Monday, March 17, 2014

One of the 'Lost Boys' of South Sudan hopes to find a place for his family in Utah.

 

                   
His name is hard to pronounce. The boys currently living and watching over a communal herd in a Dinka Bor cattle camp in South Sudan of central Africa would know him better as Cheleu — unbeatable.

In Utah, he goes by his Christian name, and today he is trying to explain for the third time why cattle are not branded in his country.

Christian (name changed) is from South Sudan, or what has turned into South Sudan due in large part to a bloody civil war. He now lives in Utah County. Today these two worlds are, if not colliding, at least bumping around together for the afternoon as he talks to a few of his friends about his homeland.

“I know what my cows look like, and if you take my cow, I know it, you know it, and everyone else in my cattle camp knows it,” Christian says. “So if someone takes my cow, I go up to them and say please give me back my cow.”

“How well has this worked for you?” someone asks.

“Not so well,” he replies.

How does one prove whose cow is whose? And what if the cow thief counteracts the attempt to reclaim cattle with an infantile statement such as “Make me”? These are questions posed to Christian by his friends in Utah who have seen bullies in action on many different playgrounds.

“It’s not the people in the camps one has to worry about anyway,” Christian clarifies. “It’s the organized rustlers that are the danger.” And the organized rustlers don’t get caught.
No one gets caught.

Many in the cattle camps are again arming themselves to defend against rustling — after the government of South Sudan enacted a controversial disarmament of civilians. Law-abiding civilians giving the authorities their guns sounds like a good idea.



 
However, cattle rustlers don’t voluntarily disarm themselves. So, the rustlers are armed, and the law-abiding citizens give up their weapons to the government — secretly acquiring more in order to protect their cattle.

As volatile as it is, the issue of cattle rustling has become secondary to Christian and his family with the recent civil unrest, violence and rising death tolls in South Sudan.

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection agency (ECHO) reported that "shelling, mortars and shooting were reported in different parts of (Juba, capital of South Sudan) during fighting early this week."

The United Nations is providing shelter for some 43,000 displaced Sudanese at its two bases in Juba, and 77,000 people around South Sudan, said spokeswoman Ariane Quentier of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

UNMISS Deputy Director of Mission Support Anne Marie van den Berg, who signed an agreement this past week to build a new camp that could hold up to 10,000 refugees, said many Sudanese "fear going home" or have no home to go back to.

Lost Boys

Christian is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan — one of the children who avoided being killed, captured or sold primarily due to their absence. The boys were away from their families, living and working in cattle camps. They survived simply because when their villages were destroyed by army or rebel forces in the civil war, they were elsewhere.

In Christian’s instance, the attack in his Dinka Bor community came when the ruling government wanted to get rid of rebels that were reported to be hiding in the village. The village was burned after being hit with a barrage of bullets. Families ran for the safety of the dense bush to hide and wait for the strike by the Sudan government forces to be over.

Many of Christian's family and friends in that village died. Christian hid near the White Nile River in grazing land and dense swampland. After crossing the river, he made his way to Ethiopia.

Many of the boys alongside him making their escape either starved, were picked off by military snipers or drowned in the river. Others fell prey to crocodiles attracted to the area much as they are attracted to the churning water during migrations of water buffalo.

Christian traveled by foot for days and sought refuge in a camp in Ethiopia, where he was picked up by U.N. forces and eventually made it to the United States in 2000. He was deemed to be of age (not knowing when he was born) and housed with three other boys while they attended school. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from La Salle University in Philadelphia.

Christian has since been back to South Sudan to try to locate family members and re-establish a small herd of cows in Dinka Bor. In his last visit he married a local woman and has a young boy just learning to walk.

He now focuses on getting steady employment in order to bring his wife and little boy to Utah, where chances of success are greater than in Dinka Bor. In his heart, however, he longs for home. He would like to return to Africa to establish schools in his home community.

“I would like to give boys the chance at an education and a future that so many of my friends didn’t have,” he said, looking at the image of his young son on his iPhone.

