The Fear of the White Van

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An article recently came out about white van posts on Facebook that were causing parents to fear for their children’s safety.  According to the article, there was little proof to back up these claims bu tthe fear that these posts created caused mass chaos online and real hysteria in real life.  I’ve seen the shared posts myself, telling an elaborate story about how someone evaded being kidnapped or trafficked to the relief of the poster, but played as a cautionary tale to those who shared and read it.  When posts like these cannot be verified, people believe in the truthfulness of the poster and would not question why someone would post something untrue.  In their sense of duty to warn others, they share the post and continue to propagate unfounded fears.

In one post, someone talks about how they think were almost tricked into being trafficked, but didn’t get out of the car, foiling the perpetrator’s plans.  My question is ‘how do you know the reason they were taking you was for trafficking?’  What if they just wanted to kill you?  But trafficking is a buzz word and to include that in a post will get more shares and likes even though that is not how most trafficking cases occur.  Most victims of trafficking know their abusers and a large percentage of them may be at-risk youth who can be missed, involved with drugs or selling drugs, or leading lives that would put them at risk for trafficking.  There are a few instances where girls are taken without any of these attributes and trafficked, but even in those cases, they knew at least one of the persons that trafficked them.

The point is that no one is questioning the veracity of these claims that are striking real fear into everyday people and when they do, they are met with a wall of anger because many feel as if the post, whether true or not, are simply trying to inform people.  The truth is, if we blindly share those posts without really thinking about what we are sharing, we are contributing to a larger problem that creates fear and distrust for our children, our neighbors, strangers, and ourselves.  When we believe these unfounded lies, we start to live as if we must guard ourselves at all times against potential crimes that may never materialize.  These types of activities are definitely happening in the world, and we should be vigilant about them, but we shouldn’t live in fear of things that your friend shared but didn’t even read through.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/04/tech/facebook-white-vans/index.html

Success Should Change You

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If someone actually reaches fame, fortune, or success, those around them may say that it has changed them and that they are not the same anymore.  This is meant to be disparaging to the individual, but what they don’t know is that success should change a person.  Actually, what is happening is that the individual in question hasn’t really changed, but the nature of their relationship with others have changed.  One might say that it shouldn’t change at all and have no impact on relationships, but those do not understand that those things must change.  In fact, if you don’t alter relationships, you will find yourself at a disadvantage.

There are a myriad of reasons besides success that change and alter relationships, but people tend to cling on to the idea of what the relationship used to be instead of what it has progressed to now.  An example would be a mother who’s child is turning into an adult.  She may still want to treat her child as a child because that’s what she’s always done, but the child is growing up now and the nature of their relationship has changed.  The child yearns to be treated as an adult and the mother yearns for her baby, causing a chasm of how they treat each other.  Another example is when a couple gets married.  One person may want to continue living as they did before they were married and the other expects them to follow different rules but does not lay them out.  The persons themselves in both scenarios haven’t changed, but their relationships have.

As with success, it’s not that the person has changed, but their wealth or power has increased, altering every relationship they have.  If they continue on the same way, they will find that their old relationships will not survive.  To be successful is to be known and that in of itself completely changes every interaction you have with others who never knew you before.  Subtlety, it also changes your personal relationships.  Sometimes, people don’t understand this and continue going on the same way only for the relationships to fall apart.  Success can be a boon and a burden, but if boundaries are set early enough, those around you will understand that things are different now.  They may view it as if you have changed, but that is not the truth.  You are simply protecting your relationships with them.

Vek Labs

The Disorienting Experience of Never Feeling Like Yourself

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I’ve looked in the mirror after gaining 15 pounds and didn’t recognize who I was.  I’ve had a growing child inside me that made me feel physical uncomfortable and mentally out of place.  I’ve had skin issues where I couldn’t live my life as I usually would and felt as if others couldn’t see the real me.  There are so many moments that make women feel as if we aren’t ourselves.  These moments occur with alarming regularity and sometimes, we feel it all our lives, never feeling quite at peace with who we are.  When we’re in this head space, we put our lives on hold, our plans in limbo, and never quite acknowledge who we are in the moment.

