Moments Matter

A Parent’s Digital Technology Confession

I stared at the illuminated green screen unsure of what stood in front of me. It looked like a television with a typewriter, but it wasn’t.250px-Apple-II

The teacher instructed us to type our name. Looking down at the sea of letters and characters, I poked at each key with a single finger eventually spelling my name…K-R-I-S-T-A-L.

This was my first exposure to a computer in third grade. The elementary school had added a mobile unit to house the brand new Apple computers.

These were the infant stages of a new association that blossomed over several years – my relationship with technology.

WWW Sweeps the Globe
In junior high and high school, I had touches with technology mostly from a word processing standpoint. Working on my high school and college newspapers, I used a computer to input and create my assigned articles.

By the end of college in the mid-90s, I had heard wind of this thing called “WWW.” Uh, wwwhaaat?

Say that again.

At my first professional job, I was assigned to attend a training that provided an overview of this “WWW.”

I was curious to why this “WWW” warranted training. Is it that important? The short answer: an overwhelming YES.

Sitting in the training, I learned the “WWW” actually stood for World Wide Web, which “is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet and is commonly referred to as the Web.” (Source: WIKPEDIA)

I was amazed by the Web’s seemingly endless trails of information and resources, and the ability to communicate at lightening speed around the globe.

And, here I thought the fax machine was an incredible invention.

And, boy, have things changed since those early days of WWW in the 1990s and my Apple Computer in the late 1970s.


• There are 2 billion Internet users across the globe.*
• Approximately 5 billion people own cell phones.*

These figures are mindboggling.

That Darn Ping
In moving through my career, technology was indispensable on a minute-by-minute basis for conducting business.

Like most people, technology changed everything about my daily life. And that is no different today.

From the first few minutes my eyes open in the morning, I reach for my iPhone. While driving (hands free), my phone guides me to an unknown destination. When chatting with a friend, I share photos on my phone. I keep in touch with friends and family via social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I build digital photo albums online. I not only manage my blog, but I have a Web site as well.

And the list goes on and on…

And then there’s the ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. The pings of e-mail, text or media messages awaiting attention. Someone needs me.

But do they really need me?

Lost in Translation
So why am I even talking about this relationship with technology? As they say, “it’s me, not you.” Well, really it’s my critical role as a parent of my two young daughters and the relationship they are forming with technology.

In our house, the most commonly heard phrase, besides “I LOVE YOU” is “NO MORE TECHNOLOGY.” My two daughters, age four and eight know exactly what that means…

“Put down the iPod.”

“Turn off the television.”

“Flip off the iPad.”

And, as part of my technology confession, as parents we have not managed digital technology and media in the healthiest of ways. Over the years, we have set a 30-minute a day technology limit. Some days we exceed. Other days, technology isn’t used at all.

The idea of our relationship with digital technology is at the core of a book I’ve just read entitled “Talking Back to Facebook” by James P. Steyer*.

Steyer writes: “The fact is, kids are thrown into this brave new world from the day they’re born. When parents post cute pictures of their babies in adorable outfits and poses, they’re creating the first outlines of their kids’ digital footprint. By the time they’re two, more than 90 percent of all children have an online history.”

I’ll be honest that I only recently began posting photos on Facebook. My primary reservation for not being active on Facebook is the inevitable loss of privacy and protection of my family.

I still tread lightly on Facebook and post rather conservatively. I mostly view Facebook as a third person bystander if you will – enjoying photos and information from friends, family members and fellow bloggers.

But, like my children, I need to set my own limits with technology and be a role model that is PRESENT in the HERE and NOW.

I need to look up at my children more, and down less.

So, I’ve determined what type of relationship I want with technology, but what about my impressionable angels?

Beiber Fever Gone Awry
Last night, my eight-year-old daughter was researching for her book report on Justin Bieber. I sat next to her while she navigated the Web.

I scanned each headline link and graphic to ensure it was age appropriate. Then, I saw a headline consecutively repeated: “Justin Bieber Caught Groping Fan’s Breast.”

I felt my palms sweat and heart beat increase exponentially.

I even tweeted a bit about her obsession with JB.

I even tweeted a bit about her obsession with JB.


