Multigenerational Connectedness

29 12 2010

We’re all one, right? Brothers and sisters, connected souls, timeless, pure energy, love, and light. So how many of us actually spend time with people outside our age group…give or take 20 years or so? And why don’t we? Is it because it’s uncomfortable? Inconvenient? We feel we have nothing in common with people so outside our age range? How can we truly feel the connectedness with all others if we shun or exclude people much younger or much older than ourselves?

I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with four generations…my 16-month-old grandson, both my daughters (and one son-in-law), my sister and her husband, and my mother and her husband. The age span from youngest to oldest was 83 years. What did I observe and take away from my interactions with each generation in addition to lots of love and gratitude for being together?

  • My 16-month-old grandson – Instant smiles when he sees me, spontaneity, lots of hugs and kisses, fun, big faces that indicate delight, play, playfulness, and sheer joy
  • My two daughters – Pride in making their way in the world so well, joy in watching one be a mother, seriousness about life and drive, self-confidence, kindness, an adult-to-adult relationship, hugs, and smiles
  • My sister – Giggles, ease, familiarity, shared family history, remembering, delight, hugs, consideration, laughing at ourselves, and fun
  • My mother – Comfort, hugs, tears, understanding, patience, honoring, helping, taking time, being cared for, being girlish and playful with friends, and shared family history

Credit: Edanley on Flickr

In being with family from each generation, I got to connect with that child, young woman, middle-aged woman, and aging woman inside me and feel the delights and challenges of each age. I could be silly with my grandson and be totally spontaneous in the moment. I could talk with my daughters about their careers and remember when I was that age and so driven and I could recall how it felt to be a young mother. I could feel a real connection with my sister, who is also experiencing the fears and humor of aging and the delights and wisdom from a life lived so far. And I could be understanding toward and appreciative of my mother, who is slowing down, and delight in watching her giggle and chat with her friends around the table in the dining room of her retirement community.

There is much to be gained by stepping outside our comfort zones and being with people of all ages. I’m grateful for all of these relationships; they all help me to honor the many ages within me and within others. Spending time with others of varying ages reminds us that we are all timeless and are connected through our joy, love, kindness, consideration, acceptance, understanding, and being.





It’s OK to Beat Your Wife or Children in UAE – Just Don’t Leave a Mark

26 10 2010

The highest judicial body in the United Arab Emirates, which has the seventh largest oil reserves in the world, borders on Saudi Arabia, and includes Dubai, says it’s okay to beat your wife and young children…just don’t leave a mark. Here’s the short article about it from the Huffington Post:

Dubai in the UAE - Credit: Neil Emmerson/Getty Images

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The UAE’s highest judicial body says a man can beat his wife and young children as long as the beating leaves no physical marks.

The decision by the Federal Supreme Court shows the strong influence of Islamic law in the Emirates despite its international appeal in which foreign residents greatly outnumber the local population.

The court made the ruling earlier this month in the case of a man who left cuts and bruises on his wife and adult daughter after a beating.

It says the man was guilty of harming the women but noted that Islamic codes allow for “discipline” if no marks are left. It also says children who have reached “adulthood” – approximately puberty – cannot be struck.

The ruling was reported Monday in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National.

You’re probably feeling outraged, right? Of course. We live in a “civilized” society and can’t imagine our Supreme Court saying it’s okay for men to beat their wives and children as long as no physical mark is left on them. It is outrageous. Men are allowed to treat women and children in the UAE and in so many countries in the world however they please and women have few rights. And this is a RELIGION saying it is okay to “discipline” them if you don’t leave marks. Is this really the way that God wants women and children to be treated?

We can sit here in moral outrage because this is Islam and somewhere far away, but these things happen right here in the United States and are sanctioned by Christianity (remember the verse about spare the rod, spoil the child?). I wrote a post called Kids in School: Getting an Education Plus a Beating about how school children in the United States are beaten with barbaric looking paddles in schools…and often for things as benign as being late to class or chewing gum. Corporal punishment of children by parents has been banned in 29 countries, including 22 in Europe, but is still legal in all 50 states in the United States. In our country, if a child has physical marks from being beaten and someone alerts social services, the parents may suffer some consequences, but if the parents are able to cover it up, they may get away with it.

So are we any better than the United Arab Emirates? We still legally condone children being beaten in schools in 21 states and at home in all 50 states and often these beatings leave horrible marks (even from school beatings) and cause children to be aggressive and to have psychological problems. This is legally-condoned assault on children. We have a culture where people are becoming more aware of the horrors that women suffer when they are beaten by husbands or boyfriends, but still men crack jokes about “slapping her around” to friends.

When will women and children in the United States and around the world really be treated equally? Why aren’t they now? Men overwhelmingly make and enforce laws in our country and in other countries. We need more men to stand for and with women and children and protect them. No schoolteacher, husband, boyfriend, father, or any man has a right to hit a child or woman. Women and children don’t need to be “disciplined” through hitting; they need to be loved.





Could You Survive the Worst Thing Imaginable?

25 10 2010

Emma, Katie, and Kyle Coble - Credit: Chriscoble.com

Imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. The worst did happen to Lori and Chris (her husband)  who were on today’s Oprah show. A truck driver coming around a blind curve on a freeway slammed into the back of Lori’s car, which was stopped in traffic on the freeway.

Lori was in the car with her mother and her three children…Kyle aged 5, Emma aged 4, and Katie, aged 2. All three children were killed in that crash and Lori and her mother survived.

Somehow…with the support of family and friends and by making a pact with each other to not kill themselves and instead to help each other out…Lori and Chris got through it and decided 3 months later they wanted to have another child. One year after the tragedy, they had triplets…two girls and a boy! The children are now 2 1/2 and they brought them out…adorable. They said there is joy in their home again, but they still grieve the loss of the first two girls and boy. Amazingly, they forgave the truck driver, who is also the father of young children.

The story has several lessons:

  • That you can survive even the worst thing imaginable.
  • That supporting each other through tough times is important. The couple immediately went to counseling and learned to tell each other what they were feeling. You could tell that they are very close to each other and loving.
  • That miracles do happen. They had triplets who were the same sex as the three children they lost.
  • To hold your loved ones close and appreciate them and realize what a gift every day with them is.
  • That family and friends are invaluable and can love you and support you through whatever you are going through.

The couple has demonstrated unbelievable courage as has Lori’s mother, who was also featured and is also a survivor of the car crash. She of course has grieved not only for the loss of her grandchildren, but every day did all she could to help her daughter and son-in-law get through this unbelievable tragedy.

So when you’re having a bad day, as we all do, think of all you have to be grateful for and hold those you love and who love you tight…both figuratively and in reality. We’re all here to help each other out and in the end, having that love and support is what matters.

P.S. I originally wrote this (with some additions, which I didn’t share here) as an email to one of my daughters. This story touched me so much, I wanted to share it more broadly.