The feelings may pass and we may eventually come back to feeling like who we are, but the experience itself is very real and disorienting.  How does it feel to never feel like yourself?  To feel as if you’re hiding within your own body, just waiting to come out once you know it’s really you?  To feel as if this body, this skin, this shell isn’t really you.  You can see it when women gain weight and they refuse to buy clothes to suit their different size.  When women save jeans that they no longer wear in hopes that they return to that person.  When girls only post pictures from a certain period of their lives because they don’t like how they look now.

We sometimes exist in this space that does not allow us to move forward, only dwelling on the past and who we were, making us feel as if we somehow aren’t good enough.  The journey back to who you are is personal and different for everyone, but the disorienting feeling is universal and very real.  It matters that we don’t feel like ourselves.  To just admit that admits that we feel off.  Some of us live our whole lives feeling off, not knowing how to even come to terms with this.  This is the most important step, to simply acknowledge our feelings and the space we are currently inhabiting.  It may not be where we want to be, but it is where we are and we have to at least accept it.

unsplash-logoGaetano Cessati

The Importance of a Birth Story

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A birth story tells a child how they came into the world and can include the day they were born or their adoption day but either way, it allows a child to feel loved and wanted.  For years, mothers have been telling their children birth stories and I never really understood why until I had my own.  I know now that it helps the child understand where they came from and what their connection is to their parents.  You can see it sometimes when children re-tell their stories to their parents, showing how imperative it is to them to feel safe and wanted.  A birth story does not need to include all the gory details, but just the relevant facts that a child will understand.  Repeating the story to the child reinforces the bond you have with them and ensures that they feel good about themselves.

Crafting your child’s birth story also allows you to connect to a day that perhaps wasn’t the greatest because let’s face it, birthing a child is tough work.  Every day, we craft stories out of our experiences and re-tell them to others to convey what we have gone through, and yet, we still don’t really grasp the importance of stories and what they mean to our lives.  Stories and narratives give meaning to our lives and show us things that we may not have expected at face-value.  Even the stories themselves change over time, but that doesn’t mean the essence of the story itself has changed.  Especially for children, stories are incredibly important for building their worlds, imaginations, self-esteem, and how they view themselves.  When you tell a story, no matter who it is about, they engage the listener because listeners ultimately can see themselves in your story and can put themselves in your role and that is how we teach compassion.  As such, the most powerful story is the story of when you were born.

 Luma Pimentel

Unequal and Separate: What’s Wrong With The Educational System?

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Betsy DeVos just commented on the recent 2019 Nation’s Report Card, which found that reading and math scores registered lower between 2017 and 2019 except in the category of math for fourth-grade students. Because of this, the Secretary of Education wants to implement a plan to introduce more funding for school choice. The reality is that a system that was designed decades ago is no longer working for today and no one has really addressed it and tackled the issue. Instead, people move their kids into the ‘right’ neighborhoods, bus their kids to the ‘good’ schools, and opt for charter schools. What this does is dilute funding for public schooling and aids in the failure of the kids who are left behind. However, I can’t blame these parents in wanting a better education because what they are currently offered right now is not good enough. What we need is an entire overhaul of the system so no one needs to attend a specialized school.

How do we do this? First of all, we must change how our schools are funded. Currently, schools draw their budgets from their surrounding neighborhoods, causing an imbalance where richer neighborhoods are able to fund better schools, which in turn makes parents want to send their children there. How likely is this going to change? Not likely unless there is more social uproar about it and until then, schools will continue to be imbalanced. When I attended high school, the only televisions we had were old, boxy ones rolled in on a cart, whereas the school in the neighboring district had a tv installed in every room. While a t.v. may not be crucial to a child’s education, it goes to show what resources are available to that school and what excesses there are. Is it fair that one school should have so much and another less? Are children entitled to the same education? Is it fair that a district may pay $100 per day for one child’s education and only $15.00 for another’s? The real question is why have we allowed this problem to fester? Who profits from this illogical and outdated system?

