Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombings: Helping Our Children Move Forward

The Boston Marathon, which takes place each year on Patriots Day, has long been a day of celebration, joy, and team spirit. We celebrate the elite runners, delight in the joy of thousands of ordinary people testing their mettle to accomplish an extraordinary feat, we support and cheer friends and colleagues who organize teams to raise money for causes near and dear to them. But at this year’s Marathon, the incomprehensible and unconscionable acts of terror-minded individuals, turned celebration and joy into horror and anguish.

The summer months are a stone’s throw away which means family outings to sporting events, Fourth of July celebrations, and the like. So, how do we help our children feel safe in light of the bombings at the Boston marathon? How do we, their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caretakers feel safe?

Like the instructions we receive when traveling with a child onboard an airplane — put on your oxygen mask first before assisting the child — we have to get our emotions, our state of mind under control first. We cannot tell our children that everything will be okay if in our next breath we are illustrating our fear and anxiety in words and actions to others around us. Remember: kids hear and see much more than we think they do.

How do we move forward and help our children to do so?  We teach them that the actions of those two small-minded men represent nothing more than a speck of inhumanity compared to the heroism of the hundreds of first responders, EMTs doctors, nurses, and ordinary folks who ran into the fray to help. We explain to them that the actions of those two cowardly men represent nothing compared to the bravery of the hundreds of wounded who must reach deep inside and find the strength of character to redefine their lives and live courageously, albeit differently. We show them that the actions of those two men represent hatred in the hearts of the few rather than the love and grace in the hearts of the many. In other words, we show them by example.

As President Obama reminded us in his message at the Interfaith Healing Service on Thursday, “Like Bill Ifrig, 78 years old, the runner in the orange tank-top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast, we may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we'll pick ourselves up. We'll keep going. We will finish the race.”

This is a vital lesson for our children. There will be times and events in life that knock us off our feet, that rattle our emotions. Challenges in life build character. We survive and thrive through the friendships we make, by reaching out and helping others, by maintaining a hopeful outlook, and by understanding and accepting that change is part of life. 

Written for KidsTerrain. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Time Is Upon Us

Something just has to be done….

I’ve written far too many blogs precipitated by horrific acts similar to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday December 14. And while I find myself asking once again, when will this madness cease, I know there is no end date . . . and, sadly, there will continue to be more incomprehensible violence and more senseless deaths.

During the vigil on Sunday, President Barack Obama said, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. . . . And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” While I am heartened by President Obama’s words, the reality is that we are steeped in a culture of violence, with far too many guns in the hands of those who pervert our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

So, let’s do a reality check. When our Constitution was written, “arms” meant muskets. Our forefathers had no way of foreseeing that arms would one day mean a high-powered, semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle, the weapon used in Sandy Hook and also by D.C snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who in 2002, killed 10 people and critically wounded three.

Our forefathers had no way of foreseeing that arms would mean a semiautomatic Glock 9mm handgun, the weapon found in Sandy Hook and the type used in the 2011 shooting at a shopping center in Arizona that killed six people and wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others, or the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech where 32 people were killed and 17 wounded, or the .40-caliber Glock used by the gunman in the Colorado movie theater in July, where 12 people were killed and dozens more were wounded.

Our forefathers had no way of foreseeing that arms would mean a 9mm SIG Sauer pistol, the weapon found in Sandy Hook and which was used also in the Standard Gravure shooting that left eight people dead and 12 wounded; or the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with multiple ammunition magazines used to kill six people and wound three at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and in the execution-style massacre at the Amish school in Pennsylvania.

The list of disturbing examples is far too long and far too sickening to my stomach to continue.

So what can be done? What “meaningful action” does the President have in mind? As Pierre Thomas said, “The genie is out of the bottle.”

“Meaningful action” must be multifold. We, as citizens, must raise our voices and demand by our votes a federal a ban on assault weapons. We, as citizens, must raise our voices demand by our votes that legislators turn their backs on gun lobbyists and turn and face instead those they represent with a commitment to safety; we, as a society, need to address the gaps in the treatment of mental health in this country; and we, as human beings, need to question our ethics when it comes to accepting as normal brazen violence in our movies, our videos games, our music.

Meaningful action . . . . Let us as a nation resolve in the New Year to define what the meaningful action will be, devise an actionable plan, and commit to not giving up on this goal until a safer America is a reality.

Originally written for KidsTerrain

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Paying Attention in Class Saved Family’s Life

Wednesday, June 1 was like most end-of-the-school-year days. The classroom was hot and stuffy, as was the air outside, thick and heavy with moisture…telltale signs of a storm brewing. Nothing about the day seemed out of the ordinary. Strong thunderstorms are not uncommon when hot, moist air co-mingles with a cold front. It was just a typical New England spring weather day.

Nearing the end of the school day, the 3rd grade teachers in 9-year-old Megan Frisella’s class had completed the day’s lesson plan. Being conscientious teachers, they opted to introduce a new lesson and selected a study plan about wind. In the remaining minutes of class that day, Megan and her classmates learned about the power of wind to foster energy, and they learned about the dangers of wind in hurricanes and tornadoes. Little did anyone know — or even conceive of the probability — that this last minute lesson would save a family’s life.