A 16-Year-Old Sexual Abuse Victim…and Now a Murderer

19 10 2010

The clean-cut, all-American looking 16-year-old talking to Oprah on yesterday’s show killed a man on January 22, 2010. Daniel Kovarbasich said he “snapped” after being molested for over 3 years by 56-year-old Duane Hurley and he stabbed him 55 times. He’s serving 5 years probation and sitting in prison until he can get proper counseling; a judge let him out to be on the Oprah show to send a message to other children and families.

In this case…as in most…Daniel was sexually abused by someone he knew…a family friend. He was first approached by Duane when he was just 12 and Duane offered to pay him to help him take care of his dog. Daniel’s parents took precautions: they looked up Duane’s name online to see if he was listed as a sex offender (he wasn’t) and they went with Daniel to Duane’s house each time for an entire year.

Daniel Kovarbasich

Duane not only groomed Daniel, but he groomed the whole family and let them do odd jobs in exchange for much needed money or he’d buy them needed household items. They all thought that Duane was a great guy, began to trust him, and even considered him a friend who was welcome in their home; finally the parents started letting Daniel go over to Duane’s house alone.

The grooming progressed when Daniel wanted to drive Duane’s sedan and Duane told Daniel he’d have to show him his penis. When Daniel wanted to drive Duane’s corvette, Duane said “bigger toys, bigger things” and insisted that Daniel let him touch his penis. The grooming continued and the abuse escalated to anal sex. Daniel hated it, but was afraid to tell his parents due to the shame he felt. He also couldn’t get away from Duane, who would track him down if he didn’t come over.

All this time, Daniel had a girlfriend and wanted to plan something special for their one year anniversary of dating. Duane asked him how much money he needed for that and Daniel said $80. Duane let him know that would cost him; i.e., he’d have to have sex with Duane. That was when Daniel snapped.

There were several messages this family…which also included Daniel’s older brother wanted to convey:

  1. If a child’s behavior changes, something could be terribly wrong. Daniel’s brother noticed that Daniel was acting totally out of character…smoking, acting out, etc.
  2. It is usually a “friend” or relative that abuses a child. They are able to win the child’s and his/her parent’s trust and gain access to the child. Daniel’s parents were shocked that this man won their trust, was their “friend,” and all the while was sexually abusing their son.
  3. Smart child abusers groom children. They win the child’s confidence…and that of their parents…over time. They will do things like offer the child special things the parents wouldn’t…like alcohol or driving a car when the child (as in Daniel’s case) doesn’t have a license. This is a red flag.
  4. Daniel urged children who might now be in a situation like he was in to TELL SOMEONE. The abuse will only progress…it doesn’t get less shameful. Get some help. Get out. TELL.

Oprah is herself a survivor of multiple instances of childhood sexual abuse. I applaud her for continuing to get the story out and to hammer home the fact that it is usually someone the child knows who abuses them.

This is a tragic story…as are all stories about sexual abuse. It all started with the selfish, narcissistic actions of a man who didn’t care what the consequences of his actions were. His actions did have consequences and one of them was that he lost his life. An innocent boy was traumatized and made to perform sexual acts for over three years by a child molester he thought was his friend and his family’s friend. That innocent boy became a murderer because of the abuse and a secret he felt was too shameful to tell. The whole family is suffering and their entire lives will be forevermore impacted.

If you are being sexually abused now or have been in the past, but have never admitted it, tell someone. Get help. Don’t suffer in silence and risk having the abuse continue or your reaction to it spiral out of control. It isn’t and wasn’t your fault and you are not the one who bears the shame. That belongs only to the person who committed the abuse.





The Power of a Mother’s Kangaroo Love

3 09 2010

Twenty minutes after twin Jamie Ogg was born prematurely at 27 weeks into his mom Kate’s pregnancy, he was pronounced dead when doctors could not get him to breathe. He was placed across Kate’s bare chest and she held him to her skin while she and husband David spoke to him about his sister Emily and the hopes and dreams they had for him.

David and Kate Ogg with their twins on the Today Show - Credit Today Show website

Kate (who is from Australia along with her husband) continued practicing kangaroo love, where the holding of an infant with their skin next to the mother’s or father’s generates heat and bonding for the baby like he received in the womb…or like a baby kangaroo receives in its mother’s pouch.

After five minutes, they began to notice Jamie move, but the doctor said it was just a bodily reflex. This continued for two hours of the parents holding the baby next to their bare chests and talking gently and lovingly to him. They kept trying to get the doctor to come back in the room and see the baby moving, but the doctor kept insisting the baby was dead. Finally, the doctor consented and was shocked to see the baby alive.

The Today Show featured this family and their story today and I burst into tears upon hearing this story. The babies are now five months old and both are healthy and doing well.

The Today Show’s website quoted Dr. Lisa Eiland of the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, who said this seeming miracle may be well grounded in science:

What’s important is the warmth that the mother provides and the stimulation that the baby may have received from hearing the mother’s heartbeat. So those are all things that may have helped the baby in terms of going down the path to living as opposed to the path of death.

My own daughter used this practice with her one-day-old son when he was taken to the ICU after a difficult start. This story and that of my own daughter and grandson are powerful reminders that love…especially that of a mother…can be so powerful to even save a life and how important love, nurturing, and human touch are for our very survival.





Life at a Fast Toddle

31 08 2010

Aren’t toddlers fun to watch? My grandson Sebastian recently turned one. I have so much fun watching him toddle back and forth at his house, mine, the library, the park, wherever. Although his steps may be a bit wobbly, he doesn’t judge himself, hold back, or act fearful because he’s not a perfect walker. He “runs” with abandon, not worrying about whether he is going to fall or run into anything or step on anything. He just does it because he can. He is gleeful and often laughs or scrunches up his face in a delightful look that says “I’m having so much fun!” And he loves having something to carry as he toddles…a basket, a cake pan, a ball, a wooden puzzle piece…just about anything will work. It’s just the act of carrying while walking that is just so cool!

He was at my house several hours yesterday and today while his momma is at a conference and observing and being with him awakens so much in me. I am completely present with him just as I was with his momma and her sister when they were young. I sit on the floor and play with him, dance as he’s dancing, and sit in the sandbox at the park while he scoops sand and watches it fall through his fingers. His attention moves from one thing to another at mind boggling speed, but for the time he’s doing something, he’s completely focused on it.

Sebastian doesn’t fret about where his next meal is coming from or what it’s going to be. He just eats when he’s hungry and says “Nah!” or throws it when he isn’t…sounds fun, doesn’t it? He has no idea when or if he’s going to be taken on a plane, to the park, the grocery store, out for a stroller ride, on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to go downtown San Francisco, to babygym, or to see Oma (that’s me…German for “grandmother”). Everything is fun and he just rolls with it.

And oh…the dancing. A toddler isn’t self conscious and doesn’t wonder if he looks stupid when he dances. He just does it. When I turn on the Raffi CD or he hears something with a catchy beat, he just starts bouncing up and down, twirling, moving his shoulders, and getting his groove on. He can’t help himself…the boy has to dance.

