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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Apparently, the above YouTube video is a hot media topic that started a lot of controversy around the country last week but especially, in state of New Jersey. It depicts a group of students from B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington Township, NJ singing two songs that praised President Obama. Many conservative parents, bloggers, pundits, and news media sources think the school indoctrinated innocent minds when it made the students sing the songs in question. The first song begins, "Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama/He said that all must lend a hand/To make this country strong again." The second one was set to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and included the refrain, "Hooray, Mr. President."

Christopher Manno, superintendent of the Burlington Township School District, was asked by the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education to review whether the songs represented "inappropriate partisan politics" in the classroom. The school district said that the recording and distribution of the video was unauthorized and that it was unclear when the video first gained attention or if anyone was shocked before conservative websites and news programs picked up on it. In a letter sent home to parents, Manno explained that the video was taken in February as part of a Black History Month event and he stated... "Our curriculum studies, honors, and recognizes those who serve our country. There was no intention to indoctrinate children. The teacher's intention was to engage the children in an activity to recognize famous and accomplished African Americans." Manno also said that he would not identify the teacher who led the song. State education officials said that the teacher retired at the end of the last school year anyway.

The source of the video is not entirely clear. Even though it was taken in February, it wasn't posted on YouTube until June. It has been reported that it originally appeared on the YouTube channel of author Charisse Carney-Nunes, who wrote the children's book "I Am Barack Obama." A large photo of Carney-Nunes' book can be seen in the video, sitting on an easel by the stage. However, a spokeswoman for the author said that she has declined to comment at this time. The song medley was presented to Carney-Nunes, who had been invited to the school, as a demonstration of a project the children had put together. Her public relations firm said in a statement... "Charisse feels it is unfortunate that an event put together with sincere intentions to encourage literacy while celebrating the contributions of African Americans to our great nation has become political fodder and hopes cooler heads will prevail."

When confronted by news reporters outside the school, Denise King, principal at B. Bernice Young, told them that she would be right back after answering the door. Minutes later, security personnel and Burlington Township police informed the reporters that they would have to leave the school property. Walter Corter, Burlington Township's police director, said that alleged reports of threats against the school were unsubstantiated and the only distraction at the time was the news vans and some parents who chose to voice their disapproval about the video matter. Two members of the Young School Family Association (similar to a PTA) declined to comment and others could not be reached for comment.

Beth Auerswald, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Education said that the department wants "to ensure students can celebrate the achievements of African Americans during Black History Month without inappropriate partisan politics in the classroom." Auerswald said that the state will also look into whether the posting of this video online violated the privacy of students.

Personally, I'm amazed that so much attention is being given to this video NOW. For crying out loud... it was taken in February and posted on YouTube in June! It was just recently discovered by "someone" who, apparently, brought it to the attention of the media... and NOW, people are losing their minds over it? Hello! It's October! If you haven't noticed any "damage" to your children up to this point, what is the problem here? The sad part is, the kids in this video sang their little hearts out and probably thought that they were doing nothing more than honoring their president. And then, as usual, here come the adults/parents... eight months later, mind you... turning what they did into something negative and ugly. It is no wonder that, by the time most of these kids are teenagers, they will no longer be listening to a word you have to say!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Score: Equality 1; Racism 0

Creative Steps Day Camp Vs. The Valley Swim Club:
State Rules Swim Club's Actions Were Racially Motivated

Breaking News (as reported by NBC-10 yesterday): It has been determined that race was a factor in the banning of 66 minority students from The Valley Swim Club in late June, according to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). The state board ruled late Tuesday that there was probable cause that the private Huntington Valley, PA organization "refused and denied" the campers' ability to use the facilities "due to the child's race."

Creative Steps Day Camp and The Valley Swim Club have been embroiled in a national media and legal battle since racial discrimination allegations were made in early July. The camp paid $1,950 to have campers swim at the 10-acre complex on Mondays through August, but after members complained on the first day, the camp's privileges were revoked and money returned. Several students said they heard members making racial remarks while they were at The Valley Club, which members emphatically denied.

In a 33-page affidavit, the commission details a previously unknown confrontation between a woman who made racial comments about the children and the camp's director. Club member, Michelle Flynn, and Creative Steps Director, Alethea Wright had a heated argument after Flynn asked another club member, "What are all of these black kids doing here? I am scared they might do something to my child and they might steal some of my stuff," according to documents. Flynn and Deborah Mindel, both elementary school teachers, said she knew several of the children from her school and alleged that one had stolen a cell phone before. The PHRC found no evidence that the incident had previously occurred at the school, according to Mildenberg.

Tempers further flared after The Valley Swim President, John Duesler, issued a statement saying, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion and the atmosphere of the club." He later apologized for making that statement, saying that he misspoke. The club eventually invited Creative Steps and two other camps back, but the camps declined.

The case was brought before the PHRC after the mother of one child enrolled in the camp filed a class action lawsuit against the suburban swim club. Attorneys Brian and David Mildenberg, who represent four children from the camp, called the ruling a "significant victory."

The PHRC cited the race of The Valley Club's membership and marketing efforts as probable cause for the rulings. In the past two years, the club's 150+ membership was all white, according to committee documents. They also said the club made direct marketing efforts towards white neighborhoods while not targeting other races at all.

