Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dear Social Media Mom (and Dad)

Just over thirty-three years ago when I became a mama for the first time, at my very first visit at the pediatrician's office I noticed a sign in the waiting room that said "children live what they learn".  I don't remember if it was a commercial poster or a local, patient donated cross-stitch display, but my pediatrician had both types of wall art on her waiting room walls and in each of her exam rooms. She was an awesome doctor that had a huge heart for children.  Either way, the message stuck with me all these years.  It was the first time I ever saw it, and the message was quite clear:

I tried.  God knows I tried, but for the next 10-15-20 years life was super hard and I missed the mark daily. Sometimes hourly.  Since then, things have changed and I only pray I'm finally at a place where I can be that mom, the mom being the good example, more often than not.

I thought about all this when the recent trauma in the last few months has hit my local community of Woodstock Ontario.  To be honest though, I've actually been thinking about it for 33 years but it really became far more real recently, as five teens in my community have made the devastating decision to end their own lives as a result of of wide variety of social and personal pressures. Three of my own teenagers knew many of these kids, and it's become an almost daily conversation around our dinner table since the beginning of this year.  In a sense you can say, the reality of these heartbreaking suicides of these young people really gave that message some critical legs.  For that reason, and in keeping with the message of "children live what they learn" I really want to focus in on one, specific example that kids have in front of them these days where responsible, adults can make a phenomenal impact.


It's a game changer, when it comes to parenting.  Many of us never had this pressure when we were growing up, or when we ourselves were young moms. It's really only become a thing, in the last 10-12 years but many of our teens are 100% caught up in this world of communication.   No two ways about it, there's a learning curve for parents who really want to be there for their kids and be a good example.  Granted, none of what I have to say will be a 100% guarantee that your kids won't hear a conflicting message (from what you have to say) or see a conflicting example (from how you handle social media), but the awesome thing is, is that as their parent YOU will be the most constant, consistent example they will ever see.  Day in, day out, week after week, month after month, year after year.  If you think your kids aren't watching and listening to what you do and say, think again. Even teens themselves don't realize how much they take away from what mom or dad is doing, saying or responding to, but the most certainly do.  That old cliche "oh wow, I've become my own mom!" is proof enough, that we are in fact, the most influenced by the way we were raised up, either good, or bad. Nurture, or lack of it, has a tremendously profound effect on who or what our kids become.

So this part... is just for PARENTS and what kind of example you're setting for your kids as it pertains to social media (SM).  You may not think it matters, but I assure you it 100% totally matters, in ways you can't even see right now. Not all of these examples will apply to you but I would encourage you to read them all, think about them all, pray about them, talk to your kids about them, and really ask yourself what kind of constant, consistent example you're being for your young people.  Moms and dads alike.

• Do you... have your privacy settings locked down so that only people that actually know you can see what you're posting on a personal level? (sometimes you might want to post something publicly, but that should be a per post decision, not across the boards) On the same note, do you talk to your kids about why they should guard their privacy online as well as offline?

• Do you... avoid online drama shows, or do you engage in them?  This one is HUGE.  Sometimes you might feel it's important to post your viewpoint and that's fine, but do you step back and walk away when the serious drama begins or do you jump right in?

• Do you... hear or read something online and let loose on what a jerk, liar, moron, fraud, creep, etc., that person is and post your thoughts where any and all can read them? Well, some people are creeps and they should be called out. But more importantly... what message is that sending to those watching?  What message does that send to young people as an example of how we as adults, conduct ourselves and how we treat people we disagree with? Almost all of us are guilty of this, me included.  Sometime it's hard to temper our responses with grace, but we MUST.  That is, if we want our young people to know and understand that sometimes, while anger is justified, grace goes a long way too. There is a way to disagree, and even disagree passionately and still not devolve into a raging madman (or woman).