At 12 months, he doesn’t have life experiences, societal influences, and the developmental “maturity” that can contribute to feeling hatred, anger, disgust, sadness, disappointment, resentment, worry, shame, or any other negative emotion. Life is all about possibility, learning, new experiences, wonder, discovery, delight, laughter, smiling, having fun, hugs and kisses, and toddling at full bore.

The more I observe Sebastian, the more I think he has it right. We can be a lot more present to the joys of life by practicing living life at a fast toddle.





Through the Eyes of My Daughter’s Newborn Child

18 08 2009
Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Circles of Blessing by Ishara de Garis

Awe. Delight. Ecstasy. Contentment. Pride. Gratitude. Joy. These are feelings I have at becoming a grandmother for the very first time and seeing my daughter Valerie become a mother to Sebastian, who entered the world at 1:29 a.m. PDT today.

I remember how awestruck I was to hold Valerie (and my first-born, her sister Julie) in my arms after giving birth. You can see a thousand tomorrows in the eyes of a newborn, but they remind you with their urgent cries for food and love that this moment is all that matters. A new baby doesn’t understand the concept of “Wait until I finish watching this TV show” or “I’m not feeling well so maybe some other time.” A baby knows now…and now…and now and calls to us to be present so we won’t miss the precious moments that so quickly pass.

A new baby is open…to love, to encouragement, to learning, to being. As a parent, you have the privilege and responsibility to influence who this child becomes. A new baby is trusting…that you’ll take care of him, keep him safe, meet his needs, teach him, and nurture him. You have the opportunity with a new baby to share with him the good in your life and the hope to shield him from the challenging.

One has a sense of wonder looking into the heart and soul of a newborn baby, who has no sense of prejudice, hatred, resentment, or ego. That baby is pure and innocent…the embodiment of all that is good and true in the world.

Sebastian's First Photo

Sebastian's First Photo

One considers all the hopes and dreams you have for a child who extends your physical time on this earth by literally carrying part of you in him. You wonder if he’ll play football or oboe, be on the debate team or the chess team, be married and have children or have a gay partner. There are so many possibilities, so many doors that can open, so many forks in the road that can lead him down paths unimagined as you hold him in your arms.

You’ve yet to make the many inevitable mistakes you’ll make as a parent even as you give your very best to this child. You’ve yet to have a teenage child scream “I hate you!” or take the car without permission and wreck it or fall for someone who doesn’t love them back. You’ve yet to have your heart broken as they make mistakes that have difficult consequences and to feel your heart soar as they make choices that lead to unexpectedly good results. You’ve yet to have your child blame you for their lot in life, swallow your pride, and know in your heart you did the very best you could. And you’ve yet to have your child make countless homemade cards that say “You’re the best mom ever” and to ease your load when you’re tired by dressing as combination wait staff/cooks in your high heels and impossibly large (for them) clothes and welcome you to Mom’s Night Out Restaurant with a menu of everything they know how to cook.

At the very beginning there is love bigger than you ever imagined…and the desire to never let these moments and these feelings go.

Sebastian, welcome to the world. You have two loving, caring, accomplished, super intelligent, personable, independent, creative, kind, and grateful parents. May life always be as full of wonder, delight, and love for you as it is right now. Thanks for making me a grandma. I promise to be the very best grandma I can be and to be present to each of our precious moments together. This is going to be fun! I love you, Sebastian.

…Your Oma





Teens Making a Difference – Bravo!

28 07 2009

Remember summers when you were a teenager? Going to the movies or the pool with friends, gossiping or talking to your boyfriend or girlfriend on the phone, hanging out at the mall, etc.? Three Houston siblings…Stephen (18), Melanie (17), and Dianna (14) Muldrow…have much bigger things on their mind this summer. They have organized a concert to be held at Houston’s Jones Hall on August 29th to benefit organizations that work to combat human trafficking.

The concert features renowned musicians: 3 pianists, a clarinetist, 2 violinists, and one viola player. You can find more information about the concert at www.BrokenCords.com.

Houston is one of the major corridors of human trafficking. I wrote a blog post about cantina workers being trafficked there.

Muldrow Family

Muldrow Family - Credit: http://www.BrokenCords.com

The Muldrow children are home schooled and quite accomplished. Their parents have obviously instilled in their children a sense of compassion, caring, and desire to help others.

From their website:

“Part of a family of 10 children born and raised here in the Houston area, Stephen, Melanie, and Dianna encourage all young people to stand up and use this time in their lives to make a difference in the world around them!”

They have a Facebook page if you’d like to join their cause and be kept up to date. They also welcome donations and/or you can purchase tickets to the concert on their Broken Cords web page.

Bravo to Stephen, Melanie, and Dianna for the work you’re doing to help victims of trafficking! You are real heroes.





Childhood Summers in a Small East Tennessee Town

27 07 2009

Me and My Siblings in Summer 1962

Me (the oldest and holding a cat) and my siblings in summer 1962

Ah, the summers of childhood. Those were about eating watermelons picked fresh out of Grandmother’s garden and competitive seed spitting with the cousins and siblings. They were about long days at the enormous city pool where huge throngs of people would come and they even had a 3-tier dive platform the heights of the ones used in the Olympics.

They were about taking picnics there or to the Smoky Mountains where we would build dams with large stones across the ice cold creeks, go for small hikes, and skip rocks. They were about playing outside all day long with the neighborhood kids, building forts out of logs from the giant oak tree that was felled by lightning, organizing and holding a 4th of July parade with decorated bicycles and the younger children pulled in wagons, walking to Kay’s Ice Cream or downtown to the movies, and just generally having freedom to go most anywhere our two legs could carry us.

They were about church and music camps and Girl Scout activities and still practicing the piano. They were about creating plays complete with ukuleles and singing and performing them for our parents. They were about long bicycle rides and lots of Kool-Aid and iced tea and marching band practice and living with no air conditioning. Every other summer they were about summer vacations to my Great Auntie Ann’s rented boarding house in St. Petersburg and frolicking on the beach and sunburns.

Those summers of old were about freedom and fun and being a kid. Ah!

And then there were those summer visits to the farm and staying with my grandmother and granddaddy. I don’t remember how long we stayed each time…a week? two?…but it was long enough to get comfortable and start feeling like a farmhand. We’d awake to incredible aromas of a big country breakfast that my grandmother cooked every morning. What a treat that was!

I’ve never had a breakfast since that could compare. Fluffy homemade biscuits, gravy, sausage patties and bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, grits, homemade strawberry jam, some kind of fruit, fresh orange juice, and that grainy coffee substitute Postem.

