Reflections–teaching kids about rape

I’ve been amazed and impressed this week with the discussion about the Steubenville rape case.

Yes, there is all the judgment of how the media has handled this story. I’m not talking about that.

I read 2 articles this week that spoke about going “all the way back” to the source. How do we stop this kind of event, how do we teach kids to stick up for another person, how should we function as members in society.

The first I read was Henry Rollins post. I like, and appreciate, how he calls attention to the two convicted boys being Offenders. That is what they are, they aren’t victims, they are Offenders that are being tried and prosecuted as our society sees fit. Sure, some wanted more time, some wanted a hand slap. Me? I’m super glad they have to register as sex offenders. Still – those boys, ALL of them, need to come to grips with the reality behind them and what to do next. I can only hope (and pray) that they learned why what they did was so wrong. On EVERY level. Every action they took – the rape, the pictures, the social, the joking and condemnation of the girl – was a horrible, reprehensible, sad display of common sense and humanity.

The second was a post by a mom of boys. The post is named – I am so fucking sick of teaching our daughters not to get raped. I think it’s right on. As a mother of a girl, I will have to tell her all those warning signs and tips to keep herself safe. It’s a necessity. I honestly don’t remember my mom ever having that conversation with me. I do remember watching people in high school and learning a lot on my own. I like that this mom talks about how respect and No Means No needs to be ingrained in every person. And another person calling out that those boys are responsible and accountable for their actions. They don’t deserve our pity. They deserve our sense of injustice and anger that it happened. They need to learn why what this did was so wrong. So horribly and disgustingly wrong. So sad….

I’ve seen a handful of others posted by friends on Facebook. There is so much discussion. I’m glad there is so much discussion.

Then yesterday, one that’s so close to home….

I’m on an alert list for any sex offenders moving into a certain radius of our neighborhood. It’s a frightening aspect of parenthood that I would rather plug my ears and scream LaLalaLaLA!!!!!

But that isn’t reality.

The reality is there are NINE registered sex offenders within a TWO MILE radius of my house. NINE!!!!! Within a TWO MILE radius!!!

On a normal day, that makes me incredibly sick to my stomach.

Yesterday, I received an alert of a newly registered sex offender. I hate that I get new alerts. I hate clicking on these links to see a picture of their face. I hate reading what they were committed of, thinking about what did they actually DO in the first place?! (think about that one, does it occur to you that maybe the actual act was worse than the conviction? I do….and some law enforcement officials will tell you to think about that too)

I was shocked. So shocked. So sickened, to click the link and see a young boy’s face staring back at me. Seriously – a boy. A now 13 year old boy. Convicted of “Rape of a child in the first degree”. Do you know what that means exactly? I do now:

RCW 9A.44.073

Rape of a child in the first degree.

(1) A person is guilty of rape of a child in the first degree when the person has sexual intercourse with another who is less than twelve years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least twenty-four months older than the victim.
(2) Rape of a child in the first degree is a class A felony.

Oh my fucking GOD! This (now) 13 year old had sex with another child who at the time was LESS THAN 12!!  And 24 months younger than this boy!! (those are all ANDs, not ORs) So let’s say he was 12 when the rape happened. This other child was 10. TEN!!!!  Even if he was 13 at the time, this other child is still ONLY 11.

Now – granted – it is not lost on me that this boy and the other child may have had what they considered consensual sex. They might have. It is just as likely that it wasn’t consensual.

I applaud the parents of the other child. To go through and press charges against this (now) 13 year old. I can only imagine how hard it would be for them – how that might impact their own child, admitting it happened in their family, backlash from the community, etc. etc. etc.

I think it is a timely and perfect example of telling society, this is NOT ok! I will NOT stand for this!

Now this 13 year old boy has to live with the consequences. Forever.

We should stand up and demand the change to make it better, change to stop us from having the conversation and debate in the first place…. It’s not extreme, it is what is required!

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home

I just finished reading Tell the Wolves I’m Home. It’s our book club selection right now.

This book broke me.

I cried all the way through the last 50 pages. Trying my best to not have heaving sobs given a sleeping (sick) child across the hallway.

I believe we each have our Causes. The organization you always send money, spend your time, will talk about with a stranger. HIV/AIDS awareness is one of mine that started back in high school. I think that is part of what hit me so hard in this book. It’s set in the winter/early Spring of 1987 and the main character is 14. (I was a sophomore in 1987, and would have been 16).

I can’t tell you why it hits me so hard. It just does.

