#PrayforLafayette

#PrayforLafayetteThere are no words sometimes.

Words to truly describe the loss of our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our friends when they are taken too soon. No words to describe the feeling of agony when specifically such a sincere yet powerful creative spirit is stolen from a community. No words to define the internal struggle when the sense of safety is lost forever. No words to describe the pain that has been cast upon Lafayette by such a cowardly act.

But I have to try. Because it’s tearing me open from the inside out.

When acts of violence, domestic terrorism, hate crimes occur in this country, it’s easy to cast it away as if it could never happen to you, your home, your loved ones. This is a feeling Southwest Louisiana can never claim again. The town of Lafayette, recently deemed the “Happiest city in the U.S.” experienced its first of senseless acts of violence last night. A shooting at a movie theater that has since left two women dead, one in intensive care with five gunshot wounds, and six others injured.

All they know of the shooter thus far was that he was a 50 something-year-old drifter who was staying at a nearby hotel. He took his own life.

But I refuse to focus on him. I can’t. Because my heart and soul are mourning the loss of the women. I tried to type “victims” just now, and immediately deleted it. They are not victims. They are human beings. They are creators. They are friends. They are lovers. They are so much more than “victims.”

They were innocent bystanders to this one coward’s rage. They were engaging in the freedom of a good evening with friends, something that we Americans take for granted and never will again. One, treating herself to a funny movie with her best friend for some much-deserved girl time, while her husband and child awaited her return that evening. The other, enjoying a movie with her boyfriend during her summer break from college.

Lafayette is not a huge city, but with the rise of social media, it’s so much smaller than it used to be. I knew of one of the women who lost their lives yesterday. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her in person- she is the sister of an acquaintance and the friend of a cousin- I know of her spirit, her passion, her work, and her beautiful soul, all of which has inspired me more than she could ever know. My heart truly mourns for the loss of these wonderful people, and my prayers go out to their families and friends.

The struggle also exists in the loss of security. Southwest Louisiana, a.k.a Cajun Country, is known for its laissez-faire attitude and its “Laissez les bon temps roulez” approach to life. Many outsiders see it as a little piece of something special, different as compared to the outside world. Good food, good friends, good time. But to many, it is home. And when your home is stripped of its sense of safety, you fear.

#LafayetteStrongYou fear each other. You fear change. You fear resentment. You fear your home. It’s a very tragic feeling that is resonating in the hearts of so many right now.

The coward who is responsible for this tragedy, he wanted to incite fear and pain into the lives of others. I pray the fear is one day replaced by love. And while today, specifically, that may not be the case, I hope and pray that one day it will be. #PrayforLafayette

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 21:12

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How to Politely Respond to Serious Shade

BuyMeLunchI recently experienced girl-on-girl hate. She threw some serious shade at me. I’ll admit, it came as a shock.

A little bit about me: I try to get along with everyone. It doesn’t matter their age, race, gender- whatever. None of that really matters, because we’re all human beings in this world, you know? I try to live my life through the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

I also think back to the Thumper analogy, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

I just returned from a large direct sales cosmetic company conference, which the focus is about Enriching Women’s Lives and celebrating people to success. To experience such unnecessary shade from a woman I didn’t even know, it was like a slap in the face.

Of course now I know what I would have said, because I was up half the night re-playing the scenario in my head. It would have sounded something like this, “I don’t think I properly introduced myself. My name is Kera Brossette, and I don’t let people talk to me like that. Your attempt to belittle me has not been taken lightly. I’d like to point out that you are a guest at this table, and I was asked to be here. So if there is somewhere you’d rather be, I suggest you go there.”

Did I say that? No.

Do I wish I did? Yes.

Define: throw shadeInstead, of standing up for myself, I sat there quietly with my head down as I processed what just happened. And then I ignored it. Something tells me other people ignore these types of rude comments from this woman, which is why she feels empowered to voice them.

