Do you hear what they hear?

Those of you who follow me on FB know that I have been on this kick for the past few weeks about profanity use among Junior High students. I had many comments from friends who seem to share my concern and several shared good ideas of how to engage in this battle against profanity. I realize the nation as a whole has a “potty mouth” problem, but I am realistic in acknowledging that my efforts are best used working towards change at a local level, rather than taking on the nation as a whole 🙂 The following letter is my effort to do just that. Shared here is only the first 2/3 or the letter, as there is more I want to say. But, before I finish the letter I was hoping to get some feedback from friends and family who have opinions on this subject, and especially from those of you who work or have worked in the field of education. My thoughts as to how to finish the letter are tying in the “anti-bullying” and “say no to drugs” campaigns that are already a helpful part of the culture of the school district, to point out that things can improve if extra emphasis is given to a certain problem within a school context. I also want to give some solid suggestions of a student led “clean language club” or “hear something, say something” type of system, or finding a way to award those who are known for speaking with respect and standing up to those who have “potty mouths”. Ok, I will admit it…I am just trying to create an award that my boys can win. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Here is what I have so far for my letter which I intend to send to the Principal and District Superintendant. I would be very happy to get feedback from any of you who are so inclined to share some with me. You can leave comments on here, or add them to my facebook page, or send me an email message at bransonandersons@gmail.com

Dear District 200 Superintendant, and to the Principal and Assistant Principal at Creekside Middle school,

Since we just completed the first quarter of this school year, I thought this might be a fitting time to give a parent progress report to the teachers and administrators of Creekside middle school. I have been wanting to write this letter for quite some time, and this seemed to be the right opportunity to share my thoughts on some concerns we have had about the school experience our boys are having. Being new to the city of Woodstock, there have been some struggles in the transition as is expected at this stage of life for our family. The teachers have been great overall at helping our boys to know what is expected and encouraging them to strive for academic excellence. The music programs are the highlight of their Creekside school experience so far. The band and orchestra teachers have both provided valuable mentoring and for our 8th grade percussionist and 6th grade cello player. The social transition to attending Creekside has been the most challenging for our boys, which was unexpected to us since they have always been well liked, easy going kids who get along well with others. They have each found a few friends, however, they still express discouragement at not being able to find others who share their values. From what they tell me, they feel like they are in the minority as boys who do not use profanity. Of course, they experienced some swearing in their schools in Missouri, but the contrast of how much more of it they are unwillingly exposed to here has been stark. This is the main purpose of my letter today. It seems the “culture” between the students within this school is one where derogatory remarks and foul language are the norm among the students rather than the exception.

Since my boys have decided they do not want to adopt the habit of using profanity, they are discouraged by the excess vulgarity they hear on a daily basis in the hallways, lunchroom and especially in the PE locker room during the five minutes while changing. I realize the teachers can not be in the locker room area while the kids are changing. However, with concentrated effort from teachers and school admin, there should be some way to connect the expectations (already outlined in the CMSPH) with the daily student experience of a “positive school environment”(p. 17) where profanity is the exception, not the norm. For example, my 8th grader reports hearing the “F” word dozens of times shouted out by multiple boys on a daily basis who seem to think the locker room is a “safe” place for them to holler out the most extreme profanity including playfully calling each other Niggers. It makes me cringe even to type that word, so why so many students think it is ok to playfully use such a racially charged word is amazing to me. I know much of it has to do with the entertainment culture which is unfiltered by many parents. It is also likely that many parents model the use of vulgar language at home, without any adverse response when their children begin using it. I do believe in freedom of speech, however, there traditionally have been implied “norms” in school or business settings that dictate refraining from the use of degrading profanity in civilized society.

