School Shooting: A Letter To My Sons

School Shooting: A Letter To My Sons

I wrote this in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. At the time, my boys were 6 and 8 years old -similar ages to the children who lost their lives on that terrible day. I know that many parents will be feeling this way now, after the tragedy in Texas. Our hearts break for the lives lost, and for the families and loved ones whose lives are forever altered.

To my dearest boys,

I was going to start this letter by telling you about the things that happened today, but it will be easy enough for you to find out if you are so inclined. Just Google today’s date – December 14, 2012 – and “Connecticut”. I am afraid that if I try to describe the events for you here, I will drown under the weight of my own sadness, and I won’t be able to tell you the stuff that you really need to know.

When you were newborn babies, I held you in my arms and promised you that I would give you the best life I possibly could. I would provide for you, support you in whatever you wanted to do and help you reach your full potential, whatever that might be. I would keep you safe and warm, and I would do everything I could to protect you from the uglier side of life.

But sometimes the uglier side of life kind of forces itself on us. People do things that are so unspeakably terrible that the effects penetrate to the deepest parts of our souls. It reminds us that sometimes we cannot protect the ones we love – sometimes we just have to do the best we can and then go on faith.

Today I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. When I got home from work today, you both came running at me, and I wrapped my arms around you and held you as close as I could. You hugged me back, kissed me on my cheek and told me you loved me. Right now, there are some parents who will never feel the warmth of their children’s hugs again.

We all spent some time romping around on my bed, telling jokes and wrestling with each other. I scolded you when you started jumping on the bed, all the while feeling immensely grateful that you are here for me to scold.

We went out to dinner, the four of us. We went to our usual restaurant, sat in our usual booth and ate the food we usually eat. We were all together – an intact, whole family. I thought of the families who have new gaps at their dinner tables and in their hearts.

As I sit here now, I am thinking about how tomorrow, I will finally get around to putting up the Christmas tree. I will be doing it with you boys, but instead of bossing you around about how to decorate the tree like I usually do, I am going to let you do it however you want.

You see, I get to decorate the Christmas tree with you. I will get to give you the Christmas presents I have bought you, unlike some families who have gifts hidden in their closets that will never be opened.

Right now as I write this, you are both in bed. You are supposed to be asleep, but one of you is trying to play with Lego quietly, and the other has a colouring book and crayons under the blankets with a flashlight. In a little while, I will go into each of your rooms and tell you to go to sleep.

While I am there, I will hug you tightly and tell you I love you.

With all my love, with all my heart, with everything I have.

Your Mom

Originally posted on Running For Autism on 14 December, 2012. Posted to World Moms Network by the author.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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My Roe v Wade Story

My Roe v Wade Story

Here we are again, still fighting for abortion rights.

Roe v Wade

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this but I can’t keep silent. Women have been fighting for rights of every kind for as long as we’ve been alive. I, personally, have attended the Women’s March and protests against separating children from their families while Trump was in office. 

Currently, the protests are about the possibility of overturning Roe v Wade. This is the landmark case in which the US Supreme Court ruled, in January 1973, that a state law banning abortion was unconstitutional. And people are protesting about what it will mean for women everywhere if it is overturned.

What prompts me to write about this issue?

I went through an abortion that changed my life.

My Abortion Story

I was in my mid-twenties and I had been dating someone for a few months. It was during that relationship that I became pregnant and felt my world turn upside down. I was devastated because I knew I wasn’t ready emotionally or financially to take care of a child. When I told my boyfriend that I was pregnant, I didn’t know what he would say or do. I just knew that I couldn’t have this baby.

An acquaintance helped me find a doctor to perform the abortion but I had no idea how to pay for it. I was only working a part-time job at that time and didn’t make enough to afford the procedure. Thankfully, someone close to me lent me the money so I could have the abortion.

After I scheduled the procedure and told my boyfriend when it would be, I wasn’t sure how he would react. What I didn’t expect was that he would take himself out of the situation entirely and let me deal with it on my own. I had never felt so alone and abandoned.

Feeling Abandoned

I remember that morning of the procedure like a nightmare that I couldn’t shake off. Luckily, I had a friend from college come with me and be there for moral support. I also have to thank another friend, who worked as a taxi dispatcher. He made sure that we had a ride to and from the clinic. There were only three people who knew what I was going through that day and they were my rocks.

I don’t remember the procedure, but I remember the pain after it. With the help my friends gave me through their connection with a cab company and by staying with me until the procedure was done, I got back safely to my apartment to recover. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained after that experience;  but I was so grateful I had the choice and access to have an abortion.