A big issue in schools that has been brought up by teachers is the attitude and outbursts of students, which disrupt classes and even endanger the lives of other students. Have children become more disruptive or have we just kept doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same result when our society, our children, and everything we know has changed? The times have changed and whether we can blame parents, students, society, social media, or teachers is not really the issue. The issue is that the climate has changed and we have not kept up with it. The issue is not localized to a few schools, but a nation-wide problem. When the issue is that prevalent, there must be ways that can be developed to help. We can look at schools which have been successful in dealing with these issues that have implemented programs such as meditation, yoga, and also monitored mentoring for those children who are on the periphery. Solutions are already out there, but the system as a whole refuses to acknowledge them and look for them, instead of just trudging on with the same rules in place.

I find that the largest impediment to education remains a child’s home life, but what can really be done about that? If you look at successful schools such as LeBron James’s I Promise School, students are allowed a safe space to voice their concerns about their daily struggles and something as insignificant as that can really make a difference in the day of a child who is not heard at home or is experience hardships such as poverty or hunger. We need to have more avenues for helping our students emotionally through social workers, understanding about bullying, and actually teaching our children how to react emotionally. If our children don’t learn emotional skills at home, we need to teach them at school so that they may function and actually be able to learn. If we can curb outbursts or disruptions at a young age because children don’t know how to cope, why wouldn’t we want to make the lives of these children and the teachers that serve them better?

Even with charter schools, ‘rich’ districts, and select ‘gifted’ schools, there are still children who are left out of this equation that no one is talking about. These children are left languishing in what is left of our public education system and are not receiving what they need to succeed. Public education is a right and as of right now, it is unequal and separate. Change is often politicized and criticized whether it is good or bad and in that time, millions of children will be left behind. We may not always agree on how change should happen, but we should all agree that it is needed. Ultimately, we are failing our children and the future of our country by not addressing these issues and implementing any sort of change. And with each year, the scores of our children will become lower and lower and we’ll grasp at what could be the problem and play the blame game. This is an wide-spread, epidemic problem that affects the whole nation, and yet, we don’t really care unless it affects our kid.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A Mother’s Love

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The one thing that has changed since I became a mother is being acutely aware of death.  Every time I step out or the baby leaves the house, my mind inadvertently wanders to what would happen if one of us were not to return.  Death becomes so much more imminent when you’re entrusted with the care of a tiny little person and now I know why mothers constantly worry about where their children are, if they’re hurt, or what they’re doing.  I always thought it odd that women did that, but now I know why.  I’m one of those women.  I worry about what would happen to him if he became motherless.  I worry about what would happen if he were injured.  I worry about strangers and now I understand why women share those posts about missing children.  I don’t share them because I think it feeds into our collective paranoia, but I can understand why.  Being a mother means that you’re always uncertain and there are those that prey on that fear, causing families to restrict their children from playing outside or walking to school alone.  The truth is, we will never stop fretting about our children, but we should temper that fear with their freedom to grow.  If we placate our fears too much, we may be limiting our children as well.

It is natural to fear, but we must be careful of our actions, for they affect our children.  I was watching YouTube clips from Iyanla’s Fix My Life and I realized something profound between the relationship of a child and a mother.  While many of the children felt alienated from their mother because of what happened in their childhood, the mothers would always profess that it didn’t’ matter because they loved them.  That’s when I realized that despite what a mother does, she measures her love for her children through her emotions and what she feels for them and regardless of all that she has done, she will always love them.  However, children and anyone else can’t see love through emotions.  They see and measure love through actions and no matter how much a mother loves their child, if they don’t see the actions, they will usually feel alienated from them.  We can love our children and fear for them as much as we’d like, but we must remember that what truly matters are our actions and what we decide to do for our children because they are watching.

 

 unsplash-logoSuhyeon Choi

How a Con Man Ran a Mental Institution and Became a Patient

In a true story stranger than fiction, a man named William Boerum ran the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but was actually Raymond Matzker, a man who would go on to be convicted of 7 counts of sexual offenses against very young boys in Wisconsin and Illinois.  The question everyone wants to ask is how was this allowed to happen as the state needed to verify his education, his prior work history, and pass a test .  He was one of 30 candidates and after the first candidate turned it down, he accepted the offer.   The incident also begs the question, ‘Who can run a mental institution?’  If a delusional man who preyed on young boys could do it and have the support of the community and a few of his superiors before he was outed, who else would be able to fill the role?  Some may ask what would lead such a deranged man to falsify records for the position, but I think this story speaks more about who we are in the aftermath of his outing.  Many people involved in his hiring at several positions refused to take responsibility for their parts in this story after being duped by Matzker, and it is this act of passing the blame that enables such a system to continue on.

