Tag Archives: Children

The Pain and Heartbreak of Invisible People

Today I offer you a poem and a story, and sadly neither are intended to make you smile. There are no pictures and there’s also a good chance that it will probably make you somewhat uncomfortable.   

However, uncomfortable is what leads to change. Uncomfortable is what makes us say “no more”.     I keep hoping that more people every day will become more and more uncomfortable, so they’ll look outside their comfort zone and see the need around them, and feel compelled to affect change.

Hello, my name is Anna and I’m six years old
I live with my mama and papa
They can’t always afford to feed me as often as they would like
They can’t afford to buy me clothing very often
We don’t have a house, but we have shelter sometimes
I used to have a brother but he died
I love my parents, and I know that love me too
They try so very hard
We are part of your society
a part you either don’t see or won’t see
I probably won’t be here very much longer
I just wanted to say hello

Hello my name is Anna and I’m ten years old
My daddy died, Mama says someone shot him
Mama has lots of friends, she says that’s how she pays the rent
I used to have a brother but he died too,
Mama said we couldn’t feed him anymore
I worry about my Mama she puts needles in herself
But she says” don’t worry baby God is coming for us all”
I know that I’m supposed to believe in God
and I guess I do
I just haven’t seen him in my neighborhood
Mama’s calling for me now I have to go make her lunch
anyway I just wanted to say hello

Go Ask Alice
This was published in 1971 and still brings light to the dark subject of drugs and homelessness. This book can be read here online or it can be downloaded

Hello, my name’s Anna and I’m fifteen.
I know what my mama did to raise me,
I understand now because I have a daughter now
and I call her Ella… I’d do anything to make sure that she has enough
food and clothes, but things keep getting in the way.
it’s so expensive, and they want so much from me.
I love my little girl but sometimes when she cries when she’s hungry
I just want to get away…
so I do…

Hello, My name is Ella or so I’m told,
they said that my Mama named me after my grandma,
but I never knew her
They tell they she loved me very much
but I never knew
I should have had a daddy
but they never knew
They are closing the home tomorrow
because they have no money
I ask where will I go
but nobody knows

Hello, My name is Ella and I’m 12 years old,
for as long as I can remember
I’ve been sold from pimp to pimp                                                                          for cigarettes or pool wagers or on  a whim,
I am chattel, I am worthless.
I don’t even care enough to despair

DsHello, My name is Ella
I’m a corpse under a bridge,
I’ve been here for weeks
and no one seemed to notice,
I wonder why that is
~ Anonymous

Rape is about violence, not sex.  If a person hits you with a spade, you wouldn’t call it gardening would you?

I lived with a woman named Susan in the homeless shelter I stayed in, along with her husband Dave and their daughter, April (she was 8 maybe?).  Dave had a massive stroke that left him confined to a wheelchair, having to be fed and changed, and unintelligible speak to anyone other than his wife or daughter.  In fact, everyone originally thought he was her father because he had aged so much from all that he’d been through medically.  Sadly she didn’t know enough to apply for social security.

They were a single income household and Susan stopped working when she found out that she was pregnant. They lost their home, most of their possessions, their cars.  And now Dave was an invalid who couldn’t take care of himself.    With limited skills and experience, the only place that would hire her was McDonald’s.  Susan would take care of Dave as soon as they woke up, along with getting April off to school.  Susan would leave to go to work, then when April came “home” after school, then she’d be her dad’s caretaker until Susan got “home” around midnight, walking both ways because the car they had been living in had been repossessed.

On the way “home” one night Susan was stopped by three rough looking men, one of which had been kicked out of the shelter previously for being an asshole, and he blamed her.  She had asked him to watch his mouth around her daughter and he wouldn’t and got nasty with her, so she told the guard and asked that he try to handle it.

Then he got into it with the guard and started an altercation, needless to say, he was out for good. Not necessarily a good thing in Colorado in the winter(oh well); he brought it on himself but of course he blamed everyone but himself.   So here she was, alone, walking “home” and suddenly surrounded by these three street thugs.  The one with the vendetta and two of his buddies.  They decided to drive train on her because gang-rape is a worthy punishment for asking the guard to make you stop talking in 4-letter words around someone’s young daughter.

I couldn’t sleep at night back then either so I was wide awake as always when she came in later than usual.  Her hair messed up, her uniform was a mess, dirty, ripped in places with some blood on it, and a face that was stained with tears.  We all knew something was wrong, and it wasn’t hard to tell what that something was.

We tried suggesting to her to go to the hospital to get checked out, but she refused, almost in a panic attack, saying that she couldn’t go because if they admitted her, then that would leave her 8-year-old daughter there to take care of her father, and not only was that not something she wanted to do to April.  The big problem was that because since neither April or David was self-sufficient, not only would they not be allowed to stay at the shelter, but children’s services & adult protective services could be called to take both of them away.

