College Rape – “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer

I became a bit obsessed with the topic of college rape following the gang rape allegations against several football players at the U of Minnesota.  So when my friend Amy told me she just finished the book “Missoula:  Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” I knew I had to read it.

The book is written by Jon Krakauer, who is one of my favorite authors.  Many will remember his most popular books “Into the Wild” about a young man who ventured off on a solo trek to his untimely death and “Into Thin Air” about the perils and joys of climbing Mount Everest.  This time Jon tackles the subject of college rape, which is largely considered “non-stranger” rape since most often it happens when the victims know or have been in a social situation with their attacker.  This book is based on research on the sexual assaults that occurred in Missoula Montana from 2010 – 2012 and specifically on interviews with victims who pressed charges in 3 high profile cases.

The first rape victim we meet in the book is Allison Huguet. Her story is compelling because her attacker was a family friend, someone she trusted and thought of as a big brother.

Right from the start Allison’s story changed the way I thought about rape.  As I read this book I was forming a parenting “talk track” in my mind.  The track for my daughters went something like this:  “don’t drink when you go to parties, make sure you have a buddy and never separate from them, and never go home with a stranger.”  With the exception of the drinking, Allison did all of these things and was still assaulted in her sleep and raped.  Clearly, my talk track needs to be revised.

As I read the book I realized that with rape, unlike other crimes, the victim is held to a very high standard to “prove” they have been assaulted.  In what other crime do you have to be sure to document that you were harmed?  My talk track now goes like this:  “Girls, you need to go to the police right away,  also make sure you have physical evidence.  Please, no showering!  Also remember to scratch them so as to keep the dna in your fingernails.”  

Allison actually called her mother immediately following the attack, went to the police and later that day got a tape recorded confession from her attacker.  She had a very good case against her attacker and this led to his conviction but most rapes are not this way.  According to the book 80% are not even reported and even if reported most are not prosecuted because of the difficulty to prove that the sex was not consensual.  And often times the victim blames herself for getting into a questionable situation.

As I thought more about these crimes I realized I did not want to leave my son out of the conversation.Following the U of M football story I had a long talk with him about his college experiences.  We talked about drinking, consent and what he should do if he came across a girl in distress.

It’s hard to know what the right parenting “talk track” is for date rape.  For my kids, here is my new talk track:

  1.  Avoid alcohol, especially shots.  Theres’s nothing sexy about being drunk.
  2. Look out for each other, men and women please look out for other men and women.  If something seems wrong it probably is. And better safe than sorry.
  3. Protect your reputation.

I highly recommend this book for parents of teenagers and young adults.  Create your own talk track and have the conversation with them.  Let’s address this problem starting in our own homes.

 

 

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Top 5 Loughrey Fam NYC moments

My family loves to travel and so for Christmas we decided that our big gift would be 5 days and 4 nights in NYC.  My retail job requires complete dedication until Christmas so we joined the 1 million other people staying in Manhattan between Christmas and NY. We have learned the importance of a centralized location so we stayed in Midtown at the Mansfield Hotel on W 44th street just a few blocks away from Times Square. With 5 of us among the 1 million nothing was cheap or fast but it was well worth it.  Here are the highlights:

  1.  The views from the top of the Empire State Building.  Of course I have seen “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Elf” so I knew what to expect.  The lines were well outside the door and we were warned it would take us 2 hours to get to the top.  However the line wasn’t too bad since we were warm and dry (more on that later) and we got to see the beautiful and famous gold toned lobby. When we got to the top the fresh air was refreshing and the views were incredible. It was the highlight for all 5 of us.
  2. The theater on Broadway – we saw “Beautiful”.  My husband and son were not as interested in this but went along with the plan and ended up loving the show.  We did not get tickets ahead of time hearing it would be “easy” to get them for half price.  HA HA.  What a joke, since this is the busiest week of the year and there are FIVE of us.  But we are nothing if we are not optimistic so off we went on a couple of wild goose chases to find cheap tickets.  After  a couple of strikeouts we changed our strategy and decided to walk up to the  box office.  We hit it big when we scored 5 main floor tickets to “Beautiful”. The show had many great hits from the famous singer/songwriter Carole King.  It was a great experience that was enhanced by the very loud and enthusiastic group behind us who also LOVED the show and made us laugh with all of their positive cheering.
  3. The Statue of Liberty is beautiful and majestic.  I am glad that we figured out that our New York City pass had a free ferry tour and we skipped the also free Staten Island ferry because of earlier reference to 1 million tourists.  The “BIG BUS RIDE” back to midtown was memorable because we all froze to death atop the open air bus ride that was stuck in traffic for an hour.  This was absolutely miserable at the time but is now locked into the family memory bank as a once in a lifetime experience – the beautiful statue of Liberty plus the open air bus ride in traffic.  Ugh.
  4. The National 9/11 Memorial Museum was interesting however our experience was “dampened” by the unorganized 2 hour wait outside in the rain.  We waited in one line only to get a group time an hour later. We then came back at the group time only to re-join another outside, wet and rainy general admission line.  I really wanted to love it there, especially since Shannon was born on 9/11 but inside the museum also felt unorganized.  While it was touching to see so many of the items located together I was expecting to have a more emotional experience.
  5. Time Square is a hot mess of a place.  There is so much going on that it wasn’t until our second day there that I noticed “Good Morning America” being filmed right in front of me! We debated if we wanted to stand in line to watch the ball drop on NYE but the horror stories of no bathrooms and being so crowded for so long did not sound appealing. Instead, we had dinner at a neat Irish pub and watched the festivities from a block away.  While on the perimeter we got to see first hand the security surrounding the event.  I was very impressed with the polite and professional NYPD who oversaw the evening.  Well done.

