You can count on one thing with me for certain and that is the integrity of my heart, because it belongs to God and is constantly being shaped by His love, mercy and grace.
This integrity of heart is what has kept me focused on the mission of My Advocate Center even through the trauma of having my own children wrongfully removed, as I was under attack and unable to see what was being done to me, by whom and how it was being covered up so I could not defend. As painful as that was and as worried about my children as I have been, I’ve known that there was a purpose in this and that I needed to remain faithful and to wait on God to guide me. Not easy for a type-A entrepreneur and advocate-turned-reporter (or reporter-turned-advocate, take your pick) to wait and see.
You can count on a second thing and that is I will always come back to this core focus, the needs of children. Sure, I might feel a competitive streak, a flash of anger or a moment of despair over experiencing what it is like to be oppressed and humiliated, but that’s being human. What makes us leaders – and good parents and advocates for others – is how we respond and then what we do with that.
And, as I’ve been told, good leaders help others learn to be good leaders; they give others that chance, and step out of the spotlight themselves. So I’m creating opportunities for professionals, parents, grandparents, teachers and others to show they can lead, be great examples, to make a difference with the mix they have in their bowls.
Watching what they do now with their own inspiration mixed with challenges (opportunities)…not looking for perfection, but for effort, inspiration, courage and for integrity.
It was a woman – a poet – I studied in college as an English major at Belhaven University – who first referenced success being sweetest to those who didn’t succeed. I’ll supplement with this, whether it was in a personal relationship, in a sports competition or a business endeavor…doesn’t matter. It still stings and makes us want to counter-attack or jab back at that person. Our instinct says triumph over those who did wrong by us or to those we love and protect, or took a victory we believed to be ours.
Emily Dickinson doesn’t actually use the word revenge, but hints at it with words and phrases such as took the Flag, victory, distant strains of triumph, and agonized, suggesting an intense struggle or even war. Diehard golfers can relate to these words and thoughts about defeat and the satisfaction of winning the next round. They also know that the ugly desires of revenge don’t make for the best clarity during competition, and tournament winners don’t tell the crowd that wanting revenge is what helped them succeed that day.
What can I say?
You know if you’ve read my articles or pleadings that I am at war with those who would do harm to children, including my own, because it’s profitable for those who exploit and do wrong. Agony is assured for those targeted by the wrong-doers. Causing agony for innocent people because of greed and a lack of humanity is a terrible thing. Causing agony for children? Let’s talk off-line about that. But the messaging against those I refer to as bad actors, is – on its face – not in line with what children need to see and hear. And so goes the need for this post, as a qualifier or preface to my work. It’s also an admission that I struggle with work-life balance.
To our children
Should you stumble across this as adults, my wish for you all is that the messaging of this mission softens your hearts, opens your minds but does not cause you any worry. Empathy is good, but fear should be given to God, shared with a counselor you trust, and left behind you. Allow the good in this mission to resonate for you as you come across others in life struggling with something that may not be apparent from a distance or publicly.
For so many years I’ve worked tirelessly, and for the most part without interference, to insulate my own children from the stress I feel from another’s angry need for control, desire to demean and destabilize. I do not want them to know the truth of this battle. They have learned on the positive side, however, that other parents and children need an advocate who really understands the situation they’re in, and a confident, calm voice because what they are experiencing is, let’s say, unhealthy at best. It is draining work on the personal front and professionally. It doesn’t pay well, either, but higher pay is not what drives those of us involved in advocacy work to improve society and systems. Regardless of pay, title or recognition, it is still important & rewarding work.
It is the morning of my twins 16th birthday and I do not know how they are doing or where they are; that information is being kept from me and it feels terrible. I say this not because I need your sympathy or because I am seeking vengeance against those causing this pain, distress and uncertainty, but because this is what thousands of parents like me across the country – and world – are experiencing.For the most part it is a silent suffering, an epidemic without a diagnosis, but I promise you it is real – and devastating. It is an infliction that harms children, which is easily understood by reading the language in a piece of legislation before the Florida legislators. Thank God someone of influence recognized the pathology and lasting damages to children to influence legislators to include these facts in a bill. Thank you, Florida doctors, advocates and policymakers. Whether the bill is passed and enacted this year or not, it is crucial to press forward as this recognition, or mandate for certified counselors, can save lives.
It is not unlike the kind of suffering, in a much different way of course, by parents torn from their children by Natzi Germany and by modern-day traffickers of children or the keepers of the global slave trade. Regardless of country or time-period or nationality, the impact is the same. It is ugly – and caused by ill-intentioned people motivated by hate and greed. The image above of what could be a holding place designated for isolating parents away from children should evoke harsh emotions in you, including a desire to do something to the controllers breaking the bonds between those parents and their children.
This is not the article I wanted to write on the weekend of my beloved twins’ 16th birthday. Even with this prolonged and deep pain, I am not seeking revenge. Justice would be great, yes. But revenge belongs to God.