Shortly after I moved out here, I joined the Chicken Soup Brigade. I volunteered in the warehouse to inventory food and get ready for deliveries. I also delivered meals to people with HIV/AIDS in the Seattle area. I loved that work. It was Friday afternoons and I would race out of the office at 3:30 every week to get on my way. There was one client in particular that I loved visiting. I would always go to his house last even though it wasn’t the most convenient delivery route. We would always have witty banter at the door, as I brought the bags into the kitchen. We would both say good-bye laughing, sometimes crying from laughter. (Usually people would just take the bags, say thanks, and go back in their homes) As he got sicker and wasn’t able to meet me at the door any longer, his partner would answer and I could only yell through the apartment to say Hi and go on my way. And then there was finally the week he wasn’t on my route any longer. I could only guess he passed and they weren’t accepting support any longer. It was a difficult day. I stopped doing the home deliveries shortly after that.

Back to this book – it is described as a coming of age story for the main character June, after losing her uncle, (as the book jacket describes it), “a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.”

It’s the compassion and friendship that broke me. Thinking back to how people reacted in the 80’s (and as the author illustrates in the story) how lonely it must have been for some, that didn’t have anybody. That even just one person can make a difference.

I think many of us lose sight of that a lot in our busy lives filled with work and internets, Facebook and family schedules….I sure fucking do!

This passage from the book is my absolute favorite, I even (gasp) dog-eared the page so I would have it marked forever:

Don’t you know? That’s the secret. If you always make sure you’re exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won’t care if you die tomorrow.

That doesn’t make any sense. If you were so happy, then you’d want to stay alive, wouldn’t you? You’d want to be alive forever, so you could keep being happy…

No, no. It’s the most unhappy people that who want to stay alive, because they think they haven’t done everything they want to do. They think they haven’t had enough time. They feel like they’ve been short changed.

Great reminder that it’s about creating the life I want surrounded by the people I choose and having a fabulous time in the process. Feeling pretty good about where I’m at with that too…

Today show thoughts–Teachers and Gun Training

A few months ago I started putting on the Today show while getting ready in the morning. Inevitably, kidlet gets up, crawls into my bed and starts to wake up with breakfast and one of her shows. Often times she sees a part of a story on Today. Most of the time, they are pretty tame and I’m not concerned (hello Golden Globe results!)  But sometimes, like today, there are heavy subjects.

She came into my room just as they did a story on a rise in teachers (in Texas specifically) going to gun training classes. I asked her to change the channel. Then I paused (story still in the background)  I asked her if she understood what they were talking about…

Yes, but why would teachers want a gun?

Well, some think they would feel safer and be able to protect their students if something terrible happened.

Huh.

Do you think teachers should have guns in the classroom

(she scoffs) I don’t think Mrs. S would want to have a gun!

She might not…

I find we are reaching an age with A that some topics in the news just can’t be avoided. How we sat down and told her about what happened at Sandy Hook before she went to a sleepover. How I sent a message to the parents with other kids at the party to let them know we were having that talk. That she didn’t quite understand why Norman and I couldn’t talk about it without crying.

I still want to protect her from heavy topics and would have preferred she not see the segment on Today this morning. But she did. So instead I want to have real conversations with her. I want to answer her questions. I want her to have information.

Besides that all – I still want to hold her and make all the  bad stuff go away. At least for a few more years to keep some level of innocence about her. That time is quickly slipping away from me. All I can do is prepare both of us for what’s next.

How We Treat Others

Last month, A’s school sponsored an assembly called Rachel’s Challenge. There were two session types, the K-4 grades had a discussion about kindness, how you should treat others, and how they can start their own chain reaction. The 5th & 6th graders saw a more graphic (if that is the right word) presentation that also talked about Columbine.

There was also a parent’s presentation that explained more about what our kids saw that day, and how we can support them to do the right thing. My understanding is what we saw was alike to the 5th/6th graders. I can see why it is tailored to grade levels. They showed video footage. We heard first-hand accounts of what happened that day, how now adults, then teenagers, were personally impacted, fearful and shocked by what happened in their community.

The story was much more about how Rachel lived her life before Columbine. How she cared and reached out to all people around her. You know the one, that kid that always invited the new student to their table at lunch. The kid that stuck up for everyone regardless of why they were being bullied, teased and picked on. The kid that was so sunshiny positive, my cynical pessimistic would fake gagging on the floor.

I was obviously not the Rachel in my high school.

Well, not sunshiny positive. There were times I stuck up for others. When I was a Senior (was it Senior year? I can’t honestly remember) David Toma came and talked to us about the danger of drugs. How that one decision could lead to a life of failure and despair. His stories were horrifying. The one that sticks in my mind were the new parents so high and paranoid, they literally put their baby in the microwave and turned it on. I can still remember where I was on the bleachers and the disturbingly graphic account he gave showing up on the scene as a police officer. Those kinds of stories don’t leave so easily.

