A Lesson in Conversation from Dr. Doolitte

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Talking to kids, Tags: , , ,

mother-child-talking-rexWouldn’t it be great if we had the same engaged conversations with our kids as Dr. Doolittle had with the animals? We always promote talk early, often and right, but what does that mean exactly?

I had an opportunity to really think about that as I was having a conversation with a mom about how we are “drugging” our kids from the time they are little. Now, I am not saying no to Tylenol, but I do think we miss golden opportunities to talk to our kids.

Imagine the scene:

  • Your three year old has a fever and they are hanging all over you and you give them two teaspoons of Tylenol, something to drink, and a kiss on the forehead. What have they learned; Mommy loves me (so does Daddy), and take medicine (translate when older to”take a pill and feel better”).
  • Now, let’s change the picture. As we prepare the medicine, we sit down with them and take one minute and say “let’s read the directions.”  “This is for fever and kids your age can take one teaspoon to help the fever go away, but we can only take it for two days, and we have to make sure to drink a lot of water and…”

The same goes for you and me!

This exercise applies to us as well. Kids need to see us reading the directions, locking medicines away, and respecting the power of whatever pill we are taking.  They are watching and they will learn more from what we do than what we say.

As they get a bit older, have them read the indications and directions and warnings out loud to you. Help them take ownership of the information as we continue to reinforce the importance of not embracing the “take a pill, feel better mentality.

You get the picture. They dynamic changed and we have started to teach, at a young age, understanding and respect for medicine as well as other healthy habits, and we carry that right through.  These are the little things we have to do to stem the tide and to make sure the next child isn’t yours.

Read more

Marijuana Conversation: Are you confused?

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Marijuana, Robby's Voice, Tags:

Mass-ConfusionAs we have made our rounds and discussed the issue of marijuana legalization, I have heard many interesting things on the subject. Thought I would share a few with you in this edition of our blog.

  • IT IS THE NON-ADDICTIVE MARIJUANA – This actually came from a group of school teachers.  Let me quote an industry expert: “They are woefully misinformed.”  Unless the THC is being removed, all the elements of the drug are in place, and this includes the addictive properties.   And yes, they are teaching our kids.
  • IT CURES CANCER – At least this came from an 8th grader.  There have been many health claims, most ot substantiated, but no, it has not been proven to cure cancer, but that is the message the kids are getting.
  • IT CURES EPILEPSY – Hey, according to the commercial, it reversed a child’s 2,000 seizure per day problem.  We won’t discuss the medical approach to the 1.38 seizures/minute, but the latest study on epilepsy did show that 31% of those suing medical marijuana for seizures did improve while 41% got worse and the rest stayed the same.
  • IT IS NOT ADDICTIVE – OK, THC is a chemical that impacts the brain and how you feel and how you act.  For chronic users, there are symptoms of withdrawal when they quit.  Most users say they can quit at any time, but…We now from medical studies that the brain develops until we are about 25.  Do we really think that this chemical is good for the developing brain?  Oh, and a published medical study showed 30% of adult users were addicted.  So if 3 out of 10 become addicted, how many actual people will that be as usage increases?
  • IT IS NATURAL – In the early 1970’s, the THC levels were about 3%.  Today it ranges between 20% and 50%.  Did that happen because we have better soil or because of genetic engineering?  Today’s marijuana is far from its natural roots and because of that, we have less information on effects.
  • LEGALIZED MARIJUANA CREATES JOBS – I have never seen a statistic on this but I know many companies struggle to fill open rolls because people are not passing drug tests (job loss).  Would you want to work in a factory where a machine operator was high?
  •  IT ISN’T FOR THOSE UNDER 21 – And neither is alcohol and cigarettes. If that is the case, then why is the average age of the first time user in Ohio 14 years old?  Oh, and then that study by the CDC showing teen use more than doubled; just saying!
  • IT DOESN’T KILL ANYONE – Finally something we can count on, EXCEPT; We are seeing dramatic increases in auto fatalities related to THC as well as several reported overdose deaths in children who have obtained edibles.  Yes, kids are prone to bring edibles to school.  Who doesn’t love a good gummy bear or brownie!  I wonder if they give you the munchies, would you munch on more gummies and brownies?
  • ALCOHOL IS LEGAL – Most thought provoking point I have heard.  If that is the case, we have alcohol, why do we want to compound the products that can cause issues?  Do we want to increase drivers under the influence?  Do we want to increase addicts?  Remember, MAD and SADD started for a reason.
  • IT’S GOOD FOR CANCER and AIDS PATIENTS – If that is the case, then why are less than 2% of the licenses for medical marijuana going to those with AIDS and cancer?
  • MARIJUANA IS NOT A GATEWAY DRUG – Maybe, maybe not, but 99% of those using other drugs report starting with marijuana and alcohol.  Seems like a small stretch to say marijuana users are more likely to have an addiction.