For information on how you can help refugees, see:The Refugee Council USA http://www.rcusa.org/
Doctors Without Borders — specific to South Sudan
http://www.msf.org/article/south-sudan-new-refugees-sudan-need-assistance
Crisis group — information on South Sudanhttp://www.crisisgroup.org/en/Search%20Results.aspx?keywords=South+sudan
http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/sudan-tribune-friends-south-sudan-letter-president-salva-kiir
To find a refugee resettlement agency in your area, contact:www.refugeecouncilusa.org

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sleep of the dogs

I need help to get to sleep, and I don’t apologize for it.
What I did last night.  It will be different tomorrow...
It will come as no surprise that I believe in better living through appropriate pharmaceuticals. I got that concept from my doctor -- my actual, medically trained and state licensed physician.

Snap Dingy-dog, the guy on the corner, says the same thing, but his comment is more by way of self promotion of his home business.

I have tried the non-pill methods for my sleeping problem but none have worked. Warm milk, regular sleep patterns, no TV before bedtime, eating before six p.m., reading scriptures, picturing myself on an island, talking about myself and my accomplishments with my wife (puts her right to sleep) -- none of these serves.

Crystals, copper pyramids, chunky green sludge milkshakes.

Antihistamines sometimes work but they make my nose want to fall off.

My psychologist -- who, on Tuesdays and Thursdays doubles as my aerobics instructor -- told me that he focuses on a calming, soothing activity with the lights kept low before bedtime. He suggested that I do the same.

I had him record his personal stricture for a good nights sleep and put it on Youtube: Yoga is his favorite pre-snooze activity, which he does on a bamboo mat accompanied by a recording of soft pan -flute or Barry Manalow. Just before his bath (in luke-warm water laced with cucumbers and lavender) he takes melatonin and then dons his sleeping attire made of all-natural fibers and woven together by monks in the Amazon basin.

He then suggests a good breath from his abdominals. “Close your eyes and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each even deeper than the last. In through the belly and out through…“ I didn’t really hear the last part, but it sounded like he said “Connecticut“.

I have gone through all of the body parts I know, but nothing really sounds like “Connecticut“. Frankly, I really haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it because it reminds me too much of a modern dance class at BYU and a bad experience I had in the locker-room with a leotard.

Soothing blue lights are used -- like they do for the P.M. shift on the Starship Enterprise. This is all done before lying down. Once prone, he starts to tense the muscles in his feet. He holds for a count of 11, and then relaxes. He continues to do this for every muscle group in his body, working his way up to his head. This takes him three hours.

When I asked what he does with his kids while he is… “preparing for slumber” he stared at me blankly and said “I don’t have kids. Who can sleep with kids? He said. “With kids around, you should load up on Dozoid" (a name I made up).

The common side effects listed of “Dozoid” include constipation, dry mouth, nodding off at work, trouble concentrating, dizziness, unsteadiness, allergic reactions, facial swelling, memory lapses, hallucinations, complex sleep-related behaviors like sleep-walking, sleep-driving, dyslexic-like symptoms, lost memory of ones post pill activity and sleep-eating (which explains the several missing lasagnas and three empty boxes of doggy snacks.

So, I am happily -- willfully -- taking a pill whose promise of effectiveness states that one should hide ones car keys and stay off face book while under the influence. People are doing some weird stuff while taking “Xanado-do”. (Another made-up name)

My pharmacist, Sherman, is gathering Xanado-do-do pill stories for his memoirs for which I have suggested the title “A spoon full of Sherman”.

Other than the snappy title, I have come up with the following contributions of my own strange activity for his book:

1 - I set up work lights outside in order to weed the garden at two am. 
2 - I threw away all our couch pillows and re-covered a lamp in faux zebra.

At least I am not the guy who emailed his friends a photo of himself in his high school Speedo, and cut out a place for a French door in his bathroom just above his tub.

All the bazar-a-tudes I experience in taking sleeping pill are still preferable to not sleeping or starting to snooze at 5a.m. and sleeping until the crack of noon.

Sot there is a self imposed rule to follow -- and by self imposed I mean that the family voted on it and informed me of the result of their caucus. I can no longer take my pill unless I am in or on my bed wearing what passes for pajamas, ready to put myself down for the evening.