It bothers me that I gave this woman, who I didn’t know and who clearly has no respect for me, to have power over me. Her few words kept me up half the night, just stewing and oozing in my subconscious. I refuse to let someone have that kind of control of me in the future.

To help myself and those, who like me, are slow to process hateful shade, I want to share a few words of advice that I’ve found from researching this topic.

  1. Either Respond or Don’t. Keep in mind that some comments are rude without intent to harm you. He or she may not know any better. But when a comment is targeted at you, and you are personally insulted or feel belittled by the comment, he or she has a right to know that.
  2. If you do choose to respond, Speak Assertively. Assertive does not mean aggressive. Speak with power and confidence to show the bully you are not a push-over. Be careful not to add insult to injury, or you may entice the bully to continue with his or her shade.
  3. Share your Feelings. A person may disagree with your opinion, but he or she cannot disagree with the way their words made you feel. Also, this technique assists to help those who are so blatantly unaware of how their actions affect other people.
  4. Disengage when Necessary. The aggressor may be quick to suck you into his/her own toxic behavior. I suggest either walking away or giving the bully an excuse to leave/exit strategy.

I also came across some recommended comebacks, some of which I don’t agree with. So I give you my edited, slimmed-down version of successful responses to difficult people. You can read the full list of 12 comebacks for dealing with difficult people. Tell me what you think of my version of their list, and their list while we’re at it, in the comments.

  • Excuse me, but did you actually just say… (Feelings Summary with Assertiveness)
  • Well, I think we’ve reached the end of this conversation. (Disengage)
  • Did you mean to be that rude? (Assertiveness)
  • I think that was a bit rude or You just offended me (Feelings Summary with Assertiveness)
  • I’m sure you didn’t mean for that (question) to be rude /inappropriate, but that’s how it sounded. (Assertive)
  • I don’t really know how to answer that. (Disengage)

I have been told that the most successful women lift each other up. Powerful women don’t walk over others, they celebrate them. They are the type of women who recognize talent and choose to mentor for the purpose of work improvement or succession training.

The sad reality is this is not always the case. Remember, the only way to vanquish the workplace and non-workplace bullies out there is to show them you are not one to be bullied and to stand up to injustice.

Things that make you go, “Ewwww.”

We could tell when we pulled in the parking lot; this town’s chicken finger restaurant was mostly a “youth” destination. But I love chicken fingers and dipping sauce, and so we didn’t hesitate. Just as we walked in, I remember mentioning to my husband over my shoulder, “There are a lot of teenagers in here.” That was all.

After we ordered our chicken boxes, I choose to go to the bathroom to help “make the food come.” This is a common practice I enjoy, because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s worth a shot.

As I’m walking to the public restroom of the fast-food restaurant, I couldn’t help but hear a conversation among a group of what sounded like high school girls getting together over summer break. You know what I mean. It’s about five or six girls and they all are wearing t-shirts, too-short shorts, and flip flops, with the exception of one who is trying harder than the rest. Messy pony tails/buns with an over-use of curse words.

Just passing by their table made me giggle a little. We all remember what it was like to be like in a group of teenagers: laughing too loud, over-analyzing everything, harshly judging everyone, and cursing to sound cool. Now let me clarify, I hated high school kids back when I was in high school. To recognize that stage of life, as a “been there, done that; I’m about to turn 30” moment felt almost sentimental. I know moments like that will happen over and over in my life, so I took it in.

After using the bathroom like a normal human being, I was washing my hands at the sink with my best former public health employee etiquette as I could muster (like flush the toilet with my foot, turn off the faucet with a hand napkin- all that jazz). I should mention that I don’t consider myself a germophobe. My husband is a germophobe. For example, he makes me wash my hands as soon as I get home, will disinfect the shopping cart, can’t handle raw meat- kind of germophobe. But when you work in the public health field, you can’t help but know too much. Let’s just say I learned way more about oral-fecal transmission that the average person, and I am more wary because of it.

