PicturePicture provided by Microsoft
Parents, are your children being bullied, cyber or otherwise? Would you even know? If you don't know, you need to find out. If not handled promptly and effectively, the emotional impacts to the target can be devastating and can even lead to suicide!

Open the lines of communication with your children when they are very young. Always listen to them and answer their questions using words that they will understand. When communication is established at an early age, they will feel comfortable talking to you about issues later.  If you notice changes in their behavior, grades, friends, etc., talk to them immediately. All of these are signs that something is changing. It is imperative that you find out what it is.

When I grew up, the standard advice was "stand up to a bully and he or she will
back down." You do not know whether the bully has weapons or access to weapons. But likewise, it is not safe to allow the target to be bullied, either. Sometimes, these victims are the ones that snap and bring weapons to school or work out of frustration and fear. That is not necessarily the case anymore.

Rather than contacting the other parent directly, I'd advise enlisting teachers and principals. They need to be made aware of the situation so that they can separate both the bully and the target.

My previous post, 5 Softwares to Spy on Your Kids, was about software used to monitor your children's online communications. It applies here, as well. I'd advise you to be open with your children that you may monitor their social media sites and emails. This information could save your child's life!

For more information, please visit the following websites: 

Cyberbullying Research Center - Resource materials for educators, parents and teens.

Stopbullying.gov Defines cyberbullying and provides tips for prevention.

Stop Cyberbulling - Trained tweens and teens staffing their own support line.

Last, tell your children that if they observe someone else being targeted that they need to handle the situation responsibly. They need to tell a teacher or principal or talk to you about it.

PictureClip art provided by Microsoft
When I was growing up, it wasn’t called spying on your children. It was called parenting, and the network was masterminded by everyday housewives slyly watching all of the neighborhood children.  Here’s how it worked. My mother new my friends and she knew my friends’ mothers. Most importantly, she knew my friends’ phone numbers. In this spy network of moms against kids, the kids always got caught. We’d often ask my mom how she knew about some event. The answer was always that she had eyes in the back of her head. 
These days, moms and dads both work, but they still need to know what the kids are doing. So the question is… “How do I keep my children safe?” rather than “Should I spy on my kids?” If you have an ethical concern, try looking at it this way: You aren’t spying on your children. You are spying on the potential predators and cyber bullies hanging around on the internet looking for a target that could end up being your son or daughter. If you tell your children about the software that you have installed on their computers and cell phones, then you aren’t lying to them or hiding something from them.

Risa Ferman wrote a thoughtful article for Huffington post called “What Are Your Kids Really Doing on Their Cell Phones and How Can You Keep Them Safe?” In it she states, “Monitoring software is available to keep track of a child's cell phone activity such as My Watchdog. iRecovery allows all deleted
pictures, texts and other data to be recovered from iPhones, iPods and iPads. If you choose to employ monitoring software, you should be honest and up front with your child. Your child should know that you might conduct random "checks." You should not hide your actions from them. Contact your cell phone carrier to determine what monitoring features they offer. Learn how your carrier can help you and what services they offer in the event your child is victimized. Be proactive about your level of cyber-education. Learn about the apps your child is using. See how the apps work, what's involved, what are the potential

There are many software packages to assist with protecting your children. I’ve
compiled a list of programs that you can check out. You’ll need to choose one that fits your needs with the electronic devices with which your children are connected. The first three programs were chosen because CNET rated them 4 or 5 STARS. The last two programs are listed because Ms. Ferman referred to them in her article. I do not have any experience with any of the following programs. Therefore, I am not personally endorsing any of them. They are listed for your convenience only.

Free Keylogger 

Spyrix Free Keylogger

SnoopFree Privacy Shield

My Mobile Watchdog


May the software be with you in your fight to keep your children safe from on-line predators and cyber bullies! But make sure you pick programs that have been rated by reputable companies, like CNET. Don’t arbitrarily download the first thing that pops up during your search. It may be malware.

Do you use software to monitor your children's on-line and cell phone activities? Have you told them that you are watching? We would love to hear from you.

PictureImage Source: Breast Cancer Action
In a ruling that is a victory for everyone who suffers from a genetic predisposition to disease, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that human genes cannot be patented. The case that was argued before the court on April 15, 2013 questioned whether Myriad Genetics had the right to patent the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes they discovered. These genes are associated with hereditary breast cancer. Women who have the BRCA1 mutation have an 87% chance of developing breast cancer by the time they are 70 years old.The petitioners, Association for Molecular Pathology, represented by the ACLU, argued that Myriad Genetics could not patent genes they merely discovered because they are naturally occurring, and the justices agreed.

Held: A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.

