Monthly Archives: November 2010

A Depraved New World: A Mother’s Rant

Horrified is the only word I can summon to accurately describe how I feel about a book that was authored solely for the purpose of facilitating pedophilia. The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct was written by Colorado-based Phillip R. Greaves II who defends his self-published tome as “…my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught.” He expressed further, “True pedophiles love children and would never hurt them.”

Apparently, Mr. Greaves never heard of Elizabeth Smart. Or Jaycee Dugard. Or Jennifer Schuett. Or 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Or 6-year-old Adam Walsh. Or the countless others who have been victimized at the hands of a depraved pedophile. Either that or he is somehow confused about the notion of what actually constitutes a sex crime. Or maybe he just wants the world to better understand people who would commit such heinous acts and to dig deeper to find the inherent good within their sorry souls—a concept I find wholly inconceivable.

More disturbingly, Greaves’ book (as of this writing) ranks among the top 100 of all Amazon.com Kindle sales. Due to an apparent explosion of public outrage (i.e. thousands of impassioned protests and threats of boycotts on the cusp of the holiday shopping season), the online giant removed the aforementioned title from its shelves, responding to concerned users by stating they “…do not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions. Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.”

Well that line of reasoning certainly makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (not!) with regard to protecting our right to free speech—regardless of the potential implications it may have, despite the grossly misguided message it sends humanity and notwithstanding the deeper moral issue that seems to have been sacrificed in the process of promoting said book. Needless to say, I don’t advocate censorship in every instance, but this piece of literary filth crossed the proverbial line and if ever there were justification for burning a book—this would be it. That said, I fear the tenet of social responsibility no longer means anything to anyone—least of all, to the industries that pay homage to the almighty dollar.

Clearly, it’s too late for Amazon to feign ignorance, or to having had a temporary lapse of good judgment. Honestly, how could ANYONE assigned to screen content for appropriateness possibly misconstrue the gist of this book? The title alone should have grabbed a reviewer by the throat and squeezed until its vileness was duly noted. In essence, it is an instruction manual for child molesters…a collection of dos and don’ts for would-be pedophiles (complete with legal advice)…a free pass to the Land of Exploitation—and until late Wednesday, it was available for download at the insanely affordable rate of $4.79.

Of course, The Pedophile’s Guide isn’t the only book of its ilk listed on Amazon’s site. Nor is Greaves the only author to delve into such topics. Until very recently, Greaves’ Gardens of Flesh could be purchased there. It’s likely that CNN’s Anderson Cooper (of AC 360) triggered its removal—and rightly so. However, others still remain. Join the LIVE CHAT to weigh in.

In sum, I am appalled by the audacity with which the guide was both created and promoted online—which is truly a reprehensible thing. Likewise, I am alarmed by the volume of demand and interest that evidently exists for such a product (an undisclosed number were sold). Moreover, I am saddened to think it would still be available had it not been for the voices of so many enraged individuals.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (thoroughly disgusted with this deplorable turn of events).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, A Depraved New World, Bookish Stuff, I blog therefore I am, Rantings & Ravings, Sick-O Central, The Write Stuff

A Depraved New World

Pardon my French, but there are a lot of sick bastards out there. People who routinely, and perhaps obsessively, sit at their keyboards and Google the bejesus out of lewd keywords and phrases, hoping, I assume, to find whatever twisted bit of prose they seek. A sordid “fix” so to speak. I need only peruse my WordPress Site Stats to view the pathetic snippets of speech (taken entirely out of context, mind you) which apparently lead people to my digital home. Every. Single. Hour. Of. Every. Single. Day.

Needless to say, it makes me ill.

But it’s nothing new. Sexual predators have existed since the beginning of time, lurking all too near, littering this otherwise lovely place with their depravity. Like the disquieting woman at the playground who looks like she doesn’t belong, or the pervy guy in the parking lot who lingers two cars down, making the hair on the back of your neck bristle and the pace at which you shepherd your children, hasten. Call it motherly instinct. Label it fear. Wrap it with a therapist’s bow and call it paranoia if you must. But it’s real, and it causes great multitudes of parents to hoist those little red flags in a quiet panic.