When we were little, we could scoot off after breakfast to go explore. As we got older, we were expected to help wash dishes by hand and dry them. Then it was off to watch my uncle milk cows and even try our hand at it. Or we’d go up in the hayloft and find the eggs the hens had laid. Or go feed the pigs. Or run fast enough to jump over the fence when the big bull was chasing you. Or follow my grandmother out to the enormous, industrial-sized garden and pick home-grown tomatoes for lunch or a watermelon to share with the cousins later.

There was time to sit on the porch swing and look out at the gorgeous rolling hillside or time to walk up to my cousins’ house and follow them as they did their chores of feeding their latest 4H hopeful pig or calf. There was time to go down to the pond and go fishing or to climb in the trees and make what my grandmother called the “monkey tree” with all us young’uns hanging out of it.

There was time to play the heavy old beat-up piano with real ivory keys that was always out of tune. Or to watch my grandmother when she unpinned her perfectly brown hair that hung to her bottom when it was down and she brushed it. There was time to eat the sweet mulberries that fell from the trees or go running through the vineyards. There was always church on Sunday and potluck on Wednesday nights at the little Niles Ferry Baptist Church where my uncle and grandfather were deacons.

Those were times I always looked forward to…those times spent at my grandparents’ house in the country in Greenback, Tennessee and at my enormous two-story home with 12 foot ceilings…the outstanding home of 1910 in our area…in Maryville, Tennessee.





Chris Gardner and The Pursuit of Happyness

14 06 2009
Chris Gardner, Jaden, and Will Smith

Chris Gardner, Jaden, and Will Smith

I heard the powerful, and formerly homeless, Chris Gardner speak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in Austin on January 20, 2007. His booming voice and charismatic personality filled the large hall during his talk and enthralled me when I shook his hand afterward.

Chris is best known as the subject of the 2006 $300 million+ grossing movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The movie, for which Will Smith won an Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe award, is based on Chris’ New York Times #1 best selling book The Pursuit of Happyness. Jaden Smith, Will’s Son, plays Chris’ son in the movie.

The book details Gardner’s remarkable life journey. In his early years, he had to deal with poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and family illiteracy. He had a violent, physically abusive step-father who beat him and his mother frequently and nearly killed her. His mother was imprisoned twice…once for trying to burn down their house with his step-father in it. He was put in foster care twice and was eventually adopted by relatives.

He became a hospital corpsman in the Navy and afterward, went on to become a research lab assistant in San Francisco and a medical equipment salesman. He left his wife to live with dental student Jackie Medina, with whom he had his first child Christopher Jr. in January 1981.

One day he encounted a well-dressed man (Bob Bridges) with a red Ferrari and asked him what he did. Bob told Chris that he was a stock broker and at that moment, Chris decided that’s what he wanted to do. On the very day that he had an interview (which Bob arranged), he had just gotten out of a 10-day stay in prison due to $1,200 in parking tickets he could not pay. Jackie had accused him of beating her (which he still denies) and disappeared along with all of his possessions and their child. He showed up at his interview wearing the casual clothes on his back and with no formal education or experience, got into the training program at Dean Witter Reynolds.

Chris Gardner and Son 1984

Chris Gardner and Son 1984

Through hard work, he was the top trainee and got his license and a job at Bear Stearns. After four months, Jackie returned with his son and Chris gained custody of him. Still not making much money and without the knowledge of his co-workers, Chris and his son were homeless for a year. They spent nights in a bathroom at the transit station, his office, at flophouses, and at parks. Eventually they were allowed to stay at the Glide shelter for homeless women while he saved money for a place for them to live.

In 1987, after just five years and with just $10,000, Chris started his own brokerage firm called Gardner Rich in Chicago. He sold part of his stake in the firm for several million dollars in 2006 and became founder and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings.

Chris Gardner and Nelson Mandela

Chris Gardner and Nelson Mandela

Chris is a remarkable man who is making many positive things happen in the world. He met with Nelson Mandela and is working on a venture in South Africa that will bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars into the country.

Chris has helped out Glide, which gave him and his son shelter, and helped fund $50 million to build homeless low-income housing and provide emnployment to homeless people in San Francisco, where he was once homeless. He is involved in other philanthropic ventures, serves on several non-profit boards, and has received many awards, including the National Fatherhood Initiative’s Father of the Year honor.

Gardner’s second book, Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, was published on May 12, 2009. Today the 55-year-old Chris Gardner, who also has a daughter Jacintha who was born in 1985, is worth an estimated $165 million.

 Thomas Jefferson penned these words in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Despite unbelievable odds, Chris Gardner has worked hard and lived his life by these words. You can find out more about Chris on his website at www.ChrisGardnerMedia.com.

See this bigger-than-life, charismatic man in action in this video of Chris giving the commencement speech about a new vision of the American Dream at UC Berkeley on 5/22/09.

I’m so glad I met him. He gives me hope for our country and inspires me.

 





Mommy Died in the War

9 04 2009

Since 9/11, over 8,000 U.S. children have lost a parent in the military, according to the Department of Defense. These are the young casualties of war that we don’t talk about or even think about very often. Today I watched a 2007 movie “Grace is Gone” on HBO and I thought about it and cried…a lot.

grace-is-gone-movieIn the movie, John Cusack plays the stoic and sad father of 8- and 12-year-old girls whose mother Grace is a sargent in Iraq. He is notified that Grace died in combat and is at a loss for how to tell his daughters. He impetuously decides to take them on a bonding adventure, a testament to the love and sacrifice of parents that we try to ease the pain of our children in any way we can.

The movie was scored with beautiful music by Clint Eastwood, who was nominated for two Golden Globes for the score and one song. I could really feel the emotions of the father as he agonized over the loss of his wife and his daughters’ loss of their mother.

Over 8000 children have felt that loss due to our being in Iraq and Afghanistan. They already were made to sacrifice while the parent was away from home, but with a sudden death, they aren’t even given the opportunity to say goodbye to their parent. That parent will never come to their future soccer games and ballet recitals and graduations and weddings and baby christenings. That parent will never again hug them or tuck them in at night or comfort them when they’re scared or tell them they’re proud of how well they’re doing in school. All that is gone.

The child(ren) and the remaining parent are left to carry on…to grieve, to find some new normal in life, to wonder why this happened to them, and to ache for the loss of someone who can never be replaced.

It is important to remember that sacrifice comes even from small children in these wars we are fighting. And children suffer not only here in the U.S., but also in Iraq, where it is estimated that more than five million children (at the end of 2007; source: Iraq’s anti-corruption board) are orphans, mostly due to the war.

Take the time to watch Grace is Gone on HBO or rent the DVD. It is moving. It will touch you. If you want to help out families who have lost a loved one in the war, consider donating to one of these organizations.

  • Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund – provides unrestricted grants to families of fallen troops
  • Fallen Patriot Fund – provides financial grants to the families of those killed or seriously injured in Iraq
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) – provides services to all who have lost a loved one while serving in the U.S. armed forces
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society – provides financial assistance and emergency grants to families and survivors.