Because Myriad Genetics held a patent on the genes they were able to charge over $3000 to perform the test and restrict research on those genes that could lead to future treatments or diagnostic tools. Myriad, who has tested over one million women since the late 1990s, argued that the ability to patent the gene was how they were repaid for their time spent researching the genes to isolate them. Their arguments fell far short of convincing the court, and all nine justices ruled against them. The ACLU issued a statement on the ruling stating in part:

Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.

I have been following this case for a very long time because of my family history and experience with the gene. My sister was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 38, and in the testing that followed, found out that she had the BRCA1 mutation. Given that I had a 50 – 50 chance of also having the gene, I elected to be tested as well. We were lucky.  Insurance covered the cost of the test; not everyone is that lucky. There are many women out there who don’t have insurance or their insurance won’t cover the cost of the test. Now, there is a chance that the cost will come down enough to be affordable for them or to convince more insurance companies to cover the cost.

It is Father's Day in the US! In appreciation of dads everywhere, here is a list of some fabulous quotes about dads. 

1. Nobody ever asks a father how he manages to combine marriage and a career.
  ~Sam Ewing 

2.  Fathers are the geniuses of the house, because only a person as intelligent as we could fake such stupidity. Think about your father. He doesn't know where anything is. You ask him to do something, he messes it up. That's a genius at work! Because he doesn't want to do it! And he knows someone will be coming soon to stop him from doing it!
  ~Bill Cosby

3.  By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.
  ~Charles Wadsworth

4.  Above all, children need our unconditional love, whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.
  ~President Obama

5.  When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. 
  ~Mark Twain

6. When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.
  ~William Shakespeare 

7.  My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
  ~Clarence Budington Kelland

8.  My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.
  ~Jim Valvano

9.  I thought I would be more inspired to have all these new feelings to talk about, but I really just want to hang out with my daughter.

I’ve been blessed with good news. But I had to wait several weeks to
receive the news. When I went to the doctor a few weeks ago, blood was found in my urine. This can be caused by any number of health issues ranging from a
urinary tract infection to bladder or kidney cancer.  As a result, I’ve seen the insides of several doctors’ offices, been poked, prodded, x-rayed and scanned.

We’ve all heard the expressions, “it’s not knowing that’s the worst” and “it’s the
waiting that’s the worst.” I don’t know about that. I’ve seen my mom, my step- father, my father-in-law and many of my friends’ parents grow older, more
fragile and pass away. Their illnesses were much worse than the three weeks I
just went through. 

But I’ve had time to evaluate how I’m spending my life right now.  I asked myself if I were sick with limited weeks or months remaining, how I’d want to spend that time. And the answer was that I wouldn't spend as much time on social media. During this thought process, it occurred to me that even if I didn't have a life threatening illness right now, I could still die in a car crash at any time. So the bottom line ended up being, I need to change how I'm spending my time. 
Social media is a frenzy of marketing activity where we tend to reach other authors roaming the internet hawking their books, but we may not reach our readers. At the same time I pondered my potential health issues, fellow author Olga Nüñez Miret wrote a blog with her take on the social media fracas. I can’t do her blog justice in describing it, so you can read it here. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time.

I have made many virtual friends, for which I am grateful and will continue to support. And I will still use social media. I'm not sure yet how I'll change, but I will change my strategy. I will still write The Mystic Princess series because writing makes me happy. I’ll likely write more short stories when inspiration strikes. And I might even venture into a novel I’m thinking about at some point. 

My primary goal is to figure out a way to balance my time with my family, my day job, writing and marketing in a healthier manner. If I don’t figure that out, it’s okay. I will accomplish the goal of writing and publishing my children’s book series.

But I won’t spend time using social media to market my books in a manner that isn’t working. This means when I am facing the end of my time here on earth, I won’t have regrets that I wasted time that I could have spent with my family. And, shouldn't we be living our lives in a way that allows a peaceful ending with no regrets?

Memorial Day in the United States. It is the unofficial start to summer, a time to spend an extra day with family and friends. Most of us will take some time to remember those who have served, but then what? How many of us will take the time tomorrow or the next day to think of them? I would be willing to wager that very few of us will think about our service members and veterans until something comes up in the news. Then we will go right back to our lives and do nothing. 

This is not a political rant. I am not going to go on about either party here. I am calling all of us to do something. Yes, writing or calling your representative is something you can do but I am talking about doing something more personal. I am talking about getting out of your routine and doing something that matters. 

Find the nearest Veteran's Home or Hospital and volunteer. Many Veterans do not have friends or family to come visit them and your time will mean so much. If you don't live near a VA hospital, you can volunteer to drive. Many veterans live in rural areas and cannot drive themselves for appointments. Your neighbor may need a ride and you can help. The VA Website and United We Serve are great places to start.  

Donate small items to the hospital or Veteran's home. Things like magazines, books, clothing, toiletries, snacks or lap blankets. You might be surprised how much small donations like this can mean to the person receiving them. 