My daughter idolizes Bieber. Whether the story was true, or not, I had a conversation about her idol and our human flaws.

I also told her that it was not too late to change the topic of her report to another influential person. By the end of the night, we agreed to sleep on it.

In the end, I know it’s not that pressing pinging alert that needs me. It’s my children that need me to guide them along this journey of digital technology.

Steyer explains it this way: “The bottom line is clear. We need to know what’s happening in our kids’ digital lives, talk with them about what they’re seeing and experiencing, and teach them to think critically…we need to limit their access to certain media and technology starting when they’re very young. And we have to stay involved in how they process messages and images as they gain independence.”

So, I guess we’ll find out whether my daughter decides on writing her report about Justin Beiber. I’ve given her my guidance – now the rest is up to her.

For those in Southern California, “Talking Back to Facebook” Author James P. Steyer will offer his common sense guide to raising kids in the digital age.

Thursday, January 31, 6:30 p.m.
St. Mary’s School Aliso Viejo
There is still space available. You can pre-register, or register at the door!

How has your relationship with technology evolved? What are some of your first, impressionable memories of digital technology? As a parent, are you guiding your children along this winding digital journey? Do you have any digital technology confessions you’d like to unload?

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Their Leila

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth fictional post in a continuation. For those who may have missed the other three, shame on you. No, just kidding. Here are the three other posts that are part of this story in chronological order.

#1 Fictional Friday: Her Billy
#2 Fictional Friday: Our Billy
#3 Fictional Friday: Letting Go of Billy

Hope you enjoyTheir Leila

The doorbell rang as if it were London’s Buckingham Palace. The distinct sound of the suitcase’s zipper closing sealed her fate. She was sealing the deal to save her life.

There was a soft, hesitant tap at the bedroom door. “The van is here, Leila,” said Keith.

Leila held her breath while rolling the suitcase toward the door. Before she could reach the door, there was a brush against her leg. It was the latest addition to the family – their Persian cat, Sasha. The giant ball of gray fur stroked the side of her calf. She bent down to bid farewell to her friend. Looking into Sasha’s fluorescent green eyes, innocent and pure.

Petting behind Sasha’s ears, she said, “I’ll be back soon. I’ll be all better.”

Keith stood at the bottom of the stairs. Wearing a camel-colored sweater that perfectly matched his dusty brown hair. She immediately thought of a younger Robert Redford.

He flashed those pearly whites. Blushing, she suddenly felt like Ms. America, however, she wasn’t about to begin the talent portion of the contest.

She was headed to rehab.

Following the suspension of her medical license, the disease had reached epic proportions. Her hallowed face, blood shot eyes, calloused knuckles were proof.

Even though her young patient, Nikki, did pull through after a substantial increase of the pain medicine Leila had administered, she selfishly felt as though a part of her died that day.

As a doctor, she took to heart The Hippocratic Oath: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

The intertwined, twisted result of her compassion and use of a chemist’s drug could have ended tragically.

imagesNow, after months of therapy and soul searching, she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t Nikki who actually needed saving.

Sliding into the van seat, she could see her breath in the dense early morning fog. Keith kissed her cheek. “Take care of Billy and Sasha,” she called. The van door sliding shut, she looked straight ahead holding back her tears.

During the two-hour drive to the rehab center, she looked down at her hands. The scaring on her knuckles looked as if she was a retired prize fighter. Leila remembered one year ago at this time kneeling on the cold, hard floor of the hospital restroom…

She picked at the skin on her raw knuckle. When seeing worn, overworked hands, many think of day laborers, or blue-collar workers, who rely on their hands to make a living.

Not her. She thought of putting her finger down her throat to induce a gag reflex, and eventually vomiting. She thought of expelling her pain.

Staring at the floor tiles that made a perfect alternating gray and white square pattern, she repeatedly traced the boxes with her fingertip. She wished and prayed to stop. But, she couldn’t. Just couldn’t.

She remembers with perfect clarity when the whole binging and throwing up started. The day after her mom left at age 12.

It was the beginning of seventh grade when they were showing one of those made-for-TV-movies that is supposed to persuade teenagers to not do something harmful. The movie portrayed a young girl who binged and threw up and lied to her parents. The character in the movie never gained weight and ate whatever she wanted. Leila thought this was brilliant.