Indeed, on any given day the media machine fuels our collective anxiety by spewing forth a disturbing volume of society’s heinous acts, riddled, of course, with horrific detail…so that we might be jarred into attending more closely. Lord knows we need jarring. As a culture we’ve been desensitized to the pervasive climate of horribleness within which we live. The scourge of terrorism. A vacationing jet-skiier murdered by a Mexican drug cartel. An investigator’s severed head showing up in a suitcase days later. The brutal and senseless Tillman killing. The countless suicides prompted by an unsettling wave of bullying. The Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard nightmarish abductions. The barbaric rape and thwarted murder attempt of Jennifer Schuett. The savage and incomprehensible Petit family home invasion.

Over and over the unspeakably gruesome sound bites play in our minds, filling us with grief for the victims and their families, consuming us with a palpable sense of unease and leading us to invite the notion that monsters do, in fact, exist.

Maybe this explains why I sometimes smother my children. Texting my oldest to excess, to ensure she’s perfectly fine…trying desperately to remember that she’s nearly as old as I was when I became her mother. Holding my youngest children’s hands in the street, although it makes them inordinately cross. Preaching about the importance of letting me know where they are every minute of every day (or perhaps more frequently). Stuffing wads of Kleenexes and Band-Aids in their pockets in the unlikely event that the school suffers some sort of shortage. Denying their ceaseless petitioning for going it alone at the bus stop. Listening to their restorative breaths in the dead of night and checking to be sure that their smallish bodies are safe from harm.

Damning the aforementioned sick bastards…the world over.

Quite frankly, as a parent I’m tired of feeling angry and imprisoned by fear. Without question, the impressionable youths in my charge sense this, spoiling their fun and squelching their desire to explore. That said, kids shouldn’t be tethered to their parents like balloons. Especially once an age-appropriate level of responsibility has been demonstrated. At that point, they ought to earn a modicum of independence…so they might be inclined to climb trees, to dig in the dirt and to roam the Earth (sans mom and dad) in search of new friends and adventures. As a child I distinctly recall being permitted to gallivant hither and yon from sunup till sundown for much of June, July and August. Read: I hiked a considerable distance from home for hours at a time in the thick of forests, the depths of ravines and across streets and vast expanses of our neighborhood without (Gasp!) a cell phone, bug spray or sunscreen. Nor did I have a GPS device surgically implanted within my skin or permanently affixed to my stupid canteen so that my parents could obsessively track my whereabouts.

It’s clear I need to get back in touch with being a sensible parent…the kind I was a decade ago, inspired, perhaps, by the kind of kid I was. In light of that, I should probably read Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (searching for the courage to raise free-range kids in a world that is more than a little frightening at times).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Depraved New World, Rantings & Ravings, Smother May I?

Church Mice. Not So Much.

I am a bad egg. My sorry soul is supposed to be parked in a pew currently, helping my dear husband manage our unruly brood during the Sunday service. So, of course, I am consumed with guilt. Not really, but I threw that in…on the off chance that I might be absolved of my sins.

That said, I am fairly certain that Thing One and Thing Two will be far more intrigued with the prospect of quietly tormenting each other (i.e. holding disturbingly intense stare offs and using those cussed little wooden pencils readily available to each and every parishioner as cattle prods or something equally heinous) than with attending to anything remotely related to the sermon. I’ve seen their act before.

And if, instead, they should refrain from pedestrian antics like stepping on one another’s fancy church shoes and colliding, ever-so-slightly, as they fall in line for communion, they’ll likely engage in behavior equally mortifying to a parent. This parent, anyway.

More specifically, their inordinately resourceful father will hand them each a 3-by-5 index card and an ink pen for doodling and whatnot, which, on the surface, seems perfectly wonderful to one and all. However, those clever wisps of mine routinely choose a less-than-virtuous topic about which to write (say…the fact that they are dreadfully un-enthused with the notion of attending church at all) and run with it.

Case in point: I glanced over at Thing One not long ago, to bask in what I had hoped would be parental glory, only to discover that she had literally FILLED every nook and cranny of white space on the card with the word B-O-R-E-D. Some words were decidedly plain, while others, indescribably ornate. Some had been artistically shaded and sketched, some were imbued with beloved fonts and a select few even contained (you guessed it) bubble letters. As one might expect, a couple of B-O-R-E-Ds were comparatively massive, while most were shockingly small.

Needless to say, the child’s efforts were indeed impressive and I had to quietly marvel at the diligence and determination required for such an undertaking.

That is not to say the act went unnoticed. Curious onlookers stole looks and raised eyebrows at the smallish being in question, hunched over her work, rebellion oozing from her pores. Naturally we passed the Masterpiece of Shame on to our friends sitting nearby, who had great difficulty containing their amusement. Translation: THE FRICKING PEW SHOOK. They would later ask for a copy of said opus to remember the occasion by and we, of course, would deliver.

Framed, no less.

Appallingly, and perhaps STUPIDLY, we also shared the specimen with none other than the man who delivered the sermon that day. Our pastor. Thankfully he found the kernel of humor in the whole ordeal…and within our flaws. Parental and otherwise.

That said, I ought to be grateful that my heathens aren’t among those routinely plugged into Game Boy and dropping Bakugan whateverness on the floor. There is a God.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where the natives are often restless and the 3-by-5 cards are never in short supply).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Me Myself and I, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Ode to Embarrassment

It has been said that success as a parent isn’t fully realized unless and until you’ve become an embarrassment to your children. Apparently, my husband and I have been making remarkable progress toward that end—inadvertent though our efforts might have been. We sing in the car. We make snapdragons talk. We hurl wadded socks at one another. We scream at the TV during tennis matches. And we impersonate Jeff Dunham’s puppet people far too often. All of which, evidently, our brood finds fairly disturbing—especially when friends come to call.

I saw flashes of it a few years ago, when Thing One and Thing Two entered the second grade. It was subtle at first—the rumblings of their discontent barely audible amidst the tumult of motherhood. At the time, their muted protests against the many and varied ways we caused them unspeakable embarrassment seemed trivial and unfounded. So I dismissed them, perhaps wrongly. Over time, however, their grumblings have become progressively louder and more insistent, swiftly sliding into the realm of that-which-is-difficult-to-ignore.

“Mom, stop sticking NOTES inside my lunch box. People will SEE them, you know. We talked about this last year, didn’t we? Oh, and don’t pack any more open-faced, peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches. So-and-so gets grossed out whenever I take a bite and then THE WHOLE TABLE looks at my stupid sandwich. It’s entirely horrible.”

That said, I’m starting to empathize with the smallish beings in question—who, for whatever reason of late, have adopted the survivalist mentality of Greg Heffley, the middle-schooler of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame. Translation: DON’T raise your hand. DON’T use the bathroom. DON’T call attention to yourself in any way, shape or form. And most importantly, DON’T let your mother become the primary source of your embarrassment. Needless to say, there are clearly defined parameters within which I must operate so that I might be viewed as something other than the bane of someone’s existence.

Evidently, the rules apply at the bus stop, too, where (Gasp!) veritable throngs of kids might actually witness the unthinkable: handholding, goodbye kisses, a neatly folded Kleenex being stuffed inside someone’s pocket, a Band-Aid being hurriedly applied (with or without a dab of Neosporin), a sock monkey and/or a certain stuffed armadillo being relinquished—lest they become inadvertent stowaways for the duration of the school day.

Apparently, I’m not allowed to wave anymore either—although I’ve recently appealed that decision and my suggestion of “waving with a little less enthusiasm” is somewhat promising. For that, I suppose I should be thankful, and perhaps more understanding.

After all, I remember being completely mortified as a teenager when my dad would—almost inconceivably—traipse around in his underwear while my date and I sat on the couch in stunned silence. Shortly thereafter, he’d emerge from the kitchen with leftovers in hand and a Cheshire cat smile upon his face. Of course, he’d then amble, unabashed, down the hallway from whence he came while I very seriously considered the merits of dissolving into nothingness. It’s entirely likely I make my daughters feel much the same way, although I have yet to traipse anywhere in my underwear.

I have, however, been known to read books aloud at the aforementioned bus stop, the practice of which has been met with a fair degree of resistance even though it’s an ideal time and place to do so. Okay, it’s been met with unequivocal refusals to listen and ardent demands that I cease and desist. “Mom, we’re not babies anymore. Everyone on the bus will make fun of us if they see that book in your hand because they’ll KNOW you’ve been reading it to us. It’s embarrassing, you know.” Woe is me.

It’s not just any old book either. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so miserable. The book in question happens to be The BFG, a drool-worthy classic by Roald Dahl—a gift from a perfectly wonderful third grade teacher who knew I’d find it practically irresistible as a read aloud. Only it won’t be happening at our bus stop—the place where sulkiness periodically rears its ugly head. Nope. Perish the thought.