A couple of us asked her if they could help her get cleaned up, We all offered to help her family in her absence, I even told her that I’d drive her so that everyone wouldn’t be nosy if an ambulance showed up, but she just said,  “no, I just need to be with my family right now”. And just as Susan said, she climbed into her bunk between her daughter and her husband and cried all night.  The next morning she told David what happened, we could see it in his face when she told him. He sobbed for 3 days straight

Her pants were ripped pretty badly when she was attacked, so we all chipped in to buy her a new pair of work pants so she could still work.  By dinner time the next day, the entire shelter knew what happened. After that, the guards let a couple of the guys out each night so they could walk her home.

Lockdown was at 10, lights out at 10:30. And if you didn’t have a pre-authorized pass signed by your employer,  it didn’t matter if you had Jesus himself with you for backup, and you *still* weren’t getting in.  The guards couldn’t leave while they were on duty but would let the (rougher) guys go out every night passed lockdown so they could go get her and bring her back. And the guys all took turns, this way if anyone was watching they’d know that there were more than two guys backing her up.

Sunday night was something that well all looked forward to.  That’s when we all went to Church in Manitou Springs, where they served dinner… real food, not the crap we were used to.  You had to be there on time because they only had so many portions.  The soup kitchen in town had those big giant pots, and if they had a significant amount left, it went into tomorrow’s meal, but not at the church in Manitou Springs.  It was good food, sometimes it was the only good thing that happened to us for the whole week.

I still had my car,  a small Chevette knockoff.  I would earn gas money from people to take them places. On Sunday nights it was great because I was always guaranteed to get three guys in the back seat, with me & my boyfriend up front with me. They all gave me $5 each and gas was still 99¢ a gallon back then so it was a great income for someone who couldn’t find a job.  I also did it for the ones who went to the plasma center during the week because they were not up to walking back.   I lost my job because they found out that I was living in the shelter so this was the only money I was making, by being a taxi to my fellow “shelter rats” (as we were called).

Anyway, we all were sitting down with our plates…  it was loud, filled with happy talk because of a real meal and a change of scenery, dishes, silverware, and glasses all clanking and banging. The pastor would have everyone bow their heads and he’d say grace then we could eat. Well he said grace, we dug in and within a few minutes, you could hear a pin drop.

“…and then the angels of justice and mercy came for Susan.”

It was about a month after Susan was attacked and the three guys that raped her made the mistake of coming into the Church basement for dinner. The two guys behind him knew their world was going to change when they turned around to leave and there were two guys barring the door. The leader, I don’t remember his name from 31 years ago, but I do remember his face. He was the blackest person I’d ever seen. Skin the color of espresso, the only thing that gave him away in the dark was his teeth and his eyes.  He was wearing a black leather jacket and black pants which gave away how he got around at night (like a ninja) and on his shoulder a heavy chain with a metal padlock on it.

The pastor came out and asked what was going on and one of the guys told him. He looked at those three, grossly outnumbered and said, “I’m sorry we’re full and there’s no more to eat” (which was true) but elicited a very forceful no.  The pastor told him “Well then, I’m sure the boys will you help you find the way to your car.”  The guy spoke up telling the Pastor that he didn’t have a car. So the pastor glossed over his response and said “God doesn’t care if you have a car or not, he cares about *other* things like how you live, how you treat people, and so on.  Boys, If you wouldn’t mind, could you please take these late-comers out to their car, I have to go check on dessert.”

They hadn’t even made it out of the basement when everything jumped off. He rolled his shoulder to drop the chain to put it in his hand but it got snatched away from him while his face stopped someone’s fist from running away. The guy who grabbed the chain from him swung it…

I was “caught staring with the dumb look” (as we used to call it.)  I’d never seen a cheekbone before, or any bone for that matter (other than watching Deliverance, but it was not the same.)  I was just completely stunned at just how white it was, but that was of course in contrast with the espresso colored skin and the bright red blood that was now going everywhere. The next blast was a right hook that cold-cocked him.  It was at that point when he was dragged out into the parking lot and his friends (who were still conscious at least) took off.  When thug #1 came to a couple of minutes later, he was freaking out about how he got there and the amount of blood ( a bit dazed don’t you know) and he got his ass kicked. He suddenly came to his senses, stood up and then took off as quickly as he could like his friends did.

Our guys came back in just as the pastor came out, who took one look at them and said “boys, it was very nice of you to help those gentlemen with their car trouble, but you’ve all gotten so dirty, you need to all come in the kitchen and wash up all of you, you need to be presentable for dinner.” (read: Just in case the police showed up.)

I was there for another couple of months but that guy was never seen around town ever again to my brief knowledge.

