#whenigrowup

What do your kids want to be when they grow up? Teachers? Doctors? Lawyers? I wanted to be all of those things and I’m sure there are more. Children have such big dreams, and parents work as hard as they can to help them accomplish whatever their hearts desire in this life.

My high school choir teacher, a woman I have always admired for her strength and grace, has three children – a daughter and two sons with Hunter’s Syndrome. Hunter’s Syndrome is a genetic defect that causes mental impairment, decreased motor and verbal skills, physical abnormalities and shortened life spans.

Without a significant improvement in their treatments, Cadence and Asher, two giggling little boys that Lori and Mike prayed so hard for, likely won’t see their 16th birthdays.

They both have ports installed in their chests and receive time-consuming, uncomfortable enzyme replacement therapy every week. They might be developing antibodies to this treatment. It won’t be effective forever. (And it costs $300,00-500,000 per year, per child.)

Projectalive.org is a campaign to find a cure for Hunter’s Syndrome. Their campaign slogan – #whenigrowup – highlights what these boys and their families hope they will grow up to be:

Cadence holds a sign saying he wants to be alive when he grows up.

Cadence is not yet five years old.

The Adams family drives several hours to Miami, Florida, (more than 200 miles) each week for the boys’ treatments. They desperately need a minivan to transport the kids and their therapy equipment back and forth to the hospital. Mike, a former Marine who served several tours of duty, joined the family in Florida as soon as he could and is working around the clock at a new job to support the kids. Lori does the lion’s share of the home therapy and transportation herself. They are still trying to sell their house in Christiana, Tennessee.

If you live in the Port St. Lucie/Tradition, Florida, area, please consider this event to raise funds for the boys’ medical expenses.

Iron Sharpens Iron benefit ride

100% of the event proceeds go to help the boys live longer lives.

I ask you all to take a moment and think about your children or the children in your life. Are they healthy? Are they happy? Do they run and play and jump? Do they bring you dandelions and frogs from the yard? Do they say “I love you”?

If you have happy, healthy children in your life; if you look forward to the day your children get married and have children of their own; if you have ever wished your adult children were small again, please take a moment and give $5 in that child’s honor to the Adams family and help Lori and Mike keep their boys for as long as they can. They have an informational website where you can learn more about Hunter’s Syndrome and about Cadence and Asher’s situation. There is also a gofundme account set up to take monetary donations. (All of these bold phrases are clickable links.) To find out more about ProjectAlive, visit projectalive.org.

Also, please share the hashtag #whenigrowup on your social media sites and share what your children want to be when they grow up.

Asher Adams has Hunter's Syndrome.

Asher is the Adams’ third child. He also has Hunter’s Syndrome and has begun to show physical symptoms.

CONFIDENTIAL

Everyone should be aware of what type and how much of their personal information is publicly accessible. In this age of high-tech identity theft, one must be especially careful to guard information such as telephone numbers, addresses, bank information and other obvious identifiers. However, when does concern for personal safety start to have a negative impact on your future?

The university where I work publishes a student directory at least once per year which lists students’ names, mailing addresses and campus telephone numbers, and is distributed on campus and made available at the campus information desk for anyone who might want one. This is not a new practice, but for some reason a few semesters ago the distribution of the directory led to wide-spread student and parent panic about the release of personal information. Phone calls flooded in from everywhere, demanding that students be taken out of the public directory and their information sealed.

Setting aside the fact that the campus directory gives no more information than a city telephone book, there is another important factor at play of which a vast majority of students and parents are not aware: the idea – and the consequences – of confidentiality.

Institutions of higher education that receive certain types of federal funding are bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, in regards to student educational information. When a student begins their time at a university, they fill out an information disclosure form that gives them a set of choices regarding how and to whom they want their personal information to be made available. [“Personal information” in this sense includes name, address, telephone number, dates of enrollment, GPA , field of study and details about their degree.]

The choices are (in shortened form):

  • I, the undersigned, authorize full disclosure of my personal information by mail or telephone to eligible parties.
  • I, the undersigned, authorize limited disclosure of my personal information by mail or telephone to eligible parties. (You indicate which details can be released and which cannot.)
  • I, the undersigned, do not authorize disclosure of any personal information.

Let’s talk about that last option. When you refuse to authorize the disclosure of any personal information, whether at the time of signing this form or by choice in the future, you are, in essence – requesting that your files be marked “confidential.” This sounds like a good idea, right? Well, not entirely.

Under the laws of FERPA, if an educational file is marked “confidential,” that means you do not exist. If someone were to call the Office of Academic Records (or my office, for that matter) to verify your dates of enrollment, or your scholarship eligibility, or your GPA, the official on the phone would see the “confidential” mark and immediately tell the caller, “I’m sorry. I have no record of that student.”

No record. At all. That means that now, in the caller’s mind, you never attended said university, you do not hold the degrees you say you hold, or you do not qualify for whatever award you’re trying to receive.