  • Full of Live and Living Life Fully at 77

    2 04 2009

    Often seniors suffer a loss of support, safety, choice, income, dignity, physical health, mental health, and value in society and their lives contract as they experience more depression, more health issues, and more invisibility. My mother doesn’t fit that mold at all; she is an example of someone who lives life fully and today I honor her as she celebrates her 77th birthday on Sunday.

    It’s always challenging to think of what to get someone who has one or more of everything they could possibly want and can get it if they don’t have it. Just how many crystal vases, knick knacks, bottles of body lotion, framed photos, nightgowns, or magazine subscriptions does one person need? How often do we sit down and write a tribute to that person who has everything? Okay…so here goes, Mom.

    mom-in-front-of-piano-april-2008-smaller1My Mom is like a playful teenager when she gets together with her friends at the retirement center for lunch. They giggle, tell stories on each other, and you’d swear you were back in junior high or high school. It’s just adorable and fun.

    My Mom has such an active life it makes my head swim when I get her emails about all her activities. She may be playing the piano for four events over the next week and has to learn a whole new program of music to play by Tuesday. Her men’s chorus may be singing at a luncheon on Friday and have another engagement next Wednesday. They rehearse at her place every week. They have been featured in the local newspaper, include a movie star’s father, and are in constant demand for performances. And let’s not forget the church activities, going to the symphony, community activities (she was President of the community board for two years), four children, grandchildren…and much more.

    My Mom had been widowed for seven years, remarried last fall, and is now back to traveling and planning a cruise. It gives me hope!

    My Mom fell and broke her hip last June and despite her immediate declarations that she’d never make it out of the nursing home alive, she recovered fully and is as active as ever. You just can’t keep a live wire like her down! She was one determined and persistent patient in physical therapy and amazed them all.

    My Mom always has time to talk no matter what she might be in the middle of doing (if she’s home). And just like when I was a teenager and would start a multi-hour conversation at 11 p.m. about something that was troubling me, she still takes the time to listen and be empathetic and caring. There are four of us children who have certainly lived interesting lives…the woman is a saint for listening.

    My Mom has lived a lifetime of stepping outside her comfort zone to do things that required a lot of courage and chutzpah. She’s been the organist for  commencements for a large university. She’s served on boards, written newsletters, and served in other capacities for technical and scientific organizations even though she had no formal training in those areas. She once was a band director and even taught high school game night drills to the marching band. She’s taken extensive trips all over the world and even spent a month in China when it was not a tourist location. And let’s not forget that she had four children by the time she was 25 years old and the considerable patience it took to raise us included enduring listening to us all playing the piano, a stringed instrument, a band instrument, and singing in choirs. It was one noisy house! She just joined in the fun.

    My Mom is compassionate to others even in the face of her own loss. She lost her father to a heart attack when she was 26 and her mother a year later to a stroke. At age 27 and with children ages 6, 4, 3, and 2, she faced the challenges of motherhood and the loss of her own parents to guide her. She spent over two years by the side of her ailing second husband who died shortly after 9/11. She spent several weeks helping my cousin who was hospitalized in another state with cancer and made my cousin feel loved and helped her recover. She was there when I had both of my children and has stood by each one of her four children as we suffered losses and cheered us as we achieved successes.

    My Mom is well liked in her senior community as evidenced by the exclamatory comments I hear when I visit her. They see her as the special person she is.

    So Mom, on your 77th birthday, I couldn’t think of a thing to give you because you seem to have it all. The one thing I can give you is a big THANKS for being you and for all the love you’ve shown me and others through the years. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.





    Oprah on the Polygamous Yearning for Zion Ranch – It’s No “Big Love”

    30 03 2009

    Oprah visited the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch and aired scenes from her visit today. Disturbing. What she showed is nothing like the Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated TV show Big Love, which just wrapped up its third season on HBO. I love that show. The writing on Big Love is superb, the acting is emotional and believable, and the drama is suspenseful.

    Yearning for Zion Ranch outside Eldorado, Texas is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). In 2008 the Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) removed the children after being tipped that children were being sexually abused and underage girls were being forced to marry much older men. Twelve girls between ages 12 and 15 were married when the raid was conducted. Since the raid, people on YFZ say they won’t marry children below the legal age, which is 16 in Texas. The children were eventually all returned except a 12-year-old girl who was forced to marry their prophet Warren Jeffs, who according to FLDS church records, had 58 wives.

    Jeffs was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List in 2006 when he fled to avoid prosecution. He was later found and arrested and on 11/20/07 he was sentenced to 10 years to life imprisonment for being guilty of two counts of rape as an accomplice. Jeffs is still scheduled to be tried for additional charges in Arizona. Willie Jessop, who took Oprah into the ranch, is now the prophet.

    Excellent, shocking, and eye-opening books I have read on the FLDS church are Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven and Carolyn Jessop’s book Escape. In 1986, 18-year-old Carolyn Jessop, who wanted to attend medical school but was not allowed, was instead forced to marry 50-year-old Merril Jessop (Willie’s brother) who already had three wives and 30 children. Soon after the marriage, Merrill was given two additional wives.

    Merril Jessop and his first six wives - Carolyn is on the right

    Merril Jessop and his first six wives - Carolyn is on the right as a young bride

    Carolyn endured repeated rapes from her husband and life-threatening pregnancies and childbirth until she was able to escape at age 35 with her 8 children in 2003 from the compound in Colorado City, Arizona. She took them and fled because she was afraid that her oldest daughter Betty, aged 14, would be forced into marriage. Betty screamed as they left and said that a mother has no right to do what she wants with her children.

    Four years later and two days after Betty turned 18, she returned to the compound. Carolyn feels Betty is brainwashed. Oprah interviewed now 19-year-old Betty who seems to think her mother’s concern is silly. Betty talks to her mother once a week, but says it’s “awkward.” Merril Jessop is Betty’s father and is awaiting sentencing for conducting the unlawful marriage of Betty’s 12-year-old half-sister to FLDS head Warren Jessop who is in jail.

    Betty, as well as the other women, men, and children tried to appear candid, but it’s almost certain that they were coached on what to say. Their stories were nothing like what Carolyn Jessop tells in her book of what life is like there.

    Oprah probed those she talked to, but did not judge and let it go when people denied what so many people have said happens there. These interesting things did come out of her conversations. My comments are in purple.