I really do hope that Susan and David, along with their daughter April were able to move on and move up. I hope they were given access to the services they needed to survive and with any luck, they were able to get help for all that they had endured. 

So, why did I tell you this long-winded story you ask? 

The reason for this is to use light to see those who are in the shadows, to see those who are normally invisible to the population as a whole.  The homeless are a large part of our country’s landscape as well abroad.  We see the pictures of the homeless during the Great Depression.  People standing in lines a block long.  People living in tents We don’t see that, just the occasional person standing at an intersection with a cardboard sign, we don’t see them.  So if there is such a homeless problem, where are they?  Why don’t they look the same?  Easy, back then are programs now like SNAP, Welfare, and WIC that didn’t exist back then.  There were no homeless shelters, just people living in Hoovervilles.  No food pantries, no soup kitchens per say, there were soup lines (the  bonus there was you could fill a soup pot up so that you could feed your children, and bread lines.  Can you imagine?

The problem is that these people along with myself at the time and even now as a disabled person, is that we are/were invisible. I swear, I would love 10 acres of land, cover it with tiny houses, solar panels on every roof, mandatory recycling, a place in the middle with a laundry room and hot showers (just in case you’re too tall or just fluffy like me), wifi for the community, since nowadays places will only take applications online. A community center with a couple of computers for kids to do homework, gather up books for a take a book/leave a book library, the same goes for DVD’s and we would have weekend gatherings so you could get to know your neighbors and further know that you’re not alone, you’re not the only person that this has happened to and you just have to get up, dust yourself off. And they’d all have to pitch in taking care of the community…. emptying trash, raking leaves or cutting grass or shoveling snow, helping someone with a handyman project, etc and with the goal that this is temporary, you get your life back together or create a new one and you move up and let that tiny house help out the next person or couple in need.

Well if anyone has an extra $150K lying around and can’t think of what to do with it, give me a call…

In the meantime, thanks for listening and please, don’t have invisible people surround you. Look for them and you’ll see.  And once you see, you’ll have them in your heart and want to help

Advertisements

Someone is falling down on the Job, and it’s not who you think.

I got up too early this morning.  As usual, I was checking out Facebook over my first cup of coffee or tea and something really caught my attention.  It was a Facebook post by a woman I’ve never met named Julie Marburger wrote this and a friend of mine shared it.

www_facebook_com_julie_d_knight
Julie Marburger’s desperate plea to get people to do their job.

This really fired me up.  The closest I’ve ever been to teaching was in Girl Scouts (both girls and adults), which is a one-shot 1-2 hours, a weekend of teaching leaders how to take their girls camping, none of which is equivalent to someone in a classroom with 30+ kids for a 6-1/2 hours with, if they are lucky will equate to about 4 hours of actual learning because of disruptions and the critical to get them refocused and on track.

When the bell rings they are not done then spend the next few hours (and time at home as well) putting together lesson plans, grading papers, reading essays, creating tests and other handouts, and shopping for supplies they need for themselves, their classroom, and their students.  All that and a crappy paycheck too!  It’s no wonder why districts are running short on educators. This is how Julie articulated her point…


 

This is yet another example of why I don’t believe in children.  They are adults in training, as a parent, it is your job to prepare them to live and function in society when they turn 18.  

The word “children” is continually used as an excuse… They’re just children…Kids will be kids.  Let me be the first to say this if you haven’t heard it already, kids will not be kids, kids will be adults.  Sooner than you think.

If they cannot survive independently they will be the ones living in your basement until they’re 30, can’t hold down a job, can’t maintain a relationship, all because YOU ARE FAILING THEM AS A PARENT!  

Seriously, how can you even consider sending them to college if they can’t handle basic life skills?  And if you think they’re irresponsible now, just wait until keggers and beer bongs are introduced to them.

When you send your child to school, they are there to learn.  It is your job to teach them respect and proper behavior before they leave home to go to school. The more a teacher has to correct bad behavior, that is time away from teaching them what they need to know.  

It is not a teacher’s job to raise your child. It’s not daycare, it’s not a damned circus and it can’t be a free-for-all. Do your job so that your child can succeed in life, and don’t blame a teacher for your child’s poor behavior and inability to pay attention, respect materials and learn.

The more that caring educators get burned out and leave the more the requirements to be hired will lessen in order to get people into the classrooms and the more your child will be taught by people showing up for a (meager) paycheck.  This too is why we’re seeing more online schools will become the norm because a teacher can take 60 students instead of 30, the algorithms can help grade test and the teacher can get more done while at work because they won’t have to keep kids in line and focused.

You know those people who work the drive-thru that don’t give a damn about their job or your order? If things like this continue, prepare to see them on Parent/Teacher night.