We enjoyed these and many other things in NYC:  Central park, the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and many wonderful dining experiences.  Experiencing this with my family is something I will never forget.

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“The House We Grew Up In” by Lisa Jewell

I am probably the opposite of a hoarder.  When my kids were little they brought home their artwork and I would say “This is beautiful BUT is it in the top 10%?”  If they said yes they knew  I would keep it and put it into the ONE plastic tote that each of them was promised to commemorate their childhood. And if not, straight into the garbage it went.

So with that as background, I recently read “The House We Grew Up In” which is a novel about a mother who is a hoarder.  As I read the book I became increasingly fascinated with hoarding. I watched several videos to learn more about hoarding and see what the home of a hoarder looked like.

The book and the videos made me worry:  what if I am a hoarder?  Do I have too much stuff?  I would start to read, then look around and decide that an area of my house needed a good decluttering.  I confess that during the reading of this book, I threw out 30 bags of clutter. At least.

Aside from the clutter I also looked with a critical eye around my living room.  What do others see when they walk in?  What I saw was a room that had not been touched in 16 years, really since the day we moved in.  It was dated and dusty.  So, I did what any obsessive, enterprising woman would do – I hired a decorator!  She came in and totally re-evaluated my room, she moved things around and put a pile together of things that no longer “worked.”  When I saw this sad little pile of dusty relics I knew she was right, they no longer deserved a place on my wall.  She then added just a few items and suddenly I feel like I have a brand new living room.

I don’t know of any other book that has caused me to inspect my environment or myself so critically.  I concluded that I probably lean more toward OCD than hoarding.   Also that it’s easy to grow comfortable in your environment so giving your space a critical look every once in a while is a good thing.  So go ahead and read this book, but beware a surge of cleaning and self inspection just might follow.

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St. Croix vacation – driving, diving and 4 books

For the last several years my husband and I have taken a vacation before the busy holiday season starts in my retail job.  The timing is such that we hit the end of the hurricane season which means it is the S-L-O-W season for the tropical islands.  For example, we just got back from a week at the Divi resort in St. Croix, a hotel that boasts 200 plus rooms and we were 2 of the 12 guests that were there for one of the days of our trip. (I think at the end of the week the guest count may have hit about 20.) We love being there when it’s slow, it means lots of special attention from the hotel staff.

We usually rent a car because we love to drive around and explore the beaches and restaurants on the island; this vacation we rented a really cool jeep.  There was so much to see on the island.  We travelled to the east side and visited Port Udall which is the most eastern point of the United States and a great place to watch the sunrise. We heard about a rainforest on the northwest part of the island so we decided to visit there.  Wowza! Suddenly there is an incredible rain forest right in the midst of all the sand and sun. But for me, my favorite part of the island was the west side with it’s gorgeous sunsets and rugged coastline.

Another way we like to explore is through scuba diving, and the diving here was exceptional.   The water temperature was 86 degrees and the marine life was robust and healthy.  We saw turtles, eel, and even a few sharks.  The experience was made even more enjoyable by the company we kept:  we dove with an incredible mother daughter team, April and Erin from California who were fun and very knowledgable.  Those two paired with Michele and Michelle from Dive Experience made for an unusual group on our dive boat – almost all women!  For those of you who dive you know this is very much a male dominated hobby, I have to say my husband also enjoyed being around all of us ladies too!

