Monthly Archives: March 2009

Take Credit for Being Credit-Wise

While it does interfere with the comfortable digestion of my breakfast, I usually watch the morning TV news for twenty minutes or so, just to see if anything important has happened in the world…and I have to watch carefully, as most morning TV shows just consist of cute exchanges, truncated conversations with important people, or the rehashing of stories that have minimal significance but maximum power to pull in an audience. Recently, though, I watched a story about how credit card companies are raising their interest rates to 30%, and how that might border on “usury” – which is supposed to be illegal. 

As a young adult, I didn’t even have a credit card.  I got my paycheck, put it in the bank, and used checks against what I actually had in my account in order to pay bills.  If there was anything over at the end of the month (and if there was, it was very little, as I was making only $11,000 per year as a college professor), I considered it “splurge money” and used it on something stupid.  Today, I’ve got lots of credit cards, but never pay any interest, as we pay off the bills in full the day they arrive.  Admittedly, in between being a young adult and today, there have been some stupid and/or disastrous times when the use of a credit card put us in debt, and it took effort and pain to pay it off. 

I say all this to make it clear that I’ve “been there and done that” like everyone else.  And ultimately, I think the answer is: don’t use a credit card unless you have every cent in the bank to back it up.  Don’t consider it a credit card at all – consider it a cash card.  In fact, you might consider only having a debit card, which means it can only be used in relation to what you have, and not what you wish you had.  That way, you won’t have credit charges which can rip apart the fabric of your life.

Here’s another idea:  take the time to earn what you want – that special car, a home, jewelry, a vacation – instead of having your folks give you a down payment for a house you can barely afford.  Take the time to build your foundation, and when you can finally afford the next step in your life, you’ll feel much more accomplished, proud, special, and downright happy.

When Are Women Responsible?

I can’t even guess how many times I’ve read about some so-called “mother” leaving her kids in cars to die in the heat, either because she “forgot” she had a child, or she was busy with partying, and then the sympathy goes to….the mother!

The same thing applies to women and their abusive “significant others” (choke).  Recently, in North Carolina, a mother left her child in the care of a gang member.  She knew he was a gang member when she made him her boyfriend-of-the- month.  The self-declared Bloods gang member beat her 2-year-old son to death, with a combination of 41 blows, which ultimately burst his liver and caused his brain to bleed.

According to the report in The News & Observer, the murderer will spend the rest of his life in jail, and there’s no mention of the mother being held on any charges whatsoever:  not negligence, not child endangerment….nothing.

When informing me of this story, one of my listeners wrote:  “I am incensed that this woman was not fined or jailed as well.  I guess our society no longer expects moms to protect their innocent, helpless children.  No doubt, this is what the abortion mentality has done to us.”

I thought about her comment, and it holds water.  Mothers farm out their kids to daycare, nannies, and baby-sitters.  The “feminista” movement talks about women having power, yet treats women as helpless victims of sexual harassment when they get meaningless comments about their butts, and suggests that only men are responsible for domestic violence.

Power and responsibility are two sides of the same coin….or should be.  To leave a child with a known, self-acknowledged gang member should be considered a criminal act, because it clearly puts a child in harm’s way. 

As a woman and as a mother, I am shocked.

Gettin’ Fit

In conjunction with ExerciseTV.tv, my personal trainer, Jason Baker, and I
created a series of fitness videos for women that help combat life’s everyday challenges with strength training moves, injury-preventing exercises, and easy-to-incorporate de-stressing techniques entitled “Dr. Laura’s Gettin’ Fit! With Jason Baker.” The exercises don’t require any special equipment (except for an occasional free weight), and are easy to perform. To give you an idea of how simple moves can help you to maintain your fitness, below are two free videos: “Dare to Take the Stairs” and “Handbag Posture” (and you know exactly what that is if you’re female, because you probably carry your life around with you in your purse).

Handbag PostureVideo: Handbag Posture Dare to Take the Stairs
Video: Dare to Take the Stairs

 

Or watch other videos at youtube.com/DrLaura.