The good thing about not sleeping well is that I am less and less judgmental when I see my neighbor trimming his lawn with his pinking sheers by the light of the moon and more inclined to let him borrow my work light.















Friday, February 28, 2014

What would you do for a stranger?


Would you give your coat to a stranger?  Click for video.

"What would you do if you saw a freezing child?" states the video notes. Some charitable folks set up a hidden camera and placed Johannes, a little boy who is actually an actor, at a bus stop, in Oslo, Norway.

The film was made to raise awareness of, and to raise funds for SOS Children's Villages and their winter-campaign. Children in Syria are freezing and you can help by donating.

One can donate here: http://www.sos-barnebyer.no/syriahelp

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bigfoot -- Now at a town near you

Utah is firmly placed on the worldwide Bigfoot map.

Sasquatch websites and Bigfoot YouTube
videos have racked up millions of hits and now include sightings in the Beehive state.

Was a Bigfoot fos
silized skull found in Ogden Canyon? No as it turns out, but you can read all about it.

How about a nighttime Sasquatch sighting outside of Provo? A more definite no, but you can still view this short film produced by a fraternity of
bored and bad actors in Utah county that has been seen by over 200,000 on line. At least this one had a soundtrack.

My favorite is what seems to be a cute little beehive state black bear eating lunch near Squaw Peak -- until it stands up straight and scares the bejeebers out of some
happy campers.

The most recent recorded "sighting" -- the current papa bear of Utah Sasquatch sighting videos -- is from Utah outdoors men who discover Bigfoot and his happy home. This
video was picked up by Bigfoot big-wig Keith Hoffman and judged a probable phony.

All this publicity for Bigfoot is just in time for his national tour. Bigfoot will soon be in a Utah town near you thanks to Rick Dyer, “The best (self-described) Bigfoot tracker in the world”. Dyer is happy to give everyone a good look and let them snap their own photo -- for a price.

Dyer recently released a photo of Bigfoot taking a well deserved final nap on the floor of Dyer’s tent on what we can only hope was a cool day.

Bigfoot was found in Texas, much to the chagrin of Utah Sasquatch seekers -- shot dead while dining on Wal-Mart spare-ribs which had been nailed to a tree near San Antonio on September 6th of 2012 -- only a few miles, I should note, from a state liquor store.

Dyer has had DNA testing performed on the creature’s body, looking like a poor man’s powdered abominable snowman if the photos he posted are to be believed. Apparently this was done to assure the media that he is not exploiting any family members.

Not known at time of printing was the presence of gang tattoos, piercing or anything an agent could tie to sports wear or soft drinks.

This Bigfoot is a whole other Bigfoot

In case you are one of the many Utahans who is keeping score, this is not the same Bigfoot that Mr. Dyer claimed to have killed in
northern Georgia. That one turned out to be a rubber ape suit much like the one used in the semi-autobiographical documentary of Internet founder and former US VP Al Gore.Georgia Sasquatch was found along a stream in 2008. Dyer had then-pal Matt Whitton, a police officer on administrative leave, sit by the body for hours while Dyer found a truck to move the beast. Then they “moved the corpse through the woods to the truck—all while being shadowed by three live Sasquatch” according to Dyer.

It quickly became apparent that there was a problem in Sasquatchville when defrosted Georgia foot’s body hair was burned for analyses and the hair follicles melted into little petroleum balls.

"Within the next hour of thaw a break appeared up near the feet area," said Steve Kulls, noted author of "What Would Bigfoot Do?". "As the team and I began examining this area near the feet… I reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot."

Fool Utahans once, shame on you...

If there was any doubt about the truth of this claim, one has only to look at the image released publicly to see that the photo is of a daddy Bigfoot, that he is of the North American republican Bigfoot’s and not the Oklahoman panhandle Bigfoot’s as was the creature of 2008, and that those involved are completely and happily whacked.

So, when can we see for ourselves? Dyer and Bigfoot started a believe-it-or-not-tour in Flagstaff Arizona on February 6th. Check the
website for future tours in towns near you.

Until then, the
Animal Planet channel is the next best thing. "Finding Bigfoot" is a big thing on cable. If you trust the numbers, the cable channel ranks among the top three fastest-growing, ad supported cable networks.

