Thankful Journal Entry of a Florida Evacuee

September 2017

Hurricane Watch and Warning

I’m a native Floridian. It’s never occurred to me to evacuate from Florida for a hurricane. Being a Palm Beach County resident for most of my life it seemed that any time we had storm heading our way, it would inevitably turn away from us just in time. A direct hit from a tropical monster was always someone else’s problem. That was until early last week when Hurricane Irma became a category 5 at 185 mph out in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of us.

Suddenly it seems that living with 90-year-old grandparents and having three children under the age of 10 can change one’s perspective when it comes to the idea of evacuating due to a dangerous storm heading in your direction. From early last week my head began to buzz with the possibilities of major structural damage to an unknown amount of time spent in the sub-tropical heat and humidity without electricity—south Florida is uninhabitable in the summer months without air-conditioning in most homes today. That coupled with the mass hysteria that ensued locally with water and gasoline shortages helped me make a joint decision with my husband to leave Florida destined for the Chattanooga area of Tennessee.

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Pack? Bags Thrown Together

 The full moon had just come into view on Wednesday, September 6th and most of the gas stations along our major road had bags on the nozzles or a limitation on how many gallons you could pump. I went out to Costco to gather some more water for family and realized as I was driving around that my heart was not into “hunkering down” for the storm.

Our weather had been stifling on a daily basis and the idea of going without electricity for even only a couple of days was not appealing. Hurricane Matthew just over a year ago had skirted our area and yet I can still remember the way the older windows shook in the house.

I called my husband and asked him to pack a bag for our three children and myself. Funny enough, important papers were an afterthought as I had them in a small fireproof safe. What became paramount was getting out of the area as soon as possible. Upon returning home that evening I threw together a toiletries bag and a box full of school books and my address book.

My only regret is I wish I had left immediately as I had made the choice to do so that very evening.

Longest Peninsula Drive EVER

 My recollection is obviously a repeat of the countless media reports during late last week. As I heard and later read, ours was a Florida evacuation to go down in the record books for the largest amount of people leaving the state because of Hurricane Irma’s determined approach.

After reaching Orlando in 6 hours (normally a trip that took just under 2 hours from my area) I knew that we were in for a horrendous time to get out of the state. I glanced at my phone for a moment to see a friend texting me that we were welcome to evacuate at her sister’s house in Brooksville, Florida “if the drive gets to be too much”. Understatement, “too much”. Still, thanks to #Florida Governor Rick Scott for waiving Florida Turnpike fees and #Florida Highway Patrol for helping us along the way.

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Emotions? Tons of them. Most of Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms reverberated with similar thought streams. Some were paralyzed to leave, others grabbed flights out ASAP, still others like myself risked being stranded on the roads rather than wait in the forecasted path of a storm—Floridians and adopted Floridians alike had the same fears and were all reacting in our respective ways. Family and friends we may have not heard from in years were reaching out to ask what our plan of action was. Pretend Hurricane Irma is not happening? American or European model? Which doomsday track was worse for our area? In the end, the storm’s sheer physical size demanded our attention.

The scene along the Florida turnpike was surreal at times. Folks randomly pulled off the side of the highway to relieve themselves or their pets. Some people camped out in the back of their vehicle with their cigarettes after a particularly bad congestion area. I saw vans loaded with gas cans on top. We saw lines for a couple of miles leading up to rest areas. My eyes burned with tears as I looked at the forests we passed by, imagining downed trees or worse, flattened areas should the hurricane hit at a full category 5 strength. Sometimes the slower we went on the highway, the more restless I was to get out of the state.

The children and I had left home around 7am and it was now just after 7pm and I realized that a diet of pretzels and applesauce was not going to end well so I better just stop at Lake City, Florida as much as I wanted to exit Florida first. At the very least I was now north of my Alma Mater’s town of Gainesville.

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#Chick-fil-A, Lake City, Florida

 As I pulled off of Interstate 75, probably going faster in the exit ramp than I had for the past 90 minutes in our 25+ mph crawl, I noticed Chick-fil-A on the right hand side of the road. It was slammed.

Somehow, there was an open parking spot right in front of the entrance that was NOT reserved for the handicapped. As any anxious parent traveling alone knows, this was a golden moment not to be taken for granted.

As I unloaded the kids, my two oldest went in together immediately to go to the bathroom. It suddenly occurred to me what rock stars these sons had been to not have asked to use the restroom until literally the last hour of our 12-hour trip thus far. My youngest had a diaper to assist but this would create a rash of a problem for the next couple of days—literally.