At this point in this letter, you are likely thinking, “wow, we have quite the complaining mom on our hands here.” I do hope that the points I am making are shifting your thoughts to concern for the students within your school and how we collectively might improve the problem I have outlined here. You will be glad to know I am not only dwelling on the problems, but I have spent time researching a few ideas that might improve the “vocabulary deficiency” within our school. I reached out to friends and family across the country on Facebook to hear about what kind of experiences their middle schoolers were having related to language as a part of my research. I will be refering to the comments I got back from friends multiple times in the remainder of this letter. One suggestion I received from a friend out in Arizona was to suggest what their middle school does which is to go to a silent locker room policy. There had been too many reports of foul language in the locker room, so the PE teachers with the support of the school administration team decided to implement this policy. The directive is to, “Go in the locker room, change quickly and quietly, and don’t talk until you get outside the locker room.” The first time it was violated (by one person) the entire class had to do 30 pushups. That was the last time it was violated in the 3 months my 7th grader nephew has been in school this year. To me, this sounds like a good alternative worth considering in this district to help control the vulgar and profane language that daily occurs in the locker room, where all students have not choice but to hear it. A great quote I found on “Goodreads” website during my research on this topic is as follows:

“I think the reason that swearing is both offensive and so attractive is that is is a way to punch people’s emotional buttons. This is beacuse words soak up emotional connotations and are processed involuntarily by the listener.” (Stephen Pinker, Goodreads)

Before I go any further, let me point out again my intent in writing this. I anticipate the initial reaction to reading this might be, “We have way bigger fish to fry lady! If we can keep these kids from physically harming themselves or others we are doing well” or perhaps this, “If the parents let them swear at home, (which many of them do) then we have no chance of convincing them to stop.” or the response I got when I talked with Mrs. Martin about this end of last school year, “We do try Mrs. Anderson, but the teachers are so outnumbered that it is very difficult to enforce rules related to language. Also, the kids are very clever at hiding their bad language from teachers.” I am well aware that the worldwide lack of civility is not going to be solved from the town of Woodstock, IL. However, I do believe in the potential of the youth today as the hope of the future who can change this world for the better. The ability to influence the world for good begins with education. Education requires expectations, and in regards to language- teachers, administrators and parents need to set higher expectations for our youth. In your handbook (CMSPH), the expectations of the school are outlined for the students including “self discipline and respect for others.” I believe that your students can rise to this challenge and improve the culture of this school to make it a place where well-mannered, kind, hard-working boys like mine can feel welcome.
George Washington once stated, “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that it is despised by people of character.”

I know from reading your handbook , that this school district desires to help create people of character through the process of education.
As students are “allowed” in the lunchroom, the hallways and the locker rooms to use “gutter talk”, without fear of discipline, we are doing them a dis-service by delaying their maturation process.

“All members of the CMS community share in the responsibility for creating a positive school climate. Our primary goal is to guide students through a variety of exciting and challenging experiences in a SAFE environment that encourages students to achieve success. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively on themselves, their parents and the school and to respect the rights, feelings and property of others…”(p. 17 CMSPH)

Within that small portion of the Code of Conduct section of the hanbook, there are several applicable points. (positive school climate, safe environment, respect others) Here is another personal example to help explain why our experience in this school has led me to take this topic on as a cause in which I can help make a difference. My 8th grade son started last January as 7th grader at Creekside. After the first few days, he was completely discouraged with the language he was hearing around him, including that of the boys who were assigned to be his “welcome committee” that he was assigned to shadow. When I spoke with the front office person on the third day of school about my son’s concern, the response was, “What to do you expect, this is Junior High?” This was our first week at your school, and this was the response that gave us our first impression. That response did not match at all with what we had read in the handbook about the values and expectations of the school. It sounded to me more like resignation that this is a battle not worth fighting. I am persistent enough to not give up after that interactions, so I set up a time to meet with Mrs. Martin. I was pleased after speaking with Mrs. Martin about the same issue, action was taken. She spoke with the boys involved about it that day, and their language improved. That showed me that if the expectation is clearly set by those in authority for the students to “behave responsibly and treat others with respect” then the students will “recognize and accept the outcomes of their behavior” leading them to “demonstrate good citizenship in the school, home and community” (all quotes here taken from page 18 under the section of All School Expectations)

TO BE CONTINUED -Jeanie Anderson (Comments welcome)

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A Camp full of Miracles

I am the 2nd Counsellor in Young Women in our new ward, so I was asked to go to the last two days of YW camp to split the week with our YW president who was unable to stay the whole week.  I absolutely love anything related to Girls’s camp, so of course I was happy to say yes. The 48 hours I was there was far too short…so I find myself today reminiscing about camp experiences of years’ past, and hoping that next year I can go for the whole week.