And the nonchalant Utah trap shooters who claim to have seen Bigfoot and toured Bigfoot's spacious and well constructed abode? Their video is one of the
latest videos on the Bigfoot sighting site.

And don't forget
Utah Bigfoot Facebook. If seeing isn't believing -- at least it's a good time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

And now, for a poke at ourselves...

 
The secret life of Lutherans
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSeiDPZ1jNA#t=61


 
This is a Garrison Keiller comedy sketch performed during his weekly radio show.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSeiDPZ1jNA#t=61

Friday, January 24, 2014

A little Sochi goes a long way...

Another "The King and I" moment from Sochi.

Getting to know you...,

getting to know all about you...

http://www.usatoday.com/videos/sports/olympics/2014/01/23/4784333/

Al least I can say that the Olympics in Sochi have a better web site than Obama care.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Save your family with a rubber chicken

Originally printed on KSL.com on December 26,  2013
 
Nothing lightens the mood like projectile vomiting.

When my wife and I first started raising kids, projectile vomiting, exploding diapers and the occasional combination of both made me laugh like no other. They were better than a good movie or a quality stand-up. In the middle of the night, if my wife heard me with the baby in the bathroom giggling, she knew all was well and she could go back to sleep. 

A good laugh made things bearable when our martial stress level was off the charts. "We will look at this a few years down the road and have a good laugh," they say. Well, forget about that. I want to have that good chortle now.

Humor has always been the bumper that kept everyone in our family from whiplash.

A family history of humor 
Shortly after my wife's father joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was called upon by the bishop to say the closing prayer in sacrament meeting. After the rest hymn, when he had apparently been resting, his wife nudged him to wake him up from a not-so-private snooze. He stood up, walked to the pulpit and promptly ended the meeting. 

When my wife tells this story, we don’t know whether his ending the meeting before its time was funnier or if the real punchline is the addition of the not-ready-for-Primary expletive he used that carried over the microphone when the bishop told him the meeting wasn’t over.

When family life gets difficult and borders on unbearable, someone pulls out this story, dusts it off and lightens the moment. Somehow lighter hearts make it easier for us to deal with the day-to-day. A spoonful of levity has helped a whole lot of medicine go down.

These aren’t just happy tales or legends for my family. When finishing a recollection, no one in my family smiles and says, “Oh, how cute.” They are rough, unsophisticated and are the glue that holds us together through disagreements, discord and sometimes death. 

Humor in difficult family relationships 

Often my coping-with-family batteries have been recharged by a retold family moment or a brand new horrifying one. Humor brings us together even if it may be difficult to be in the same room with each other. Humor becomes the bridge that spans the yawning chasm between us.

The ability to laugh gives my family the ability to rise above any situation, even if it is only for long enough to catch our collective breath. Humor straightens the clutter of our minds and wipes down the whiteboard. In a sense, humor is less the use of one's funny bone and more the mastering of the art of living. 

We are proud of our ancestors who overcame severe misfortune. Even when confronted with harsh conditions, Brigham Young once encouraged his people to “make the devil mad” by eliminating the sad countenance.
        
My family doesn't get together to “solemn-a-cate” (a family word). In fact, many gatherings can be identified as being uniquely Cheney because of these things: plenty of food, laughter, some more food … and some projectile vomiting.

Death and a rubber chicken 

Even in our family funerals, humor is the binding that keeps the book of life together, with laughter through tears being common.  

At the last funeral I attended of a family friend, military officers folded the flag and presented it to the widow. After marching to their vehicle, through an undiscovered open window, they casually confirmed in the reverberating and reverent silence that the widow of the decorated deceased was “hot.” My friend's widow was not beyond a smile. 

Levity in Cheney land can be the great equalizer, evening out painful moments and lightening hearts weighted with weariness. When my mother died tragically, there was just no way around the sad.

My older sister blew her nose loudly and told the story of my mother at church, dressed in a lovely though inflexible woolen suit, lifting both hands above her head to lead the congregation in the opening hymn while her family seated below shook their heads and kept their eyes on the hymn book. 

My mother has been gone for years now. And to this day we are grateful that she always insisted on wearing a full slip.
 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It wasn't me who pushed all the elevator buttons...