Grateful for Choices

As someone who went through an abortion, I believe that women should be the ones to choose. The right to determine whether a woman should or shouldn’t terminate a pregnancy should not be at the hands of a system that continues to devalue women and their rights. I would not have the family I have now if I didn’t have the right to choose what was best for me at that time.

My daughter is now the age I was when I had my abortion. I fear for her and for millions of women that will suffer if this law is overturned. The thought of returning to an era of to back-alley-abortions is abhorrent and senseless. As a Mom, I will continue to speak out against this injustice, because not doing so would undermine women’s freedom to decide what’s right for them and their bodies.

What can YOU do to make sure that every woman is able to “choose” what is right for her health and well-being? I hope that sharing my story will propel you to fight for what you believe in and give voice to the countless women and young girls who aren’t able to fight for their rights.

This is an original post to WorldMoms Network by our Senior Editor, Tes Silverman. The image used in this post is take from Creative Commons and has no attribution requirements.

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Chatting With World Moms Network Founder

Chatting With World Moms Network Founder

This Sunday, May 8th, is Mother’s Day in the United States and I wanted to feature Jennifer Burden – CEO & Founder of World Moms Network.

I had no clue what World Moms Network was about until I met Elizabeth Atalay, then Managing Editor of World Moms Network, at the Moms+Social Good Summit in NYC.

I had been a blogger for three years and wanted to expand my connections, so when the opportunity arose to meet other bloggers, I decided to jump at the chance. Meeting Elizabeth and finding out about World Moms Network at that summit was life-changing, but it would still take me a few months and a few submissions before I was accepted to write for World Moms Network.

Over the years, I have been privileged to get to know World Moms from different parts of the world from reading their posts, and seeing how at the end of the day, we all want the same things for our families, regardless of where we live.

In addition to writing posts, I looked forward to our weekly editorial calls, especially during the pandemic. Yes, we would talk about post submissions and ways to attract more writers and readers, but not before we checked in on each other and talked about what was happening in our world.

It was during one of these calls about a year and a half ago that I spoke about my idea of creating a podcast to highlight women and the work they do for their community. Back then, I only had a handful of guests that were lined up, but it didn’t lessen the excitement that Jen and the other Editors expressed to me regarding my new endeavor. In fact, when I asked a few World Moms, including Jen, if they would be interested in being guests on my podcast, they were more than happy to be a part of it.

Since that day, I have been grateful to have so many incredible women be guests on my show and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the World Moms, especially Jen, for their constant support. It has been quite a journey from when I began as a blogger eight years ago and attended the Moms+Social Summit where I would learn about World Moms Network.

So for this upcoming Mother’s Day, I wanted to share with you my conversation with Jen because she continues to inspire me and other World Moms to be creative, fearless, innovative and connected to the people in our lives and the world around us.

To hear Jennifer’s episode, click on the link below:

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Screen Time And Pandemics: We Need Flexibility

Screen Time And Pandemics: We Need Flexibility

Today is the last day of “ski break” on my side of the world. Our school has an annual week-long recess on Washington’s Birthday, and the students like to call it “ski break”. This ski break was especially long for us: due to a COVID-19 outbreak at my 4-year-old’s day care center, we had to start ski break a few days earlier. But we couldn’t go ski, because my little one had “close contacts” with a child who tested positive for COVID-19, and we were told to quarantine at home.

On the first day of this long ski break, I found myself facing a dilemma. It was the beginning of the lunar new year, the busiest time of the year for those who work for a Chinese or Taiwanese company. I work for a Taiwanese magazine as its U.S. correspondent. Facing the extra long ski break with absolutely no activities, I was overwhelmed. The kids had nowhere to go; I had to “go” to work. What should I do?

My little ones didn’t have a ski break camp to go to like they did in previous years. I told them we’d have a “Mama Ski Camp” at home. Since I actually had to work everyday, the Mama Ski Camp turned into a Mickey Mouse Ski Camp, and my two kids watched Mickey Mouse Club House on Disney Channel every day throughout the ski break. I became anxious about screen time: I didn’t want my children to watch too much TV or play too many video games, but what could I do?

Towards the end of the ski break, I made an announcement that the rule of no TV on weekdays would be restored once school resumed. On the last two days of the ski break, we’d be playing a game called “weekend without screen time.” My third grader quickly adjusted, but my preschooler seemed to have a hard time. He kept shouting: “I want Mickey Mouse! Mickey Mouse!”

