Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: common sense

Why it matters that we exercise simplicity (while it is still a choice)

Every now and then I play an interesting game with myself. I deliberately avoid buying more food when we still have enough supplies in the house to make a few more meals. The process conjures creativity but that’s what makes it interesting. That’s where empowerment sprouts.

Seriously though, why do it?

Why not decide on a menu and then shop for ingredients? Spoiler alert: this is not a cooking post; as you will see below, it goes far beyond that. Why cook with whatever available, when available? Because:

Read More

What Does It Take To Keep A Promise?

Originally published as a column on Friday July 22, 2016 in NewsKamloops

TearsFew things are more disappointing than not keeping a promise. More so when the promise has to do with people who died under circumstances that ought to be investigated so justice can be served. More so when the people who died are all First Nations Canadian women, the majority of them under 45 and mothers.

On our recent trip to Prince Rupert we drove on the Highway of Tears and the overall feeling is one of uneasiness and sadness. There are big billboards warning women of the dangers of hitchhiking. As you stop along the way in some of the small towns, there are signs that grief has touched that community.

And yet… The promised inquiry into the death of murdered and missing Aboriginal women is still far from becoming a reality. It’s not a promise that should be made lightly. Our new PM Justin Trudeau has a full agenda, no doubt about that. But a promise is a promise, and when closure of some sort is at stake, then the promise should be kept.

The numbers are staggering, the grief and pain left in the hearts of the families who are still waiting for answers are too. British Columbia has the highest numbers of missing and murdered First Nations women, 160 of them. Approximately 63 percent are murder cases and 24 percent missing persons cases. The majority of them were between 19 and 31 years old, and 16 percent under the age of 18.

Each of those young women was someone’s daughter, granddaughter or sister before they had a chance to become mothers. One could argue that sadly enough, the system failed many of them before they were born. After all, the drug and alcohol addictions among First Nations people are rampant. So is domestic abuse. A vicious circle that chews up many lives leaving but grieving survivors and unanswered questions.

Which is where the government comes in. the authority that can say enough is enough, vioplence againt women (by strangers in most cases) is not condoned anymore and we will not only find what happened to these women and girls but also work closely with First Nations leaders and communities to educate, protect and offer a way out to those whose are in danger of being mangled by that vicious circle that indifference, political (in)correctness and plain old feet-dragging enable.

It is shameful to not hear the plight of those left behind. And yet…Let’s hope the many questions will be answered soon. Let’s hope that dignity and justice will take their place where they rightfully belong.

I might hear soon that the topics I’ve been writing on are depressing. Or just on the brink of sadness. True enough, yet sadness that crushes many or even a few cannot be ignored. Ideally, we should all be so happy that we’d burst at the seams.

By caring and lending a few minutes and a few thoughts to the side of life that is ungraceful as it is scary, we make it less dark for the ones whose hearts are pounding and crying at the same time. Compassion makes us all better. It’s in giving that part of ourselves which is so vulnerable in the face of suffering that we are afraid to show, that makes us better human beings.

So here’s the answer. For as long as there are indignities and pain, I will bring them up, as many as I can. Some will be screaming louder than others at me. Suffering does not know boundaries. It should not. Yet the case of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women shows that race boundaries exist, though many pretend to not see them.

It’s not negativity to bring these things up but respect for humanity and all its dark and bright bits. It’s not negativity to bring them up in conversations but the hope that one day communities can be safe for all who are part of them.

It’s by letting myself be humbled by people’s strength to carry on after tragedies and heartbreaks that I can be a better person and see beyond my immediate world. That is why I think promises should be kept. Because people matter. Every single one of them.

The Case of Missing Innocence – A Sequel

Last night I attended Jesse Miller‘s talk about kids and social media: the good, the bad and the ugly. As expected, ugly can get uglier with a click and Miller explained how.

The topic is as heavy as it is complicated. The recurring refrain was the one that seems to be the only viable solution, yet somehow the hardest to apply: dialogue. Children love to talk and they have a hefty amount of common sense which gets diluted with time.

If there was ever a time when parents have to hold on to their kids for dear life, I’d say this is it. The ever expansive social experiment of already gargantuan dimensions keeps on growing and the risk of losing ourselves and our children in it grows with it.

