Posted in community, current-events, Family, friendship, Health, mental-health, Parenting, Teen

In Real Life Connection vs. Engagement

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of work, writing, and running. It’s treadmill season at the Orchard household and I did something to my back the other day when I was running. It hasn’t gotten any better, and I fear I’m going to have to go to the doctor and get it checked out. It has been four days and it hasn’t gotten back to normal. Ugh.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about staying connected. With social media we can connect any time for any reason, but is it a true connection? I don’t think so, there’s nothing like taking the time to sit down with family and friends and spending good quality time with them.

The social media platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, main intent is to keep you engaged. Behind the scenes, they analyze your likes and comments to learn what your interests are so they can plant more of those interests in your feeds. This keeps you on their site longer, and it appears like you’re connecting with friends and family, but in reality, it’s more about keeping you engaged than connecting with people.

Don’t get me wrong I love social media because it allows me to stay in touch with friends in other states and countries, but it doesn’t take the place of a true connection with your family and friends right here.

Just the other day, I had brunch with some friends and then we spent the afternoon painting together. It was an In Real Life Connection. One in which, I’m learning how to paint, and I must say Bob Ross is right, there are no mistakes just happy little accidents. 😉 But I digress, the point I’m trying to make is we need in person connection now more than ever. If we lose the ability to read social cues and body language, we’re going to set the human race back to the caveman era.

Evidence suggests there is a correlation between the rise in suicide rates and the rise of social media. We have more access to more information than we’ve ever had. That means we have access to chat rooms and forums that are pro-suicide. Our kids have access to these forums. So, if you’re dealing with a child with some mental health issues and they find their way to one of these forums, it could be trouble.

Cyber-bullying has led to suicides as well, especially among the younger crowd. Social media has become an avenue for that also. So, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a connection with your loved ones. We can never truly know what’s going on in someone’s mind unless we watch for the signs.

But that’s not where I want to go with this. I digress again. Sorry. What I want to say is that maybe Social Media is the symptom, and the real disease is lack of connection or disconnection.

I believe that if it’s not the sole cause, it’s a big part of it. So, keep the communication open with your family and friends. Stay connected. Make sure your kids learn how to make an emotional connection with their friends, so they won’t feel isolated.

So how do we stay connected with so many distractions?

  1. Engage in a common interest like hiking or biking or robotics
  2. Have family night where you play a card game or board game
  3. Watch a movie together once a week
  4. Take a family vacation

These are just a few ideas. There are many ways to make connections with your family. How do you connect with yours? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, Parenting

Disconnection: The real Monster in School Shootings

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week. I didn’t get much writing done because I had the flu for a couple of days. I’m feeling better, but it took me a few days to recover. I am better and working on my WIP finally. But enough about that. Today I have an important topic to cover.

This week a school shooting happened in Oxford, Michigan. I’m sure you’ve all heard about it. This is the first school shooting I’ve heard about since the pandemic hit. A few years ago, I did a blog post on school shootings and I remember that one of the key factors in them is disconnection.

The individual feels disconnected from their family, school, and community. This happens to kids who’re bullied. During the pandemic, many schools were working virtually and there were no school shootings. Kids weren’t getting together every day. Bullying couldn’t occur. Now, I don’t know if the shooter was bullied or not. There have been conflicting reports on that, but I do believe the disconnection did take place.

 The first and most important place a teen needs to feel connected is with their family. This is where parenting comes into play. Even when our kids are teens and exerting their independence, they still need to know they’re loved and accepted. We still need to make sure their emotional needs are met.

For example, my oldest listens to a musician who swears a lot in his lyrics. Whenever we ride in the car and he’s driving, he listens to that music. Now, I don’t like the lyrics, but the music itself has a nice beat and can be calming. I make sure and tell him I like the music. The reason I do this is because even though he’s branching out and developing his own tastes, he wants his mother’s approval. So, I give it to him. It’s a way for us to feel connected.

I believe when parents are too rigid in their own beliefs and are unable to give their child the acceptance they need, the child hides that part of themselves away from their parents. This is where disconnection begins. The teen feels this part of himself is unacceptable and starts to hide it from friends and their community. They withdraw instead of reaching out. So, the disconnection begins in the home. We can try to blame the schools or bullying, but it really begins with the parents.