But lo and behold, I recently learned that another perfectly wonderful individual at that very same school will soon be reading aloud that very same book to my kids in the library—a place where reading of practically every sort is celebrated. As it should be, methinks. With any luck, Thing One and Thing Two will forget themselves and drink in every delicious syllable.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (embarrassing my children on a regular basis).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Bookish Stuff, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Ode to Embarrassment, School Schmool, Smother May I?, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Call Me Quirky

Contrary to popular belief, no one on earth is immune. Evvvvvverybody’s got ‘em. Quirks, that is. Some stranger than others. Some stranger than fiction.

Personally, I find the whole topic of idiosyncrasies remarkably intriguing. They fascinate me. What can I say—I’m easily amused. Good grief, I found being hurried to death in a restaurant so incredibly amusing that I was moved to write about it. So to be humored by good old-fashioned oddities almost makes sense. Almost. Call me quirky.

Perhaps my biggest curiosity stems from wondering where they come from in the first place. Do we arrive on the planet pre-wired for the development of certain eccentricities? “Okay, let’s see…this one will have blue eyes and will forever dot her i’s with little curlicues.” Is it somehow genetic? (Weirdness simply breeds weirdness). Or is it mostly influenced by our environment? (Monkey see, monkey do).

Who knows where such peculiarities originate? I don’t pretend to know. But what I can say for certain is that quirks are very real and are utterly brimming with entertainment potential. Think: “Felix Unger” (The Odd Couple) or “Monk” (of Monk). These guys have literally defined (and some would even argue, “glamorized”) the concept of quirkiness. Popularized it to a degree.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe each of us is eager for the limelight—striving for a slice of uniqueness that will set us apart from the throngs of ordinaries. Public bizarreness—that’ll definitely do it—famously, if done right. The next time you carpool for instance, try holding your breath and raising your knees to your chin whenever you cross a bridge WITHOUT anyone noticing. That’s just plain strange—quirkiness at its finest; but it’ll surely get you noticed. Or try this one: While standing at a busy checkout, lovingly ogle your stash of wheat-backed pennies and painstakingly organize all your bills, so that those stoic-looking characters you cart around in your wallet are all right-side-up and facing the same direction—not one-another. No doubt, you’ll get some queer stares—with or without a three-dollar bill.

Another one that gets me is when people meticulously wipe their silverware while dining out—which goes WAY beyond checking for dried food particles. If you ask me, it borders on the obsessive; as does the practice of methodically arranging individual lunch items in the same manner day in and day out…sandwich at six-o’clock, carrot and celery sticks at three and nine-o’clock respectively and Red Delicious at high noon. And how about those who can’t bear to consume anything “out of order?” Or those who won’t tolerate the peas and potatoes touching at dinnertime? We can’t have chummy vegetables now, can we? I suppose it’s no different than refusing to allow the blues and browns to mingle in a sock drawer. People would talk.

I especially enjoy watching individuals like my husband, who are absolutely compelled to “erase” a mid-air sketch, lest someone bump into it later—just hanging there in all its imaginary glory. It cracks me up each and every time I see him do it. Just for fun, I’ll scribble a “note” on this so-called canvas merely to watch him squirm when I leave it there. It kills him. I know it’s cruel, but I can’t help myself. Nor can I resist the temptation to hand Captain Quirk a plain, old ordinary pencil every so often—just to watch him cringe in disgust. You’d think I had offered a bucket of spiders or something. The man won’t go near one (mechanical variety excluded), since he finds them positively repulsive. Sharp, dull, freshly gnawed or in mint condition. Doesn’t matter. Won’t touch ‘em. In my opinion, it simply defies logic. Welcome to Quirkville.

Even dogs and cats suffer. Poor things. Ever watch them settle down for a nap or try to poo? Can’t do it unless they spin themselves into the ground first. Idiots. Even my kids have begun to show signs of budding peculiarities. One won’t run. Only gallops. Another didn’t blow her nose till she was 10. And the third strange child of mine refuses to eat sandwiches—period. Until yesterday, that is. Captain Quirk apparently offered up something so tasty even She-Who-Thrives-On-Rebellion couldn’t resist. Potato chip and jelly, in case you wondered.

I just HAD to snap a photo. It’s a quirk of mine.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (quirks and all).

Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction