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!

Posted in Family, Parenting, Personal

Connection is the name of the Game

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back after a busy week at work, but I did take Friday off to hang with my kids even though they’re too cool to hang with their mom right now. They’re teenagers after all. 😉

Children go to school

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I’m worried about how this pandemic is affecting them. Especially since they haven’t been able to get together with their friends like they used to. So, I’ve made a concerted effort to get them away from their computers. I appreciate the fact they still listen to me. When I tell them to go outside and get some fresh air, they usually do it. They grumble at first, but they usually go.

I’ve talked to them about finding other interests besides their games, but my youngest pointed out that there’s nothing else to do, and unfortunately, he’s right.

So, tonight he was shooting baskets and I went out and challenged him to a game of horse, but he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to play one on one. Now, I haven’t played basketball in years and it shows. My youngest ran circles around me.

Four People Playing Basketball

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But the thing is, we had fun. We were laughing and giving each other grief. It was good to connect with him on a different level than parent and child. He didn’t trash-talk me too bad. He’s kind and has a good heart. I hope the world doesn’t hurt him. He’s a good kid.

Well, our laughter drew out my oldest and the three of us ended up playing horse together. They ganged up on me, of course, I knew that would happen. But it was nice to see their camaraderie. My youngest ended up winning the game, and he did gloat a little bit, but what I liked was how he was careful of his older brother’s feelings. He said, “It just goes to show that we’re both better than Mom.”

Baseball glove

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He didn’t rub it in to his brother that he beat him, too. That made me feel so good because when my hubby and I are long gone, all they’ll have is each other, and one of my goals with my kids is that they have a good relationship. I know life is hard and things aren’t always going to be easy, but I hope they know they can count on each other when things get tough. That’s what family is all about.

Children sitting together with parents and laughing

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It’s so important to connect with your kids. I believe by participating in something they’re interested in you strengthen your bond. One good thing about this pandemic is that it has brought us all a little closer. We appreciate each other more and I think my boys feel the same way.

Has the pandemic brought you closer to the ones you love? How has it strengthened your relationships? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Health, Parenting, quarantine, raising kids

Online School versus Wearing a Mask All Day

 

 Girl Writing on the Sofa

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Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy week of work and writing. My next WIP is going well and I can’t wait until it’s done. I really like this story, too.

But enough about that, I’m back today to talk about the issue of school in the fall. Right now, we must let the school know if our kids are going to be riding the bus, so they can set up routes and figure out how many kids they’re going to be transporting.

 

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I’m talking with my kids and my oldest is fine either way, but I’m not. There are so many unanswered questions. My oldest tells me if there’s an outbreak at the school, they’ll  immediately shut it down. That worries me. I don’t want my kids to get sick, so I’m leaning toward online school. I have a feeling we’re going to end up in that position any way.

In conversations with my kids, they aren’t looking forward to wearing a mask all day, but I don’t know of any other way to protect them. There are so many things we don’t know about the virus. I keep hearing rumors of fevers lasting for months and long-term damage to the lungs and heart. The thing with sending them to school is there’s more of a risk for them to be exposed to this virus.

 

Medical Mask - Coronavirus - Free Photos

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Right now, I don’t know what the school has planned. We haven’t been given those details yet. The thing is we have to figure out how much of a risk there is in sending the boys to school versus online schooling. I know that online schooling eliminates the risk, but I’m worried about the isolation factor.  We are human after all, social animals. How is this virus going to affect their social development in this time in their lives when learning social cues is so important?

 

There are no easy answers, that’s for sure. What are your school districts doing? How do you feel about it? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Family, Parenting, Public Service Announcements, raising kids

Predators in our Society

 

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. We’re in the dog days of summer and I love it. It’s finally that hot, muggy weather we all know and love. I’ve been running outside in the mornings because it’s cooler and I prefer running outside to running on a treadmill. I get time outside plus I’m exercising. Win. Win. I’ve also started a new WIP. I’m very excited about this one and it’s going smoothly right now. 😊

 

But enough about that. Today, I’d like to talk about a couple of documentaries I watched in the last couple of months. The first one was “Jeffery Epstein: Filthy Rich” and the other was “Athlete A.” The first one needs no explanation, but the second one was about Larry Nassar and his sexual abuse of gymnasts who came under his care.