Mildenberg said the club's actions caused emotional and psychological damage to the children. He referenced one situation where a 5 year old involved told his mother that he had to "'stay in the bathtub longer so he could get his skin lighter.'"

The ruling recommends a cash settlement of up to $50,000 for the unidentified woman and her child. The attorneys said other hearings will need to be held to determine an exact reward. The Valley Swim Club will also have an opportunity to appeal. Joe Tucker, lawyer for the swim club, said Tuesday night that the decision was wrong and "the media firestorm" surrounding the case gave the state panel no choice but to reach the conclusion it did. Alethea Wright is expected to address the media on behalf of the camp sometime today regarding the commission's rulings.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Concrete Vs. Steel *

My 3+1/2 year old grandson has been mesmerized by trains (and anything else that runs on tracks) ever since he was old enough to pay attention to the TV and began watching stories about Thomas The Tank Engine. Over the years, my daughter and I have made various contributions to his Thomas & Friends train collection and he has enjoyed countless hours playing with them. In addition to his train collection, he has numerous Thomas DVDs, videos, books, puzzles, flash cards, things to wear, things to eat and drink out of, and just about anything else you could name. We recently found out that a life-size Thomas The Tank Engine train will be pulling into the Strasburg Railroad Station at various times during the weekend of December 4th-6th. If all goes well and we decide to take him there, my grandson will have the opportunity to actually ride on his favorite tank engine. Can you imagine the look on his face when Thomas pulls into the station? But, in the meantime, there's always the Market-Frankford El train.

So, this past Saturday, my husband and I decided to take my grandson on a simple (but fascinating for him) ride on the El. We rode in the front car and made sure that he was in the front seat so he could see "everything" as the train made its way across the city, above ground and underground. First, we took off in the direction of Frankford. When we got there, we stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald's, which is across the street from the Frankford Transportation Center. After we ate, we got back on the train and took off in the direction of 69th Street. During the course of our travels, my grandson was excited to see how the train "rode the tracks" from the inside of a train car. He also got a kick out of seeing the traffic signals, subway stations, people on the platforms, bridges, and passing trains on the opposite side of the tracks. All of these things might not sound like much, but we knew that simplistic ride on the El was something very special to him so, it made our day. Then, shortly after we got home, I was catching up with the local news on the internet and found the following report from the Associated Press...

PHILADELPHIA, PA: The Market-Frankford elevated train line in Philadelphia was rebuilt in the late 1980s and into the new millennium to last for 75 years, but that's not the case. The elevated line needs major repairs because of a basic flaw in its reconstruction design. SEPTA says the repairs could cost $20 million or more. SEPTA engineers say the elevated line was rebuilt in a way that does not allow its deck to adequately expand and contract with temperature changes and the result is crumbling concrete. SEPTA crews have installed 8,000 metal mesh belts on the underbelly of the elevated to prevent concrete from falling onto cars and pedestrians. SEPTA is suing the two engineering companies who oversaw the reconstruction plans for the repair costs.

Although this report concerned me for obvious reasons (What? Crumbling concrete! OMG! We could have been killed!), I'm not at all surprised that SEPTA is having this problem and I knew that this was going to happen. When the renovations began and I heard that SEPTA was planning to use concrete on the supporting structure, my plain ol' common sense told me that was a mistake. Why? Because concrete cracks and crumbles. Engineering "goof" aside, if you live in Philly, you know that the El creates quite a rumble as it races from one end of the city to the other and the constant vibration alone would have eventually caused the concrete to deteriorate. I was so sure this would happen that I made myself a promise... as soon as the first "crack" appeared in the support structure (provided I found out about it), my El-riding days would be over.

But, for those who don't live in Philly and may not know it, the previous support structure for the El was completely made of steel. The original construction of the elevated train began in 1903 and it opened to the riding public in 1907, taking passengers to and from Center City in the comfort of wooden elevated train cars. The car's seats were made of woven rattan and the hanging straps were made of leather. It is even rumored that there was a "breakfast car" on the earliest elevated trains. The individual train cars were designed to seat 50 passengers and the plan was to move 9,000 riders per hour with six-car subway trains, operating at two-minute intervals between trains. Even though the supporting steel structure wasn't the most glamorous site to behold (and some would argue that it was down-right ugly), it got the job done for many, many years. I'm not an engineer but, I feel that with the proper maintenance and upkeep, it could have supported the elevated trains for another century. (Okay, maybe half-a-century.)

Over the years, SEPTA allowed the steel structure supporting the El to fall into disrepair. Just to name a few areas of neglect, they did not remove the rust that had accumulated on it before permanent damage set in and, although it was painted once in a while, it was not done frequently enough. As a result, they had to begin a massive renovation project to restore the support structure, which began in 1988. According to SEPTA, the project was finally completed this year but, some west-end areas around the Market-Frankford El still look like a "work in progress" to this day. The renovation was very expensive for SEPTA and us as patrons because there were several fare increases during this period. The $740 million project was also an absolute "nightmare" that seemed never-ending for local businesses and traffic in general. Many businesses did not survive the renovation years and were lost without so much as an apology from SEPTA.

