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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Panhandling Children: Right or Wrong?

For the last week a woman has been exploiting her four little girls by standing on our street corner begging for money at the four-way stop. I approached her last week with a number that would connect her to every possible resource in the state of Colorado. I pleaded with her not to expose her children to this type of living. Although she thanked me she returned two days later. This time her daughter were dressed in frilly dresses and running near the edge of the road. I worried the entire time that one of them might be hit by a car. In my opinion this is child abuse. There is no reason to use kids to invoke pity when we are a wealthy nation who gives so much. She doesn’t have to do this.

There used to be a time when kids could sell lemonade on the street corner to get money. There was a value to giving them a work ethic. It’s fun and exciting to learn how to make money by being an entrepreneur. It gives the salesperson the ability to take other steps to being successful. Now however, a kid has to apply for a permit to sell lemonade or face getting a ticket for breaking the law, yet this mother can parade her kids around so others contribute to their shame. Growing up in poverty myself, I understand the humiliation of having a parent use her children to get things. The persistent embarrassment has had an everlasting impact. Seeing her children being subjected to this type of life disturbs my peace. 

There is nothing positive that comes from teaching children to be panhandlers. They lose the ability to empower themselves, they face humiliation at the sneers of those who are disgusted by what their mother is doing and they learn they have no control over their lives and must depend of the pity of others. It was clear these kids had a home. They were well dressed in clean clothes and healthy looking as they frolicked at the edge of the street. We have shelters, food banks, welfare and much much more we can offer. Please consider not enabling her because as of yesterday, she has been rewarded for what she is doing which means those precious little girls will be out their every weekend begging for money instead of playing at the park and having a play date with their friends. It’s one thing to be an adult and feel you have to do this desperate act but it’s entirely different to exploit children. Any deviant could stop at that stop sign and abduct one of them while she’s reaching in to take a dollar from someone else. We just learned there is a registered sex offended within a stone’s throw from where she is exposing her children. Now I’m begging: Don’t support this as everything in childhood is transferable to adulthood. Is this what we want?

As a child advocate and therapist, I have used an old phrase, “It’s easier to build children than to repair adults.” Be a part of the solution. Please.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Like Your Kids More Than Love Them

In one of my books, "Parent In Style" I share that parents are the potters and children are the clay. We are molding kids everyday with every word we say and with every action we take. How often do we find ourselves yelling or expressing our frustration with our kids—only to realize we might have been too harsh? Consider how the sharp and admonishing words impact their sense of self. In my parenting class, I teach adults how to reframe their words so children can listen without being crushed emotionally. When we talk down to them over and over again because by nature kids make mistakes the criticism lends itself to developing their self-image. If we started talking to them as though we like them we can shift how they view themselves.

We have to decide how we want to support our children's future because we can either build kids or repair adults. Unwittingly, we often teach them to respect elders, do as their told, never to talk back and to know adults are always right. This mentality conditions children to disregard their own impressions of reality and adopt the adults' perception. This would perhaps be okay if all adults were healthy but so often there are those who aren't but young-developing minds don't understand how to discern the unhealthy criticism and are unable to separate what is true and what is not. I once had a 14-year old boy tell me he was a bad kid but when challenged as to why, he could not verbalize one trait that would prove he was bad. He was unable to backup his claim with facts. The only reason he bought into the propaganda was because the adults around him indoctrinated this young man to accept he was worthless, useless and undeserving. I once read children have no power and they know it, but adults have power and don't know it. There is a reason for this self-imposed restriction: everything we believe about ourselves is rooted in childhood and transferrable to adulthood. Therefore, it would behoove us all to choose our words and deeds carefully so children have the ability to keep their esteem intact, like themselves as much as we like them so they can grow into healthy adults.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Woman in Uber Car Caught Abusing Child

Woman in Uber Car Beating Son in Public and Police Say They Can’t Help

On a casual Saturday trip to Home Depot in Aurora, Colorado, my husband and I witnessed a woman in an Uber car brutally beating her son in front of two other kids. I sprung into action and approached her asking her if I could help, yet she relentlessly continued pummeling the young man as though I wasn’t even there. I started banging on the roof of the car demanding she stop. My efforts went unnoticed. It wasn’t until another witnessed announced she called the police that the woman very calmly crawled off her son and got behind the wheel of her car and drove away. I took the initiative to take a picture of her license plate number and when the Aurora police officers were taking our statements they apologized claiming because she was from out-of-state, they had no way to track her. Within minutes of reviewing the photo it became clear that the car belonged to an Uber driver. Amazing a mere civilian could find a clue faster than two trained police officers. If this woman was assaulting a person, like a judge or politian, my guess is these “peace” officers would have made a greater effort to figured out how to execute an all-points bulletin that would have nabbed her faster than she could reach her destination. When I asked whether they could announce over the police scanner the make and model of the car with the license-plate number, the police officer acted as though it would be a hassle. I am a mandatory reporter and have spent a lifetime training families not to be violent and I genuinely wanted to assist. But it was to no avail. I trusted the system would have done something to protect these kids, but the response seemed uncaring and apathetic. It is no wonder young people are shooting up schools and joining gangs everyday. I feel I failed these children because I didn’t drag this woman off her son and make a citizen’s arrest. The headlines report violence daily and yet we are unwilling to do our due diligence to protect our children.