The scene inside of the Chick-fil-A was hectic at best and claustrophobic at worst. Yet I was pleasantly struck with one consistent characteristic of this particular restaurant with its iconic red emblem and fried chicken aroma. Their staff was incredibly attentive, concise and a few were moving quickly in and out of the dining area serving its customers food/drinks and attending to any requests.

My body was stiff and still shaking from the drive. Hunger was an after-effect that was swiftly depleting my body and fueling a very painful migraine. The Chick-fil-A staff here in Lake City impressed me so much in that moment of recognition that I had to call one of the young ladies by her nametag and asked to give her a hug to thank her for taking care of all of us.

I met other parents near the play area who like me let our kids in there and didn’t care that they were moving about like pinballs in all sorts of directions—we all had similar stories of leaving Florida to get out of the way of a possibility that was not worth us staying for to see its conclusion. For us that had the means to leave we knew it was a blessing to do so and our prayers were with others who were staying either by choice or by inability.

Thank you #Chick-fil-A in Lake City, Florida. You made our evacuation easier with your kindness and sustaining food!

#Go Fish Education Center, Perry, Georgia

 My stopover late Thursday night/early Friday morning was Warner Robbins, Georgia. As I cruised into town after a 30mph stint on the interstate, I made the choice that I would drive by night the next leg up to Chattanooga-Signal Mountain, Tennessee where my final destination awaited. I fueled up before I stopped at our family friend’s home and shivered in the 30-degree drop along with several other Floridians who like me were at the very least relieved to be finally north of the border.

Friday, September 8th. I was so grateful for the way the children had traveled the day before that it was important to me to take them out for a treat and to help tire them to sleep well during my night drive. Go Fish Education Center had been a memorable hit a couple years ago so we decided to try it out again.

Upon entering the parking lot at Go Fish I ran into a family from Tampa who was also evacuating and was taking a break from the highway. They reported that the place was fun for their three kids; we swapped stories and wished each other well on our respective evacuation routes.

Once we got inside to the reception area the lady at the desk asked if we were evacuees and once we confirmed were told that the entry fee was waived. I was at a loss for words but most grateful. We spent the next couple of hours meeting other small families traveling with young children and had fun catching fish both virtual and real outside in their catch and release pond.

While there we also got to witness the staff at Go Fish rehearsing a practice electricity loss in preparation for the possible effects from Hurricane Irma. A sobering reminder of one of the many reasons most of us present were leaving our homes in Florida.

#Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia, thanks for helping so many of us Florida parents and guardians of children take a break from a tiresome evacuation by road. Your gracious act of waiving the entry fee meant so much to us.

Run for the Hills, Run for the Mountains

 It was about 2am Saturday, September 9th when I left Atlanta area proper, I had already been on the road for a couple hours averaging 20-40 mph and was so happy to be hitting 65-70 mph now nonstop. Very thankful to #GDOT for waiving the fees to the PeachPass express lanes so that Floridians could get through the area quicker.

I felt my Ford Expedition’s engine rev as I began to climb what seemed to be small hills and now were turning into small mountains. As I entered the Chattanooga area, my heart finally relaxed knowing that I was close to my goal of reaching family on Signal Mountain safely. It was just after 4 am as I drove up the mountain itself, parked our vehicle and took my sleeping children into a cozy and welcoming home. The evacuated grandparents were also securely asleep in the same house. I laid down to rest and felt that we were safely “home” again.

*It goes without saying how grateful I am to our family who sheltered us and others during this storm.

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#Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga, Tennessee

After a couple of days recuperating from the drive and enjoying some beautiful mountain trails, I ventured down with a good friend and her son with my children to Chattanooga. The Creative Discovery Museum has always been a hit with my children in past trips and since the rain was moving from the effects of Hurricane Irma, we figured this was a great way to spend the day.

Of course everyone in the area had a similar idea as we walked into a bustling museum full of adults gathered in groups along walls and benches while children of all ages darted in and out of the various areas. To describe the interior experience as a “swarm” would be too gentle of a word.

However, the tone was immediately set when we approached the registration desk and we were asked if we were evacuating from Hurricane Irma. After confirming this the lady checking us in let us know they were giving all evacuees a 50% off the admission rate for the day. As a mother of three children, any and every discount helps–including during a stressful, unplanned and unbudgeted trip!