Anyway – the school had counselors and all sorts of support options around the rest of the week. I remember being on the bus home and some kids started picking on this one particular boy. Because this boy went and talked to a counselor. They were poking fun at him and asking what was so important to talk to a counselor. I yelled at them, something along the lines You have no idea why he went, and it’s none of your business. You have no idea what is going on in his life that he needs to talk to someone. And you should leave him alone. This kid, we weren’t friends. We were friendly, but definitely didn’t travel in the same circles. The boys shut up, more mumbling under their breath probably saying things about me. But who cares.

Somewhere between 6th and 9th grade I grew a really thick skin. When I was in 6th grade I went into a brace for scoliosis. Just like Joan Cusack in 16 Candles.

I kid you not – I wore a Milwaukee brace and I kinda sorta related to Joan’s character in the movie. Except the part of hooking up with the exchange student. I had no hooking up when I wore the brace. I don’t think boys noticed me.

But the Mean Girls did.

There was one crowd of girls, I think 3 of them, maybe 2. I remember the Leader that would get up in my face. Super close. Uncomfortably close. She would say really awful things to me. About how ugly I was, how my brace made me a freak, how I would lose all my friends and no boy would ever want to date me. I would go home and cry. Every day. It was horrible.

After a few weeks, my parents found out. We had a family meeting and I remember my Dad being so angry. He wanted to call the principal. Get this girl, and her parents, into a room and Tell Her What’s Right and make her see what a horrible person she was and make her apologize. That made me cry even harder. I begged him to not call. I told him it would only get worse. I promised him it would only get worse. I don’t remember what else, if I said I would stay in during lunch or hang out with my friends somewhere else. I really don’t remember. The bullying continued. It even got worse. And then the school year was over.

So why am I going on this ugly trip down memory lane?

I recently finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why. The book was haunting. From the back cover:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

I could barely put this book down which says something, I’m such a slow reader. To hear the voice of a teen contemplating, and following through on suicide was too close to home. Not the suicide part, not at all. The torment and psychological drama. Too close to my own childhood dealing with Mean Girls, too close to what I see my 9-yr old, my 4th grader, dealing with already.

I kept thinking back to what I saw in the Rachel’s Challenge presentation. How those words can hit a teenager so hard. How that simple act of kindness, that to some doesn’t even feel like kindness, but how they live their life. To find the best in everyone. To see the positive intent. and believe the world could be a better place by creating a chain reaction.

My teen years are way behind me. To revisit them is only a lesson in how I survived and became stronger for any adversity I faced.

My kid is another story.

What sort of lesson I can teach her now, as a 9-yr old. Dealing with Mean Girls. In the 4th Grade. So much earlier than I ever dreamed of dealing with when I was in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. Junior High is the worst. I want her to have enough thick skin that this Mean Girl thing can blow over. That she can find her true friends that will stand by her, and stick up for her.

It is truly frightening to be a parent when there is so little we can actually control, or protect.

The best I can do now is prepare her for what lies ahead. To lead by example. Talk to her every day about how she is feeling and what she struggles with socially. To instill belief and faith that I’ll be there for her to listen and help her through the rough times. And celebrate the resulting success and happiness.

Open Mouth, Insert Leg

I have been attending the Microsoft Women’s Leadership Conference the last two day.  It’s the fourth time I’ve gone, and the first time I’ve been underwhelmed. I did see two very good sessions today, so that likely makes up for the others. I’ve been chewing on one participant’s comment all day long, the longer I think, the more irritated I am.

This is also the first time I have seen so many men at the conference.  I only mention this as the participant I just mentioned is one. A man.

This morning Steve Ballmer came and did an interview-type discussion to kick off the day. Good questions, mostly good responses, and then time to open it up to questions from the audience.

A man was up at the microphone and asked two questions.  The more relevant one was about succession planning and how many women are on the executive plan. Great question, impressive. But…  The other question.  He asked Steve, of all the conferences and opportunities he is offered over the year, why did he pick the Microsoft Women’s Conference?

?

I’m sorry, WHAT?!

It was an odd response in the room. The air wasn’t sucked out, no collective gasp, no rousing emotion or “bitch” from all the (women) people surrounding him. It was more of an awkward – Wait. Did he really just say that? Did you hear that? ‘Cause I heard it!

It was a good response from Steve – who was very honest that he doesn’t own his calendar, the team and business managers around him own it. And if they tell him it is important, he knows it is important and therefore he attends.

Wow – how demoralizing. I’m still a bit irritated the question was even asked. Given the room dynamic, and how Steve responded to the question, I’m not sure the participant “got” it. I didn’t see him again once we disbanded from the room. But maybe, hopefully, some other person pulled him aside to give an insight into how he may have been perceived. By many.