 

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie ॐ 

My Epiphany For Social Change

I want to precursor this by letting you know that I actually wrote this about 10 years ago.  It’s just as relevant now as it was then.  I probably should have sent it to the White House as a petition.

If any of you have any ideas or connections to make this happen, or make it better, by all means, let me know and feel free to share this.

A little back story… My ex-husband (Kid’s biological father) was ordered to court when she was 5 so we could start receiving child support.  He never responded to or complied with court information requests for job and income information.  The child support order was written based on minimum wage (which was $4.25 at the time).  Truly, each time there was a minimum wage increase I should have gone back to court to have it adjusted.  I, however, didn’t feel it worth the time since he wasn’t paying it anyway.

President Clinton signed into law a bill making it a felony to flee the state to avoid paying child support.  Shortly afterward, I discovered that he moved to Kentucky.  I called child support enforcement and was told that they couldn’t go after him because even though we were separated we were still legally married.  (I was not able to collect government assistance including him in our ranks however because we didn’t live together.  See a little problem there?  I know I did.)

Fast forward our story to about 3 years ago.  All of a sudden I start receiving small child support checks.  To this day I’m not sure if a) he just ran out of under the table jobs, b) he finally stayed at a job long enough for the support order to kick in or c) lost track of time and thought she was too old to have to pay child support somehow thinking it goes away when they get older.

The checks lasted a couple of months (every two weeks) before child support finally issued me one of their new debit cards.  Then the payments stopped.  Over the next year, I would get one randomly here or there before they stopped again altogether.

Well these sporadic payments triggered an audit and I was required to go to court several times and of course, he never showed up.  After almost 14 years of non-support and arrearages of over $20,000 (remember, this was based on $4.25 an hour) child support they decided that it was the time that an arrest warrant was issued and that he should go to jail.

I asked the attorney when he goes to prison does the state pay the support on his behalf?  No.  So let me get this straight… he hasn’t willingly contributed to the raising of his daughter at any opportunity, he owes me over $20K and now I have to support him during his incarceration via my tax dollars???  In addition, when he gets out of prison he’ll have a record making it even more difficult for him to get a job?  How does this help me, our daughter, him, anyone really?

I know that mine is not the only side of the coin on this issue.  I know that many “deadbeats” are classed as such, not because they don’t want to take care of their kids but because they can’t.  Poor job markets, unfair support orders (ones favoring the child/ren with the ex but not factoring in the children living with you because you don’t have a support order for them since they live in your home), support orders that don’t allow enough left in your check for you to live on but if you get a second job they’ll take that too, etc…

So here’s the epiphany… open the draft to “deadbeat parents” after say, one year of non-support.  Don’t wait for 5, 10, 15 years for things to get so out of control.  Here’s my reasoning…

By being drafted into the military, the draftee’s pay is based on the number of dependants guaranteeing that all parties are covered and no one is getting the short end of the stick.

All parties would be covered by insurance.  Sadly, even if an employer does offer insurance the cost is even more prohibitive when you have child support being deducted from your pay.  In addition, life insurance is also part of the package making sure that your child will continue to be taken care of on your behalf should something happen to you before they reach 18.

Being in the military is recession proof as well as lazy proof.  You can’t get laid off or fired.  Your job will never be outsourced and your hours will never be cut.

Being in the military is salaried position so there are no fluctuations in pay making it difficult to pay a set support amount if you miss a days work.

Being in the military will offer the opportunity for you to learn a trade and/or go to college.  Most Americans can’t afford to go back to college once they take on the financial responsibilities of a family.  This tends to add to the frustration because this is where we truly see the value of an education at its fullest as an adult. We now “get it” that we need the degree to get the better job to better support our families.  The military allows you to do both without you or your family starving and/or becoming homeless.

I realize this is a two-sided coin.  There are those that would find the miliary as a deterrant and that’s fine.  Do what you have to do to keep from being drafted.  For others out there, this would be a welcome solution and a means to get on track as opposed to prison which will have negative ramifications for the rest of your life.  By and large I believe this could be the most proactive step our country could take to reform a system that isn’t working.

Please give me your feedback and let me know what you think.  If you really like the idea, share it with others – including people in position to make change.

Maggie

Spread the Word, Lend a Hand

** Update**  Christion Isaac-Alexander Shaw  6/20/09 – 12/18/14   Please consider helping with this fundraiser to help with the arrangements and passing on this story of Christion and his life.  Thank you – Maggie **

 

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while.  I have been experiencing many life changes, most positive… a new relationship, new additions to the family with more on the way, a little travelling with a whole lot of visiting, etc.

Today’s post unfortunately is not so upbeat.

Today we’re stepping up to a window into the life of an incredible single mother and her two sons… a one seven-week old named Cameron and the other a five-year old named Christion who has muscular dystrophy.

