Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Fat Kid Halloween Letter

By now, unless you've been under a rock somewhere, you've probably already heard/read about the brilliant lady in North Dakota who plans on handing out candy to the thin kids on Halloween tomorrow night, but to the kids she determines to be "moderately obese", she will hand them this letter.

Much has already been said about this letter and the woman who wrote it (anonymously, but calls herself Cheryl when she phoned into a radio station to explain why she's so awesome and helpful to her village) and the way social media picks up on things and flings them to every possible corner of the planet and back again within seconds, much more will be said, I'm sure.  So why am I adding my voice to the mix?  Because when I first read about this letter this morning I got so angry I couldn't stop thinking about it.

So I've decided to write my own letter.  Here it is:



Happy Halloween and
Happy Holidays Cheryl of the Village!

You are probably wondering why I'm writing to you since I don't even know you, you don't know me and this all seems rather out of the blue.  Well, allow me to explain.

You see, part of me thinks your letter was actually a hoax, a brilliant, modern, 2013 social media "trick" for Halloween this year.  Now if that is the case, it worked like a charm but already sort of made pretty much everyone hate you for being so mean.. or so they thought.  So if it was a hoax, a "trick" instead of a treat, then it sort of worked but also sort of backfired in spades.

However, if it wasn't meant as a joke and you were serious, you better start packing now, or think very carefully about actually doing this.  You may not have read the reactions of people on several sites today but I have, and they're just WAITING for their kid to come away from your house with this letter.  Do you know what your village people are planning to do to your house?  I do, because they're all talking about it.  TP'ing your house, egging your house, bricks, rocks and whatever else through the windows, coming up to your door and punching you in the face and all kinds of other rotten, aweful illegal things.  But you know what the most ironic thing is?  YOU have angered them to this kind of reaction with your letter.  Really bad move, Cheryl.

You see, I think if you really cared about overweight kids, you'd be able to come up with 101 different things to hand out on Halloween instead of candy, for ALL the kids who come to your door.  Or, you could have just blogged something (like I am, it totally works) or ranted on FB or whatever.  But instead, you've totally and completely ticked off thousands and thousands of people by threatening to hurt their kids feelings by handing the thin kid the chocolate bar, and handing the heavier kid a stupid piece of paper.  I question if you were ever a.) a kid and b.) went trick or treating or c.) gave any genuine thought to how this would be so upsetting to a little kid on Halloween.    I find it a little hard to believe there are super-creepy people that would do this but then again, there are people that do much worse to little kids all the time.  I'm still hoping that your letter was a hoax and you're not really this much of a meanie.

I do have to wonder though, what kind of medical background you have there in your village that qualifies you to diagnose someone by a 10 second look through the door as being moderately obese.  Are you a doctor? A clairvoyant?  Do you realize that some kids are heavier than others because they are just built that way, and maybe do in fact eat healthy food on a regular basis?  Of course there are chubby kids and chubby parents too but do these kids really deserve to be humiliated at your doorstep on Halloween night?

In any event Cheryl, since your "Halloween fat kid letter" (that's what folks are calling it, not me) has hit the web, you're famous now, even though most people have no idea who you really are.  So, if you still plan to hand out this letter, let me suggest you begin packing now, since you'll need to move to another city.  The world is literally watching your village there and waiting to see what happens tomorrow night.  I've read many comments from people who live there and work there who have already said "she'd better not, or she'll be sorry".  They said other stuff too.  Really mean stuff, really vulgar stuff that I'm not going to repeat but trust me, it's BAD.

I wish you all the best tomorrow night, and seriously hope you change your mind.
Sincerely,
Carla

P.S. My jack-o-lantern is cooler than yours, and I'm handing out candy and Florida's Naturals Halloween fruit snack packets to ALL the kids who knock on my door.  It's the responsibility of their parents to ration out their candy, not mine.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teens, Cams, Sexual Predators and Digital Culture

This is one of those subjects that burns at my heart, but one that I don't even know where to begin to address it.  Let me start by saying this: I am 100% unqualified in a professional capacity to counsel or otherwise advise anyone on this subject and yet merely by the virtue of being a mom, I believe I am 100% qualified to have an opinion on it, and say *something* about it.  Fair enough?  I think so.

