Posted in community, education, Parenting, Personal

Let’s be more like Finland

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a week of work and writing. I’ve started a new project and I’m happy to report it’s going well. The kids are back in school and we’re settling down to a routine. Summer went to fast for me, and I’m already missing it.

But enough about that, today I’d like to talk about our school system. For children, play is how they learn. They learn how to manipulate their environment through play. As they grow, their play changes. They go to school and start learning to read and write.

Our educational system needs to incorporate play more into the curriculum. Do away with homework and have more recess for the younger kids and maybe some recess for the older ones as well. Finland ranks the highest in education and their system is radically different than ours.

In Finland, kids start school at the age of seven. They start later in the morning between nine and nine forty-five, and homework is frowned upon. We need to mimic their educational system. I’ve also heard that they’re a people who place a high priority on family and community. Are there mass shootings in Finland? Not like in the US. In fact, seventy-three percent of the one hundred and thirty-nine mass shootings in developed companies are attributed to the United States. Not that the educational system is to blame but revamping it couldn’t hurt.

Finland also provides educational options past the traditional college degree. There’s less stress and more emphasis on caring. Spread throughout the day are fifteen and twenty minute intervals where the students can get up and decompress. It seems to be working for them.

We could learn a lot from Finland, and it should be our country’s goal to educate all members of society in a way that’s beneficial for the members. Why aren’t the powers that be looking at this and making changes?

The reason is because our educational system has become a politician’s tool. A way to secure votes from parents. Promises are made but rarely kept. I’m not sure how to go about making the changes we need to make. Any ideas? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

For more information on Finland’s educational system, click on the link below:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/10-reasons-why-finlands-education-system-is-the-best-in-the-world

Posted in Parenting, Personal

Parenting, It’s not for Sissies

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’ve had a busy week of working and writing. I’ve started a new project, and we’ll see where it goes. But enough about that.

Today, I’d like to talk about dealing with your kid’s independence. This stage of parenting is not for sisses, and I seem to be struggling with this one a little bit. I loved being their mom and planning their playdates and watching them learn and grow. Now, they want their independence as well as my approval, and I’m walking the thin line between being a helicopter parent and allowing them to make their own decisions.

Part of me is excited. They’re on their way. I’ve done the hard part. I kept them alive to this point where they’re almost ready to fly. But I still worry. Did I prepare them enough? Did I help them enough with their critical thinking so they’ll make good decisions? Did I prepare them for the big bad world out there?

I won’t know until they’re in a crisis situation. That’s the hard part about parenting. We can try to prepare our kids for life and hope when they have a difficult decision to make, they’ll have the wherewithal to make it, but we won’t know until they’re in the situation.

I can only hope I’ve prepared them enough. I have to let them make their own mistakes and learn from them too. That’s the part I’m going to have a hard time with. How am I going to help them get over a broken heart? What if they get involved with someone who isn’t healthy and has bad relationship skills? This is the part that keeps me awake at night.

I hope I’ve shown them enough love, so if they get involved with an unhealthy individual they know enough to get out.

I hope they’re not afraid to stand up for themselves and stand up for what’s right. I hope they know I’ll always love them even as I’m letting them go.

Sob. I guess all we can really do is teach and hope they’ve learned the lessons we tried to teach. And pray. Lots of prayers. Parenting, it’s not for sissies. How are you getting through this stage, or how did you get through it? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Parenting, Personal

In-Person Connections Part II

Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week at work and noodling a new idea for a new story. I haven’t started it yet, but it’s brewing, and I’ll be starting it soon. Hubby and I got away for the weekend and we took the boat out on the water. It was good for the soul to get away.

Now that I’m working from home, I need to get out of the house more often. It’s not just kids who’re becoming dependent on their computers for social interaction adults are too.

I just watched a documentary this week about Hunter Moore and his revenge porn website Is Anyone Up. He worked with another individual (Charles Evens) and they hacked into people’s email accounts and stole photos. Many of these photos were naked pictures. So, the first lesson to learn here is don’t store naked photos of yourself in your email account.

He would then load them up on his website for the world to see, and he could get away with this because he claimed someone else submitted them to his website.  This was true for all intents and purposes because the friend he was working with submitted them under a different name and email account after stealing them from the email addresses he’d hacked.

This created a lot of turmoil for the people who were hacked. It ruined lives. Finally, one angry mother went after him after her daughter’s photos were loaded up on the website. It took a few years, but he was finally sent to prison.

But what about the young girls who’re so needy for approval and attention who load up those pictures themselves? One girl on the documentary wanted this guy’s approval so badly she would do anything to get it. She lost her children because of the things he got her to do. He even loaded pictures of her kids up on the website and that’s what got her in trouble.

If this young girl had had a good support system, she would’ve never gotten into this situation. Our kids need a support system, so when they run into someone who’s unhealthy, they won’t fall under their spell. There are no boundaries on the internet. With in-person contact, people are less likely to cross those social boundaries, and the more healthy in-person contact our kids get, they’ll be able to recognize unhealthy behaviors on the internet, and steer clear of those people.