    • Children don’t play. The FLDS people consider play frivolous and they say it doesn’t serve a purpose. Their purpose? To be like God. Wouldn’t God consider play and joy okay?
    • Oprah asked a classroom full of second graders if they’d heard of Shrek, Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, and other fictional characters…no, they hadn’t. The teacher said that teaching them about fictional characters serves no purpose. I can understand why they don’t encourage children to think creatively or have imaginations. They might consider doing something besides what they are told…like LEAVE.
    • They listen to religious music and sermons on iPods. Again, having no exposure to “fun” music or hearing opinions on topics besides their own religion keeps the people focused on work and their religion and contributes to them having no ability to think for themselves.
    • Oprah interviewed three wives of one husband who was there during the interview making sure they said the right thing watching. Oprah asked them didn’t they get jealous of their husband being with the other wives. One wife said “Our way of life is self-improvement and what better way to improve yourself than to live with other women and learn to overcome your bad feelings and jealousies? If I didn’t live with other women, I would never know about myself. I would never discover the weaknesses in my human flesh.” On the surface, one can understand her comments, but they say so much more if you delve deeply. She is saying that she has bad feelings and jealousy, she is weak to have feelings, and she can’t know herself or feel without being put in this situation of having to share her husband with other women.
    • Oprah talked to about 20 teenage girls and none of them had dated. One said that marriage is the start of a relationship. They all indicated that their parents pick who they will marry. This sounds a lot like what happens with arranged marriages in India. There is little to no free will to choose your own partner in your own time.
    • Oprah asked the teenage girls if they knew that it was against the law for adults to have sex with children. One said she didn’t know that before, and had just learned that. One can only imagine how the men groom girls for sex at an early age. Read Carolyn Jessop’s book. It’s disturbing.
    • Oprah asked about their dresses, which cover their arms and legs and look identical except in color. They wear them even when they swim and only take them off to put on their gowns for bed. They are not encouraged to be individuals and to express their own personalities (or even to have them) with choice of clothes. They also don’t get to be carefree children, wearing shorts, a swimsuit, etc. They are denied so many of what we would consider freedoms.
    • Oprah asked what the teenage girls what want the outside world to know. They answered in unison “That we’re happy.” Of course they said that. They do and say what they are told. They know they will be beaten if they don’t. They denied beating children in Oprah’s interview, but Carolyn Jessop says that children are beaten badly…even with boards…kicked, and otherwise abused. When the children were removed by the Department of Human Services, many of them had broken bones as a result of the physical abuse they deny happens.

    Twelve men from YFZ remain under indictment and their trials are set for this fall. Although some might see it differently, after having read Jon Krakauer’s and Carolyn Jessop’s books and done other reading about what goes on in the FLDS “religion,” I see this as men using their power to make women and children subservient and slaves to their every need and desire. Carolyn Jessop said the boys are often taken out of school and made to work from 5 a.m. until sunset every day as slave labor.

    The men cloak what they do in the name of religion and being like God and yet they literally take teenage boys out of their homes and dump them somewhere outside the ranch when they reach a certain age (like 14) because they become a threat to the much older men who pluck their peer-aged girl classmates from childhood to service them in “marriage.” Women and children there could have walked out of a “Stepford Wives” movie…they are zombies with no ability to think or choose for themselves.

    I find the whole thing disgusting, disturbing, and alarming. The State of Texas tried to do the right thing, but it backfired. I cried for those women and children when they were returned to the Yearning for Zion Ranch.  The men are back to being happy and controlling. The abuse continues. It’s no “Big Love.”

    UPDATE 4/14/09: The Texas House Committee on Human Services met today to look at how Texas officials handled the removal and investigation of child abuse at YZR. When questioned, the now FLDS prophet Willie Jessop said he wasn’t sure if there were underage marriages there and that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to speculate on the entire group. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Patrick Rose, told Jessop he just didn’t believe him.

    Anne Heiligenstein, commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services, who was not working there at the time of the raid, defended their actions. According to the Austin American-Statesman article on the hearing,

    She also pointed out that the protective services agency’s investigation concluded that nearly 30 percent of the girls ages 12 to 17 at the ranch had been sexually abused.

    “It’s what other reasonable people would have done in the same situation to protect children,” Heiligenstein said.

    Heiligenstein also issued a warning: “You cannot abuse children in Texas and get away with it, even if you are a large, reclusive, well-organized and funded organization that has a great deal of media savvy.”

    UPDATE 11/6/09: In the first trial (in the 3,000-resident Schleicher County) associated with the 2008 raids on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Schleicher County, 38-year-old Raymond Jessop was convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl he calls his wife. She is one of the daughters of the former FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs and was previously “married” to Raymond Jessop’s brother before being “reassigned” to him when she was only 15 years old. She became pregnant at age 16 and her daughter is now four years old. According to Texas law, no one under 17 years of age can consent to sex with an adult. Jessop, who has 9 wives, faces up to 20 years in prison.

    UPDATE 8/9/11:This is from the Huffington Post:

    SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”

    The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood quietly as the decision of the Texas jury was read Tuesday. He received the maximum sentence on both counts

    The jury deliberated less than half an hour.

    The 55-year-old Jeffs was convicted Thursday. During the trial, prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old.

    Jeffs is the eighth FLDS man convicted since a raid of a ranch run by the church, which believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.





    International Free the Slaves Awareness Day

    26 03 2009

    Did you know that there are 27 million slaves worldwide today? Shocking, isn’t it? March 27 is International Free the Slaves Awareness Day. Free the Slaves is a not for profit organization that “… liberates slaves around the world, helps them rebuild their lives and researches real world solutions to eradicate slavery forever.” They have a 25-year plan to eradicate slavery. Here are facts they list about slavery:

    slavery-facts-from-free-the-slaves2

    Think slavery doesn’t exist in the U.S.? Think again. Slaves are harbored in 90 U.S. cities. An estimated 50% of the over 14,500 – 17,500 slaves trafficked into the U.S. each year are sex slaves; the other 50% are in the agriculture, domestic service, manufacturing, and other industries.

    The largest numbers of slaves – as many as 18 million – are in Pakistan, Nepal, and India. The Free the Slaves website has an interactive map you can click on to find out about slavery in any part of the world.

    President Obama calls human slavery a “top priority.” In a March 24, 2009 White House press release, “President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Luis C. de Baca as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department.” If you want to help, Free the Slaves has a whole page of suggestions.

    You can read other posts I have written about slavery/trafficking:

    The average citizen in the U.S. can possibly save a person being held in slavery by being alert to things that don’t seem right and being inquisitive. A slave may even be a teenager living with their family and being coerced into sexual slavery as is the case in the post mentioned above.

    Watch this excellent video from Free the Slaves with personal stories of people enslaved under false pretenses. The resiliency and spirit of people who have been through this horror is amazing. Join Free the Slaves and the many other excellent organizations such as isanctuary.org and FreeGirl Foundation that work to stamp out human slavery and trafficking. We all bear responsibility for our brothers and sisters all over the world.





    A GPS Monitor Was No Protection for 13-year-old Licy Nipp

    12 03 2009

    She was beaten and stabbed to death by a homeless sex offender after she laughed at his failed attempt to rape her. He was a Level 3 sex offender – the category considered most likely to reoffend – and he was wearing a GPS monitor.

    Alycia "Licy" Nipp

    Alycia "Licy" Nipp

    That device did not protect free-spirited 13-year-old Alycia “Licy” Nipp. Her body was found on February 22 in a field she was warned not to walk through in Vancouver, Oregon – 15 miles from Portland.