I worried that I’d ruined my youngest son. But when I consulted my pediatrician, he said we need a more flexible screen-time guideline during these extraordinary times. The American Academy of Pediatrics website has an online tool that provides customized family media plans based on the age(s) of the child(ren). I checked it out, and found we were still doing a good job in some aspects: phones and tablets were never brought into the bedroom or onto the dining table. My 4-year-old doesn’t use apps without permission, and my 8-year-old doesn’t communicate with strangers online.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the focus should not be on the length of time children use devices, but on whether parents can choose media that is appropriate, and co-view or co-play with the children. In our house, my husband and I always carefully choose programs for children to watch, but it’s hard for us to accompany them when watching (guilty!).

I have to confess that it’s been almost two years since the outbreak of the pandemic, and my sense of guilt has gradually turned into a numbness. When I review the current official screen time guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I feel that they are based on the “normal times”, and that we need to rethink screen time in the time of a pandemic.

I thought I was an expert on screen time. I write an education column that focuses on screen time. I’ve authored a book on digital citizenship which is scheduled to be published this June. Then the pandemic happened and everything I believed was out of the window.

A little more flexibility in screen time guidelines does not mean giving up parenting. I think that during this extraordinary period, we should be more concerned about our children’s emotions and less obsessed with how much TV they watch each day. When implementing screen time rules, we should focus on balancing online and offline life, rather than counting how many video games they play each day.

With a little more flexibility, this long ski break became a lot easier.

Do you have screen time rules in your family? Have those rules changed during the pandemic?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng. Photo credit to the author.

To-Wen Tseng

Former TV reporter turned freelance journalist, children's book writer in wee hours, nursing mom by passion. To-wen blogs at I'd rather be breastfeeding. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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Meet A World Mom: Sophia Neghesti-Johnson

Meet A World Mom: Sophia Neghesti-Johnson

Continuing our trip around the world chatting with World Moms, today we are proud to profile Sophia Neghesti-Johnson, who was born in Tanzania. She spent her youth between Italy and Tanzania, finally settling in the United States of America. Like many of our World Moms, Sophia is multilingual, she speaks English, Kiswahili and Italian.

Sophia currently has a hand in two distinct phases of parenting: her first child, aged 19, is embarking on adulthood. Her other two children, aged 7 and 8, are at that wonderfully explorative stage of childhood. In 2013, fellow Tanzanian World Mom, Nancy Sumari, introduced Sophia to World Moms Network. Since joining us, she has written many insightful, thoughtful posts about her identity and her life as a parent.

We caught up with Sophia to find out what she’s up to now. Read on to get to know her better:

How has your life changed since you joined World Moms Network?

Well, I feel that I am a part of a sisterhood in which, even if we don’t all talk all the time, and even if some of us haven’t really talked much, we know what we are about at our core. To know that there are other mothers out there who believe in something that I also believe in, is very reassuring to me. Especially in a time when there are so many unsettling things happening. Through World Moms Network also introduced me to Heartfulness Meditation, which has proven life-altering (for me) in the most positive way. 

How do you spend your days?

I homeschool our two younger children, so I spend the majority of my time with them. Otherwise, I work from home as a virtual assistant of sorts. Also, I write, sometimes with the intention of publishing my stories. Recently, I started writing songs and joined an artistic group with whom I create some fun and funky things that we then perform in-front of live audiences. Sometimes, I try to work on my photography and painting skills. When I get on social media to check what’s going on, I try to stay away from falling down the rabbit hole.

What are the top 5 places on your travel wish list?

Eritrea, Ireland for sure. The other three I am not sure of yet; it depends how things are going in the world.

Is there a book, movie or show you recommend?

Great read: The Courage to Be Disliked. Great movie: The Never-Ending Story.

What is your favorite memory with your children?

I remember when they were small enough to hold and keep safe on my chest; bundled up and smelling like what I imagine is heavenly. Now there are too many memories to pick one. I enjoy laughs the most, or their excitement in the small things. 

What is your best motherhood advice?

To enjoy the children’s age at whatever age they are. Be careful with making jokes of, “I wish you were older” and, “I can’t wait until you can do this and that”, because that time comes faster than you know, and each moment is truly special and unique. Also, it’s essential you find a way to express your emotions as a parent and a mother. Do not feel guilty for taking time for yourself; it’s essential for your well-being and that of your family. 

What is your favorite place you have traveled to?