 

10411891_10152809936304223_8213019713494721850_n

 

This is my friend KaShonda and her boys.  Christion is 5 years old and has Nemaline myopathy Muscular Dystrophy.  He’s a great kid.  He laughs and plays and watches TV… loves Handy Manny and was completely enamored with being able to watch PBS Kids on my iPad and snuggling with me while Mom and I got to spend time together.  In many ways Christion is just like any other 5-year-old.

 

 

10494703_10152544660644223_1438197855785837736_n

 

Then there’s all the special extras that do not surround a typical 5-year-old… oxygen, suction to clear his lungs, a belt that provides air pressure that simulates pounding on his back to loosen the mucus in his lungs, wheelchairs, monitors, pulse oximeters, etc.

While as a country we’re trying to get kids away from the happy meals, Christion has never had one and probably never will.  Christion doesn’t eat, he has a feeding tube directly into his stomach with nutrition that comes in a pouch.

 

10646657_4574978348115_8600501728360998714_n

 

Christion doesn’t have babysitters or daycare, but has home nurses.  In fact KaShonda even went to nursing school just so she could not only be better prepared to take care of her son but so that she would be able to work at home with him.  It doesn’t get anymore incredible than that, truly a devoted mother.

Sadly just a few short weeks ago, Christion’s health once again took a down turn when he developed pneumonia and wound up in the ICU.  Finally improving enough to be moved out of ICU, you can see that spirits were high.

 

Tickle time!
Tickle time!

 

Later this very same day, November 28th, Christion coded.  Medical personnel worked on him extensively to revive him but he was down for 12-13 minutes.    This is Christion right now…

 

10846415_399458066873191_1354376197947122985_n

 

Heartbreaking is the only word that applies and yet that word doesn’t go deep enough.  He is 5 years old and should be writing letters to Santa, not hooked to monitors unresponsive.  His Mom should be trying to sneak in presents to surprise him with, not crying bedside in a hospital room, praying for her son.

10377545_10152818977849223_2870303999933511563_n

Then there’s Cameron.  For those who would say that thank God the 7 week-old is “normal”, they are incorrect.  While Cameron is quite healthy he is in no way normal.

Seven week-old babies should be in their mothers arms, not bounced around to relatives so his mom can keep her vigil at Children’s Hospital.  Cameron should have a big brother that can teach him to throw a football, intimidate kids who try to bully him, teach him how to date, how to drive and be his best friend.

UPDATE:   While the CT scan and EEG’s looked promising, an MRI has shown that Christion has suffered massive trauma on his whole brain and the prognosis is not positive and family is preparing for the inevitable.   Prayers are still needed for this family, for strength and courage to help them along their difficult journey.  Any donations would help considerably.  Please consider sharing this post or the fundraiser page to help.

Donations for Christion

Donations for research can be made to:

Muscular Dystrophy Association
National Office
222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60606
888-HELP-MDA
(888-435-7632)

 

If your children are healthy, give thanks.  Not just once, but every day.  Life is fragile and it can be short.  Please take the time if you can to help a friend or neighbor who may need that extra hand.  Consider donating to research to continue the fight for a cure for this and other diseases and disabilities that hurt children and torment parents.  Even a few dollars a month can do a lot of good.

Have a safe, happy and healthy with your family and please join me in #PrayersforChristion.  Please share this story and allow his story to open hearts and maybe a wallet or two.  We can’t have too many people praying for him or sending positive energy their way.
{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Our Future Needs Help

Homeless child at soup kitchen, Her family was living out of a car.
Homeless child at soup kitchen, Her family was living out of a car. Taken June 2008

I was reading an article entitled  “The 10 Worst States for Student Homelessness“.  It is a very well written and enlightening piece that encourage you to take the time to read.  In it, it offers a link to the Dept of Ed’s report citing the actual statistics per state for the 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years.  Numbers are not complete for the current school year since it has not completed.

California tops out at 21.3% of their students are homeless!  New York comes in 2nd at 8.3% and Texas at 8.1%. This is positively horrifying!  These numbers are a representation of the total students statewide.  The majority of the homeless are in urban areas.  So what are the percentages in those inner city classrooms?

How can we expect children to succeed with so much working against them?  How can teachers teach effectively when children are worried about where their next meal is coming from, do they have a safe place to go after school and where they will sleep tonight?

It’s hard enough to maintain employment when you are homeless,  I know first hand.  If you haven’t read my post “Insights Into the Dark” please check it out.

Personally I’d really love to see the statistics of absenteeism rates for homeless vs housed students.  I know how hard it was for kids in the shelter that I stayed at to attend school, but at least they had somewhere to be picked up and dropped off from.  Unfortunately it was in the middle of the bus route so everyone knew exactly where they lived.

Imagine the family that is rotating between friends and relatives, a night or two in each place; or the family who is staying in their car or worse yet outdoors.