    30-year-old Darrin Sanford may face the death penalty for what he did to Licy. He was convicted in 1998 after he offered to pay a group of 8 to 11 year-old children for oral sex and was given probation. He wore a passive GPS monitor (one that collects data on where he’s been and transmits it later) for the seven weeks since he was last let out of prison in January for one of his three parole violations.

    All but six states make some use of GPS monitors for sex offenders. Although knowing where they are is good because it can help prevent convicted sex offenders from being near schools, experts say that the monitors provide a false sense of protection from the perpetrators.

    The face of a child molester has changed from when my children were small. They were taught about “stranger danger.” Human Rights Watch reports that “In fact, the evidence shows that family members, friends or acquaintances are responsible for more than 90% of sexual abuse cases involving children.” HRW also says that first-time offenders are responsible for 87% of the cases of sexual abuse against children.

    But these statistics did not protect Licy Nipp. Licy’s death is particularly difficult for her family, which has a history of experiencing sexual violence. Licy’s aunt Amber Hager had been raped twice as a teen and Licy’s grandmother had been raped as a child. They vowed to Licy that the cycle stopped with them and had coached Licy on how to be safe.

    The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers says that sexual offending can not be cured and that treatment has produced limited results in some people.

    This is what makes dealing with sex offenders so difficult. What do you do with people who have urges to sexually assault children, have served their time in prison or on probation, and are rated likely to reoffend, as Darrin Sanford was?

    Can we with a good conscience let such people…especially considering that Darrin had violated his parole three times…roam the streets with only a GPS monitor that doesn’t even report his location in real time? Is this the best we can do to protect our children?

    UPDATE 6/10/09: Darrin Eugene Sanford pleaded guilty yesterday to first-degree aggravated murder. He is expected to receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.





    A Teenage Sex Slave in an American Suburb

    13 02 2009

    Theresa Flores, 15, living in an up-scale Detroit neighborhood, became a sex slave. New to town, a cute guy offered her a ride home from school and she smittenly took him up on the offer. He took her to his house, kissed her, wouldn’t stop when she said no, and raped her. Stoutly Catholic, the shame of what happened to her caused her to keep it a secret…even from her mother.

    MSNBC.com

    Theresa Flores, Victim of Sex Slavery - Credit: MSNBC.com

    Unbeknownst to her, the rapist’s cousins watched and took photos and these were used to blackmail her. The rapist took her to his cousins’ house. They gang raped and beat her and told her from then on, she had to do whatever they said. Three or four nights a week they would pick her up, drug her, rape her, and let paying “clients” rape her also. This went on for two years until Theresa moved. Her parents never knew.

    In college she finally found the courage to say what had happened to her, but by then, it was too late to prosecute the initial rapist who psychologically tortured her into submission.

    Theresa appeared on the Today Show today to tell her story…now 28 years later. She is a mother of three and has written a book about what she went through entitled “The Sacred Bath: An American Teen’s Story of Modern Day Slavery.” Amazon contributes this information about Theresa:

    Ms. Flores has been a Licensed Social Worker for nearly twenty years. She holds a Master’s of Science in Counseling Education and is a Human Development Specialist. Ms. Flores writes a regular magazine article entitled Spiritual Parenting, facilitates a monthly kid’s group and is the mother of three children. She lectures nationally on parenting, multi-cultural issues and human trafficking. Ms. Flores’ mission is to educate others on the horrors of trafficking and fight against this huge injustice of innocent people. She hopes that by revealing her story, it will give victims of all types of abuse hope and assist in their healing process.

    She has a website on this… http://traffickfree.com and has helped open a haven for trafficked girls in Ohio called Gracehaven House. Theresa says there are resources for foreign girls trafficked in the U.S., but not for American girls. There are only 39 beds for such girls in the entire country.

    Your next door neighbor could be trafficking teenage girls and using them as sexual slaves. Girls don’t have to be moved somewhere to be trafficked. They could be leading otherwise normal lives and living at home. Your own daughter or sister or someone you know could be a sexual slave. If you have evidence of this or suspicion, you can call the Justice Department human trafficking hotline at 1-888-428-7581.

    I wrote another post on human trafficking with statistics and what the state of Texas, where I live and which is one of the top areas where humans are trafficked, is doing about it.

    Take the time to tune in to MSNBC on Sunday night starting at 8 p.m. EST for three programs on this topic: “Sex Slaves in America,” “Sex Slaves in the Suburbs,” and “Sex Slaves: The Teen Trade.” We all need to be educated on this topic and keep our eyes open and pay attention to those around us. Sexual slavery can happen anywhere.

    I hope you’ll join me in contacting the White House and asking them to add Human Trafficking and Sexual Slavery in the U.S. to their agenda.

    FOLLOW-UP

    I watched the MSNBC shows mentioned above and they made the point repeatedly that most people have no idea how prevalent sexual slavery is in the U.S. Also, Theresa Flores was interviewed and I heard more of her story. She said on the worst night of her life, she was taken to a house where she was drugged and 20 men raped and beat her. Afterward she made her way in her shortie pajamas and a waitress helped her and called the police. They took her back to her home and her parents did not believe her…they thought she was just out partying…and the slavery continued since they did nothing. Truly, truly tragic.





    Kids in School: Getting an Education Plus a Beating

    10 02 2009

    Did you know that chewing gum in class could be enough to get a child beaten? I remember kids getting sent to the principal’s office to be spanked when I was in school in the 1960s and always felt sorry for them. Sometimes teachers would spank the child in the classroom in front of all the other children. I hated that. I saw that and experienced that at home and it still affects me.

    Human Rights Watch put out a report in 2008 entitled “A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in US Public Schools.” I had no idea that this was still going on in schools and the more I read of this report, the more upset I got. Here are some things I pulled from the report:

    • 223,190 students nationwide were spanked in schools during the 2006-2007 school year at least once. Administrators admit the numbers are underreported and could be twice as many as reported.
      • 49,197 of those were in Texas – about 20%
      • In Mississippi during that period, 7.5% of students were paddled – the highest percent in the country.
    • 21 states permit corporal punishment in schools.
    • The Austin (where I live) school district does not permit corporal punishment.
    • 106 countries outlaw corporal punishment in schools; the U.S. is clearly out of touch.
    • Corporal punishment in schools has a disproportionate use against African-Americans, special education students, and boys.
    Paddles Used on School Children

    Paddles Used on School Children

    For more information, check out The Center for Effective Discipline website. They have a long list of U.S. organizations that oppose corporal punishment in schools. There are also links to many articles and resources on the effects of corporal punishment, laws, what parents can do, and more.

    So what is corporal punishment? Corporal punishment in schools usually involves a wooden paddle about 15 – 18 inches long being swung against the child’s buttocks 3 – 10 times; paddles are often even made by the students in woodworking shop. I’ve read that some paddles are as big as 27 inches and some have holes drilled in them to hurt children even more. For many teachers and principals who spank children in schools, the idea is clearly to inflict maximum damage.