The Dangers of Teen Sexting

In the more than three decades I have been on the radio and in counseling practice, the saddest experiences (and the most difficult to be helpful with) are those where parents call to tell me their child is dead.  The child may have been the victim of an accident, war, a crime, an illness, or a suicide.  No matter which, the pain is unimaginable and the duration is infinite.  It is against the “order of things” for our children to die first; and it is against the order of things for us to feel incapable of protecting our children from everything, anything, and anyone. 

The hurt and rage a parent feels is understandable.  A desire to do something with that hurt and rage is also understandable. It is generally difficult to get a sense of closure or justice or revenge.  And so many parents believe that, if they can get one or all of those, the pain goes away.  It doesn’t….not really.

An 18 year old young woman in Ohio sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend.  Apparently, this “texting” of private parts is quite the rage in the youth population.  At some point, the relationship ended, and he, I guess, thought it would be amusing to send the photos to other students at the school.

In May, 2008, the young teen went on a local Cincinnati television station to warn other teens against sending personal body part or naked photos to others, lest they also go through the harassment that she got, as students – mostly girls – called her a “slut” and a “whore.”  In spite of her noble efforts to warn other young people, and the gratitude she got from innumerable parents, two months later, she decided to kill herself, apparently as a way to avoid the painful embarrassment.

“Sexting” (as it’s called) is a growing problem that has resulted in child pornography charges being filed against some teens across the country, because sending sexually charged pictures of minors is a crime  One national survey found that 39% or more of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48% report receiving them!

This young woman was humiliated by the daily snide remarks, and she started skipping school.  Her mother drove her to school to make sure she got there.  Then, after attending the funeral of one of her friends who committed suicide, this young, tormented woman hanged herself in her bedroom.

Of course, the focus for her mother is an attempt to punish those students or the school with lawsuits and criminal charges.  The mother is understandably beside herself and wanting to lash out in rage.  However, the fault doesn’t lie in the stars.  The openly sexual environment that children are exposed to makes these behaviors (like oral sex in middle school classrooms and bathrooms across the country) seem like the norm for the day.  Girls have always wanted to make boys love them, and cell phone texting technology just gives young people another avenue to express their hopeful desperation to be wanted and loved.

It was pathetic and stupid of her to send the picture; it was unconscionable of her ex-boyfriend to expose her to ridicule; it was disgusting for girls (competitive little witches that some can be) to make fun of her; it was brave for her to use her experience to warn others; it was too bad her family didn’t get her mental health support or transfer her to another school; it was a deadly coincidence that her friend committed suicide; it is an unspeakable anguish that she thought this was the best solution for a “temporary” problem.

I hesitate to write “temporary” because, with the Internet, such photos are forever, and those who wish to cause hurt to others relish in exploiting such mishaps for their own pathetic ego gain.

Parents, many of your children have already done this via hand-held video cameras or computer cameras.  Many of your children have already been “embarrassed,” while others have become more popular.  Very few will kill themselves, but even then, something in them does die, as what is precious and private becomes entertainment for the immature and downright mean.  Parents, make sure your kids know not to become either.

Quote of the Week

May you always walk in sunshine.
May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right before your door

               – Irish blessing

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Cliffs of Moher

Motherhood: A College Student’s Singular View

I’m turning my blog today over to Sharen Cervantes, a sophomore at Occidental College, with excerpts from an article she wrote for her campus newspaper:

It’s a testament to the changing times that single motherhood is no longer a lamentable predicament, but a choice, something pre-meditated and embarked upon with pleasure.  An even bigger testament to the nature of the 21st century is the fact that more and more of these unwed mothers do not fit the archetype of the uneducated, hapless teenager.

According to a recent article in “The New York Times,” the number of college-educated women choosing to have children out of wedlock has increased by a staggering 145% since 1980, with most of the women in this pool of mature age (i.e., in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s).

Now, I support progress as much as the next person, and I’m especially supportive when it comes to women’s progress.  Up until a short time ago, women were bound to the household and familial unit, unable to aspire toward anything beyond domestic and childcare obligations….