That’s why I was glad to see the parents are also being charged in this shooting because ultimately, they are as responsible as this young kid. I know parenting is tough. There are no do overs and parents make mistakes. But I’ve found when I make a mistake with my kids, if I own up to my mishaps and apologize. They forgive me. This is where it needs to start. The relationship between parent and child is a lifetime commitment. Even when they’re grown and have children of their own, they’ll want that acceptance from their parents. That understanding. So, lets give it to them.

Sometimes, parents are incapable of giving this kind of acceptance to their children because they themselves are struggling. Maybe struggling with addiction or financial issues. In that instance, it’s important for extended family and the community to come together and support this youngster, so he still feels connected and loved. It takes a village folks, it really does.

Yes, bullying is a factor, but bullying can’t occur if there’s connection. So, parents let’s do a better job of staying connected with our kids and they won’t withdraw from their friends and community and they’ll be more likely to reach out for help.

How about you. How do you stay connected with your kids? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, friendship, Personal, Writing

Finding your Community

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve been busy this week with work, writing, and family. Now that winter is almost upon us, I’ve been preparing by making sure my kids have coats and gloves that fit. I’ve also taken some time off to go hiking. I’m hoping to get a couple more hikes in before the snow flies and we start hibernating.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about friendship and connection. I remember in my teen years, many moons ago, I had a group of friends that I hung out with constantly. We did everything together. Bike rides, skateboarding, sleepovers, and slumber parties. They were my support group and I supported them.

I miss those days. I feel women need their groups of friends to feel connected and part of a community. We need to get back to that in our society. I know social media allows us to stay connected over long distances, but it’s not the same kind of connection. Something gets lost over the internet. The ability to read facial expressions and get a hug. The ability to actually touch someone is gone. This is something that’s desperately needed in our society. Remember the old quilting circles? We need to bring them back.

So, how do we do that in our bustling world? We go back to those days of quilting circles and start anew. If you don’t like quilting, you could get a group of friends together to play cards, or do something creative like painting, or join a writing group.

These are all ways to recreate a community. It’s always good to create one around an activity, or common goal. That way everyone is focused on something positive, and they can forget about their troubles for a while. Whenever I get together with my group of friends, I always come away from the gathering inspired and motivated. It’s refreshing to be with like-minded people.

This last week, I got together with my artist friends and we went on a hike then painted together. Even though we were all working on our own paintings there was a sense of community and support. I left that group inspired to keep working on my writing. Sometimes we time away to refresh so we can continue working on a long project such as writing a novel.

So, there you have it, need something to boost your mood? Start your own community. Create your own quilting circle, or writing group, or hiking group. You’ll be glad you did. It’s cheaper than therapy. 😉

How do you find support? What kind of groups would you like to create? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, Family

Check on Your Loved Ones

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve been busy with work this week and with my writing. I’ve reached 30,000 words in my latest WIP and I must tell you, I’ve been coming up with some new ideas while I’m writing. I can’t write fast enough. LOL.

It’s a good thing, but it creates a little anxiety because I feel like I’m not writing fast enough. But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about keeping in touch with your single friends during this pandemic. It’s important to check up on them. They depend on their social lives to connect with people and with this isolation they could go days, weeks, or months without seeing someone other than people at the grocery store.

 

Young Woman Enjoying Freedom in the Summer Evening

https://www.everypixel.com/image-2741095841103995449

Check up on your elderly relatives and neighbors, too. Especially the ones who are stuck in a nursing home. We can’t go visit them right now, but we can send cards. We can make phone calls. It’s important to reach out to our loved ones. We need the connection right now and so do they.

grandma, elderly woman, age

https://www.everypixel.com/image-2105354653102356520

Not only do we need to check up on our single friends, elderly neighbors, and relatives, but we need to check up on our kids. That’s right, the ones that live under our roofs with us. I’ve noticed that my youngest has grown a little reclusive because he hasn’t been able to see any of his classmates. We’re starting online schooling today and they’re using google meets to have a virtual classroom. I hope that means they’ll be able to interact with their classmates. Kids are attached to their computers for everything now, school, social contact, and gaming. They are dependent on their machines.