You will see from the article written below, that this is not the first time I have been caught up in memories of the past related to girls’ camp! I wrote this article couple of years ago and submitted it to the Ensign & New Era Magazines in the hope that it might be used in one of the summer issues of the church magazines. But, considering I never heard back, I assume it is not likely to be published. It was kind of a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” vibe they put out on the website when outlining the process for article submission. I have launched this article into cyber-space a couple times since writing it, and decided to do a that again today to share my thoughts with even more people.  So, here goes…enjoy!

“A Camp Full of Miracles”

written by: Jeanie Anderson

My turn had finally come! Every summer for the previous eight years I had watched with anticipation as my older sisters joyfully departed for Camp Ritchie and I would count up the years before I would be old enough. As the bus began to ascend the mountain pass into the Sierra mountains, I looked out the window in awe of the beauty that was now becoming visible as the sunrise was illuminating the scenery. Though I was sleepy from waking up very early, I could hardly contain my excitement for the week ahead. As I began to get a glimpse of this part of Northern California, I could see why they described this place as magical. Once Bear Lake reservoir came into view, the beauty was breathtaking.
That year, 1987, was the beginning of a crucial 6 years of my life that my life as I navigated my way through the teenage years. My life was greatly blessed by the experiences I had at Young Women’s Camp. The beauty of that place, and the things I learned there, strengthened me year after year. My life, and the lives of so many other Young Women, are blessed each summer as similar Young Women’s Camp programs occur out all over the world in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My last year at Camp Ritchie was 1994, when I returned as a cabin counselor. I made the four hour drive on my own, since my work schedule prohibited me from leaving early in the morning with the rest of the group. During the last hour of my drive, as the sun was setting, I stopped at a scenic overlook to get some fresh air and stretch my legs. As I looked out over the mountains covered in evergreen trees, with the backdrop of the sunset painted sky, I felt overwhelmed with love for my Heavenly Father and gratitude for the many blessings in my life. It was then that I experienced a “moment of brilliance” as I like to refer to those times when the Holy Ghost blesses me with a clear understanding of a gospel truth. I looked at all those trees pointing heavenward at various heights, and thought of the young women with whom I would spend the next five days. I realized they are much like those trees, each at a different ‘height” in her journey toward heaven, standing side by side helping one another as they continue to grow upward on the path that leads back to our Heavenly home. For the rest of the drive I filled my car with testimony as I sang favorite hymns about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. By the time I reached camp, I had a tear streaked face and a glowing countenance. To me, this experience was representative of the most important thing I gained from my years at girls’ camp, my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Throughout the week at camp, I took every opportunity to teach and testify of God’s love to the girls within my stewardship. I was thankful for the chance to “pay forward” the spiritual mentorship that I had received from my leaders during the past six years.

Another experience I would like to share took place half a world a way in the country of Zimbabwe, Africa. It was June of 1999, and I had spent the previous 6 months as a BYU intern working at a private school run by an Latter-day Saint family in Zimbabwe. Our group had volunteered to the District Young Women’s president in Harare, the capital city, to help plan a Young Womens Camp, which had not been something they had previously done in this area. The idea of “going camping” in Africa is somewhat ironic since much of everyday life there is what we in America consider “camping”. We planned a one day “Girls Camp” event which included team-building games, a service project, music, and a few items of girls camp certification. The “camping” skills that were taught were mostly a review of skills these girls had learned as children in their homes used for basic survival. This was a fascinating cultural experience for me and reinforced the admiration I felt for the Zimbabwean women with their work ethic and resourcefulness.

Highlights of the day for me were; teaching them the “Hokey Pokey & Bunny Hop”, hearing them sing familiar hymns with the unique stylings of African musical tradition and the testimony meeting where I and many others shared our thoughts and feelings related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was blessed to stand before these beautiful young women and testify of God’s love and of the important role each of them plays in the plan of our Heavenly Father. Many of these girls were recent converts, with several who were the only member of the church in their families. I was overcome as the Spirit helped me to see the nobility of these young African “pioneers”. Whether in California, USA or Harare, Zimbabwe – Girls’ camp provides a unique opportunity where the future mothers of the church can learn who they are as daughters of God, and strengthen their desire to follow Jesus Christ, marry in the temple, raise children in the gospel, and improve the communities in which they live.