Here’s a video from an episode of Ellen that is from September 2011.  It’s about an amazing lady named Sherrie Gahn who is the principal of an elementary school in Las Vegas.  Well instead of me telling you, watch it and we’ll talk more…

Gave you chills right?  I know it did for me and a lot of other people.  It’s pretty overwhelming.  Sherrie Gahn is working miracles and thankfully she got some huge help.  In fact, after this show aired, Justin Bieber personally donated $100,000 to the school.  That being said, that’s just one elementary school.

You heard her numbers… 85% on free or reduced lunch, a large portion of them are homeless, even though the statistics for the state of Nevada list the reported homeless students at 0.9 %.   Less than one percent, yet that much poverty.

So what is it like for kids and teachers in LA, living in a state that reports it has approximately 53,000 members of their students are homeless?  Or New York with over eight thousand students that are homeless?  And that’s just homeless.  That doesn’t consider those living in poverty that have managed to retain a roof over their heads.

As a parent, I know how much I was required to provide for my child when she was in school.  I don’t think there’s a school around that doesn’t rely on at least 2 or more fundraisers to help them make ends meet each year.  None of those fundraisers are even designed to cover the out of pocket costs being covered by teachers.  For the schools dealing with this much poverty, where does the fundraising come from?  Certainly not parents.  So the schools do without, putting an added financial burden on already stretched parents.  How many children would you guess have all the tools they need to succeed?  I’m going to guess not enough.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, approximately 19.6 million children received free or reduced lunches in the 2011-2012 school year.  During that same school year there were a total of 952,281 homeless students (reported).  So the homeless only (roughly) represent half of the children living at or below poverty incomes.  As you can see, there many, many children that need help.

While it’s easy to throw up our hands, note that it’s an overwhelming problem or just simply say not my kid/not my problem, the fact is… it is your problem, and mine, and everyone else’s.  You see these kids are going to be adults that need to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, and everything else we need to make our society function.   They will be taking care of you and me as time marches on.  As the song says, our children are our future.  We need to take care of them now so they can take care of us later.

Please consider participating in a local supply drive or even creating one.  Talk to your local schools, churches, community centers or even your employer to find out who they help and when so that you may participate.  My employer does school supply drives twice a year in addition to food drives, clothing drives, etc.

You can also contact one of the following organizations to help as well.  If you are in need please contact the same resources for assistance.

The Kids in Need Foundation
This foundation distributes supplies to 2.4 million students annually. While they do not donate directly, through a national network of Resource Centers, teachers can get free supplies for their students in need.  The foundation also distributed items through community backpack and supplies giveaway programs throughout the country.  For communities without its Resource Centers, community organizations often provide supplies to local students by conducting backpack giveaways through the foundation.  Go to http://www.kinf.org/ for more information on applying to receive support for a school, or to donate.
 Boys & Girls Club of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America host a national supply drive, called Tools for Back-to-School, through an online play-to-give game and in-store support at retailers across the nation. These supplies, as well as supplies donated by their partners, Disney, Michaels, and Staples, are delivered directly to local Boys & Girls Clubs. Families can contact their local Boys & Girls Club for more information on back-to-school support. To find your local club visit http://www.greatfutures.org and click Find A Club.
 AdoptAClassroom.org
AdoptAClassroom.org is a national, nonprofit organization whose goal is to make sure that all children have access to a quality education. They start by supporting classroom teachers, and since 1998 have raised over $18 million for classrooms across the country. Through this program, teachers are able to make purchases to enrich their classrooms, and students benefit. To support a classroom, visithttp://www.adoptaclassroom.org.
 The Give with Target Program
The retail chain will donate $5 million to schools across the country to help ensure that students and teachers have the supplies they need to start the new year. From now through September 21, guests can cast their vote for a school of their choice by visiting Target’s Facebook page. Once a school has received 25 votes, Target will donate $1 per vote, with a (maximum donation of $10,000 per school). The cash donation will provide schools with undesignated funds to purchase the materials their students and teachers need most. For more info, visit http://givewith.target.com/.

As always friends, thanks for listening and letting me share.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Teaching the Keys to Safety is Essential

When my daughter was still in elementary school there was a stranger danger alert.

Remember this

 

While I no longer have a child at home, seeing this picture on Facebook brought it all rushing back.  My daughter rode her bike back and forth to school.  We lived just a few blocks from the school which made her a walker but she had no one to walk with her.  Due to severe health problems at the time resulting in surgery, I was unable to drive her.

According to the school, riding a bike to school was considered a “privilege” reserved for 3rd graders and above.  I finally got them to concede that riding a bike by yourself was safer than walking by yourself.  And since they weren’t willing to walk with her or find someone to do so, they finally allowed her to ride solo.