Children are barely prepared for life when they make their debut on any social media, that is a fact. Miller emphasized that. Children have the means to understand tech, they have the firing synapses that allow them to understand how the internet works and, thanks to their parents and a killer set of nag-plea-implore-till-you-get strategies, they have access to the latest in smartphone innovation.

But, they miss life experience. And it shows, sooner than expected. That’s where the parents come in. Ideally, through open dialogue that happens regularly rather than when the unthinkable happens, which is why last night’s talk took place to begin with.

Interestingly enough though, many parents commit their children to the unforgiving forces of social media very early on. The perspective offered by Miller was an eye-opener for many I hope. Parents dump folder after folder of family photos on Facebook and Instagram; instances of their children’s life milestones, from the trenches of potty training to the glamour of graduation, and everything in between.

Many children who are now tweens and teens – the high risk category for offending, are becoming offenders or victims – have had a camera pointed at them since they can remember. Miller aptly points to the obvious: What are they going to do when they are given their own device? That’s right: Click and post.

The question that is always left unanswered in my opinion is this: Why do we feel the need to share so much detail with strangers? I am challenged by the notion of friendship of Facebook, I said it before. How did we become comfortable with the idea of sharing life bits? Why do we allow hundreds of people, Facebook friends, Instagram or Twitter followers, peek at our life events while still insisting on pulling the curtains at night?

There were a handful of take home messages last night, such as:

  • Establish some good boundaries that will allow you to set a good example (no touching the phone while driving for example, no phone at the dinner table, and disconnect during family time)
  • Talk to your kids about the dangers of sharing personal details with hordes of strangers (a couple of high school kids in the audience confirmed that many of their peers take photos of their driver’s license and post it online)
  • Everything (or almost everything) that one posts online stays somewhere online. Scary to think about now that so much of your life is out there? That’s the point. Privacy is no longer to be expected.

There wasn’t a lot of talking about the sensible topic of inappropriate ‘selfies’ (the word of the year in 2013, and yes feel free to cringe) which caused an uproar at the South Kamloops Secondary School, but these share the same fate with the rest of things shared: They’ll be somewhere out there long after one wishes they’ll be gone. what’s worse, they become grounds for cyber bullying, shaming and, as seen over the last few years, they can push young people to commit suicide.

A chilling fact shared by Miller last night was the high number of views Amanda Todd’s You Tube video got after she died. In the millions that is. Sadly ironic, she was trying to attract attention to her case so that bullying would stop. It didn’t, until she took her own life.

‘Trending’, another strong social media term, makes no distinction between good and bad. if it gains audience it trends. Children should not be expected to make fair judgment calls about the content they see. Social media where information, questionable or not, piles up like a hundred avalanches a day, will keep being what it is: A repository that may or may not contain your child’s life bits, photos and opinions about life.

That’s why parents need to step in and provide guidance. it’s a learning experience for parents and children, but clumsiness makes both parties endearing to each other rather than resentful, so indulge. let loose, show that you’ve never done the social media thing before but maintain the one thing every parent should: That you know more about life and that puts you not in the friend seat but the parent seat. it’s a privilege and a challenge, and believe it or not, children know it and expect it.

For now, it comes down to this: boundaries and common sense have to be there. They have no expiration date because no matter where you are in life, if you make them your allies, you’ll be on solid ground.

I left the room last night with a lot of questions, and with an enhanced perspective over an issue that has been with me for a long time now.

in 2012, following Amanda Todd’s death, I left Facebook. I did not want to be a bystander. I knew, just like I know today, that children younger then 14 are allowed on Facebook when they should not be and that is akin to allowing them to drive long before they have the skills or maturity to do so. I knew, just like I know today, that in some parts of that virtual space someone is being bullied and someone might just decide to end their life to stop their suffering and the public shaming.

More than a year after that, I made my appearance on Facebook again, with the sole intention of sharing my writing, which, I was told, might just be a shame to miss if the issue is worth sharing.

My personal page though, which I need to have in order to have an author page, has been stripped to almost nothing. I took down the few photos I shared back when I thought Facebook to be a connection tool with faraway family and friends because I find no reason to share life bits like that. Sure it takes effort and time to maintain correspondence with those who matter, but then again, such efforts are nothing but an illustration of our caring for them, and the other way around.

I don’t expect anyone to share my beliefs, and I also fear that pending lack of engagement on the said platform over issues that I write about and I consider important, I might opt out again.