Thank you #Creative Discovery Museum of Chattanooga, Tennessee for not only welcoming an enormous amount of people on a rainy Monday but also giving all Hurricane Irma evacuees a discount to give our children an educational and interactive experience after exhausting travel.

#Tennessee Aquarium One Broad Street

It’s been nearly a week since I evacuated with my children and slowly evacuees were starting to leave the area, including our fellow houseguests. Social media and texts were flooding in telling me about how difficult the roads were, gas shortages and overall troubles getting back into much of south Florida.

I decided that it was time to take a field trip for a day again and made the Tennessee Aquarium our destination—it’s iconic geometrical shape can easily be seen by the highway. Although we were tired from the trip, the kids were happy to take advantage of the open spaces and long ramps to take in some beautiful sights of salt and fresh water wildlife contained and in some cases protected within their walls.

Upon registering I was asked if we were in from Hurricane Irma. Again I confirmed this and was told discreetly that they were offering us all a 50% discount. They didn’t want it widely advertised but I must apologize for going ahead and sharing that they did this for us and other families that day. Once again, I cannot stress enough how appreciative we are for such kindnesses especially when on the road with children and during inclement weather conditions. Floridians are NOT used to 50 degree and rainy weather in early September, period.

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#Tennessee Aquarium Chattanooga, thanks for your hospitality, a taste of home in some of your exhibits and overall a fun experience and escape along with some extra cash so we could get some treats in your gift shop!

Epilogue: Power and Gas Dependents Are We?

 As I gather our belongings and prepare for the journey back to Florida, I’ve been reflecting on how dependent we all are on electricity and commodities such as gasoline fuel for our vehicles.

Although we joke that people apparently get really thirsty before a hurricane’s approach and start depleting local stores of water bottles, it is a true concern to lose electric power, cable, internet and phone services. That rectangular disk in your hand that you may be reading my writing with is something that you don’t like to lose use of in the end. Many would rather go without air conditioning than lose usage of their smart phones.

I will admit that this evacuation trip was a pleasant surprise in the amount of personal attention by people that renders any smartphone app irrelevant. It turns out we haven’t evolved to a place where human interaction is meaningless even if we seem to be impersonal at times with these devices constantly in our hands.

This experience for millions of Floridians may have reminded us that more than any federal funding or even a Red Cross campaign—it is the person-to-person relations that have helped us prepare and now recover in the wake of a natural disaster together.

Thank you all who have helped victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma this year. We pray and hope to be spared any other storms in this 2017 season.

RVSB+

 

 

 

 

The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.

Perception

Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.

Possibilities

The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/delray-beach-social-homeschooling-facility-riding-/nYpwt/

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.

R.V.S.Bean

My sources:

www.palmbeachpost.com

www.corestandards.org

www.FundEducationNow.org

www.palmbeachschools.org

Once, Twice, Three Times a Turtle: A Local Reflection

Bees, Trees and Turtles

Along with rain forest deforestation and honeybee colony-collapse disorder talk in recent decades, the plight of the sea turtles has come onto our radar as a serious environmental concern.  Deforestation affects many other species of plants and animals—not to mention the oxygen supply and possible overall weather patterns.  The honeybee issue is atrocious in its severity although much of the general human population hasn’t realized it yet but may if our food supply is abruptly altered one of these days.   Meanwhile I live in south Florida where it so happens that a few endangered species of sea turtles come to nest annually including the Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtle.  As a child growing up on the east coast here in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to come across a nest of turtle eggs and there were no public pushes to “save them”—little did I know that one day I’d be a grown-up where turtle talk would be critical to our survival in addition to those of other plants animals such as the bees and trees.

Turtle Walk: Not What First Comes to Mind

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is located in Juno Beach, Florida and their website is www.marinelife.org .  It turns out they have something called a “Turtle Walk” where attendees arrive on a scheduled evening and learn more about the details of the sea turtles’ habits and the kind of research and direct assistance to the sea turtles that the LMC provides through generous donation of volunteer time and public donations.  At the same time, there are “spotters” in communication with staff indoors as to whether there is a turtle sighting—they inform if is there a female turtle approaching the shore in order to lay her eggs in the dark.   If a turtle comes ashore that matches the species allowed by state permit for LMC to view with a tour then the visitors are chaperoned down to the shore in the nighttime with the assistance of red flashlights that will not hamper or scare the turtle.  The general purpose of this Turtle Walk is to educate visitors through education and viewing in real-time the tedious work of a sea turtle to try against many odds to secure the next generation’s survival.