Call to action:
For our children to rise above conflict and heal beyond their circumstances, they need our leadership. They need an example that doesn’t keep them mired in suspicion, doubt or threat. Be successful for the sake of leading our children and the children of others who, for the moment, are unable to be that example.
Thank you for reading and for lending your support to those around you,
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory
As he defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!
That’s what we all want as parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches for our kids.
To ask for help early on to troubleshoot any challenges, including emotional burdens.
To use better judgment when choosing which company you keep, where you spend free time and how you treat your family, as a few examples. Each act of wisdom and each show of empathy and kindness may help prevent breakdowns and crimes as revealed in the news story below about a man who could not cope with the consequences of his addiction — set in East Cobb County, Marietta, Georgia.
After studying parent/child relationships for decades, analyzing hundreds of cases involving family conflict, I can say for certain that a parent’s judgment in how he or she guides children to treat other family members has a lot to do with preventing ongoing dysfunction, including addiction, family violence, abuse in relationships, etc.
Several cases in Georgia involve someone taking a life, their own or a family member’s life, committing arson and other crimes, because that person doesn’t have the coping mechanisms needed in relationships and in deciding how to handle uncertainty and disappointment.
A Marietta, Georgia, man turned suicidal, burned down his family home, ran from police and put many other lives at risk.
This story could have turned into a much greater tragedy, but fortunately no lives were lost and the perpetrator of arson and drug use is behind bars.
Below: traumatized father and neighbor talks about the scene. Other neighbors led from smoke-filled, burning homes adjacent to Matt Olson’s unit. We do not yet know the total damages caused by his addiction, suicidal behavior, arson and the police chase.
Photography and video credit: Fox 5 News, Atlanta, Georgia
I first wrote this post in response to seeing how children are reacting to their parents going at each other, choosing to fight and litigate in courtrooms rather than putting their time, energy and financial resources into being available and providing more of what children need.
Children need our attention, and they need to see in our faces that all is ok. That we are ok in spite of what is going on around us.
Can you tune everything out and focus on giving a child, your own or someone else’s, what they need in this moment?
If you can, that makes you a special someone to this child looking to you for understanding, for the right words or just for your shoulder, your ear or a hand to hold.
In almost every case or situation brought to my attention, there is a child at risk – at risk of not getting these basic needs filled. In some of those cases, the risk involves emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and even sexual abuse.
Often I see that basic needs are not being met, or there is emotional abandonment along with increased stress, and this is happening because parents are persuaded to focus their time and attention elsewhere, when the most important thing in their world…this child…is going without.
Stay present in the moment.
No matter how frustrating, difficult or lonely your situation may be, make a point to look regularly into the eyes of the child who needs you to be all in, connected to what it on his or her mind.
Listen and look into his or her eyes for your clue as to what it is you are supposed to provide to make things better. Sometimes it is just your ability to be patient and available that brings peace.
If someone or something pulls at you or tempts you to ignore, to be too busy, to be missing from this child, trust your love and your gut to instead provide what is needed now for this child, as this is what will last a lifetime.
Now, months after writing this post, I am updating it to add that when I began studying the impact on children of family conflict and what is worsening and prolonging conflict, it became apparent that more and more children are being destabilized, even being set up to fail in how their parents are treated in court cases. We can see how mental health is being eroded as parents become LESS available while uncertainty increases.
These are the children who are becoming vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking, and this path to devastation is one we can turn around. But we need your help!
Get involved with Safe Harbor and the organizations such as Youth Spark and others in your community working to stop exploitation of our children and to help victims of trafficking recover.
A candidate spoke of the positives coming out of the violence at his political rally. Yes, he did.
No mention of the injured officer or of the waste of our tax dollars caused by his inciting of violence and intentionally divisive, inflammatory words and conduct. But he did speculate it could be good for his vote count while talking to media and even went on to talk about himself and his supporters as being the victims for having their first amendment rights denied.
The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!
The Thin Blue Line is a symbol used by law enforcement, originating in the United Kingdom but now prevalent in the United States and Canada to commemorate fallen officers and to symbolize the relationship of the police in the community as the protectors of the citizenry from the criminal element. In my opinion this line gets thinner when people treat law enforcement with disrespect and make their jobs harder, and integrity – or the lack of it – has everything to do with this problem.
Think. When we unnecessarily make police work harder by inciting violence we – candidates who activate hate, racism, fear, anti-semitism, and more – undermine our officers’ ability to protect and to serve as they are trying to do.
Poor judgment by candidates increases the risk to our officers, to families and children, to businesses, and, yes, to reporters as well. When you put down women, minorities and lie about what you’re doing, you’re inviting in abuse…but this candidate then rewards it with more fanfare.
When we create situations that cause law enforcement to have to react – and these are avoidable situations – we are wasting our resources, taking officers away from areas where others are truly in need of protection.