I could give you a ton of them, but I think you get the point. There is a lot of misinformation on this subject and yet we are rushing to vote it in.  Maybe we should stop to ask these questions;


Do I really know the facts?  Can this wait until we have the facts? Maybe the facts are the problem for those who stand to profit from this decision.

Read more

Marijuana: Medical or not, we need to think.

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Marijuana, Tags:



The key thing that separates us from animals is the ability to think and process information in making decisions. We may want to exercise that ability before we vote this November.  While we have posted previously about this issue (receiving hate mail for it!), this series of blogs is strictly the foundation for why we oppose the legalization of marijuana.

Let’s start with a basic question:  Do we really know the answers?

There has been a lot of debate on the issue. One side says non-addictive and safe, the other side says addictive and a gateway drug. Confused? That’s understandable although most people I encounter have deep seeded beliefs already engrained.

3 things I know about marijuana

I certainly want to know the truth as it is our obligation to provide the truth as we understand it. Here is what I know:

  1. I know that the potency of marijuana has risen dramatically over the years especially in the past few years. In the early 1970’s, the THC levels in marijuana were about 3%. Today, they average 15% to 20% with some engineered strains reaching up to 50% THC.
  2. Common sense tells me that we cannot increase the potency of anything by that degree, and not fundamentally change the effects of it. More horsepower equals more speed and THC is the horsepower in marijuana.
  3. I know that the rapid increase in potency has dramatically limited the amount of valid medical research on the impacts. Without that type of information, I am personally not able to make an informed decision on an issue as important as this


Making any decision, let alone one of this magnitude, without the proper information is dangerous, and irresponsible. Making this decision with limited information will put an increased number of marijuana users on the road. My kids are on the road, I am on the road, and for us, we all ride motorcycles. The increased number of users under the influence alarms me, and it should alarm you. If it doesn’t alarm you intuitively, the facts should. We are seeing increased auto-fatalities tied to THC and other drugs at alarming rates and I want more information relative to that…don’t you?

I also will point to two sources that I am completely stunned to be quoting; Time Magazine and Hillary Clinton. Both have said that we don’t have enough information. Time did a wonderful piece on the issue, outlining both sides in what I perceived to be one of the most balanced articles on the topic I have ever read.

So, what’s the rush? Is it to ensure every cancer or glaucoma or epilepsy patient has access to medical marijuana? Probably not, but it makes for great arguments and heart-tugging television commercials. Yet the truth is, even in states where medical marijuana is legal, use by those with these diseases is very low.

Many moons ago, we had a staple industry headed by Joe Camel and the Marlborough Man: the tobacco industry. Now, with more information at hand, that industry doesn’t look so good does it?

My next two blogs will outline the things I hear as we speak at schools, and the medical science behind marijuana and addiction. Stay tuned!

Read more

Losing a child to addiction: The Dreaded Question

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

As I sat on a Sunday night at about 10:21pm catching up on news before hitting the hay for a 4:00am alarm when I came across this article which caused me to put pen to paper.

The article addressed “THE QUESTION,” that so many of us that have lost a child struggle with and in a strange paradoxical way, both hope gets asked and does not get asked. The question; “How many kids do you have?”

I personally struggled with this question when Robby passed. It was hard to answer. Do I say two and completely avoid the discussion? Do I say three and act as if he was still alive?