So where do we begin? I guess I'll begin with stating the obvious in that I'm a Christian so I'm going to address this from that worldview.  However, how I see it or how you see it doesn't change what it is. Or, how it affects our kids.  Yes, my kids and YOUR kids - and if you think your kids aren't affected by this, don't talk about it, or haven't known someone personally who was/is affected by it, you've probably got your head in the sand (or they just haven't told you, which is entirely possible).

The other day I had a conversation with my oldest daughter about this, and she shared with me how it breaks her heart as well that this is going on.  Fact is, it has been going on, for a lot longer than most parents have any clue about.  What exactly am I talking about?

- Teen girl gets an email with a nude pic of herself attached and a threat that reads something like "send me a nude video or more pics or I'll post this on your FB". Mr. Sick Pig emailer has hacked her system and she feels pressured to comply with his request.

- Teen (and pre-teen) girls posting nude selfies on so-called anon forums for kicks and grins and (hopefully) positive feedback. The more positive feedback she gets, the more she posts.

- Teen boys and girls partying, drinking, drugs, sexual activity (either consensual or not) taking place and being either recorded or phone pics taken then spread around the school.  As I'm sure you've read or heard of by now, in some cases the humiliation of having those kinds of images out there is more than the girl can bear, and she ends up taking her own life.

Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons are just two of the more well known cases where the disastrous mix of teens, cams, sex, digital culture and humiliation was just too much for these poor girls to handle.   Of all the ones we do hear about in the news, I always wonder how many more there are, that never come forward.  I suspect the number would be shockingly high.

During my conversation about this the other day with my daughter she mentioned that for some of these girls, such as the ones who post nude selfies, it's a matter of exploring their sexuality.  I certainly can't disagree with that.  Being a teenager is like having an alien take over your brain sometimes.  One minute you feel like a little kid and the next thing you know there are things on your chest or hair in places there was never hair before.  It's confusing and complex and weird and awesome and scary and all of the above.  Suddenly you aren't really you anymore, you're a new you and you're almost certain you have no idea who you really are.  It's been a long time since I've been a teenager, but that part of it I remember quite clearly.  I also remember it lasting for at least a couple of years, maybe longer.

Yet, when I was a teenager, the world was different.  Praise God above that we didn't have a digital world to play around in because if we did, we would have done the exact same things teenagers do now in that world.  We just did other dumb things and made other poor choices, in other areas.  For most of us, thankfully, there isn't any digital record of it, being shared over and over and over online, that will almost literally, never go away.

When I think of this and when I have conversations about this with hubby or the kids, the same sort of bullet points come up so here they are, in no particular order:

• We live in a sex-saturated culture and it's getting worse almost every day.  Everyone knows that, everyone sees it, but the affect it's having on this generation of kids is utterly devastating.  They are being desensitized every single day to the overt, graphic sexuality and nudity they see online, in video games, music videos, awards shows (oh, hi Miley, hi Rihanna, hi Lady Gaga, here's some pants and a top, I know you're not used to them but try them on anyway) and movies.  The message it sends to teenage girls is this one: You can get all the attention you desire, if you just take your clothes off and sexually exploit yourself. Do it often, and get more and more graphic and you'll have more and more attention.  The message it sends to teen boys is this one: Girls/Women are just things, objects to be enjoyed, used, and tossed aside when the next pretty one comes along. They're not human beings and they don't deserve any respect at all.  People say we live in a "rape-culture".  The sexual abuse, exploitation, degradation and objectification of women is not only tolerated, it's trivialized and even accepted or celebrated.  I believe a HUGE part of the reason this mindset exists has everything to do with what is being seen by our young men and women in culture.  As the old saying goes: "Garbage in - Garbage out".