A few hours after Megan returned home from school Amy Frisella, Megan’s mother, heard that a tornado may be headed for their hometown of Sturbridge, MA. Megan spoke up and told her mother, “My teacher said you got to get away from the windows and go to a safe room.”

Now, the last tornado to hit in Central Massachusetts occurred in 1953, and so Megan’s mom was bracing for nothing more than a severe thunderstorm. However, having listened to her daughter talk about what she learned in school, Amy decided to treat the situation like a fire drill.

She took Megan and Megan’s 6-year-old sister Hailey, their 2 cats and the hamster, to the “safe room” in the basement where there were no windows, just as Megan had been taught. Less than a minute later, the house shook.

“It was just like a movie,” said Megan’s mom. “It sounded like a train.” Twenty seconds later, covered in soot, the Frisella’s emerged from the basement to discover their home had been severely damaged by a tornado.

The Frisella family is alive and unharmed today because of several factors…teachers who embraced their role as educators, who taught an extra lesson rather than blowing off the remaining minutes of the class period; a young girl who paid attention in class and who listened to her teachers; a parent who listened to her child and who recognized the value of a teachable moment.

At KidsTerrain, we believe that children, families, and teachers are life's greatest treasures. And we believe in the value of listening and talking to kids. On Wednesday, June 6, teachers talked, a child listened, a child talked, a parent listened, and a family’s life was saved.

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One of our major concerns at KidsTerrain is that children develop healthy self-esteem. So, when in less than a week’s time these new products marketed to young children came across our radar, we felt compelled to raise the battle cry, “Let them be children, please….”

First up, Bebe Gloton, a controversial new doll that comes with a special halter-top that young "mothers" wear as they pretend to breast-feed their "babies." The halter-top has daisies that cover the little girls’ nipples and comes undone just as easily as the flaps of a nursing bra would.

The Spanish toymaker Berjuan developed Bebe Gloton, which translates as “gluttonous baby.” Bebe Gloton cries, signaling she wants more milk, and makes sucking noises as it "feeds."

Despite some outrage, many moms said they support the product. In a story reported on Fox News, one mother was quoted as saying, "I think that it’s great that people want to have a doll that promotes breast-feeding…. Most dolls that are purchased come with a bottle. That is the norm in society, an artificial way to feed your baby.”

This Straw Man response shifts the focus away from the concern at hand: Is introducing breast-feeding to girls young enough to play with dolls inappropriate? What’s next? A special, padded swimsuit-like garment that enables five-year-old "mothers" to “experience” childbirth?

Next up on our “Let Them Be Children, Please….” radar: Meet Clawdeen Wolf, the doll who comes complete with a “thigh-skimming skirt, sky-high boots and heavy makeup, and spends her days waxing, plucking and shaving.” You read that right…waxing, plucking, and shaving. Mattel’s target demographic for this doll? Girls aged 6 and up.

Human behavior expert Dr. Patrick Wanis, in an article by Diane Montgomery said, “These dolls are training girls to feel ashamed of their bodies, to focus on being sexually appealing and sexually attractive from a pre-pubescent age. By sexualizing these young girls, corporations also create another avenue to market and sell more products to a younger demographic.”

And speaking of marketing to a younger demographic, enter Abercrombie & Fitch into the debate. Last week A &B launched a padded bikini for girls as young as 7. The “Ashley” bikini gained attention after a professor at Occidental College posted a blog item calling it “another example of the sexualization of young girls,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Abercrombie Kids addressed this on Monday, March 28 in a statement on their Facebook page: “We agree with those who say it is best ‘suited’ for girls age 12 and older.”

As reported by the Dispatch, this wasn’t the first time Abercrombie targeted this market. In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch offered a children’s-size thong underwear with the words “eye candy” and “wink wink” printed on the front.

It’s time we step up and step back…. Let our children be children, please….

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boy's Pink Toenails Called Transgender Propaganda

This week a controversy soared across the airwaves and social media sites surrounding a J. Crew ad featuring a photo of J. Crew's president and creative director Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett’s toenails. The ad, part of a feature, "Saturday with Jenna," was sent to customers. In the photo, Jenna is pictured with her curly-haired son; the two are giggling with Jenna holding Beckett's feet, showing hot pink painted toenails. "Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink," read Jenna's quote. "Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."

Social conservatives, such as Erin Brown of the Media Research Center, called the ad "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children." Brown’s position has little to do with children, and a lot to do with politics, as evidenced in her opening paragraph: “J.Crew, a popular preppy woman's clothing brand and favorite affordable line of first lady Michelle Obama, is targeting a new demographic--mothers of gender-confused young boys. At least, that's the impression given by a new marketing piece that features blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”

She goes on to write, “J.CREW, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the fa├žade of liberal, transgendered identity politics. One has to wonder what young boys in pink nail polish has to do with selling women's clothing… Propaganda pushing the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls is a growing trend, seeping into mainstream culture.”