As for the lawsuit against the two engineering companies who oversaw the reconstruction, I'm betting that SEPTA is going to wait out the conclusion of the legalities before spending any more money to rectify the problem. Of course, this could take years and what about our public safety in the meantime? If SEPTA's past history is any indication, it will be of no consequence. There is a small bridge not far from my home that serves as a crossover between West Philly and Wynnefield. It is also an overpass because some of SEPTA's regional rail trains run underneath it. Well, the City of Philadelphia and SEPTA have been arguing for years as to whose responsibility it is to repair the bridge. In the meantime, the bridge is deteriorating more and more with each passing day and the issue probably won't be resolved until it ultimately collapses, causing serious injury or possibly even death. So, you be the judge... but, from where I sit, the winner and still "would-be" standing champion is steel. I'm all for progress but, they just don't build things with this degree of quality and workmanship anymore.

* Footnote: This post was inspired by my grandson and his love of trains. The next morning, he wanted to know if we could ride on the El train again???

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"This Is It"... Coming Soon

The official poster and movie trailer for a new film capturing rehearsal footage from Michael Jackson's planned comeback concerts have been unveiled. The film features never-before-seen footage of the star on stage and rehearsing for what would have been his farewell concerts at London's O2 Arena. The film will be released worldwide in cinemas on October 26th for two weeks. Tickets go on sale September 27th.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Driving Through The Storm

Yesterday, my pastor returned to the pulpit in our church after preaching at various other churches over the course of the summer. It was good to have him back and the sermon that he delivered was very timely, as always, and well worth the wait. You should also know that my pastor is well-known for his "swagger" when he speaks and he has the gift of being a great storyteller. The story that he told us at the conclusion of this particular sermon really hit home with a lot of people but, it actually felt as though he was speaking directly to me. Before I elaborate on the story that he told, I would like to share a personal experience of my own that almost mirrored his story to the letter. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not a driver and have no intention on becoming one in the foreseeable future. However, I'm quite an accomplished "backseat driver" (if I do say so myself)... so much so that, if the DMV ever decides to issue licenses for that skill, I will be the first person in line to get one (smile).

My father was an excellent driver and he could drive just about anything on wheels. From the time that I was a little girl, I rode around with him in the car, watched what he did, and observed how he got to where he needed to go. My mother told me that when I was 3 years old, he bought me some type of steering wheel toy that I could pretend to drive with while he was driving. After a while, all my father had to do was tell me where we were going when we got in the car and I could tell him every corner where he needed to turn (left or right) in order to get there and I was still under 5 years old. He would turn his steering wheel, I would turn mine, and when we got to our destination, you couldn't tell me that I didn't play a part in getting us there too. Over the years, as I got older and continued to be a passenger in many other cars, I learned a lot about the driving laws as well. As a result, when my husband and I are in the car, I try to be his "second set of eyes" and I'm always aware of what is going on around us.

Well, a few years ago, my husband, his brother, and I were in the car and headed over to New Jersey to visit my mother-in-law. It was approximately a 40-minute drive to her house but, on this particular day, it was the most frightening 40 minutes I had ever experienced in a car. My husband was driving, his brother was in the passenger seat, and I had opted to ride in the backseat. Shortly after we left Philadelphia, a really fierce thunder storm erupted and the rain was coming down so hard on the windshield of the car that we couldn't see anything in front of us. My husband was relatively calm but, under the circumstances, he drove very slowly and with extreme caution. His brother didn't seem to be bothered by the weather at all but I was a complete "bundle of nerves" and about to dissolve into a "puddle" in the backseat.

I repeatedly asked my husband if we could pull the car over to the side of the road until the rain eased up but, he and his brother both felt that it would be better for us to just drive on. His brother even explained to me that, with the visibility being so bad, if we were sitting on the side of the road, someone might run into the back of our car. It sounded reasonable to me but I still wasn't convinced. After I couldn't take it any longer, I decided to close my eyes, go to sleep, and just pray that we made it to my mother-in-law's house safely. Needless to say, we did get there unharmed and my husband woke me up when we arrived. Of course, I was thankful to God that we made it through the storm okay but, I always felt that we should have pulled the car over and waited for the storm to end. It wasn't until yesterday, when my pastor told this story at the end of his sermon, that I really understood why it was important for us to keep on driving.

There was a church that hosted a week-long revival. The senior pastor preached the sermon each night and drove himself home after the services were over. But, because he was up in age and growing a little weary from the rigorous schedule, he asked his daughter if she would come to the church and drive him home on the last night of the revival. The daughter agreed so, she attended the last service and set out to drive her father home when it was over.

Shortly after they got on the road, a "really fierce thunder storm erupted" and the rain was coming down so hard that the daughter could no longer see where she was going. She then asked her father... "Daddy, the weather is getting really bad and I can't see in front of me anymore. What do you want me to do?" The pastor replied to his daughter... "Just keep on driving."

After a while, the daughter began to notice that there were some cars sitting on the side of the road and she reasoned that the drivers must have decided to wait out the storm. So, she asked her father again... "Daddy, some of the cars have pulled off of the road. What do you want me to do?" The pastor replied to his daughter, again... "Just keep on driving."

The dutiful daughter continued on but became even more concerned after she noticed that the drivers of 18-wheeler trucks were beginning to pull off of the road to wait out the storm too. So, she asked her father again... "Daddy, even professional drivers have pulled their trucks off to the side of the road. What do you want me to do?" The pastor calmly replied to his daughter a third time... "Just keep on driving." Well, the daughter obeyed her father and kept on driving.

