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Friday, October 24, 2008

Enjoy a less scary Halloween

The end of the month brings one of my favorite times of the year. What's not to like about candy, tricks and treats, scary movies, candy, costumes, a Charlie Brown special from my childhood, and of course more candy?

However, this time of year brings some challenges for parents not found during the rest of the year, and I'm not referring to finding the latest super hero costume.

Costumes are a great place to start in our safety checklist. You should make sure the kids' costumes fit correctly, because if they are too long a child can trip as they run from house to house. Of course, this is a problem not so much because of a skinned knee, but because the candy might spill and other kids could pick up your child's spoils. Make sure costumes are flame retardant and try to avoid masks; if you can, use face paint instead as it doesn't impede peripheral vision.

Make sure the costume can easily be seen at night. We would all like to believe that anyone driving on that evening will be extra vigilant, but kids can be very difficult to see, so give drivers a helping hand. A "chemlight" or "glow stick" is very valuable but inexpensive insurance. Besides, they look cool at night.

Stick to houses you know or go to a school or church event. This may mean fewer houses, but the upside is the treats are usually better if the people giving the treats know the kids coming to the door. Some public safety agencies or hospitals will X-ray bags of candy free of charge, but regardless, throw away any treats not in a tamper-proof wrapper unless you know the giver very well.

Ensure your kids know that vandalism and petty crimes such as shoplifting are crimes at any time of the year. Make them do clean up if they egg or toilet paper a home, and pay restitution if that is appropriate. Practical jokes can be fun if no one gets hurt and property is respected; help your kids know where the line is.

I can't urge you enough to go with your kids. Get into the spirit (no pun intended) and dress up yourself -- there is no substitute for your supervision. However, if that isn't possible, try these suggestions to keep everyone safe and having fun. Set the ground rules and a curfew, know where they are headed and provide a cell phone.

As kids get older they lose interest in trick or treating and instead opt for parties. If this is something your kids wish to do, consider being the house to throw the party. While it is usually a lot of work, you do get to know where your kids are and you get to see their friends in a social environment. Priceless.

You can rent a few scary movies or have a pumpkin carving contest. A Halloween-themed scavenger hunt in the neighborhood, or acting out a murder mystery, are great themed parties.

The one thing you should not do, under any circumstance, is provide, or allow minors to have, alcohol. This is illegal and can bite your backside more ways than you can count. No, not every parent does this, and it is a bad idea no matter the circumstances or precautions you take.

Halloween has been a fun and scary time for hundreds of years. With a little planning and a dose of common sense, your family can have a great time and both give and receive sweet treats. As for me, I like "Whoppers". . . and "Milk Duds". . . and "Jolly Ranchers". . . and, well I'm sure you get the idea.

From the Altmans, have a frighteningly good Halloween!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a Ph.D. in Leadership studies at Texas A&M University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Birds and Bees

This column was written several months ago, but I just realized I had not posted it here. The information is still valid.
Because of the passions ignited over the topic of sex education in schools (no pun intended, ok, yes it is intended, I couldn’t resist) I have purposely tried to avoid putting a dog in the fight. However, in the last two weeks two major studies have come out providing strong evidence for both the necessity and the efficacy of formal sex education.
The first study, says 1 in 4 teenage girls has at least one sexually transmitted disease. This study was reviewed in the Press a week or so ago and sends the blunt message that “abstinence only” sex-ed messages don’t work. The study was national in scope with the data extrapolated from a study conducted in 2003-04. For girls who admitted to being sexually active, the rate jumps to 40 percent, with the majority of those having contracted HPV or human papillomavirus, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer.
The second study used data from a 2002 survey but used a bigger sample of participants; about 1700 of them answered questions about their sexual activity and the kinds of sex education they have received. Teens that have had formal sex education had lower pregnancy rates than kids who had either abstinence only sex education or no sex education at all. While studies have consistently shown abstinence only programs to be less effective in reducing the onset of sexual activity and the pregnancy rates of teens, than formal sex education; this is the first national study to compare the effects of comprehensive sex-ed and abstinence-only education, according to Pamela K. Kohler, of the Center for AIDS and STD at the University of Washington in Seattle.
I realize there are parents who are not a fan of the schools teaching sex education, and if we are talking about the schools doing the entire job themselves then I agree. However, much as I try to use a hammer when I want to hit a nail, and a screwdriver when I wish to tighten a screw, I believe in both parents and teachers doing the part of this job to which they are best suited. In practical terms, this means parents taking the lead by teaching the moral, philosophical, and possible life changing implications of sexual activities, while professionally trained teachers provide accurate, fact based biology and physiology lessons.
Parents have a number of challenges to overcome in order to provide biology and physiology lessons themselves, not the least of which is having accurate information available to pass on. The next challenge is the communication of that information. Parents and their teens are often embarrassed by having conversations about sex and associated behaviors. This embarrassment is usually a barrier to conveying much needed information, information that can impact the health and well being of all our children.
For these reasons and likely a number of others, many parents are doing a very poor job of holding up their end of the bargain. Parents, if you fail to do this job adequately your child can have their life derailed or even ended before it can begin. Please maintain a positive relationship with your kids, do your research, and ask for help if you need it. The stakes are too high to do any less.
Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Big "C"