Young Women’s camp is a place where friendships are born, where fears are overcome through faith, where testimonies are strengthened and where future leaders are created. Young Women’s Camp (often referred to as Girls’ Camp) is an ongoing tradition all over the world where miracles happen every summer. During my married years, I have been a part of girls’ camp a few different places in the Midwestern part of the USA. I always consider it a privilege to witness the many miracles that happen in the lives of these young daughters of God. No matter where the camp is located, what the sleeping arrangements may be, what type of food we eat, or how many girls participate, there are common elements of the girls’ camp experience that help to create miracles in the lives of the young women of the church. The following is a top ten list which will provide a summary of these miracles:

– Learning to work and play together
– Strengthening and Sharing of testimonies
– Feeling and Recognizing the Spirit
– Developing Friendships
– Conquering Fears
– Gaining Independence
– Eliminating worldly distractions
– Observing the examples of selfless and loving leaders
– Communing with God while surrounded by His Creations
– Singing…lots of singing!
The following mission statement of Camp Ritchie which was developed by the church leaders in Northern California where I went to camp as a Young Woman. To me, these sentences best summarize what a miracle Young Womens camp can be in the lives of our youth:

“The mission and purpose of Camp Ritchie is to provide the ultimate natural and spiritual setting for the freeing of the hearts and spirits of the youth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and more especially the precious young daughters of God, that they might soar heavenward whence they so recently came. To allow them to learn to appreciate the joy and beauty of God’s creations in all their grandeur. To learn to work and play together, to learn to forgive and to be forgiven, to learn to achieve, to learn to serve, to learn to give comfort, and above all to learn to love.”

In closing, I would like to thank all those who have ever served in any capacity at Young Women’s Camp, and the Priesthood leaders who have been supportive of Camp Programs in their various wards and stakes. I look forward to many more miracles!
————————————————————————————

CAMP TESTIMONIALS:
A collection of quotes collected from Young Women and Leaders that I collected through a Facebook group that I started called “Camp Ritchie Alumni”

1) “Well I suppose Girls camp must mean something to me since I keep going back year after year after year after..well you get the picture! I think its been about 40 years of going for me..some kids never grow up!… I could never give back what Camp Ritchie has given me. It is really the only reason why I am where I am today. I really wonder where I would be in my life had I not had the experiences I was blessed to have up at camp. And for the many years after that I was so lucky to be a part of something so amazing.” Sheila R.
2)”Girls camp was the first place I felt the spirit”. Katie Guest
3)”I think part of the reason we are all still solid in our testimonies to this day is, in large part, because of our positive experiences of feeling and recognizing the spirit at Camp Ritchie each summer.” Cheryl Izatt
4)”For me it was the music. It made me feel unified, connect and at peace with myself and other. Feelings which can be new and refreshing for an emotional teenager to experience. And of course ,I learned that the spirit of The Lord can be found with one guitar and many hearts singing in unison…the praises of The Lord” Mona Marler
5)” The conquering fear part was huge for me. It is such a life lesson that we all have to deal with. I also believe that fear is one of Satan’s biggest tools that he uses against us. Fear of all the things you mentioned including rejection by others but learning that one always had the acceptance of God was a critical camp lesson that I learned.” Kristina Nelson Orton
6)”Hey this is Jane Peterson! Cathy Peterson daughter and I just got back from girls camp yesterday, and would love to share my experience! Girls camp has always been a place of comfort for me. A place were there is no electronics and other worldly items to come in between me and being able to feel the spirit! I think the time I can mostly feel the spirit is during the testimony meeting up at camp!”
7)”The songs, hikes, camaraderie, counselors who cared, camping skills learned, first aid, camp fires and skits. Meeting other girls and watching the older girls example. Also camp chores and flag ceremony.” Cheri Wallace
8)”Youth need and desire to feel the spirit. They need to learn to recognize the spirit. There is no better place for these young women to do just that than in God’s world – in nature – unplugged from the outside world – and plugged into their feelings. ‘Be still and know that I am.’ Girls camp provides those opportunities for the spirit to whisper in their hearts the truths that they are taught all week.” Suzanne Stewart

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Memory Space

(I started this blog 2 years ago, and just found it again today in my “drafts” folder. After reading it again, I decided there are some good thoughts in there, so I will go ahead and post it. Enjoy!)