• Do you routinely block those who say unkind, ungracious things so that you're not tempted to respond to them, or do you leave your settings as is, and find yourself compelled to be drawn back in?  This is a tough call, depending on the issue but you really have to ask yourself if "this" is the hill you're willing to die on.  Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things?  Are these people really going to hear and apply what you have to say? Odds are: NO, they're not.  There are people out there who just like to push buttons and keep the garbage going. It's important to pick your battles and much of the time the things people like to argue about online aren't really worth arguing about in the first place.

• Do you... post for the sole purpose of getting likes, shares, re-tweets or whatever else?  If you do, stop that right now.  Social media is not a popularity contest and what you're teaching your young person is that their self-worth, their value as a person depends entirely on what complete strangers think of their pics, videos, or thoughts.  To be blunt, that's 100% trash.

You need to be teaching your young people that their worth is centered in a completely different place.  Are they reliable? Trustworthy? Responsible? Respectable? Modest? Honest? Honorable? The value of a person or the value of what they have to share (online or offline) is based on the content of their character as a human being, not on the cleavage selfie they just posted on instagram for the sole purpose of getting likes and compliments. This never changes. EVER. That stuff fades fast, and there's a girl with a racier cleavage selfie just 1 click away.  But the girl who just posted the desires of her heart or her hopes for the future or the thing she's struggling to understand?  That resonates with people, young and old alike.  But no matter what, that should never be the reason you post anything.  Of course you want people to connect with what you post but should want them to connect with it because it's good for them, encourages them, makes them smile or makes them think not because it makes you the center of attention.

• Do you... mom or dad, ever hear your kids or anyone else say "would you please put that phone down?"  If you do, DO IT.  And do it a lot more often. Stop assuming there are more important things happening on social media than are happening in your own home with the people you live with. I can assure you, unless there is a zombie apocalypse somewhere, there's a very good chance there is absolutely nothing more important going on with complete strangers, than there is with the people you love.  Be there for them, and set the example for them.

• Do you... mom, dad, have these conversations with your young people about these things?  If yes, you rock.  If no, start. Today.  There is no time like the present to let your kids know you're living in the very same SM world they are, and you deal with the same stuff they see every day.  It might be a little different for you than it is for them but at the end of the day, it's probably a struggle for both of you in very similar ways.  Talk to them, listen to them. Ask them "well, what would you do if..." and ask them what they think you should do in key situations regarding conversations about particular issues.  Teenagers are juggling so many thoughts at once and the one thing they really really want more than just about anything, is to be heard and respected for what they have to say.  That being said, what they have to say isn't always right or good, but listen to them and gently guide them into a better solution.  A smart solution, an honorable and respectable one. Sometimes, your young people may pleasantly surprise you and offer an answer even you haven't thought of.  Tell them, how much you appreciate what they had to say about that.   You may be the parent, but the fact is, sometimes young people see things we don't see and have a viewpoint we never even considered because we don't really get the social construct they deal with on a day to day basis.  Our world and our societal values change rapidly, and younger people are more in tune with it than older folks are.  It just the way it is. This doesn't mean we compromise our values or worldview, but it gives us a better starting place to respond to them if we actually hear what our young people are saying.

In Conclusion...

This was not meant to be a comprehensive answer to anything or to say that this mom has it all down pat. Far from it.  It's just one slice, of one part, of one issue today's parents and today's young people are dealing with.  It's not easy for any of us.  It's not easy for them, it's not easy for us as parents.  But it's something we have to invest in, pursue, and be consistent with.  We, as parents, have to give our young people GOOD examples so they can take that and expound on it, and build on it. It's an ongoing thing in our home, literally every single day.  we have a 12, 15, 17 and 18 yr old still at home dealing will all of these issues day in and day out.  We open the floor for them, we listen, we guide, we pray, we hope.  I only hope the most important thing we do is hear them, and give them the resources we've learned ourselves, on how to deal with these things and how to interpret these things.