In addition, I had gotten my daughter a Tracfone that she took with her anytime she was out by herself so she could call for help if she fell off her bike riding around the neighborhood or later on needed to check in to tell me when she got to her final destination (store, library, etc).   I used to get her the card with a year of service every Christmas and every year she had leftover minutes that would roll over.  At the time they only came with 150 minutes, so she did great!

Anyway, on “stranger danger day” the whole school was on lock down.  I was panicking because she was late and I had no way of finding out what was going on and no way to go looking for her.  (I think this was a week or two after my abdominal surgery.)  I called the school and thankfully found out what was going on.   My daughter in the meantime was panicking because she was going to be late and she knew I would worry and they wouldn’t let her call home on her phone or theirs!  (Yes, I took that up with the school too.)

Here in the Midwest, all towns are equipped with tornado sirens.  They are tested everywhere on Wednesdays at noon and carry an unmistakable sound that lets everyone for miles know of impending danger.

I wrote a letter to the mayor, the school board and the principal asking that a similar system be utilized to put everyone on alert.  My suggestion to them was that we use something similar to the tornado siren system to alert everyone to what was going on.

Not only would a siren notify parents as to why students would be delayed, but it would alert students to “drill” type procedures like a fire alarm as well as letting area neighbors know that they needed to be on the look out for suspicious people in the area.  My suggestion was declined with a letter telling me that it was too much effort and unnecessary.

While I always knew I placed more value on my daughter than anyone else did, it was very disturbing to see it written out and her worth be considered so negligible.  It was the following school year that I began homeschooling my daughter.

In the meantime, in the “aftermath” of the event, one of the local news stations had interviewed a few people and it was on the air that very night.  One police officer commented that it’s very hard to catch “strangers” because children made such horrible witnesses because they have no concept of age, weight, etc.

Following the suggestions that officer made during that interview, my wheels got moving.  We called an “emergency” Brownie meeting that the parents were required to attend with the girls.  We did mock sessions asking the kids to describe us.  We met at the school, so having the chalkboard at our disposal we wrote out the answers the girls came up.  Adults were described as being anywhere from 20 to 100 years old, up to 1500 lbs and 20 feet tall!

When we asked the kids to describe what a stranger looked like, it was like asking them to describe a comic villain.  They were confused at first when we told them that a stranger is anyone you don’t know.  They can be handsome, friendly, clean and can even have a puppy.

We then taught them (and their parents) that rather than trying to come up with numbers, to do comparisons instead. Cindy’s dad looks as old as my dad or he’s fat like Uncle Bob or Patty’s mom is skinny like Aunt Judy, wears her hair like my babysitter or smiles like Grandma.

Size, shape, skin color, hair color, hair style and car makes, models & colors are all something that can be accurately communicated this way as long as children are taught to look for the comparisons so they can related them to you or police.

If a child does witness anything and are communicating with police, parents will be called and involved.  From there, police can clarify descriptions with the parents… how old is Dad, how are Uncle Bob or Aunt Judy built, etc.

I used to teach employees that the best form of security is good customer service.  Engage the customer and maintain eye contact.   There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids this too.  Those people who do bad things look for easy targets, whether it’s an adult or child.  They want someone who is easily intimidated and manipulated.   Assertiveness training is not just for adulthood, a dynamic personality keeps people safe at any age.

None of these things need be taught by panic.  The goal is not to teach paranoia  but rather awareness.  Play is always the best way to teach.  Make it a game.

  • Take pictures of celebrities and have your child describe them trying to have you guess who it is.
  • Point out scenarios that you see on the street that you feel could be unsafe and engage your child in conversation.  “See that little girl alone on the street corner?  That doesn’t look safe to me.  What do you think?”
    • It shows you listen to them and value their opinion
    • It teaches them to look around them to see situations and to watch out for other people.
  • Selling popcorn and cookies for Scouts or fundraisers for school or church are great ways to get them to practice eye contact and assertiveness (along with salesmanship, manners & cash handling).

Passwords are also a great means of security that we utilized as well.  It’s that extra step that not only makes them feel safe but makes them feel empowered.  We now live in a world filled with passwords, get them used to it early.  Let them learn what a good password is and let them practice even when you pick them up.  It’s a secret shared with only you two.

One last thing.  Teach your child to listen to their gut (or their “spidey sense” as I like to call it).  Whether it’s a neighbor or a relative, if they give your kid the creeps, please don’t force contact or allow them to be alone with that person.

Learning to trust your primal instincts is a good skill and one we unfortunately don’t listen to often enough.  How many times have you done something, only to kick yourself later commenting “I KNEW I shouldn’t have done that!” or “I had a bad feeling about that, but did it anyway”?