A week away from work and family responsibility also means lots of time for me to read.  This trip I tackled the following 4 books:

  1. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.  Many people recommended this to me, most importantly my Auntie Terry who is a voracious reader.  This is a sweet book about a grumpy old man with a soft inner core which for some reason I have a soft spot for books with this type of character.  I am glad I read it and I do recommend reading it, however I will say  it dragged on a little too much in the middle for me.  It will probably become a movie, so if you don’t have the same soft spot for grumpy old guys you can just wait for the big screen version to come out.
  2. “Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children” by Ranson Riggs.  This one already IS a movie.  It’s about a boy who is very close to his grandfather.  After his grandfather dies he sets out on a mission to learn more about his grandfathers tall tales of his childhood on a deserted island.   It has great photos, many “peculiar” characters and reminded me of Harry Potter. It’s not my usual genre but I’m glad my book club picked it.
  3. “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter.  It’s about an American actress in the ’60’s who is sent to a small Italian village because she is pregnant.  It flashes between that time and the current day Hollywood crowd and is a great little beach book.
  4. “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng.  This one was recommended to me by my friend Stephanie and also has been getting a lot of buzz.  It’s about a young Chinese American girl who mysteriously dies.  It’s heart wrenching and dives deep into family relationships.  I liked it but it also left me a little bit sad.

So I’m back home ready to hit the holiday in my retail job and take on my family responsibilities because I am refreshed from my wonderful visit to St. Croix.

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“The Song Poet, A Memoir of My Father” by Kao Kalia Yang

This book increased my compassion and raised my awareness of the difficulties faced by immigrants who come to America. I think my compassion gene runs pretty high, but this book definitely brought it up a notch.

“The Song Poet” by Kao Kalia Yang tells the story of her family’s emigration from Laos to a Thai refugee camp and ultimately to St. Paul, Minnesota.  The story is told from the eyes of her father, Bee Yang who was born “sometime in 1958, no one really kept track” and who lived the first years of his life in the mountains of Laos.

Bee was orphaned at a young age and met his wife in his teens.  They had their first daughter in Laos but in 1975 the family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand where Kao was born.  They lived in the refugee camp for 9 years before finally settling in St. Paul where the girls attended schools in the Harding High School district.

In the Hmong tradition, Bee was a “song poet” meaning he recounted the stories of his family and even recorded an album of these poems.  This was his way of teaching the family history.  After the death of his mother, his songs dried up and he would no longer share these stories.  Flash forward to his daughter, Kao,  who had already successfully completed her first novel who convinced him to let her share these poems.  And “walla” we have this amazing new memoir.

Living in Minnesota I was aware of the Hmong population, but I had honestly not done much thinking or research about the Hmong.  Reading this book was eye opening to me as I realized that it is not only difficult to GET to America, but once landed it is nearly impossible to support yourself with the limited job opportunities available for a non-English speaking worker. Bee worked among questionable safety practices at a factory job in Eden Prairie that compromised his health. Kao and her sister were motivated to improve the life of the entire family by pursuing education in an aggressive way and so they attended Hamline University through the PSEO program and have gone on to be very successful young women.

This is a very well written book that will leave you with more compassion but also inspired. She shares the many difficulties faced by her family and her younger siblings, but in the end the family is able to pull together to persevere and thrive in America. It truly is a win/win as  Kao is able to share her family poetry through her father’s eyes and improve our art and culture at the same time.

 

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My summer reading list…

I usually read more when I spend time on airplanes.  This summer I was lucky enough to travel to Europe and so I have read 5 books so far this summer.  All of these books were very entertaining and of a high quality making them hard to rank. But here goes:

  1.  “The Life we Bury” a first time novel by Minnesota writer Allen Eskens. This is a love story AND a crime thriller about a young U of M student, Joe, who meets an interesting old man while completing a college creative writing assignment.  Many years before, the old man was convicted of murdering his 14 year old neighbor girl but as Joe does his research he learns there is much more to this story. I am thrilled that Allen will be at my book club later this month.
  2. “The Nest” by Cynthia Sweeney is about four siblings who are expecting an inheritance with the youngest turns 40.  Their plans are stalled when their oldest brother gets into trouble and their mother blows “the nest” to bail him out.  The book is very funny and examines the serious issue of family money and how NOT to act when you are fortunate enough to get some.
  3. “The Girl you left Behind” by Jojo Moyes is a novel about a French woman who was the subject of a painting by her husband right before WWI.  Her husband is sent to the war and the French woman trades the painting to a German soldier in a plea bargain for her husbands life.  Flash forward to modern times:  a young man buys this same painting for his wife and it is later found out to be valuable piece of art and a battle for it’s ownership ensues.
  4. “My name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout.  Lucy falls ill and looks back on her life in an intimate and honest way with a keen view of human behavior.  While nothing much really happens in this book, I found her musings very interesting and promoted my own self reflection. Lucy is a very likable character and the book is interesting and easy to read.
  5. “Eligible – a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld.  This book doesn’t deserve to be at the bottom of any list, except for the strong competition. For me, I would have enjoyed it more if I took the time to read the original work along with the re-telling.  As luck would have it, I did find a cheap copy and read a few chapters just after finishing the book which made me appreciate it more.  In the modern version the girls are much like the Kardashian’s which made it interesting but a little far fetched which is why it’s down here at the bottom.