We strive every day to be those parents. I pray you will too. Your kids are depending on it, even if they don't even know it right now.  Even if you don't realize it right now. They are.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

An Open Letter to Mean People

I know I'm not the first one to ever say this and sadly I won't be the last, but I just have to get something off my chest.  If you're not entirely sure who this letter is to, and if it might actually be directed toward you, here's a short list to check off:

• Do you often find that you jump to conclusions without having all the facts?
• Do you take every opportunity to voice your ignorant opinion in comment sections online?
• Do you routinely ignore those who tell you, you could be wrong?

If you answered yes to these questions, you know this letter is for you.  Not that you're going to actually read it and go "hey, I'm kind of a jerk, maybe I should stop that" or anything, but the entire universe would think it was awesome if you did. In any case, let's begin:

Dear Mean People Everywhere,

for the love of all things good and right and decent and full of compassion, SHUT UP.  Okay maybe that was a little harsh.  Let me begin again.

Dear Mean People (now known as MP), you may not realize this, but do you know who you actually are?

You're the people that other people make comment section memes for.  You know the ones, you've seen them.  The one of Michael Jackson in the movie theater smiling with a tub of popcorn & the text saying something stupid about just being here for the comments?  Yep, you've seen that one and guess what? It's not a compliment.  You know what it is?  What they all are?  They're memes created by people that are almost as mean and ignorant as you, but not quite, so they just spend their time feeding off the mean that you blurt out like some vile case of incurable verbal (digital) diarrhea. They're memes created to mock you, and mock others that feed off the same putrid diet you're dishing out. Sadly, I think you're encouraged by them and interpret it as a sign that says "yay you, nasty person, do more of that!" I find this sad, and super annoying.

It never seems to matter what the subject is of the post or the news story.  You're right there, ready, willing and able to type out the cruelest, most ignorant, usually profanity filled comment.  It doesn't matter if it's politics, weather, entertainment news, local crime stories or someone's back yard barbecue pics.  BOOM.  You drop your bomb and the first people to see it think to themselves "please God, send the meteors, now".  He doesn't, and more people like you clog the comment section like a vile, greasy, rotten-food, hairy sink clog.  Some folks respond and tell you how awful you are, but somehow you see that as a standing ovation.

Now here's where it gets real.  Maybe not for you, because you don't seem to grasp this basic human decency concept, but where it gets real for normal, decent folks everywhere.  Your words are like finely sharpened daggers into people's hearts.  Parents, with teens struggling with all sorts of issues in our confusing times, feel like throwing up when they see your words because they see you're just another wretched example to the teens themselves who also use your kind of hurtful words.  Teens themselves who are already conflicted about tons of issues sometimes take your words to heart. Sometimes they hurt themselves at your suggestions.  Sometimes, it's forever.  People of ALL ages who may be struggling with this, that or the other, see your poison opinions and simply cannot handle it. Grandparents from back in the day, just want to take out out back behind the woodshed and have a come to Jesus moment with you, and a switch of the closest tree, until you have a revelation about your wicked ways and call everyone Sir or Ma'am for the next 50 years. Point being: you revile people.  You hurt people with your words and your ignorance.

If you're a MP I don't even know if you're still reading.  Maybe I lost you a while back but if you're still with me on this, here's what a lot of us parents do: we use you as examples (like bacteria in a dish) to our young people and we say "See that guy?  Don't ever be that guy. No one likes that guy, and that guy probably doesn't even like himself."  And maybe you don't, I don't know.  Maybe someone was mean to you one too many times and you just snapped and decided to take it out on everyone else.  I guess that's possible but please know, there is another way.  Call someone, make an appointment, get some help so you're not "that guy".


Everyone who doesn't act like you, and everyone who understands compassion, wisdom and encouragement goes so much further that hateful ignorance.