The thing is, there is a lack of strict boundaries that troubles me. One could argue that the plethora of social media platforms makes the denial of one almost insignificant. True. But I would like to take one of the messages from last night’s talk and solidify it: Do as you expect your children to do.

I have an open dialogue with my sons. To a fault, one could say. Yes, that close, and I am nothing but grateful for it. There is nothing we shy away from when it comes to talking and debating. To listening. I want to keep that alive: the openness, and the gratefulness attached to it.

But I also want to set boundaries that I hope will inspire my sons to think that in all the craziness of hurried, privacy-robbed times, our living space maintained enough common sense to spill into their decisions as they grow up.

One could hope.

 

 

The Aftermath: Keeping Halloween Fun For Kids

Picture this: a dummy resembling a person fallen to the ground is placed in front of a garage door to look as if the head has been crushed by the door — blood on the door and suggestive puddles on the pavement included. It looks as real as you can imagine. Anything more would be the real thing.

A neighbour calls 911 and a discussion ensues.

It happened in more than one place. Comments abounded. The majority were a reverberation of, “Come on, it’s Halloween!” and praised the creativity of the displays. A matter of opinion.

Others argued that we shouldn’t allow for something that creates fear or unease.

One such commenter was told to look the other way if she couldn’t take it, while another who suggested we should return to what Halloween used to be (goblins, ghosts, black cats) was deemed a witch and told, “What did they do with witches back then? Burn, witches, burn!”

Feeling uncomfortable yet? Intolerance of a different opinions punctuated with implied violence is never a good thing.

Halloween is one spooky day, everyone agrees, but suggested violence — to the extreme, in this case — can stir negative emotions that are not conducive to good fun. Most commenters suggested that children would be the first ones to find the display funny because they know what Halloween is about.

I disagree. Creepy and horrifying is not funny. Normalizing violence is not acceptable. Halloween or not, some boundaries should not be crossed.

Our 92-year-old neighbour reminisces about Halloweens that were not about zombies and severed crawling hands. “Halloween is for kids,” she said. Jack-o-lanterns and decorations, trick-or-treat if they wished, but horror was never part of it.

Children nowadays are exposed to myriad stimuli that may or may not be appropriate for their level of understanding. They seem to know more, but knowing is not the same as understanding.

Children’s brains need time to grow and rushing serves no one. They need time to learn to make the distinction between fake and real.

Present-day Halloween décor is different from what it used to be. Children, young and old, get a big dose of gore, dismembered bodies and zombie action, on top of the old-fashioned ghosts and skeletons, which seem tame by comparison. Save for the last items, I am not sure children can take the above-mentioned in the expected stride. Some will, some won’t.

One way to honour human nature is to not desensitize children to violence. In my youngest son’s class, some kids still believe in the tooth fairy, while they also talk about watching clips from movies like Chucky and Candyman.

If violence happens out of the Halloween context, children are referred to counsellors for help. Parents have a hard time explaining it. Violent images in the news can shock children. We know that.

Movies have parental guidance warnings for a reason. Not only is the plot geared toward a mature audience, but the horror elements and sexual references are clearly not to be seen, let alone understood, by children and tweens.

I watched 20 minutes of a scary movie once. I was already an adult, yet it made me cringe.

I grew up with very little television. We played outside and read. But here’s an interesting thing: many of my favourite books included sword fighting (Alexandre Dumas) and gunfights (Karl May’s books describing the Wild West). I was never uneasy or scared. The violence wasn’t gratuitous, though.

I am trying to raise my boys the same way. We have always been outside a lot, around our yard, town and on road trips. We read books depicting times past and present and the heroes within — real or fantasy. Ditto for movies.

They never feared “monsters” under their beds — until this year, that is. My youngest now struggles when night approaches.

He was told about a bad guy who comes and kills you in your sleep. Some kids at school talked about it. The name is Candyman. Just the product of someone’s imagination, we told him. He knows, but fear has stuck for now. Having our home broken into recently doesn’t help.

As a result, he is ambivalent about Halloween. Excited about the dressing up part, troubled about the anticipated scary, possibly gory, décor and costumes he might see that day and the stories associated with them.

It shouldn’t be this way; it should be fun — kiddie-appropriate jack-o-lantern, goblin and ghost fun. After all, like our 92-year-old neighbour said, “Halloween has always been fun for kids.”

We should keep it that way.

Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, November 2, 2013. 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
%d bloggers like this: