Modern Day Slavery

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For my advocacy class I gave a speech about child sex trafficking. If you follow my Facebook page, you will see that I am an advocate for Operation Underground Railroad or O.U.R. the non-profit organization that fights against child sex trafficking.

This dark organization of selling human beings is a $150 billion dollar industry and the highest demand for child sex, are Americans. I am going to share my speech with you as part of my journey to continue to enlighten others about what is happening in the world, right now. This could very well be your child and not something you want to ignore.

Disappearing Children

15-year old Lucy loves to watch the sun rise. She often closes her eyes and tries to imagine being on the receiving end of the sun: outside, free and warm. During this time of meditation, she finds herself reminiscing about, past family vacations. She would complain about being crammed in the car with 5 loud siblings. That was not her idea of a vacation, it was torture. But she knew that her family didn’t have much money, and so, close to home road trips were the only vacations her family could afford. Lucy’s thoughts would often drift to her mom, and how she would try her best to make the trip fun for her and her siblings. She would make up games and would bring everyone’s favorite snack. Her dad would try and sing loudly and purposely off key to make her younger siblings laugh. But Lucy ignored their efforts, and would complain to her parents that her friends were currently flying to Thailand, for their family vacation. Lucy begrudged her parents for not making enough money to take her on a more luxuries vacation like her friends. She promised herself that one day she would go to Thailand, with or without her parents. 

Lucy thinks about her Thailand promise every day, and wishes she could take it back. She would do anything to be on one of those torturous family vacations, listening to her dad sing off key, graciously accepting her mom’s homemade, crustless, sandwich, while listening to her siblings attempt to sing along with her dad. Lucy’s current reality comes back into focus and she knows her mother’s sandwiches are now replaced with rotten rice and drugs. Her father’s offkey singing is now replaced with crying, screaming and pleas for home. Lucy is 1 of a million children who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. She is a child prostitute in Thailand, abused, drugged, beaten and raped repeatedly by men over, and over again until sunrise. 

The United States is one of the highest consumers for child sex in the world. All types of men from all walks of life, fly to vacation destinations to engage in sexual activities with minors. According to the National center for missing and exploited children…” Worldwide, prostituted children are exploited by both local and foreign patrons, trafficked across country borders to satisfy demand in the most popular sex-tourism destinations, and often held in virtual slavery or debt bondage. Children are increasingly sold and trafficked across frontiers– between developing and developed countries. The global child-sex trade, including the growth of child-sex tourism and the trafficking of children, has over the past decade gained attention and deserved outrage. The growing popularity of child-sex tourism can be attributed in part to sex tourists seeking out alternative, less restrictive destinations. These American men would travel to different countries rape children and then would return back to the United States where they knew, they were safe from prosecution. 

But in 2006, the game drastically changed when George W. Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh child protect act. Which removed the statutory requirement that if you wanted to go after an American pedophile who was hurting children overseas, you had to prove that they had the intent to rape the child, while standing on U.S. soil. That was impossible to prove, and before 2006 there were zero prosecutions. Now they only need to prove that the American went overseas, sexually exploited a child and that perpetrator can be held accountable as if they had committed that crime here in the United States. The penalties for illicit sexual conduct with another person include facing fines and up to 30 years in prison. Anti-human trafficking organizations can now team up with foreign officials and bring the abusers to justice. 

I feel that it is our duty to shine the light on these despicable human beings who are exploiting and abusing innocent children. We need more education in communities teaching about human trafficking on how to spot it and how to avoid becoming a victim. The Adam Walsh protect act is only serving a symptom. The answer to the root of the problem starts in the home with parents, who are emotionally available and listen without judgement. Our kids need to know that we are the safest place for them. 