And, with no mother and an alcoholic father, there was no need to lie. This would be her way to regain some control.

Leila would sit on the sidelines during lunchtime and watch other girls drink sodas and eat chips while laughing. They probably also had two parents who paid attention to them.

Who loved them.

Leila would lurk around the school restroom after lunch waiting for it to empty. She felt both a sense of relief and disgust after throwing up.

By the end of seventh grade, she whittled down to a mere 100 pounds with a 5’6 medium frame. Girls at school commented, “How are you so skinny, Leila?” She basked in the attention.

Over the years, she evolved into a “functioning bulimic.” There were the occasional high-stress periods where her binging and vomiting peaked. But she could keep it under control.

However, when she learned of being pregnant at 17, her bulimic activity temporarily ceased for those nine months. She now had to be accountable to … her Billy.

The pressures from living with her father and his dysfunctional counterpart, Darla was too much to take. And that’s when it started all again. She fell right back into her old routine.

Ironically, her knowledge of illness and disease, including detection, treatment and prevention while in medical school failed at helping the worst patient she had ever known. Herself.

The other victim, through all of this was, her Billy. Now a sophomore at the Juillard School in the Big Apple, he was thriving. Over the summer, he was hand selected to join a special European Tour “The Voices of Juillard.” His dream of becoming a professional vocal artist was coming true.

She had spared the details of her trial and suspension before the Medical Board until he returned for the Thanksgiving holiday.

While explaining to Billy the entire ordeal, she tried to chalk it up to bad choices. As a credit to her parenting, Billy was too smart for excuses. “How could you, mom?” he asked. She taught him accountability and responsibility. There was no room for contradictions with her levelheaded 18-year-old son.

She finally relented in explaining that her noble intentions became warped. She made a horrible mistake – one that cost her livelihood.

Who was her rock during this nightmare? The man she never fathomed would be there, ever. Her first love: Keith. He listened, he held. But would he stick by her during this second crisis?

After Billy returned to school following the holiday, she fell into a dark hole. Her worst nightmare had come true: she was alone with no job, no Billy. Once again, she had no accountability, which is the ideal climate for her bulimia to rear its ugly head.

Just days after Christmas, a neighbor found her sprawled on the floor of her condo unconscious. Keith rushed to her side at the hospital. She knew this was a turning point – both for her and for him.

Keith took a temporary leave of absence from his position at the conservatory. The unspoken agreement being that she would seek treatment once she was capable.youareloved

The van finally pulled up to the rehabilitation center. The outside of the center looked more like a mini mansion from the front with large windows and ornate wooden designs around the door. A small sign hung above the doorway that read: “YOU ARE LOVED.”

At the front desk, the receptionist requested her to sign in. She began to write her name, but hesitated. She eventually signed: “☺ Dr. Andersen.” She momentarily looked up. Realizing, she never truly had been alone.

She was ready.

Ready to let her Billy go. Ready to be healthy. Ready to love and be loved.

Conservative figures show that 150,000 women die each year from dieting related causes.


Writing Prompt: Invent a / your character (who) has two personality traits that are completely incompatible, that don’t fit together at all. For example: this character is incredibly messy and is also a total perfectionist. Or: this character is a pacifist and also has a really explosive temper. Or: this character believes in strict, traditional family values but is promiscuous by nature. You decide. Then think of a situation in which these two sides of your character would be in direct conflict with each other. Write the story / scene.

Please, oh, please, check out these talented writers who are fearlessly turning out some incredible fiction! I am so blessed to have connected with each of them.

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Slow. Slow. Slower.

New Year’s Resolutions? Oh, please. I stopped making those years ago.

On the surface, I think goal setting is an extremely important process. I just don’t think we should automatically set ourselves up for failure at the beginning, middle, or end of each year.

It’s not that I don’t want to lose some weight, read and write more, spend more quality time with family and friends, practice yoga more frequently, go to bed earlier…

But setting up a specific resolution at the start of the year is like stepping on a lingering shard of glass. A slow, dull pain in knowing that I will inevitably not keep a single New Year’s resolution.