Advocacy groups are also fighting back, calling the reaction to the ad "ridiculous."

"This is not how the world works and not how children work, and not even how trans advocacy works," said Mara Keisling, executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality. "Complaints about the ad are totally blown out of proportion," she said. "It's just a cute ad with a cute mom-and-son scene and the kid wants to wear pink nail polish...It could be the kids just wants to spend time with his mom."

There is no simple explanation for transgenderism. Many psychological theories have been proposed and more recent research has focussed on looking at biological causes. Most research on gender identity and sexual orientation concludes that neither is a choice. Nor can they be shaped by a parent's wishes, said Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist. Drescher, who serves on the American Psychiatric Association's committee that is addressing sexual and gender identity disorder for the DSM-V. DSM-V is psychiatry's encyclopedia of behavioral diagnoses, told Susan Donaldson James of ABC News, "I can say with 100 percent certainty that a mother painting her children's toe nails pink does not cause transgenderism or homosexuality or anything else that people who are social conservatives would worry about," he said.

No one knows what causes transgenderism. "Certainly, research shows that there are gender preferences in the way kids like to play, and boys may be rougher than girls," Drescher said. "But then there is a broad range of children who don't fit into larger categories and for some families it causes panic and for some, it's not a problem at all…. The idea that a parent is indulging a child's interest in unconventional gender behavior does something to the child has no scientific basis."

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

US Education Department Push For Bullying Initiatives

The Obama administration and the Education Department have set their focus on promoting initiatives aimed at combating bullying in schools. The administration’s efforts were ignited by a 10-page “Dear Colleague” letter from the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights advising school officials they are required under federal law to stop discriminatory behavior.

In the letter, Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote, “Some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Student misconduct could trigger action under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which targets discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination based on sex,” Ali said.

The Education Department is collecting “best practices” for anti-bullying efforts and the White House is planning to host a conference this year to raise awareness of the issue.

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Talk With Kids About The Shooting in Tucson

The horrific shooting on January 8, 2011 once again rattled us deep within our bones. And sadly, once again, young children are seeing these all too real events; in public forums some children were asking, "Will he be coming to our school to shoot us?"

Talking with our children about this and similar events is a daunting task. The issues are multi-fold, as will be their questions and concerns. Allowing children a voice, reassuring them realistically about safety, and being honest with them about our feelings is just the beginning.

Issues you may want to discuss with your kids about the shooting in Tucson are:
  • Particularly if your child/children are 7 years of age or younger, keep the conversation simple.
  • Acknowledge the facts that they tell you, and reassure them that this won't happen to them.
  • Let kids know that they are safe and that you are safe. If your child/children know that the shooting occurred outside a grocery store, they may exhibit anxiety when you have to go grocery shopping. The more you can ascertain what they know, the better you will be able to address their fears
  • Tell kids that it is safe to go to school. Explain that the principal and others who work at their school are there to protect their safety.
  • Address the issue about the shooter's mental illness only if your child/children are old enough to comprehend the scope of this.
  • Be honest with your children about your feelings; however, be careful not to appear out of control. Be sure your responses are age appropriate.
Here are some questions you may want to ask your kids:
  • Ask your children what they know about the shooting, and how they heard this information.
  • Encourage children to express their feelings. Allow them to talk about the shooting and listen very carefully. This will help you to find out their degree of distress.
  • Answer their questions with simple, honest and accurate answers. Ask specific questions such as "How do you feel? Does it make you feel scared? What worries you the most?"
  • Is there anything else you want to talk about?

Have a joyful day everyone. And remember to live a flourishing life.

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seriously, now...who falls for this?

I must get an e-mail similar to the one below at least 4 times a week. Seriously, now...who falls for this stuff? Obviously many people do if thousands of cretins continuously spam this crap.

Oh, and by the way...
  • You did not overpay the IRS $186.30
  • Neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates is going to send you a check for $100 for passing on an e-mail
  • Your friend or relative most likely did not get robbed in London and does not need an emergency loan of $1,000 wired to the account included in the e-mail
  • You did not win the Irish Sweepstakes
Enjoy your day...and remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.

Hello my dear,
I wish to contact you personally for a business transaction/Investment proposal of GBP£10,000,00 (Ten Million British Pounds Sterling) hopefully that you will respond
positively to this investment proposal.
I need a reliable, honest and capable person who will be able to handle this transaction. hence I am contacting you, and I believe that you will never turn down my request. I am the chief executive of cooperate,Halifax Bank of Scotland, United Kingdom.
With your sincere assistant and co-operation, we can finalize this transaction, and be rest assured that this deal is worth taking and highly profitable. At this moment, I will not issue the details of this transaction until your positive response is granted.
For further correspondence regarding this business proposal, send your
response to E-mail :( for more details or
ring me on E-mail for further discussion on this.

Thanks for your attention.
Kind regards.
Mr.Peter Cummings.
Chief executive cooperate,
Bank Of Scotland Plc.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We Simply Must Get A Handle On This...

I posted this video for KidsTerrain. It is a remarkable story of courage. Share the message...