Last Friday I noticed a lump developing under my left arm. I have had a lymph node removed under that arm due to a scorpion sting in the Mohave Desert while in the Army. So I figured I had another lymph node acting up; but when it began to swell about the size of a tennis ball my wife decided it was time to see a doctor. Initially I refused to go, but something about a “double standard” when it comes to our health and a moderate dose of a guilt trip, quickly changed my mind.
With an elevated white blood cell count, a fever that comes and goes, and a general lack of energy, the Doc isn’t ruling anything out until later this week, giving the antibiotics a chance to kill the infection we all hope is the culprit. Please understand, I do not think I have cancer and I am not worried; if you know me and would be inclined to worry for me, please don’t, but I thank you for the thought. However, as you can imagine this episode got me to thinking, “How will I react if I find out that I do in fact have a form of cancer?”, “How do I hope I will react?” For the last year or so, my first thought when faced with a life choice or difficult circumstances is, “Hey, I should write a column about that. Maybe it will help someone in similar circumstances.”
As I began my research, I noticed two things right away: every source I read suggests becoming the best and smartest patient you can be, and second, having a loving support network of family, friends and fellow patients to walk this journey with you. While the research offered suggests men and women deal with their disease in different ways (men tend to crave information to help themselves intellectually but keep their emotions bottled up, and women tend to share emotions and experiences), the commonality for both is make sure you do not try to be “The Lone Ranger.”
At the website, Doctor Creagan advises that right after you receive your diagnosis you should make sure you bring someone along with you to the doctor’s office because most people are not in the frame of mind to remember many details. Along with that, learn the particulars of your disease, “What kind of cancer is it?”, “Where and what size is it, and has it spread?”, “Is the cancer slow growing or is it more aggressive?” Further, seek a second opinion but if those two opinions are close, don’t waste a lot of time going to six or seven doctors, the opinion is not likely to change.
After you have learned all you can about your disease and have become comfortable with your doctor, then learn all you can about your treatment options. The website suggests in general, there are four possible treatment options: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and “watchful waiting.” Make sure you understand the risks and benefits of each of these options; while you and your oncologist are in a partnership, at the end of the day, you are in charge of your body and health.
The last piece of advice my research provided is advice everyone can benefit from: Seize the Day! “Carpe diem” for those of you still familiar with Homer. And no I do not mean Homer Simpson for you jokers in the audience. Live each day for all that day is worth and be “in the moment” as much as you can. When you live one experience but worry about two others at the same time, you are not honoring the life you are in. Cancer or not, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow so live today as it’s your last, it just might be. Oh yeah in case of the bus thing, remember to wear clean underwear.
Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He can be reached at