At one point in time, Raymond Matzker and the real William Boerum attended Manhattan College together in the late 1960’s, with the real Boerum going on to obtain a master’s in business administration from Cornell in 1968.  After befriending Boerum and standing as an usher in his wedding, perhaps Matzker had been infatuated with this man who would go on to become the vice-president of Crocker National Bank and decided he would take on his identity.  Perhaps in taking on his identity, he shed his and was able to lie to himself that he was worthy and not someone who solicited young boys.  Whatever his reasons, he assumed the identity of Boerum and moved to Illinois, where he obtained jobs as a mental health and nursing administrator in Rocky County and medical services director for the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan, Ill.  He left the director position in 1979 to accept the position of director at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in 1979, being paid $42,000 a year for supervising 340 mentally-ill patients.  He was able to run the institution without incident until January of 1981 and even made it past the obligatory 1-year probationary period.

After his 1-year probationary period, there were a few who questioned if Matzker should be kept on, but support from the local Winnebago area, Sen. Gary Goyke, Rep. Michael Ellis, Rep. Richard Flintrop, and even the Winnebago Mental Health Association helped to secure his position.  It wasn’t until January 6th that the truth first came to light when authorities charged him with sex-related offences that his true identity was even found.  A man masquerading as someone else was able to fool the community, a senator, state representatives, and a mental health association into believing he was competent enough to take care of patients while using resources to travel to neighboring cities with the intention of harming boys.  Rep. Ellis later was quoted to say that he was not going to apologize for what happened in October, deflecting blame, while others played politics to reach their agendas, never really grasping the situation that they were conned and let this man run a mental institution.  Even before Wisconsin, others deflected blame, allowing this predator to keep harming boys.

When Matzker was a director in Rock county in 1977, he employed a secretary that he instructed to send out applications with misleading information, including positions and degrees.  Mrs. Klipstein, his secretary, eventually told county personnel director Susan Steininger and the executive administrator, Kenyon Kies, but no one believed her that he was acting erratically.  She saw him changing locks on his doors, taking trips to Milwaukee and Chicago with county cars, and keeping an answering service in Illinois for no apparent reason.  When this story surfaced, Kies said that he thought her story was ‘misleading’ and thought she was complaining because she was a disgruntled employee, but took no responsibility for not assigning any importance to Mrs. Klipstein’s allegations.  Once again, the blame was passed and those involved absolved themselves of any guilt relating to this man.  None of these people knew the true nature of Matzker, a fraud who was charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor and kidnapping on March 1, 1980 and other charges in Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Wisconsin and Lyons and Libertyville, Illinois.

After the authorities took Matzker into custody, he was the first person convicted under a new sexual predator law in Wisconsin that stated that if someone is viewed as a sexually violent person who may potentially commit more crimes, they can be subjected to be held indeterminately in a secure, mental health facility after serving their sentences.  As such, the man who once ran a mental institution became a patient after experts that he once loosely worked with took the stand and testified as experts that he was a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from delusions.  In this strange twist of fate, Matzker was remanded to the Wisconsin Resource Center, a mental health institution, as a patient, where Thomas Michlowski, the medical director, deemed him as still psychotic.  Although this humiliating and preposterous chapter of Wisconsin’s history has been buried in the archives for ages, it still reads like an episode of American Horror Story and allows us see what happens when there is a breakdown in communication, the interview process, and trusting one’s own gut instincts.

https://journaltimes.com/news/local/defiant-matzker-held-for-trial/article_31917e11-4bf8-5052-a4bb-e2dd3ff1630e.html

https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jan-15-1981-p-1/

https://madison.newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal/1981-01-22/page-4/

https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jan-16-1981-p-1/