This is a tough one, as every place I have visited offers something different. Also, I know I’m biased, but I love living in Tanzania. The Netherlands was beautiful too. 

What is one random thing that most people would be surprised to know about you?

I’ve heard that the fact I have recorded and released a couple of songs surprised some people.

What places are listed on your weather app?

Dar es Salaam, Chennai, Hyderabad, Columbia, Amsterdam. Whatever City I am In.

How did you get through COVID-19 quarantine/lockdown?

I walked a 1000 miles, I experimented with a lot of foods, I prayed and hoped for the best.

What brings you joy?

Simple things. You know that moment when something touches your heart and it brings you tears of joy? Or that inexplicable feeling that you can only assign to joy? I love those moments and they can come from anywhere. 

What UN Sustainable Development Goal are you most passionate about? 

Sustainable cities & communities.

To learn more about Sophia and her thoughts about her identity—bridging Tanzania with Italy and now the USA—check out these two amazing posts that she wrote, here and here.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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World Mom Mission: Back to (Grad) School

World Mom Mission: Back to (Grad) School

I have wanted to go back to school for a long time. It started even before having my first baby and moving states. But one thing led to another and the time never seemed to be right. In the Spring of 2020—when school went online for my kids, then 9 and 12, because of the global COVID-19 pandemic—life stopped in so many ways.

I tend to be more of a hands-off parent, and instead I found myself over organizing and overthinking. I was at a point where I was feeling like my kids were beginning to exercise their independence. So, by the end of summer 2020, I decided to apply to grad school.

I knew that I wanted to learn formally about global policy. Running World Moms Network for over a decade increased my knowledge and enthusiasm for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and I wanted to learn more to help the planet move forward and make lives easier and more fulfilling for people, especially women and girls. 

I live in New Jersey, so I was looking at schools only in that corner of the U.S. to accommodate my family life. In nearby New York City, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) was the dream. The school was created by the same founders as the United Nations, originally as a school for diplomats. It is also ranked as the number one school in the country for international affairs. I wasn’t planning to start school until September 2021, or maybe even Janury 2021, the earliest. However, before I knew it, I was in conversations with SIPA’s admission’s department, and they asked, “Why don’t you apply now?” 

NOW??? How could I apply now? I hadn’t written a resume in over a decade. I also would have to write the essays and find 3 people to recommend me. And then there was even a video interview part of the admissions process to prepare for! The admissions counselor had just invited me to a challenge, that I didn’t even know what the result would be. After all of this, would they even admit me? 

Why did I think I’d need 6 months or a year to prepare my application? (You don’t.) 

So, I put the pedal to the metal. I found three people to ask recommendations from. Now I had transcripts to get from Villanova University. It’s been a long time since I graduated! It’s all online now – it was so easy to do. Next, I had to work on the essays.

My kids and husband understood that I was now on a mission, one that seemed to excite them, too, and they left me to it. Iced tea and snacks were quietly delivered to me by kids as I hashed out my application in front of my computer. 

Before I knew it, my application was in. Then I waited. Then, I found out that I was accepted! I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it work at first – the money, the commute to New York City, getting coverage for the kids when we needed it, etc. But I made a plan. My first year, beginning with the Fall 2020 semester, wound up being virtual during a very still unknown part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward to Fall 2021, and I was volunteering on a Zoom panel for new students, had already lobbied the EMPA administration about a possible new degree specialization, and was now starting my classes in person. 

If I said it was all easy, I’d be lying! I’ve had to make other things in my life as easy as possible in order to survive – give up volunteer positions, order take out more often (the kids don’t mind), or make appointments closer to home to fit them in. My husband and kids had to pitch in more at home, too. It’s all still not enough, but this stage of my life will only last until graduation. 

Now in my Spring 2022 semester, I have only 5 out of 15 classes left to take, and I am halfway through 2 of them. I am not entirely sure exactly what the future will hold yet after I graduate, but I have some ideas, and I am learning soooo much – economics, global trade and development, global energy policy, policing in the 21st century, strategy, management, statistics, social welfare policy, social justice movements, nonprofit finance, social enterprise, etc. I plan to be on the planet for a long time!!! At 45 I’m not done — I’m just getting started again. The skills and knowledge and connections that I am making at SIPA will, no doubt, help me work towards improving life on the planet for those who need it most for decades to come. So, right now was the right time! 

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Jennifer Burden.

Do you have a back to school story to share? I’d love to hear it! Or is something holding you back from going back to school? What is it? Let’s talk in the comments! 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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