I am sometimes embarrassed to be me. I should wear a sign, a tee-shirt or a button that says."I am sorry for everything".

Making a social faux pas is par for my course. And those around me just want to pull their head right into their chest cavity and hide. I wish I could learn to keep my mouth shut and avoid putting my faux pas in it.

In the past I have:

— Made fun of some one's hair to someone who turned out to be that person's mother.

— Chewed out my roommate for unauthorized use of my stuff while I was wearing his shirt without permission.

— Insisted that Anna Karenina's last name was pronounced Care-a-Nina.

It's only funny in the retelling

Sometimes, making silly mistakes actually makes me laugh. I am generally a gregarious person and often say silly things while trying to be friendly. I can have a good chortle about a mistake I made for an hour or two. Then I tell my wife about it and chortle all over again.

What I am not expressly fond of is making those "learn by experience" mistakes when others are watching — whether they know me or not. I am slightly famous for:

— Mistaking someone for being pregnant who wasn’t.

— Thinking a smile, a hug or a wave was meant for me when it wasn't.

— Walking into a glass partition that I could have sworn was a door.

— Cheerfully saying “have fun” when someone told me they were going to a funeral, a root canal or a colonoscopy.

— Singing happy birthday to someone I should have known — having to mumble during the name: “Happy birthday dear blah-wa …”

— Remembering a funny joke I was told by the mechanics and laughing at it in a city council meeting during the Pledge of Allegiance.

— Hugging someone goodbye and then realizing that the two of us were going in the same direction.

— Singing a song from my high school top 40 out loud with the sudden realization that the lyrics were more than a little raunchy.

— Sneaking up to someone I knew and goosing them to find out they weren't who I thought they were.

— Settling down in a public bathroom and overhearing a little girl say to her mother, "There's a man in here."

— Getting mad at the clerk for not helping me and then realizing that she was not a store employee.

— Not knowing the correct situation salutation. Is it a fist bump, or a high five? A high fist? A longing embrace? No, they just want to shake hands. Oops.

— Saying “you too” after the guy taking my ticket wished me a good trip.

— Seeing someone I knew in the store and then seeing them again in the next aisle, and then again in the next aisle, and again ….

And, I hope you never do any of these:

— You see someone walking by and you pretend you don’t see them because you owe them money, or you ran over their cat.

— You say hello to someone who obviously hears you and keeps walking.

— Have this conversation: You say, “How are you, Bob?” They say “Fine, Angela, and you?” You say “Terrific Bob. How are you?”

— Smile and say “Yeah” when someone asks you to pass the salt and pepper or ask for the time.

— Answer someone’s emphatic question and then see that they are talking on their phone.

— Have more smarts to say anything other than “Your mom!“ when they have insulted you.

— Miss your exit in a revolving door, become disoriented and get your arm stuck.

— Are never caught short on cash or having a card declined in front of your father-in law.

— Get caught picking a nose — yours or someone else's. (It was my grandson if you must know.)

— Hit “reply all” when replying to everyone on your church list was the last thing on your mind.

— Make a friendly attempt to join a conversation without being heard, repeat what you just said louder and then realize that they all heard you the first time.

— Clog the toilet at a friend's house. And if you do, you don't flush a second time and have to take care of sudden high water in a long-sleeved shirt.

— Brag about having caught three raccoons in your backyard before your neighbor tells you that feeding the friendly fauna was his reason for getting up in the morning.

And, if you are as fortunate as I am, all your friend and neighbors will accept your apologies as many times as you offer them and still answer their phone when they know it's you calling.

 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Best and worst Christmas music 2013

I started off this holiday season -- which began just before Halloween apparently -- looking for Christmas music on the radio. This year there are fewer stations than I remember that are devoting every square inch of air time to a feliz navidad.

Suddenly, in the St. Nick of time, I was bombarded at work with “All I want for Christmas is You," and a handful of other pro-holiday/non offensive Christmas songs. I use this description for Christmas songs that don't mention Bethlehem, stars, or the reason for the season -- much as I am doing now. Truth be told, I would rather chew your leg off than listen to more "Santa Claus is having a-super-fun-and-non-descript-holiday-experience" music.