 

https://www.everypixel.com/image-16229337357409992029

We can’t take them to the trampoline park or to the community pool, they’re closed because of this virus. So, the only thing we can do is forced family fun and that always goes over like a lead balloon.  Especially when it’s mom’s idea. 😉

But we do it because they need to get a break and get away from the house. They need more physical activity, so we go on family walks and hikes through the woods. Forest bathing is good for you, you know!  They do play basketball or football with the neighbor kids when they’re around. I’ve also made it a rule that they have to get outside for an hour a day when the weather cooperates, and they do a pretty good job of following this rule. They still listen to their mom, right now, anyway.

 

trees, forest, woods, nature

https://www.everypixel.com/image-10275968783379958536

So, check on your friends, relatives, and kids. Make sure the isolation isn’t getting to them and try to get out of the house. It’s so good to get away, even if it’s only for a few days.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. What are you doing to keep in touch with your loved ones? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in community, current-events, quarantine

What Kind of World are We leaving for our Kids?

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a long week of working and writing.  Earlier today, I happened upon a Facebook post. It was one of my friends and she is a mom of young kids. She was complaining about the sticky doorknobs and the mess kids generally leave behind and was asking parents of older kids if they really missed the sticky mess.

facebook, meeting, social

 

https://www.everypixel.com/image-12141612073208444368

 

I’d like to answer that question and the answer is yes. I miss all of it. Sure, cleaning up after the kids wasn’t fun, but I kept it in perspective and didn’t beat myself up if my house didn’t look perfect. After all, I had kids, and I wanted them to grow up being comfortable, exploring their world. So, if it was a little messy, I was okay with that.

 

Toys on a carpet

https://www.everypixel.com/image-737259328528912656

I miss when my boys were little guys and they would snuggle with me before falling asleep. I miss that baby smell and their giggles and their adventurous spirits. So, yeah, I miss it.

Free stock photo of baby, couch, Facetime

https://www.everypixel.com/image-4855218970582504931

However, I love each stage they go through, and I love seeing them grow and learn. For example, when my youngest started reading before he started school. I loved that and I was so proud. I loved how he started doing Par-Core and mastered that. I loved when my oldest would come to me for help with his homework and when he started taking Karate lessons. I loved each stage.

karate, kids, explication

https://www.everypixel.com/image-8962478350156062737

 

They amaze me with how much they’ve grown and learned. I love their personalities. My oldest for his quick wit, kindness, and honesty. My youngest for his drive, passion, and focus. I love the fact they get along and can compromise with each other. They both have amazing problem-solving skills.

But I also worry. I worry about how cruel this world can be. I hope I’ve helped them develop enough skills so they can survive it. Not only survive it, but to thrive in it. I know that’s what every parent wants, but right now our world is not a happy place.

 

https://www.everypixel.com/image-5753366021669013277

 

I wonder what the new school year will bring. I wonder how my kids will be learning and if it will be a good experience for them. I worry about their social skills. They haven’t been using them as much lately because they’ve been communicating with friends online.

Public bus in Granada | Nicaragua

https://www.everypixel.com/search?q=school%2Bbus&stocks_type=free&image_id=5789386941716354080

 

I also wonder about what kind of world we’ll be leaving behind for them. What’s going to happen with all the chaos going on right now? Will it change anything? I sincerely hope so, but I don’t know. I worry about the problems they’ll be inheriting and how they’ll affect them.

I hope when we’re finished with all this craziness, the world will be a better place. Our kids deserve it.

 

 

Posted in community, Documentaries, Family, Parenting, raising kids

You Can Make a Difference

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve had a busy week at work, plus I’m dealing with back to school stuff with the kiddos so I’m feeling a little ragged this evening. This summer certainly went by fast. I didn’t get everything accomplished that I wanted to, but that’s okay. I had a lot of fun with my kiddos, and we made lots of memories. Making memories is an important goal, too. 🙂

Photo credit: Wade Roush on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I hope your summer went well and you were able to recharge your batteries. Many memorable things happened this season, and one of them was the grand jury report detailing the sexual abuse of over a thousand victims by three hundred priests in Pennsylvania.

The stories are starting to come out. There was the movie “Spotlight” that told the tale of the priests in Boston who abused children and got away with it. Then there was the documentary “The Keepers.”  This story started out as an investigation of the death of one of the Nuns who taught at  Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough  High School. Sister Cathy was murdered and the crime remains unsolved to this day.

Image result for the keepers

Two of her former students (Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub) decided to investigate the murder, and they uncovered horrible abuse of students by the priests running the school. The school they attended. These women believe she was murdered because she found out about the abuse and threatened to take the information to the authorities.