THE FIRST BLOG SHOULD HAVE BEEN NAMED:UNFILTERED WRITING

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In 2010 I started my first blog, You’ve Got This. It’s much like this one in the sense of wanting people to laugh. But. Not at all like this one. This one gives you info about marriage and kids-mixed with God and faith. The first blog was sarcastic, rude, impatient… basically everything your momma told you to stay away from. I was young, a little rude, and had no writing filter. I basically complained and said what everyone, or most people, were thinking but didn’t say because it was offensive, or something you just didn’t say outloud. What can I say? You live and you grow up.

Well today I was taking a trip down memory lane to get some stories, because I have to write an English paper in the first person for school. I knew that blog was full of first person stories so I went there for inspiration. I was dying laughing, not becuase the stories were funny, but because I was freely saying whatever I wanted with no regard to anyones feelings! I obviously didn’t care if I got hate comments, and I got a few, but mainly, I got other moms thanking me for their morning laugh. I meant no harm, just making people laugh at other peoples expense. That was a joke. That was the “old blogger Aricka” coming out.

This one I am going to share is a MILD, I mean Mild! story from that blog. It is still embarrassing, but I was young and had young kids, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Just keep in mind, I had 4 kids 5 and under!!

So do you ever go to the store and not want to talk or deal with anyone? Avoid eye contact?  Most of my shopping trips are that way. I love to walk into the store grab what I need and hit the self- check out line. I don’t have time to let a checker check my stuff out anymore and really, I don’t want to hear about your grand-kids. My kids are screaming and raising hell cause they want to leave just as much as I do.  Even at the library you can check out your own books. You don’t have to deal with the dude sitting behind the desk giving you the stank eye cause your two year old is pulling every book off the shelf. Which, he has pulled off some interesting ones. Such as: The First Hispanic Woman Pilot. Hmmm…

Early Tuesday, about 7 in the morning, I had to run into Albertsons for some cereal and  milk. I needed to hurry so I could get back to Zeke and feed him and send him on his little way to school. I am rushing through the isles grabbing stuff and putting it into my cart, I am done so I hurry towards the self- checkout line and right when I am about to get there this lady says, ” Did you find everything you need? I can help you right here.” Crap!!! She’s super old too! I wanted to say, “Yes, I found everything and no you can’t help me.” I can’t say that, I’m “too nice.” So she is pulling things out of my cart one at a time and telling me a story in between each item. Beep… “I watched my grandkids the other day for my daughter.” Beep…”She went on vacation with her husband.” Beep…”She was so surprised that I got them off to school on time.”

Not happening for me today!

Beep…”She asked me what I did to make that happen.” At this point I wanted to grab the rest of my items out of my cart and chuck them back into the isles. I was regretting the raspberries I got. Beep…”I just told my grand kids if any of you are late I am going to make you clean all the toilets.” 

Then when she finally got done checking all my regretted items, she held my receipt hostage, until she finished her story. My hand was in the air wanting to grab it, like a cat wants to grab a moth infront of a porch light.  I was staring at her like, what in the hell lady I have to leave!!! My kid is going to go to school starved cause I would rather him miss breakfast and catch the bus so I don’t have to load up my other three children and drive him. Yes, I just said that. I am never going to Albertsons again unless there is a plethora of very old people who want to have those five minute conversation with the checkers and leave me out of it!

Parenting: Again?

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I remember when I was a teenager I thought, I am never going to do that to my kids.

I am going to be understanding and listen and I am not going to yell at them.

I will let them eat whatever and whenever they want.

Haha, hahahaha, hahahahaha!

Yea, I didn’t hold true to myself in those sentiments. I actually find myself at a standstill trying to balance between, being a loving parent and using parental authority.

We don’t want to take away, stifle, abuse, be passive, ignore, be too strict, lose control, have disrespectful kids, lazy kids, we want them to be kids, we don’t want them to hate us, rob them of lessons, we want them to work hard, we want them to be good people, we want them to learn and grow from their mistakes, the wants and concerns are a contridicting, confusing mess.