After several minutes had gone by, the storm began to ease up and the daughter could see through her windshield once again. After she told her father that it looked like the storm had ended, the pastor told his daughter... "You can pull the car off to the side of the road now." The daughter didn't understand why her father wanted her to pull over now that the storm was over but, she did what he told her to do. After the daughter parked the car, the pastor said... "Now, let's get out of the car. I want to show you something."

The pastor led his daughter to the center of the road, told her to look back, and tell him what she saw. The daughter was confused and didn't exactly know what it was her father wanted her to see so, he asked her... "Do you see that the storm is not over and it is still back there?" The daughter replied... "Yes." Then, he told his daughter... "If we had stopped, we would still be in that storm, just like all those other people who pulled to the side of the road. Sometimes, child... you need to just keep on driving and trust that God will bring you through the storm." The pastor and his daughter got back in the car and, with the storm behind them, they continued on their way home.

After my pastor finished telling the story, the church exploded! He wiped the sweat from his face with his handkerchief, took a sip of water, and sat down. I, along with everyone else, stood on my feet and gave him "his props" for the sermon and the point that he tried to "drive home" to us with the story. Then, I turned to my husband and said... "Well, dear... I guess you and your brother were right when you decided to keep driving through that storm." Surprisingly enough, I didn't have to refresh his memory or explain to him what I was referring to because he knew. He just smiled, kinda bashfully, and said... "I told you." I freely admit that I'm still a work in progress and I still have a ways to go yet as far as my faith journey is concerned. But, this story resonated so much with me that I couldn't keep it to myself. I had to share it in the hopes that it might help others (like me) in their faith journey too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Will Never Forget...

By The President of The United States
Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance

Through the twisted steel of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the scarred walls of the Pentagon, and the smoky wreckage in a field in southwest Pennsylvania, the patriotism and resiliency of the American people shone brightly on September 11, 2001. We stood as one people, united in our common humanity and shared sorrow. We grieved for those who perished and remembered what brought us together as Americans.

Today, we honor the lives we lost 8 years ago. On a bright September day, innocent men, women, and children boarded planes and set off for work as they had so many times before. Unthinkable acts of terrorism brought tragedy, destruction, pain, and loss for people across our Nation and the world.

As we pay tribute to loved ones, friends, fellow citizens, and all who died, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and ideals that united Americans in the aftermath of the attacks. We must apprehend all those who perpetrated these heinous crimes, seek justice for those who were killed, and defend against all threats to our national security. We must also recommit ourselves to our founding principles. September 11 reminds us that our fate as individuals is tied to that of our Nation. Our democracy is strengthened when we uphold the freedoms upon which our Nation was built: equality, justice, liberty, and democracy. These values exemplify the patriotism and sacrifice we commemorate today.

In that same spirit of patriotism, I call upon all Americans to join in service and honor the lives we lost, the heroes who responded in our hour of need, and the brave men and women in uniform who continue to protect our country at home and abroad. In April, I was proud to sign the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which recognizes September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Originated by the family members of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the National Day of Service and Remembrance is an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks, and rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.

Throughout the summer, people of all ages and backgrounds came together to lend a helping hand in their communities through United We Serve. As this summer of service draws to an end, we renew the call to engage in meaningful service activities and stay engaged with those projects throughout the year. Working together, we can usher in a new era in which volunteering and more service is a way of life for all Americans. Deriving strength from tragedy, we can write the next great chapter in our Nation's history and ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the promise of America.

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as Patriot Day, and by Public Law 111-13, approved April 21, 2009, has requested the observance of September 11 as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11 as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. I call upon all departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States to display the flag of the United States at half-staff on Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of the individuals who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks against the United States that occurred on September 11, 2001. I invite the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and interested organizations and individuals to join in this observance. I call upon the people of the United States to participate in community service in honor of those our Nation lost, to observe this day with other ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent victims who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Prayer For Someone Special...

Dear Father in Heaven,

I come before Your throne of grace on behalf of someone special who is absent from their family circle. I know You are present everywhere; I know that You are also present wherever they are now. But I would pray You today, to let that special someone feel Your sustaining presence if they are in strange surroundings. Protect them when harm and danger threathen their body and soul; be close to them in every way. Let Your Word be a lamp to their feet and light their path. Increase their faith and trust in You and in Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior. Though they may be far from their family in the body, keep them close in spirit and united by a common faith in You. At the appointed time, grant them a happy reunion with their family and may every member of that family have a place in the company of the saints in glory everlasting. Hear this prayer for Jesus' sake...


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If Looks Could Kill *

Last month, you may recall that I did a post about the First Daughters and the "do and don'ts" that most of us already know when it comes to appropriate behavior toward other people's children. Obviously, Roger Stephens did not read that post and from the look on his face in the above photo, even if he had, he may not have given a damn anyway.

For the benefit of anyone who may not be familiar with this news story, a report came out of Stone Mountain, GA last week that a man was arrested for slapping a crying child, a little girl, in the face several times after warning the child's mother... "If you don't shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you." Apparently, 61 year old Roger Stephens was fed up with crying children while he tried to shop at his local area Wal-Mart and had reached his boiling point when he heard 2 year old Paige Matthews crying and throwing a temper tantrum.