They still don’t know who committed the crime, and it may never be solved because many of the people who know the truth have died. However, all is not lost.  Gemma and Abbie have started a movement across the country. More and more victims are finding the courage to speak out and the horrendous abuse is being exposed. It has also come to light that the Catholic Church moved these guilty priests to different parishes where they continued their victimization. The church did nothing to protect these innocent children.

Image result for the keepers

It’s upsetting to think about especially since very few of the perpetrators of this abuse have gone to prison. That’s the part that upsets me. These abusers destroy lives and then get away with it because the statute of limitations has run out. That’s a total crock.

When is this country going to understand that we need to be protecting our children above everything else?

Photo on Visual Hunt

I mean the church is supposed to be our moral compass and look what they are? A bunch of pedophiles who use their religion to hunt for prey. And what’s worse? Their superiors covered it up and allowed the perpetrators to go on abusing. This makes me sick.

However, there is a bright light in all of this. Times are changing and the support the victims are receiving from all over the world is amazing. The two women who’re investigating Sister Cathy’s death have formed a Facebook group where survivors and supporters can come together. There are literally thousands of members in this group. People from all over the world can discuss theories, share information, and support each other. It’s nothing short of phenomenal.

Photo credit: Matthew Fang on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

And there’s a snowball effect happening. More and more victims are coming forward and more and more priests are being outed. I know the progress is slow and may not be enough for some people, but some progress is better than none. The efforts of these two women are bringing about reform so this type of victimization will never happen again. It could even topple the Catholic Church. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing. They’ve abused their power. They don’t deserve to have it any longer.

Photo credit: Nebojsa Mladjenovic on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

So at the end of the day, when you’re feeling small and insignificant and you just don’t think what you do makes a difference, think of these two women and how their efforts have snowballed into something great. Then raise you’re weary head, take a deep breath, and strive forward. Carry on sweet warrior. The battle is long and hard, but it is worth the fight.

Photo on VisualHunt.com

 

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Posted in community, Public Service Announcements

Gone Too Soon

 

This week I’d like to dedicate this post to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It makes me sad to think these bright, creative people had such scary demons they felt the only recourse they had was to end their lives.

 

Photo credit: annainaustin on Visualhunt / CC BY

Photo credit: AIGA New York Chapter on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Depression is such a scary thing to deal with because your brain tells you lies. It tells you you’re not good enough. Your family will be better off without you. You’re a burden. And it never stops telling you these horrible things. I imagine Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were dealing with these demons for a very long time and the battle wore them out.

I wish we could pull together and fight this disease. Please, if you’re feeling down talk to a professional before it’s too late. Someone who can help you with these intense feelings and help you back to a healthier way of thinking.

If someone isn’t available please call the suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255 and let them help you.

And if you don’t suffer from this disease but you see someone struggling with it, please reach out and lend them a hand. Sometimes all they need a little guidance back to the light.

RIP Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. You will be missed.

Posted in community, environment

We’re all made of Stardust

 

Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you. I’m back today and I want to talk about the fact that we’re all made from stardust. Isn’t that amazing? We all have the elements of iron, calcium, and magnesium in our bodies. We are literally the by-product of exploding stars.

 

Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

That totally blows my mind.

That being said, we all are vastly unique at the same time. Just like snowflakes we all have our own makeup. Each one of us, even a set of twins, is different. I find this intriguing and it begs the question. If we’re all made up of the same elements how can we be so different?

Photo on Visualhunt

It’s our DNA. The unique way it’s arranged makes us different, and that’s true, but I’m wondering how many different combinations there can be. Well, I did a little digging and the best answer I could find without going into a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo is that there are seven billion people on the planet so there are four hundred and twenty billion different combinations. Wow.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that even though we’re all made up of the same elements we’re all vastly different. Each one of us. But we’re also the same. It’s mind-bending when you thing about it. What I’m trying to say is we’re connected. And that connection is what I’d like to focus on.

Photo on Visualhunt

Historically, we humans have been afraid of other humans who are different. People who have different skin color, different genders, different sexual orientations, and different ideologies. We need to stop ourselves for a second and instead of coming from a place of fear, we need to come from a place of love. That’s right. Love for our fellow man. We don’t all have to agree, but we do have to respect our differences while at the same time remember our similarities out number our differences. That is the only way we will be able to survive on this planet. You have to remember we continue to reproduce, but our planet does not and it doesn’t grow larger either.