To each his own Christmas poison, however. I support anyone listening to anything that makes one happy and up-lifts ones spirit. It's like nature's Prozac riding on the air waves. And who couldn't use a shot of something, well, mood altering at Christmas time.

This brings me to my fourth annual list of the worst songs of the holidays

It has been suggested by my wife that I focus on the positive. She is also the one who proposed that we decorate the house with twinkle lights that go higher than has ever been done before and recommended that we rent a cell phone tower with that goal in mind.

It’s hard for Christmas music to get on my nerves, so kudos to the following for such an effort:

First is the most sensitive song of them all: “The Christmas Pumps,” or whatever it’s called. I lost a reliable discount on my Diet Coke from a very nice lady at the conveyance store because I admitted that I found this song emotionally manipulative.

Why stop at little boys buying shoes for their dying mother? Add the gloves left on Mr. Kruger's Christmas tree and a few kittens and you can just kill me now.

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like Neil Diamond and people who think he and his caffeinated chorale shouldn’t be allowed near a microphone from just after thanksgiving through to, and including, Valentine’s Day.

While we are at it, someone ask Johnny Mathis to take a vacation during the same time period. Frankly, anytime I hear Johnny sing “Sleigh Ride” I am left with too many unanswered questions.

Two members of the Beatles were as equally off the mark. I understand their creative aversion to holiday staples -- artistic individuality and all — but “So This Is Christmas” and “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” are John Lennon's and Sir Paul's most iffy offerings. Coincidentally, depression is at a premium during the holidays. Do the math.

"Last Christmas, I gave you my heart,

The very next day I hurled on my slacks.

This year, To save me from tears...

I won’t listen to George Michael."

The other song Mr. Wham contributed to is just as bad. With all due respect to honorable causes, “Do They Know It's Christmas?” — alternative title “Pray for Another Song,” featuring Boy George and a few of his British buddies — makes me wish my ear wax would just seal me off from the outside world. Good intentions aside, it is a perfect song for drowning out the sound of the electric can openers or teeth being drilled.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's repetitive version of “Ring, Christmas Bells/Christmas Eve" makes the little voices in my head converse all at once on the topic of mortality, electro-shock therapy and wider freeways. Then the little voices start disco dancing.

Speaking of disco, of which I am generally in favor, Donna Summer’s "Rosy Posy Christmas" is only slightly better than "Disco Inferno on an Open Fire", or "Christmas Boogie Oogie Oogie". I would rather don my Angels Flight spray-on pants and do it the right way.

Belinda Carlisle of Go-Go's fame recreating Judy Garland's famous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sounds like she started the celebratory eggnog a little early -- like Black Friday.

“Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” wouldn’t be played if not for the charming Brenda Lee, and John Denver singing as a 7-year-old in “Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” leaves me remembering fingernails on a chalkboard. Anything else by the former Mr. Dusseldorf is Christmas gold, including his duets with the Muppets. Try those instead.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” should not be sung by anyone. Ever. Michael Jackson (Jackson-Five) couldn’t do it. He did do it, but he shouldn’t have. Celion Dion can’t do it. I don’t think Beverly Sills or even the daring Carrie Underwood accompanied by the Happy Jerusalem Sound of Music Synthesized Ensemble with seven key changes could save it.

Finally, I give you anything sung by Kathie Lee Gifford — especially “Mary, Did You Know?” Believe me, Mary, being great with knowledge, was better off not knowing. I applaud Kathie Lee on her contribution to world peace. If we want the scuffle in Afghanistan to be over, we can ship her to Kabul for a series of humanitarian holiday freebies and those poor rebels will be crawling out of the hills. War over.

And now the good stuff (and there's a lot of good stuff!)

Elvis? Elvis! And I am not talking about having a Blue Christmas. His version of “Here comes Santa Claus” is endearing and surprisingly un-mannered.

Here’s a surprise I found this year: Louis Armstrong and “Zat you, Santa Claus?” A Christmas song that makes me smile and doesn't make me feel guilty for not having more money is rare.