Teaching Children about Politics

As adults, one of our best opportunities to have our voice heard and consequently one of our greatest responsibilities as citizens is to cast a ballot when we are given the opportunity to do so. This is true whether you are voting for a candidate or expressing your opinion of a bond or social issue. Passing on the importance of this civic duty to your children is just as important.
This year we are fortunate to have our children watch us vote for our own national leaders while at the same time, we can juxtapose our political system against the troubled areas of the world such as several African nations, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We are also fortunate to show our children a historic Presidential election. We have taken a huge step toward true political equality to minorities and women, as we have a minority candidate that seems to be gaining momentum every day and may well win the Presidency and if he doesn’t then a female candidate will be the Vice-President.
This new chapter in American history provides a fascinating backdrop for parents, as we teach our younger citizens one of the safeguards to our freedoms in the educated participation of all our citizens in the political process. Families can do several things to nurture a lifelong interest in politics, governance and public policy in their children:
Do your best to understand our political processes and the political systems of other countries. You can’t accurately explain what you don’t know. Be fair when explaining positions you don’t agree with, it will bite your backside if you don’t.
Encourage polite, open, and honest debate; especially if your children disagree with you. Your willingness to listen just might convince them you will listen if they need to talk to you about something really important.
If you don’t know the answer to something don’t fake it. Kids have a BS detector as sensitive as my beagle’s nose begging from the kitchen table. Besides, they will probably be given the right answer next week in school, so don’t knowingly undercut your credibility. Far better is to sit down together with a book or at the computer and look up the right answer.
Talk to your kids about how various public policies affect your family directly. Make sure your children know you vote in every election. If you know a service member, talking about their service immediately personalizes much of our foreign policy and opens doors to a chat about domestic policy.
Encourage them to write their political leaders with polite questions or comments, most will write back with an answer. Take them to a city council, school board meeting, or a political event.
Ask them their opinions; they may surprise you with their insight. If they disagree with you, don’t shoot them down; ask more questions, eventually they will figure out the “right answer” even if it isn’t your “right answer”.
Political growth is a process like mental and physical growth. You don’t get angry with your child for being only four feet tall; likewise, don’t be angry when they disagree with your position on Darfur or abortion. With your help, they will come to their own truth on these and other issues; but more important, they will be ready and willing to engage in the debate as knowledgeable adults and take their place as citizens.
Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our Canine Companions

This last week my best non-human buddy, a mostly beagle and terrier mix with a dash of dachshund of dubious parentage, “Copper” managed to get hurt out at the ranch. The Vet isn’t sure if he got kicked by horse, tried to jump on something and fell, or just managed to harm himself in one of another million ways. We tried asking the Vet and Copper, but so far no definite answers are forthcoming from either.
My sister found him as a puppy trying really hard to avoid being run over along an interstate, and brought the mess of a canine that would come to be known as “Copper” to Dawn and me to “watch him for a few days.” As all of you realized before I did, that dog was never leaving our house. He has now been a loyal family member while I was in Iraq, and through our move to Idaho and back, and has been a very good companion. Well, other than getting in the trash on occasion and that one time he snagged two perfect lamb chops off the counter in a caper worthy of Mission Impossible.
He is not a guard dog; in fact, for a treat he would probably help carry out the TV. While I had high hopes he would make a good rabbit and squirrel dog, I think he made a deal with the little critters, “Look guys, if you stay hidden for a couple of hours, I will bark like crazy every so often to make it look good. Then he and I will go home where I will get a treat, he’ll take a nap, and you guys won’t get shot. I don’t think he can hit the broad side of a barn, but let’s not take a chance. Do we have a deal?”
He gets his spot on the bed at night and Dawn and I get what’s left over, but if your heart is heavy or you are sick he is right there next to you till you feel better. He is always good for a laugh, and when he does something bad he can look so sad and pitiful, it’s hard to get mad at him. Copper definitely lives by the great American humorist Josh Billings’ sentiment, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” This alone made the 300-dollar vet bill a non-decision even though we still don’t know what is wrong with him.
I wouldn’t think of trading Copper for any pure bred dog, no matter how high dollar. Please consider carefully whether you have room in your life for a pet, then make sure you have your pet spayed or neutered. Try adopting your next pet from the local animal shelter; they always have animals in need of adoption. “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”- Mark Twain