I was still in the middle of my 20-second “Birthday Song” hand wash, when one of the teenagers from the table in the restaurant flew through the door and dodged right into a stall. No biggie.

But then I heard it, and my eyes widen in disgust. She put her keys/wallet combination and her cell phone on the floor of the public restroom while she used the stall<insert: cringe and dry heave>.

I had a silent battle in my head, mostly filled with, “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you not to do that!” Think about it for a second. We’re in a fast-food restaurant where you eat chicken fingers and french fries with your hands. Even after she washes her hands, the bathroom floor scum will be on her cell phone and her wallet, which she will carry back with her to the table. And then proceed to eat her chicken fingers with piss-stained hands. This is how public health outbreaks begin, people!

I want to use this story as an example of what not to do and provide 5 fast facts about public bathroom hygiene:

  1. The toilet seat is not the dirtiest part of the restroom. While most dangerous germs found on toilet seats are the likes of Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli, those germs can only harm you if provided direct contact with your genital tract, or unless they enter through a cut or sore on your lower extremities. Also, keep in mind that germs don’t survive very long on the surface of the toilet seat because they are disinfected often.
  2. Beware of the spray. When you flush the toilet, a powerful spray is flung in all directions. This spray contains the remnants of the contents of the bowl (your stuff) along with any other lingering bacteria (other people’s stuff). Not awesome. It’s advised that you close the lid before you flush while at home. Or if you in a public restroom without a lid, open the door before you flush so you can quickly get out of the way of the poop spray.
  3. The underside of the toilet seat and the floor is the germiest surface. Ah ha, no here’s the kicker! These surfaces are cleaned the fewest times during public business hours. The floor can contain the worst of the worst type of germs: strep, staph, E-coli, coliform, rotavirus, and MRSA virus (which is potentially fatal). Remember, there is usually a hook on the door in ladies’ bathroom stalls for a reason: to hold a purse. And if there isn’t a hook in the stall, you can keep your purse around your shoulders. Or in the case of youths who don’t carry purses, at least the top of the toilet paper dispenser! The sad truth: keeping your phone/wallet in your own lap or in your hands while you use the restroom is cleaner than setting it on the floor, because it only comes into contact with your own germs. When you set it on the floor, it comes into contact with everyone else’s germs.
  4. The second-to-most germ-infested surfaces in restrooms are where your hands touch most often. Think toilet flush handle, stall lock, faucet surfaces, soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, just to name a few. What’s most surprising is that the place where you wash your hands may be the most likely for bacteria because the water keeps the germs alive. When possible, use a barrier to touch these surfaces, like using your foot to flush the toilet and using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
  5. There is a right way to wash your hands, which also means there is a wrong way. The wrong way is to simply put the fingertips under running water and call them clean. Honey child, you ain’t fooling anyone when you do that. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises you rub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (which is determined either by counting or by singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head). Be sure to scrub both sides of your hands, and get in between your fingers and under the nails. When soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer. But keep in mind that over-use of hand sanitizer in between hand washings will leave a film on your hands that actually attract germs.

And here’s the Cliff Notes-version for all you skimmers out there: leave the stall as quickly as you can after you flush to avoid contact with “the spray.” Don’t put anything on the floor of a public restroom. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel, and use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door handle.

Congratulations, you survived a trip to the public restroom! You’re welcome.

News Release: Health Department to host emergency medication dispensing exercise- 2012

The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) will host a medication dispensing exercise at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum as part of the McLean County Emergency Response Exercise Thursday, September 20.

The exercise will simulate the county’s response to a release of a biological agent at Illinois State University. Participants in the McLean County Emergency Response Exercise include the McLean County Disaster Council, McLean County Emergency Management Agency, Mennonite College of Nursing at Illinois State University, PATH211, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Advocate Bromenn Medical Center, the Town of Normal, Illinois State University, and volunteers from RSVP, the McLean County Health Department Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the American Red Cross of the Heartland.