I realize that I am very much behind the times, since my blog posts are typically full of words instead of pictures.  For some reason, the task of trying to add pictures to a blog post seems to be a daunting one for me.  Every once and a while, when the topic of my blog post warrants it, I will take the time to put pictures on here, but in the mean time, I will just try to paint pictures with my words.  I look at this blog more as a journal than a scrapbook. Getting my thoughts downloaded from my brain to the computer screen is the main goal.  This process helps me to make room in my brain for more thoughts.  On that same strain of thought…I got a new i-phone recently.  It seems like it does not have as much memory space as my last one did, because often when I try to take a picture, it tells me “you do not have enough  memory space for this picture”.

That seems to happen to me in life with my brain sometimes.  I find at times when trying to digest new information, my brain wants to reject it by telling me, “you have too many other things to think about right now, you can not handle adding any more!”  That takes me back to my point about the value of blogging (called journaling in the pre-internet days).  It is an opportunity to download information allowing me to “shelve it” in my brain.  Prayer is another method of “clearing space” in my brain and in my heart.  When I am worrying a lot about something, I find that having a good long talk with my Heavenly Father is just what I need to help me “let it rest”. This especially works well with problems that are totally out of my control.  Once I am able to “hand it over” to God through prayer, it allows me to have peace.

Even if the problem is unresolved, I am confident that God is working on it for me, and eventually resolution will be reached, in God’s timing, not in mine.  Personally, the true meaning of peace is to have total trust in God’s promises.  This allows us to not worry about the how or when, but to have confidence in the concept of “thy will be done.”  If we trust in Him, God will always work things out for our Eternal Good.  Though at times it may not seem that way to our mortal minds,  His will for us is always best.  This does not mean that it is His will for us to experience awful heartache, loss, disappointment and pain. However, these trials are a part of the mortal experience that we need to learn and grow.  It is how we endure through them, with trust in God and reliance upon the Atonement of His son, Jesus Christ that allows us to feel the growth in ourselves and know for ourselves that “all these things shall work together for our good”.

 

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Alive and Well at Silver Dollar City

(cut and pasted from a travel website, not my words- but I echo the sentiment)

For years, Branson has been our favorite home away from home and quick weekend getaway! Lately, as Silver Dollar City, and Branson itself, have grown and my spatial issues have become more of a challenge, we haven’t been able to go but when we did … we loved it!

There has been, in our experience, a very different spirit in Branson than anywhere else on earth. Traffic may be, and frequently is, heavy but drivers are polite and considerate of others. For years I never saw a traffic accident or police officer in Branson. There is a VERY STRONG patriotic spirit in Branson … veterans are celebrated, the flag is flying everywhere, and you just feel proud to be an American when you’re there. Also … culturally we are becoming less and less a “Christian” nation but in Branson … it’s just different! God is honored there and it’s okay, maybe even encouraged to speak your faith! I think those things have been changing as Branson has grown and changed. There are more crowds and less innocence. It has lost something precious and that’s really too bad.

But … Silver Dollar City is still an awesome place to go, if you don’t mind a crowd, with older children and teens. It’s a great combination of museum. theme/amusement park, cultural (music, arts, and crafts), international and culinary experience! Our favorite season has always been autumn when they do the National Harvest Festival celebrating crafts, music and foods of the Ozarks! The sounds, colors and aromas lift my spirits as soon as I walk through the gate and I feel transported to another time and place! I also enjoy World Fest and the Christmas Spectacular (you have never seen such lights)!

Branson and Silver Dollar City … are definitely on my must do quick weekend trip.

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Re-connecting with Zimbabwe

As we have unpacked from our move, I have been doing a lot of sorting of papers, and getting rid of many papers that I have held on to for way too many years.  In the process, I have found many pages of personal thoughts, journal entries and notes from various stages of my life.  The most treasured papers I have re-discovered lately are those that I wrote about my experiences in Africa.  I found a spiral notebook that had notes from a fireside I had given in San Jose, September 2000, about my time in Zimbabawe.  My plan here with this blog entry is to type the contents of that notebook in to a blog format so I can access it in the future when I want to use those experiences in a talk, or share with my family.  Here goes…

January 11, 1999 – Things here seem so very familiar to me, like I hav been waiting a long itme to be with these people, using my talents in this way.  Everything in my patriarchal blessing points to this experience.  Tonight, I asked Kurt (Sylvia Eppel’s husband) for a “back to school blessing”.  I was promised in that blessing that the talents and strengths I needed while here will be provided.  Once again, the Spirit confirmed to me that I am right where I need to be at this time in my life.

