautiful, warm, weather this last week.  In fact, temperatures will be in the 80's (27+C) here today.  

Oddly, I noticed the leaves have finally changed color on the Liquidambar trees in my backyard.  (Liquidambars are one of the few trees with leaves that turn fall-ish in the Orange County climate.)

Leaf1w

Clearly the trees are confused.  They were supposed to turn in October, not mid-January.

Regardless, I think they're beautiful, don't you?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Bokeh: Photography Friday, Week 12

I've received a few requests asking me to explain how to create the "bokeh effect" with photographs.

First of all, what is bokeh?

Bokeh is the blurry, or out of focus, area in a photograph.  Some types of bokeh are considered good because the blurred effect adds visually to the photograph.  Other types of bokeh are considered bad because the blur detracts from the overall appeal of a photo.

However, I know, the true question readers wanted answered was not how to create blur/out of focus areas but, "How do I get light/highlights to turn into those pretty round balls in my photos?"

Creating bokeh is easy; creating beautiful bokeh takes a little practice.

Sometimes bokeh is very apparent, as it is in this photo of my outdoor Christmas lights:

Bokeh2w

Other times, bokeh is much more subtle – as seen in the background of this photo:

Lily1w

In an effort to keep this brief, I'm going to keep this post very simple and basic today.  

First of all, you need pinpoint lights/highlights to create bokeh.  Taking a photo of the ocean at noon, on a bright sunny day, is not going to give you the bokeh "round balls" you want.

Second, you should open up your lens by adjusting your aperture.  

On the holiday light photo, I set my aperture to f/2.8.  On the flower photo, I had my aperture set to f/4.5.  You undoubtedly noticed, with the larger aperture of f/2.8, I got bigger "balls" (giggle).  In the flower photo, I used a smaller aperture of f/4.5 and the "balls of light" in the background are much smaller.

[If you're new to photography:  The smaller your f-stop, the larger your aperture.  f/2.8 is larger than f/4.5 … a smaller number f-stop lets in more light.]

I often shoot bokeh shots on manual, but it's easier if you set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode and just dial in the largest aperture (smallest f-stop number) available for your particular lens.

Next, you want your focus distance to be short.  The shorter the better.

SantaW

In the above photo, the figurines were at a short focus distance and the tree with lights was in the distance – about 9 feet away.  I shot this particular photo at f/2.8.  Manual focus isn't mandatory, but it's your friend when shooting bokeh.  It gives you better control over the final look of your photo.

The lens you use makes a difference too.  You want to create a shallow depth of field to create beautiful bokeh.

I was asked what lens I use for bokeh shots.  I use several, depending on what I'm doing.  Most commonly, I've shot with my Canon 100mm f/2.8, my 50mm f/1.2, or my 70-200mm f/2.8.    

Like any photographic technique, the key to success is practice, practice, and more practice.  

I'm sure in no time you'll be getting shots you're proud of!

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Way Worse Than Whiskers!

You've heard me bitch and moan about my experience on Prednisone and all the bad side effects it caused.  Trust me, there are plenty of bad side effects to complain about.  I've mainly told you about the weight gain because it just seems so damn unfair to be put on a drug that makes you blow up like a balloon. 

There was another side effect to being on Prednisone which was really too horrible to even mention.  In fact, I was so humiliated by the experience, I vowed never to tell anyone what happened.  But … now that I'm OFF the drug, I've decided I can share.

Are you ready for this?

I had a pubic hair grow right out of my face!

YES, I DID!!

It wasn't the "facial fuzz" many women get as they hit their forties, and it wasn't even a long, normal, type of hair.

It was a damn pubic hair growing out of my cheek.  (The upper cheek on my face, to be specific.)

You can imagine my horror!

I get brazilian bikini waxes so I don't have hair down there, let alone sprouting right under my eyeballs.

One day, just a couple weeks ago, I happened to glance in a magnifying mirror.  I use the magnifying mirror for applying makeup.  The only makeup I wear on a daily basis is mascara so I don't spend much time looking in this particular mirror … but there I was checking myself out.  (I should also mention I have pretty bad eyesight so the only time I really know what I look like is if I happen to glance in this particular mirror.)

All of a sudden, I gasped out loud and exclaimed, "No!!"

But?

YES!

There was a dark, thick, wiry, curly, pubic hair … about AN INCH AND A HALF LONG coming out of my face.  (Below my eye, up high on my cheekbone!)

I swear, it grew over night.  I'm quite sure it hadn't been there the day before.  Even with my imperfect eyesight, surely I would have noticed a long black hair growing out of my cheek?

"How is that possible?" my stunned brain wondered.

I have small blond hairs on my arms and legs ….

I don't have big, thick, wiry, curly, black hair on my body anywhere.

There are no words to describe the alarm, the disgust, the abject terror, I experienced in those first few seconds.

"Steroids!  Prednisone!" my inner voice screamed.

"Dammit!" I muttered out loud.  

It didn't take me more than two seconds to pluck that pubic hair right out of my face.  I'm all about aging gracefully, and taking meds when the doc insists on them.  I will not, however,  have my face turn into an outlet for anatomically confused pubes.

I was, of course, immediately terrified pubic hairs would suddenly start sprouting all over my face – perhaps over my entire body.  What if I suddenly had pubic hairs growing out of my ears?

Aaack!

Every day since, I've looked in the magnifying mirror … wondering what I might find.

Mirror, mirror on the wall …

I'm happy to report, I haven't had a single pubic hair grow out of my face since.

© Twenty Four At Heart