• The internet is a great place for a bazillion different reasons and it's not going away.  It's also a dark, deceitful, wicked playground for some of the most depraved minds you could ever imagine.  There are things going on online, right now, right this very minute, that you would not believe even if you saw if for yourself. If you did see it for yourself, you would have nightmares and a broken heart.  There are files being shared, videos and pictures being viewed, and meetings being set up between innocent kids and sexual predators, right this very minute. There are girls being lied to, boys being lied to, boys watching videos, men scrolling through slideshows and much, much more.  There are live-cams up and running right now, being viewed by thousands and thousands of men... fathers, husbands, cops, priests, teachers, coaches, Sunday school teachers and mothers too.  Some of the most unimaginable violence and abuse is taking place online, right now, this very moment.  Most of us adults know this, even though we choose not to think about it and would never in a million years participate in it.  Most kids know it too, sadly.  Most of us will never see it, accidentally click on it, or venture into that world but some DO. Some kids, and some adults.  Some are curious, some don't believe it's real, some can't help but share with friends, and some feel an urge, a lure, and end up getting sucked into this evil and depraved world only to end up yet another victim or abuser.  I only wish I were exaggerating but the truth is, there are a lot more sex abuse victims out there than most of us realize.  One of the best things you can ever do for yourself and your family is find a good web-filter and install it on every desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, ipod and anything else in your house that connects to the internet.  It doesn't stop all the garbage from coming through but it stops most of it, and that matters.

• Talk to your kids about sex, sexuality, nudity, integrity, self-worth, respect, and who and what they want to be known for.  I know, for a lot of parents (and pretty much every teen on the planet) this is a horrifically uncomfortable subject to bring up with your kids but it's also one of the most IMPORTANT topics of conversation you'll ever have with them.  Just as important as talking with them, listen to them.  They've probably already seen things you didn't even know existed, or at the very least heard about them.  They might have questions, and they might have some really uncomfortable questions that make you feel unbelievably awkward but it's better they ask you, than ask some idiot that will give them an equally idiotic answer. Let's just be honest here, the world has no shortage of idiots, and idiotic ideals and worldviews.  If you're the one talking to your kids and listening to your kids and giving them the wisdom and genuine information they need to make the right choices, you're one step ahead of the idiocy out there.  I only wish as a younger mom I was more comfortable with this subject.  I wasn't, and I didn't talk to my older girls or listen to them the way I should have.  I tried, but I know I dropped the ball and I will not make that mistake with the younger ones.  Yes it's still a very awkward and uncomfortable subject but it's critical to be there for them.

I said I would address this from a Christian worldview and that can be easily summed up by my belief that the Bible is true, and declares that every person is created in the image of God.  That first fact alone dictates that people deserve respect. They do not deserve to be used, abused, mistreated as objects or callously disregarded. As for the sex-saturated/obsessed culture, it's rather heartbreaking that our society has taken what was created by God as the ultimate expression of love and commitment between a husband and wife, and made it a marketing tool, and so trivial that even 10 year kids don't even flinch when they see a naked popstar on a wrecking ball in a music video.  The very fact that the human race keeps going is proof enough that we are in fact, sexual beings.  However, that was meant to be a treasured thing, a private thing, a personal thing that you share with your spouse and your spouse alone.  The one thing you and your spouse have that is so personal between you two, that it's like this awesome magic secret that only you two share.  Sex was never supposed to be out there for the world to see, and when it is (and it is, in spades) all it does is cheapen it, trivialize it, and pervert it.

How you as a parent choose to approach this subject with your kids may differ considerably from mine.  At the very least though, I implore you to not ignore this, or think that your kids aren't affected by it.  One way I've read for parents to bring this up with their kids that makes a lot of sense to me is to ask them certain questions.  Such as "Do you know who Amanda Todd is?" (or, there may be, sadly, another girl or a boy in your local area that is more commonly known, or has been in the news, so you might want to ask them if they know who that person is), and go from there.  Most kids (like a lot of adults) have heard things, read things, and seen things that may or may not be accurate and may or may not have all the facts.  Do some research on this yourself and then bring it up with your teens.  Ask them how they feel about it.  Ask them what their friends say and how they feel about that, or what they might do if someone like Amanda was their friend.  Whatever you do, give them the freedom to share their thoughts and the tools to make good choices if and when they're ever in a situation where that wisdom is needed.