This candidate said about a protestor, “I was ready for him,” Trump said. “But it’s much easier if the cops do it.” This says he knows what he’s doing, escalating fear and hate, but that it’s not his problem, it’s law enforcement’s problem. And…it’s OUR problem as taxpayers, as parents, as business owners, etc. This doesn’t help us – – it hurts us.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski added, “We don’t make decisions in a vacuum. We coordinate with all the appropriate law enforcement.”
But Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, told CNN that Trump’s claim that he informed a police commander before making the decision to cancel the rally was “absolutely untrue.”
“No one from the campaign contacted the Chicago Police Department and we were not involved at all in canceling the event,” Guglielmi told CNN. [So this candidate’s going to subject our officers to greater risk, and our citizens, and then lie about his campaign’s conduct while blaming police.]
“I was literally standing next to the superintendent when we were notified by the university that the event had been canceled. I think a lot of people were surprised, including the Secret Service officer standing next to us who was notified at the same time.”
Guglielmi added that police then dispatched an additional 100 police officers to the University of Illinois arena, where the event was being held, to assist with crowd control.
What if, Mr. Presidential Candidate, instead of stirring up violent protests for the sake of attention, media ratings and to distract from your own misconduct, you managed in a way that encourages law enforcement to use their time and energy to rescue victims of child trafficking and to pursue the predators in each area you visit?
That is what honoring law enforcement and protecting our vulnerable citizens looks like, when you choose what is right for them over what your ego demands.
If enough people say the truth over and over again maybe it will start to resonate with voters who still have integrity and empathy for people.
To the millions who are struggling, losing children, homes, health and jobs, I hope you’ll consider the attitude and example of candidates and watch how they treat others. If someone is cavalier about risking the lives of our officers, retaliates against a victim of violence for speaking out, threatens anyone who speaks out against him and rewards those who put profits over facts, what chance do you think we’ll have of getting him to care about the plight of families and children? Where on his list of priorities do you think your family will fall?
Is it good for you to know what’s coming? What you can expect, or better yet, what you can or cannot control? I believe so, and I believe informing families improves stability.
Of course. So that means it is true for your children as well. Most of the concepts I’m exploring here have to do with helping us do better for ourselves but especially for our children. If you are not a parent, but support children or parents in your community, you may learn about concepts or resources that you’ll want to share.
In my own journey I realized there was a lot of information and guidance missing that I needed at a critical time, so I set out to have questions answered and to identify the best resources that others might need as well.
If you would like to contribute to the public education now available through My Advocate Center to help more families avoid the pitfalls seen in our court system, please consider donating here. This method is not yet tax-deductible, so let me know if you prefer to use a method that will allow you to receive the deduction through one of our partner organizations.
What I learned is worth sharing. The issues I address are meant to invite debate about more positive ways to resolve conflict and overcome challenges – or challenging people – with a central focus on the needs of children.
Just knowing the right questions to ask, knowing that accountability is possible, finding honest and trustworthy support…can make all the difference in how we function in life, how we protect our health and finances, and especially around how we care for and nurture our children.
When we are informed and well supported, we can properly set and follow through on expectations. That benefits our children because we all have greater peace of mind. With the right expectations, support, know-how, peace of mind…we can perform better, make better decisions, and ideally deliver what is needed.
So the conversation here is about empowering, creating new solutions and building toward better peace of mind, better health, greater productivity…and, yes, more laughter and joy.
Keeping it simple: when we are at our best, we can serve God, each other and our children better.
Many of my topics come from daily life, as well as from being provoked in social media by friends I agree with and others I don’t. My posts have less to do with what is reported in the news, and more to do with how I see us treating each other – and how that affects our children.
Many of the questions I raise also grow out of my observations of my own children and of other children & families:
When you learn to read the faces of children, you’ll see that they are telling you a lot about yourself.
Just know that if I call you out, I’m calling myself out as well. Being transparent seems to work for me so I’m going with it. None of us are perfect, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep learning and striving to do more with what we have, and to help our kids do better than we’ve done in the past.
What you can expect from me is candor, challenge, spirit (sometimes becoming “fight” when called for) and a genuine desire to both learn from my own mistakes and to help others do the same.
This desire gave birth to Connect | Inform | Empower and the warehouse of solutions and resources now called My Advocate Center.
On this blog and on My Advocate Center’s blog you’ll see a broad range of discussions, from children’s interests and parenting issues, including legal advocacy for parents and children, to issues that go to the heart of both social and business relationships. I’ll probably get Global and Political and Spiritual at times – but always practical, always balanced and quick to consider perspectives other than my own.
What I ask of you as a reader is to please consider different sides of issues, and to help me Stand in the Gap that exists around many of the problems we face in this Community of ours. Let’s set a better example: one we want our children to model after and carry forward with our help.
Your constructive feedback is always welcome here, and positive contributions are a great thing!
The importance of transparency and the role of news media and social media can not be overstated.
This is even more critical today and adults and children are asking for help from professionals to address bad practices being used to undermine and destabilize parents, especially parents fighting to protect and provide for their children.
Interested in learning more or seeing how you can help?