September 11th, my story

Hearing recent stories, seeing magazines and books about September 11th has many of us thinking about where we were 10 years ago. What images and feelings are burned into our minds. 

I recently read Dooce’s entry on her 9/11 memories. I found it powerful to share her experience and thoughts. As tragic and paralyzing the memories are for people – some more than others – I think it’s important to remember. We need to keep in touch with horror in the world to combat it – the Holocaust, the Sudan, or anywhere on the globe, any of the other numerous terrorist attacks that have happened. If it makes us that much more compassionate, helps us to teach our children to make different choices, impacts one other person’s world – I think as humans we should feel obligated to carry that through.

So here is my memory…

I remember being in our house in Woodinville getting ready for work.  It was any other typical morning that I’m trying to rush out the door to beat traffic and get in to my desk on time.  I came out of the bathroom and Norman is on the bed, staring at the TV. I remember thinking how odd, we don’t turn the TV on in the morning. I turn to face the television and see one of the towers being hit. I plopped onto the bed next to him stunned.  I thought, what is this? It cannot be real!

I sat on the bed with him a little bit longer. Watching the video, hearing a different kind of emotion from the reporters. The kind where professionalism is out the window and their real emotion and personalities show up. That is so very rare.

Eventually I got up, into my car and drove to work. I turned on NPR. I remember hearing Bob Edwards giving a moment by moment account of what was happening. I remember him choking out, sharing with all the listeners, that the 2nd tower was hit. I remember crying.

I remember arriving at the office and no one was working. It was terribly somber. We were together in a way that felt like a community trying to grasp the enormity of what was unfolding before us. Our VP left to go buy a TV. That was set up in an empty office and we all funneled in and out to watch as long as we could stand before returning to our desks. I wasn’t working at all. I was on my computer looking around news sites and absorbing every detail and update. I remember hitting the F5 key over and over and over and over and over…

I don’t remember when I left. Our VP sent us all home. There wasn’t any work being done. People certainly didn’t want to be at the office. I met Norman at home, being together and dealing with everything that was unfolding before us.  It was before we were married, a girlfriend of mine was pregnant. I wondered how could she cope with bringing a child into this kind of world?  How could I? How do you explain to a kid something like this?


Just even typing this out, my eyes are welling up. The other night at dinner my Dad and I were explaining 9/11 to A. She knows what it is, she doesn’t know the feeling, the experience of what happened that day. I told her there will be many TV shows on in memorial, and it will be a hard day for Mommy, Daddy and Papa to see any of it. I was telling my dad about Portraits of Resilience, which started at 8:46am ET. A asked if she could watch it. I was somewhere between stunned and understanding towards her request. I told her yes, that she can watch it. I also explained that it is a very sad story, and could be hard to watch, so we should talk about it. She should ask us any question she has. And to tell us if she needs to stop watching.

This morning A and I ran the Iron Girl 5k in Seattle. It was an event full of positive energy. Many mom/daughter teams (we were the Glisten Girls) and it was great to see Moms work with their girls, pushing them forward. I am so proud of A, she did so fabulous, beyond my expectations. It was a very happy morning.

We should continue to experience joy.

We need to bring community to those around us.

We should always remember.

Breast Cancer Awareness – 2011

(disclaimer – if you don’t care to know about my breast health, stop reading now)

Two years and one week ago, I had an annual check up that my provider found an odd lump. 

One year, 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days ago I had a benign lump removed. 

Eight hours and 31 minutes ago, I had another annual check up. 

My nurse practitioner found what she is pretty sure, but not entirely certain, a large cyst. So now I have to go and have more fun testing and films and if I’m lucky – nothing will come of it. Or maybe I’ll get a recommendation to have the cyst drained (which I hope they give me a Xanax). And very likely a different kind of testing and heightened awareness the rest of my life.

Do I sound bitter?  Yeah….that’s kind of where I am right now.

Earlier today when I was thinking about typing up a post, I was considering a title like “What I hate about getting older” Because as amazing our bodies are, how much abuse they will take and keep moving forward, eventually they will begin breaking down. I feel like in the last 2 years I have entered this realm. More opportunities to think about how I’m living my life and be thankful that I honestly do live as healthy as I can. I work out, I love doing that for myself and the results. I eat well, excluding chocolate binges and Friday tasty beverages. I try to get Me time, I do neglect my sleep, and well – I thrive on stress.

So…not feeling as bitter as I was when I started this (The Proposal is distracting me right now). We’ll see in a week or so how freaked out I become. Or not. Let’s hope not…