I’ve got a few weeks left in summer and a few more good books on my list!

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10 Random thoughts about my 2 week trip to Europe with my family

My hubby and I went to Europe before we got married and since we love to travel always talked about going back with our kids.  We wanted to make sure the kids would be old enough to remember such an epic trip and the time never seemed quite right.  Then, with a blink of an eye 24 years have passed from our original trip and we experienced the death of our beloved father and grandfather, Grandpa Brian (aka “Coach”) so we decided there was no time like the present!  We just got back from the “trip of a lifetime” with our kiddos who now at ages 21, 19 and 14 will certainly be “old enough” to remember it.

We went to Iceland for one day, then Rome,  Paris and London.  The trip was everything we imagined and I am certain when I reflect back on my life it will be on the highlight reel- one for the record books as they say.  So while it’s still fresh in my mind, here are 10 random thoughts…

  1.  There are beautiful churches everywhere – so beautiful they take your breath away.  Stained glass, painted ceilings, and sculptures with beauty that are equal to any museum.  There are the big ones, Notre Dame, Westminster Abby and then the small ones.  For example, across the street from our hotel in Paris was the beautiful Church St. Roch built in 1653 and while fallen into a bit of disrepair was still astonishingly beautiful.
  2. So much of what you learn in school is available and on display in the scads and scads of museums.  We saw beautiful works of art that we had learned about or studied in school.  A family favorite was the huge painting by David called “the crowning of Napoleon.” We all sat in front of that painting listening to the audio tour completely spell bound by the painting and the story behind it. It was gorgeous.
  3. The audio tours are essential.  They give great context, allow for people to go at their own pace and enhance the understanding of the art. At these museums it’s easy to achieve the state we called “sensory overload” where you don’t even know where to look there is so much to see.
  4. Just getting around on the public transit is an experience in itself.  We used the Metro in Paris and the Underground in London and got to experience the urban commute which is much different than our “hop in the car” suburban lifestyle.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit the great sense of accomplishment I felt when we successfully arrived at our destinations.
  5. Translating money makes it difficult to see if you are getting a good value and frankly there aren’t many choices when walking up to a museum and they ask you for 5 pounds or 10 Euros.  It all becomes “Monopoly money” especially when they give you change.  I have no idea how much we spent and I do not look forward to getting our Visa bill.
  6. There are crowds of people everywhere especially at the major attractions like the Vatican or the Louvre.  We all got frustrated when people knocked into us or stood in front of pieces of art to get their “selfie.”  Frankly, it took away from the experience and our favorite memories are at some of the smaller places where we didn’t feel so rushed and crowded.
  7. We walked and stood so much that I was physically exhausted.  We started to keep track of our steps using our smart phones and one day we reached 30k steps.  This is a physical trip with many uneven surfaces, steep stairs and lots of walking.  I was thankful for my practical and sturdy shoes.
  8. My daughters and I spent an inordinate amount of time dreaming about repacking our bags.  We basically wore the same clothes over and over!  So if I could re-pack my bag I would add a few more pairs of pants and certainly a few more sweaters.  My daughters and I had some fashionable dresses that barely made it out of the bag and we spent many hours talking about things we wished we would have brought especially when the weather was cool.
  9. There is no better way to get to know someone than to spend 2 weeks with them on a trip.  And while we did have a few tense moments, we travelled well together and I know these 4 people much better than I did before we left. Special shout out to my hubby-  there is nobody better to travel with, he can can read a map, walk around tirelessly, and navigate a city better than anyone I know.
  10. And while I love, love, love to travel, I equally love to come home.  Because somehow the trip is even better when you get home.  You forget about how long it took to get lunch, how frustrated you were with the crowds, how tired your feet were or how hot/cold you were, and you just remember the amazing trip with your favorite people.
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