Friday, June 17, 2016

FINALLY: Justice for Tim Bosma

Tim and Sharlene Bosma

Just over three years ago, I wrote a blog post called Justice for Tim Bosma.  At that time, Tim's remains had just been found the day prior and I wrote that post with a lot of tears. I haven't posted about the details since then but I have followed the case closely and for the last 4+ months I have sat each and every day and followed the court case against his accused killers Dellen Millard and Mark Smich.

By "followed the case" I mean, I have literally sat at my work station and followed every single local journalist live-tweeting the daily court proceedings. From the first day of trial at 10am right up until today, as the jury has begun what will be their 5th day of deliberations on the verdicts for both accused. I've scheduled appointments for days court was not sitting, and hubby has graciously run errands in my place while I sat and followed the trial.  I didn't have to do any of that, but I did have to do it.  The brutality of this crime against such a great guy who adored his wife and baby girl, just compelled me somehow to put my own life on hold in a sense, and sit through this trial along with everyone else who loved and is still grieving for Tim. I didn't even know him, but if ever there was "he's Every Good Guy" from all accounts, it was him.

When I wrote that post 3 years ago, the investigation into Tim's death had just begun. Pretty much every question everyone had about the who, when, how, why, etc., has been answered as the result of that investigation and the details were more gruesome than any of us really wanted to know. Especially for Tim's parents, and Tim's wife.  And Laura Babcock's family as well, since the two accused in this case have also been charged in the first degree murder of Laura.  Something no one knew, until the investigation into Tim's murder.  It's even worse than that though.  Millard has also been charged in the murder of his own father.  A death that was initially ruled as a suicide, until this investigation just opened a huge can of worms.

I've never followed a court case before like this.  Even back when everyone and their dog seemed to be following the OJ case.  But this case was different, so I followed and I've learned a great deal about the way the criminal justice system works here in Ontario.

I've learned what type of evidence can be ruled either admissible or inadmissible, and why for each. I've learned how expert testimony is verified by the courts, and what they can and cannot say. I've learned that in certain types of cases, for a variety of reasons, legal arguments between the prosecution and defense cannot be in front of the jury, and they must be excused.  Those legal arguments can also not be disclosed publicly by any of the media or public present.  That part is very interesting.  The jury cannot hear what the attorneys are discussing but the public can if they happened to be in court that day.  I've learned much of what the jury was unable to hear was just as disturbing as what they did hear.  I've also learned how a judge charges the jury with their duties on how they're to reach a verdict.  It's a very complicated process and one that cannot be taken lightly but must be approached with all due diligence.  In this case, 12 jurors must come to a unanimous verdict (and they only have 4 possibilities to choose from) for each accused.  Each verdict doesn't have to be the same, but each does have to be unanimous.  I've never served on a jury but I can only imagine the gravity they are dealing with, as they decide the fate of these two accused.

So today I wait.  Sharlene Bosma waits. Tim's parents wait.  All the Bosma friends and family who are called the Bosma Army, waits.  Southern Ontario waits... Canada waits to learn what the jury will come back with.  While nothing can bring Tim back, we all wait for earthly justice for Tim, and many of us pray for this horrible chapter of life to be finally over for the Bosma family.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Inspired by Creation

If someone would have asked me three years ago what a Peony was, the only answer I would have would be "a flower".  I wouldn't know what color they are, what the bush looked like, how they smelled or what they even looked like. 

And then, we bought a house. We bought the house in January, it closed in May but we didn't move in until the end of June, so we really didn't know what the previous owners had growing in the flower beds in the back or front yards until the house closed and we started moving things in little by little. Much to my delight, I discovered all sorts of gorgeous flowers. Among them, a dark pink Peony bush and a pale pink one right next to it. The first time they bloomed and I saw how beautiful they are, and the first time I smelled them, I was in love. 

Over the last few weeks as I've been working in the back yard I've been watching and waiting for the blooms and they have finally arrived!  Well, the dark pink ones have. The pale pinks take a week or so longer, for some reason.   In any case, while waiting for them I was inspired to create a new wedding stationery collection featuring Peonies. I wanted to capture both the fine, intricate lines of the petals themselves as well as the watercolor look of the petals and keep it subtle and beautiful.  