Write a letter. Operation Gratitude sends over 100,000 care packages and letters of gratitude annually! Visit their site or Facebook page to see how you can help. If you have children, have them write a letter or draw a picture to send along. 

Make a commitment. No matter what you decide to do schedule time each week to continue to reach out and help.

This post originally appeared on the Liberal America website. 

Yesterday in a stunning Op-Ed, Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone a double mastectomy with reconstruction because she is positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. This gene mutation put her chances of developing breast cancer by the age of 70 at 87%. I am extremely familiar with this mutation because I have it. I have what is known as a “significant family history” of breast cancer. My younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38 and went through the testing for the BRCA1 during the course of her treatment. She did not have insurance at the time and was treated through the Bridge Breast Network. I was lucky to have my insurance cover the cost of the test because I have a first degree relative with the gene. That is not common however because the cost of the test is so high.

The test is only performed by one lab and costs around $3500 because Myriad Genetics has a patent on the gene. Yes, you read that right, they have a patent on something that occurs naturally. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, on April 15th, 2013 and a ruling is expected this summer.

“Myriad did not invent the human genes at issue in this case, and they should not be allowed to patent them. The patent system was designed to encourage innovation, not stifle scientific research and the free exchange of ideas, which is what these patents do,” said attorney Chris Hansen of the ACLU, who argued the case.

Sue Friedman, founder of Facing Our Risk Of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), agrees with the ACLU that these patents make it harder for people to access care and stifle innovation. (Source: JHU Press)

“The SCOTUS decision is critically important for anyone who is concerned specifically with hereditary disease. FORCE has filed an Amicus brief on behalf of plaintiffs in advance of the hearing. The Myriad case is just one example of how exclusive patents on genes can hurt consumers. Gene patents are a universal issue that ultimately affects all of us. Even if hereditary cancer does not run in your family, chances are that you have inherited a genetic predisposition to some disease. Imagine if a company were given exclusive control over all testing and research for a disease that runs in your family.”

The Supreme Court is unlikely to issue a sweeping ruling in this case and a few justices made comments that seemed to hint that they will try to find a compromise solution. (Source: Huffinton Post) There is no question that this ruling will have a significant impact on our access to care.

What are your thoughts on this? Should they be able to patent something that they did not invent or substantially alter? How would this affect care? Do you think the gene identification would even be possible if they didn't think they could make money from it?
Tragedies have a way of pulling the important things in life into focus. We hold our children closer, let go of hurts more easily, and make a special effort to talk to our friends and family more often. Tragedies can also have a way of bringing out the worst in us. We can over-react and over-generalize. We are afraid and we want to stop being afraid. 

The Boston Marathon Bombing has brought out the best in us and the worst in us. I have seen people come to the aid of strangers and donate money to help with medical bills. I have also seen people call for wiretapping mosques and banning certain religions from coming to the US.  

These may be extreme examples but it is important to note that how we react in a tragedy does matter. One issue came up in this that does not come up often. Law enforcement activated the public safety exception to Miranda. This exception is quite narrow and only allowed for the purpose of determining if there is still a risk to the general public.  It is VERY important to understand that what information is gained during this time is NOT admissible in court. 

I understand why they did activate it in this case but I am concerned that we don't try to use this as an excuse to violate the rights of others. Why, because we have to be better than those who perpetrate crimes. 

I would like to hear what you think about this.  Please leave a comment below.  Remember that we may disagree without being disagreeable. 
Yesterday, Christin sent a link to me about Elise Andrew who runs the Facebook page I Feaking Love Science. While the three of us are not thrilled about the title of her page, because we want to run a website that is family-friendly. However, that people are shocked a woman could create and run a page related to science eventually attracting more than 4 million viewers is appalling and must be addressed. And that many of the posts included comments about her looks made it worse. So a woman still can't be beautiful and smart? It shows how far women must still go to prove our selves.

Yes, I will agree there are differences in men and women. Such as, my husband opens jars much easier than I, and I can remember where various objects are far better than he.

Women fought throughout the last century, and now into the 21st century, for equality in pay and respect. To come across the article about Ms. Andrew is nothing short of disheartening.

Please feel free to verify the links before commenting, but please do comment. We'd like a lively discussion of women's and men's experiences related to the topic of equality.

Ms. Andrew's Facebook page link is here:

Andrew's Page

And Kevin Morris' column was posted in the Daily Dot on March 21, 2013. 

According to a post in Ask.Men.Com the top 10 male oriented professions are in

  1.  Construction
  2.  Politics
  3.  Math
  4.  Sports Media
  5.  Emergency Services
  6.  Law Enforcement
  7.  Chef
  8.  Tech
  9.  Comedy
10.  Accounting and Finance

Are you a woman in one of these professions? If so, has being a woman impacted your career in any fashion?

To read the whole article please click this link.

Top Ten