Being a good parent has never been easy, and it feels a lot harder now in the current culture but we have to stay on top of these things so our kids never have to suffer through the pain, humiliation and despair that we read about other kids going through. Our kids are precious, and the next generation. Even one victimized kid, is one too many.

If you have thoughts to share on this subject, please feel welcome to leave a comment.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Here I Stand - Just to be Crystal Clear

In the last few weeks there have been what seems like an onslaught of news items and comments about things in social media on social issue-type things that have made me want to blog more than once on each of them. Honestly, the comments I've read have made me want to go into full-on rant mode and verbally annihilate the most outlandish, stupid, illogical views but to say that out loud makes me a meanie and intolerant and all that junk we keep reading about. So, to keep it a little more concise, I'll just list them as I think of them and let you all know where I stand on them.  Your mileage will definitely vary since a.) I'm old (49 at the end of the year), and think like an old person, b.) I think most people are too stinking self-absorbed and just need to seriously shut up, go home  and get over themselves and c.) I'm a Christian and therefore all my opinions are 1.utterly invalid, no questions asked 2. antiquated (see a. "old person) and 3. prudish, Victorian and some other stupid label that someone came up with to make themselves feel all puffed up/modern/progressive). I'm sure I'll have more opportunity down the road to expand this list but for now, this is what we have...  so here we go:

(and these are in no particular order really, just off the top of my head - oh - and there will be grammatical errors because I'm not an English major or grammar cop, for the most part)

BULLYING

Bullying is wrong, wicked, cruel, mean, ugly, malicious and vile.  I hate it as much as anyone else hates it and wish it didn't exist in our culture. Bullying in 2013 has taken on a new face, in that it's a 24/7 issue as a result of social media and the result can FAR TOO OFTEN be fatal, terminal, and forever. In my day, this kind of garbage stopped when you left the school yard but that's totally different now, as we all know.  That in and of itself, breaks my heart for the kids who feel like there's no escape from it.  That being said, PLEASE, let's stop labeling every minor disagreement, varying opinion or culture clash as bullying - because all that does is water down what real harassment, intimidation and bullying is.  Stop using "bullying" as a buzzword to further the agenda of whatever issue you're on about.  It's not accurate and it's not fair to those who are genuine victims of this garbage.

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

Oh man.  There aren't enough words, or enough hours in the day for me to take this topic on.  Men who exploit women for financial and sexual satisfaction, women who exploit themselves for financial and emotional satisfaction and women who are so so so blind as to believe they're actually somehow "empowered" whenever they flash their girl-bits out there for all the world to see. Yes Miley, and all the other girls/young ladies out there, I'm talking to you, directly. The irrational and illogical and just plain insanity of that idea is like declaring the sky is green and the grass is blue and genuinely believing it, ALL THE WHILE, the very same people (sinful men who would just as soon bed you and walk away without ever once considering you as a thinking, feeling, rational human being) that you are trying to sway to your way of thinking are just laughing at you while getting turned on at your stupid choices to take off your clothes and show yourself.  YES, they're laughing at you.  You're feeding their depravity and they love it, and want more.  You're also serving up a feast to the rape-culture.  Think about that for a minute. Or more.

SAFETY-FIRST

Matt Walsh nailed it this week in his post about why your kid might be a "lazy wuss"  Not exactly the words I'd use but he exposed the insanity for what it is.  You can't whine and moan about how schools are not letting your kids do this, that and the other and then have a royal conniption fit when your kid gets hurt on the playground and file a lawsuit against the school district.  You cannot tie the school's hands then moan and groan because their hands are tied!  Ugh...

Okay, that's all I've got for now.  No question about it, I'll have more later because lately, I find myself getting more and more ticked off at all kinds of stupidity, immorality and blithering illogical ridiculousness.

If I've touched on anything you'd like to discuss further, I'm totally open to that.  Leave me a comment and let's talk about it.