When Kid was little I read an article about a study done with victims of molestation.  Almost all of them had come from families where there was forced intimacy… meaning “go give Uncle Bernie a kiss”, “I don’t want to, I don’t like him” only to be told to do it anyway or something guilt provoking like “he’ll be sad” or he’s gonna cry”.  To adults it tends to be a big game to teach about manners.  I remember these vividly from my own childhood.

Sadly, instead of teaching manners, it teaches children that adults have authority over their bodies.  It also teaches that if they don’t listen to “Uncle Bernie” that they can get yelled at, punished, etc. by their parents or their parents will be mad at them.  I had never considered this until reading that article and it had a profound impact me based on incidents in my own childhood.

I know you want to keep your kids safe, and I want your kids to be safe too.  The world is a scary place but that doesn’t mean they have to be scared of it.  Give them the tools they need that keep them safe and will also help you sleep at night.

 

{{{hugs}}}

 

Maggie

 

 

Picky Eaters? Choosy Moms Choose Paleo.

Picky eaters can put parents over the edge.  (Along with Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, friends with kids, etc.) The kids that only want to eat three things for dinner but junk food is fair game.  You know the child.  They could be yours, a niece or nephew, your bff’s kid, but we all know at least one.   We try to introduce new foods.  Look at magazines for help, but when they show you a hot dog cut as an octopus, it’s really no help because it’s still a hot dog…. Make some thing with asparagus, now that will impress me!

I was blessed with a child who loves vegetables but even she had her moments.  When she was about 2-1/2 my mom tried giving her creamed spinach.  From then on just the word brought on near PTSD flash backs of the incident. Then she discovered lasagna Florentine and wedding soup.  When she asked what the green stuff was I thought quickly and answered “Italian parsley”.  And so it stayed for several years.   At 23 my daughter is still an avid vegetable eater and a great cook because she’s not afraid to try new things or combinations.  To the point that my husband and I will only eat Brussels sprouts if she’s cooking them!

The goal is to get them to eat and to eat well.  Not junk, but well balanced meals.  Of course there’s bribery, eat your dinner and you can have dessert.  But for those of us who really are trying to eat healthy, we really struggle with offering desserts.

In my opinion, one of the joys of parenting is trickery.  Getting away with something in front of your kids is empowering.  Don’t believe me?  Tell me you don’t have a cheesy grin when your child comes running into the room to tell you that the tooth fairy came, right?  Admit it.

So what if they’re clawing tooth and nail to get at dessert and dessert is actually good for them?  I know, the possibilities are mind blowing really.  That’s where paleo comes in.  Even if you don’t follow the diet and just want to make some healthier choices for you and your family, paleo desserts are the way to go.  The key here is to NOT let them help in the kitchen (normally I’m down for having them right there with you, but subversive activity requires secrecy.)

So what is “Paleo”?  Its a plant and meat based diet.  No grains, dairy, soy or legumes.  It’s become very popular and it’s very good for you.  It’s perfect for the person with food sensitivities (lactose or gluten intolerance, allergies, etc), autism, diabetes, arthritis, etc.   Needless to say to maintain no grains, dairy, soy or legumes, cooking and recipes can get quite creative.

banana cinnamon chocolate chip muffins

I mean sure, you expect bananas in these delectable Banana Cinnamon Chocolate muffins.

….but no flour? (by TaylorMadeItPaleo)

 

paleo_brownies_2

But what if I told you these brownies had no flour or nuts and was made with sweet potatoes?  (by EatDrinkPaleo) Do I have your interest now?

paleo-chocolate-cupcakes_coconut-cream-filled

What if I told you that these frosted cupcakes…. (by LivingLowCarb),

avopudding-3

... and this smooth and delicious chocolate pudding (by HowSweetItIs),

Milkshake-with-avocado

… and even this creamy delicious milkshake (by MeaningfulEats),

… all have avocados in them!  Oh yeah, and they’re dairy free!

We’re always hearing about how avocados are so good for you, packed with nutrition, but unless you make guacamole or put them on a sandwich or salad, can be at a loss on how to eat them.  These are great ways to get what your body needs while providing what the mouth and mind want as well.  🙂

Okay, so I’m also going to mention that sometimes it’s not the kids that are picky… it’s the adults.  It’s the husband that needs to cut a few pounds or the aging parents that have developed a bit of a sweet tooth that can also be hard to feed too.  Trying to argue with an aging parent about desserts sometimes can be like asking for a kidney.  If you’ve done it you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t done it, just wait.  These can be the perfect desserts to give them the extra nutrition they need without the carbs, calories and filler they don’t.  Drop over for a visit and bring dessert and leave the pan.  Tell them you made extras and you thought they would like them (or better yet, that the kids didn’t need that many sweets in the house LOL).  Remember when they made you eat liver?  Now’s your revenge.  Enjoy!

Hugs!

 
Maggie