According to the police report that was filed, Stephens walked up to the mother and warned her to keep her child quiet. Moments later, Stephens met the woman and her still crying child on another aisle and allegedly slapped the little girl four or five times in the face. Then, Stephens told the mother... “See, I told you I would shut her up.” He has been charged with felony cruelty to children and is currently being held without bond. Also noted in the police report, Stephens later apologized to the mother and despite having a red mark on her face from being slapped, little Paige was unharmed and she is doing fine. Stephens is expected to be back in court on September 8th.

If this news story wasn't shocking enough, what I find even more disturbing is the amount of people out there on the internet, including the parents of crying children, who can relate and/or agree with Stephens' reaction to the crying child. Many news websites that reported this story encouraged comments and feedback from people by asking questions such as these... Tell us what you think? Have you ever been so frustrated with a stranger's crying child that you felt like slapping the child? Should the mother have tried to quiet her child down out of respect for the people around her?

One such example that I found was a blogger mom who claimed that she could "kinda (sorta) identify" with Stephens and here is an excerpt from a post that she wrote in response to the recent news story:

...I was on an overnight transatlantic flight with my then 2 year old son and 3 year old daughter. My son, never great at sitting still, was wiggling and whining, and no amount of distraction, bribing, Spongebob DVDs, begging, or food-plying made any difference. The lights on the flight went out and everyone settled for uncomfortable coach-class sleep but, my kid kept up the whining. I handed him to his father across the aisle but, it didn't help.

Finally, the man in the row behind us, a tall, beefy guy who easily had 50lbs over my husband, stood up, put his hands on the back of my husband's seat, and screamed at the top of his lungs, "SHUT UP!" I bet that what he really wanted to say was, "If you don't shut that kid up, I'm going to shut him up for you." He didn't slap him but boy, you could see in his eyes that he wanted to do it.

Was I incensed as a mother? You'd better believe it. But, here's a secret: As I looked at the stunned and quiet little face of my son, there was another emotion wiggling its way to life--relief. My son was asleep within 10 minutes...

Even though I can appreciate the fact that this blogger mom may have felt relieved that her son finally quieted down and went to sleep once the irate stranger "screamed" at him, I am amazed that she or her husband did not address the inappropriate response of the passenger because they did do what they could to get the child to be still and quiet down. Also, they were not able to remove the child from the situation because they were on a plane. In a perfect world, their efforts should have been enough to resolve the situation but, this is not a perfect world and children aren't perfect either.

I am not clear on whether or not Wal-Mart mom tried to stop her child from crying because of conflicting news reports. But, what I do know is this... no matter what the circumstances, no one should take it upon themselves to physically discipline someone else's child or speak to them in an inappropriate manner, such as the passenger on the plane. What? Patience and a little tolerance on the part of the other passenger wasn't even a consideration or option here? And, don't even get me started on people who don't have any children to speak of in their lives... they are the worst!

I've been the mother of a small child and now, I have grandchildren. I've also had more than my share of moments with crying and challenging children, just like Wal-Mart mom and blogger mom. However, I don't know if I or my husband would've handled the passenger on the plane as well as blogger mom and dad, whether we could "identify" with his feelings or not. As for Stephens, I don't know what Wal-Mart mom did but, I think it's pretty safe to say that I would have been arrested right along with him because my natural "reflex reaction" would have been to assault him back in defense of my small child or grandchild.

My husband offered some opinions about these incidents as well. It is his feeling that Stephens wouldn't have dared slapped the child in Wal-Mart if the father had been present. In the case of the passenger on the plane, blogger mom explained that he was about 50lbs heavier than her husband. My husband questions if the passenger would have screamed at the child if the father was equal to or greater than him in size. In his opinion, both of these men showed signs of classic "bully" syndrome and should've been taken to task for their actions. In both instances, there were other people present who no doubt shared their feelings of discontent but, these two men were the only ones who acted on those feelings.

So, where is the middle ground when these situations occur? Well, here is an interesting piece that was submitted to a website called Associated Content. Apparently, this has been a hot topic on the internet for quite a while and a large part of the population is extremely frustrated with not only "Wal-Mart mom with crying child" syndrome but, all children who have difficulty behaving pubically in general. This offering of helpful tips, which claims to encourage people to confront such situations "head-on" but in a positive way, was done back in 2006... long before Stephens, little Paige, and her mom crossed paths in Wal-Mart.

After reading through it, I couldn't help but wonder if something like this would have made a difference in the way that Stephens responded to the child who was tirelessly crying while he tried to shop in peace and quiet? I'm also wondering if these tips adequately respect the dignity and rights of "both sides"? For the most part, I think the tips are within reason but, there are a few that I question. If you live long enough, most of us will find ourselves on both sides of this issue at different times in life and you should receive these tips in the same way. The bottom line is, like it or not, we have to find a way to co-exist together without verbally attacking and/or assaulting other people's children... and, as far as I'm concerned, that is not open to interpretation or negotiation.

* Footnote: But, we must remember not to judge a book by its cover.

10 Tips For Saying What Everyone Else Is Thinking

1. Do your best to identify who is actually responsible for the child. If it’s not immediately clear, you could start with a question like:

· Excuse me, is this your child?
· Pardon me, are you the adult responsible for this child?

The latter question is better because it subtly reminds the person they are an adult and that they are supposed to be in control of the child.