    Paddling can be done even for rather benign things like chewing gum, being late, sleeping in class, talking back to a teacher, violating the dress code, walking on the wrong side of the hall, not turning in homework, or going to the bathroom without permission. They even reported a 16-year-old 5-months pregnant girl being paddled for being tardy.
    Principals who administer the paddling have done things like turn on the loudspeaker so every class could hear it being done and patrol the hallways with a paddle, ready to strike anywhere.

    Hitting a child in the place he/she goes to get an education can have the following effects on the child:

    Leads to environment of humiliation, violence, and degradation

    Destroys trust between the student and the school

    Often leads to real physical injury such as bleeding and deep bruising

    Causes children to act out, become violent, become a bully, and even drop out of school

    Human Rights Watch urged President Bush to ban corporal punishment in schools, but he never took any action. That doesn’t surprise me given President Bush’s authorization of torture.

    President Obama is a compassionate, caring father and abhors torture and violence. Inflicting pain and injury to a child is a form of torture, is violent, and shouldn’t happen in homes or in schools. Children should be nurtured, not violated. Join me in calling on President Obama to outlaw corporal punishment in schools. Hitting a child is never the answer.

    You can contact President Obama by going to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

    UPDATE 9/27/09: The Los Angeles Times reported on 9/24/09 that spanking lowers a child’s IQ, study findings that were presented in San Diego at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma. Regular spanking creates chronic stress, leads to post-traumatic stress, and is this is thought to lower the child’s IQ. The more spanking done to the child, the more he experiences post-traumatic stress. The lead author of the study, University of New Hampshire professor Murray Straus says:

    It is … time for the United States to begin making the advantages of not spanking a public health and child welfare focus, and eventually enact federal no-spanking legislation.

    UPDATE: Since I wrote this, many people have found this post because they entered words that indicated they like seeing spanked bare bottoms. I had included a small photo showing the effects of school spankings, but have deleted it. I did not write this post to titillate; quite the opposite. I hope it angers you and disgusts  you to the point of finding out if your school system allows paddling. If it does, I hope you will take action. I would never allow my children to be in a school that allowed spanking. I find it barbaric and to work against the kind of respectfulness and safety that is needed for children to be able to actually learn.

    This post has gotten the attention of teachers who love to spank and many of them are reading my post. GOOD. Maybe your eyes will be opened to what you are advocating and doing.

    What I said is now being called “unfair” on a forum where teachers debate the positive (and for a few, the negative) aspects of paddling. That is beyond hypocritical considering what these teachers are doing to children. It’s unfair to report the facts and how paddling children has NEGATIVE effects on the child? Do they expect us to say “Oh, that’s okay. Go ahead and beat our children, hurt them, and damage their self-esteem. No big deal.?????”

    Why is it that beating or hitting an adult is called assault and is a felony offense and beating a child is called punishment and is okay? Our animals have more rights than children do. If we beat an animal the way we beat children in schools and at home, we would be arrested. I found this statement in an article on the www.nospank.org website:

    In Texas, if somebody beats your dog with a wooden board for no reason, you’d sue and win. In addition to the civil action, the perpetrator would undoubtedly face criminal charges and be punished. But in Texas if somebody beats your child with a wooden board, and the perpetrator happens to be a schoolteacher, you’d better back off and keep your mouth shut. If you try to seek a remedy in the courts on behalf of your child, it is you, the parent, who will be punished. That’s the way it is in Texas. Family pets are cherished, but children… Well, they’re a different story.

    Children have rights too. They are not just objects for adults to take out their aggression and frustration on.

    Even on that forum, there are teachers who call corporal punishment in schools child abuse and talk of enormous paddles being used sadistically. I am not backing down on my stand. This is child abuse plain and simple and even on that forum, some teachers say many of those who practice paddling children do it because they enjoy it. Hitting children because you enjoy it? That is truly twisted.

    A reader sent me additional information that adds to the shock of what is going on in schools. Some teachers are forced out of schools for not practicing paddling. A teacher was arrested for child pornography whose main interest was spanking. A little boy allegedly shot his father and the roommate because of his 1000th spanking at school. The reader also made the important point that there are children abused at home who may very well be the ones acting out in class, putting themselves at further risk of abuse from paddling teachers and school adminstrators. I even found a site that advises teenage children on how to approach your parents to ask them to spank you and how that will bring you closer together. The more I read on this topic, the more stunned I am.

    I hope you’ll take the time to read the comments below. I went to the site mentioned by a reader. A photo from that site is pictured below. For those who think the damage done to a child from paddling is only temporary, I can speak from experience and tell you that the emotional damage done to a child from being beaten like this can last a lifetime.

    High School Football Player Hit for Failing Grade while Those Who Watch Know They are Next

    High School Football Player Hit for Failing Grade while Those Who Watch Know They are Next





    Say What You Need to Say

    9 02 2009

    John Mayer’s “Say” won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards tonight. The song is featured in the movie “The Bucket List,” and in it he sings “Say what you need to say…even if your hands are shakin’ and your faith is broken, even as the eyes are closin’, do it with a heart wide open…say what you need to say.”

    Is there something you need to say to someone? Join the wave of courage, authenticity and integrity, which begins now with the inauguration of President Obama, the end of the George Bush monarchy, and the exposure of Wall Street fat cats and others who have built a house of cards at our expense.

    Authenticity is about saying what you need to say even when it is hard to do. It is about President Obama telling us that the road to healing our nation is going to be rocky and we will all have to make sacrifices. It is about speaking out about torture and child abuse even when people don’t want to think those things exist in the world and don’t want to hear about them. It is about telling a troubled family member their actions are hurtful and yet you are there to help.

    I think a lot about women and children all over the world who live in fear, who are physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, who are refugees, who are treated as property and/or slaves, who are forced into marriages with men they don’t love, who are hungry, who have no money or means to support themselves, who have AIDS, and who have no hope for a better future.

    Living in such conditions and just trying to survive, do they even think about life being precious, being understood, feeling a connection with others, being comforted, and treating others with integrity and love? How do we help people who have been so afflicted to rise above the trauma of the affliction and begin to trust, love, and connect with others?

    The thing is that we don’t have to go to Darfur or the Congo or Somalia or any number of other places to find women and children who are suffering. Look around. Perhaps you have or know a child who is suffering, or a cousin, a friend, a parent, an acquaintance. Maybe you don’t know they are suffering, but you sense that something is wrong. These could be women or children who live with the shame of having been sexually abused, who live in poverty, who live in physically violent homes, or who are so desperate that they are considering committing suicide.

    What do you need to say? Are you holding something back?  Reach out to that person. Be courageous. Step up. Perhaps what you have to say could make a difference in someone else’s life and could even save their life. Say what you need to say.

    Here’s John Mayer singing the song as featured in “The Bucket List.”