I most often answered three as I refused to add anymore guilt to my plate. I found it to be both honest and accurate until the next question came. “How old are they?” In my mind, the flares went off and that odd confusion set in as I thought to myself “damn, you had to ask that!” I may have used a bit more colorful language mentally, but you get the gist. My mental verbiage got really colorful as I knew the next question would be “how did he pass…”

 How I feel

The article made two really good points:

  1.  It is as uncomfortable to get the answer as it is to give the answer. This is especially true early in the process as trying to gauge just how deep we get and with whom tends to cause the head to spin. While we don’t mean to cause them to be uncomfortable, the mere nature of the answer, “my (pick a child) passed away,” is just uncomfortable.
  2.  The second point is one that I found profound and insightful. By answering honestly, it gives others an opportunity to share if they, or someone close to them, had the same experience.

Like it or not, there is still a stigma surrounding addiction. Many people keep walls built around their families where addiction is concerned, carrying the burden alone, not realizing they don’t have to.

 What I have learned

Here is what I have to pass along to anyone it might help.

  1.  It gets easier to answer as time goes by. Figure out how you want to answer the question(s) and stay with what is comfortable. Over time, your answer becomes “normal” and you will feel better as you give it.
  2. You are not alone. If we tell 10 people that Robby passed of a drug overdose, only one looks at us like we are the worst people in the world. The other nine almost immediately launch into conversation about how addiction has hit their family. It is as if we opened the door for them to discuss because we get it. We understand. Often, they are looking for help for themselves or friends and we are able to engage with them and offer some help. The other “one” that passes judgement probably doesn’t even know addiction has hit someone in their family or is just not ready to face it, but when they are, they now know where to find us.

Easy isn’t in our vocabulary

Truth is, it is still not “easy” when I know that question is coming. There are times when I still fumble and feel like I have betrayed Robby’s memory. But this is what I do know. I know who my son was, and I am proud of whom he was as a person. Yes, he was an addict and as a result, did some things that may have violated a few laws, but that was the drug talking, not Robby. If you choose to pass judgement on him or us as parents, that is on you, I won’t carry that burden.

So, if you ask me how many kids I have, the answer is three. If you want more detail, you will learn that my eldest would have been 25 this year, but he passed almost four years ago. If that makes you uncomfortable, I am not sorry. I am and will always be the father of three amazing young people, and that is how it will always be.

Read more

Venturing into the light of life

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Tags: , , , ,

vacation brandtsVacation. We all need one, even us.

Last week, the Brandt family took some time away and went on vacation; the first vacation we have taken without Robby. I started to write this post last week from the third floor of the home we rented in the Outer Banks and realized we live in a world where I have to wait until we return before I can let people know we are gone – now that is crazy!

I did want to take some time and share our thoughts on this trip as it is another “first” that we are encountering, and firsts are part of what we all (that have lost) live with regularly.  As I talk with families, we spend a lot of time talking about firsts.

So here we go.

The vacation house

I have to acknowledge that there was some awkward trepidation in the house as this week approached.  It is just different to be doing a family vacation without Robby as he was part of every family vacation we took, and all the places we went to for the “first” time.  Yet, I think in a way we all needed a get-away, and at some point, we are all confronted with these firsts.
The questions are really simple; will you take that step and do it and if so, how will you handle it?  I can’t answer that one for you; that is all up to each of us.

You may not be moving…but the world is

What I do know is that the world moves on, whether we want it to or not, it continues to spin and the sun comes up every day.  We choose to take the next step or not and if I knew the how’s or why’s around that, I would bottle it and sell it.  What I do know is that the choice is each of ours and nobody has the right to tell us to make it or when to make it.  Grief walks its own path on its own time, and it impacts each of us in its own way.  It is ours and it is personal.

I do believe that sometimes we need a nudge or just have to have faith and force ourselves to take that step back out into the light.  When we get there, the world is undoubtedly different, painfully incomplete and foggy, but it is there.  And so for us, the world last week was the Outer Banks and we will build new memories and lament the fact that Robby is not with us the way we would like (wait for the Barney blog).  It is all part of our new reality.

Comfort in others

We are not alone, and we don’t walk this path alone and neither are any of you reading this.  Together, we are strong for each other as we continue to venture out into the light –

Read more
1 2 3 4 5 6 7