See how that could be a problem?

What parents and students often don’t realize is that graduate schools trying to verify your eligibility for their programs, employers trying to verify your credentials, and outside scholarships trying to verify your academic standing all receive the same answer: “I have no record of that student.”

A confidential file also means your name will not be included in publications, which includes the honor roll and the commencement lists that appear at the end of each semester. Mom and Grandma won’t be able to cut your name out of the local newspaper and paste it into the scrapbook. Neighbors won’t be able to see that award you won in their morning edition and excitedly call your parents to congratulate you. You don’t exist, and neither do your accomplishments.

So back when dozens of students and parents rushed to have their names removed from the campus directory and their files marked “confidential,” they not only prevented an annoying classmate from finding their phone number, they also prevented a host of legitimate educational and professional sources from finding out anything about them as a student, potential employee or award recipient. And now many of them call my office wanting to know why their friends appeared on the local honor roll and they didn’t.

Often, it’s because you – and your outstanding 4.0 in biochemistry and nuclear engineering – don’t exist.

So next time you feel the urge to keep so tight a hold on common information like your name and phone number, weigh the benefits and think about what else you’re sealing off and who you’re keeping it from. Someday, you might need somebody to say, “Yes, NASA, she received that degree from us.”

on History, Hatred and Learned Responses

I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and had originally started this post as a list of my top recommendations for summer programming. However, I literally just finished the last few seconds of this particular movie, and as I sit here in shock, barely able to breathe, I realize that this movie cannot simply be grouped with a list of other films. This movie deserves its own discussion.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a British film, released in 2008, set during World War II. It features an eight-year-old German boy, Bruno, who comes face-to-face with a Jewish prison camp. Two young boys, one on each side of the prison fence, don’t understand why they are different.

Bruno is taught that Jews are the evil in the world, and that the camps they are sent to are recreational havens simply meant to separate them from the rest of the German population. He’s told his father, the camp director, is making the country a better place. He doesn’t understand why his new friend wears dirty, striped pajamas, why he is always so hungry, or why he can’t come out to play football. He thinks the numbers the Jewish boy wears on his chest are part of a game and repeatedly asks to know the rules.

The Jewish boy doesn’t know why he’s inside the fence or why his family is disappearing. He wants to play games with Bruno, but instinctively knows that having Bruno’s football inside the fence is dangerous. He talks about his grandparents and how they must have been very sick because they went to a “hospital” as soon as the family arrived and were never seen again.

Bruno’s older sister, Greta, is 12 and wholeheartedly embraces the Nazi ideals. She idolizes a young Nazi soldier, asks her tutor to tell her all about the “nasty Jews” and plasters her bedroom wall with posters of Hitler and his followers. She doesn’t even flinch with a Jewish gardener is beaten to death in their kitchen for spilling some wine, and tells Bruno that “he deserved it anyway.” She is constantly brainwashed with propaganda and false history that tells her what is happening is right and necessary, and that the Jews in the camp are less than human and therefore do not deserve to be treated with any human dignity or respect.

These kids are caught in a world of hatred and violence that they don’t understand. Bruno and his Jewish friend can’t understand why they are different.

Because the truth is, they aren’t. It’s only the world around them that says they should be.

The “nature vs. nurture” argument has gone on in science and sociology for decades, but one thing that cannot be argued is that a child is not born with an innate hatred for another type of person. That is a learned response. German children in World War II learned from their parents that Jews and anyone else who was different were to be persecuted and eliminated; white children in America learned from their surroundings that those with black skin were meant to be slaves; early American settlers were told by their superiors that Native American Indians were dangerous and must be controlled. How many horrible things do children learn today by watching parents and grandparents who cannot let go of their hatreds and grudges against another sort of people? It’s not just the overt things, like slavery and concentration camps; it’s also the little things we say and do that tell our children someone else is less worthy than we are. What kinds of atrocities might our children’s generation commit because we today can’t learn to accept other cultures and races and move on with our lives as a human race?

But learned responses go both ways.

Just as Greta in the movie was taught to hate Jews, so are we today taught to see that period of mankind’s history as a far-away incident, something that happened in a distant time in a distant place. We’ve all been taught about the Holocaust. We all know the basic historical facts surrounding that time period. But how many of us have really set it sink in that six million people were murdered in concentration camps across Europe? How many of us have sat at the feet of a survivor and listened to his or her terrible stories without either tuning them out as talking relics or hushing them as inappropriate for children’s ears? I am ashamed to say that I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and I spent much of my visit skimming over the exhibits wanting to get through quickly so we could find something to eat. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas hasn’t won any real awards, in Great Britain or America, and that in itself tells you something. It’s too much; it’s too brutal; it’s too true – and nobody wants to award a movie that reminds us who is at fault.

It is an old saying that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. I, however, say that those who are not shocked by history are doomed to teach their children how to repeat it.