Knowing this about myself, I still felt compelled to strive for some type of personal goal. However, I did not want to “set” just any type of goal. I yearned for a goal that would trigger an improvement in the quality of my life. I carefully thought about the pre-qualifications of my goal:

  • Simple
  • Authentic
  • Meaningful
  • Realistic

IMG_2038A few weeks into January, I attended my local church service and was still “goal-less.” The theme of the sermon that evening was “Walk Don’t Run” and focused on how we need to slow down.

“Quiet down before God, be prayerful before Him.”
Psalms 37:7

The onset of the sermon described how by slowing down, we can more closely listen to the voice of God. To walk with Him. This is a beautiful thought.

We can hear so many things when we are quiet.

I had also found my goal. And I was terrified.

The reason I fear setting this goal is that like most of us, I have evolved into a fast-moving person. It’s hard to remember when I had a slow life.

Looking back, I think moving from a sleepy commune farm into town around age 7, things moved noticeably faster. No longer did I sing to the mountains while swinging. Rather, we got our first big color TV with 13 channels. I walked home with cars whizzing by instead of dangling my feet in a stream.

While in college with multiple part-time gigs, and later moving into the high-pressure corporate world, the rat race blurred one into the next. I recall driving on the crowded freeway exhausted after a long day at the office. I noticed a lone bird soaring in the sky. I had temporarily forgotten about nature because I sat in a square box pushed full of air conditioning with stiff suits day after day.

People moved faster. And, eventually I did too.

‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’ – Gandhi

I made four basic observations of my impatient, speed-lighting behavior; and by adding the element of slowing down, the results could be phenomenal:

  1. Drive Slower …  Decrease Stress, Improve Safety & Health
  2. Walk Slower …   Appreciate Beauty, Reduce Stress
  3. Eat Slower …   Improve Digestion, Enjoy conversation, Improve Health
  4. Shop Slower  …  Decrease Stress, Eat Healthier, Spend Less Money

So, I’ve set my goals if you will – to add an element of slowness to my life.

At the close of church, the speaker offered one final word of wisdom: “Say ‘yes’ to great things and ‘no’ to good things.”

I plan on doing just that – to say ‘yes’ to slow and ‘no’ to fast.

Joke: Do you know what a Gronker is? Answer: Someone who honks within 10 seconds of the light turning green if you had not begun to accelerate. Are you guilty of gronking? 

Did you set goals for yourself at the start of the year? Are your goals realistic and obtainable, or lofty and unreachable? Do you consider yourself part of our fast-moving society? What tips can you offer to  encourage others to “stop and smell the roses?”

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#3 Fictional Friday Challenge: Letting Go of Billy

Editor’s Note: This is the third fictional post in a continuation. So, if you have not read the other two posts, please read those first before reading the post below.

#1 Fictional Friday: Her Billy
#2 Fictional Friday: Our Billy

I am so digging this fictional writing. So fun. Enjoy Letting Go of Billy…


The bubbles danced in the air. The clear, perfectly shaped circles were impervious to the sadness that dwelled in this place. The little girl tried to avoid looking at the needle poking.images

“Blow more bubbles, baby!” encouraged her mom in a shaky, loud voice in at attempt to distract her daughter. The nurse keenly focused on the veins of the girl’s left arm. “One more breath, Nikki,” the mom urged. “Let’s see your biggest bubbles.”

The girl blew deeply. One last lingering bubble landed on top of the bed railing. The bubble sat still – as if it were waiting for someone, or something. The girl grimaced and flinched. “Ouch!” she yelled. The bubble popped into nothingness as if it had sensed its cue to disappear.

Leila was making her final rounds in the hospital’s pediatric neuro-oncology unit. Now on board as a permanent, full-time doctor at the hospital, her years of hard work were finally paying off.

The other big life change besides her new position was Billy’s acceptance to the famous Juilliard School of performing, arts and music in New York.

Before the letter arrived, Billy had little confidence he would be accepted as the admittance rate is less than 10 percent. But she knew better. Billy’s father, Keith, had studied under the department head and made a call. However, she did not want Billy to have any idea that he may not have made it in on his own merit.

On the outside she glowed with pride, but the thought of being without him made her stomach turn. She would miss touching his soft locks of hair and kissing his forehead before she left in the early morning. She would miss their Wednesday Chinese take-out date night.

