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Archive for October, 2015

So, my last post was pretty heavy, so this one will be a bit lighter. It’s almost Halloween, so let’s get into the “spirit” of things. (Hee hee, see what I did there? Spirit? Halloween? Yeah, okay, never mind.)

This is the prime time of year for spooky stories, and by spooky, I mean the supernatural type of thing, not the gory stuff. That’s just…disturbing. Plus, they have stupid plot lines. No, I like a good ghost story, one that makes the hair on my arms stand up and sounds like it could be the real deal. I think I like them so well because I’ve had a lot of unexplained things happen around me in my time and I love hearing about the experiences of others.

Here’s my idea: I’ll tell you one of mine and you tell me one of yours. Your spooky story can be something that actually happened to you or something that you heard somewhere else. Traditional stories from other countries are really cool, too. Just please remember, this is all in good fun, so please no Debby Downers saying how you don’t believe in this stuff and it’s stupid to even think about it. This is not a debate about whether these things are real or not, it’s a creative way to have some seasonal fun. Play nicely, please.

Here’s one of my spooky stories, a real one that happened to me.

When I was about thirteen years old, some strange things started happening in the house where I lived. Weird shadows would appear in places where shadows shouldn’t be, the dog would suddenly run over to the hallway entrance and begin growling, all the hair on his back standing on end. Things wouldn’t be where we left them, a coffee mug smashed at my mother’s feet out of nowhere, an entire shelf of her figurines smashed to pieces on the plush carpeting of the living room floor. The air would get heavy and unwelcoming in certain rooms, evident to all of us who lived there. All of these events were unnerving enough, but there was one incident that scared the daylights out of me. I still can’t think about it without shuddering.

One night, I woke up out of a dead sleep. I’ve always been a light sleeper and at first I wasn’t sure what woke me up. I listened for the usual suspects: car noises, bathroom noises, the dog, but there was nothing. All of the lights in the house were off, but my eyes were drawn to my bedroom door. There, almost burned into the wood, darker than the room, was a shadow. It filled the space of the door and the air was so heavy that I could feel it pressing down on me. The thing had even blacker holes for eyes and it was looking right at me. Then, something sat down on my bed. The bed actually shifted, I could see the indent in the blanket! I was terrified to the point where I couldn’t move. My heart racing, I began to recite The Lord’s Prayer, over and over, then began to alternate it with the twenty-third Psalm. The shadow slowly faded, the strangling feeling in the air dissipated, the weight on the bed lifted, and I could suddenly move again. I breathed a little easier and tried to relax, but I was too worked up. I never got back to sleep that night and it was a while before I was able to sleep well again.

I don’t know what that was, I really don’t want to know what it was. I swear that I was not asleep, as some might say, and thankfully, although the strange things did keep happening, I was never visited by that particular thing again. I’ve seen other things happen, have heard other things happen, some a little scary, but nothing compares to that night.

Now, it’s your turn. Spin me a yarn, tell me a tale, and let’s enjoy each others’ company.

Happy Hallowe’en!

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*Caution- This post contains information that is disturbing, especially for younger readers.  So why am I writing this? Because it’s time for responsible, decent, people to stand up and stop letting it happen, to stop shoving it away because it’s uncomfortable and ugly to talk about. Because children’s lives matter and we must protect them. We’re not. That’s why.

Each time I became a parent, I loved to watch my babies sleep. Their faces were so peaceful, so serene, so beautiful. I loved interacting with my children, talking to them, watching them as they discovered new things, their joy at sneezes, peek-a-boo, and snuggling. Their innocence is awesome, and in using that word, I mean it would literally fill me with awe. I marveled at how pure they were, unspoiled by the world, and it was bittersweet to realize that bit by bit, they would slowly lose that innocence as life happened to them. It’s supposed to be that way. Our brains grow and change, enabling us to handle more complex thoughts and emotions that take us into adulthood, leaving that childhood innocence behind to be a moment of nostalgia for our parents.

But there are children who lose their innocence much more quickly than they should. This has been focused on more by the news lately, especially where I live, but also on the national level. A child prostitution ring was just busted this week in the Detroit area involving nineteen children, the youngest of them only twelve years old, the same age as Youngest Child. Does Jarod from Subway ring a bell? The actor Stephen Collins? I don’t think that there is a week that goes by without a story in the news about some pimp or pedophile being caught at what he was doing. Yes, I said he. I realize that there are women who also abuse children, but the vast majority of child sex offenders are male. By the way, I absolutely detest the way people use the word “pimp” to compliment a man. A pimp is a filthy, heartless, money-grubbing person who sells women for sex and then takes their money. The word “pimp” is not a good thing. Please understand that and adjust accordingly.