Single motherhood, however, doesn’t strike me as progress.  While it may serve as testimony that the modern woman can single-handedly manage a household and act as a financial provider, it also denies the single-parent child something essential:  a father.  It’s hard to explain what it means to have or, or why not having one is significant.  The impact of a father’s absence ranges from the trivial…to the vital (forever wondering what a father could have brought to your life, for instance).  And there’s just something about having a second parental figure in the house to forget or disregard a punishment when Mom is away.  Things aren’t always this rosy, of course.  I’m enough of a cynic to realize that phenomena like divorce and negligent fathers make single motherhood almost more desirable than traditional husband/wife parenthood.  But shouldn’t the dual-parent model still be a goal?

I guess my biggest issue with single motherhood is its effect on a child’s psychology…..The issue here is not ability.  The issue here is efficacy.

What happens, for instance, when a single mother decides to play the inevitable dating game?  Does she introduce these men to her child?  It is even appropriate or conducive to an impressionable child to do so?  Not in my eyes.  It actually strikes me as rather selfish.  It is not in a child’s best interest to witness a slew of men (or even a handful) come into and out of his or her mother’s life.  It’s even less permissible for a child to witness men coming into and out of his or her own life, especially when there’s a strong chance of attachment on the child’s part…..Attachment then leads to affection, affection leads to love, and love leads to a sense of hurt and loss if and when Mom and “Mr. Potential” end things.

Is this fair?  No.  Does this promote a happy and healthy childhood experience?  No.  Is this type of situation inevitable and nearly universal?  Unfortunately, it is.  So, really, why the suddenly-escalating need to put children in this difficult position?  And what’s wrong with a little tradition?

Progress may be great, but so are old-fashioned values.  After all, isn’t it especially critical that we uphold traditional ideals like daily family dinners and family game nights in today’s high-tech, progress-driven world?  It seems to me that there are already too many conflicting interests to which the family must take a back seat, including work and financial anxiety.  The one point of stability in all this disunity and dysfunction is the mother/father/child dynamic.  So, I firmly believe that it should be maintained.

“Please” is Now a Fightin’ Word

When I was a kid at the movies and got a little carried away with giggles or chatter with my friends, all an adult had to say was “Shhhh,” much less something as aggressive as “Be quiet!” and all our little faces would turn red with shame, and we’d say “Sorry,” and slink down in our seats.

Now, you take your life in your hands you simply ask someone to please be polite.  Fuggedaboutit!  “Rights” (meaning you can do or say anything you damn well please, and if someone doesn’t like it, it’s their problem) have trumped everything from responsibility to compassion to courtesy to politeness.

Case in point:  The New York Post reported on what happened when a well-meaning woman simply asked a 21 year old loud, cell-phone chattering female to please lower her voice.  The well-meaning woman ended up in the hospital after newly purchased, very hot coffee was thrown in her face, her hands were covered in bites, and she was kicked in the thighs with the 21 year old’s high heels.

The cell phone assailant tried to escape on a bus, but the victim chased her down the street to a nearby subway station.  When police arrived, the victim pointed out her attacker, who was arrested on charges of assault, menacing, and criminal possession of a weapon (the boiling hot coffee).  All this because the little twit was simply asked to keep her voice down.

I don’t go to movie theaters anymore, because too many people think it’s their own private media hall, where they can make loud conversation and a racket with their candy cellophane.  If you dare to just ask kindly for them to keep it down, most likely you will be barraged with profanity.  And those who are nearby, who must also be annoyed, keep silent – it’s the old “don’t get involved” syndrome, which contributes to fewer and fewer folks standing up for what’s right because others are too “wussy” to back ‘em up.

I love that many establishments “request” that cell phones be turned off, although I guess too many people either can’t read the signs, or think they’re somehow exempt because of their inflated sense of their importance above all others.

It’s getting to be a scarier world out there, and not just because of rogue nations, tyrannies with nuclear bombs, or terrorists with bomb-decorated vests.  It’s getting scarier in our own neighborhoods, because people don’t feel connected anymore.  There is a persistent “me vs. the world” attitude that is destroying domestic peace.