January 13, 1999 – I feel a pressing need to excell in this capacity more than I have ever before in my life.  I know I can make a difference in the lives of these kids.

January 15, 1999 – Today I read a story to Charity (5) and Nancy (3) who are the two daughters of Lucy, the Newbold’s maid.  They get so very excited every time we pay attention to them.  They live in a one room shack between our house and the Newbolds, so we pass by there often.  The two girls basically take care of themselves while Lucy works cleaning the Newbolds home and washing, hanging and ironing all their laundry. As a sidenote, most “wealthy” families, like the Newbolds, had a “Twin Tub” washing machine, that would wash the clothes, and then spin them in the other side, but it required moving them from one side to another.  Then they needed to be hung to dry on a line, and then each item needed to be ironed, because there are little flies called “tsi tsi” flies that like to take up residence in the wet clothes as they are hanging.  Ironing the clothes kills them.  In our house, we have a clothes line strung across the front room so we can hang the clothes inside to avoid those little pests.  Now, back to the story…whenever we are at home, the girls play outside of our window to watch what we are doing.  Sometimes I put my tape recorder in the window so they can hear the music.

January 15th (continued) – It seems that I never have my camera on hand at the right moments.  Anyhow, I don’t think a camera whould be able to capture the beauty of this place.  Most of my memories from here will have to be recorded in my heart. [2016 note- my time in Africa was before digital cameras, so I did not take nearly as many pics as I would have in more modern times]

The political tension in this country is very complex right now.  I don’t want to get too emotionally involved, yet I want to understand enough to be able to relate to what the people are going through.  They struggle to continue smiling when the world around them which is already destitute, continues to be more difficult to survive in.  Yet somehow they still manage to brighten my life every day, especially the children.  I believe that no matter where you go in the world, children are children and will always make you smile if you will let them.

January 20th, 1999 – This morning at school i was reminded how much easier it is to forget our own worries when we are serving others, especially children.  These kids brighten my life, I can’t help but love them.

January 25, 1999 – My class was very well behaved today.  It is amazing how much contrast there can be from day to day.  Even when they are rowdy, I have a hard time being cross with them (to use a common Zimbabwe term), because they are so very cute.  Their sweet, little eyes give me such a pathetic look of pleading when they know they are in trouble.  I feel like we have a pretty good relationship of trust so far that allows me to discipline with power when I need to, and then “show forth an increase of love”.  It has only been two weeks as their teacher. I can only imagine how much love I will hold in my heart for these kids by the time I go home.

January 20th, 2000 Journal Entry- Though the details of daily life in Zim may escape me, the feelings and emotions have not. The children I worked with left a lasting impression on my soul.  From the very start, I knew that would be the case.  They helped me to realize my capacity for love and service.  Now, the hard part is trying to live up to that capacity in my comfy American lifestyle.

————————————————————-to be continued

 

 

 

 

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Happy Halloween?

 Today is my boy’s 13th birthday. He was excited to be invited to his first party as a teenager.  His excitement quickly diminished as he was faced with a situation of either watching a scary movie that he didn’t feel good about watching, or spending the evening in another room with the younger kids rather than hanging with the teens.  Neither of those options seemed acceptable to him, so he called me to tell me he wanted to just come home.  On the way home we had a conversation about “Scary Movies” and why so many people seem to love to watch them, even people who are very active Christians who love Jesus Christ and strive to follow him in their daily lives. 
My opinion is that there is so much in this world that is already extremely scary, so it seems to me if you want to feel scared, you could just turn on the news- rather than chosing a movie about demons possessing people’s bodies and minds causing them to do all sorts of unspeakable things.  I remember watching “The Little Mermaid” as a 12 year old for the first time, and having bad dreams that night about Ursula attacking me in my sleep!  I have always been ultra sensitive to media containing violence, especially unexpected suspenseful violence.  I don’t mind a good mystery movie from time to time, suspense in and of itself is not objectionable.  But, when that suspense is paired with violence, foul language and sexual content…then I want NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!!! 
I just asked Solomon to bring me a copy of the For Strength of Youth pamphlet to be reminded what our church leaders have to say on this subject.  “Choose only entertainment and media that will uplift you…do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents violent or immoral behavior as acceptable.  Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way.” And most importantly…they offend the Spirit!!!    When we got home tonight, I looked up parent reviews about the movies that had been the three options presented to watch at the party tonight.  All of which were PG-13 , all of which contained graphic violence, vulgar language and sexual content.  Solomon introduced me to a website called “Common Sense Media” that has very good advice on helping to navigate your family through the filthy sea of movies, televison and music.  I am adding here to my blog some segments from that website that I found very helpful.  I hope my words will be helpful to someone, maybe some parents will reconsider the direction their family has chosen to go regarding media.  We were reminded by our primary children in Sacrament meeting a few weeks ago to “Follow the Prophet, he knows the way”.  Amen to that!  We will be safe, and we can keep our children safe if we read and heed the words of God’s chosen servants.  (End of personal comments, start of copy and paste from articles on website mentioned above)