Last Tuesday: No Turtle Show

I had the opportunity to participate in a Turtle Walk event last Tuesday at the LMC in Juno Beach.  Unfortunately our group didn’t have the chance to view a turtle laying in real-time, however, the information I was able to learn in a couple of hours from some of the staff that evening was really enlightening.  Among my favorites: learning that the water evacuating from the pipe from rehabilitation turtle tanks has been treated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that affirms my intuition that has allowed my children and I to enjoy the water play by the shore from it, the fact that leatherback turtles are our best friends because they eat their weight in jellyfish(!) and that LMC’s presence in our area has helped to make significant changes that benefit humans as well as turtles with keeping the nearby beaches cleaner and calmer with less ambient light.  Also, “hot chicks, cool dudes” was the phrase coined to describe the fact in the 1980s biologists realized that sea turtles undergo temperature-dependent sex determination–i.e. the temperature of the sand encloses the egg nests on the shore will sway whether an egg hatches a male or female sea turtle.

Mean Green Clean

If you have had the opportunity to read some of my earlier blog posts you will already understand my anger about our shorelines being treated as an open sand landfill or ashtray—seriously, what possesses us humans to think it’s okay to discard our trash on purpose in a place we all share with each other and the other animal and plants?  On July 5th the LMC organized a beach cleanup and invited the public to come out and utilize tools to pick up any and all trash that could be found after a major holiday.  I brought one of my young children along and when faced with a tantrum I gently sang to him as to why we needed to clean up—for the turtles, for the trees, for the bees and for you and me.  It was both impressive and sad to see how much the public had left in the sands only inches and feet away from wooden markers indicating a sea turtle nest.  Although it is great to have public beach cleanups organized, I feel it’s incumbent upon anyone who steps on a beach to refrain from littering and to pick up any rubbish they see and properly discard.

Local Paper Highlights

Within the same week of attending a LMC Turtle Walk night and participating in a public beach clean up our local paper The Palm Beach Post had a fun Accent front page story entitled “On the trail of turtles” written by Barbara Marshall and photographs by Greg Lovett: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/lifestyles/on-the-trail-of-turtles/nYc6g/  It was a fun piece that highlighted a snippet of what volunteers, biologists and physicians do at the LMC to help ensure that the leatherback turtles who nest on our shores are able to continue their calling as part of our ecological balance in the ocean–did you know they may actually be natives of the Asian oceans? Also, they eat jellyfish, I repeat: THEY EAT JELLYFISH.  There is more to be written on the need to assist the sea turtles, of course, but it is good to see that the information continues to come out no matter how big or small.

Turtle Time

It is understandable that we can get so overwhelmed by any news that affects the survival of animal species, plants and the frightful fluctuations of our climate on this Earth—so that we actually are moved to not move, we become paralyzed and apathetic.  My hope is that we can at the very least become more aware of our immediate environment where we respectively live and do our best to assist outstanding issues with wildlife other concerns.  We cannot disassociate ourselves from the fact that we depend on each other and other building blocks in our physical world to survive and thrive as we strive to become a better human race overall.

R.V.S.Bean

Some newsworthy links:

recent article on honeybee CCD: http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/

recent article on rainforest destruction: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22706402

Why Banning Guns and Buying Homeschool Guide May Not Be the Answer

Note: It cannot be said enough, may all our hearts and spirits continue to send love and pray for those affected by today’s shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

TODAY

For most parents, today’s news will hit us as 9/11 did in that we will remember where we were, whom we were with and how quickly we wanted to get back to our children if they weren’t already physically with us.

In the quick moments I was able to share with other parents today I heard and read about a couple of things that concern me because it’s too reminiscent of that knee-jerk reaction we humans have when confronted with appalling behavior by another human(s).

TOMORROW

Gun ban or gun control will be the word buzzing in the aftermath of today’s tragedy in Connecticut–perhaps even more so than when recent senseless shootings have occurred in our nation like Columbine, Beltway sniper shooters, the Arizona congresswoman and the Kansas City Chief football player.  Unfortunately there is no true control over the sickness or outright evil that may transpire in one’s mind to execute such horrific outcomes in taking other lives.  Banning guns completely to the public in our nation may help cut down gunshot crimes and yet would also mean that the possibility would rise we’d be seeing crime scenes so awful that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.