 

Photo on Visual hunt

In order for our species to survive, we’ve got to take care of ourselves and our planet. We don’t have time for anything else. In a crisis, I’ve seen people come together and forget their differences and work together until the crisis is over. Why can’t we do that all the time? Why does there have to be a major disaster before we’ll work together? I think we should work on that. Don’t you?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Posted in community, Family

Creating Stronger Communities

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week at work and writing. Always with the writing! LOL! But I do love it. I can’t seem to stop.

Photo on Visualhunt.com

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about creating stronger communities. It saddens me when I hear about school shootings or mass shootings in movie theaters or public places because these events are symptoms of a societal problem.

Photo on Visual Hunt

That problem is disconnection. When someone feels isolated and disconnected from society they exhibit symptoms of this by being violent to people who are close to them. That’s the first sign there’s a problem. We need to stop turning a blind eye to domestic violence. As with so many things, it all traces back to the home.

Photo on Visualhunt

Now we can blame poor parenting, throw our hands up in outrage, and point fingers. We can do that, but that doesn’t solve the problem, does it? And let’s be fair, none of us can say we’re perfect parents. We strive to be the best we can be, but there are days when we fall short. And in parenting, the most important job we have, there are no do-overs. You can’t go back and erase your mistakes.

So what can we do?

We can create communities where we all come together for the sake of the kids. I believe schools do an incredible job of offering extra-curricular activities be it sports or theater or clubs. However, what about the kids who don’t make the team? I think we need to create community centers within our cities where kids can go and play a pick-up game of basketball, or use a computer, or just hang out after school. A safe place to go with adult supervision until parents get home from work.

 

Photo credit: RobW_ on Visualhunt.comCC BY-NC-ND

I know some community centers exist, but we need more and they need to be affordable. It costs money to run these centers and that’s where I run into a snag because I don’t know where to get the funding. How about you, do you have any ideas? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment and let me know you’re thoughts.

Posted in community, Family, Politics, Public Service Announcements

Giving Guns to our Teachers?

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a hectic week of revising. I’ve got two manuscripts that I’m trying to polish. The first one is polished and ready to query, and the second one is rough and needs polishing. It’s a never ending task that’s for sure.

 

No automatic alt text available.

 

Anyway, I was going to write a post about a couple of books I’d recommend but then I saw the above graphic and decided to write about this latest response to the tragic mass shooting in Florida instead.

It would be a horrible mistake to give our teachers guns. First of all, there are very few teachers that I know of who’ve had combat training. This is a big deal when you’re tasked with shooting at another human being.  Aside from that glaring problem, are we going to give our teachers assault weapons?

Photo credit: t i g on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Because let’s be honest, we can’t expect a teacher to go after a kid carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with a teeny tiny hand gun.

Photo on Visualhunt.com

As a parent, I’m horrified by this idea. We’re just adding more guns to an already volatile situation. What does that mean, more deaths and one of those deaths could be your kid.

I’m sorry but that’s the ugly truth.

The only answer to this situation is to keep assault weapons out of the hands of civilians. No civilian needs an assault weapon. They are guns designed for combat. They are not meant to be used for hunting or target shooting.

Let’s take a look at Japan. They’ve only had thirteen mass shootings since 1922.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

 

According to the Mass Shooting Tracker we (US) had TWENTY ONE mass shootings in 2017 alone. Unbelievable.  (On a side note it’s incredibly sad that we even have a Mass Shooting Tracker.)

 

What is Japan doing that we’re not. Stricter Gun Laws and that’s it.

Here’s a list of some of the laws:

  • You have to attend an all-day class
  • Take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.
  • There are also mental health and drugs tests.
  • Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues.

For a more complete list click here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38365729

Arming our teachers is not the answer. They’ve got enough on their plates from dealing with behavioral issues in the classroom to coping with all the testing they have to do. If we want a public school system, we have to protect our teachers and our children while they’re in school.

We also need to bring our communities closer together. Isolation is a huge indicator for a mass shooter. If our communities were able to eradicate isolation, mass shootings will decline and maybe even disappear altogether.

Photo on VisualHunt.com

I know this is a hot topic and there’s always more than one solution. I’d love to read your thoughts. Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!