The other day, I read that parents nowadays are not addressing their kids negative behavior because they are trying to find the root cause of that negative behavior. They are acting as therapists instead of parents. The author, who is a family therapist, says we should not be acting as a therapist to our kids. We are their parents and should address the disrespect immediatly. He told a story about a kindergartner who was calling his mom a “bitch” instead of the mom correcting her sons disrespectful behavior, she felt sorry for her son because he was so distraught. He called her the name and he got the sympathy.

Parents, including myself, are becoming afraid to exercise parental authority over their kids, for fear of doing something wrong. Most of these parents are trying to avoid the parenting “dislikes” their own parents did with them, so they are throwing everything out, the bad, along with the good.

You would think being in school for Marriage and Family Studies would make it easier for me to navigate through this parenting maze, but it doesn’t. In fact it makes things more confusing. In the same day, I can read an article about how we need to listen to our kids and be willing to negotiate with them and then turn around and read another article about how we do not need to explain ourselves to our kids and they need to be respectful no matter what.

So…we need to listen to them and be willing to negotiate…but we don’t need to explain ourselves to them or negotiate? They need to just be okay with what we tell them, because we are their parents. But we need to let them express their opinions so that they can learn how to express themselves and develop.

I think…

I believe…

what they are saying is there needs to be a balance and every situation is going to warrant a different handling technique.

For example: Here is a real situation that happened in my family recently.

My kids are all out of school because of the Corona Virus. They had to suddenly leave their friends and their normal routines and lock themselves in the house, avoiding contact with anyone outside our family. My boys started to fill their time with the PS4, NON-STOP, from around 3pm to 4-5am my boys were on the PS4. The reason they didn’t start earlier was because they were recovering from the all nighter they had just pulled. Dan and I let this go on for about month. We felt bad that they were not able to see their friends and we are also preoccupied with this virus and the effect it was having on the whole world. We knew the gaming was a problem and we knew it wasn’t healthy for them, but we let it go because they were stuck in a house and their whole world had just been turned upside down. They “claimed” they were finishing homework and they did do their chores, it is easy to keep a room clean when you are only sleeping in it.

Then…enter Aricka starting school again. Enter all the parenting articles and talks she has to read about parenting.( I am taking classes from a church college so I get the religious views and the secular views.) As I am reading a talk from a very respected spiritual church leader, I have this vision of my boys sitting infront of their PS4’s and their souls being sucked into the gaming system without their knowledge. It was like a scene from Harry Potter where the Dementors suck the happiness out of the wizards. (I know, a little extreme but that was my vision while reading this talk.) I have learned in my life to not ignore such “visions”. I needed to address the problem immediately while the impression was fresh. After talking with Dan, we both decided the PS4 gaming marathons needed to change. I was ready to throw all the gaming systems in the street but luckily I married a man who isn’t so “all or none” and he came up with a system to help the kids learn how to balance their time. We introduced a 1:1 ratio system. They did an hour of something productive or “healthy” and that would “bank” them an hour of “free time” where they can choose to play the PS4 if they want to.

Now, we had been letting them play non-stop without a word for a month. And now out of the blue, we are telling them they can’t play unless they have “banked” some time from a list we came up with.

Have you ever seen an intervention on an addict? Insert that reaction here…(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) They were not happy and turned into total different people. The more they yelled and cried the more Dan and I knew this needed to be done long ago.

After we talked them down from the ledge, we let them have input on the “healthy activities” list. We talked to them about what was expected of them, we let them know the consequences if the expectations were not met. We did listen to all their concerns and answered their questions, but ultimately, Dan and I were the ones who made the final decisions. We found a balance of listening to our kids and “negotiating” to a point, but in the end we exercised our parental authority. We kicked out the “I feel sorry their world has been turned upside down” and started to remember that our kids are more resilient then we were treating them.

We have been doing this 1:1 thing for about 4 days now and it has been working out exactly how I imagined it. The kids are talking to each other more and talking to us more. We have gotten a lot of family projects done together and they are doing things that they have been putting off…like their school work. Yea, they weren’t doing it. This system is living and breathing, it is changing and evolving over time, with the help from our kids.