Homeschooling:  Although I am personally in favor of homeschooling, it’s not because of random, unthinkable moments like today and Columbine.  It’s understandable that many parents and caregivers these days are a nervous wreck when dropping off the children at a school that may have them be exposed to drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse by bullies or some kid who was disgruntled and sick arriving to massacre.  These days there are so many choices for a child’s education that we cannot blindly choose homeschooling or any other option out of fear that our children will be vulnerable–again, we cannot control this random variable manifest by illness or pure evil.

FULL CIRCLE

There certainly needs to be a lengthy conversation on whether we need to consider various new regulations on issuing gun licenses and purchases but let’s not “invade Iraq” by trying to take away the right to bear arms.

The issue of safety at the educational institution is in a constant state of revision and it will continue to take the faculty, students and families of those students to find what is the right path at this time.

May we find a way to get through this for those close to the pain and those who hurt for them.

R. V. Saridakis Bean

Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children

Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children

In The Economist magazine’s June 9, 2012 issue there’s a short piece on page 18 entitled: “Facebook and children: Let the nippers network”. You should be able to read it at this link: http://www.economist.com/node/21556578  I will be quoting from this article in my blog post unless otherwise indicated.

The article can be boiled down to what it says at the start of the second paragraph: “There are two options. Facebook can either try harder to prevent children from joining, or it can let them in, but with safeguards.”  This is the new frontier for most of us parents, the age of social networking via cyberspace.  At a time when many of us are becoming parents for the first time and just barely catching our breath as we realized the responsibility of raising these boys and girls to be the adults of the future–we’re struck with a very real concern regarding what age is deemed appropriate for a child to begin interacting socially on the internet.

“Social networking does not cause cancer. There is no compelling reason why children should not socialise with each other online.  What is worrying is that those on Facebook  today are treated as if they were adults.”

While this statement has truth to it in its logical argument, I’m afraid it’s lacking the deeper problem that should be glaringly obvious.  Just because a child can use the technology and can respond/communicate on a social network online doesn’t mean it’s right for them to do unfettered or unsupervised.

This may seem like a leap of a correlation to make, however, this is eerily the same argument we face when discussing ad nauseam as to when is the right age for youngsters to engage in sexual activity.  So what if their bodies are physically able to engage starting from 10-14 years old, does that mean they should be allowed to carry on as if it’s their deserved rite of passage? Oh, but if we give them condoms and pills, that should take care of them just fine from preventing unwanted pregnancies–nevermind how this early sexual behavior may interfere with their physical, mental and emotional development.

“Far better to let children openly join Facebook and create a safer environment for them to socialise in.”

Understandably, we all understand that as long as we have rules there are those who will break them.  The response to the age requirement for alcohol consumption is to have those who will attain illegal IDs.  The current trend for those under-13s on Facebook is that they can enroll anyway when they lie about their age in the form.  But the notion that we should just “let children” go ahead and do Facebook anyways as long as it’s “safe” is preposterous.

Q: What Is Safe About The Internet? A: NOTHING

Here’s the reality: you are the parent/guardian of your child(ren), therefore you are the most powerful gatekeeper when it comes to all the gateway rites of passage for your fledgling humans.  I don’t expect Zuckerburg and his people at Facebook to be the shepherd of the social pasture online for our kids.  That sentiment extends to any of these social networking sites.

The fact remains that we are still learning lessons today about what has happened to us since most of us came of age with integrating usage of the World Wide Web in our personal and professional lives.  It’s aggravating  to witness this hasty resignation attitude reflected in The Economist and other publications when it comes to the idea of children participating in social networking.

One more note on the internet: please keep in mind that no matter what your “settings” are, NOTHING is private when you post on the internet. Consider that when you put photos or written word onto the internet in any form, it’s as if you just submitted them to the marquee at Times Square in New York City. Please think about this seriously in regards to your children-whether it is you or them posting such things.

Nightmare Fodder: “Facebook and other social networks already have millions of vulnerable, clandestine underage users. It is time to bring them into the light.”

Why do we feel that we have no relationship with our children after they hit 5 years old?  Statements like the above disturb my heart’s fabric because I don’t understand how it is that there are 10 year olds who are participating in social networking unbeknownst to their parents/caregivers while they have hardly cut their physical teeth in face-to-face contact with their peers and others.