 

In both documentaries, you see first-hand how sexual predators work. Whether the abuser is setting up the victim to be trafficked or he’s setting them up to be abused by himself the pattern is the same. They choose a vulnerable kid, ply them with gifts, and promises of a better life. When they’ve got them hooked that’s when the abuse starts.  In the case of Jeffery Epstein. He’d pick vulnerable girls and promise them money, travel, and training so they could have a better life then he’d get them out onto his island.

In the case of Larry Nassar, he would ply the girls with candy and gifts in the rough world of gymnastics, then under the guise of physical exams, he’d sexually abuse them. He was in a position of power and he abused it.

It took a lot of courage for these girls to speak up and report him. Can you imagine how the parents must feel? They believe they’re giving their daughter this amazing opportunity and they send her to this camp where she’s molested.

 

Athlete A Poster

This just goes to show you, you can’t trust anyone with your kid. Parents weren’t allowed out to the camp where the abuse took place by the good doctor. That’s a huge red flag. When kids are isolated away from their parents, they’re vulnerable.

We as parents must make sure our kids are safe. Remember, these predators don’t go after kids whose parents are involved in their lives. They go after vulnerable kids, and what better way to make a kid vulnerable than to separate them from their parents. Predators take jobs that give them easy access to victims. For example, camp counselors, day care workers, and even teachers. So, when a camp or an organization denies you access to your kids, it’s a huge red flag.

Larry Nassar

Also, when the organization doesn’t do anything about your accusation, it’s time to pull your child. In my opinion, in the case of the “good doctor,” he should have been suspended as soon as the accusation reached the president of the organization. The fact that Steve Penny took so long to act is another huge red flag. That doctor should have been suspended until a full investigation could take place.

Steve Penny must be held accountable for his part in continuing the abuse. It upsets me that he dragged his feet. How much effort does it take to replace the doctor?

 

Portrait of Steve Penny 2012

These documentaries are infuriating and eye-opening. The victims in these situations cease to be real people to the abusers They are pawns used to meet the abusers needs. Steve Penny is also an abuser because he enabled the doctor to have access to the girls after the abuse was reported. He needs to be held accountable, too.

How do you feel about the situation? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Posted in Parenting, Public Service Announcements, raising kids, Teen

Human Trafficking: Crimes against our Teens #2

 

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m back today after a busy work week. I did manage to get some writing done and I also got a couple of days of running in for the week. I skipped yesterday, though because I was in the zone with my writing. Anyway, enough about that. Today I’d like to talk about keeping our kids safe.

Photo credit: yooperann on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Last month, I received an e-mail from our school informing us that there had been a suspicious vehicle reported at one of our bus stops. Now, I take my kids every morning to the bus stop for just that reason. I’ve watched enough of shows like “Discovery ID” and “Forensic Files” to know how these predators work. They pick a kid and learn his schedule and wait and when he or she is vulnerable they grab them. So, I get up every morning and get those kids to the bus. I make sure they get on.

Photo on VisualHunt

We must be this vigilant now. Human Trafficking is big business. According to this article, Human Trafficking   your child is worth $300,000 a year to a trafficker. That’s a lot of cash. What exactly is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.

How do these traffickers work? Well, they start out grooming your child. They pick the ones who are needy. For example, if the child doesn’t have an authority figure in their lives or they come from a broken home and don’t have many friends. This predator comes into their lives and befriends them, gains their trust, makes all kinds of promises to solve their problems. Then when they’ve got him or her hooked, they start exploiting that trust and the trafficking starts.

Photo credit: dualdflipflop on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

How do we combat this?

We fight this by being involved parents and vetting the people our kids hang out with. If there’s an adult that’s giving them special attention, maybe even buying them gifts, this is a huge red flag. If you’re involved in your child’s life, they’re going to back off because they won’t get your kid to depend on them like they need to, so they can exploit them.

These human traffickers are everywhere. They’re teachers, politicians, coaches, priests, and school counselors. Be aware of the people in your children’s lives. The traffickers won’t waste their time if you’re an involved parent. They target the kids who they feel they can exploit. Right now, it is the second largest criminal enterprise in Michigan. So, let’s put a stop to this and keep our kids safe.

Photo credit: m_shipp22 on VisualHunt / CC BY

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Do you have any ideas how to protect our kids? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Human Trafficking: Crimes against our Teens