Instead of using an actual photograph (like the one above) I decided to illustrate a single bloom in pure white, and make the background the watercolor texture illusion. I couldn't be happier with the way the design came out, and I decided to use a contrasting combination of fonts, keeping the bride and groom's name in a lovely, embellished script, and everything else in a traditional uppercase.  The end result is a soft, subtle contrast in color with the Peony theme and white font choice standing out.  All because the previous owners of our home planted beautiful flowers!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

I've Got The Chritis!

Fact: kids are funny

Kids, especially very short kids, at about the age of 2-ish tend to say the funniest things.  But the funny keeps going all the way up until about the age of 10 when kids still make up words to describe things. 

Some of the funniest words my own kids have ever said?

Motor-wood: chainsaw
Lilliloon: living room
Washing-shmeen: washing machine

To this day, in our family we still use some of the mispronounced words the kids first called things.  "Chicka-bob" was good job and "auda-deet!" was "time to eat".  If you're ever in our house at dinner time, inevitably one of the kids (or adults) will say "auda-deet!" and everyone (except you) will know what that means. No one will bother to explain it, unless you ask. 

Not long ago, for some goofy reason I thought about the words my brother and I used to make up to describe things when we were kids.  Just recently I talked to him about it and neither of us are certain, but I think it was him that invented the Chritis.

Pronounced like cry'-tus, Chritis is (or was, in our minds at the time) a combination of words describing the very worst things little kids can ever imagine having: a really bad cold, and arthritis. Hence: Chritis.  Because, when you're a little kid, bad colds and arthritis are the worst things you ever hear adults say or mention in front of you. So if you combine them for the worst possible medical diagnosis...

Some examples of childhood Chritis:

1. the kid in class that always smells of urine has the Pee Chritis.
2. the kid who shows up one day with a cast has the Bone Chritis
3. if you wake up one morning with a wretched stomach virus you have Belly Chritis
4. if you happen to get up one day with a creepy, spotted rash, you have the Red Spotted Chritis
5. if you get side aches in gym class, you've got the Runner's Chritis

A few months ago I woke up one day to a most peculiar, itchy rash on my arm.  I've never had skin conditions or rashes and this one was most perplexing so I announced to my husband I had the Skin Chritis!  Which made him laugh.  I had to explain what Chritis actually was. Then I had to explain it to the kids. I don't even know why I called it that, but from somewhere way deep in the back of my brain, that's the only word that made sense.  It made them all laugh and it made me laugh too.

Not long after, our 17 year old came home from a grueling day of rugby practice and announced (referring to all her bruises) that she had acquired Field Chritis.  We all nodded our heads and understood.  Hubby and I both played baseball as teens and we often came home from games & practice with the Field Chritis from grounders slammed into shins, or sliding into base and later picking gravel out of the outer thigh with a tweezers.  We completely understood. Sports Chritis can be especially nasty. Now, when any of our kids has a "thing" whether it's headache, a back ache, acne, sore throat, or even a bad hair day, it's The Chritis.  We all get it.  We've all had it, and we understand.

Yesterday I made a trip the the ER because I had what I suspected of being an ear infection.  I've never had one before (lucky me, getting to 51 years old and never having one!) but as I was sitting in the triage section of the waiting room, crying, because the pain was so intense, my thought was "I've got the Ear Chritis!" and it actually made me laugh out loud. From somewhere in my brain I became 8 yrs old and I was declaring to no one in particular...  I had the Chritis.  Thankfully, no one besides me was in triage waiting for medical care, or they might assume I had the Mental Chritis.

Sometimes, life is just funny.  Even when it stinks, and you have the Chritis, it's still funny. My wish for all reading?  That you never experience the Chritis, in any form.  But if you do, may it make you laugh, and remember that God is still in control, even of the Chritis.