Again, I admit that I wrestle within over my love-hate relationship with the media technology that our global society has exploded with since I was born.  At the same time, I also recognize that there is not a quick and decisive answer to this social networking debate.  We are on the ground floor of learning about it ourselves and how it affects us all, including our children.  The question you and I must ask is what is best for our child(ren) as individuals and that will be the start of finding what “light” it is we want them to be in.

R.V.S.Bean

What Came First: Chicken or Egg OR Ability to Create More Eggs?

First? The Chicken, The Egg or Re-Creation of the Egg?

Note: Inspiration to delve into this topic comes from the following source that was re-hashed in several newspapers nationwide: http://www.nature.com/news/egg-making-stem-cells-found-in-adult-ovaries-1.10121

Have you ever read a latest scientific finding and thought to yourself that it didn’t surpise you?  That’s exactly what I thought when coming upond the Associated Press reprint in our Palm Beach Post today: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57385826-10391704/stem-cells-in-ovaries-may-grow-new-eggs-study-shows/

Ironically I was just telling a close girlfriend last month how we females are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have in life–a recollection of conventional wisdom that I’ve accepted as knowledge and yet as I read this article today my spirit leapt with joy at the possibilities of these new findings.

There are so many of us that have heard countless stories that vaguely run like this: A woman has trouble concieving, she and her mate try all the different avenues afforded by western and holisitic medicince alike, then they make the decision to change course and open their hearts in mentoring/fostering/adopting children and then almost instantenously or shortly thereafter find they have miraculously conceived.  There are the women who end up concieving by natural means well past the standard menopausal season dictated by our normal human expectations.

As the reports following these findings in the Sunday, February 26, 2012 journal Nature Medicine note, this topic will certainly spark new discussions, judgements, anxieties and hopefully an opportunity for us to open our minds to what possibilities there are in the miracle that is our human body (not to mention the rest of the organisms and life entities we share the Earth with but that’s several other essays and volumes for another time).

It is still a mystery overall to most “civilized” societies how the physiology of our bodies are affected by our mentality (brain waves/messaging) and our spirits (life energy/will/heart–basically the intangible and yet undeniable part of who we are unless we choose to numb it with substance abuse or outright oxymoronic denial).

If you didn’t get a chance to see this research finding in the papers today I hope you enjoy it as a piece of intellectual candy for the better.

R.V.S.B.

Please…Listen to Me

“I’m discovering something new right now at the playground. Why won’t mommy come over to me when I call for her? I want to know what this thing is called. I need to learn why it does this thing? Where is mommy? Why is she looking at that little thing in her hand and stroking it with her finger? I just called for her again but she’s telling me to wait without looking at me. Why is that thing in her hand so important? Does mommy not like being with me? I want to be with her but she wants to be with that thingy…iphone is it called?”

Okay, to be fair, the above thought process may seem a bit advanced for a toddler/preschooler…however, the emotions and visual recognition of the theme are not.

I think I hit my limit earlier today when I took my children to a local museum and observed both a mother and a grandmother totally engrossed in their handheld devices as their two boys were playing with a train set that required coordination of assembling more tracks. After witnessing these boys ask multiple times from their “mom” and “nana” to assist them and outright invite them to play with them, I knelt down with my baby carrier and assisted them myself as I often do with my own children daily.

It makes me sad not just for the children ignored by their parents while they’re pecking away at their awesome technology. I grieve for these parents that will one day reap what they sow because children aren’t stupid, they notice EVERYTHING–especially about their parents’ behavior as it relates to them.

I’m not saying we can totally disavow ourselves as users of our present-day mode of communication. What I am urging is moderation and especially careful usage when raising young children who rely on their caregivers to give them nourishing time as they grow in these critical years that shape them for the remainder of their lives.

Please, don’t take me as a self-righteous judge of all parents…just ask yourself if you can dial it back a little if you find that you check your device more than 5-10 times an hour. Do you really need to check Facebook that often? Can that texting or long phone call wait until naptime?

I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m guilty of sometimes relying on my device too much…I used to be able to hide texting but now my one child is at an age that he notices a lot and I’d rather just go without than teach him that this is the only way to socialize.

To those that say the devices help them feel connected to the world, I say remember that you are in the world with your children now and you’re their teacher as to how they should interact with everyone in the world. These handheld devices are great tools but they should not replace the precious time with our children, tomorrow they’ll be adults and perhaps our caregivers as well.

R.V.S.B.