There are ways to provide that support for our kids. Make sure there’s an open line of communication between you and your children. As they get older, they’re less likely to come to you before going to their peers. Get to know their friends and provide them opportunities to get together with them.

Our house happens to be the one the kids tend to gravitate toward, and we have an open-door policy. I’ve told the boys if they’re ever in a sticky situation, they can call us day or night. We don’t want them driving if they’re intoxicated. So far, this hasn’t been an issue and it’s great. I’m proud of my kids. They’re smart and they listen to their mother…most of the time. 😉

How about you, do you have any ideas on how to keep in-person social connection alive? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Parenting, social media

Making Connections

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week of work and running. I didn’t get much writing done this week because I’ve increased the frequency of my runs. I love summer and I’m trying to spend as much time as possible outside. I also have a new idea percolating, and once I get it put together in my head, I’ll be starting a new project.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about making connections. Last night I went to a movie with a friend, and it was so nice to see her. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of months, and we needed to catch up.

It’s important that we have in person get togethers. Especially now, with the invention of social media where we don’t physically meet anymore. We still need to have social skills. Humans are social animals. We need that interaction to feel connected. We need hugs and physical contact.

Technology is amazing. I love that I can google anything. The internet has made researching for my writing so much easier, but it can’t replace physical touch. I worry about the younger generation’s dependence on their devices. I hear scary stories of them hooking up just for sex and that scares me. Where is the emotional connection that we need for love?

I try to get my kids to socialize in other ways besides social media, and I’ve been successful in getting them to make connections with their friends, but it doesn’t feel the same as when I was younger. The overuse of social media has been linked to depression and anxiety. Experts haven’t proven there’s a link between social media and teen suicide, but along with the rise of social media, there has also been a rise in teen suicide after decades of a decline. This is worrisome. We need to monitor our kids to make sure they’re not becoming dependent on their games or social media, but it’s hard to monitor during the summer months when parents have full time jobs. On the plus side, connecting via the internet is safer in some ways with mass shootings and school shootings on the rise. Plus, with the online connection at least I know where my kids are.  

So, there are positives and negatives to social media use. What are your thoughts? Are you worried our kids will lose the ability to make emotional connections? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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 Health, mental-health, Parenting

What is PAI?

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you today. I’ve had a busy week of working, running, and writing. My Fitbit has a PAI indicator on it, so I’ve been a little more active this week. LOL

The PAI indicator is a personal physiological activity indicator. It measures, heart rate, intensity of daily activity, and other multi-dimensional characteristics to determine your PAI value. Long story short if you score above 100, you’re living your best life. A score above 100 means that you’re reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and increasing your life expectancy. So, my goal is to get a 100 or better every day.

What’s nice about that number is that you don’t have to do high intensity workouts to achieve it. It can be achieved just by going for a long walk. The days I run, my PAI is much higher, but walking a couple of miles also helps me reach my goal as well.

This gives me hope because sooner or later, I’m going to have to stop running. It’ll become too hard on my knees and ankles, when that happens at least I know I’ll be able to walk and still maintain my health.

I’m worried about the next generation, though. Many teens these days aren’t getting enough exercise. They sit and watch YouTube videos or play video games and this activity has a detrimental effect on their health. Modern technology is great, but our bodies were made to move, and the kids these days are growing up on video games, Red Bull, and fast food. Not a great combination.

I try hard to get my boys out moving, but I’m not always successful. I’m thinking about getting them fitbits and telling them they need to score over 100 on their PAI before they can sit down at the computer and play their games. But what about when they’re back at school?

I wish school required more physical activity. We need to revamp our educational system to consider both mental and physical health. Make physical education a requirement all the way up to your senior year. Or maybe schools could offer classes for tennis, running, and volleyball so kids could learn those skills, too. I’m not sure what the answer is. How about you? What changes would you make to our educational system to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of our kids? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Documentaries, Parenting, Personal, raising kids

When will the Catholic Church be held Accountable?

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. My beta readers have liked my story, so I’m finally ready for the next step in the process. I will keep you posted on my progress. I may start querying again. We shall see.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about something serious. I want to talk about the horrible news we received this week regarding the two hundred and fifteen dead children found at the Kamloops Indian Reservation school in Canada. This school was run by the Catholic Church until nineteen sixty-nine. This is the third time I’ve come across major abuse by the Catholic church.

The first time was the movie “Spotlight,” the second was the documentary “The Keepers,” and now this school. It’s heart-breaking what these victims went through. Abuse has long term effects. People learn to self-medicate to deal with the horrors of what happened to them when they were unable to protect themselves.

I’m angry. The Catholic church had so much power they were able to continue abusing students long after people in the community had grown suspicious. They were able to sweep their actions under the rug.  In “The Keepers,” it wasn’t until years after the abuse occurred that two women decided to investigate the death of one of their favorite teachers and uncovered it. This didn’t just involve the church it involved the police department as well.