Before you dismiss this blog content as something that doesn’t touch your life, think again. Perhaps you don’t know anyone who was forced to be a child prostitute, but read about this ugly statistic: You know at least two people, probably more, but at least two people who were molested as children. You may know their stories, you probably don’t, but statistics show that one out of about four girls and one out of about every six boys has been sexually abused before the age of 18, meaning that it’s much more common than most Americans think. (https://www.nsopw.gov/en/Education/FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1) Most children never tell, not even as adults. That’s a sick, sick, sad, thing. Now think about this. You may also know someone who perpetuates this, either by actually being an offender or someone who knows what’s happening, yet does nothing to stop it. Eradicating the world of this disease is something that should be on the radar of any decent adult’s conscience. More on that in a bit.

Websites and chat rooms help these creeps connect. When the internet was invented, it was a huge bonus for their sick minds. It’s a big, anonymous playground, a place where they can bond and connect over their crimes through complicated servers. Millions of pictures and videos of children being abused are traded online every day, like baseball cards. Millions of children are physically sold online every day. Let me say that again. Millions of children are physically sold online every day, in India, Japan, Russia, China, Nepal, Malaysia, France, Germany, and almost every country in the world including the US. The sex trade doesn’t just encompass children in poor developing countries, it concerns the children next door, down the block, your on relatives. You just don’t know, so it’s really important to pay attention to the children in your life. Make yourself accessible to confide in and above all, BE PREPARED TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND CALL THE AUTHORITIES!!!

You see, abusers don’t broadcast what they’re doing. Mine didn’t. People were absolutely shocked when they found out what had been going on. That’s the way it usually works. When I told my 6th grade teacher the situation in a journal entry, she told me to talk to my mother, but never bothered to call the police. I’ll never know why she didn’t, but I still feel betrayed to this day. Children are helpless when it comes to this kind of thing. They need adults, they need YOU to step in the minute you understand that something is going on that shouldn’t be. You don’t have to confront the suspect, in fact, you probably shouldn’t. It’s very easy: Call the authorities. You don’t need a fancy phone number or website to report abuse. You can, if you want to, of course, but 911 works, too. Be that hero that a child needs and get them help. End their nightmare.

Another thing that we need to do, as the responsible adults we should be, is to not only raise our kids right, but to also be a good example for them. We need to teach our kids that no means no. We need to teach our boys that girls are not to be objectified, but to be respected as the equals they are. We need to teach our girls to not let anyone mistreat them. We need to teach our kids, boys and girls, about sex, real sex, not the kind that they can find online for free. We need to teach them that sex is about trust, intimacy, and love, and that they have the right to say no at any time. We must teach them that no one has the right to touch them in ways that are uncomfortable and that if someone does touch them, they are not to blame. We need to teach them that they must never be afraid to come to us with any scary situation, and that we will believe them, even if the person that touched them inappropriately is a beloved family member, family friend, clergy, or teacher. They need to know that they can trust us, that we will help them no matter what, and that they are important and loved.

What kind of a sick mind uses a child for sexual purposes? What sort of person knowingly destroys a child’s life for their own sick appetite? Pedophilia is a real psychiatric condition, one for which there is no cure. Control is another issue for many abusers. Do I feel sorry for these people? I feel sorry for someone who has the urges that they do, but my compassion takes a serious hit once they victimize a child through pornography or any other means. There is no excuse to abuse another person, none whatsoever. I have no answers, so I leave them to the psychiatrists. And God’s judgment. This is where I have trouble controlling hatred.

I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for adults who know that a family member or other loved one is viewing child porn or is actually abusing a child. For whatever reason, ignoring the fact that someone is sexually abusing children is selfish and wrong on so many levels. It’s never okay to not help a child. An abused child will suffer the effects for the rest of his or her life. Take it from one who knows. Adult survivors are more likely to suffer depression, low self-esteem, are more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, and are more likely to attempt suicide, especially if they never told anyone about the abuse or if their abuser was never caught. If you know someone who participates in child pornography, you need to pick up that phone right now and end it. Every child in those photos has been abused and if you don’t turn them in, it’s on your hands, too. Do the right thing.

I don’t mean to be a downer, and abuse against children has, unfortunately, always existed. But I hear about it almost every single day and I’ve had enough. Enough of hearing about girls being raped on their way to school in Detroit. Enough of seeing teenage boys tearfully recount their victimizations as children. Enough of high-profile citizens trying to hide behind celebrity and money to cover their crimes. Enough of seeing pictures of little girls in brothels in other countries, who are the same age as my 3rd graders, being interviewed in magazines about the life they’re forced to lead. For the love of God, and I don’t take His name lightly, ENOUGH! We must stand up, we must fight against this evil. If these realities don’t make you sick, I don’t know what will.