So does balancing make more sense?

You are the ultimate decision maker, the authority, but letting the kids help you with executing the plan or evolving it can help them feel apart of the decision. If they feel part of the decision then they are more likely to get on board.

May the odds be ever in your favor. Happy parenting.

Addiction

I’m going to do a little detour on the “my book share” right now and talk about addiction from my point of view and personal experience. I feel like addiction is so misunderstood in so many ways because every individual deals with addiction differently. Some addictions are more severe than others. I am one person and I can testify to my own experiences.

I smoked for four years, a pack a day sometimes more if I was drinking and hanging out with friends. I didn’t smoke 20, 15, or even 10 years, but I indeed was addicted to that little nicotine stick by year one. When I made the choice to stop smoking it was not a hard decision for me. I quit cold turkey and it wasn’t a huge battle. I “dabbled” with drugs as a teen, nothing “hard” but they weren’t exactly legal (sorry mom). I luckily did not become addicted to those drugs. Quitting smoking was not going to be my challenge. That was easy to quit. The challenge for me was drinking. I enjoyed drinking alcohol and I was “proud” of myself at how much I could consume and no one would be the wiser. I thought, how awesome that my tolerance is so high that no one can even tell that I’m drunk. I loved the taste and smell of beer. I liked that I could fall asleep at night and I liked that I just didn’t care. I mean, I’m a high functioning drinker so what’s the problem?

Alcohol wasn’t as “cold turkey” as I wanted. I kept slipping up. Even after I was baptized, I had a hard time not wanting and craving beer. I remember drinking and then beating myself up after. I didn’t turn into Miss Hannigan, dancing aroud the house and slurring my words. I would drink maybe half a beer and start mentally beating myself up. I thought I was a total failure and why can’t I just stop?

I have God right?

I care about my body and my family.

I would tell myself how bad of a person I was with no self control. I did that a few times, drink-beat myself up-drink-beat myself up, and then the last time I drank I did something different. Instead I thought, my kids are upstairs sleeping and what if one of them wakes up and sees me drinking? What if one of them has a bad dream and when I go up to comfort them they smell alcohol on my breath? It wasn’t about me anymore. It was about the 4 little kids I had upstairs sleeping (the last two weren’t even thought of at this time). It wasn’t about the judgments I would get from other people, and oh those would, flock like the salmon of Capistrano. It wasn’t about the oh I am such a horrible person for drinking what’s wrong with me? Poor me. It was me recognizing that I had something greater than myself to consider.

Now I know not everyone is going to think the same way and that’s okay. What I am saying is, find the thing you need that is greater than the addiction. Sometimes we don’t value ourselves enough to quit for ourselves. We need to find that one thing that has us say this isn’t worth it anymore.

So here is my advice with addiction.

When you slip up do not beat yourself up. Beating yourself up will not cause you to quit. It will lower your self-esteem and make you turn to the addiction even more. You will start to feel like a failure and you might as well just keep doing what you’re doing. You are not a bad person because you slipped, you are a person. It’s going to happen. Just get over it and move on.

Find your self worth from something that is solid and never changing.

God.

He is the only thing that can be solid enough to get you through the hard times and you will go through hard times. He is the only one that knows exactly what you are going through. He is also the one that is cheering you on the most to defeat this battle.

Here is the hard part. When you feel like you’re going to slip or maybe you have already slipped, stop what you are doing, get on your knees and pray. Pray out loud and ask for help. Just like praying is an action, the answer that comes to you should also be put into action. Getting in a car and expecting it to drive you to the store is ridiculous, you need to drive the dang car yourself. Praying and then doing nothing is also ridiculous you asked for the help now act on it.

And to those who have loved ones with addictions

Be kind, loving and patient, let them know that they have someone to fight this battle with. Addiction is a lonely thing.