A Taste of Your Hometown

As many of you may know, my family and I have moved back to Texas to be near family while I finish my education. Our moving led to Dawn and me walking through a small family owned business that has made hats here in Texas for eighty years. They have made hats for most of the cowboy and western movies many of us enjoyed as kids and continue to make hats with handmade craftsmanship.
Our little excursion precipitated a conversation between my lovely bride and me about how often most folks, us included, tend to neglect to visit those local treasures within a short drive of our homes, often for years. While in our case the treasured place was a family owned business, I am certainly thinking of local state parks and historical sites as well. So this week I wanted to list a few places we enjoyed while we lived in Coeur d’ Alene and encourage you all to visit them or see them again with new eyes if you have been before.
Old Mission State Park is the site of The Mission of the Sacred Heart, which in addition to begin very beautiful, is the oldest standing building in Idaho. The park has exhibits highlighting the role of the Mission in the lives of the Coeur d’ Alene tribe. The park is open from 9 am – 5 pm year round.
Downtown in CDA is the Fort Sherman Museum on the North Idaho College campus. This museum holds artifacts from both soldiers and Indians from the 1800s, and is open from 1 pm to 4:45 pm from 1 May to 30 September. The museum has a store and nearby is the Ft. Sherman Chapel.
Post Falls is home to both the Treaty Park Historic Site and Falls Park. With several picnic areas, paved trails and handicapped accessible, these parks are both beautiful and historically important to the entire North Idaho area. There are also areas to have family or class reunions that can be reserved by contacting the Parks reservation office at 208-773-0539.
In Wallace, you can find both the Sierra Silver Mine and the Oasis Bordello Museum (the only other Museum dedicated to a brothel I have come across was in Fayetteville, Arkansas). However, a quick search on the internet proved several states have such museums, so I guess I have lived a sheltered life. The mine and the museum have something of an intertwined history in that the mining industry and the lack of women in North Idaho at the time saw the birth of the brothel. Although, it was interesting to find the world’s oldest profession managed to operate openly until 1988. While it is suggested you bring a light jacket to the mine, the museum requires no such preparation.
Last on my list for this week is the geyser in Soda Springs. This geyser is notable because the water combines with the carbon dioxide gas in an underground chamber and is released every hour on the hour.
I hope you will take your families to these Idaho treasures, the sites themselves are great, but the memories you will create together will be the lasting treasure. As for me, I think I am going to buy a hat like my favorite western hero!

Do the Good

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do”- Voltaire
This quote came to mind the other night as a friend and I were talking about community activism. He rightly pointed out, that while there is never a shortage of people available to launch slings and arrows at those who would do their best to help our community, state, or nation move forward, there is definitely a shortage of those who will roll up their sleeves and do the hard work helping the community to become better. “What is ‘better’,” you might ask?
In my mind, “better” is anything that increases our care, compassion, and empathy for one another. “Better” is independent of political ideology, education, intelligence, or talent. “Better” is anything one can do to lighten the load for our fellow man. “Better” means working to help those who can’t help themselves such as children, the elderly, or frankly even someone who just finds themselves going through a rough spot in life. George Bernard Shaw sums up this idea, “The worst sin towards our fellow man is not to hate them but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
Helping others has a restorative power for us as well. Psychologists and sociologists use the word “resilience” when they wish to describe the ability of people to persevere in the wake of tragedy and challenge. Resilience and self-esteem are both increased when a person engages in selfless service. As you can see, there is a payoff for the giver of time and talent as well as for the receiver of those gifts.
If you become overwhelmed when trying to find ways to make a difference in regard to society’s problems, then I suggest you start simple. Read to a class of youngsters, talk to a classroom of kids about living through WWII or the Civil Rights Movement, volunteer to organize a “board game night” for a group of elderly citizens, or offer your construction expertise to Habitat for Humanity. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about our interdependence, our reliance on others. "As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy, even if I just got a good checkup at the Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are all interdependent."
At no time in history was his observation truer than now. With instant world-wide communication, and a global economy, we are all connected to each other in ways that are alternatively scary and exhilarating. While competition will move an individual forward, only collaboration will provide the ability to overcome the challenges that face us locally and globally. "The ancient human question 'Who am I?' leads inevitably to the equally important question 'Whose am I?' -- for there is no self outside of relationship." - Parker Palmer
None of us knows where tomorrow will find us, or whether it will find us at all. For this reason alone, do not put off the good you can do today in the hopes of a greater good tomorrow. Gerry Harvieux noted, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Teaching Self-Control