In case I’m wrong, as I sometimes am, I’m willing to concede and apologize if the police really do have their hands tied and truly are unable to assist our community. So to provide support, I’ve decided to put the picture of the car online and, with your help, perhaps you can help the Aurora Police Department by calling in an anonymous tip or maybe call your contacts at Uber and let them know one of their employees is a child abuser.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Heal-thy Self will Create a Healthy Self

More and more we're finding that people are being stricken with devastating illnesses like cancer, inflammatory diseases, and other debilitating illnesses. Research shows that stress hormones such as cortisol eat away at your immune system and then to add insult to injury we ingest toxins that compromise our bodies even further. Most of these illnesses are preventible when we take a look at our lifestyle and environment. I lost my father when he was 54 (my age now) and my mom at 67. Both were far too young and the deaths could have been altered if they would have played by the motto: Heal thy self. When we start evaluating our life choices and our priorities we can see that we only have one life to lead and that life should have a quality of life that will creates a healthy self. We need our minds, bodies and spirits to view life differently. Positive outlooks are the key. My son died April 19, 2013. The devastating and unsuspecting blow caused me to stop caring about myself. I was so consumed in grief that I simply did not care if I lived or died. I gave up my practice as a therapist because I didn't want to deal with other people's pain when I had so much of my own. Parenting is a huge job and most of us want to do it right so we give too much. Being exhausted wears down the immune system and allows for disease to show up. We become tense where our blood vessels don't operate well and our digestive track gets all whacked out. They call it dis-ease for a reason. What I want you all to do today and consider what you are role modeling to your children. Do you wish for them to learn that life is about sacrifice, exhaustion, resentment and dull? If not, role model and heal-thy self and show them what a healthy self looks like. Take care of yourself for just 15 minutes a day by escaping: do yoga, meditate, breathe, do acupuncture, walk, watch a funny movie, read a couple of pages in an interesting book or get a massage.

Remember my son remembering September 11 Fallen Heros

Just over 2 1/2 years ago my son, Katlin, died unexpectedly. He was a poet, musician and song writer. At the age of 14 he wrote a poem for the fallen heroes who gave their lives to save others. Parents make the mistake of believing their children will outlive them. This wasn't the case for me and even some of my other friends who will never get to see their children again in this lifetime. I will say however that I have the gift of my son's poetry to keep his memory alive. If you haven't said so recently, please take a moment to remind your children that you love them; always cherish their innocence and dare them to dream.

Here is his poem.

Fallen Hero's

A tribute to the 9/11 firefighter who lost their lives

Hero's are the ones who searched through the dust.
Hero's are the ones we know we can trust.
Hero's are the ones who broke down and cried.
Because they couldn't save any more lives.
Hero's are the ones that God has sent.
To save the heart of America on this tragic event.
People died but the hero's tried.
The Angels crying at their side.
Hero's died too but with a cause.
To save lives and then be a servant to God.
You should know the hero's are in a better place.
Because of their tremendous bravery and grace.

Katlin Mykel Shaw

Friday, April 17, 2015

Our pain refines us it doesn't define us...

Our perceptions determine outcomes, as real events aren’t really real. Instead they are our subjective thoughts and attitudes constructed to make sense of it all. Our memory of these events dictates how we interpret and respond to our environment. The beauty of our minds is that we have a choice on how to view what we see: we can look at our hard times as irritating and bad or we can view them as valuable and necessary. Take the making of a pearl for example. Oysters, like Alchemists, transform ordinary objects into precious things to feast our eyes upon. If not for the pain and discomfort the oysters must endure caused by the irritating sands festering within, this precious jewel would not exist. If we viewed our troubling experiences from this vantage point, we could move forward freely and without reservation, as our pain does not have to define us but rather it can refine us. When we allow ourselves the opportunity to embrace and learn from the lessons presented to us, we can perceive our circumstances differently. The universe whether it be God or another higher power offers opportunities to experience what is necessary to find our authentic purpose. Otherwise, we’re lost with no direction or intent.  April 19th marks two years since my son’s tragic passing. The insurmountable pain has to mean something—it has a purpose—but what?
Although I haven’t quite grasped the lesson, I tell myself I must trust and have faith.  I have to patiently look for the signs, which give me direction and permission to move forward safely. I have endured tremendous pain over my lifetime but this loss has by far been my greatest. What I know is my past has given me the ability to help others through difficult times and this time probably isn’t any different. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to and although I’m still confused I find comfort in my conviction and trust my experience is meant to serve a greater purpose other than myself. My goal is to celebrate my son’s life rather than mourn his death, as his life is a gift. Every part of who I am is based on loving him and because love doesn’t die, I must find the perseverance to continue honoring who we both are together. 