At what age can my teen watch horror movies?

Pushing boundaries is a huge part of the movie-going experience for teens, but a lot of what’s marketed to them — psychologically disturbing movies are too mature. Guide teens toward age-appropriate thrillers and horror flicks or old-school classics (such as Hitchcock films). Follow these guidelines for when your teen wants to see horror movies.

Young teens:

They may be ready to be scared silly. In general, skeletons, monsters, and aliens are OK. Even so, stick to movies that have humor mixed in or those with safe-and-sound endings. Be mindful of blood and gore.

… Or not. Some teens still scare easily. Let your kids know it’s OK to be scared and to tell their friends they’d rather watch something else.

What’s the impact of media violence on kids?

The short answer is, no one really knows. But research shows that viewing (or playing) violent content increases the chance that a child will engage in violent behavior later in life — especially if other risk factors are present, such as growing up in a violent home.

Heavy exposure to violent media can lead to desensitization too. And parents’ choices about their own media intake can affect kids. A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that parents who watched a lot of movies were more likely to say it was OK for younger kids to watch movies that had R-rated violence and sexual content.

You won’t be able to avoid all exposure to violent media. The entertainment industry is always going to try to capture audiences with extreme imagery that tops whatever came before. But in your own home, you have a lot of control over what your kids watch, see, and play — and research shows that kids whose parents actively manage their media consume less and make quality choices on their own.

It’s really easy to find media that’s free of violence and that your kids will enjoy. There may be a time when your kid is ready to handle more violent media — and you can introduce it age-appropriately and discuss it as a family. In the meantime, choose movies that aren’t too scary, find alternatives to violent video games, and seek out media that helps kids develop empathy.

Why is it OK to let my kid see some types of movie violence but not others?

Both The Lego Movie and Scarface have torture, explosions, and guns. But while one mixes in humor, animation, and empathy, the other glamorizes weapons and revenge and includes sexual violence. This difference is important. Research shows that a steady diet of movies portraying relatable, rewarded, realistic violence may have a long-term impact on viewers’ ideas about the necessity of violence and aggression.

But The Lego Movie isn’t off the hook. When your kid clonks another kid over the head in imitation of a cartoon character, you’re witnessing mimicry, or short-term impact — another effect of viewing violence.

Neither short-term nor long-term impact has been shown to cause a person to become violent. In other words, a violent movie all by itself will not make your kid violent. It’s the cumulative effect of high exposure to all media violence, combined with other serious risk factors, that may cause a person to be aggressive or violent. Also, the way violence is perceived depends on the kid and his or her age, unique sensitivities, individual temperament, interest in what he or she’s watching, and even home and social environment.

As a parent, it’s best to pay attention to your kids’ behavior after watching violent movies and ask questions to determine how they interpret what they’ve seen. Start with open-ended questions such as, “How do you feel after watching that?” and “Could the characters have handled that situation differently?”

Here are some different types of media violence to watch out for:

Cartoon violence. Though you may think anything animated is no big deal, cartoon violence can affect kids. Boys and girls younger than about 7 can have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality and may interpret a violent act as “real.” And little kids are highly likely to imitate what they see.

Psychological and emotional violence. Kids’ emotional maturity develops in the tween years. Before that, they may not understand emotional violence. Scenes with torture, bullying, explosive anger, coercion, and so on are likely to confuse and scare them.