“Control thy passion lest they take vengeance on thee.” - Epictetus
Last week I wrote the school system should not be responsible for disciplining children, parents should. Because I do not believe in pointing out a problem without providing some kind of solution, I want to reiterate what experts have to say on this subject and pass on some of the tools and techniques they suggest.
Research across the US suggests that a child’s level of self control relative to their peers is largely set by age 10, and while the development of self control will continue as they mature, they will not suddenly become more disciplined than their peers if they were less disciplined at age 10. The primary cause of low self control is believed to be parents who fail to monitor the child’s behavior, and using a loving, consistent, reward and punishment system, modify the child’s behavior. You will hopefully notice none of these methods include corporal punishment. So to that end here are a few suggestions to developing self control in your children:
1. Be a good example. “He preaches well that lives well.” – Miguel De Cervantes. If your children see you flying off the handle at traffic, your spouse, or the child themselves, they will see little reason to exhibit self control. So when disciplining your child, stay in control yourself and explain there are consequences for losing one’s self control. Then calmly explain what those consequences are.
2. When your child is angry, excessively excited, or too wound up encourage them to “take a break”, chat with them a moment about what they are feeling so they learn to recognize the signs of a meltdown.
3. Set fair and reasonable limits. These limits must be consistently enforced whether in public or at home.
4. Make sure your instructions are clear. If you were unclear or if the child did not understand or is not capable of complying that is your shortcoming as a parent, not the child’s behavior. Chalk it up to your own learning.
5. Use appropriate rewards. Small, constant, positive feedback will go a long way to teaching self restraint. This feedback and rewards can be simply, “I am so proud of the way you handled yourself back there, that was very grown-up.”
6. The National Association of School Psychologists have a website ( with age appropriate role playing games to help you speak on a child’s level (as young as 3 to 5 years of age). These games are intended to work on self control in a positive manner and teach parental skills that can be modified as the child grows.
7. Be consistent, be fair, and do what you say you are going to do as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.
8. Last, and by far most importantly, love your children. Hug them, touch them, be unselfish to them, serve their needs before your own, and by all means tell them you love them and are proud of them constantly. When you do this, the child is far more likely to want to please you to hear such things.
Teaching your children self-control and self-discipline is your responsibility and while the failure to do so is yours as a parent; your child will pay the price for your failure. This can be a difficult job, especially if your own level of self control is low; however the reward for doing a good job is a successful, well adjusted child, of whom you maybe justifiably proud.

Teen Dating Violence

This week I was supposed to cover how to have as healthy a divorce as possible, and I promise I will do that next week. As so often happens in my life, I find more pressing matters sometimes preempt my best-laid plans. Such is the case this week.
My friend Camie Wereley, from the CDA Women’s Center, and I were talking this week about the teen dating violence awareness workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago, and she informed me this first week of February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week. Because I have four teenagers, two boys and two girls, I get to enjoy four helpings of the angst every parent is served when their teenager begins to date, and so this topic holds particular concern for me. It should hold general concern for all of us as we guide our teenagers through learning to be in relationship with each other. For those of you from the “Show Me” state, and anyone else that is skeptical this is a problem. . .
The following statistics are from the Bureau of Justice in May 2000:
Thirty to fifty percent of high school students report having already experienced some form of teen dating violence.
One in three either have been or will be in an abusive relationship.
Young women (16-24) experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence- almost 20/1000
38% of “date rape” victims are 14-17 years old and 68% of women raped knew their rapist as a boyfriend, friend or acquaintance.
While boys can be abuse victims, usually it is not with physical violence but controlling behavior such as constant texting or calling and threatening to harm herself if he ends the relationship.
There are other statistics showing how wide spread the problem is, my hope is you are asking yourself what you can do about it. If you are a teen and experiencing dating violence then tell someone you trust and get help. Telling your parents is a great place to start; they want to help. However, if you can’t tell them, call Project Safe Place 208-676- 0772 and the Women’s Center has a 24 hr Crisis Intervention Line 208-664-9303.
If you are a parent, modeling good relationship behaviors is the place to start. Dad, your kids see how you treat your wife, or partner, in the case of divorced homes. Girls from a home of abuse are more likely to have every social problem we know of from teenage pregnancy, to drug abuse, to being abused themselves. Mom if you are being abused and staying with the relationship, your daughters are far more likely to be abused and your sons far more likely to become abusers. Parents, communicate with your kids LONG before they begin dating. Let your daughter know what behavior she should expect from a date and make sure your son knows the behavior you expect from him.
Learn to recognize the signs of abuse and do not be afraid to get involved in your child’s dating habits. They are learning how to be in relationship and need to be coached; either you will coach them or most likely the friend you like the least is going to. You should meet and get to know every date. If you see a boyfriend being controlling, physical signs of injury, failing grades or truancy, use of drugs or alcohol, emotional outbursts or changes in mood or personality then get involved. Let them know you’re there to help and support; use active listening skills and try very hard not to be judgmental.
Parents and teens alike, this can be a special time in both of your lives with a little common sense, open and honest communication, adherence to agreed upon family rules, and love and respect.