Being alone terrified her. At age 34, she would be an empty nester and truly, utterly alone.

Of course, another big turning point of the year was the return of Keith, who was Billy’s biological father. He visited twice this last year, and calls Billy a few times a week. They are becoming close. They are becoming father and son.

When Keith visited the last time, she made no commitments, no promises. She liked it that way. She was used to it that way.

Leila felt like she owed him. She just wasn’t sure what that meant, exactly.

On the surface, Keith seemed like the same nice guy she dated in high school. The same guy whose brown eyes melted her. She stared at the medical chart in a daze remembering the love and heartbreak.

“Dr. Andersen, you’re needed in room 303,” requested the charge nurse. “STAT.”

And this was a heartbreak of another kind. It was the room of her patient: five-year-old Nikki.

Nikki loved coloring and horses. Initially, she had begun throwing up and treated for acid reflux. But then the headaches came with a vengeance.

Leila reviewed the results of the MRI: cancerous brain tumor. The tumor would have to be removed.

She assisted in the surgery, which was professionally thrilling. Unfortunately, Nikki suffered a stroke during the surgery that severely impaired the right side of her body. Simultaneously, she still had to undergo chemotherapy while recovering from brain surgery. The chances for long term, even short-term survival were grim.

Now it was a week after the surgery. Leila could hear the scream of Nikki’s mother from down the hallway. When Leila arrived, nurses were pulling the mother from the room while she lunged towards the door. “No, not my Nikki. No. Help her, help her…”

She was in full cardiac arrest. Leila began life-rescuing procedures while whispering, “Hang in there, Nikki. I promised to take you to see the horses, remember? Remember?”

Leila was able to finally stabilize her after multiple attempts. That was too close.

In the hallway, nurses were trying to calm down Nikki’s mother from hysterics. She explained the severity of the situation to the mother.

Once calm, she asked: “Dr. Andersen, can you at least ease her pain?” With Nikki being at the maximum limit for pain control given her recent episode, Leila could make no promises.

Not for today. Not for this hour. Not for this minute.

Looking at the clock, she realized Billy’s national vocal competition in the neighboring city was just an hour away. Driving in the car, her mind wandered to Nikki and her mother.

Ease her pain.

Pulling into the arena parking lot, she recognized the figure standing near the box office. A handsome man in a brown tweed jacket with his hair swept to one side. It was Keith.

He knew how important this vocal competition was to Billy, to her. He waved slowly. “Hey, Leila,” he greeted. Inside, she smiled. But on the outside, she couldn’t show how happy she was to see him.

Billy shined during the competition placing third overall. The three went to dinner following. Life felt good. The three of them felt right together.

With an early morning shift ahead, her mind shifted back to Nikki. Entering the hospital room later in the morning, she could hear the painful groans of her pint-sized patient.

images-1She wanted to end her pain. She wished that someone would have been there to ease her own pain as a child. Making a decision that would forever change her life, she increased the drip flow exponentially.

Suddenly, she heard a voice at the door call: “Leila? I mean, Dr. Andersen?” She was startled.

“Keith, what are you doing here?” she asked. “Uh, sorry to bother you at the hospital,” he said. The drip monitor began to sound. “Is everything OK?” he asked.

A nurse made her way to the room. “Who increased the levels on this?” asked the nurse. Silence. Keith had seen her at the machine just minutes before.

You could see the uncomfortable look in his darting eyes. Meeting in the hospital cafeteria for coffee, there was an awkwardness that did not exist before.

They chatted, of course, about Billy and the impressive vocal show from the evening before. He also announced his plans to move back to the area. Billy would be thrilled. Leila wasn’t quite sure how she felt just yet.

Just before Keith left to catch his plan back to San Francisco, he turned to Leila and asked: “Did you do it?” She looked down knowing exactly what the question meant.

Looking up she responded, “I had to help ease her pain, Keith. No one was there for me. I want to be there for her.”

“I was there, Leila. You just never let me in,” he quipped.

Staring with a blank look in her eyes she said, “What have I done?”

“We acquire the strength we have overcome.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dedicated to the real Nicollette, who is fighting and winning the battle against cancer now as a six-year-old at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, California.