2. Describe the child’s behavior specifically. Instead of saying, "Your child is a total brat!" or "What a terror! or You should keep that child on a leash!", use more neutral language. Phrases like “I noticed” or “I wanted to let you know that I saw….” are good sentence starters. Then, describe what the child is actually doing: Taking merchandise off the shelves, throwing food, screaming loudly, grabbing other people, etc. While the parents may still be offended by your comment, you’re putting it as objectively as possible:

· I noticed that your child is throwing shampoo bottles in the other aisle.
· I wanted to let you know that your child is persistently screaming very loudly.
· Excuse me, your child is licking my leg!

On some occasions, parents are aware of what’s happening and they just don’t think anyone else has noticed. This step in confronting parents ensures that they know other people have noticed their child's behavior.

3. Help the parents connect their child's behavior with a negative effect on other people. This is the part that should be obvious, but the parent may need to be reminded of the connection. Again, be specific without being too accusatory. The parent will probably be embarrassed or angry enough at your approach anyway. Consider:

. Your child’s noise is disrupting dinner for those of us sitting near you.
· This child is dismantling the store’s display and creating a messy aisle for other shoppers.
· I am really bothered that your child keeps touching me.

These statements are firm yet, still phrased in a reasonably polite manner.

4. If appropriate, draw attention to a safety concern that may activate the parents’ protective mode. Sometimes, you can do this slyly and make it sound like your primary concern is for the child. And, who knows? Maybe it is. For example, wet floors, escalators, hot coffee, and germs are all potential safety hazards that you can use. Try:

· I saw your child running by the escalator and was concerned that he/she might fall.
· A lot of people have hot coffee on their tables and I wouldn’t want to see your child get burned.
· I just didn’t want to see your child slip on the wet floor.

Try to sound sincere, even if your ire is provoked. Whether this step of confrontation is authentic or just a cover, appear as genuine as possible.

5. For your own safety, never touch someone else’s child! If the child touches you, be careful not to push or interact with him/her in a threatening way. Remember that it is the parents who are at fault for their lack of monitoring and the child should not be punished by you. Do not touch someone else’s screaming, sniffling child in any way. Do not try to lead an errant child by the hand or anything else that could get misinterpreted as abduction, abuse, etc. Just direct your firm but polite comments to the parent. And in the case of safety hazards, remember that, legally, there is almost never a “duty to rescue” unless it is imposed by a natural or contractual relationship to the child (parent, nanny, teacher, etc.).

6. Give the parents of children the opportunity to correct a situation before you start into your schpiel. If a child is screaming loudly for only five seconds before a parent begins to discipline the child for the behavior, then you don’t really need to confront. If the child picks up a shampoo bottle and starts throwing it, give the parents a few seconds to realize what is happening and put a stop to it. When confronting parents, wait long enough to determine that they are either unaware of or unconcerned about their child's behavior. Depending on the context, this can be 15 seconds or 3 minutes. Use your judgment. It’s only worth saying something if the child has truly been a legitimate disruption to you or others around you.

7. Remember the context. If you’re at Chuck E. Cheese or in the kiddie section of the library, you’ll have to put up with children because the setting is a child-centered one where some conventions of behavior are bent in favour of kids. However, most retail stores, public transit, and other public spaces are not specially designated for kids. So, feel free to confront parents about their children in those settings.

8. Don’t berate parents. The goal is to get the parent to recognize the problem and address it in a way consistent with their parenting style. You can’t control everything! Rather, you are confronting parents about an immediate situation that had a negative effect on you and probably other people, too. Once the bad behavior has stopped, the incident is over as far as you’re concerned.

9. Remember to say thank you. If the parent addresses the problem or at least tries to, a quick “Thanks” or “I really appreciate it” is recommended as a polite gesture of incident closure.

10. Lastly, the phenomenon of behavioral problems in children cuts across all racial, gender, and socioeconomic divisions. If you’re confronting parents about a child's behavior, you should be “equal opportunity” about it. Don’t let racial discomfort, for example, stop you from confronting parents. On the flip side, don’t single people out based on perceived social characteristics that are unrelated to the behavior. A misbehaving child is a misbehaving child.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Enjoy Your Day Off!

[click on puzzle image for larger view]

Friday, September 4, 2009

Born On This Day

Happy Birthday To Me!

Don't you just love those prices?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Me & Mrs. Palin" Sneak Peak

Remember all of those accusations flying around during the presidential race for the White House that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was trying to conceal the fact that her daughter, Bristol, was pregnant? Well, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah's grandchild, said that... "She had a plan. She wanted to adopt his child so that people wouldn't know her 17 year old daughter was pregnant".

The October issue of Vanity Fair which features this interview is scheduled to go on sale Saturday 09/05/09. Johnston told the magazine that Sarah was constantly nagging him and her daughter about the subject of adopting the baby and just wouldn't give up. She kept asking them if they were going to let her adopt the baby and both of them repeatedly told her that they were not going to let her do it.

If you recall, a week after Republican presidential candidate John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, the campaign issued a statement that her unwed daughter was pregnant. It also said Bristol, who was 18 years old at the time, and Johnston would marry. Johnston was 19 years old then and he lived with the Palins for two months while awaiting the birth of their baby boy, Tripp Johnston. However, the couple called off the wedding shortly after their son's birth. Since then, Johnston has complained in several interviews that the Palin family limited his access to the boy and the Palin home in Wasilla was not what most people would think.