Originally, I wrote a memoir entitled, “Sparrows in a Hurricane” to celebrate our surviving horrific tragedies. We had a happy ending. The brevity of time together should not be my focus but rather embracing the love that I feel for the opportunity and privilege to raise my son. 

Rest in Peace Bubby

Friday, August 29, 2014

Losing a Child to Death

“If we lived in a perfect world, life would never be extraordinary.”
—Michael Bishop

I have always been a collector of quotes and consider myself quite the philosopher as a result of embracing the brilliant minds of those who preceded us but today the words of wisdom I repeat are from my nephew, Michael, whom I have always believed understood human nature more than any young person I’ve ever met. It’s as though he were an old soul brought here to impart on us. These words have pentetrated me on such a deep level that I was compelled to share so that others might feel comfort if only for today. Here is my story.

I am no stranger to death or dying as many people I have loved have passed. At one point I even referred to myself as the angel of death because so many people around me died. In one year alone, I lost 11 people who I cared for deeply. My grandmother, Bertie, would always allow a few tears after a loss but would then gently guide, “That is enough…we’ve got to keep going.” I embraced her acceptance of death and life and moved through the stages of grief quickly by automatically accepting death…until last year when my son, Katlin, died unexpectedly. Before, I had never asked why. I had never felt cheated. I had never questioned the directions or turns my life took—ever. I only trusted that nobody gets out of here alive. My faith was so strong and incredibly solid. But now I find myself questioning my own existence. What does life mean? What is my purpose? Why am I here? Why couldn’t it have been me? How can I go on?

I realized I had never truly grieved the loss of loved ones and I felt like a fish flopping and suffocating out of water. My emotions unpredictable, my gratitude gone, my desire for life diminished. I lost my meaning. I stopped caring how others felt. I no longer wanted to be helpful to my humanitarian causes. I no longer wanted to live. Then Michael’s word struck me so deeply, “if we lived in a perfect world, life would never be extraordinary.” I realized in that moment with those words that everyone faces adversity. Everyone has difficult times. Everyone feels despair. But that is why the other times feel extraordinary. Without the comparison we would take life for granted. We would not envelop the special times or those precious moments that make us feel whole.

I will not kid myself or lie to you…I have experienced a pain so intense it feels like I am stumbling aimlessly with a spear impaling my heart but for the last two days Michael’s words have provided a peace and I feel comfort for the first time. Each and every time, I begin to feel the pang of sadness his words blanket me, if we lived in a perfect world, life would never be extraordinary.” Until this moment, I had lost my reason for being but I know that my son would not want that for me. He has two beautiful children who need to understand what extraordinary means. I had kept looking for signs that gave me permission to move forward. Each time I tested the universe demanding a sign they were presented to me but then I would want another and another. I disregarded them all. It wasn’t until Michael shared his insight that I finally got it. I cannot promise I will never feel sadness. In fact, as I write these words, my eyes well up with tears, but for today, for this moment, I will carry on in my son’s honor. I have always lived for him and my promise and commitment to him is that I will live for him now. I will carry on our message to help families live better. If you are interested and want to know more about our goal, please visit,

Again, I am eternally grateful to Michael for his words and to Katlin for his inspiration. Also, I want to thank my loving husband, Alan, for his tremendous support during this very difficult time.  And it is because of the support of family and friends that today feels extraordinary. Below is a poem my son wrote to me in 2004 which means so very much to me:
Katlin Shaw
January 2004

All I want is to get along,
But I guess I feel like I don’t belong,
I feel like I have no one to care,
But then I sit and think…you were always there,
To help me out with anything I needed,
Quick to forgive every time I pleaded,
So I guess my mind likes to play tricks on me,
Covering my eyes with anger through which I can’t see,
But deep down inside, I know what’s right,
And I cover up emotions every time we fight,
I know how mad you are at the things I do,
And how you want to help but I just ignore you,
How you want to spend time with me and I just say “no,”
Then I leave and sometimes don’t even come home,
I know all this builds up inside of you,
And makes you feel helpless and there’s nothing you can do,
“Sorry” doesn’t mean anything coming from me anymore,
So I’m not going to say it cause I’ve said it before,
But I will say I realize every time I lie, or cheat or steal it scars you inside,
And some of those scars will never go away,
No actions I make or any words I can say,
I wish I could take all the shit I’ve done back,
And erase it from memory and that would be that,
But what if one of us were to die today,
And the word “Goodbye” we didn’t get to say,
What if we never saw each other again,
No more hugs or laughter or funny looking grins,
No more “Bye, love you, see you tomorrow,”
And the last words you said would drown you in sorrow,
All that was left was pictures and memories,
The last minute we were together you wished you could seize,
Take back all the things you didn’t mean to say,
This is why we need to live for today,
Cause you never know if tomorrow will come,
And if it didn’t, I would feel pretty dumb,
That I didn’t get to say what I wanted to,
“You are the greatest person I know and I love you.”