Sexual violence. Viewing a lot of sexual violence — which is usually depicted as men overpowering women — may lead to increased acceptance of violence toward women and the idea that women enjoy sexual abuse. Women who view a lot of sexual violence may develop low self-esteem and have poor relationships. It’s a particularly poor choice for kids, who may be more affected since their sexual patterns are not yet set.

Consequence-free or well-rewarded violence. When viewers believe that violence is justified, or when it’s rewarded (or at least not punished), they may have aggressive thoughts — especially in the long run.

Violence perceived as realistic. Viewers who believe a movie’s violence “tells it like it really is” and who identify with the perpetrator may be stimulated toward violent behavior over time. Until they hit the teen years, kids will simply be frightened by realistic-looking violence.

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Deep thoughts in the middle of the night

Yes, it does seem to be the case that the last time I wrote a blog post was when I was visiting Utah on my last trip which was 8 months ago.  Here we are again, or shall I say, here I am again.  This is a solo trip this time, made possible by the happy event of my sister Heidi getting married again.  I have notes for a whole blog post relating to the wedding experience, but that will have to wait for another day.

This sleepless night, there is another topic weighing heavily on my mind.  That topic is IDENTITY.  Who are we, really? And what are we doing here on planet earth?

The doctrines of the Church I have been raised in provide meaningful answers to these questions which have anchored me throughout my life.  But, for so many children on this earth, the answer to these questions elude them…so they look to the world for what answers it might provide.  It seems that so often the messages relating to identity that come from Music, Movies, TV, Pop Culture etc. revolve more around who we are NOT rather than who we ARE.  Often teens feel like they are never good enough, never pretty enough, never smart enough, never popular enough – and these message are reinforced by the messages of the media.  The more we fill our lives with the world’s ideas of who’s lives are worth highlighting, the less significant our own lives can begin to feel.  Usually those given the attention are those living wild lifestyles, those with excessive amounts of money or those who may have outward talent or beauty yet are lacking common sense.  So, the youth of today, often search for a way to stand out in the crowd, a way to get noticed. Often that effort is trying to emulate the behaviors they see carried out on Television or through the Media which leads to sinful or destructive behaviors which dull our spiritual sensitivities. Yet again and again I am impressed with the faithful Christian youth who stand firm for the values of truth, even if they have to stand alone.

This leads me back to the question of Who are we, Really? And why does it matter?
Here are the words to a few songs that have helped me find the answers.

“My life is a gift, my life has a plan. My life has a purpose, in Heaven it began. My choice was to come to this lovely home on earth, to seek for God’s light to protect me since birth. I will follow God’s plan for me, holding fast to his word and his love. I will work, and I will pray, I will always walk in His way. And I will be happy on earth, and in my home above.” (Primary Childrens’ Songbook, I Will Follow God’s Plan)

“I am a Child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthy home, with parents kind of weird. (pardon my adaptation but it seems to fit.)
I am a child of God, rich blessings are in store. If I but Learn to do His Will, I ‘ll live with Him once more.  Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.” (Hymn #301, LDS Hymnal)

Even many who have been raised singing these precious songs each week at church, choose to listen to the loud beckoning of the worldly voices, rather than the still, small voice that speaks truth to our hearts relating to who we are and why we are here.  Nothing makes me feel more sorrow, than seeing adults who had every chance to grasp on to the truth in their youth, yet they chose not to.  Or, they let go of the iron rod later in life when the river’s current got too strong, or the sounds coming from the Great and Spacious building became too appealing to avoid, leading them to wander off.  Such an applicable analogy is the Vision of the Tree of Life as recorded by Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

My first priority in my life at this time, needs to be to keep my own family firmly rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and make sure that the messages my boys are receiving about their identity and purpose come from the source of Living Water, rather than the river of filthy water that the world has to offer.  Spending time with my own sweet parents this past week has helped me to recommit to that goal, as I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the firm foundation that they provided for me in my childhood.  Yes, I will be called upon and guided by the Spirit to help others along their way, but my main focus needs to be on the boys who were sent to be within my stewardship and their sweet dad who was sent to be my partner here on earth and for all eternity.  Just like I mentioned in my last post (from 8 months ago) travelling provides a time of clarity and reflection for me that helps strengthen me as I head back to the challenging pace of everyday life.  That’s all I have for now. No promises of when I will return to this blog, as I have proven to be unpredictable. Until next time…

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