Johnston stated that, even before Sarah was nominated for vice president, the Palin house was much different from what many people expect of a normal family. Sarah and her husband, Todd, have a total of four children. There wasn't much parenting going on in the house and the kids were pretty much taking care of themselves (with the exception of their last child, Trig, who was just a baby). Sarah didn't cook and her husband didn't cook either. For the most part, the kids did it all... the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

After Sarah returned to Alaska following McCain's unsuccessful run for the presidency, Johnston said that she was different. She was sad for a while and walked around the house pouting. He assumed that Sarah was going to go back to her job as governor but, a week or two after she got back, she started talking about how nice it would be to quit and write a book or do a TV show and make triple the money.

Johnston also claimed that Sarah is not the hockey mom or outdoorswoman she pretended to be during the presidential campaign. She rarely attended her oldest son's hockey games and asked Johnston how to shoot a gun. Sarah also made statements that she went hunting and lived off of animal meat. Johnston said, if she did, he never saw it. He also told the magazine that he laughed every time he saw Tina Fey imitate Sarah because she sounded just like her.

Levi Johnston is the man behind the mask of Sarah Palin in the above photograph and I'm sure that he collected a hefty paycheck for his "tell all" interview with Vanity Fair... his interactions with Sarah and all the other "goings on" in the Palin household. Well, good for him but I'm not impressed. This "TMI" interview at this stage of the game leaves a real bad taste in my mouth and serves no real purpose.

Don't get me wrong... I am by no means a fan of Sarah Palin and I haven't forgotten that she said and did some "God-awful" things during the presidential campaign. (I suppose that is why "He" decided that she didn't need to be the vice president so, I'm good!) However, I've always been leery of people who "kiss and tell" and I'm even more suspicious of those who do it for money or personal gain.

I'm sure that, if we dig deep enough, we might even discover that Levi offered the content for this interview to Sarah first... for a price, of course. But, unfortunately, Sarah doesn't have "Vanity Fair" money so, it went to the highest bidder. Did you happen to notice that it looks like Levi is riding in the back of a limo in the photo?

At the risk of sounding like a Sarah Palin supporter, which I clearly am not, I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to a certain amount of privacy when it comes to their "personal" life and family... even, Sarah. (Yuk!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dazzlin' Diva

Whitney is back in more ways than one and her first CD in seven years was released on Monday, August 31st. The track listing is as follows:

1. Million Dollar Bill

2. Nothin' But Love

3. Call You Tonight

4. I Look To You

5. Like I Never Left

6. A Song For You

7. I Didn't Know My Own Strength

8. Worth It

9. For The Lovers

10. I Got You

11. Salute

R. Kelly and Alicia Keys contributed their songwriting talents to a few of the tracks. You can click on the image or text link above to visit Whitney's official website to learn more about her new CD release, listen to the tracks, rate the songs, leave a message, etc. Our prayers have been answered and God has reclaimed "one of His own". Welcome back, Whitney. We missed you!

It has been reported that Whitney struggled with her voice during the taping of her comeback performance on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, September 1st. The Grammy-winning diva apologized to the 5,000 people in the crowd for overusing her voice by "talking too much" during the taping of an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Monday, August 31st, the day before she took the stage in Central Park to promote her new album, "I Look to You." Already, the media has put their negative spin on this by accusing her of "blaming Oprah" for her voice challenges.

Fans who came from as far away as Australia and arrived in line as early as 10:00pm Monday, sang along during her perfomance. While "Good Morning America" only planned to have Whitney sing three songs, some fans were hoping to hear more from the songstress. The crowd was firmly behind Whitney. They wore homemade t-shirts and carried glittery signs that proclaimed "Whitney We Love U."

When Whitney came on stage, her hair in loose curls and wearing a sharp taupe dress, fans reacted and rushed toward the stage. Her voice was husky and the songs were missing the high notes that used to mark her signature sound. Whitney belted out three cuts from her new album and appeared to choke up during its emotional title ballad. The crowd was moved along with her, wildly applauding during some significant lines like, "After all my strength is gone, in you I can be strong."

Whitney's apology before closing out the set made devoted fans love her even more. More than a dozen people arrived Monday night to snag a spot in line for the concert. Calling the experience "Camp Whitney," they put out blankets and waited for the gates to open at 11:00am. The taped performance is scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America" Wednesday, September 2nd. In addition, Oprah Winfrey will launch the 24th season of her show on Monday, September 14th and it will feature the interview that was taped on Monday, August 31st with Whitney.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The (Legal) Drug Wars

If you took a prescription drug recently, more than likely it was generic. Nowadays, generic drugs constitute almost 70% of all the prescriptions dispensed nationwide, racking up $58 billion in sales in 2007. Anxious to cut costs, health insurance companies are stampeding to switch patients to drugs that are cheaper to make, test, and ultimately buy. This way, the manufacturers of these generic drugs can piggyback on the research and marketing already done by brand name drug companies.

Pharmacists in most states are also free to give patients whichever version of a drug is cheapest for them to supply, without telling the prescribing doctor. In some states, pharmacies are even "required" to make this switch. Further, few of us complain when it happens... people who wouldn’t dream of substituting Diet Pepsi for Diet Coke, simply because of the taste, eagerly swap vital medications, because the change can cut their co-pays in half.