Do the right thing. Let our children lose their innocence naturally and gradually, the way they are supposed to, not through the hands, or computer, of a pervert. Again: do the right thing.

If you are being abused or know of someone being abused, please call 911 or your local police department. If you need help, message me. I will support you.

Amen

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Youngest Child wants a phone. Badly. How do I know that? He wrote a 12-page manifesto on Post-It notes a few weeks back, explaining all of the reasons why he should be allowed to have one. Some of the reasons were quite good, such as he wants to be able to contact us in an emergency. I get that. He also doesn’t want to look uncool in front of his friends, which kind of makes me mad at parents who buy expensive cell phones for 7th graders. What 12-year-old needs an iPhone, really? It’s like those parents whose Tooth Fairy gives out $20.00 or more for a tooth. Seriously? Topic for another blog.

I’ve been a kid, I understand the desire to fit in with your friends, but I’m not sure if I want to go down this road this early. When he first approached us, Marty Man and I gave him the same answer we gave his brothers: he can have a phone when he has a job and a girlfriend. (The girlfriend was Marty Man’s idea. His reasoning is why else would you need a phone?) We think that our kids shouldn’t have everything handed to them. If they want something as expensive as a cell phone, they’re going to have to pay for it and the bill. I know so many kids who are extremely privileged, have no chores, and are routinely handed expensive things just as a way of life. They have no concept of a work ethic or what it takes to actually earn something and I don’t want our kids turning out that way. I don’t want anything just handed to them, or to still be supporting them when they’re thirty. They’ve always had chores and allowance as soon as they were old enough. When the older two got their jobs, they bought their own phones and refill their accounts every month, the same as Marty Man and I do. They are responsible for keeping them up and both have done a fabulous job. Youngest Child can’t get a job yet, but he has been saving his allowance and birthday money, a remarkable accomplishment for him. Money usually burns a hole in his pocket, the closet full of Legos and Pokémon cards attest to that, but since he’s had this phone idea in his head, he has barely spent a dime, which is a good thing.

Impressed with his self-control, I began looking around online for phones, with no promises to him, and that’s where I hit a sticky point. I wanted one that could be programmed with certain numbers that he could call and receive, but no data. No twelve-year-old needs to have unsupervised access to the internet. Have you seen the internet? One wrong search word and there are things that one can never unsee, and therein lies my problem. I cannot find a phone plan that does not include access to wifi. Marty Man and I don’t have data, we’re not huge phone people, although I have gotten rather used to using my phone for pictures and for checking in on Facebook and mail. Before our smartphones, we had the same prehistoric cell phone for almost ten years. We also don’t buy new cars, preferring to run ours into the ground and to keep home appliances going for as long as we possibly can. (I admittedly cave before he does, though. Current case in point, our stupid upstairs toilet that is CLEARLY on its last legs, but Marty Man keeps making adjustments to it. I keep threatening to just go to Lowe’s and buy a new one,) Anyway, the point is that if Youngest Child is to have a phone at twelve, it would be to call and/or text us and other numbers we approve, not to surf the internet.

This is new parenting territory. Most people reading this will have grown up the same way Marty Man and I did: there were no cell phones. If you were a teenager in any decade earlier than the 2000s, you probably contacted your parents on a payphone. There are still payphones around, but they are few and far between. I remember trying to find the right change to call home, $ 0.20 when I was in high school and I was mad when it jumped to $0.25 when I was in college. I have no idea how much it costs these days. Anyway, we didn’t have direct access to our parents anytime we needed it. They didn’t have cell phones, either, and yet, somehow, we survived. I know it’s a different world today, as Youngest Child’s manifesto reminds me, but is this just another way of helicopter parenting? I must admit, it makes me feel better to know that my older boys have a way to contact me immediately if something happens, but on the other hand, I want them to be able to solve their own problems. I had to, and I learned. I worry that if I give Youngest Child his own phone, he will rely on calling us too much for small things and expecting us to rescue him. that he won’t develop a good sense of self-preservation. (Mine was honed to perfection by Ericka Osen and Rob Martin. Ask them sometime.) Today’s kids are in no more danger than we were. Violent crime, with the exception of school shootings, is actually much less than when we were in school. The dangers that today’s kids face are much less than when their parents were growing up. Mainly it’s a matter of convenience. I want my children to have a sense of self-reliance.

At this point, I am still undecided, torn, actually. Youngest Child has shown some maturity in this decision and I want to encourage that, but I don’t want to give too much. And if anyone out there knows of a cell phone plan that does not include data, could you pass that on, please? In the meantime, I’ll keep looking.

A presto…

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