The best of the best? Josh Groban has a few, and James Taylor has a bunch. Try Christmas songs by Frank Sinatra, the Carpenters, Doris Day, Natalie and Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Amy Grant, Harry Connick Jr., The Vince Guaraldi Trio, Mel Torme, Ray Conniff, Gene Autry, and remember those Muppets.

Christmas music that makes you feel that life is worth living is never wrong -- even if it is sung by Mariah Carey. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Just use your ear phones.

Merry Christmas, darling.

Monday, December 9, 2013

When another's child confides in you

While being the carpool dad or mom, one of the kids you are toting around sits in the front passenger seat and keeps a running conversation going. Usually you try to pay attention while keeping an eye on ten other things at once, including traffic. However, the tone of this conversation is different.

This kid tells you about someone he knows who is being hurt at home.Your eyes get big. You check the mirror to see if anyone else is paying attention to your conversation. What the child is saying is serious stuff.

Maltreatment takes many forms. Statistics featuring the percentages of children who experienced abusive (and reported it) in 2005 are telling.Neglect 62.8 percent.Physical Abuse 16.6 percent.

Sexual Abuse 9.3 percent.Emotional or psychological abuse 7.1 percent.Medical neglect 2.0 percent.Other 14.3 percent (abandonment, threats to harm, congenital drug addiction and other situations that have not been counted as specific categories.
Percentages add up to more than 100 percentage points due to some of the children being victims of more than one type of abuse — as if one was not enough.)

Boys and girls are equally likely to suffer maltreatment. In a 2005 report published by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 47.3 percent of child victims were male, and 50.7 percent were female. Victimization rates were highest among the youngest population of children, birth to 3 years, at a rate of 16.5 per 1,000 children.

Abuse or neglect among children with a disability or chronic illness is twice as high as it is with average children. And those with these disabilities are “less likely to be believed or viewed as credible when they attempt to report.”What do you do?

Here are several guidelines to help you respond to the child in a responsible, kind and professional manner. Yes, I mentioned “professional.” Potential abusive need to be handled with caution and care. There are lives at stake.

• Don’t overreact. Regardless of your own feelings, do not react with shock or disgust. Do not pass judgment on the situation or the child, or on anyone the child mentions. This is a time to be calm and remain neutral. If the child sees you react wildly, he may stop talking or try to laugh it off.
• Be supportive of the child, and don’t ask him to "prove it" or to give you details. Do not put words into his mouth. Let the child speak at his own pace.
• It’s more than permissive to make sure you are not alone with the child — for everyone's safety — as there are several components to being a child’s advocate. But make sure you are in a place where you are not overheard by other children. Do not discuss what the child has told you with others in the neighborhood.
• Many of the children have different and possibly conflicting feelings about what has happened or what is happening. The child will usually know the people involved, and they will have varying levels of what they may see as loyalty.
• It’s OK to validate the child feelings. You don’t need to confirm or agree with the situation. You don’t know the facts, but you do know how the child feels or could be feeling. Let the child know that it’s OK he told you.
• Come right out and ask what the child wants you to do. Let him know that you would like to get someone else involved who can help and that there are people who know about these kinds of things and can help everyone. Don’t freak them out by talking about police, or other authorities.
• Don’t make promises that you can’t keep, even if you think the child will benefit in the long run. Don’t promise to keep the secret. Find a way to let the child know that you will do what you can to keep the child safe, and that may include letting professional helpers do their job. If child protection advocates waltz into the house after you have promised not to tell, you may have lost a chance to really help.Instead, give the child options, such as: "Do you want me to come with you when you tell your mom and dad about what your teacher did, or do you want me to tell them on the phone?"
• Don’t try to be a TV detective. Please use caution. You do not have all the facts. Your place is not necessarily to investigate, but to make sure the information gets to a professional who can legally and professionally act.
• There are advocates for children in your city or at the schools. Find an expert and get advice. Do not try to take care of the issue on your own. There are abuse and crisis centers available, stocked with therapists and social workers who are excellent resources. Soon after it has been turned over to authorities of some sort, follow through with the child.

Once you are told that there is an issue, the clock has started to tick. Do something appropriate about it now. You are protecting a child.

Child and Family Services sponsors a 24-hour child abusive reporting hotlines.