MCHD staff and MRC volunteers will set up a Point of Dispensing (POD) site at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington to distribute antibiotics to treat those purportedly exposed. The exercise will test the health department’s capacity to mobilize staff and community response partners in the event of a widespread public health emergency and also measure the amount of clients served in the allotted time period. Community volunteers will act as the population in need of antibiotics to treat purported exposure.

What: Emergency Medication Dispensing Exercise

Who: McLean County Health Department and Medical Reserve Corps

When: 1:30 to 3:20 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012

Where: U.S. Cellular Coliseum, 101 South Madison St. Bloomington, IL 61701

Local media representatives intending to cover the medication dispensing exercise at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum are asked to register with MCHD Communication Specialist Kera Simon in advance. Media representatives should park in the parking garage located on the corner of Olive and Lee streets. Enter the coliseum from the parking garage and take the elevator to the second floor, or as directed by the signs in the elevator. Follow the signs that lead to the restaurant. Media representatives will be checked in and escorted through the POD site.

This activity is funded by the McLean County Health Department, in part by the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Grant provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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This press release was originally released on September 14, 2012. To view the PDF, click MA_Full Scale Emergency Drill 2012.

News Release: Second human case of West Nile Virus reported in McLean County- 2013

BLOOMINGTON— A McLean County man in his 40s tested positive with West Nile Virus (WNV) during hospitalization in early October. Illinois Department of Public Health laboratories confirmed the positive WNV case Wednesday. This is the second human WNV case in McLean County so far in 2013.

“West Nile Virus is still a concern for the county until the weather temperature is consistently below 55 degrees or we experience a hard frost,” McLean County Health Department Director Walt Howe said. “It is important for individuals to protect themselves from mosquito bites that could lead to West Nile Virus infection by wearing mosquito repellent with DEET, long sleeves, and pants at dawn and dusk.”

Residents are advised to take the following precautions to reduce their risk of mosquito bites:

  • REDUCE exposure—wear protective clothing at dawn and dusk (the time when the type of mosquito that carries WNV is most active), repair and replace worn screens on doors and windows, and eliminate stagnant, shallow water where mosquitoes breed (including bird baths, flower pots, wading pools, old tires and other receptacles).
  • REPEL mosquitoes—apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

WNV surveillance by the McLean County Health Department Environmental Health Division staff, including mosquito and dead bird collections, ended Oct. 15.

McLean County is one of 73 counties across the state with indicators of WNV presence in 2013, including positive mosquito collections and positive birds. In the state of Illinois, 74 human cases of WNV have been reported in 2013, resulting in seven deaths. Previous WNV activity in McLean County this year included two WNV-positive birds— one in Bloomington and one in Normal— and five WNV-positive mosquito collections from Old Town Township, Dale Township, Lake Bloomington area, and the Ellsworth area.

Last year, McLean County had five WNV-positive birds—four in Bloomington and one in Normal— and one human case.

In 2012, 290 Illinois residents were infected with WNV, resulting in 12 deaths. Fifty-five of Illinois’s 102 counties had humans, birds, mosquitoes and/or horses test positive for the virus.

WNV is a mosquito-borne disease that causes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Culex mosquitoes, also known as the house mosquito, become infected with the virus by feeding on infected birds. Mosquitoes then infect humans and animals. It takes three to 14 days after the infecting mosquito bite for WNV symptoms to develop.

Mild WNV symptoms in humans include a slight fever or headache. Severe illness can lead to high fever, disorientation and even paralysis or death. Persons at highest risk for serious illness are adults 50 years of age or older and people with compromised immune systems. Anyone concerned about their risk or experiencing symptoms should contact a physician immediately and inform the doctor of any recent mosquito bites.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit http://health.mcleancountyil.gov/wnv or http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm.

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This press release was originally released on October 18, 2013. To view the PDF, click NR_Second WNV Human case of 2013.