Many lawmakers and health-policy experts say that this trend has next to no downside. Generic drugs have the same active ingredient that brand name drugs do and they are made in FDA-approved plants, just like the brand name drugs. For example, in a recent analysis, data was reviewed from 47 clinical studies and no evidence was found that patients on brand-name cardiovascular drugs had clinical outcomes superior to those on generic drugs. Given these results, and the lengths that some brand name drug companies have taken to protect their patents and profits, it is easy to believe that any supposed problems with generic drugs are not legitimate.

Over the course of a year, an investigation was done which included more than 50 nterviews and the records "leaked" from one of the world’s largest generic drug companies, raising questions as to whether some new generic drugs are as safe or effective as brand name drugs. However, many of these studies were completed before the recent flood of generic drugs hit the market and many factories manufacturing them moved overseas.

In FDA applications for new generic drugs, nearly 90% of the factories providing active ingredients are located overseas and the agency's inspection rate dropped 57 % between 2001 and 2008. The average citizen would want to know that someone is checking to make sure that manufacturers are making the actual drugs they have received approval to make and that’s not happening. The risk to consumers is potentially huge.

Generic drugs came into widespread use after Congress streamlined testing requirements in 1984 but, they are supposed to be tightly regulated. In the late 1980s, after companies were caught paying off inspectors in order to get generic drugs approved, the FDA overhauled its rules. The agency vowed to inspect each factory before giving the green light. It required any generic drug maker seeking approval to make one test lot of the proposed drug and then, produce three larger lots to show its manufacturing capabilities. They came a long way in how the inspections are done but, many of the FDA’s reforms have largely fallen by the ayside.

According to sources knowledgeable about the process, there are less FDA inspections and instead of the three required lots, companies are making one or, in some cases, none. In addition, manufacturing problems have come to light with six generic companies recalling 20 products in 2008. One pharmaceutical company which manufactures heart and pain medicine, recalled every drug it released.

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of new generic drugs put forth for FDA approval went up 40% and approvals doubled. As a result, approximately 600 generic drugs were cleared to be sold last year. Generic companies are popular on Capitol Hill because the industry is powerful and voters are anxious for cheaper drugs. The pressure is always on for government to reduce any barriers to entry.

Because brand name medications have already been clinically tested, generic companies applying for FDA approval don’t have to repeat that process on their versions. Instead, they must test their medicine on a minimum of 20 people. The subjects used in these tests take a single dose so, the drug is not tested over time. If tests show that the generic contains the same active ingredient as the (brand name does and delivers about the same dose, the FDA considers it “bioequivalent” and clears it to be sold.

However, it seems that patients are finding many differences among drugs the FDA has deemed to be equivalent. There have been complaints about dozens of generic drugs used for depression, hypertension, high cholesterol, and many other conditions. Consumers described these drugs as having no effect, caused bizarre side effects, or made their conditions worse. The outpouring of complaints has been astounding. It is becoming more apparent that nobody is monitoring the equivalence of these drugs. The goal of low-cost medicine should not and cannot come at the expense of public safety.

In this bleak economy, generic drugs have become even more important, as the cost of drugs could lead patients to stop taking needed medicine altogether. So, how can authorities ensure that generic drugs are safe for patients? The FDA can’t even keep pace with the inbox, let alone invest in better science. This need will become even more acute in the coming months, as generic drug companies push Congress for permission to make delicate, injectable biologic medicines, such as those often taken by cancer patients, because they are more complex to manufacture than traditional pills.

Doctors are eager to subject highly sensitive drugs that require time-release formulas or precise dosing to more extensive clinical testing. Some would like to see random, off-the-shelf testing of a generic drug’s ingredients and effectiveness after it hits the market. More dynamic oversight would also require equal inspections of brand name and generic plants, regardless of where they are in the world and this is beginning to happen. In recent months, the FDA has opened bureaus in China, India, Central America, and Europe and plans to expand its presence to Mexico, South America, and the Middle East. The FDA Globalization Act of 2009 will provide funds for further reforms. Still, there is no magic point in this process by which everything can be tested.

Some doctors remain troubled that most state laws allow pharmacists to change from brand names to generics "at will" (as well as changing between generics). The law should require them to notify treating physicians of any change. As it stands, doctors who want to ensure their brand-name prescriptions are obeyed must write “Do Not Substitute” on their prescriptions but, this does not guarantee that insurance companies will cover the extra cost. Other doctors argue that, if pharmacists had the added burden of informing doctors, they would be less likely to dispense generics drugs and it would help brand name companies preserve their monopolies, which translates into higher prices for consumers.

In the meantime, patients should and can help themselves by knowing who made the medications they are taking, noting when their prescriptions change, and if they suffer new side effects or a relapse in their condition as a result. One could argue that doctors see too many people, they see them too fast, and they don’t ask their patients many important questions that should be asked. The bottom line is... when your health and well-being are at stake, you need to proactive, know your own body, and don't be afraid to be your own advocate.

Watch your step!

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Christian Internet Code of Ethics

As a Christian who is active on the internet,
I hold myself to certain standards of conduct:

  • I guard my online relationships.
  • I am careful to visit websites that do not compromise my life in Christ.
  • I take care that my written communications reflect Christ in my life.
  • I guard my time to assure that my time online is kept in proper balance with the rest of my life.
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