With all the local high schools conducting commencement ceremonies over the last week, we have a bumper crop of freshly minted graduates beginning to take their place in the world. I congratulate them and their relieved parents; and maybe more this year than others, because my oldest son joins them in beginning to make his way in the world. I say making his way in the “world” because we have gotten to a point in human history in which a sizeable percentage of them will work, vacation, and maybe even marry, the world over.
Given the virtually limitless possibilities the world has to offer let me suggest the graduates consider the following as options before they head off to further education or enter the work force.
1. Volunteer in our community. There are a number of organizations in our community that can use your energy and passion. You will gain some experience outside your comfort zone, an empathy for others and hopefully you will find a desire to make helping others a life-long pursuit.
2. Volunteer on a political campaign. I don’t care which level of government, candidate or political party you choose to help; you will gain a greater understanding of the political process, an appreciation of the complexity of the issues facing our nation and a deeper love of country for the experience.
3. Take a class. If you are going to school with hopes of becoming a brain surgeon then take a class at NIC’s Vo-tech center on car maintenance. If you are going to become a mechanic, then take a class in pottery or poetry. The idea is to continue to stretch your mind, become a better-rounded person, and meet different people than you might otherwise. If you get nothing else out of the experience, you will have a great conversation starter to the opposite sex.
4. Travel with a purpose. I am not talking about going on some random road trip. I am suggesting traveling to a place you have never been, where the people are very different, the food is strange and there is an artistic, cultural, or historical gem to be discovered.
5. Resolve to read one book of quality per month. Historical biographies, classic literature, and books written for edification and self-improvement would be good choices. Your teachers were not kidding when they said you should become a “life-long learner.”
I will leave you with a thought by author Morris L. West; it is perhaps the best advice I can give you in the attempt to live a full life. He says, “It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price.... One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to the total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.”
God Speed.

I'm Back!!

I am sorry for the time away, but I have moved from Idaho back down to Texas. Between getting the kids into new schools, getting our stuff down here and all the other concerns for moving I am just now getting caught up. I am going to post all of the columns you might have missed while I wasn't posting here. I hope you enjoy them and post comments as you see fit.


Teen Drinking

Last week the CDA police department released a statement informing the public they would begin cracking down on “house parties” and underage drinking. I was disappointed by the lack of facts used in the on-line discussion. Because I have a university-bound, underage son, and three high school age children and I drive on our roads from time to time, I definitely have a dog in this fight.
I want to provide some perspective with solid research that was neither commissioned by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) nor by the Alcohol Producers of the World. This means quality, peer reviewed literature, preferably that has been replicated by another set of researchers. Because underage drinking and the ills it spawns are so rampant, finding such research was easy.
Because I don’t want to scare every responsible parent under their beds, not coming out until their children are 34; let’s just focus on kids 18-20. As an aside, if you don’t have a rank in front of your name, such as Private, Sergeant, or Lieutenant and you are under 25, then you are still a kid to most of us over 40. If we aren’t offended when you think we are old, you shouldn’t be offended when we think of you as kids.
According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) 2001-2002 study, 68.4% of young men and 59.7% of young women drank within the past year of the study and 46.8% and 34.5% respectively exceeded the daily drinking limit of more than four drinks in a single day. Kids 18-20 were intoxicated an average of 20.0 days within the year and the average age of drinking onset was 16.7 years of age. Of the kids who drank heavily in the year, 66% drove under the influence and 42% often drove or rode without a seat belt.
Other risky behaviors include engaging in unprotected sex, which according to a study from 2005, increases the STD and AIDS infection rates dramatically. Three studies from Harvard University, found that college age women, who drank heavily in high school were four times more likely to experience sexual assault while in college. Age is further a factor when you consider that if you are under 21, you increase your risk factor for sexual assault by nearly 50%.
A study in the Journal of Human Resources from 2001, shows a direct relationship between a state’s legal drinking age and teen childbearing rates. In what should be a surprise to no one, there is a causal relationship between increased availability of alcohol and teenage pregnancy. Teens who drink heavily are 63 % more likely to be teen mothers. We all know the financial and societal consequences of teen pregnancy.
No matter how you wish to slice it, the data says lowering the drinking age from 21 is a bad idea and worse public policy. In fact, if we as a society would like to instantly lower alcoholism rates, teenage pregnancy rates, STD transmission rates, DUI rates, and dating violence of all kinds, we would raise the drinking age to 25 and stiffen penalties for providing alcohol to those not old enough to purchase it.
I can hear the clamor and gnashing of teeth already from those under 25; and one of the central arguments is the “if I can go fight for my country why can’t I drink?” If you haven’t been drafted or aren’t currently serving, your argument is moot. If you are currently serving, DOD’s policy says you cannot legally drink on a DOD installation under 21. The services regulate almost every aspect of your life to the needs of the service; this is no different.
I hope you will give some thought to the facts of this topic and then give support to local law enforcement to give voice that we care more for all our kids than we do some misguided and antiquated “Right of Passage.”