Watch The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It’s available on Netflix both inside and outside the U.S., and can be ordered on Amazon for less than $10. I’m ordering myself a copy as I write this, and I will loan it to anyone who asks.

If the ending doesn’t leave you frozen in your seat, shocked and hardly able to breathe, then you have a much bigger problem than you realize.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Thoughts on the Hobby Lobby ruling

*For those of you who are my Facebook friends and have read my thoughts on this case on that platform, much of this blog post will be a repeat of that discussion. 

I’m sure many of us are completely sick of hearing about how the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby retail stores against the Obamacare mandates requiring employers to pay for all forms of birth control as part of their company insurance policies. However, I am most sick if seeing the following statements plastered all over my Facebook feed:

“All the Supreme Court judges are men, what do they know about birth control?”

“It’s not my boss’ business what kind of birth control I want!”

“I’m a woman and I’m in control of my own body and my choices!”

and etc. 

Here is what all the outraged women’s lib posters seem to be overlooking:

Women who work for Hobby Lobby, and any other stores that may follow in its footsteps, can STILL USE ANY TYPE OF BIRTH CONTROL THEY WANT! Hobby Lobby is only refusing to cover four of the 20 types of birth control available in its company insurance plan. Those four types are things like plan b and the morning after pill, which are bought and taken with the intention to destroy any fertilized eggs that might be present – i.e. intentionally causing an abortion, if applicable. Female employees can still use their insurance to purchase any other type of regular birth control.

However, Hobby Lobby’s female employees still, under their legal rights in the United States, have the right to choose those options not covered by their insurance if they wish, regardless of whether their employer agrees with their decision or not. This ruling has not taken away the “right to choose” and the ability to “be in control of your own body.” But, if a woman is going to choose to eliminate her unborn child, she has to pay for it herself. Which only makes sense.

Let’s say a person were going to make a personal decision on some other widely controversial topic: the Muslim religion (also something to which the arguments “separation of church and state” and “freedom of religion” can be applied.) Let’s say I – an American woman – make the choice to convert to Islam. However, I want my friend, who believes Islamic practices to be morally wrong, to pay for my pilgrimage flight to Mecca. My friend refuses based on religious convictions. So I take him to court for discrimination because he refused to pay for something that would violate his personal moral code.

Does that make sense? 

The owners and controllers of the Hobby Lobby corporation believe that abortion is morally wrong. What sense does it make to force those people to violate their personal moral convictions by paying for abortion-causing medications that, if women really want them, can be purchased from their local pharmacy anyway? 

If you want it, you can get it. Nobody’s stopping you from making that decision. However, if you’re going to make that decision you should be fully responsible for the medications and procedures necessary to do so, which also makes you completely liable for any side effects, after effects or other unpleasant or unexpected results. It is not your company’s fault if you regret your decision later. You made the choice; you paid for the choice; and only you can be held responsible.

Regardless of whether you – the reader – personally support abortion or not, you have to recognize the flaws in an argument that wants to force someone to pay for something that violates their conscience. You wouldn’t want to buy me something that violated your conscience, just because I demanded it, would you? 

Why expect the same of company owners?

I welcome discussion. Please leave your thoughts below.

On Topic

I’m going to be starting a new periodic theme here on the Nut House blog called “On Topic,” which will be a series of short, personal essays on a given subject. Now, you might be thinking, “Isn’t that what a blog post is?” Well… yes and no. I try to keep my regular blog posts about actual events in everyday life and typically make an attempt to be funny. In “On Topic” posts, I want to try to be more philosophical — inspirational, if you will. Who knows if that will be achieved or not, but there is a piece inside me that aches to get back to that style of writing we studied in my literature classes in college. Not stuffy, academic writing, but something in-between that and the newspaper column-type humor I try to infuse into my normal blog posts.

I’m particularly inspired by a writer from one of my senior classes, whose name I cannot remember for the life of me (and Google isn’t responding to “famous author who writes about stuff”). One of those one-name authors… a really old dead guy… he might have been British… anyway, I know I didn’t resell or throw away the book, so he must have been someone I actually enjoyed reading. I do remember that class was taught by Dr. Chris Hill and that we ended up arguing about the merits of owning a cat through a lot of our lectures. But I digress (as did we, obviously).

This might be an idea I end up moving over to erinchesnut.wordpress.com someday (which is inactive now, so don’t go trying to look it up. And if for some reason it’s not, please just ignore whatever  content you can see there. It’s currently a terrible attempt at analyzing my industry). I’ve been sitting on the URL for a while now, intending it to someday be a professional blog in which I intellectually expound upon the changes and trends in the public relations world, but obviously that isn’t happening anytime soon.

At any rate, these articles will be included as the mood strikes me and will be archived under the new “On Topic” tab in the top menu. Feel free to let me know what you think or to suggest a topic.