The New Extreme Sport and Other MMBs

THE BIG THREE: 3 Mom Media Bites (MMBs)

As the mother now of two sons, both now 3 years old and 3 months respectively, I have been navigating this new season as a Northern Atlantic fisherman’s boat tries to keep from top-sizing in hurricane strength swells. The writer in me has been posting “tweets” of countless questioning thoughts and resulting conclusions to my mind’s running page but never on paper, or as in the case of this post, in digital form. So in my humble attempt to disperse some of this philosophical and reflective backup, here are a few of my latest ramblings for your entertainment or information:

Road-Tripping with Tots: The New Extreme Sport

About a month ago, I embarked on a road trip with my sons that included stops in three different states. The goal was to make it to a very important event for one in my closest circle and it became an opportunity to visit other friends and family along the way as well. I did consider the plan ahead of time and certainly realized there were many calculations to be made in order for this trip solo with the boys to be successful. An energetic toddler and an unpredictable newborn were quite the duo to consider, mapping the actual driving route was the easiest consideration. In retrospect, I was best able to explain the trip as an “extreme sport”. I had to make clear plans like what time of day to depart, how to ensure that total driving time each day wasn’t more than 4-5 hours and coupling nursing stops with bathroom breaks, et cetera. At the same time I had to continually accept the fact that I needed to allow for unexpected delays, stops (especially with a nursing infant) and changes in plans of activities or driving. For instance, there was about a 2 hour stretch in the middle of nowhere-Georgia land that I just had to keep my cool with a few factors pulling at me including the fact that I missed a turn and was on a country road where there farms and churches but no gas stations. It ended up being a 10 day trip that went relatively smoothly and I was exhausted upon arrival home but felt that my relationship with the boys had actually hit some great milestones.

Weiner-gate and Foley Redux

In recent weeks the cable news and print media has had the gift of a story that keeps giving in the reporting of soon-to-be-resigned U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s revealing photos being “tweeted” via Twitter to women other than his wife. Last week I was able to watch some of the coverage and came to the Fox News channel that had Mark Foley in an interview with Sean Hannity. I hadn’t seen my ex-boss on national television in an interview since his political fall from grace in the fall of 2006 and it was a little jarring to my system. Couldn’t believe the sheer irony of it all—here was my ex-boss who had his Congressional career crumpled by his misuse of time as a Florida representative with the AOL instant messenger service and here now is Congressman Anthony Weiner “tweeting” photos of himself actually IN his Congressional office to his countless lady friends while married to a high profile government aid. Sadly, many of us are still surprised that history evidently teaches us nothing as in the case of Mr. Weiner. I thought that what Foley was punished for was seared in the minds of active politicians; a stern warning to stay off of the digital highway whether by personal computer, laptop, cell phone, Ipad or whatever is next when it comes to the personal indiscretions. It seems that the more we advance in this information age, the more impulsive our actions become that truly blurs our decision-making. In the case of these two gentleman and countless others, we’ve forgotten that privacy is not insured when communicating through cyber/digital hardware—we ought to assume that everything could at any time be posted on the screens in Times Square in New York City.

The Beach: Still the Best Village to Raise Children

Living in South Florida affords me the luxury of going to the beach often and I never take it for granted after residing in other states for several years. What I love about the salty air and sticky sand is that there is a general lack of other stimuli. Most people who routinely go to the beach are there to enjoy the raw nature of two major elements of our planet coming together: land and sea. It is also the thrill of that ebbing dance that draws me to bring my children there a few times a week. I hope to teach them about their environment while also giving them the freedom to run, dance, shout and becoming caked with sand and salt ruthlessly. Running into other parents and their children has also been refreshing and disappointing at times but I’m grateful for the experiences regardless. My children have the opportunity to interact with others, they learn to share and when to walk away. The parents get to small talk and swap ideas on raising children without any commitment to follow-up. I have also met some of my current friends at the shoreline (both Pacific and Atlantic) and strengthened existing friendships there that help enrich my life and thereby my children’s lives.

R.V.S.B.

“Nature-Deficit Disorder”: The Real Child Epidemic That Should Concern Us

In the few weeks following my second son D.A.’s birth, I was well aware that my first son T.A. needed more stimulation that just a crying newborn brother in the confines of four walls. Empowered by the nursing privacy and versatility of a sling for the baby, I loaded my two boys in the car and headed for the local Palm Beach Zoo.

I was glad to be outside and although I would love to do more activity with my sons, the newborn’s needs and my healing process will have to delay those desires. As I pushed my older son in a stroller through the manicured trail of the zoo, we came upon a small group of adults huddled around a speaking podium. My verbal toddler didn’t want to stick around but I gently admonished him in Greek that we were going to wait and see what this was about. I’m ever so glad we did.

It turned out this fateful morning that the Palm Beach Zoo leaders and the neighboring South Florida Science Museum were hosting a small talk and news conference for the visiting bestselling author Richard Louv. His most recent publication is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”. It was during his speech that I had already determined I was going to purchase this book as he spoke how our zoos and parks should be the “gateway” for our children and their interaction with nature.

I had heard about this author before while reading a magazine in the past where his writings were mentioned. I’m surprised I hadn’t read his material earlier as I believe I’ve had a parallel passion for the fight to make sure our future generations don’t become so engrossed with the ever-encompassing digital age that they lose touch with actual reality in our true 3-D natural surroundings.

Let me share a quote from Mr. Louv’s Introduction in his book “Last Child in the Woods”:
“’One evening when my boys were younger, Matthew, then ten, looked at me from across a restaurant table and said quite seriously, ‘Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?’… He was right. Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.”

His book covers a wide variety of ways to approach what he calls the emergence of a “nature-deficit disorder” among children today. He astutely conveys that in our efforts to keep our children safe, for instance, we have made nature a dangerous, off-limits place that is best appreciated through video or virtual reality. My favorite quote based on Mr. Louv’s childhood love for climbing trees: “The woods were my Ritalin”.

The most interesting point that Mr. Louv has made in this book (I have yet to finish it but am close to it as I read it during night feedings) is that our culture has made “saving the environment” such an important mantra for the education of our children. Yet, at the same time, we have made it increasingly difficult to allow our youth to really know and experience the very environment we preach to them is so critical to maintain. From Mr. Louv : “Parents, educators, other adults, institutions—the culture itself—may say one thing to children about nature’s gifts, but so many of our actions and messages—especially the ones we cannot hear ourselves deliver—are different. And children hear very well.”

If you are able to spare the time to read this book, I strongly recommend it. Louv brings up the fact that time spent in nature is very therapeutic not only for young ones but for adults as well. There is something healing about the wind, the plants, the animals, and the time that is not set by boundaries of software or physical hardware.

RVSB

$5.00 Per Gallon: What America May Pay For Auto Fuel If We Don’t Wake Up

$5.00 Per Gallon: What America May Pay For Auto Fuel If We Don’t Wake Up

I’m not claiming to be neither an energy specialist nor a bona fide economist but I think the latest developments in the political turmoil in the oil-rich nations across the Atlantic and beyond deserve our careful consideration.

SAME OLD REFRAIN

When we examine the last 30-40 years of international politics as it relates to the effect of war/upheaval/et cetera in these petroleum capitals of the world—oil barrel prices and such often rise without warning or constraint. Each and every time we Americans gripe and seem surprised even though for the most part we’ve escaped true debilitating price hikes and status quo cost of automotive gasoline at the pumps in some European nations.

DENIAL AND RESERVATIONS

What year is it again? 2011. Why are we still so reliant on fossil fuels in general? I fear it is for a number of very classic human flaws. One is definitely just because it’s the way we’ve always done things, despite all the technological advances we’ve made in a matter of a few decades—we are still “dinosaurs” in how we view our transportation needs. Second, since it is the most common source of fuel, it somehow manages to be cheaper in general than the initial start-up investment it would take to delve into renewal sources of energy. Third, American politicians, corporate giants and phobic environmentalists and/or crotchety landowners are the biggest blockades to our progress as an innovative energy leader of a nation.

REALITY BITES

A combination of volatile social factors resulting after the Tunisian and Egyptian political fallouts are causing a ripple effect that won’t be truly sorted out for years to come, yet Americans are already grumbling about the gas pump prices as we fill up our thirsty tanks. How many times do we need to learn this lesson? Relying on fossil fuels is not the best long-term investment for America regardless of wherever we may source them from (international or domestic).

PRIDE: SWALLOW IT

Change is never easy. Especially when it concerns our cash flow and the request for more of it is laid out. There has to be a collective effort by corporations, energy industry innovators, politicians and American citizens to willingly go forward with real changes in our consumption of oil to give way to newer, more sustainable sources of power for our transportation (just one of our many energy usage needs: think electricity, home heating, cooking, etc). As for countries like Egypt and Libya, we need to allow them the space to work out their futures without being a puppet to their oil drenched strings.

RVSB