Abuse like this leads to suicide and addiction. It makes me so sad to think of those innocent children and no one was there to protect them. I know we’re more aware of this kind of thing and it’s less likely to happen in today’s world, but the church still needs to be held accountable. After all, the only thing they did was absolve these priests of their sins and move them to another parish where they continued the abuse.

Not one priest went to jail. The church has paid out money, but not to all its victims and not enough. It’s like there’s two sets of laws in our country. One set for us the common man, and one set for the people in power. It’s just like when the bubble burst on the homing market in late two thousand and eight. Not one banker who wrote fraudulent loans went to jail.

This isn’t right and it needs to change. The laws that apply to the common man also apply to the people in power. There’s no other way around it. I’m not sure how to change this. Corruption is always going to be there. There are people willing to take bribes and turn a blind eye when it’s in their best interest.

I’m not sure of the answer. How about you, any ideas on how we can change this? Leave a comment! I love to hear from you!

Posted in Parenting, Personal, raising kids

Are We on the Road to Social Isolation?

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and had a wonderful food coma that day. It was different this year with the pandemic. We stayed home and had a turkey with our immediate family. It was nice, but I definitely missed my extended family, that’s for sure.

Because we had a stay at home holiday this year. I was able to get some writing done. I’m waiting for my Beta reader to get back to me on my story and while I wait, I’ve been working on another one. I really like this new one and I’m hoping I can do it justice.

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about the effect the pandemic has had on our society. We work from home. Our kids learn from home. We sit in front of our computers in our homes and do our thing. This is very isolating. I need to interact with people. It lifts my mood to just be on a WebEx meeting with my colleagues. I worry how this kind of isolation is going to affect my kids. The thing is they need their friends and the only way they can interact with them right now as we all hunker down and ride out this pandemic is through their video games.

Sure, they’ve invited friends over, but these visits are few and far between because it’s safer to stay at home right now. So, video games have become their social gathering avenue. So, I’ve been letting them play them more than normal. They need that social interaction and video games have been linked to helping combat depression. So, what’s a Mom to do?

I worry that this will be more than a band-aid, though, and it will become a way of interaction for the future. I worry that the next generation will not have strong relationships because their only interaction will be video games and social media. This pandemic is setting a dangerous precedent. We are getting more and more dependent on our computers. What with social media moguls gathering data about what we find interesting so they can plant it in our newsfeeds, and video games becoming interactive. It’s going to change the way we function in society.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that the powers that be will make sure our communities don’t change, but that would mean our purpose would have to change, wouldn’t it? The all mighty dollar can’t be the only goal here. It’s going to have to be something bigger than ourselves and our pocketbooks.

So, what can we do until that happens? We can get our kids to take breaks from their computers and watch movies together, play board games, or cards. We can get them moving by taking family hikes and getting out into nature. Anything that would require face to face interaction. That’s how we combat this social isolation. How about you? Do you have any ideas? I’d love to read them, leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in current-events, environment, Family, Parenting, Personal, Politics, raising kids, Teen

Don’t Look Now, But Social Media is Taking Control of Virtual Reality

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a stressful week of dealing with kid issues, a pandemic, work, and writing. Because I had a lot on my plate, I didn’t get a lot of writing done, but that’s okay. I needed to take a little break and refuel.

But enough about that, today I want to talk about a trend I see happening. First, I need to give you a little background, though.  Hubby and I were shopping for a virtual reality headset for the boys for Christmas. We found one we really liked because it wouldn’t be obsolete in two years. Anyway, we were all set to buy it when we discovered that in order to activate it, my son would have to open his own Facebook account.

We dug in our heels and didn’t buy it. We don’t want our kids having social media accounts right now. Especially after watching the show “Social Dilemma.” I remember after watching that show, I made the remark to my hubby that soon this is going to be seeping into the kids’ video games, and not two months later we run into the above scenario.

This is dangerous. The reason being that it’s giving social media platforms way too much control. They are changing human behavior by creating personalized click bait for each member. Their goal is to increase engagement, so your child will spend his free time on their site. Now that they’re invading video games, they’re going after the younger crowd. They’re looking to expand their customer base and more importantly they’re going to gather the same information about your child that they’re gathering about you.

social media, likes, engagement

I don’t know how we can stop this. Facebook bought the company that created the virtual headset my hubby wanted to get for our son, so they can require this. No one is stopping them. So, what happens when your child spends more time with their computer than they do with people? Loss of social graces, loss of the ability to communicate face to face, and the loss of empathy.

All these skills are needed to navigate today’s world. What happens if you as a parent do their do diligence and try to teach these skills to your children? They’ll be the only ones with these skills and get lost in a sea of dealing with socially inept humans. It’s a sad state of affairs. I’m not sure what we can do to stop this from happening.

Do we have the government regulate social media? Who trusts the government these days? What are your thoughts? Do you have any ideas? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!