Writing Prompt: Your character commits a crime. (What is the motive?) Your character’s husband/wife/Significant Other, discovers your character changing, dealing with the evidence, and wants to know what’s going on. Write the conversation. What happens next?

Don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers who have joined the fictional fun. You won’t be disappointed.

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Five-Finger Discount Lesson

The little brown Honda Civic tipped to one side as I rounded the corner. I loved taking corners in my first car. The radio cranked as I shifted gears quickly without missing a beat.Unknown

“Check this out!” my friend said, while pulling out some new shoes from her backpack. I was confused as to how she had new shoes when we had just left the shoe store. She didn’t purchase any shoes.

“Aren’t these cute?” she boasted. As we pulled up to the stoplight, my 16-year-old naiveté peaked. “But how? I didn’t see you buy them.”

She had put the shoes in her backpack while I was in another section of the shoe store. She also thought that a store employee saw her take them, but wasn’t quite sure. I was in shock. I felt betrayed. How? Why?

I insisted we return to the store and admit to the crime. “No way,” she argued. I threatened if we did not return to the store and come clean, I would tell her parents. She crossed her arms in defiance.

 “Life is the sum of all your choices.” – Albert Camus

I flipped the car around and headed back to the store.

And there pray tell was Johnny Law himself in front of the shoe store. I pulled up next to the patrol car. His black cop glasses gleaming in the sunlight, he strolled towards my car with his hands on his hips as if he were ready for a shoot out.

I sat in the car frozen. Will he pull a gun? Will we be handcuffed in public? Will we be on the local TV news channel? I could tell my friend (AKA the “thief”) was shaking in her boots. He leaned into my window.

“You girls doing some shopping today? Or maybe some stealing? Please step out of the car,” he ordered.  I was about to pee my pants.

I sung like a bird. Telling him the entire story of how my friend stole the shoes, and I was the do-gooder/victim. He seemed to believe my story of innocence.

The officer confided that the store clerk saw my friend stealing the shoes and provided my license plate number. He informed me that a separate police car was en route to my home.  The officer saw the look of fear in my eyes. He quickly picked up his radio and called off the police car to my home. There my father had the afternoon off from his law enforcement job and surely would have been home. I feared the repercussions for such a serious crime as shoplifting.

Harmless Fib?
The whole concept of life choices and consequences is always a topic of discussion in our family – the other evening was no exception. My eight-year-old had chosen to not be truthful about brushing her teeth on multiple occasions. Sounds like a harmless fib, right?

I took her being untruthful seriously, though. I also viewed it as a teachable moment.

In a nutshell I explained to her: “Telling the truth makes up part of our character. When you decide to not tell the truth there are consequences. Life is made of up choices – roads to choose…”

I could see her eyes glaze over. Rather than continue with my “roads and choices” lecture, I thought to illustrate my point through a story in my life where I had a choice to lie or even steal….

I then shared the story of my friend stealing the shoes. She listened intently. I told her I had a choice in those few seconds as I sat in the car at the stoplight. I could have kept on going down the road, or I could have turned the car around.

Not only was my daughter intrigued by the story, I think it made a difference in her own choices. The next time I asked if she had brushed her teeth, she said, “No, mom. That’s the truth.”

I praised her honesty and for making the choice to tell the truth. By starting these patterns of open communication and honesty early on, I hope we’re building a foundation with our kids.

Turning Bad Into Good
Sometimes you make the “right” decision – and other times you don’t. Often times it is by our mistakes (or others) that we learn the most.

I decided to take the traumatic shoplifting experience in stride. First, by my friend making that mistake, I took a closer look at our friendship. We eventually parted ways because of this and her many other unhealthy choices.

According to the National Shoplifting Prevention Coalition, 89 percent of kids say they know other kids who shoplift. 66 percent say they hang out with those kids.

The next positive was as a writer for my high school newspaper, I decided to cover the topic of  “five-finger discounts” amongst teenagers. I wanted to raise awareness about the dangers of shoplifting.

Most importantly, I wanted kids my age to know that life is about choices – the good and the bad.

Did you (or someone else) ever steal something and regret it? What happened? Was there a moment in your life that stands out when you chose the wrong road? Was it a learning experience or a teachable moment? How?


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